Solar Could Power the Whole World by 2030

January 5th, 2011 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Solar Could Power the Whole World by 2030)

SolarGrowth1975-2007Here’s are some back of the hand projections I worked up this afternoon. If my facts are wrong, please insert your own and lets recalculate the projections.  These are simply projections based on past trends.  I didn’t take into consideration better manufacturing methods beyond current thin-film solar technologies. So these projections do not include nanotechnologies, desktop manufacturing/3D printing (a sure thing), availability of needed materials (China, etc), regulations or other unforeseen economic roadblocks.

Fact 1:  The slowest growth period for installation of Solar Power was between 1990-2000 at 20% annually.

Fact 2: The fastest growth period for adoption of Solar Power was between 2004-2009 at 60% annually.

Fact 3: Total installed Solar Power as of November 2010, was approximately ~25 Gigawatts.

Fact 4: Total World Power Capacity is ~17 Terawatts (as of 2010).

Fact 5: Useable Solar Power is only 1/3 of the time in sunny areas, so practically speaking we’d need 51 Terawatts of installed Solar to match current needs.

PROJECTIONS

Using basic logarithmic functions I wanted to see how long it would take Solar at the above growth rates to reach 17 Terawatts.

SLOW (20%) –   Log (1700/25) / Log (1 + 0.20) = 41.2 Years  – Solar reaches current World Power Output by 2051.

MEDIAN (40%) – Log (1700/25) / Log (1 + 0.40) = 22.3 Years – Solar reaches current World Power Output by 2033.

HIGH (60%) – Log (1700/25) / Log (1 + 0.60) = 16.3 Years – Solar reaches current World Power Output by 2026.

CONCLUSION:

Even if we take the Median projections based on average growth of Solar over the last 30 years, we get Solar reaching current World Energy needs by 2033.  Since world energy needs continue to climb, then there is no reason why at a median 40% growth rate, Solar could not meet all the electricity demands of the world by 2030.

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Optimism or Bust

January 1st, 2009 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Optimism or Bust)

I was just released from the hospital yesterday after having my gallbladder removed. This followed several months of debilitating pain that was difficult to diagnose.  I will write about this in more detail later, but today, the first day of 2009, I wanted to pass along some good ideas to kick start 2009.

First I’d like to quote extensively from Alex Steffan over at Worldchanging.

The first is from the highly acclaimed Worldchanging book:

Optimism is a political act.

Entrenched interests use despair, confusion and apathy to prevent change. They encourage modes of thinking which lead us to believe that problems are insolvable, that nothing we do can matter, that the issue is too complex to present even the opportunity for change. It is a long-standing political art to sow the seeds of mistrust between those you would rule over: as Machiavelli said, tyrants do not care if they are hated, so long as those under them do not love one another. Cynicism is often seen as a rebellious attitude in Western popular culture, but, in reality, cynicism in average people is the attitude exactly most likely to conform to the desires of the powerful – cynicism is obedience.

Optimism, by contrast, especially optimism which is neither foolish nor silent, can be revolutionary. Where no one believes in a better future, despair is a logical choice, and people in despair almost never change anything. Where no one believes a better solution is possible, those benefiting from the continuation of a problem are safe. Where no one believes in the possibility of action, apathy becomes an insurmountable obstacle to reform. But introduce intelligent reasons for believing that action is possible, that better solutions are available, and that a better future can be built, and you unleash the power of people to act out of their highest principles. Shared belief in a better future is the strongest glue there is: it creates the opportunity for us to love one another, and love is an explosive force in politics. Great movements for social change always begin with statements of great optimism.

 

More from Alex in his post titled, The Apocalypse Makes Us Dumb:

Courtesy of fear-mongering=money Hollywood, we have the following largely false precepts:

1) The Apocalypse is coming. There is a tendency to believe that big, catastrophic and singular events are going to come and destroy everything: that the Bird Flu or whatever is going to suddenly happen and immediately life will be hell. (The funniest example of this is climate change in The Day After Tomorrow, where sea level rise is so sudden that water rushes down the streets of New York in great rolling waves.)

2) The Apocalypse is forever. In disaster movies and such, people seem to lack the ability to regroup and rebuild.

