Equal Justice Initiative

Just back from TED2012 Conference in Long Beach California. Thomas Dolby asked me to play guitar in the house band this year. I’ll post some photos in a bit.

Bryan Stevenson gave what I believe will become an iconic talk — in the same league as Jill Taylor or Sir Ken Robinson. Deeply inspiring and motivational, Bryan asks us to balance “TED” (technology, entertainment, design) with empathy, humanity, justice, and compassion.

“We will not be judged by our technology, intellect, or reason. Ultimately, the character of a society will be judged not by how they treat the powerful, but by how they treat the poor.”

After his talk, he received a breathtaking standing ovation. The raw energy and length of ovation was unequaled by any talk I’ve experienced at a live conference (probably 45 seconds of applause is edited from the video). He is asking us to do something about the injustices in our own country.

Later in the conference, Chris Anderson (TED’s curator) asked the audience to help Bryan’s work. Within a short time, over $1.1 million had been pledged.

 


A Force of Good

My mycologist friend Paul Stamets has a new film in collaboration with visionary filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg. It’s two minutes of creative brilliance.

“If we don’t understand the organisms that sustain us today, not only will we destroy those organisms, but we will destroy ourselves.”

This is also a good reminder to get involved in the movement to better regulate GMO seeds and foods. For a quick study, read today’s Joe Mercola essay on Monsanto. After reading this chilling and eye-opening brief, you’ll better understand why, according to Forbes Magazine, Google’s first suggested search term for the company is ‘Monstanto evil.’


CES 2012 Innovation Award

The Consumer Electronics Show is the largest convention in the USA (140,000 visitors, 3,100 exhibitors, 1.4 million square feet). This week, we learned that our latest generation SafePlug invention won the top award of the show:  “Best Innovation of 2012” in the Home Systems category.

Want to know more? View my TED Talk which describes the technology. The TED Talk has been translated into 25 languages, has over 300,000 views, and has been featured in Scientific American, Fast Company, and dozens of other publications.


Power of the Crowd

Humanity wastes 550,000 hours a day typing in the annoying Captcha (200,000,000 Captchas per day * 10s per instance). Luis Von Ahn, inventor of the Captcha, explains why this is a good thing. And if you’ve ever been frustrated by the poor quality of Google Translation, please take 16 minutes and watch his brilliant TED Talk on Massive-Scale Online Collaboration.

While you’re hearing about the historically unprecedented power of 100 million people working towards a common goal, be dreaming up your own ways of helping the planet while using your computer.


CIMFAM

Not long ago, a talented local family asked me to produce an EP (4 song record) of their music. I rarely produce outside work, but made an exception for this wonderful family – six sisters who sing, write, and dance.

So today I was curious and called their mom. They moved to L.A., recorded a new EP, have signed a deal with Universal, have over 110 million YouTube views (UPDATE: over 300 million), have over 1/2 million subscribers, and are often the #1 trending topic on Twitter.

Their first full length record releases next year. Much of the music will be original material written by the sisters. If their new EP is any indication, I think they are going to hit big with 10-18 market.

UPDATE: After its first day of release, their new EP has climbed to #4 on the iTunes pop charts.


A National Strategic Narrative

I attended a conference last year called PopTech in Camden Maine. Couldn’t go this year, but did have a chance to watch some of the live feed. One of the presentations featured Naval Captain Wayne Porter and Marine Col. Mark Mykleby — military strategists working at the highest level of government. Together, they present highlights from their paper, “A National Strategic Narrative.”

Their ideas ” less military force, more social capital and more sustainable energy practices ” have caused a stir in policy communities. Their proposal is one of transition away from some old policy ideas that no longer apply in the Google age.They want to move the nation towards an open system that seeks equilibrium in an interdependent global ecology;

to move the idea of national security from containment to sustainability:

from theories of control to theories of credible influence;

from power to narrative: a national strategic story that doesn’t “hold the jello” quite so tight;

towards a citizenry that demands purposeful participation.

