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Unlimited Clean Energy From Solar Winds

October 29th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
It turns out there's enough energy right at the edge of our atmosphere to power the entire planet for free.  The energy comes in the form of charged particles from the sun called solar wind, which is much more energy rich than what makes it past the Earth's magnetic field to our ground-based solar panels.  It is what you see responsible for phenomena like the northern lights (aurora borealis).  Our atmosphere shields us from harmful radiation, likewise reducing a lot of this to just the sunlight you feel on Earth, but if you go outside the atmosphere, it is practically unlimited energy, free for the taking.  This could be collected through a sail, kite, or even just a regular conductor (at the ionosphere just before space, it's pretty close to actual electricity) with no worries of pollution or detriment to the environment.  What I'm surprised about is there hasn't been more interest to reach it, as it seems like such a land grab.

The main problem I read about is the practicality of transporting the energy back to Earth, as much of it can be lost if you try to just beam it or conduct it through a massively long wire.  If we go further out than near space to collect from the solar wind directly, that problem becomes even larger; the distance grows from perhaps just 50 miles to now on the order of thousands of miles.  It seems to me a silly problem though if you really are able to collect that much energy; surely you can spare just a tiny bit of that energy to power whatever it takes to bring the load back to Earth.  According to some articles such as phys.org, every 200 sqft of collection could power a thousand homes, which is more than enough for a city or two if you just send roughly a closet-sized sail into space.  If you stay at near-space to collect the ionized form instead of going all the way into space itself, the collection area can be smaller as it is closer to just raw electricity that you can tap into.  What probably wasn't in consideration before was the means of storing the energy at large enough capacity and transporting the energy in loads, rather than trying to shoot it back to Earth.  What's exciting to me though is that it seems Elon Musk might have similar ideas here with his almost perfectly arranged trio of companies focused on space (SpaceX), battery efficiency (Tesla), and solar energy (SolarCity - not solar wind collection but close enough); you could almost see Musk one day deciding to merge SpaceX and Tesla as well to then build spaceships and space stations powered directly by the sun without ever having to refuel.  The storage and transportation problem almost seems like it'll solve itself over time as clean energy technology gets better on Earth.

An interesting proof of concept might be to set up a weather balloon or lightning rocket to first tap into the charged particles concentrated at near space and send it back to a lightning rod or tower back on the ground.  It's not the full utilization of all the energy up there, but it's still a massive amount of energy that would be useful to power a city or two, especially if it's free.  It's also fun to imagine a city with a super long kite in the sky causing man-made lightning to continuously strike the center to keep it powered.  Perhaps one day we can figure out how to generate lightning without the trailing wire.

What would...[More]
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God's Flashlight

September 20th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
I was thinking about light the other day and how we only see a very narrow part of the spectrum (visible light).  A funny thought came to mind that if we were able to see higher energy light like x-rays, we would actually not be able to see most of the world, first because there aren't enough x-rays but second because even if there were a lot of x-rays, it'd go through most things on Earth so we'd only see the densest matter like bone and rock.  In other words, something with x-ray vision wouldn't be able to see our flesh and blood.  They might think creatures like us have telepathy or telekinesis because the parts of us that connect our bones or contain our vital processes are invisible.  And then something with even higher-energy vision, such as gamma rays, wouldn't be able to see us at all.  The whole time we think we are living in the day time, to these creatures, it would be pitch-black night.  Such a creature would likely have...[More]
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The True Potential of Ripple and XRP

September 3rd, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
"Anything can be traded, issued, and sent in real time anywhere in the world."

Note: This post is my own recollection from 2013, when there were only a handful of cryptocurrencies (before even Ethereum existed).  Most the points made here, however, can be applied to blockchain in general as a high level of what the technology really capable of.

     I first heard of Ripple and its cryptocurrency token XRP back in 2013.  At the time, it was obscure but considered one of the more promising alternatives to Bitcoin.  Not only did it reduce Bitcoin's minutes-to-hours settlement time to mere seconds, it allowed anyone to create new symbols to represent practically anything - new currencies, companies, debt, even countries or people - anything - with just a few mouse clicks.  Just like that, your new symbol was then tradable 24/7 by anyone with its value determined completely by the free market.  Ripple was not just a currency; it was literally a global decentralized exchange.  Already there were symbols to represent the US dollar, the Euro, gold, even other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and just like the base currency XRP, these could all be traded or sent within seconds.  On top of that, the technology did not require mining, meaning the energy costs of the millions of computers crunching computations to maintain Bitcoin would be unnecessary.  Best of all, the technology was already done and live.  Anyone could create an account on the Ripple website and use this functionality firsthand.

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A Company with No Customers or Employees

