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Comment I can imagine... (Score 1) 775 775

Driverless changes everything forever in ways we can't yet even imagine.

Something you didn't touch upon: I'm guessing the average privately-owned car is in motion 40 minutes per day; that means it sits around doing nothing 97% of the time. Not good to have so much of society's capital tied up in idle assets! If we could quickly summon driverless cars to get us around, those cars would have much higher utilization rates -- maybe they would be in motion for 13 - 16 hours per day -- in theory, driving the cost of personal transportation way down, with none of the drawbacks of mass transit (like having to walk a mile to a bus stop, and being tied to its fixed schedule).

Comment Not as much progress in New York? (Score 1) 775 775

Watch the AQI loop around New York, and you can see air pollution rising and falling along the commuter roads into the City in lock step with the morning commute. I can't even imagine a New York with 50-80% fewer gas-powered cars on the road.

I've been watching air quality around Denver for 20 years. The used to be thick smog over the city every day. Now, thanks to cleaner-burning engines, it takes a rare, severe weather inversion for that to happen. So I can easily imagine a Denver with no internal combustion engines, because pollution-wise, we've effectively made it 95% of the way to that destination.

Comment Re:quickly to be followed by self-driving cars (Score 1) 775 775

Autonomous cars should benefit everyone (resulting in both lower premiums for drivers, and higher profits for insurers). If not, someone is doing it wrong.

Here's how that works: when a business's costs increase, it tends to pass some but not all of the increase along to the consumer. Some, so that its profits don't bear the brunt of 100% of the cost increase, but not all, because that would make it less competitive.

The same thing happens in reverse when a business's costs decrease (such as when an insurer finds itself paying out fewer claims): it tends to pass some but not all of the savings along to the consumer. If it pockets 100% of the savings in the form of higher profits, it will lose market share to competitors who don't do that. If it pockets 0% of the savings, the owners are not acting in their own interest.

Comment Re:quickly to be followed by self-driving cars (Score 1) 775 775

It won't be the government that pushes people towards autonomous cars. It will be insurance companies.

That depends on how quickly both insurance companies and government notice that accident rates decline when humans are no longer in control. Ludditism will make a lot of people refuse to believe, and must first be overcome.

Comment Bike culture (Score 1) 775 775

The car lobby and car culture in the US has been successful at limiting the options for biking.

My observation is that Europe developed a "bike culture" out of necessity because it was economically devastated by two world wars. The resources just weren't available to effect the same high rates of car ownership as in the U.S. The pressure continues to this day, with fuel prices of $6 - $10 per gallon (after converting from Euros and liters).

Comment Hi Q test needed (Score 1) 502 502

Each experiment so far basically said "we measured a small amount of thrust... so small that we're not sure if we measured any thrust at all."

The theory behind these devices says that thrust will increase by orders of magnitude if a superconducting RF cavity is used.

So why not do that? The results would be unambiguous, for a change.

Comment Open-ended subsidies (Score 1) 566 566

the benefit of subsidizing the early expensive iterations of solar panels

One question: when do the "early expensive iterations" come to an end?

40 years ago I was playing with photovoltaic cells. Today, they are orders of magnitude less expensive than they were then.

Rational people like me would support subsidies, if they weren't open-ended; i.e., if hard-and-fast criteria were established for ending those subsidies.

Comment Re: Or let us keep our hard-earned money (Score 1) 566 566

Funny, never once heard that complaint about oil

Maybe that's because the oil industry has never been subsidized. It has received tax breaks, perhaps, but not subsidies. Learn the difference:

* A subsidy is money transferred from government to an unprofitable enterprise, so it can continue to operate. Example: Amtrak, which has never paid taxes. (Only profits are taxed, and Amtrak has never made a profit.)
* A tax break is a reduction in the amount of money transferred from a profitable enterprise to the government.

If tax breaks are the same thing as subsidies, then Amtrak has received tax breaks. And it's impossible for an entity that has never paid taxes to have its taxes reduced. From this it should be obvious that tax breaks are not the same thing as subsidies.

Comment Re:Begone, luddites (Score 1) 391 391

They completely replace humans, eh?

Robots need a large supporting infrastructure of humans to:

* lubricate them, replace worn-out parts, and otherwise maintain them
* ensure a supply of feedstock or raw materials is brought to the robot
* transport finished products away from the end of the assembly line
* maintain the power grid and/or backup generating system to ensure reliable supply of electric power
* monitor the "health" of the robots (watch for warnings / diagnostic codes)
* design efficient workflows for the robots
* perform each robot's initial site-specific programming
* make improvements to each robot's initial site-specific programming
* re-program each robot when the line switches to production of a new model
* market, sell and install new or used robots; salvage and recycle obsolete robots
* design the next generation of robots
* Google even has a team of lawyers that lobbies legislatures to ensure robotic (driverless) cars will be legal, and won't be subject to undue amounts of liability that would snuff out the technology. (Theoretically, driverless cars will be involved in far fewer accidents that human-driven cars, and therefore should receive favorable legal treatment and be less costly to insure. Accidents involving human-driven cars are so common, there is rarely a thorough investigation. But the rare accident involving a robotic car will be investigated very thoroughly, and likely result in a software patch that makes the whole fleet even safer.)

