By J Mulraj
Sep 23-29, 2023
Politically motivated conflict and destruction, or technologically enabled nirvana?
The world is at a fork in the road. One road, adopted by jingoistic politicians, leads to war, death and destruction, of the sort depicted in the left half of the image. The other fork, created by brilliant technology, leads to a world of plenty, a green world, of peace and harmony, depicted in the right half.
Which do we want?
The road to hell?
There are small groups of people, called the deep state, which foment conflict and distrust, for their personal gains. As per this article after the 9/11 attacks which brought down the twin towers in NYC, the US went to war in 5 countries, viz. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan, which, it claims, led to the deaths of 4.5 million people and the displacement of between 38-60 m. The Iraq war lasted 2003-2010 and cost over $ 1 trillion. The Afghan war lasted 20 years and cost $2 trillion. These wars are financed by borrowing, and the US has hit its debt ceiling. They ended with no gains, on the contrary the Iraq war created ISIS and in Afghanistan, a botched exit, by President Biden, left military equipment worth billions, in the hands of the Taliban. What, then, did the country waging war, gain from doing so?
The same deep state created a needless, avoidable, conflict in Ukraine. To avoid it, all that the collective West needed to do was discuss with Russia it’s concerns and not admit Ukraine to NATO. After the deal between Reagan and Gorbachev, the US had, in fact agreed not to expand NATO eastwards, but did so anyways. According to NYT the estimate of deaths and injuries on both sides in the Ukraine war is 500,000. About 25-30% of the population of Ukraine has been displaced, emigrating either out of Ukraine or within it.
There are other ongoing and potential conflicts brewing. Many involve China, with Taiwan, with India, and with other neighbors. There are ongoing conflicts in Africa , in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, DRC, Niger and others. There can be trouble in the Middle East. The risk of escalation to a nuclear war is ever present.
Not only in terms of loss of lives and destruction of the economy and infrastructure, the pernicious effects of war spread to other countries through mass migration of refugees. The Syrian war led to mass movement of refugees to Europe, and the failure to integrate has led to social unrest, violence and a changing demographic profile.
So the road of war, to which politicians and the deep state want to direct humanity towards, will lead to the scenario on the left half of the image. Of a dry, desolate, depressing, future.
Or, the road to heaven?
But there’s another road in the fork, to which scientists and technocrats point. One that leads us to hope, harmony and happiness. Let’s examine that road.
Consider the developments in the energy sector. Do listen to this podcast from the All-In Summit featuring Robert Mumguard, CEO Commonwealth Fusion Energy and David Kurtley, CEO, Helion Energy. Both companies are startups exploring the exciting potential of trying to replicate the sun to generate a virtually limitless of clean energy. It is forecasted that, based on growth in both GDP and in population, energy demand will grow 5X by the end of the century. Eliminating dirty fossil fuels, this five fold increase in demand can’t be met by renewables, and will need a new source, such as fusion. Fusion energy won’t emit greenhouse gases.
In a fusion process, at a temperature of 15 m degrees, two lighter atomic nuclei (such as tritium and deuterium) combine to form a heavier nucleus, releasing energy. The energy output should exceed the input, resulting in an energy gain. A few grams of the nuclei reactants is enough to produce a terajoule of energy. That’s enough to meet the energy needs of a person in a developed economy to last for 60 years. The two entrepreneurs hope to successfully demonstrate fusion by 2025.
If they do, the energy needs of the world would be met with clean energy, and the harmful effects of climate change, the natural calamities, the submergence of low lying cities/islands, the fires, hurricanes, floods, devastating human life and agricultural produce, would be controlled.
Consider the developments in artificial intelligence, or AI, which will impact several areas because the speed with which generative AI is proceeding, and it’s ability to compute, is beyond imagination. AI will help in faster drug development and delivery. The cost of healthcare, one of the biggest social costs, will come down, thanks to use of AI, and new technologies such as CRISPR which will be used to modify DNA.
AI will result in the advent of autonomous vehicles, aka driverless cars. My last column mentioned how Tesla has invested in and created a supercomputer, DOJO, which, in 5 months, will be capable of 30 exoflops of calculations. ( An exoflop is the ability to calculate 1 quintillion, or 1 with 18 zeros, in one second!) This ability to process data is needed to make autonomous driving safer than manual driving. Combined with TAAS, or transport as a service, transport will be available on demand, reducing the need for private ownership. Lower demand for cars, especially ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles, will threaten the existence of legacy auto companies. The reduced supply of cars (already a downtrend from 11.41 m vehicles sold in USA in 1986, to just 2.86 m. sold in 2022) will release a lot of space currently needed for parking, which can help increase green cover. The switch from fossil fuel cars to electric will reduce carbon emissions.
In food, too, technology is lending a hand. More than half the world’s land and a staggering 98% of the world’s water resources are used for animal farming, to produce meat. Technologies such as precision fermentation and cellular agriculture can produce similar tasting meat without the use of cattle, in a Petri dish. Imagine a world in which so much land and fresh water resources are freed, thanks to innovative technologies.
Further, use of technologies like robotics, IoT, 3D printing and AI, will boost productivity enough, to allow all countries to offer a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to everyone, since disruptive technologies can, and will, result in job losses. AI will also provide Pi, or Personal AI, a robot for every individual, which will do your bidding.
So this road takes us to a world where energy is limitless and clean, where healthcare is tailored and affordable, where transport is safe and cheaper, where land and water resources are plentiful and where, hopefully, politicians are silent and cooperative.
Which road will you take?
Last week the BSE Sensex was flat, ending at 65828.
Efforts are underway for a summit meeting of the leaders of the two leading economies, Biden, of USA and Xi of China. Let’s pray that God instill some common sense in both, so that the world can, collectively, take the right road in the fork.
Pray they do.
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