Power for the People: A Cryptographic and Nuclear Renaissance

I am grateful to see the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation identify three myths that affect the global poor. I will clarify the first myth–providing additional insights. If our goal is to end global poverty there are two things that we must do, unfortunately both are not included in the Gates Letter. We must increase global energy consumption and we must increase individual liberty. I provide a technical justification for cryptography and nuclear energy as paired solutions to end global poverty. I also show how these are fundamental drivers for human progress.

We begin with the global income distribution.

The poverty curve from two humps to one. ( via Gates Foundation)

Figure 1: The poverty curve from two humps to one. ( via the Gates Foundation)

Examining the chart we see that the income distribution in 2000 is p\left(I\right)\sim\mathrm{ln}\mathcal{N}\left(\mu,\sigma\right). where \mu=4.6 and \sigma=1.4. When we look at that transition of the income distribution from a mixture to a non mixture we should take great solace. Globalization and global communication united the world. As Hans Rosling says, there is no us and them there is we. In a previous post, I hypothesized that the world reached an equilibrium state. This figure when in consideration with the entropy of the United States shows our world clearly as being in equilibrium, \frac{\mathrm{d}S}{\mathrm{d}t}\approx0.

Figure 2. United States entropy from 1990–2012 using various deflators.

Figure 2. United States entropy from 1990–2012 using various deflators.

Getting back to the global income distribution, we need to consider Adam Smith’s statement that “[w]herever there is a great property, there is great inequality”. We see that globally we have a great property and that as a result we have inequality. I am of Smith’s mind, that inequality is. It does not in and of itself carry a value judgement. If we apply a normative value that everyone should have the same income we see that we destroy wealth, property and freedom. I derive these consequences in Various Properties of the Log–Normal Distribution. Let me say this again just to make sure that you heard correctly.

When we adopt Rawl’s position of distributive justice, we demand the destruction of wealth, private property, and freedom. I believe that humanity is fundamentally a good in the world. I am a humanist, and as such I adopt the normative principle that humanity should be preserved and not destroyed. We can avoid such normative judgements and accept a positive one, that the dynamical systems tend to the point of maximum entropy. My basis in this is well founded, it is also the “most honest” assumption that assumes nothing beyond the data given. [Jaynes 2006]

The entropy of a log-normally distributed variable is given by:

S=\frac{1}{2}\mathrm{ln}\left[2\pi e\sigma^2 e^{\frac{\sigma^2}{2}}\right]+\mathrm{ln}\left[E\left(I\right)\right]

We see that for any given E\left(I\right) that entropy is maximized by \sigma=1. Our global \sigma=1.4 in 2000. This suggests some stark realities that we face. First is that our global carrying capacity is structurally suppressed, based on observed trends in society, I think this is best explained by reduced economic freedom globally. There are various explanations as to why, but it all comes back to government intervention in our lives. Government is an entity that is logically independent from the governed, formally government is orthogonal to the people around the globe. Thus government can act on society exerting force (literal and figurative) on the citizens. Such forces can only exist outside of the system being observed, which is why I reach this conclusion. Said differently, people will act to maximize their freedom given the constraints that they face. Government, by definition, is a constraint on society.

There is a reason why liberty is now a global issue and why we are seeing revolutions and rebellion around the world. The world’s population wants \sigma=1 government  wants \sigma\approx \mathrm{Constant} as it can use the entropy difference to extract wealth from society. It is, as it always was, about control.

Rawl’s philosophy formally justifies \sigma<1. While this gets us in the direction towards \sigma\to1 it does so at the expense of our liberty. Rawls’ philosophy (progressivism) and that of our current governments (conservativism), are fundamentally limited, both resulting in lower overall societal entropy.

After we acknowledge the canonical trend of \sigma\to1, we are left with one alternative for increasing entropy, increasing average global income. Governments around the world recognize this which is why they print so much money. Don’t be fooled. increasing the money supply without actually increasing individual productivity, actually is a net harm to society cooling individual action. It is theft at the grandest scale.

Armed with that understanding we need to answer, “how do we increase individual productivity?” First we need to understand the natural constraints that we face. Our world is governed by the laws of thermodynamics. If we want to increase the amount that we do, we have no option other than to increase the energy consumed by society. This is a first law statement. We can make second law (efficiency) improvements, but these are limited by our knowledge, materials and capital; only resulting in marginal improvements.

Let’s provide a lower bound for the amount of energy we need to raise average global income from the $5.6/day (2000 dollars) to say $56/day (2000 dollars). Because of the second law we know that we have to supply more energy (heat) than is needed to increase the useful work output. Part of this is necessary to overcome hysteresis (stable dynamical systems tend to resist change). We assume the lower bound of energy needed to increase global wealth a factor of 10 to be a factor of 10 from what it was in 2000.

In 2000 the 6 billion people on the planet consumed 120 PW-hr, or 20 MW-hr/person. For a global population of say 10 billion with an average daily income of $56/day (2000 dollars) the world would have to consume  2,000 PW-hr every year! To provide context to this number, in 2008 the world consumed 117 PW-hr of fossil fuels, which is just off the peak fossil fuel consumption of the world. 117PW-hr/year is a daily consumption of 190 million barrels of oil equivalent (MMbbloe/day), or 68 billion bbloe every year.

Scaling fossil fuels to be 82% of a global energy consumption of 2,000 PW-hr/yr is one trillion bbloe/yr. This scale of energy consumption is not possible for fossil fuels. If it is not possible for fossil fuels then it is certainly not possible for renewable energy. We have one option left, nuclear energy.