3) The Apocalypse is everywhere. In the movies, collapse makes the whole world a wasteland. Everything crashes and burns; everyone dies; knowledge and law are driven entirely from the planet, or at very least confined to some very distant semi-mythical outpost paradise for which the survivors year

But reality is quite different from this. In reality, even the worst large-scale disasters come in variable speeds; in even the worst disasters, effects are uneven, with some places devastated and others left only mildly scathed; and in almost all disasters, rebuilding begins almost immediately (even the Black Death killing a third to half of the population didn’t put much of dent in Europe’s evolution — indeed some argue it accelerated trade and innovation).

In reality, in a disaster those with the largest stable group and the highest degree of cooperation come out on top, and, in fact, it is often those places which are best governed and most socially coherent that assist other places in the rebuilding… and those hard-hit places are generally quite receptive to good ideas for putting the pieces back together.

Because the intelligent response to looming crisis is a mix of all-out efforts toward prevention and widespread societal preparation. It’s foresight, planning and cooperation, good investments and strong public service capacities. The smart move, when you’re worried about the end of the world end, is to change it.

 

Alex then makes some insightful comments in his post Lazy Dystopia’s, which echoes much of what I’ve been saying for years:

Why is the dystopian future always literally dark? Why is it always raining or overcast? Why is the architecture always a mix of hyper-modernism, brutalism and squatter slum? Why is the politics always so transparently totalitarian, so fascist-plus-rebels? Why is it so retro and abstract?

Why doesn’t the dystopian vision ever include sunshine and children playing in its ruins? Why does it not include the constant, untiring efforts of most people to do what they can with what they have to improve their situations? Why are most people in the dystopian future always powerless to change anything? I could go on, but you get the point.

Jason Stoddard proclaims the need for speculative fiction that is strange and happy:

The world is changing at an increasingly rapid pace. Just in the last few weeks, I’ve read about active corneal overlays for augmented reality and Russian chatbots good enough to pass simple Turing tests (and immediately being used for sex chat.) Where we live is getting strange. But this doesn’t mean it’s a dystopia, or that we’ll be bowing to evil corporate overlords whose only mission statement is to rape the planet, or that we’ll have mind control installed against our will, or that we’ll all die because of climate change or slowing economic growth or whatever the cause du jour is. So why can’t we be strange–and happy?

As I commented to Alex Steffan today:

I believe the current and extended dark spell got it’s start in the early Rea years of 1981-82, with movies like Blade Runner and Mad Max, and was further exacerbated by the works of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling who cemented us into Legacy Futures (courtesy Jamais Cascio) of dystopian cyberpunk and steampunk dead ends. This dystopian way of thinking became so pervasive, that even Star Trek started it’s irreversible decline toward bleak dystopianism with the advent of Deep Space Nine shortly after Roddenberry died.

Alex adds to this sentiment and says

The fault lies with a few other people as well, including Ridley Scott, Alan Moore, William Gibson, Katsuhiro Otomo, and Masamune Shirow. Scott brought us “Blade Runner,” and pioneered a vision of the future that used postmodern pastiche not as a clever device (as in Nouvelle Vogue films like “Week-end”), but as a worldbuilding tool. In the same year “Blade Runner” was released, Moore published “V for Vendetta,” and followed it up with “Watchmen” four years later. Both stories feature totalitarian regimes infecting previously-democratic societies and exacerbating systemic poverty and oppression. The result is a bricolage aesthetic of mingled opulence and detritus. But you could say the same about Gibson’s novels from the same decade, as well as Otomo’s and Shirow’s manga — “Blade Runner,” “V for Vendetta,” and the “Akira” manga all came out in the same year, and since then, anyone dealing with dystopian futures has struggled with the glorious burden of that heritage.

Alex made a point of talking to Syd Mead, the designer who did much of the worldbuilding for the movie Bladerunner.

I asked him this very question: what would it take to make a movie of Bladerunner’s imaginative power, set in a positive future? He paused for a second and said he thought it’d be very difficult, that catharsis is so important to people, and people are so terrified of the future, that you’d need some completely new vision of what the future will look like to even set the scene for a new narrative… and that is obviously no mean feat.