As you can see, this long list of jobs supporting the the robotics industry involves a nice mix of unskilled, semi-skilled, and professional workers. And that's just what I came up with off the top of my head... surely I've missed many jobs.

Comment Re: A study in short-sighted comments (Score 1) 391 391

Well, I'll give one more good-faith try, even though you don't reciprocate.

The economy has been based on endless expansion. That is not sustainable.

If the economy cannot endlessly expand, there must be some upper limit to its size. I called that upper limit "X": "the size of the economy can never exceed X"

Basic logic that you seem to be unable to follow.

Go do something else, like searching for navel lint.

Uh huh... I suspected that more substance-free ad-hominem attacks was all you had to offer.

Comment Re: A study in short-sighted comments (Score 1) 391 391

Instead of profane name-calling, you'd do better to explain how "the size of the economy can never exceed X" is not a good paraphrase of "The economy has been based on endless expansion. That is not sustainable."

And to explain why obtaining thousands of tons of raw materials from asteroids, and then transporting them hundreds of millions of kilometers, partway down into earth's gravity well, is superior to obtaining raw materials from the moon, and then transporting them just a few kilometers to another location on the lunar surface.

We're still decades off from being able to bring back any resources.

You must not comprehend the concept of space-based solar power, because microwave power transmission was proven to work decades ago. The beam of massless photons would travel from the moon to the earth at the speed of light, then be converted to electric power by a high-efficiency rectenna. Manufacturing PV cells on the surface of the moon would be the biggest challenge, but "bringing back the resources," i.e., the energy collected by the system, would be trivial.

We want to put a radio telescope on the moon.

You don't come right out and say it, but you imply, that a radio telescope and a lunar-solar-power system are mutually exclusive goals. So let me disabuse all readers of that notion. A radio telescope must be situated on the far side of the moon in order to shield it from earthly RF signals; and a solar power system must be located on the near side of the moon so the microwaves can be transmitted to Earth; so the two projects would in no way compete with each other for lunar real estate. The knowledge base built up during the construction of one would be highly useful to the construction of the other.

And are you proposing that human workers, not the robots that you so disdain, mine the asteroids and build the radio telescope on the moon? If so, those projects will never be feasible, and Neal Stephenson would be disappointed in you... he didn't pour his heart and soul into Blue Origin, for advanced space vehicles to have no grand missions to perform.

Comment Re:Begone, luddites (Score 1) 391 391

Quoting your link:

The IEEE-USA sees the unemployment rate for engineers getting worse if the proposals to increase H-1B visas now making their way through Congress are successful. The organization has long opposed efforts to raise the H-1B cap.

Hey, finally something we can agree on. Here's another good one:

In one study, George J. Borjas, a professor of economics at Harvard, found that “by increasing the supply of labor between 1980 and 2000 immigration reduced the average annual earnings of native-born men by an estimated $1,700, or about 4 percent.”

“Among natives without a high school education, who roughly correspond to the poorest tenth of the work force,” Professor Borjas said, “the estimated impact was even larger, reducing their wages by 7.4 percent.”

(His data was calculated before the mid-2000s, when illegal immigrants began streaming across the border at a rate of >4,000 per day -- so surely the wage-depression effect is larger now. Since then, the media has become more politically correct, and no longer publicizes these kind of studies.)

Has nothing to do with robots, though.

Comment Greece' situation is worse than that (Score 1) 1307 1307

The only thing you have to watch out for is that you don't borrow so much that you find yourself unable to pay it back when interest rates climb. That's the situation Greece found themselves in

That's actually a pretty far cry from the situation Greece found themselves in... you see, interest rates are still low, and despite that fact, Greece can't service its debt.

Comment A study in short-sighted comments (Score 1) 391 391

The economy has been based on endless expansion. That is not sustainable. So we can just stop here, because your entire comment is predicated upon this idea, and it is a foolish one.

Wow... "the size of the economy can never exceed X" is right up there with

The "640K ought to be enough for anybody" statement looks like one of the most dogmatic, short-sighted comments ever, a verbal blunder perhaps topped only by Digital Equipment Corp. founder Ken Olsen's 1977 quip, "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home."

Exponential economic growth is not sustainable if you limit yourself to the resources in a closed system. But if you bring in new resources from outside the closed system, the game totally changes. (You can disagree quantitatively with his estimate of "Gross World Product increasing by a factor of 10," but hopefully you agree qualitatively.) Incidentally, robots would definitely be needed to lay down thousands of square miles of PV cells in an environment deadly to humans.

He who is content with his lot probably has a lot.