Assume for the sake of argument the entirety of the 2,000 PW-hr/yr comes form nuclear. How much uranium is needed? Not as much as you might think, 300,000 metric tonnes of heavy metal (MTHM). Known reserves of uranium total 5 million MTHM at <$130/kg. This is terrestrial energy with conventional mining in existing mines. Once price increases far enough there are billions of tonnes of uranium in the oceans.

We have thousands of years of uranium available and as much if not more thorium. Accessing the fuel needed to sustain humanity, support global population, and increase human wealth is not a problem. It never was a problem, nor will it be a problem for any foreseeable future.

If we want to make the poorest amongst us (globally) as rich as the global mean, we need as much power every year as humanity ever consumed in its entire history.  We have the capability to access that power today!

I think the term of a “Nuclear Renaissance” is quite fitting. I talked about humanity at the cusp of a second social Renaissance due to recent cryptographic advances. As I understand the world cryptography and nuclear power are going to be the fundamental drivers of humanity. They will end this neo-feudal fossil era. We live in interesting times.

3 responses

  1. Pingback: Fighting povertry – but how? | Undskabens Hotel

  2. Hello, Cal.

    I’m very impressed by the novelty and efficiency in your thinking; and though I don’t purport to fully (or even materially) understand it all, I haven’t been able to find any obvious flaws in it either, which is rare.

    That said, I do have a few genuine questions for you. But first, some context: It would seem you care great deal about the plight of humanity and have invested a great deal of thought in its betterment. I applaud you for that, sir. However, I believe your thinking is so incredibly sophisticated as to be inaccessible by all but a tiny minority (if that many).

    So my first question is: “Do you agree with the above statement?”

    And second, “If so, do you care?”

    And finally, “If not, why not?”

    Assuming you would like to increase the accessibility of your thinking, could you distill down, organize, and present this genre and bigness of thought in such a way that someone of average intellect could understand and be motivated to take action by it?

    Perhaps the question is naïve.

    Regardless, on a far less important note, I was curious to understand what you meant in stating that: dynamical systems tend to the “point of maximum entropy”, and thought you might like to know the link above is broken.

    Also, I believe you meant to express a lift in average global income (at $56/day) to $20,000 (vs $2,000).

    Congratulations again, and thank you for sharing your valuable ideas, sir.

    Christian Hunter
    Austin, TX

    • Christian,

      Thank you for your feedback and thoughts. To answer your first question, I don’t know. It doesn’t strike me as sophisticated, just more common sense than anything. The mathematical work that I did was essentially doing what others already figured out to do, namely J. Willard Gibbs, John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, just applied in a different way and with a slight update in language, especially with regards to Gibbs approach to information theory. Even here, I wasn’t the first to see this, Edwin Jaynes identified this in the 1950’s. When you get into the application of it, the concepts aren’t different from what mechanical engineers deal with most every day.

      Regarding your second and third questions. I do care, because as I test this theory I find more and more confirmation for my approach. I would love for more people to sit and pick it apart to identify flaws and to test the realm of applicability. I think it is useful to be able to distill it down to the core elements because much of economics is “baffle them with BS”. These guys massage numbers to support their narrative and justifying stealing from other people. Understanding what I do helps minimize when I get BS’ed, especially when something is measurable. I think other people deserve a chance to understand as well.

      When I talk to my dad, or others, I explain things very simply. They get it, in fact they got it even before I opened my mouth. People who do actual physical work for their living get it. People who experience the impact of limited access to energy daily understand intrinsically many of the fundamental theoretical consequences, especially about creating wealth. I tried explaining these ideas to an economics professor of mine and he didn’t want to get it. I had a friend at the Federal Reserve here in Atlanta. He didn’t want to get it either. Another friend, an econ prof at GA State, has been very patient with me in trying to understand it, but it doesn’t click. When I talk with physics people, they understand immediately the math, but are turned off by the political consequences, at least the ones I’ve talked to.

      It was hard going through the process of working through the theory, I had to reevaluate my own preconceptions in light of my work. My political outlook changed as a result. From my experience, people either get what I’m talking about and don’t understand it or they understand what I am saying but don’t want get it. People internalize what they can see. So, I will show them, which is my current work. Formally distilling this down is on the list of things to-do, but is superseded with other things in my life. It is not a naïve question at all.

      Dynamical systems (aka random or stochastic systems) all tend to the point based on their constraints where they reach the greatest level of complexity (entropy) subject to their constraints. Imagine stacking kernels of sand on top of one another. They might stay in that arrangement, but it has low complexity as it is very easy to describe where and what a particle of sand is doing. Expose that thin column to any stress that is common in the physical world and it will collapse into a pile of sand with a roughly 1:1 slope. That pile of sand is that systems configuration of maximum complexity (entropy). When talking about people, we tend as a rule to seek the greatest freedom (complexity/entropy) available to us subject to our constraints, which include heredity, genetics, experience, cognitive ability, location, accumulated wealth, legal system, regulations, etc. I’m trying to find that broken link, but I can’t remember what I linked to it. Edwin Jaynes did a lot of work on maximum entropy and his 2006 book, Probability Theory: The logic of science. It is phenomenal.

      The increase in average income is “just” an order of magnitude. A quick check is that there is an order of magnitude increase in the consumption of energy from ~200 PW-hr/yr to ~2,000 PW-hr/yr.

      Thank you. I put all of this up here, to prevent the idea from burning a hole in my head and as an insurance policy. For it to spread and go viral it has to be simplified, which is the next stage.

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