Monday, April 22, 2019

How 2 Feed A Planet

While the number of humans known to exist in the universe doesn't seem likely to increase by more than 10% over the next decade (if even that much), it is already well past apparent that we humans need to develop the means to increase our food supply by as much as a doubling of the total quantity of food we can presently draw upon. Preferably without further damaging our only home in the process. What follows are two possible means to achieving this goal.

Water covers about 2/3 of the Earth's surface, and the sea has been a source of human sustenance for as long as we have records of human civilization (and almost certainly longer than that). But not an inexhaustible source. After at least two decades of watching their salmon catch quality and total numbers dwindle, the Haida First Nations tribe in the British Colombia region of Canada funded an effort to "seed" the areas of the northern Pacific in which the salmon fishery they depended upon for their survival grew into adulthood. This E&E News article published Wednesday, November 12, 2014, seems evenhanded enough in its reporting on the events:

"For the past 100 years, the Haida First Nations tribe in Canada has watched the salmon runs that provided its main food source decline. Both the quantity and quality of its members' catch in the group of islands they call home, off the coast of British Columbia, continued to drop.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, they became determined to do something about it. They built a hatchery, fixed watersheds damaged by past logging practices and sent more fish into the ocean for their multiyear migrations.
But the larger influx of fish that went out didn't return, and the search for better solutions for the small village of Old Massett on the north end of Graham Island in British Columbia eventually led the Haida down a path that culminated in the largest ocean fertilization project of its kind ever attempted.
In the summer of 2012, the Haida Salmon Restoration Council (HSRC) joined forces with a California businessman, Russ George, and dribbled 100 tons of iron sulfate into Canadian and international waters in the Pacific Ocean off the back of a ship.


