Big Plans are susceptible to changes in the world around us, and even bold visionaries can have wrong assumptions about the future.
After blanketing the media landscape over the summer with The Pickens Plan, T Boone Pickens has announced that he is slowing down his plans to build a massive wind farm in West Texas. Pickens’ $2 billion order of GE wind turbines has not been affected, but scaling up of the project is likely to happen more slowly than originally hoped.
A changing world or wrong assumptions?
Pickens has certainly felt the pains of shifts in the market where money is now in short supply and the global economic slowdown has battered his energy intensive hedge fund. But there have always been flaws to his core assumptions that support the vision that have somehow escaped widespread critical thought or media scrutiny. Pickens deserves credit for his willingness to advance the energy conversation in the US, but it does not free his Plan from closer examination:
#1 Utilities won’t evolve without regulatory changes
#2 Wind needs storage to evolve
#3 Natural Gas is a globally integrated industry, no breaking ‘foreign’ dependency there!
#4 The Auto Industry’s problem is not oil, it’s the combustion engine.
#5 Building transmission lines in my backyard or ranch?! It’ll cost you!
#1 Utilities won’t evolve without regulatory changes
A 8.1 magnitude quake rocks the San Francisco Bay Area. The San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge partially collapses, taking some cars returning to the east bay after a night at the bars into the waters below. The new Oakland span, finished less than a year before, weathers the quake with only minor structural damage. The buildings in San Francisco don’t fair as well.
For Harrison Thomas, the only thing he remembered was that the walls were shaking right before the floor of his apartment suddenly disappeared.
Responders on the scene did a quick survey of the scene and deploy snake-like robots to search for survivors. After twelve minutes Harrison Thomas is found wedged between the flooring of the second and third floor. A piece of wood has speared his leg, pinning him in place.
The crew at the scene uses the robots diamond-edged belt saw to carefully saw their way through the wood in order to aid in his removal. A doctor from St. Louis, on call since the disaster, views the proceedings from his local hospital. Seeing Harrison’s body, he determines that a surgery must be made before the rescue crews get to him in order to save his leg.
Morphine is injected into his leg in preparation for the surgery. UV sterilized tools, located inside the snake, are manipulated over a secure wireless connection to repair the neural and vascular damage done to his leg. Hours later, crews finally unearth Harrison and take him to a mobile hospital set up in a warehouse at Pier 5.
Without this technology, he would have lost his leg, possibly even died.
Imagine sitting in your home and being able to control a device
in a different room, a different city or even a different country
by thought alone. Sounds impossible doesn’t it? Well, accordingly
to this fascinating article from Popular
Mechanics, advances in the field of cybernetics are occurring so rapidly that such
things may be possible in the not-too-distant future.
Consider this: a monkey in North Carolina can already send a
signal to Japan (where it controls a robot) faster than it can send
a message from its brain to its own muscles. One immediate
practical application of this technology may occur in the field of
surgery whereby a surgeon could control a small robotic device
faster and more precisely than she could move her hand. In a field
like brain surgery such a distinction could make a big
It will be some time before other cybernetic devices move into
the mainstream, but it is interesting to consider how such
mind-machine devices may change how we perceive and interact with
our environment in the future. For example, imagine being able to
control a robot by thought alone. Forget to feed your dog this
morning, just “think” your bot to do it. Forget to water the plants
or turn off the iron? Not a problem. A solution is just a thought
Copenhagen has admitted
Danish warships were responsible for the sinking of the Russian
frigate Czar Putin in the Arctic Sea. The commander of the Danish
Frederik declared the vessel was in Danish territorial waters
off the coast of Greenland and had ignored multiple warnings.
The Danish press release also stated it regretted the sinking of
the ship and the loss of the Russian crew and that first shots were
meant as deterrence only. Once the Russians started returning fire
there was no other option than to target the ship itself, concluded
the press release. Russian warships of the Northern
Fleet are steaming up towards the area from bases all over
Russia while the US is doing the same to come the aid of their
Danish ally. (cont.)
There’s that old saying that if walks like a duck and quacks
like a duck, then it’s a duck. Well, in the future, things are
going to get a little more confusing. Soon, devices will walk like
humans; feel like humans and see like humans, but that won’t mean
it is a human.
To this point, I simply refer you to a handful of articles that
were published only this morning. The first explains how
researchers at Delft University in the Netherlands have developed
a robot that walks like a
human. The next article documents how researchers have
constructed a new
pet robot that communicates with humans only by touch. Lastly,
there was this report outlining how advances in image
recognition technology is improving to the point where computers
and robots will soon be as good (and eventually even better) than
humans at recognizing the images around them.
If you consider how all of these advances are likely to converge
with one another, it is easy to understand how robots might soon be
seeing, feeling, walking and even jumping their way around us.
To this last point about jumping, check out this short video
which demonstrates how a tiny robot can already leap – kind of like
Superman – “taller than the tallest building” :