Short thoughts 2 – responding to Orlov’s pessimism on Peak Oil

Dmitri Orlov has written an excellent article here, which I’d recommend reading, the gist of which is that the ‘descent’ of oil production will be much steeper than the standard Peak Oil analysis expects. I have no dispute with his analysis, so far as it goes. I agree that reserves are overstated (and we have front-loaded the extraction); that the Export-Land problem is very serious; that EROEI will exponentially reduce the available of energy as such oil as is extracted; and that there will be systemic break-downs of the infrastructure needed to extract oil. All of which makes me think that, taken together, we (average Westerners) are looking at severe oil scarcity within about ten years (possibly sooner) and that, if we haven’t as a society shifted away from oil-dependency, then our future is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

So why do I think his pessimism is overdone? Two principal reasons, one specific, one (flowing from the first) more abstract.

The specific reason why I believe the pessimism is overdone is that our culture is massively wasteful of energy. Take transportation: most cars in most morning commutes carry a single occupant, when they were designed to take four. Setting up car-sharing agreements is technologically straightforward and would have all sorts of wider social benefits in addition to the reduction in petrol consumption. In other words, this is an ‘easy win’ – and it is an easy win that can be adopted rapidly, which means that it buys time to deal with the more fundamental issues, which is the most crucial point. There are other easy wins (like home insulation, CHP) along with some other not-so-easy-but-very-likely-to-happen ‘wins’ like: we’ll be colder in the winter and have to wear more jumpers rather than turning up the thermostat. My ‘wild-assed-guess’ is that we (the UK) could face a 50% reduction in the availability of oil and just about keep the show on the road – not without a great deal of hardship, and not without having to rely on a very great deal of social solidarity and rationing etc – but I think we could do it.

Now this is just a temporary fix – it will give us, I would guess, ten to fifteen years of time ‘coping’ with Peak Oil – which leads to my more abstract grounds for optimism, which is that the Western way of life is dynamic, not static. The greatest problems facing our civilisation are not technical, they are social, political and spiritual, and the biggest problem of all is a refusal to face up to the reality of our predicament. If my first point is anywhere near true, then the one certain thing that will flow from it is that people will realise the nature of our crisis and, in typical human fashion, respond rapidly and adaptably. When motivated, we are able to do all sorts of ingenious things, the best example of which is probably the retooling of our factories in order to fight WW2.

To my mind, the issue is not whether the world as we know it is coming to an end (it is, we will see [DV] the end of a society based around the assumption of perpetual economic growth), nor whether civilisation of some sort will continue on afterwards (I have no doubt that it will). What I ponder is what sort of civilisation will there be to succeed our present one, what values and achievements will we be able to salvage from the wreck of Modern Industrial Civilisation? I am optimistic that we will be able to save a lot – but that is undoubtedly a moot point.

TBTM20100831

OK – I’m back, and I’m happy :o)
Here’s some things that I’ve enjoyed reading whilst on holiday:
A snatch of old song (or, why I might take up scything)
The dimensions of things (eg Pakistan flood)
Nine challenges of alternative energy
Biblical Christianity is bankrupt
How to save the music industry
Why we shouldn’t be afraid of fear
A philosophical look at penal substitution
How much is left?
Why Green Wizards will get us nowhere (or: Transition vs JMG – a good example of where there is more in common than there is separating)

That’ll do for now.

TBTM20100831

OK – I’m back, and I’m happy :o)
Here’s some things that I’ve enjoyed reading whilst on holiday:
A snatch of old song (or, why I might take up scything)
The dimensions of things (eg Pakistan flood)
Nine challenges of alternative energy
Biblical Christianity is bankrupt
How to save the music industry
Why we shouldn’t be afraid of fear
A philosophical look at penal substitution
How much is left?
Why Green Wizards will get us nowhere (or: Transition vs JMG – a good example of where there is more in common than there is separating)

That’ll do for now.

The collapse of civilisations (part one)

A courier article, based on my original Tainter review

Pretty much every civilisation that has ever existed has come to an end (we can argue about China another time). Our civilisation will be no different. There has, as you might expect, been a fair bit of academic research into why this is the case. What I’d like to do in the next few articles is describe how this collapse might be understood, first in general terms with a book review; then thinking more locally, in terms of the UK and Mersea itself; finally thinking about what sort of response we might make.