Most science fiction sucks, as Norman Spinrad said, precisely because it’s too lazy to imagine let alone devise workable solutions to how these futures can either be diverted or ameliorated should we find ourselves in them. This pessimistic malaise that afflicts so many otherwise intelligent thinkers continues to motivate me today to keep writing, inspiring and working towards better solutions.  As Spinrad says,

‘What’s wrong with science fiction is part of the same damn crisis, and I’m not kidding. What’s wrong with science fiction ultimately is an aspect of what’s wrong with conglomerate corporate capitalism, the publishing part, because in terms of how many good books are being written every year, there’s nothing wrong. The last ten years, there are 20 or 30 good-to-great novels every year, and you really can’t complain. The problem is, they’re buried in an avalanche of cynical commercial crap. That’s a dysfunction of the publishing industry, and it affects what writers write.

”There’s another thing wrong with science fiction, and I think it comes from the culture too. How much science fiction is being published now that’s set in worlds that are better than ours? Not that have bigger shopping malls or faster space ships, but where the characters are morally superior, where the society works better, is more just? Not many. It becomes difficult to do it, and that’s a feedback relationship with what’s happening in the culture, with science fiction being the minor note. People don’t credit it anymore! Not just better gizmos and more virtual reality gear, but better societies. People don’t believe the future will be a better place. And that is very scary.

‘Providing hope is something science fiction should be doing. It sounds arrogant to say it, but if we don’t do it, who the hell will? One of the social functions of science fiction is to be visionary, and when science fiction isn’t being visionary, it hurts the culture’s visionary sense. And when the culture isn’t receptive, neither is science fiction. It’s a downward spiral.’

Alex concludes and says, “We may be at the turning point, however, if other readers are feeling the same sense of saturation that you are.”

I think we are.  During the Depression, people didn’t go to the movies to see more downers, they went to see the grand musicals and spectacles to uplift and inspire them. If recent box office failures like the dreadfully bad remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still are any indicator, Hollywood better get their asses in gear and start making bright, green, optimistic, and convincing stories of the future if they to continue getting movie goers.

I think we are long overdo for a radical change in narrative.  We have a new president on the way, and problems that can be solved now if we are willing to work our asses off to make them a reality.

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The Solar Economy & The Re-Greening of the Earth

June 30th, 2008 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The Solar Economy & The Re-Greening of the Earth)

Despite climbing gas prices, and an ever growing threat of global warming, I’ve become more confident that a clean-green sustainable economy is on it’s way.  As hard as the gas prices hit the wallet, these higher prices could not have come at a better time.  There’s nothing like the pocketbook that gets people’s attention. As the cost of using polluting resources climbs, cleaner alternatives become more attractive.  What’s kept kept this transition from taking hold is a combination of powerful oil interests combined with not-cheap-enough renewable alternatives.  That’s beginning to change.

The most significant challenger yet to our traditional energy scheme is a company called Nanosolar.  Although they are mum on specific details of efficiency and pricing, what is clear is they are now printing (rolling) solar cells off in their production facility in excess of 100 feet per minute using a single $1.65 million dollar conveyor system.  Nanosolar is claiming efficiencies as high as 14%, with at least an average of 10%.  According to a press release on June 18th, they are now capable of printing 1GW of solar capacity per year.  And that’s just for starters. According to their CEO, the speed of these conveyor systems could theoretically be ramped up to 2000 feet/minute.  Even if they achieved a quarter of that speed, that same facility would then be capable of 5GW/year.  The current annual global consumption of energy from all sources is 5 x 10^20 joules.  This translates into 15 Terawatts of ongoing power output every second of every day.  If nanosolar alone were charged with converting the entire world to solar over 10 years, they would need 300 production facilities of equivalent size. In the scheme of things, this isn’t very much, however we don’t have to rely on just Nanosolar for our energy needs.  There are many other sources including geothermal, wind, as well as solar-thermal (the current choice for large-scale solar installations). One thing is clear, there is no reason we can’t convert all of the world’s energy production to clean-green renewables over the next couple of decades.   The traditional view is that such a transition would require huge subsidies from governments.  If Nanosolar can achieve the 99 cents/watt prices they claim, then no subsidies would be needed. Anything less than a $1/watt makes it competitive with petroleum based power sources, especially if prices per barrel remain above $100 (It’s currently above $140/barrel).  Assuming the entire worlds energy production were being produced in a single location in North Africa, below is a map showing the area needed:

solar-thermal-power-bb001

The larger square represents the whole world, and the middle square represents the 25 countries of the European Union.  As you can see the amount of land needed is rather minuscule   This area was calculating using a conservative 8% efficiency. Luckily for us, solar power decentralizes energy production, eliminating the necessity for centralized power sources.  Like the PC before it, cheap solar power gives everybody the ability to produce their own power on their rooftops, the same way the PC put centralized supercomputer power on every desktop and laptop.  Below is an image showing a variety of large-scale sources and how they could be tied into a network supplying all of Europe, Western Asia and Africa with power.

