Solar power cost $100 per kilowatt hour when energy futurist Ramez Naam entered the world. Last year, the UAE signed a 20-year contract for solar power at a four thousandth the cost. For Ramez Naam it’s no longer a question of if renewables, it’s a matter of when: the data proves it. Energy has been mixed with politics from the beginning – so over the next billion seconds, how do we talk ourselves out of our coal culture and into a sustainable future? Ramez Naam makes a convincing case for a future where we profit from the sun.
Here’s an excerpt:
There are some amazing things happening in the renewable energy space, as shown in this chart about a typical week of energy generation in South Australia:
Ramez gives a lot of talks about energy futures, here’s a recent one given in South Africa – a nation with some energy problems…
Ramez has also written a series of blog posts on the energy future – the first is linked here.
Finally, here’s that infamous photo of Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison, on the day they passed a lump of coal around in Parliament:
It’s growing increasingly difficult to know where the truth lies. We’ve gotten very good at our electronic fakery – from photoshop to ‘deepfakes’ to synthetic audio of Obama so accurate it’s indistinguishable from the real thing.
All of this feeds into a growing online community which instantly separates into tribes, then tunes out any competing with a cry of “fake news!”
Series Two of The Next Billion Seconds takes a look at the intersection of technology, truth and our future, beginning with frequent guest John Allsopp, revealed in the ways he teaches his children the spirit of inquiry, to help them discover where the truth lies.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
Here’s a few links to topics covered in our conversation:
We invite three series 1 guests to join Mark in studio for a final featuring a freewheeling conversation about myths, artificial intelligence, slaughterbots (!), and what happens when four billion people suddenly show up online.
Are the robots going to rise up in a “Singularity” that will first threaten our jobs, then our very existence? Dr. Ken Goldberg, Chair of the Robotics program at the University of California, Berkeley, tells us that while things are moving quickly, we’re moving into a world of ‘multiplicity’ – where multiple intelligences grow together to create a uniquely diverse world of human and machine minds.
While video games have only been around for about 40 years, games themselves are as old as humanity because we learn about the world by playing with it, finding the ‘wiggle room’ in every system – social or mechanical – that we encounter. Indy games pioneer and author Eric Zimmerman understands games and the culture of play so well he can tell us where it’s all going – and how we’ll get there.
What is Bitcoin? How does it work? And why is the whole world going gaga for ‘magic internet money’? Mark Jeffrey – author of one of the first books on Bitcoin – explains how cryptocurrency happened, and why it’s about to change everything about money forever. Here’s a quick peek:
This one is – by far – our most downloaded episode to date.
The decision to make the World Wide Web a free-to-all source of news had consequences no one expected, leading us down a path of advertising, analytics, targeting and profile auctions that leave us increasingly exposed to big data systems that know us better and better.
Here’s a video that presents an accurate picture of how all that works in practice – and be warned, it’s all a bit scary:
Robert Tercek has watched all of this develop – and, in his early days at MTV, helped it happen. Should we repent our ways? Can we? Here’s a clip:
One of the the fun sides of doing a regular podcast is when a special event comes along, and taking the time to cover it in detail. In this case, it was an announcement from Google that their Alpha Go artificial intelligence program had taught itself how to be better than any human player – in 3 days.
We sit down again with John Allsopp to review and explore some of the themes explored in the first half of series one: the tensions between algorithms and flexibility, between the future and the past, between the human and the machine.
The smartphone is quite possibly the most important tool we’ve developed in the last two hundred years – a steam engine for the human mind. We use them to transform commerce, human connection, and play. The latest iPhones – iPhone 8 and iPhone X – point to where we’re going, where the device becomes so essential, and so much a part of ourselves, that they can intimately scan our faces to unlock their secrets.