The seminal work in this field is ‘The Collapse of Complex Civilisations’ by Joseph Tainter. Tainter’s work was originally published in 1988 and has the feel of a work which is establishing a new field of study. Tainter is concerned to explore what ‘collapse’ means, when applied to a society; how collapse happens; and, in the conclusion, to draw some possible lessons for our present situation. The first chapter is a swift survey of eighteen historical examples of collapsed societies around the world, from the Harappans to the Hohokams. This serves to introduce the field that Tainter wishes to study, and also indicates the absence of rigorous empirical investigation. This is the cue for Tainter to begin his systematic analysis. He outlines what is meant by ‘collapse’, describing it as “a matter of rapid substantial decline in an established level of complexity. A society that has collapsed is suddenly smaller, less differentiated and heterogeneous, and characterised by fewer specialised parts…” Then in chapter three, Tainter surveys the explanations commonly given for why a particular society collapses, finding them all more or less deficient, and saving an especial scorn for ‘mystical explanations’ (eg Spengler or Toynbee), about which he writes: “Mystical explanations fail totally to account scientifically for collapse. They are crippled by reliance on a biological growth analogy, by value judgements, and by explanation by reference to intangibles.” In the course of this chapter he also gives a resounding declaration of the benefit of excluding value-judgements: “A scholar trained in anthropology learns early on that such valuations are scientifically inadmissible, detrimental to the cause of understanding, intellectually indefensible, and simply unfair”.

Tainter then takes the best existing explanation for collapse (economic) and proceeds to develop a hypothesis to explain why complex societies might suddenly shift from a more complex to a less complex state. His thesis can be concisely stated: increasing complexity gives rise to diminishing marginal returns on investment; when those returns become negative, the society has a progressively diminishing capacity to withstand stress, and is vulnerable to collapse.

Essentially at point C3 there is no benefit from the increase of complexity (C3-C1) – hence the collapse from C3 to C1.

This thesis is built upon four working assumptions:
– human societies are problem-solving organisations;
– sociopolitical systems require energy for their maintenance;
– increased complexity carries with it increased costs per capita; and
– investment in sociopolitical complexity as a problem-solving response often reaches a point of declining marginal returns.

What happens is that, as a complex society initially develops, there is a very high return on investment in complexity – the resources made available through that adoption of complexity are far higher than are used up through the complex organisation itself. However, over time, the ‘low hanging fruit’ are used up, and for every increase in complexity there is a lower and lower resource return until there comes a point where simply maintaining the existing complexity has a negative impact upon available resources – in other words, the resources are more efficiently deployed through a less complex system.

Tainter gives a number of different specific and small-scale examples where this decline in marginal returns applies, for example in terms of the return on research and development investment, or medical research, but his next chapter applies the theory to understanding three different examples of collapse. The most telling example, to my mind, was that of the farmers in the latter stages of the Western Roman Empire, who were taxed more and more heavily in order to maintain the apparatus of the Roman state, and who eventually welcomed the barbarian invasions as a release from what had become Roman oppression. A Roman structure of high complexity had been viable for as long as there were increasing resources made available – and this was accomplished through conquest. However, once the limits of conquest were reached (either with the German tribes, whose relative poverty made their conquest uneconomic, or through coming up against another Empire strong enough to resist Rome, eg the Parthian) then that model of development became untenable. The accumulated resources available to Rome were drawn down, its capacity to absorb shocks to the system was eroded, and thus the collapse of that form of complexity became a matter of time. As Tainter writes, “Once a complex society enters the stage of declining marginal returns, collapse becomes a mathematical likelihood, requiring little more than sufficient passage of time to make probable an insurmountable calamity”. As a complex society enters into this terminal phase, the advantages to retreating to a previously existing level of complexity become more and more obvious, and local communities start to shift their allegiance: “…a society reaches a state where the benefits available for a level of investment are no higher than those available for some lower level…Complexity at such a point is decidedly not advantageous, and the society is in danger of collapse from decomposition or external threat”.

Next time, I’ll start to link these generalities with the specifics that we face in England generally, and on Mersea in particular.