But for the past two years, salmon have flowed into rivers along parts of the Pacific Northwest in sometimes record numbers, and questions remain unanswered about the possible success, failure or effects of the experiment.
"I can't stand up and give you a rock-solid statement that says A equals B," said Jason McNamee about whether the experiment had something to do with the massive sockeye and pink salmon runs for the past two years. McNamee is a former director and operations officer of HSRC and still sometimes acts as spokesman for the corporation. But, he said, "the iron sulfide bloom is a likely factor contributing to those runs."
End quote.
It seems inescapably obvious to me that what we need is an actual controlled experiment to address the question of whether or not fish populations in our oceans can be sustainably increased by increasing the amount of the food supply available to them during their immature stage of development.
What I am proposing here specifically is that the fifty year average of fish population(s) along the US Atlantic seaboard be calculated (annual fish population survey numbers from the US Fisheries, by species, be totaled, and that number divided by 50, resulting in the "average" fish population for the period 1960 through 2010) along with the recorded catch numbers for the same period (and the same method for averaging be applied). The specific question to be addressed by this experiment is: 
Is it possible to elevate the average number of fish in any given species by a factor of two or more over a predetermined period (5 years?) such that the average number of caught fish, by species, can sustainably be as much as doubled thereafter?
The only issue this experiment is concerned with is testing a specific method for increasing the fish populations humans rely on in part to feed us all. I submit that one yacht of a specific design could be outfitted and operated in the Caribbean and along the Atlantic seaboard for the duration of the experiment for as little as $20 million. This seems a reasonable enough expense, given the potential returns such an answer might provide.
There is another string to this particular bow.
This CNET article from 2012 gives a decent introductory look at the state of the molecular assembly of proteins and amino acids science of 7 years ago. I have no idea what Mr. Thiel thinks today, but it seems apparent that the technology isn't quite ready for market as of yet (recent stories about 3d printed human hearts notwithstanding). 
What do humans need to build a commercial farm to grow and package for transport the necessary proteins and amino acids required to assemble such molecular constructs?  Being able to assemble such food products on-site will prove a useful capability in future disaster response efforts at the very least, but the commercial application I see as most applicable to existing market processes available on our planet today is to grow the individual components, possibly only one of the components per farm, package the harvest, and have it delivered to a specialized manufacturing factory for further distribution to retail food stores after assembly into analogs of the various forms "meat" is currently marketed in, followed - or quite possibly preceded - by other non-meat foods.
Here I suggest America's military veteran community be called upon once again to provide the human power necessary to populate a variety of prototype farms to begin the development process of such a zero-to-one effort. Since this type of food production has never been attempted in known human history, the lack of specific skill sets our existing veterans possess is immaterial. What we do have is a well-developed ability to confront the unknown, and only then figure out how to live through the process while we gain some understanding of what "success" looks like in this particular given circumstance.
At this point in this narrative, I should confess that this isn't exactly an original idea on my part; Robert A. Heinlein examined many of the developmental issues involved in this proposal in his 1950 novel Farmer In The Sky (which 12 year old me avidly read some 15 years later). This specific proposal is necessarily Earth-bound, but it too involves artificial habitats within which crops are grown; habitats composed of partially underground green houses similar in concept to this example (sorry about the auto-start; it's YouTube, what're ya gonna do?). While a more substantial structure would no doubt be desirable for a permanent operation, the basic features such a structure would contain are all featured in the linked video, and an experimental development effort could make do with virtually identical structures (if only for the potential ease and reduced expense required for modification of the process).
The crop I visualize would consist of essentially algae being grown in aquarium tanks. Very particular strain(s) of algae, in very large aquarium tanks. Tanks that have rigorously controllable lighting and other inputs to regulate the growth process, and a means of removing the algae from the growth tank into a shipment container that keeps the algae uncontaminated during the transfer. I'm thinking nitrogen gas will play an important part in this "uncontaminated transfer" process for instance.
While it will undoubtedly be necessary for on-site operators in the early development stages (and quite possibly well beyond), one of the important secondary developments of this effort should be that of remote operation of such farms. It won't happen soon, but having a multitude of "food component" farms operated largely by people who live in cities close and far away, and food assembly factories staffed similarly, should be understood as also being a stated objective of this proposal. The whole idea of "robots are taking away our jobs" is both silly and the diametric opposite of the coming reality. Robots will not be autonomous, they will need human operators to approve and initiate actions taken, particularly in remote settings like those being described here. Robotic devices can be semi-autonomous in rigorously controlled environments like warehouses or assembly lines, but even there the limits imposed by programming functionality demonstrate just how little decision-making capability can be programmed into a device (for an extremely well-informed opinion on the topic of programming robot autonomy and the intrinsic limitations of programming generally, one can usefully begin here). A potential use for the US Department of Education in future might be to organize and coordinate funding and human on-site staffing of local farms and assembly plants of this nature, along with the equipment to teach school children (not to mention old vets like me) how to operate and maintain the technology necessary to operate farms and factories remotely. We're not always going to be dirt-bound farmers and factory workers (he says hopefully).
We must be able to feed ourselves in whatever environment we place ourselves. Reducing the strain our species imposes upon our only currently available planet seems a useful way of developing the means for us to do so on (or off) any planet at all. My intent with this document is to stimulate conversation regarding how we might successfully achieve that level of capability within my lifetime. I'm 65, but no pressure.

Update 4/23/19: Chris Byrne has helpfully pointed out that food production isn't really inadequate to existing and projected human population requirements. Rather, that our nutritional failures are more the result of distribution inadequacies, which makes my current framing of the network of issues involved in this also necessarily inadequate.

So, to better frame the intent of what I propose, the fish population experiment has the dual purposes of developing reliable data upon which to base decisions regarding how fish populations might be supported both locally/regionally and planet-wide. Secondarily, by developing the techniques to do so in a controllable way, we effectively achieve the means to manage what can be regarded as a self-distributing resource.

The farming idea provides a product that is easily transportable and storeable within the constraints of existing distribution, warehousing, and manufacturing infrastructure as part of its harvesting process. No new technology needs to be developed to accommodate this additional source of nutrition becoming part of the existing matrix of options humanity already has to satisfy its nutritional requirements. What this addition adds to what has to be acknowledged as our already adequate food supply is the added versatility it brings to human society being able to respond to disruptions of societal infrastructure from catastrophic events, along with the ability to easily and economically incorporate remote operations technology into our existing societal infrastructure.

