At the moment things are changing very fast. So much upheaval is disconcerting; even to me, who spent my first decades reading science fiction, and the past decade or so writing it. The future is uncertain and uncertainty can create stress. Social and technological disruption is way over Monkey’s head… …It’s a Monkey for flip’s sake!
But Monkey is very capable of picking up on your mood. If the simian-inside notices you are stressed, it will get nervous, and infectious unease will pull you both down into a downward spiral where everything starts to look very glass-half-empty.
We need to break the vicious circle. Unlike last week, where I said we should let Monkey run things from time to time, this is a scenario where we need to take the lead and let our analytical minds reassure ourselves—and therefore Monkey too—that everything will be okay.
I am confident about the future, probably because I have saturated myself with utopian thinking from a life immersed in science-fiction. Perhaps I can share some of the good news hurtling towards us; like a kind of mini-episode of ‘White Mirror’.
So, this week I will talk about Power…
no, not that…
Power; always in short supply: batteries go empty, petrol tanks need refilling, stomachs rumble. On a macro level, power drives our industry. We only managed to catapult the global economy out of the muscle-age by greedily burning through a mega cache of fuel set aside two-hundred million years ago.
Fallen trees pilled up in a time before insects learned to eat wood. As an aside, just imagine all those toppled trees lying on top of one another. A global jungle-gym! A monkey paradise! Sad and somewhat ironic that nothing like a monkey would evolve for at least a hundred million years.
We are not running out of this coal and oil yet, but a lot of what is left is dirty and we’ve ‘recently’ realised that it’s anyway actually pretty bad for lungs and climate. This is one of those sources of stress and disquiet. Monkey notices you’re stressed; like a big friendly Labrador watching your eyes, eager to please; you are making it nervous!
The good news is, there’s actually loads of Power everywhere! Solar is now so cheap that panels are basically free — although fitting them and wiring them still costs money. Very soon [already] power will fall like free Mana from the sky. Even your car will use it.
Before you ask, when the sun stops shining, that same car will send the electrons the other way, back into your house, to power your fridge and TV. This is possible because a typical electric car stores about three days worth of power for a normal home! This is not even some futuristic speculation, some days already nearly 80% of Germany’s power comes from wind and sun.
If you’ve got power [energy] you can make pretty much everything else too:
Water is the easiest.
Food is a little more tricky; but by pumping electricity through vats, special algae can be coaxed to produce proteins, fats, and carbs.
Finally, shelter. Think swooping lines of carbon-fibre like those huge Americas Cup yachts. The material is still super expensive today, but it will soon be free; a by-product of something like reverse-combustion — ‘backwards-burning’ could be a Harry Potter spell: ‘Retro Ardenti!’ — which will pull carbon from the air to make boards of fantastic super-materials with properties somewhere between diamond and wood.
Even with the technologies we currently have, most of the problems which stem from a paucity of power — including big ones like hunger and climate change — are essentially solved. Sure we still need a couple of decades and half a dozen more Elon Musks, but from now on its just honest to goodness engineering!
Keeping this short, I won’t touch wacky stuff like Nuclear Fusion, but let me just add that if we manage to crack that nut, then things get very silly indeed. If any of you are interested, I can do a ‘Monkey Logic 2120’ episode on monkey-compatible far-future conceptions of Utopia.
We don’t get much vision from our ‘leaders’, and when we do it’s mostly fear-mongering. Most forward-looking pop-culture is dystopian or just plain silly too. It’s no wonder we are all apprehensive about what’s coming.
We don’t need to be.
All the big problems can be solved, the only remaining challenge is believing this [and then finding somebody else who believes it too so you can vote for them!]
Relax. It’s going to be okay. Inner-ape will notice you calming down and it will be like you are cooing softly while grooming the irritating metaphorical bugs from its fur. Stroke the Monkey.
I’ll do Money and Health next, that’s pure good news too!
As always, if you’d like to drop me a note, you can email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter at @weston_toby
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