Friday, May 30, 2008

Kurzweil, Singularity, and Peak Oil (Oh My!)

Spinning off from my first entry at Da Stinct, I took a quick look at Ray Kurzweil and his thoughts on solar; an interesting cat no doubt.

 Well, we know he makes a damned fine electric piano, and as a futurist his predictions have been far better than most; nailing down the fall of the Soviet Union long before is was a glimmer in Ronnie's eye,predicting the explossion of the Internet was a pretty good call too.

 I suppose then Kurzweil is worth listening to.

  Here's Kurzweil on solar; "Here's what I mean: Today we produce 14 trillion (about 1013) watts of power, 78 percent of which comes from fossil fuels. We have, however, plenty of energy in our midst. About 1017 watts of sunlight fall on the earth, or roughly 10,000 times more energy than we regularly consume. Solar panels today do a poor job of capturing this energy because they are inefficient, expensive, heavy, and difficult to integrate with building materials. Today production of solar power costs on average $8 per watt, much more than other energy sources.

The economics of solar power are poised to change dramatically, however, as a new generation of solar panels made with nanomaterials comes of age. Developed by a series of venture-backed companies eagerly jockeying to disrupt that $1.9 trillion worldwide oil industry, these innovative panels are projected to drop in price within a few years. And whether or not any of the known businesses now developing them are successful, once we have full-scale molecular nanotechnology-based manufacturing, we'll be off to the races.

 At this point, energy will become an information technology dominated by massively parallel, computation-controlled molecular manufacturing processes. In 20 years, I believe solar panels will be as inexpensive as a penny per square meter. We will be able to place them on buildings and vehicles, build solar energy farms, and incorporate them into clothing for powering mobile devices. Converting 0.0003 percent of all sunlight hitting the earth, which will be feasible at that time, will let us meet 100 percent of our energy needs two decades from now. In yet another welcome change, we will be able to store the energy in nanoengineered fuel cells that will be tiny and widely distributed, a great improvement over the centralized, dangerous energy storage facilities we rely on today, such as liquid natural gas tanks."

 Speaking of worth listening to, I do think that we should be together, don't you?


If you want to see a bit more on Kurzweil's Law, check out this site with a brief and interesting explanation that includes "Spock's Chessboard"!

 For more on the "Singularity" drop in in to Wikipedia one more time.

Or watch Kurzweil speak (3 part episode) at YouTube.

I still think the law of unintended consequences will reamin in effect. If it only leads to Giant Gorrilas Clutching Volkswagen Beatles, I'll breathe a sigh of relief!

No comments: