The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Have Solar Panels

Have I told you lately how much I like Twitter? Yes, I am on Facebook (I actually have two Facebook pages plus one company fan page), but Twitter is where I hang. I use TweetDeck which is a great way to manage my feed. All in all, I have about 10 columns set up. The first is where I watch about 100 of the 1400 people that I follow, the next is where I filter for mentions about me (no, this is not vanity... I just don't want to miss any non-direct messages to me) and then I track conversations for a few notable people that I follow.

One of the people for whom I have carved out a column of my valuable screen real estate is Tom Peters (@Tom_Peters) of Search for Excellence fame. Tom always comes up with intriguing, thought-provoking comments and he will actually tweet back if you say something that is interesting. Today he made this comment:

That comment caught my attention, since I am VERY interested in solar power. I tweeted back and asked him to cite his source. He replied that it was from Bloomberg Biz Week, so I started looking. Fortunately, Bloomberg Business Week didn't throw up a pay wall when I found the article.

In the piece, Charlie Rose talks to Ray Kurzweil about technology, immortality, AI and humans merging with technology. He brings up an interesting perspective where he states that we humans are running on software that was designed for the efficiencies of life several thousands of years ago and that our software is in need of a serious upgrade.

I never thought about DNA that way, but DNA is our operating system and it really could use some upgrading and fixes. Of course, this brings up huge issues with quality control as well as the typical ethics issues. I have no doubt that we will solve the ethics questions, since literally any attempt at changing our physiology can be construed by some as "playing God" and we have been moving progressively along this track for over 100 years.

Being a computer technologist, and having written many thousands of lines of software code myself, I get very nervous thinking about tweaking the human software code. Unlike computers and processors, which can be switched off or rebooted if the software goes awry, troubleshooting out attempts at human engineering will have a much longer timeline and create many more serious consequences if mistakes are made.

Finally, as almost a throw-away question, Rose asks Ray K what excites him the most and what about his fascination with exponential growth? Mr. Kurzweil then makes the statement that solar power output in watts is doubling every two years. If this is true, then this solar version of Moore's Law would allow solar energy to power 100% of our current power needs in just 16 years.

But here is where another 'law' comes into play: the Law of Unintended Consequences. If he is correct in all of his assumptions (and I have no doubt that his predictions will come true sooner rather than later) then there is going to be a LOT of people who just won't die. What condition will we be in at that point? We probably think that we will all be verile 18-35 year olds in the prime of life, but what if we all blow through youth and then just hang on as 70, 80 or 90 year olds; exhausted and disinterested? That could be a fate worse than dying.

Here's the deal... if we are all going to be living much, much longer lives, we are going to absolutely need more energy to sustain ourselves and our burgeoning society. Both aspects of Ray Kurzweil's future need to happen for this to play out successfully.


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