The US military, for only one example, has made no secret in recent years of its inability to recruit a sufficient number of personnel capable of operating weapon (and other) systems remotely. By creating an industry that incorporates teaching people the technology used in remote operations systems and devices, this and other more general applications can more economically be incorporated into our ever evolving societal structures, on and - in not too many more years - off our planet. For only one near-term new employment option for people literally around the world, orbital manufacturing and mining operations can be much more economically performed by people on the surface of the Earth, rather than physically in orbit themselves. Taking the requirements necessary to compensate for transmission time lag, this can easily be expanded to include lunar operations as well. Potentially millions of jobs that don't exist partially because potential investors have no reason to think workers can be economically trained. Hundreds of people can be trained as a by-product of the farming technology I suggest here. They in turn can provide the nucleus of the work force needed to meet the anticipated needs of the gradually expanding requirement for remote equipment operators in orbital facilities developed to refine the resources literally being delivered to Earth through the natural processes of our Solar System (ever given any thought to what the annual meteor showers imply as a delivery mechanism for mineable material in Earth orbit?).

I hope this added framing of my proposal proves useful in developing further refinements and improvements to the basic concepts presented here.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

You Take Your Humo(u)r Where You Find It

The following "joke" blatantly lifted from a recent super chat livestream attached to Sargon of Akkad's (Carl Benjamin, candidate for MEP for SW Briton) YouTube page:

Question: What's the difference between a cabbage and a chickpea?

Answer: I've never paid to have a cabbage on my chest.

You're welcome.

Friday, April 19, 2019

What Do You Mean By "Fight"?

I've recently had occasion to think about two apparent dichotomies; words mean things, and word usage changes over place and time. Word definitions don't really change in the usual meaning of the word change. They tend to acquire added meanings that can supplant the historical meaning, but the earlier definition remains a valid usage depending on the context within which it is used. English english and American english being probably the most obvious example of usage change over place and time I can think of off hand.

The inspiration for the above came from my thinking about the word "fight", both in the limited martial arts context and in the more general strategy application. Specifically, is it better to "fight to win", or is it better to "fight not to lose"?

Fighting not to lose is the only consideration that gives the concept of "Just War" any practical meaning at all. Note that I said meaning, not justification. You can justify literally any conduct or action by simply declaring, "Deus vult!" (or the equivalent in your alternative language of choice), or you can circle around the question(s) endless epistemological expositions instead, but understanding meaning, definitionally and contextually, is what is required to actually make an informed decision - in this case, whether and how to fight.

Fighting to win requires one to accept from the moment of deciding to engage in active conflict that there are neither restrictions nor constraints imposed upon the choices you make during the coming combat, so long as the end result is your indisputable defeat of your opponent. Indeed, allowing any consideration or circumstance to interfere in achieving that outcome must be regarded as an act of treason in any fight to win conflict. Why so many people seem so willing to forget the same applies equally to all involved in such a fight mystifies me.

Fighting not to lose, on the other hand, is the underlying factor inherent to the very concept of civilization. A "no holds barred" fight is one without rules (even a knife fight, Butch :)) and therefore an unreliably predictable outcome, whether between two outlaws having nothing but the clothes they stand in or two civilizations possessed of grandeur and glory. Laws of War, Code Duello, Lines In The Sand, Street Justice, all are mechanisms to impose fighting not to lose on all combatants, such that all may have some reason to think they have an understanding of what (more importantly, how much) they risk by fighting (or not).

These are the meanings of the words we use to decide the acceptable-to-us answers to the classic 6 questions (who, what, when, where, why, how) as they apply to our routine and extraordinary competitions with one another. Our shared civilization is built upon our mutual expectation that we will all cooperate with the constraints imposed by fighting not to lose, witness our outrage and condemnation when one combatant fails to do so (or only plausibly can be made to appear to so fail). Deliberate obfuscation of the previously agreed to meanings of these words may well be the single greatest act of betrayal of trust any human can inflict upon another.

Thoughts? Disputations? I have been known to be full of shit before this; based on my track record to date, that's not that risky a proposition bet to be honest. Nevertheless, this is my ante ... fight to win is the choice of a fool, fight not to lose is the only way to position yourself to outlast your attackers.

It's also the only way to keep your world civilized while you're winning (or not) and most especially after. Update: I don't know why the long paragraph breaks; I cut-and-paste from my FB page where I first composed this. It be what it be ...

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Is Viacom Trying To Start A War Between The United States And Australia?

