Automakers, legislators, and others are excited about putting autonomous vehicles (AV’s) on the road as quickly as possible, and they cite many benefits. They’re pushing hard and investing a lot of money, but there are simple reasons why self-driving cars will not rule the road any time soon, no matter how beneficial they might be. For starters, some people will prefer to drive themselves or ride with a human driver. Inevitably some people will feel insecure riding in an AV and will refuse to ride in one, let alone buy one. While the numbers of those rejecting AV’s for such reasons may be small, they will sustain a demand for self-controlled vehicles to remain on the roads longer, presenting serious problems for AV operators. But that’s just the beginning – there are other major problems with AV’s that are not often mentioned in the media. Continue reading
We humans are clearly overrunning the planet, but few understand or will face what is happening. As population hits an all-time peak later this century, life on the planet will get much tougher and there will be no simple answers to the problems that will arise or simply increase in severity. While it is hard to see ahead with any detail, past experience says there will never be a single crisis that challenges humanity like overpopulation does (barring an asteroid impact, a global volcanic surprise, or the sun doing something unexpected). This is because human nature drives us to want to live better and have more children. Can we successfully change ourselves to have less offspring and live more sustainably? Continue reading
People all over the world want economic growth, believing it will make them better off, and who can blame them? But how much bigger can we grow before our global systems begin to come apart at the seams? Continue reading
There sure seem to be a lot of people trying to get rich quick these days, with many of them employing methods that are unethical, immoral, or downright criminal. Injustices abound, but those that involve making and keeping people poor are everywhere, and have become so blatant that some of them have even been written into the laws. So why are so many people trying to take advantage of others, and of a legal system increasingly rigged to increase the profits of billionaires and billionaire corporations, with an expectation that they can become rich? Continue reading
Corporations are discussing asteroid mining again. You may not have noticed, but last November President Obama signed a law establishing mineral rights for asteroid mining. It seems inevitable that, as human population continues to explode, demand for raw materials will explode with it, driving corporations and nations to search space – first the moon and then the asteroid belt – for additional resources. This suggests a scenario that, due to human mistakes or terrorist action, could create an extinction event that could wipe out all or most life on the planet, similar to the event that “did in” the dinosaurs and almost all life on the planet. So how could such a disaster could occur? Continue reading
Autonomous vehicles may not achieve their expansive claims and may never share the roads with humans – humans are just too complicated and unpredictable – but that hasn’t stopped anyone from working on the technology, and the concept may already work well when only autonomous vehicles are on the road. There is a hidden risk, however, that in developing autonomous vehicles, engineers and scientists will make them TOO smart, and at some point computers will suddenly become self-aware and decide they know what’s good for them better than humans do. Some futurists refer to this as “the Singularity”, but I like to call it the “revolt of the machines.” Needless to say, we are so dependent on computers today that even a partial loss of internet service could cause problems. A concerted attack via software could cause major disruption in shipping systems and, as an result, delayed deliveries of food, raw materials, and finished products. So why is computer self-awareness a problem, and how does it threaten humanity? Continue reading
Solar cost calculators have proliferated on the web in recent years, and here are my reviews of some of the top results in a Google search for them.
This is a decent model with time-to-payback and easily adjustable assumptions.
This is not as good a model as the last one, and apparently designed mostly for choosing system size.
This is a good model but more complicated and industry-specialized. It has lots more detailed information attached, though.
This is a good, simple residential system-size calculator.
This calculator appears pretty comprehensive but is not easy to read.
I’m suspicious of some of the results of this calculator, as they differed significantly from the others. The calculator seems quite comprehensive but is complicated and not easy to read, and maybe I wasn’t using it correctly.
This calculator is pretty simple and easy to use. Answers may vary from those given by other models.
The first calculator I listed may be the best, but try several and you can find the one that answers your specific questions best.
Overview of Rooftop Solar in the United States
It appears that rooftop solar power cost has now fallen below a break-even of 18 years or so, depending on the details, which finally makes a 25+ year system lifespan attractive. The costs are will continue to drop, though, and solar (and wind, and other renewable energy sources) will only become more attractive and economical.
Converting voluntarily to renewable energy sources will keep fossil fuel costs low as demand will be limited, and while that actually decreases justification for renewable energy, it is a boon to consumers who rely on fossil or mixed fossil and renewable energy sources. People around the world today seem more and more conscious of the need to stop using fossil fuels and to reduce carbon dioxide and other types of air pollution, and this is driving a strong upward movement in the market for renewables. It is clear that producing solar panels generates far less carbon emissions than they will save, contrary to some rumors, and it is heartening to see people embracing renewable energy sources more and more.
While the widespread adoption of renewable energy sources will mitigate the ecological and economic problems caused by overpopulation, it will not eliminate them. Renewable energy buys time for us to figure out how to live in ways more friendly to the planet, but the population and birthrate must inevitably decline (or be voluntarily reduced by humans). Otherwise, if the global population continues to increase, the production of solar panels and other renewable energy equipment may enable the population to reach even higher levels before some key resource starts to be exhausted and the planet reveals how many people it can actually support. Note that the number may be billions lower than the number the planet supports now, though.
Please talk about the overpopulation problem with anyone who will listen. It has critical ramifications as a causal factor for practically every single problem humanity faces. We each need to contact our political representatives, ask them for their views on overpopulation, and make it clear that reducing birthrate and figuring out how humanity can survive the next century is far-and-away the most important topic for discussion today. Our grandchildren will live or die young depending on what we do today.
Thanks for reading — Tim.