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152: Long Inferential Distances

KMO welcomes Eric Boyd of X-Prize Cars back to the program to patrol
the borders of conceptual space and test the vigilence of the border
holders whose extreme ideologies provide comfort to the mainstream.
Familiar landmarks include "the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl" and
the superlative visions of Singularitarians. Eric also waxes
enthusiastic on the Hacker Space phenomenon by which Alpha Geeks "find
the others" in meatspace and wrest control of technology from the
self-serving agenda of global corporate capitalism.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 8th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
A great episode, especially the "why should we care about the singularitarians" bit. Thanks!
May. 9th, 2009 05:15 am (UTC)
Persuade Singularitarians about Peak Oil ?
KMO, thanks for the interview with Eric, I think you two are able to appreciate each other and make a great conversation!

Singularitarians may be guarding the borders of intellectual space, but I disagree that persuading them to be concerned about Peak Oil or other immanent danger scenarios would thereby affect mainstream thinking. Singularitarians are a small fringe group, not very influential with anyone, including the oligarchs who try to run our civilization.

While mainstream culture seems to make a religion of technology and "progress", I don't think those stuck in the mainstream have a clue about the arguments of the Singularitarians, so changing the minds of Singularitarians would be immaterial to the rest. The rest are more attuned to the other technological sects: those pointing to our bright future of fast, cheap cars, trips to Mars, designer crops, iWhatever, cuter/sexier/smaller/personalized entertainment systems, abundant fuels and energy made from unlimited sunlight/rocks/wind/weeds/waste, pharmaceutical products and medical procedures that cure everything.

I guess I don't buy the idea that "moving an intellectual border" will somehow shove everyone else over. Sounds like science fiction to me.

So let the Singularitarians believe what they will. Even very smart people can easily get stuck in a narrow idea. They may be one sign of our culture, appearing to hold down one of the borders, but they are really not very important at all. Interesting, intriguing, stimulating, but not important to questions of where humanity is headed.
May. 13th, 2009 09:33 am (UTC)
fuel efficiency
I don't know where Eric saw his graph on fuel efficiency but that sure made me laugh - cars more efficient than buses? trains? I wish him luck with cars if we do hit any kind of energy crisis.... Brings Cuba to mind with their trucks converted into buses just to move people around after their personal Peak Oil event (Soviet collapse)...

Surely if we can make cars more efficient we can do the same with any form of transportation.. and the efficiencies will be that much larger. This graph is just one example there are many others out there - I'd like to see the one Eric mentions.


Great show and an interesting discussion all the same. Btw KMO can you change the 'skin' of this page I can barely read this kind of grey-on-beige thing you have going on.

Thanks and keep up the good work!
May. 13th, 2009 09:34 am (UTC)
Re: fuel efficiency
BTW how many cars do you see on the road with FIVE RIDERS??!
May. 19th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
Re: fuel efficiency
Eric doesn't do LiveJournal, but he sent the following via email:
I tried to reply to the comment about fuel efficiency with a link, but I'd need to create a livejournal account. Can you put this in the show notes?


I think I mentioned that it was Brad Templeton's chart. The trouble is not with comparing full buses to cars. The trouble is comparing busses as they actually run with cars as they actually run. There is essentially little difference. If you have an efficient car (i.e. better than 25 MPG, the national average), then your vehicle is likely more efficient per passenger mile than buses.

An important point that I don't know if I said in the interview is that this should not dissuade anyone from actually riding public transit. The fuel to drive the buses around is already being spent: the incremental fuel cost to add a passenger is essentially zero. This is of course not true for adding another trip in your private car. Therefore as an individual your motivations to take public transit do not change. In fact I take public transit all the time.
May. 19th, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
Re: fuel efficiency
Well, looking at that graph, I rest my case. Man outta try riding a bus here in London sometime - they're routinely PACKED, in fact you're lucky to get on one at peak times.

So what if a bus with 9 people on it is slightly less efficient than a car with 2? (how many cars do you see with 2 people anyway?) The same bus must be wildly more efficient when it's carrying 20, and massively more efficient when full to capacity (the bendy buses in London carry 100+)...

Ok I just read the whole article, they're 'average' figures. Maybe cos no-one rides buses in the States.

Well, there must tbe some reason why they converted all those trucks into buses in Cuba- and it wasn't a fashion statement.

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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