Supposin': A Look at Progress, Part 4

Exponential information and knowledge, and even remarkable new technologies, are certainly not going to cure all the cultural, economic, or moral ills of our present world. The awareness updating, however, of our phenomenal and almost unbelievable current progress is stark testimony to the fact that things are not all as bad as we are sometimes led to believe. It is actually quite a wonderful and exciting time to be alive.

Earlier, I briefly mentioned my frustration with our problem of oil dependence . . . notice; I did not say oil scarcity. Deutsche Bank’s Joe La Vorgna points out that every $0.01 change in gasoline prices is worth $1 billion in the economy, and since the 2011 highs, there has been a decline in gas prices of more than $0.50.(1) Let’s take the next few paragraphs and look at our fuel and energy situation.

There are a number of factors playing out right now that could be major game changers. The US is awash in oil and gas. There is no scarcity. The political availability to the resources is a road with many potholes and devious curves. There is no universal plan of equality here for the government to make everybody better off. As history and economics would bear out, however, with a little time, potholes get filled and noisome curves get straightened out. My bet here is on change.

People are beginning to whisper about “Saudi America” because of our recent validations of oil and gas reserves. Even Maury Harris, a chief US economist was recently remarking that North Dakota could join OPEC. (2) The Williston, North Dakota oil fields are producing over one million barrels of oil a day and headed for two million. Even the US Energy Information Administration claims the boom will remain mostly steady into 2020 for oil and well beyond for natural gas. Employment of the US oil and gas operations has gained 64% vs. overall payroll growth since 2009.

Rob Wile, www., continues to report on the bullish energy story in North Dakota. He quotes economist Ed Yardeni that the “fracking dividend,” much like the “peace dividend” that followed World War II, is about to take hold and lift the US economy:

The Fracking Dividend has already narrowed this US petroleum trade deficit from a recent peak of $359 billion during January 2012 to $182 billion during November 2013. The deficit could go to zero over the next couple years. That would provide a big dividend to real GDP growth, as well as more purchasing power for Americans. Building the infrastructure to export crude oil would be another benefit, especially for capital goods manufacturers.

Exporting our own oil, very recently, has helped cut the US trade deficit to a four-year low. Petroleum product exports climbed to an all-time high of $13.3 billion. Meanwhile, crude imports declined to $28.5 billion, the lowest since November 2010. The petroleum deficit thus shrank to $15.2 billion in November, the lowest since May 2009.

There is no oil or natural gas scarcity. Question: So, why aren’t we able to use our own inexpensive resources?

Sometimes it takes a while, but over time, economics has a way of trumping politics. If the oil industry is thwarted in utilizing our own products within our own country and are forced to export crude oil and natural gas in order to shrink the trade deficit, then, more than likely, those economic entrepreneurs of business will tap into the cache of exponential information and knowledge that we have been building and construct a detour around the problem created by politics.

Oil giant, Exxon Mobile announced in 2010 that they were committing $600 million over the next six years to developing a whole new generation of biofuels. Most of us remember earlier unsuccessful attempts by industry to create ethanol-gasoline out of corn. That didn’t work so well. But Exxon Mobile intends to spend its $600 million on creating new concepts in biofuels, as well as lots of other products.

Exxon Mobile made an interesting move. They teamed up with super scientist, Craig Venter, the inventor who decided the US Department of Energy was moving too slowly and spending too much money on their DNA project to sequence three billion base pairs for the human genome project. Some folks thought the project was impossible, some believed it couldn’t be accomplished in less than fifty years. The US government set aside $10 billion for the project. At the late date of 2000, Venter decided to join the race with his own company Celera. The US spent $1.5 billion successfully sequencing the human genome. Venter tied their completion date and spent only $100 million to accomplish the task.

Dr. Venter and Exxon are determined to manufacture super inexpensive fuels. Instead of extracting oil from holes drilled in the earth they are growing a new type of algae that can take carbon dioxide and plentiful ocean water and create oil or any other kind of fuel that would please the market. Venter has sailed his Sorcerer IIyacht around the world gathering samples of algae to process through his new DNA sequencing apparatus. He now has built a library of over forty million different genes that he can presently use to successfully design a large variation of biofuels for the future. “We only need sunlight, CO2, and seawater.” The designer algae will manufacture the bio oil that is produced. You never harvest the cells, only the oils they excrete.

Exponential knowledge and information growth in such areas as biotechnology makes it possible to develop manageable methods to harness the information as well as the resources. I personally, have to keep reminding myself that it was Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt who stated that from the beginning of time until the year 2003, humankind created five exabytes of digital information. An Exabyte is one billion gigabytes. By the year 2010 the human race was generating five exabytes every few days. In the near future the number is expected to be five exabytes produced every few minutes.

I don’t know if I can really comprehend all that. But I am beginning to comprehend how for the first time in history our knowledge base and technology is beginning to catch up with our dreams and ambitions.

In my research on all the progress taking place and the good things that are happening today in our world, I ran across an ambitious endeavor that virtually leaves me breathless and in awe. The bright minds of the industry are now getting serious about the unique addressability of things. I have run out of space in this posting to flesh out this incredible concept. So, I am going to give you my research starting points and let you investigate to your heart’s desire.

As far back as 1999 Billy Joy talked about D2D (Device to Device) communication. By 2009 Kevin Ashton wrote an article in the RFID Journal about the Internet of Things. In the article he stated,

. . . today's information technology is so dependent on data originated by people that our computers know more about ideas than things. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so. (Kevin Ashton, 'That 'Internet of Things' Thing', RFID Journal, July 22, 2009)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is based on the idea that if all objects in daily life were equipped with identifiers, they could be followed, managed, and inventoried by computers. Assigning to all objects in the world a minuscule identifying device or machine-readable identifier could transform daily life. For example, reorders would be created and activated automatically and your business would no longer run out of stock. Maintenance tasks could be identified and performed as a machine part communicated through a network of sensors and receptors and ordered its own repair.

The Internet of Things is already in operation. Estimates project that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things by 2020.

Another important player in IoT is Vint Cerf, a real-honest-to-goodness father of the internet. At MCI he engineered and managed the first commercial email service. He was also employed by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) where he was chairman of the web’s US governance department for oversight. Let’s say the world’s population was nine billion individuals and each person had somewhere between one to five thousand items or things that needed to be identified, it would take forty-five thousand billion IP addresses on the Internet of Things to handle the communication network.

Vint Cerf has now been assigned to design a new program called Ipv6. It will have protocols to handle 340 trillion, trillion, trillion, unique addresses, which figures out to be about 50,000 trillion, trillion unique addresses per individual. No longer would it be possible for “Junior” to lose his laptop computer with his homework assignment on it. You wouldn’t lose anything. I suppose, come to think of it . . . no one could steal his laptop either!

Dr. Cerf says that the Ipv6 Internet of Things . . . “holds the promise for reinventing almost every industry. How we manufacture, how we control our environment, and how we distribute, use and recycle resources.”

Next Week: A Look at Progress, Part 5

(Research ideas from Dr. Jackson's new writing project on Cultural Economics) 

© Dr. James W. Jackson  

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