Go to: Home page of www.BillHowell.ca
Don't take any of this too seriously, it's just here to play around with
crazy ideas - sometimes just to throw out a different perspective on
issues, other times as a reaction to politically correct fashion
trends in thinking. To some extent there is an overlap with ideas in
the "Crystal Ball" section of my website.
There is a combination of separate files (mostly from Toastmaster presentations) and
comments attached below.
- Reincarnation : A Riddle by, for, of, on, and with the Mind
- Anti-engineering and the emergence of racisim
- Are we ready for Global Cooling
- The Basis for Democracy
- Cheating Theory, Parasitic behavior, and Stupidity
- Climate Change, or not...
- The Freedom of a robot, the wisdom of Methuseleh
- Climate Change, or not...
- I, Robot
- Inspirational Friends
- The Last generation to die...
- Mega-Life, Mega-Death, and the invisible hand of the Sun
- Mind and Brain, this debate is back in fashion
- Nuclear spent fuel, high-level radio-active waste
- Overbreeding is the first act of war
- Peach fuzz
- Post-mortem of a presentation
Cheating Theory, Parasitic behavior, and Stupidity(Dec03 Xmas letter)
(This mostly refers to my own flaws extended to the rest of you, so if you're
feeling uneasy, you're probably not perfect either. (grin) I hope to provide
more explanations within a year or so... )
Here's a 25 cent theory, it seems to me that society and organisations
must be robust with respect to many things, but three simple basic
requirements are often taken for granted or glossed over for
politically-correct reasons (in increasing order of importance):
Climate Change, or not...
- Cheating theory – like
theft, fraud, cutting corners. Normally this is really well taken
care of, because people are so sensitive to, and critical of, it.
But if cheats aren't nailed to the wall, they dominate.
Parasitic behavior – is
far more costly than cheating. The problem is that it "flies
under the radar screen" of human compassion,
politically-correct action, motherhood and apple pie. (Moreover it
is closely related another of my 25 cent theory of the socially
negative effects of over-insurance, which promote the behaviors they
seek to protect against, and which are totally under-appreciated by
our society. theft, health, etc... maybe some other year I'll
write about that).
- Stupidity - by far the most costly of the three, and much more difficult to "fix".
Unfortunately, the corollary is that we're all stupid – nobody
can be well-informed and expert across all of the issues that we
face. In spite of this, it's amazing how well our systems actually
work! (fault tolerance to the extreme! - and this leads into
behavior-based programming and ultimately Mindcode – see
(Dec04 Xmas letter)
Kyoto, or not - Last year I commented that
the politically correct "belief systems" concerning Kyoto
(specifically the anthropogenic or man-made effects such as Green
House Gases (GHGs)) were scientifically suspect or tenuous. Well,
last spring Nature magazine request authors Mann et al to redo their
famous "hockey stick" graph of global temperatures over the
last 1,000 years. That graph was and is possibly the most important
psychological underpinning to Kyoto (i.e. a primary reason that
political masters and other leaders bought the Kyoto story).
Whether or not anthropogenic (man-made) CO2 emissions prove to drive
catastrophic climate change on Earth now or in 10,000 years time, it
is clear to me that a fair amount of the pro-Kyoto reporting and
promotion has been fraudulent, incompetent, and vindictive. Even if
the "Kyotoists" prove right, their behaviour and approaches
are simply not excusable. I will certainly not assume credibility
for their proclamations – its going to take a huge amount of
solid results for them to convince me now... The glaciation data
might be a starting point due to time-shifts, but right now it seems
a better bet that temperature drives CO2 levels, not the other way
around. Of course, sufficient man-made CO2 might possible change
that, but the evidence seems to say "not yet, not by a long
(Dec03 Xmas letter)
The politically correct storm driving Climate Change is still THE
dominant funding source for scientists and policymakers in our
department (and to a lesser extent Environment Canada, and "even
lesser" at Industry Canada), so the "poor mining sector"
of NRCan is trying to pry loose some funding from our rich Energy
and Geological cousins in the same department, with extremely limited
However, in spite of the propaganda spewing out of the environmentalists, the
UN and national governments' "communications" shops, policy
groups, and research labs, it seems to me that it is still a very
open question as to the quantification of anthropogenic effects on
the natural variability in climate. The good news is that
countervailing opinions to the "Climate Change Doctrine"
are now surfacing more in the media and being heard (after almost
being stifled for some time by Official Science, the media and
popular beliefs). Even so, some scientists are apparently still
afraid of expressing an opposing viewpoint, and many others are quite
happy simply to go with the trend and get the funding (our lab sure
needs it). The worst-case politically-correct estimates of the
"anthropogenic Greenhouse effect" are "maybe" 3
to 6 times the "natural climate variability" over the last
800 years, and similar to swings on the 10,000 or 500 million year
scale. However, many of the politically-correct estimates do not
seem to be self-consistent (such as the "hockey stick"
graph from Mann etc that was one of the key underpinnings of Kyoto).