The collapse of civilisations (part one)

A courier article, based on my original Tainter review

Pretty much every civilisation that has ever existed has come to an end (we can argue about China another time). Our civilisation will be no different. There has, as you might expect, been a fair bit of academic research into why this is the case. What I’d like to do in the next few articles is describe how this collapse might be understood, first in general terms with a book review; then thinking more locally, in terms of the UK and Mersea itself; finally thinking about what sort of response we might make.

The seminal work in this field is ‘The Collapse of Complex Civilisations’ by Joseph Tainter. Tainter’s work was originally published in 1988 and has the feel of a work which is establishing a new field of study. Tainter is concerned to explore what ‘collapse’ means, when applied to a society; how collapse happens; and, in the conclusion, to draw some possible lessons for our present situation. The first chapter is a swift survey of eighteen historical examples of collapsed societies around the world, from the Harappans to the Hohokams. This serves to introduce the field that Tainter wishes to study, and also indicates the absence of rigorous empirical investigation. This is the cue for Tainter to begin his systematic analysis. He outlines what is meant by ‘collapse’, describing it as “a matter of rapid substantial decline in an established level of complexity. A society that has collapsed is suddenly smaller, less differentiated and heterogeneous, and characterised by fewer specialised parts…” Then in chapter three, Tainter surveys the explanations commonly given for why a particular society collapses, finding them all more or less deficient, and saving an especial scorn for ‘mystical explanations’ (eg Spengler or Toynbee), about which he writes: “Mystical explanations fail totally to account scientifically for collapse. They are crippled by reliance on a biological growth analogy, by value judgements, and by explanation by reference to intangibles.” In the course of this chapter he also gives a resounding declaration of the benefit of excluding value-judgements: “A scholar trained in anthropology learns early on that such valuations are scientifically inadmissible, detrimental to the cause of understanding, intellectually indefensible, and simply unfair”.

Tainter then takes the best existing explanation for collapse (economic) and proceeds to develop a hypothesis to explain why complex societies might suddenly shift from a more complex to a less complex state. His thesis can be concisely stated: increasing complexity gives rise to diminishing marginal returns on investment; when those returns become negative, the society has a progressively diminishing capacity to withstand stress, and is vulnerable to collapse.

Essentially at point C3 there is no benefit from the increase of complexity (C3-C1) – hence the collapse from C3 to C1.

This thesis is built upon four working assumptions:
– human societies are problem-solving organisations;
– sociopolitical systems require energy for their maintenance;
– increased complexity carries with it increased costs per capita; and
– investment in sociopolitical complexity as a problem-solving response often reaches a point of declining marginal returns.

What happens is that, as a complex society initially develops, there is a very high return on investment in complexity – the resources made available through that adoption of complexity are far higher than are used up through the complex organisation itself. However, over time, the ‘low hanging fruit’ are used up, and for every increase in complexity there is a lower and lower resource return until there comes a point where simply maintaining the existing complexity has a negative impact upon available resources – in other words, the resources are more efficiently deployed through a less complex system.

Tainter gives a number of different specific and small-scale examples where this decline in marginal returns applies, for example in terms of the return on research and development investment, or medical research, but his next chapter applies the theory to understanding three different examples of collapse. The most telling example, to my mind, was that of the farmers in the latter stages of the Western Roman Empire, who were taxed more and more heavily in order to maintain the apparatus of the Roman state, and who eventually welcomed the barbarian invasions as a release from what had become Roman oppression. A Roman structure of high complexity had been viable for as long as there were increasing resources made available – and this was accomplished through conquest. However, once the limits of conquest were reached (either with the German tribes, whose relative poverty made their conquest uneconomic, or through coming up against another Empire strong enough to resist Rome, eg the Parthian) then that model of development became untenable. The accumulated resources available to Rome were drawn down, its capacity to absorb shocks to the system was eroded, and thus the collapse of that form of complexity became a matter of time. As Tainter writes, “Once a complex society enters the stage of declining marginal returns, collapse becomes a mathematical likelihood, requiring little more than sufficient passage of time to make probable an insurmountable calamity”. As a complex society enters into this terminal phase, the advantages to retreating to a previously existing level of complexity become more and more obvious, and local communities start to shift their allegiance: “…a society reaches a state where the benefits available for a level of investment are no higher than those available for some lower level…Complexity at such a point is decidedly not advantageous, and the society is in danger of collapse from decomposition or external threat”.

Next time, I’ll start to link these generalities with the specifics that we face in England generally, and on Mersea in particular.