They rightly point out that government can only reflect the values that its citizens embody and that competition cannot be a zero-sum game in a deeply interdependent world. They focus on three issues they believe to be the highest social priorities to maintain a healthy nation moving forward.

1.) Education
2.) Security
3.) Energy

I would personally put energy at the top, for without cheap, concentrated energy, access to education will erode as our economy weakens. Their brilliant talk concludes that we, as a nation, are moving towards polarizing ideologies that offer little more than divisive ultimata. Porter and Mykleby insist that we need a collective narrative that takes us beyond today’s ideologies; that will inform our skill, knowledge, and ultimately our technologies. Please invest 21 minutes in this important narrative.


Growth Has An Expiration Date

Well, at least the kind of growth we’ve come to expect over the last 100 years.

Tom Murphy is a physics professor at University of California, San Diego. His recent talk at the Compass Summit beautifully describes our #1 global issue moving forward — the energy trap. I think his term “energy trap” is better than “peak oil” for describing the volatile economic consequences that await our new century. Tom has “done the math” (as many of us have) and recognizes a high probability for ever-increasing levels of energy-based economic impediments over the coming decades. Moreover, Tom is the best numbers-oriented speaker I’ve heard on this issue. His talk reminds me of a more focused version of Richard Smalley’s famous energy talks in the late-1990s. Take 23 minutes and listen to Tom’s brilliant – “there is no financing in nature” – overview.

If you’re limited for time, start around 11:30.

And just for fun…

 


The Fugue of Techno-Narcissism

I recently saw a story hit the newswires, claiming that U.S. oil production (from Bakken shale) could surpass Saudi Arabia by 2017

Years ago, I looked into shale and found that the amount of “net energy” input to extract and convert shale deposits into oil was very high. The mantra for years has been that, as the price of oil/energy gets high enough, it will become economically feasible to make oil from U.S. (Bakken) shale. But the problem is EROEI – energy return on energy invested. Last I checked, it takes about 1 bbl of oil energy to extract 8 bbls of U.S. crude oil. It takes roughly 1 bbl to produce 4 bbls of Canadian tar sand oil. Shale is a far less efficient process than sand – perhaps approaching 1:3 EROEI. And this, in short, is the theory of peak oil. We’re getting desperate for cost-effective energy.

There will always be billions of bbls of oil out there, but the cost to extract it (relative to supply-demand) will continue to rise, until EROEI approaches 1:1, at which point there will be little use for oil. The “low hanging fruit” (relative to demand) we’ve enjoyed for 100 years is now gone. If regenerative / sustainable energy alternatives are not in place as we approach smaller EROEI fossil ratios, economics and commerce will slow considerably (and perhaps has already). The global economy as we know it relies on cheap energy, yet the cost of that energy is increasing far faster than average inflation (which is troubling since energy is a core % of many inflation indicators). This was / is a central peak oil theory prediction and it seems to be holding true.


http://www.fintrend.com/inflation/inflation_rate/Historical_Oil_Prices_Table.asp

http://www.fintrend.com/inflation/inflation_rate/Gasoline_Inflation.asp

There’s an equal if not greater problem – the environmental damage of shale extraction. Canadian tar sand extraction is a terribly dirty process. I’m told that shale extraction is worse.  When we combine the cost of extraction with the environmental damages, I don’t see where Yergin and Goldman Sachs get their rosy predictions. In the WSJ article, I find at least two glaring misstatements by Yergin. Not surprising, given that he’s one of the oil industry’s highest paid PR gurus.

Anyway, the ever colorful James Kunstler penned a reply to Yergin and Goldman which I want to pass along. Enjoy.

This much can be stated categorically about the USA these days: the more distressed our economy gets, the more delusional thinking you will encounter. People want to assign the cause of their misery to this or that (socialism, abortion, Jews, the New World Order). People want to believe that their world is a safe place with bright prospects (climate change is a myth, we have a hundred years of shale oil). The realm of oil is especially ripe for misunderstanding, since we depend on the stuff so desperately, and the world’s geology is complex indeed, and then you have to bring math and money into the picture. But it’s another thing when professional propagandists take the stage and attempt to systematically mislead the public.

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