Powerhouse School Project – Willis Eschenbach – the unintended consequences of what actually works


Willis Eschenbach, one of  the regular authors and commenter over at WUWT has a thought provoking new article up: The Powerhouse School Concept, This article is a further development of his thoughts on bringing low cost electricity to the rural poor of the world who are suffering grave hardships, disease, and excessive mortality due to their reliance on expensive or dirty biomass fuels and coal.

I’m in complete agreement with Willis that, “Expensive Energy Kills Poor People”.

Enviornemtal policy academic and blogger Pielke the Younger had a series of articles on the subject in the fall of 2012 for instance here:  Against Modern Energy Access.  Pielke the Younger wrote:

Access to energy is one of the big global issues that has hovered around the fringes of international policy discussions such as the Millennium Development Goals or climate policy, but which has been getting more attention in recent years. In my frequent lectures on climate policy I point out to people that 1.3 billion people worldwide lack any access to electricity and an 2.6 billion more cook with wood, charcoal, tree leaves, crop residues and animal waste (an additional 400 million cook with coal).

The “success” scenarios of climate advocates hoping to power the world with carbon-free energy almost always leave a billion or more people in the dark and several billion cooking with dirty fuels. Sometimes, magic is invoked to suggest that “electricity can be brought to everyone” without appreciably increasing carbon emissions. Of course, if we could bring electricity to the 1.3 billion without any access with no effect on emissions, then we could probably do it for 6 billion others.

In response, amplifying Pielke the Younger’s argument in comments I wrote:

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Comment on Kloor – Trusted Influentials – Rising in the reasonableness ranking


Science journalist Keith Kloor, has an article up at his blog Collide-a-Scape at the Discover.com website titled: Trusted communicators who shape the GMO Discourse.  Kloor seems to be a fairly sensible fellow, and is a journalist who is generally rising in the Meme Merchant’s quality blogger index.

Lately, KK has been on a sort of anti anti-GMO tear, that is trying to roll back some of the fear, hysteria and disinformation that is surrounding the entire anti-gmo movement.  In today’s case he talks about the role of people he terms “influentials” in shaping the debate within the anti-GMO movement:

Influentials are the information brokers that have major media platforms and big receptive audiences. For example, on the GMO issue, top influentials include Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Dr. Oz, and Vandana Shiva. Each of these influentials have been responsible for spreading or endorsing nonsense about GMOs via social media and other highly trafficked venues.

Its not the point of this blog post to take on the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms in general, or even the anti-GMO movement in particular.  I am much more interested in the notion of “Trusted Communicators”, why do we trust them?  And why do we continue to trust them even if they have been demonstrated to be wrong on many occasions about what they are saying?

Trusted is not the same as trustworthy, as I’m sure we can all agree – at least in principle.  But when it come to your own cherished beliefs however…

Kloor quotes Princeton social scientist Linda Fiske:

People trust people they think are like themselves. This is human nature. They trust people who they think share their values and goals.

I would paraphrase Ms Fiske slightly, ‘People trust people who think like themselves’. People like having their world view reinforced, its very natural.  People don’t like cognitive dissonance, they don’t like doubt or uncertainty.  An excess of doubt or uncertainty can make decision making difficult, or even day to day functioning.  People walk out the door every day with the expectation that they will not be run over by the bus or a planetesimals will fall out of the sky and wipe out civilization.  We tend to reserve doubt for critical situations, and ones where we expect to need it.

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First thoughts on Henry C.K. Liu – The Race Towards Barbarism – Jewel in the Crown


Barbarian at the gate  ©AsiaTimesOnLine

The slope-browed-retro-troglodyte                  ©AsiaTimesOnLine

Tolling through the AsiaTimesOnLine archives I came across a highly provocative item by Henry C. K. Liu, a writer the Meme Merchants have followed for a number of years. What came up today was the first installment of a series he wrote back in July 2003: The Abduction of Modernity, The Race towards Barbarism.  I say provocative in two senses:  being thought-provoking in Lui’s inimitable way, and also provoking some very strong disagreement.

Before I was halfway through the article I found myself doing a kind of point by point rebuttal, the genesis of this piece, which I had to eventually push mentally aside in order to finish the article.  The article was so thought-provoking that I feel I have to give myself a kind of ‘intellectual time out’, before I  proceed with a more serious analysis or criticism of the article.  Mr. Liu is a very smart and thoughtful writer, one has to at least try to meet him at his own level.

This morning in way of introducing the topic I will anticipate that much of the further discussion on the subject will revolve around two rather different world views, one the so-called ‘modern’ Western world view and the other the traditional Eastern Confucian world view.  To be fair to Mr. Liu, the point of at least the first article of this series is precisely the nature of that ‘modernity’ and its relationship to Western civilization.

A strong dichotomy it appears.