I hate it here (updated)

Thought I’d revisit this post from December 2006 (which I was reminded of by a conversation with Byron)

I wanted to use a blog post to write down how I see things panning out. I’ll probably re-appraise this on a regular basis, to see how my expectations are matching up with reality. I am conscious of an element of wishful thinking in the analysis – the simple truth is that I hate the way that the world is presently arranged, and I long for it to end. Maranatha!
One background assumption – I believe that humankind will not change its behaviour until it has exhausted all the alternatives. So this is pessimistic.
Point 2: the impact of a decline will spark a number of positive feedback systems, exacerbating the crisis. The positive side is that there will be some warning of what is coming, for those who can read the signs of the times. However, people will still not believe the scale of what is coming until it is too late. There will be a severe shortage of fuel throughout the West. Governments will ration it; at the bottom of the rationing heap will be the private user. Given the scale of the problem private commuting based upon fossil-fuels will cease, never to return. (This is a good thing. Kill the car! Let us be human!)
Point 3: one key positive feedback system will involve wider armed conflict throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. The key question there is whether the outcome will be an expansionist Islamist caliphate or an eventually nuclear Islamic civil war. I believe that the US/UK leadership is now actively fostering the latter. More widely, the West will outcompete the 3rd World for scarce petroleum and this will provoke die-off, especially in Africa. There are likely to be huge population flows towards the West in the coming two decades. Watch Mexico/US relations on this question, especially in the coming 18 months. Christians should also be aware of the push towards scapegoating of minorities, and be prepared to resist this.
Point 4: The solutions to global warming and peak oil are one and the same: powerdown and renewables. The most important long term question is whether and how far to continue using fossil fuels to preserve people in life, or whether we are able, in this generation, to make an effective change to a lower-energy and renewable civilisation. I do not believe that there are any cost-free options. There are many possibilities for a more peaceful transition; these are what Christians must spend their time working towards, so far as they are able and the divine grace precedes them. The princes of this world will deny them, and the world of the flesh will ignore them. The key issue is how far the angel of death is allowed to come.
BTW “I hate it here” is the title of Spider Jerusalem’s column. Spider Jerusalem is my hero.

I hate it here (updated)

Thought I’d revisit this post from December 2006 (which I was reminded of by a conversation with Byron)

I wanted to use a blog post to write down how I see things panning out. I’ll probably re-appraise this on a regular basis, to see how my expectations are matching up with reality. I am conscious of an element of wishful thinking in the analysis – the simple truth is that I hate the way that the world is presently arranged, and I long for it to end. Maranatha!
One background assumption – I believe that humankind will not change its behaviour until it has exhausted all the alternatives. So this is pessimistic.
Point 2: the impact of a decline will spark a number of positive feedback systems, exacerbating the crisis. The positive side is that there will be some warning of what is coming, for those who can read the signs of the times. However, people will still not believe the scale of what is coming until it is too late. There will be a severe shortage of fuel throughout the West. Governments will ration it; at the bottom of the rationing heap will be the private user. Given the scale of the problem private commuting based upon fossil-fuels will cease, never to return. (This is a good thing. Kill the car! Let us be human!)
Point 3: one key positive feedback system will involve wider armed conflict throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. The key question there is whether the outcome will be an expansionist Islamist caliphate or an eventually nuclear Islamic civil war. I believe that the US/UK leadership is now actively fostering the latter. More widely, the West will outcompete the 3rd World for scarce petroleum and this will provoke die-off, especially in Africa. There are likely to be huge population flows towards the West in the coming two decades. Watch Mexico/US relations on this question, especially in the coming 18 months. Christians should also be aware of the push towards scapegoating of minorities, and be prepared to resist this.
Point 4: The solutions to global warming and peak oil are one and the same: powerdown and renewables. The most important long term question is whether and how far to continue using fossil fuels to preserve people in life, or whether we are able, in this generation, to make an effective change to a lower-energy and renewable civilisation. I do not believe that there are any cost-free options. There are many possibilities for a more peaceful transition; these are what Christians must spend their time working towards, so far as they are able and the divine grace precedes them. The princes of this world will deny them, and the world of the flesh will ignore them. The key issue is how far the angel of death is allowed to come.
BTW “I hate it here” is the title of Spider Jerusalem’s column. Spider Jerusalem is my hero.