In other words, yes the climate is changing – but it may not be
changing much more than it always has and always will. Moreover,
more and more analysis cast a great pall of suspicion over the
politically-correct model forecasts – but I haven't yet
personally looked at the details of how the models may have been
mis-applied and mis-interpreted.
In any case, anthropogenic effects or not, the natural swings apparently
can be large and fast enough to justify continued studies of the
climate (processes and models for what has happened and what is
happening) and ways for us to adapt to it. Given the very serious
loss of credibility of the whole Climate Change community (that's my
opinion), it is not appropriate to spend huge amounts of money on
reducing GHGs – consider that even Kyoto would not have had any
substantial effect on GHG levels in 100 years time. Let's go for the
"easy" reductions to start with (like, wear a sweater and
turn your thermostat WAAYYY down., take the bus, and do winter
camping for your January-through-March vacations to show if you are
really serious <joke>), and wait for more clear information
before we cause more damage than good with extreme actions. Nuclear
power is ONE obvious key solution if we were really serious about
climate change (or even if we don't even care about climate change),
but politically correct thinking (but technically/ environmentally/
?safetily? incompetent thinking) leaves it totally out of the
solution set of the official programs. Emotion has almost totally
displaced rational thinking on these issues. Garbage... but still
good garbage if our lab can get more money <grin>.
The last generation to die...
My favourite saying from Ottawa's BioNorth conference was from ?2000 or
2001?, when a scientist from San Diego (who used to be at McMasterU
in Hamilton) gave a presentation on aging related diseases. Progress
in understanding aging, he said, has been extremely rapid in the last
five years, surprising the experts in the field. Anyways, he
concluded his talk by saying:
in the not-so-distant future, someone may be giving you a
presentation on the same topic [aging]. It is quite possible that he
could finish it by saying "You know, we may be the last
generation to die." [approximate quote of - I forget
was I ever excited, and could only hope that I would make the cutoff
point! Imagine my surprise upon learning that not everyone thinks
that eternal (or even 500 year) life is necessarily desirable. I
explored these reactions in more detail in an unscientific survey,
and got some beautiful explanations and viewpoints.
(Dec03 Xmas letter)
Nuclear spent fuel, high-level radio-active waste
The "Megatonnes to mega-Watts" program to convert weapons-grade
uranium to commercial-grade fuel is a stroke of genius (I might have
mentioned it last year – but I've heard more of it this year).
How environmentalists & others could complain is amazing –
and leads one to believe there is no way of devising anything to
accomodate them, so perhaps they should simply be ignored (ditto for
climate change & nuclear power). On another point I've attended
sessions by the Nuclear Waste management Organization (nuclear power
producers), where the options for spent fuel disposal have been
presented (right acrioss Canada). We are following the USA's example
– how anyone can spend such enormous sums of money on such easy
technical challenges is beyond belief. The entire revenues of Inco
(only one mining company) are only 2 G$/year, and for that they
excavate hugely more rock, and transport far more high grade nickel,
than needed to handle all of the waste (probably globally), which
will cost (at first guess) 15-25 G$ or thereabouts for Canada alone
(300 G$ in the USA?). Admittedly some extra security and precautions
are needed, but this seems to be an example of "zero"
mentality (zero dimensional mindset, zero risk, zero context, zero
flexibility). Must have all the organized crime groups in North
America involved to be able to spend that much $$$...
Directory of available files for this webpage:
Latest update: 04May07, original 27Jan07