I'd like to ask you a question: when was the last time you felt great about the world? Not something that put you in a better mood or brightened your day, but something that made you truly hopeful for humanity’s future. Something that made you believe, deep down, that the world we wake up in tomorrow will be better than the one we woke up in today. When was the last time you could say that? For most of us, I bet it’s been a while.
That’s because it’s hard not to feel pessimistic in the face of a future that, right now, feels pretty depressing. And while the perpetual bleakness of our 24-hour news cycle definitely doesn’t help, our instincts are nonetheless not wrong. How so? As a species, humanity has existed for at least 200,000 years. It took us that entire length of time to reach two billion people, which occurred around 1930. We reached 7 billion in 2011, and we’re on track to hit nearly ten billion by 2050. In another way of saying, humans have existed for a timespan one hundred times greater than today and the height of the Roman empire, yet in the past 90 years our population has nearly quadrupled. If present trends continue, by 2050 it will have increased 500% in the last 1/2000th of our history.
Our rise as a civilization has been powered by natural resources, so as our population has exploded so has our rate of resource consumption. Today, we are consuming so many resources on such a large scale that it’s weakened our planet’s ability to support our way of life. Plant and animal species are dying off to the extent that scientists believe we’ve caused Earth’s sixth great extinction event, and they expect most biodiversity will be gone within the next 200-300 years. Global fish stocks are depleted upwards of 80%. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, we’ve cut down more than half of the world’s forests. And worldwide drought is increasing to the scale at which billions of people risk running out of water.
Then there’s oil. Although oil presently powers 90% of global transportation, its use is also ubiquitous within industry, agriculture, industry and manufacturing. Oil production from conventional reserves has almost certainly peaked, forcing ever-greater reliance on unconventional oil sources like shale and tar sands. While abundant in the short-term, oil from these sources is significantly more expensive to extract – well into the trillions of dollars to meet global demand by itself. Thus once unconventional oil becomes our primary source of supply, the price of oil is likely to rise to the extent where it becomes unaffordable to developing nations and much of the global economy.
As water and oil are vital to producing critical goods, food first and foremost, these circumstances risk grinding the global economy and state of global security to a halt. If we look at our situation today, we see the United States has been at war for the past sixteen years as conflicts perpetuate or threaten over much of the globe. Liberal democracies are retreating in the face of populist, nationalistic movements that view outside nations as adversaries instead of allies. Due to causes ranging from environment to conflict, more than 65 million people are globally displaced, creating millions of refugees that arrive in other nations as often unwelcome and distrusted aliens. As their numbers increase by 12 million every year, the tensions of mass-migration only increase as homegrown terrorism spreads while worldwide economic prospects dim.
Recognizing that 85% of humanity lives in the driest half of the planet, it’s clear how adding a state of global resource scarcity and its resulting economic fallout to the mix would have a deeply destructive effect on our civilization. When we recognize further that our planet is home to an arsenal of 15,000 nuclear weapons in the hands of nine countries, it becomes clearer still that this is a problem that cannot be ignored any longer, for it risks spiraling out of control and reducing our world to ashes.
The combined threats presented by global resource scarcity, climate change and rapid population growth are both serious and imminent, and those interested in learning more about their impact are encouraged to review The Coming Resource Crisis, a paper included within the Appendix of this writing. But Universal Energy is not about reviewing crises, it’s about solving them. And it starts with a story of technology.
Ever since we invented machines that could perform at far greater levels of speed and precision than human hands, we’ve rapidly increased our capabilities to build advanced systems. Indeed, a smartphone-wielding bartender in Mexico City today has instantaneous access to a wealth of information the world’s governments, universities and corporations combined didn’t have when The Simpsons first aired. It was technology that made this possible. Yet we’ve now reached the point where large, highly sophisticated systems that 30 years ago took months to build can today be manufactured on automated assembly lines in a matter of hours. This is an ability that can be extended to systems that generate energy, one that becomes all the more promising as we’ve recently crossed barriers that allow us to generate energy to higher scales than we ever could previously.
But what if we took things a step further? What if instead of just mass-producing energy technologies, we also built them to work together by design? In the era of the smartphone, why not have a smart power plant or smart power grid? What happens when we take all of the technical advancements we’ve made recently within and outside of energy production, and combine them into one intelligent system? Universal Energy allows us to find out.
Universal Energy is a framework of the best energy technologies we presently have available, designed to work together in a way that makes them greater than the sum of their parts in terms of output, efficiency and effectiveness. In doing so, this allows us to lower the price of energy to an extent in which it becomes feasible for the first time in our history to synthetically produce critical resources on an unlimited scale. By unlimited, I mean that no matter how many resources one consumes, the framework will always produce more, faster than the rate of consumption – a feature by design.
Universal Energy outlines how this framework can deliver that goal, and provides blueprints that illustrate how it can be used thereafter to solve the pressing problems of our time.
This framework is environmentally friendly.
This framework is affordable.
This framework is sustainably powered.
This framework is built with technologies that exist today.
And, this framework can be deployed anywhere in the world to functionally end resource scarcity and end it with finality.
If we can unchain ourselves from this eternal problem of resource scarcity, it frees up immense resources we currently devote to putting out its fires. Those become resources that we can instead invest in social advancement, powering the upward spiral. This doesn’t cost us more; it costs us less. Not just in terms of money, but also in terms of concentration. If our society isn’t constantly made to surf this tidal wave of social maladies, we can devote greater attention to improving our lives and our civilization as a whole.
With these technologies and the framework they power, we can change the world.
And we can build it better, stronger and brighter than before.