The future is not what it was

A Courier article – published here 2 weeks after publication in the paper itself.

I write this on the day that Mr Osborne has raised the rate of VAT to 20%. This is necessary, we are to understand, because without that extra income, the budget will not balance and the country will go bankrupt. Sadly, barring a miracle, I don’t see any way in which some form of bankruptcy can be avoided. Now, before I go further, I should say: this is going to be a very depressing article, so don’t read it until you’re in a robustly positive frame of mind (that, or quite convinced, with me, that the Rector’s reckoning can be wrong).

OK.

The future that we face over the next, say, eighteen months to five years, is one of financial depression, specifically deflation. Why do I say this? Well, let us begin by pondering some figures – these are in TRILLIONS of US dollars:

World gross product per year: 55
Total value of global issued currency: 65
Total value of world stock markets: 100
Total value of world real estate: 125
(So far so good, now for the kicker)
Total value of financial derivatives: 1600

Financial derivatives are all those complicated things we’ve heard about on the news over the last few years, like ‘sub-prime mortgages’ and ‘credit default swaps’. The simple conclusion from the above figures is that the financial world has long-since lost touch with the real world of tangible wealth. There simply isn’t enough real wealth corresponding to all the financial obligations that have now been entered into. To put this in simpler, more graphic terms – imagine the amount of wealth in the world as a cake. What the comparatively recent explosion in nominal financial wealth has done is to give a great many different people legal claims to the same bit of cake. On paper, the financial world says that we have a great many cakes – unfortunately there is only the one.

What this means is that the financial system is irretrievably bankrupt. Over the next few years we are going to see something called ‘deleveraging’ – in essence, all the debts are going to be called in. In Warren Buffett’s famous image, ‘we’re going to watch the tide go out and find out who has been swimming without their trunks on’. We are in what I think of as a ‘Wile E Coyote moment’ – remember the great Looney Tunes character, who sprints after the road runner over the edge of the cliff, and manages to keep running on thin air until the moment that he looks down?

Our political leadership has been committed to keeping the show on the road for as long as possible – or at least for long enough to ensure that the movers and shakers are able to get some measure of safety for themselves, eg with the bonuses still being given to Goldman Sachs and other bankers – but they are rapidly running out of options. What we are going to end up living through is a severe contraction of the money supply, what the economists call deflation. Most people are familiar with inflation – the price of everthing goes up – but we’re less familiar with deflation. It sounds at first like a good thing – the price of everything goes down – but the problem is that in a deflation our ability to pay goes down faster. It won’t matter if the average shopping bill comes down to £50 a week rather than £80 if the impact of unemployment and bankruptcies now means that families can only afford to pay £30 rather than £75.

We have been here before – in the 1930s most spectacularly – and the consequences are frightening. One way to get a handle on what it means is to consider real interest rates. If a bank charges a 5% interest rate, and inflation is running at 2%, then the real interest rate is 3% (bank charge minus inflation). However, in a time of deflation, the cost of money could become very high (with consequent damage to the economy) even when the nominal rate of interest is low, or zero (eg bank rate of 1%, deflation of -3% gives a real rate of 4% – the two negatives become a positive). Governments who try to stimulate activity in this context are ‘pushing on a string’, with just as much effect (look at Japan’s recent history). In this context, the very worst place to be is in debt, because the real value of the debt will increase rapidly. That applies especially to mortgages, as the nominal price of housing is likely to plummet leaving a great many people with massive negative equity.

Thomas Hardy once wrote, ‘If a path to the better there be, it begins with a full look at the worst’ (but see here). I’ve only skimmed over the nature of our financial crisis in this article – those who want to explore the background for this post might like to visit a blog site called ‘The Automatic Earth‘ which is where I got the figures from. There is a very great deal that people can do to prepare for these and the other crises that are accumulating around us, linked to the Transition process – but I’ll have to give the positive side in another article.

The future is not what it was

A Courier article – published here 2 weeks after publication in the paper itself.

I write this on the day that Mr Osborne has raised the rate of VAT to 20%. This is necessary, we are to understand, because without that extra income, the budget will not balance and the country will go bankrupt. Sadly, barring a miracle, I don’t see any way in which some form of bankruptcy can be avoided. Now, before I go further, I should say: this is going to be a very depressing article, so don’t read it until you’re in a robustly positive frame of mind (that, or quite convinced, with me, that the Rector’s reckoning can be wrong).