solar-thermal-power-bb011

Although it’s not clear form this picture, a positive and very powerful benefit to cheap solar power is radically cheaper desalinization plants.  Not only would Africa benefit from the economic boon of massive solar farms in the northern Sahara, but a huge increase in fresh water into Africa’s arid region, long suffering from drought, desertification, economic hardship and starvation. Even before these benefits are felt, desalinization itself has become cheaper, with current prices now below 50 cents per cubic meter of water.  And just a few days agoSiemens Water Technologies reported a new technology that desalinizes one cubic meter of water while using only 1.5 kwh of energy, which, according to the report, is one half the energy that other processes use.  Include cheap solar into the mix, and water from desalinization becomes 5-10 times cheaper than from traditional municipal sources.  What this means, is that vast areas of arid regions throughout the world could become beautiful green paradises, lush with vegetation, lakes,streams, farming and life.  The Sahara,and most other deserts in the world could some day look like this:

DesertFarming1

The Sahara Desert is a notoriously hostile environment where it is almost impossible to survive – let alone grow and thrive. The Sahara Forest Project is an audacious environmental undertaking aims to change all of that. The Sahara Forest Project aims to provide a new source of fresh water, food and renewable energy in hot, arid regions, as well as providing conditions to re-vegetate any desert region. Using an inspired combination of solar power and seawater, an ambitious collective of environmental designers, architects and engineers has plans to convert part of this harsh desert into a thriving plant paradise that will bring food, water and power to one of the most unlikely places on the planet.

sahara_green1

The first critical move is to use concentrated solar power bring in vast amounts of solar energy via huge arrays of mirrors that will supply the installation with electrical power and heat. The second essential step is the employment of seawater greenhouses which uses seawater rather than tapping into the depleted underwater freshwater sources via wells. The solar power is used to evaporate the seawater, clean and cool it, and to spread the conditioned air throughout a system of greenhouses.

The result: cool air, plenty of freshwater moisture, and copious plant growth. What can be grown? Essentially anything you can imagine, including most kinds of staple produce found in your local grocery stores. Best of all, the seawater being used is rich in nutrients which can be used in the growing process which in turn minimizes the need to bring in external nutrient sources from outside of this closed system.

And outside of the system? Extra clean water can be released into the local atmosphere and create a regional microclimate that can sustain the growth of some kinds of plants that can live outside of the greenhouses. In the long run, then, not only can the greenhouses themselves provide food but the entire operation can improve the regional climactic conditions and repair environmental damage (such as fresh water depletion) slowly change the local ecosystem back to something closer to what it was thousands of years ago.

Along with abundant supplies of clean energy, transportation and other high power energy use can either be converted to electric or hydrogen.  Hydrogen can be produced by applying electrolysis to water. Everything from large transports to hypersonic aircraft can run on hydrogen fuel.  Meanwhile electric cars could be powered by solar generated electricity produced on the rooftops of the average home.

The average daily use of electricity of the American home is 30KWH.  In order to produce this much electricity daily using an 8% efficient solar cell would require approximately 500 square feet.  Each square foot would generate about 9 watts, which equates to 4500 watts for 500 square feet.  This would require less than 7 hours of sunlight a day.  Obviously many days of the year are cloud covered, and this is not considering the more northern climates which get less sun still.  However, 8% efficiency is very low, and I used it as a conservative baseline.  If you double the efficiency to 14% you only need 3.5 hours a day.  Also keep in mind, 30KWH/day is an American use, which is more consumptive than any other countries household in the world. Nanosolar is claiming an average of 10% efficiency, with highs of 14%.  With additional research there is no reason to think these efficiencies can’t go higher.  Some companies have already achieved 40% efficiency with some materials.  500 square feet of nanosolar cells at their current price would cost $4500, not counting installation and dc/ac inverters.  Still, as this technology goes mainstream, which it will, the costs will only go down.  Nanosolar is saying that once they scale up another factor, prices could drop as low as 30 cents/watt of production, or less than $1500 to have you total energy independence for yourself.  No more power bills, and with an electric car, no more gas bills either, not to mention the radical reduction in global carbon emissions.