Of the many possible dichotomies of civilizations you can draw, one is the dichotomy of a civilization that sees what is noble and valuable in the individual as what is in conformance with the cultural model, and another civilization who’s culture sees what is rare and valuable in the individual as everything that is different from the cultural model.

One of those world views, I propose, is ‘modern’, the other is not.

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Giving and Volunteerism, Charity or an Expensive form of Entertainment? – Law of Reciprocity in action in the Blogosphere


Maimonides  -public domain

Maimonides                                                                                                   -public domain

One of the joys of blogging, a rare joy around here, is receiving the accolades of ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ from your readers, the problem comes when a ‘like’ or a ‘follow’ seems to come from someone who might be either a sincere and interested reader or someone phishing for recruits into a multi-level marketing scheme – hard to tell which sometimes – we seem to have had both types today.  In particular we had that situation come up this morning over at the other blog.

It is considered good blog etiquette to stop by and visit the blog of someone new who has decided to undertake the formality of voluntarily subscribing to be pestered electronically by your blog – the Law of Reciprocity in practice.  There’s a URL for that now, who knew?   I followed the follower’s profile back to the KarenEllisBlog to see who my visitor was, find out what they are up to and see if they have anything interesting to say.  When I got there I found a great deal of information hidden by hind menu tabs about:  how to “Explode your blog with income”, her business, and all about her.  Fine, but I’m not interested in signing up for any newsletters.  I also found her, then, most recent blog article: Tipping Servers $200, Wouldn’t that feel great to do?.  Sounds interesting.

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A Quick Sylogism on Rothchild – sorting the conspiratorial from the evolutionary


People send me things.

People send me things.                               Original attribution unknown

This came across the electronic desktop this morning, sent to me by a friend.

Here’s a quick syllogism on the subject. Rothschild is a bank, banks enable modernity and development therefore banks are found where ever you find development and or modernity.

To a certain extent Rothschild in particular may also be self-serving to the point of being evil – much like any trans-national corporation whose corporate controllers no longer have any ties of either: friendship, kinship, nationality, culture, or interests with the vast majority of the people they serve and the only people they have any genuine ties with are their fellow controllers of trans-national institutions in government, business, and academia.

The real problem seems to be much more that “the global village” is still very much a zero-sum tribal affair where trans-national quasi-individuals are either in naked collusion with one another or are involved in the kind of cattle rustling operations favored by the archaic warrior prince.

The only real antidote to the problem is societal evolution.  We need better people, fortunately evolution is hard at work on the problem.

~ Unraed

A Resignation at EPFL – A rejection of mediocrity in academia or academic suicide? Cassandra or a wake up call?


EPFL

In the last few days an interesting missive has been circulating in the blogosphere, a letter of resignation from an anonymous PhD candidate at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, one of Europe’s top research institutes, outlining his frustration, and disappointment with the system of academic science and ultimately his rejection of continuing to participate in the system.

I picked up on the story at Pascal Junod’s blog in his post: An Aspiring Scientist’s Frustration with Modern-Day Academia: A Resignation.  Different people in the blogosphere have picked up on the note and are making hay of one type or anther with  it.  I have some thoughts which I will share below which I hope are not merely manure.  Opinions elsewhere vary:

It’s worth noting that Junod himself says his experience at EPFL

  • I don’t think that the exposed facts are a problematic unique to EPFL, nor to any other Swiss university: to the contrary, this is probably a worldwide phenomenon.
  • Finally, I would like to make very clear that I did not experience the same feelings at all during my (very happy) PhD times at EPFL. So, don’t try to make any parallel with my own experience.
  • Like the author, I don’t have any good idea how to change the system towards a better one.

Sean Summers an achievement oriented post-doc at ETH Zurich had a rather scathing response The Value of a Degree at his personal website.  He seem to have been grossly offended by the letter and didn’t seem to want to admit to any of the problems it outlined – and conducted a point by point rebuttal of the letter. He also doesn’t seem to allow comments on his articles either.
To boil his mindset down the “nitty gritty” [my ginsu editing]:

I know you didn’t mean to, but you offended me. On behalf of my friends and colleagues who are current and former PhD students, you offended me more. In fact, on behalf of everyone who has ever achieved something of personal importance, you have offended me…

…Here’s the thing. In the process though, you threw everyone (myself very recently included) with a PhD under a bus….

Your claim of widespread dishonesty in academia is offensive I don’t appreciate that you have thrown hard working individuals under the bus…

Mostly, I don’t like the way that you have devalued individual achievement.

I’m here to say that a PhD is remarkable; it is an amazing personal achievement worthy of pride.

Personal achievement in all shapes and form should be celebrated, with head held high.

Anthony Watts and crew over at WUWT have their own conversation rolling on the subject, A window into academia – via a resignation letter, which, predictably, runs the gamut.

Most interestingly of all, this is what the author of that note had to say in comments on Junod’s blog [emphasis added].

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