OK.

The future that we face over the next, say, eighteen months to five years, is one of financial depression, specifically deflation. Why do I say this? Well, let us begin by pondering some figures – these are in TRILLIONS of US dollars:

World gross product per year: 55
Total value of global issued currency: 65
Total value of world stock markets: 100
Total value of world real estate: 125
(So far so good, now for the kicker)
Total value of financial derivatives: 1600

Financial derivatives are all those complicated things we’ve heard about on the news over the last few years, like ‘sub-prime mortgages’ and ‘credit default swaps’. The simple conclusion from the above figures is that the financial world has long-since lost touch with the real world of tangible wealth. There simply isn’t enough real wealth corresponding to all the financial obligations that have now been entered into. To put this in simpler, more graphic terms – imagine the amount of wealth in the world as a cake. What the comparatively recent explosion in nominal financial wealth has done is to give a great many different people legal claims to the same bit of cake. On paper, the financial world says that we have a great many cakes – unfortunately there is only the one.

What this means is that the financial system is irretrievably bankrupt. Over the next few years we are going to see something called ‘deleveraging’ – in essence, all the debts are going to be called in. In Warren Buffett’s famous image, ‘we’re going to watch the tide go out and find out who has been swimming without their trunks on’. We are in what I think of as a ‘Wile E Coyote moment’ – remember the great Looney Tunes character, who sprints after the road runner over the edge of the cliff, and manages to keep running on thin air until the moment that he looks down?

Our political leadership has been committed to keeping the show on the road for as long as possible – or at least for long enough to ensure that the movers and shakers are able to get some measure of safety for themselves, eg with the bonuses still being given to Goldman Sachs and other bankers – but they are rapidly running out of options. What we are going to end up living through is a severe contraction of the money supply, what the economists call deflation. Most people are familiar with inflation – the price of everthing goes up – but we’re less familiar with deflation. It sounds at first like a good thing – the price of everything goes down – but the problem is that in a deflation our ability to pay goes down faster. It won’t matter if the average shopping bill comes down to £50 a week rather than £80 if the impact of unemployment and bankruptcies now means that families can only afford to pay £30 rather than £75.

We have been here before – in the 1930s most spectacularly – and the consequences are frightening. One way to get a handle on what it means is to consider real interest rates. If a bank charges a 5% interest rate, and inflation is running at 2%, then the real interest rate is 3% (bank charge minus inflation). However, in a time of deflation, the cost of money could become very high (with consequent damage to the economy) even when the nominal rate of interest is low, or zero (eg bank rate of 1%, deflation of -3% gives a real rate of 4% – the two negatives become a positive). Governments who try to stimulate activity in this context are ‘pushing on a string’, with just as much effect (look at Japan’s recent history). In this context, the very worst place to be is in debt, because the real value of the debt will increase rapidly. That applies especially to mortgages, as the nominal price of housing is likely to plummet leaving a great many people with massive negative equity.

Thomas Hardy once wrote, ‘If a path to the better there be, it begins with a full look at the worst’ (but see here). I’ve only skimmed over the nature of our financial crisis in this article – those who want to explore the background for this post might like to visit a blog site called ‘The Automatic Earth‘ which is where I got the figures from. There is a very great deal that people can do to prepare for these and the other crises that are accumulating around us, linked to the Transition process – but I’ll have to give the positive side in another article.

Dumbing Us Down (John Taylor Gatto)

Modern education is rubbish. There, I’ve said it – but JT Gatto said it first. Modern education was set up on the factory model, to make people fit for working in the factories – a production line, producing producers (and consumers), willing to work until the bell goes. We spend so much time and effort and wealth on tweaking the system, prodding bits here and removing bits there, and yet it simply doesn’t get any better. How can we persist with such a destructive system? Gatto explains why… and it is fascinating. A highly readable and recommendable book.

Thing is, now that we have crossed the threshold into the Long Emergency, and budgets will continue to be cut for the foreseeable future, the old model is not just dead, it is deadening. Those kids that can just about fit in to the present structure can get by, those who stick out for any one of a myriad number of reasons will get squashed and discarded.

These are not new insights. The future is local, and small-scale, and probably home-ed.