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A Rebirth of Psychedelic Futurism

January 7th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on A Rebirth of Psychedelic Futurism)

dream01

The future as told through the present has been awfully grim these days, especially with the almost surreal government oppression we’re facing. But this article brought a smile to my face, and it was very synchronistic, as I have already been on the same wavelength these last few months. The last few years, and especially since 9-11, I’ve had my belly full of futures filled with science and technology gone awry and video games whose sole purpose is to kill and destroy in what is almost always DARK, DANK, and DYSTOPIAN worlds.

Yet when I dream at night, those wonderfully lucid flying dreams, I recall all of those fantastically fun and pleasure filled dreams of far-out futuristic possibilities, inspired by a 1960s and 70s culture that celebrated an ongoing progress towards a better more positive tomorrow. A future where fun, pleasure, love and peace are pervasive – space colonies, interstellar pleasure cruise ships, orgasmatrons, sexy computers voices and intimate zero-gravity environments. And it got me to wondering about bringing those types of visions to reality somehow. A vision to share with others. With everything going on now, I feel an inexorable drive to CREATE more than ever before. It feels almost like a moral imperative. Perhaps if I can network with other sufficiently tuned-in minds on the planet I can least find some kindred spirits who share a vision of a much better future. . And for those of you who haven’t heard of Ian Banks, I highly suggest you read his books about The Culture, a website I host on this server. Its my hope that I can, as time progresses, continue to tweak and improve the content and quality of this site to better reflect this emerging positive worldview. A future that we, our children, and our mind children can look forward to.

[*Note: This blog post led shortly thereafter to the huge thematic shift in what I blogged about going forward – less tech-centric and more consciousness-centric. This led shortly thereafter to the creation of FutureHi.net, a site dedicated to fostering a wildly optimistic and visionary inspired future-present. Futurehi was sold in 2006. All my posts on my old blog and FutureHi are now archived here at Enthea.org]

 

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As we sit here deep in an economic recession, with a looming war with Iraq, amidst growing global unrest, it can be hard to imagine how anyone might be optimistic about the next few years. But despite these gloomy prospects, there are larger forces at work, and they point to the prospect of a brighter future for everyone.

We are seeing battle lines drawn with capital on one side, and ideology, criminality, war and political power on the other. Arguably capital has won hands down up to this point. Without capital, ideologues cannot finance their causes, criminals have nothing to steal, wars cannot be financed, and politicians cannot gain or keep their power. Ideology doesn’t buy you guns, money does, and if the machinations of a group is centered around money, they have a greater chance of making more money, and buying more guns, than those whose machinations center around ideology. Ideologues can get money too, but ultimately they depend on the machinations of capital to finance their causes. In the Darwinian sense, those who focus more of their energies on acquiring and keeping capital than fulfilling their ideology have the survival advantage. That’s why the United States, the most capitalist society in history, is the most powerful by far. The US military budget is greater than the next nine largest militaries put together. Yet the power to destroy increases in capability for the individual (bio/chem/nuclear), and this in turn complexifies the game. Now, even the under-financed ideologues can exact great damage with limited resources. 9-11 is a perfect example. Likewise, a single malevolent and resourceful individual could get their hands on a very leathal and virulent strain of biotoxin and kill a huge portion of the population.

With a growing amount of power falling into the hands of individuals through internet resources, strong crypto, bioweapons, etc., the response of the capitalist has been to erode privacy and increase the level of intelligence and surveillance to find these potential threats. Already we have seen some grave erosions of civil liberties by the government embowered by the US Patriot Act. In addition we are seeing a massive increase in public cameras, dataveillance, biometrics, GPS tracking, and profiling. What’s more troubling is these increases in transparency have occurred almost exclusively one-way. Part of the problem is that corruption and criminality reach the highest levels of society and for the moment those unaccountable are using this “war on terrorism” as an excuse to shield themselves while increasing their power over others.