August 19th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
    The single greatest achievement of the Autodidactic I project is not its endeavor in fully autonomous trading with Tech Trader.  It's much more subtle than that.  Autodidactic I itself has become a self-sustaining and autonomous company with no customers, products, or employees.
     Think about that for a moment.  This is a company that will grow and generate revenue year after year completely on its own with no work done anywhere by any human being.  It is completely independent to the world.  It doesn't need to sell anything to anyone.  It doesn't need anyone to work in the company to keep it going.  It neither takes from nor gives to society.  It simply exists, its members benefiting from a fully automated revenue stream that requires absolutely no human input.  It is an Island, an off-the-grid company, dependent on nothing and beholden to no one.
     In the past, people would dream of "living off the fat of the land" or moving to some place isolated from society to be completely free.  That idea is much more metaphorical than literal today due to the near inescapable globalization and the ever-increasing scarcity of land.  You can still buy a piece of land and try to live off only what you grow, but you would pretty much live at the mercy of quite literally the rest of society changing the world around you, always running away rather than truly holding your own.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s, industrialists pursued this idea with a different approach by attempting to build utopias out of corporate towns, where the company both funded and owned every property in the city and quite literally the city itself (see what Disney World was meant to be before Walt died).  The problem is that these companies themselves still depended on the rest of the world as well as on their employees.  When demand for Pullman's products dropped in the panic of 1893, for example, both the company and its town fell apart.  When cultures clashed and people disagreed with how Ford saw life should be, Fordlandia crumbled before it even began.  The utopias were an illusion because the prosperity required ideal economic conditions and the cooperation of the employees keeping them running.  Even Disney's modern version of a utopia still required that all inhabitants were always employed and working - how else would the company function?
     Autodidactic I completely uproots these past views of what's possible in creating a company as well as what it means to be completely free and unbounded by the rest of the world.  First, it eliminates the constraints and dependencies of past examples by not having any products or customers to tie it to the outside economy and then by not having any employees on which it relies on to keep it running.  Everything is automated and all revenue is generated from within on the sheer merit of the underlying AI.  If you've ever read science fiction novels by Asimov or Clarke about cities or societies maintained entirely by fully autonomous AI with no human intervention, the concept is similar here in that it's been running for over 4 years now untouched, perhaps not yet to the scale of managing cities but enough to allow members of the company to focus on anything except the money making aspect.  That aspect at the moment manifests as trading, which in itself embeds a degree of independence.  Unlike traditional customer-serving companies, nothing anyone else does or thinks has any effect.  There is no one whose decision you must win or consent you must earn.  It is a modern day version of farming, in that what we create for ourselves is done completely on our own with no reliance or ask of anyone else (or in this case, anyone at all).  This cascades into a number of other effects.  For one, the company no longer has to be geographically tied to any one location because there are no physical offices, retail spaces, nothing.  All automation is run online and distributed around the world.  The humans meanwhile can be anywhere at any time and have absolutely no impact on the operations of the company.  The Island and City have become metaphorical.  The independence from the rest of the world no longer requires physical isolation.  This is already a step beyond the previously mentioned ideas of the past that would tie one down geographically, but we can actually go further.  Not only does one no longer need to stay in any particular place, one no longer has to do anything at all to create or maintain the structure.  Your freedom is in both where you want to spend your time and what you want to spend your time on.  It goes all the way.  It is everywhere you go and everything you do.  You can continue to live a normal life in a normal city if you choose, or you can be a free spirit and travel the world (and one day the universe).  That's really who this is for - the adventurer who wants to keep exploring, creating, and doing things that have never been done before.  This is the ship with which such a person can set sail.  It's not about changing society or affecting the masses - and by far not about replacing companies in general - but instead about the fact that we have a new kind of company that's never existed before, never could exist before, and it's exciting to imagine what could come of it.
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The Lies We Tell Ourselves

June 2nd, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     Most people struggle to see past their own actions.  The world is dark, the light at the end of the tunnel dim.  I spent my life being told to doubt my intuition, to be more modest, humble, more open-minded, less naïve, to let go of what I think I know, only to realize later that was always the opposite of what I needed to do.  Others lie to themselves to grapple with what they don't know.  They convince themselves they are more knowledgeable than they really are and seek structure to shield themselves from the unexpected, to give themselves a false sense of control and certainty in their lives.  But my lie is to myself when I do know.  I close my eyes, purposely forget things, throw myself into the wind, whatever it takes in hopes that something might surprise me for once, to give myself a false sense of hope, the false hope that there might be more to the world than what I see before me, the mystery and excitement, the possibility of...[More]
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The Universe's Time Machine

April 12th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Suppose some time in the far future, we figure out how to travel great distances across space in a short period of time.  We figure out how to move light years away from Earth in mere seconds, whether it be through interdimensional travel or otherwise.  Our telescopes become strong enough that we can capture light from ground level activity of a planet or star light years away.  Our virtual reality and hologram technology become sophisticated enough that we can take that light from galaxies far away and cast it around us to recreate and experience a scene.  

At some point, a stargazer realizes he is so far from Earth that the Earth he sees in the sky is actually many years in the past.  He begins to experiment with this, repositioning himself either farther or closer to the Earth by light years at a time to see the Earth either older or younger.  It is entertaining at first, especially with telescopes being strong enough to see things on the surface like you...[More]
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Buried Memories

November 9th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stories | #
Another dream I had that played out like a movie.  Seems to be how all my ideas to come to me now.
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I am living off in the country side for some time.  There, I have a small isolated plot of land that I planted a farm on and regularly tend to for fun, but the house near it is pretty high tech and is where I do a bunch of more serious work for coding and other hobbies.  One day, some guy shows up while I'm out on my farm and tries to tell me I ought to work for his company and get a real job or something.  He starts telling me how it will be good experience to build resume and get real software skills, etc so I don't have to live on a farm anymore.  I ask if he knows what I actually do, and he says he can't tell, which just annoys the heck out of me that he'd dare even tell me what I should do with my life.  I show him that my farm is actually also a grave for past lives I've had and previous bodies I've...[More]
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Wasting Through Time

October 3rd, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stories | #
This was another story idea I got as a dream.  I suppose it reflects my mood lately with everyone seeming to get older around me, not just physically but mentally as well.

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Two friends have known each other all their lives.  They are able to time travel but only by skipping forward in time.  They've been doing that for a while and have experienced centuries of history past by, but one day, one of the friends loses this ability.  The other is torn between staying with the friend or leaving the friend behind to continue skipping forward.  There was a sense before that both of them were destined to see all the Earth's history to the very end until the world goes dark, but now that seems less certain.  They end up splitting ways, with one living through the years instead of skipping forward while the other continues to jump forward every few years.  Each time they catch up, one friend gets much older while the other remains...[More]
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