On Friday, 12 April 2019 (which would be yesterday as I write this), a jewish Australian named Avi Yemini along with his travelling companion Sydney Watson (who is a dual citizen of both Australia through her father's citizenship and the United States through her mother's) were reportedly detained upon their arrival at Los Angeles International Airport by Customs and Border Protection personnel and subsequently interrogated by FBI agents (apparently without benefit of legal counsel being present - frankly, I am unclear whether, or to what degree, the legal guarantees enshrined in the 1st and 5th Amendments to the US Constitution apply to non-US citizens like Mr Yemini, but I'm quite certain they fully apply to American citizens like Ms. Watson, despite their apparently being fully denied her). See here for the details available as of yet.

As can be seen in the story linked to above, Mr. Yemini asserts that "@comedycentral" is the responsible party for this event occurring. Thus the title of this post, since Viacom is the ultimate owner of (and legally responsible party for) the channel Comedy Central and the program Australian Jim Jefferies hosts on that channel. From this it can be seen that these three parties would seem to be the most likely suspects in the apparent conspiracy to defame and falsely incriminate both Mr. Yemini and Ms. Watson.

Full disclosure; I contributed US$20 to help defray the costs of Ms. Watson's current trip home to the US and can be utterly shameless in my efforts to get full value for my money. Ms. Watson has in recent months stated that on her trip to the US (some months ago, I admit) that she intended to "catch a husband". On a not-entirely unrelated note, I can honestly observe that I happen to be between relationships myself at the moment. Sadly, honesty also compels me to note that I am now 65, so I'm reasonably confident we all can see how serious this is. Or n't.

Moving right along.

In addition to the serious legal issues involved in defamation of character (which in this instance has to be presumed to include the seemingly unjust burden on fellow American Sidney Watson's future domestic or international travels by the addition of her name on TSA and other security watch lists for - also presumably - the rest of her life), are those attached to making false claims in reporting to US law enforcement agencies, something that Comedy Central is explicitly accused of doing by Mr. Yemini. From the available reporting, it appears that Comedy Central may have made a false report to US law enforcement to the effect that Mr. Yemini and Ms. Watson threatened "violence" toward Comedy Central and/or Jim Jefferies during their most recent attempt to visit the US. I, at least, can find no examples of their doing so online. Their stated intention of discussing Mr. Jefferies' alleged fraudulent misrepresentation of Mr. Yemini on an episode of his Comedy Central program last year with the respective hosts of the Louder With Crowder and the Dave Rubin interview programs may indeed have ultimately proven financially threatening to Viacom interests, but that hardly rises to the level of seriousness commonly attributed to the word "violence", seemingly making Comedy Central and Jim Jefferies guilty of filing a false report with law enforcement (I believe the Big Boy word for that is "perjury"), not to mention the heinous crime of "lying to the FBI" a matter we Americans can be forever grateful to Special Counsel Mueller for making us all too tediously familiar with.

There appears to be more than sufficient justification for a civil suit to be filed by Mr. Yemini and Ms. Watson against the apparent conspirators Viacom, Comedy Central, and Jim Jefferies (aka: Geoff James Nugent according to this Quora question response) here in the United States; it is unclear to me whether, or to what extent, Australian law applies in this instance. At the very least, I would suggest that the Australian ambassador to the United States ought to enquire (I believe Aussies do use the British spelling) of the White House whether or not the actions of US law enforcement have official backing during this apparent replay of the historically infamous Zimmerman telegram incident (you know, the fraudulent conspiracy that was used by the then-British government to involve the United States in the war they were losing at the time? Yeah, THAT Zimmerman telegram). I rather suspect The Hon. Joseph Hockey would prefer his nation not be tarred with that particular brush, now or ever. 

As to the possibly criminal behavior under US jurisdiction revealed during the unfolding of this budding international incident, the recent revelations by Attorney General Barr regarding criminal activities committed by US government employees (elected and appointed) in recent years involving numerous US allies, make a vigorous and transparent investigation of all involved in this matter seemingly rise to the level of legitimate national security concern, I would suggest (looking at you President Trump).

If it is true that Viacom thinks besmirching the public reputations of troublesome little people makes for good corporate policy, while Comedy Central management and comedian Jim Jefferies apparently agree that conspiring to defraud and defame people is "just business", I become concerned when their arrogance rises to the level of international casus belli. 

On a - hopefully - more realistic note, there appears to be enough serious allegation to justify a criminal investigation here in the US of all involved in this matter; the civil aspects remain for Mr. Yemini and Ms. Watson to take up with their respective legal counsel.