I don’t think its too extreme that we are for all intents and purposes living in a de-facto fascist-criminal regime. Lets be clear, I’m not accusing anyone in the current administration of wrong doing, only that the machinations of how everything is being run as being questionable to say the least. These are trends that have been going on for a very long time, well before the current administration took power. Rather than be shocked and upset by this continuous coup, see it as a weakness that has been exploited while the rest of us weren’t watching and even unable to watch, by the most sophisticated group in history. While they distracted us, they “acquired” large sums of capital and power sufficient for near total domination of the political arena. Now they have grabbed the reigns of government, gained control of the media propaganda machine, brought the economy to its knees (a mistake that will be their undoing) and control the largest military on earth. The only problem is they have already exploited the world to such an alarming degree that they are quickly running out of resources left to take. Having already reached the maximum threshold of taxation of the American people, they created a fake war on non-corporate drugs to increase their financial spoils even further. Now that they have exhausted that avenue, they’ve now created a “war on terrorism” as a cover to justify full-scale preemptive invasion of entire regions of the globe. This a dangerous move on their part, and they know it, but it doesn’t matter now because they are desperate. They are loosing their ability to hide their behaviors behind business as usual, because business as usual is on the verge of collapse (Enron, Worlcom, etc). Now the gloves are coming off and the rest of the world is seeing them for exactly what they are, and it has people scared. Lots of damage could be done by this gang in its desperation to continue its questionable cabal at all costs. But it cannot last, because ultimately it is not based on the free flow of capital but on the stealing of it from others.

If this “war on terrorism” continues it will devastate markets around the world and increasingly anger the true capitalists, the ones who have everything to loose if the economy collapses. These savvy rich people will line up against this cabal in all sorts of ways, least of which is to finance an opposition party to the current regime. And if the that is not possible, finance a way of undermining it from within, through bribery, blackmail and other dirty tricks. Regardless of what you’ve been told, war is not good for business. We are now a global economy and plundering one part of it to boost the coffers of another part is no longer sustainable. Its a short-term gambit at best. The whole damn thing is too interconnected and ecological. When you harm one part of it and you harm the whole. War, fascism, criminality , they are all unsustainable in the global ecological economy that now exists. It will fail, because the free-flow of capital demands it. Already the U.S. military machine is supported by vast subsidies by an economy that is buckling at the seems. And yet. the current administration is proposing an increase in the military budget by another $100 billion per year by 2007. Where is this money going to come from? We have already reached a critical mass of taxation. Any more and it will break the backs of the consumer, who without their spending power renders the economy helpless. If they don’t spend, companies don’t earn, if companies don’t earn, they lay off more people who in turn cannot spend. So if there is less capital, there is less tax to support a war machine or a government – it is that simple.

This so-called war on terrorism, this imperialist and desperate move to invade Iraq could very easily tip the economy right over the edge into a full-scale world-wide deflationary depression. Already it is on the verge of collapse because of massive swindling on every level by the most sophisticated white collar criminals in history. Enron and WorldCom are just the tip of the iceberg. The savings and loan scandal was peanuts compared to the vast robbery and theft that has brought us to our present predicament. It is no coincidence that we are banging the drums of war to divert our attention away from an economy that is on it last legs. Some say the cabal is power-mad and greedy for oil and money. Perhaps. The truth is they need this war if they are going to save an economy based on faulty principles and criminality. However, the only way this economy can possibly recover in a healthy and sustainable way is to have sufficient checks and balances that prevent such criminality and massive swindling from ever occurring in the first place. Corporations and governments will have to become more accountable and transparent. Surveillance will have to go both ways. If we are to see ourselves out of this unsustainable spiral we must now ask the question, “who is going to watch the watchers?’ This is an important question to ask, because as is been pointed out, if nobody is watching the watchers then we have a huge hole of accountability and in turn vulnerability to abuse. And such abuse is ultimately bad for capital. Capital requires liquidity. Liquidity requires liberty. Short-term capital can be made that breaks all the rules, such as corruption, theft,etc. But it cannot be sustained long-term. Long-term, capital favors liberty over tyranny and that is something we should be optimistic about.

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