373 - Year-end snippets (6) | Scoins.net | DJS

373 - Year-end snippets (6)

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This page overflowed and became a collection. There are several sub-pages, which I cover first.


§373.1  Future of transport refers to COP26 results and then HS2 being reduced so that the London end exists but the northern end doesn't. Oh my, this is levelling up, isn't it?


§373.2 The Sukskei river runs through Johannesburg and is an example of all that is bad about urban rivers. I found a lengthy case study.


§373.3 The Fram strait. Pic shows it is between Svalbard and Greenland. I moved this content to a sub-page as it did a Topsy and grew. I've connected the likely flow of cold fresh water to the southern end of that chart, where the GulfStream turns over and downwards as part of the ocean circulation system, called AMOC.  Yes, I ended up writing about AMOC too. Go find out.


§373.4 Roe v. Wade  If that title alone is not enough for you, it is the title used to refer to the abortion case law in the US. That too started here; In the UK we'd write that as Roe v Wade, with a case reference; come to think of it, we'd probably have had Wroe, too.


§373.5 Are we short of water and are we likely to be? In the UK?

I began with [91], which turned out to be accurate in fact but puff in delivery and, having read it all twice, and bookmarked it as useful, binned it. Instead I'll take the title and run with that. The UK sits on the ocean and so gets rain from weather coming usually from the West. It's the way the world turns, you know. Given that, you'd think we'd have enough. We need to use less, use what we have more wisely. And then there's the idea of virtual water....


§373.6 Perceptions of risk while driving

Began as a piece about the use of the mobile while driving, more than a quarter of drivers admitted to hand-held mobile phone use, at least occasionally  but led to an investigation of how we receive and react to perceptions of risk while driving.


§373.7  Shades of truth may become an essay in its own right


I had a question for Oxbridge candidates, possibly for the political subjects (what is HSPS? PPE and PPP are bad enough) to distinguish between war, terrorism and reprisal. It turned into a long page of its own. Essay 374 - War, terrorism, reprisalYou might think on that before looking at my answer. Except it isn't an answer as much as it is a response, and about as muddled as I'd have done in interview. Not that I'd have ever suggested this was a subject I'd take.

HSPS - Human Social and Political Sciences. I guess this is a Cambridge catch-all like Natural Science. Sorry, multidisciplinary degree. Three cores: Politics and international relations, social anthropology, sociology. Detail. I am not a fan of PPE, the Oxford variant, but that is largely because of when I was there (close to the criticisms of 1968) and who has been through that course and subsequently judged 'successful'. See.

I began to wonder at the criteria for having a sub-page. Originally it was because I wondered if the sub-page could be done at all.


A review of growth modelling dragged me back to looking at Peak Oil, to find that the whole idea is in some state of discredit. My thought conclusion back in 2012 (though I first spoke about this in 2003) was that sensible planning in the Gulf would prepare for a peak and its aftermath, which may have already occurred. As coal becomes considered bad, so that same taint will steadily be applied to oil and then to gas. With so much of the economies of the Gulf states tied to oil production, a dash towards gas is understandable, as is continued preparation for when the supply is gone or the demand dramatically reduced. 

Yet as the graph shows, supply has continued to expand, though we might argue that this is because the very large market for oil makes new techniques economically viable. The very idea of hitting any sort of peak may be redundant if we take climate action seriously and decide that the oil ought to stay where it is, or that it should (only) be used for things that do not include combustion. Much of what I have read in a-e demonstartes that the authors have twisted the understanding of what peak oil is, into what they think it ought to be about, mainly the reduction in available oil resource. But Hubbert himself in 1956 was not claiming that his model had to be right, only that he was putting forward a model. My instant reaction on first finding this was 'why is this symmetric?', which I still feel a valid response. The evidence is that, with sufficient demand, oil can be found. By implication, we coudl find more coal and gas, too. What is changing is the attitude to the product. In the context of climate change, I feel that wherever the product is pure (enough, probably), then the chemistry allows us to process the fossil fuel such that we are able to keep emissions below the demands set. Being cycnical of all political promises, I expect that all such promises have a built-in delay of about a human generation, swapping 'we do this' for 'we can do it' and then 'we will do it (eventually)' and, like the biomass burning, fudge what it is that we have been promised so that many of us accept that the needed progress is being made. If the position can be muddled to advantage, it will be. What I do not understand is how people persuade themselves to act so dishonestly and then live with the consequences.

[01]  https://agsiw.org/what-bps-claim-of-an-end-to-peak-oil-demand-means-for-gulf-producers/

Published 20200720  The viability of such visions relies on three key pillars. 

First is the growing competitiveness of low-carbon energy. Solar and wind are already the cheapest form of new electricity in many regions. Battery costs are coming down, while electric vehicles are approaching cost parity. Affordable “green” hydrogen made using renewable energy is also likely to be readily available sooner than many expect. But replacing or recycling fossil-based plastics, fuelling long-distance ships and airplanes, and driving high-temperature and ore-reduction processes in heavy industry, such as steel and cement, remains technically and commercially much harder.

Second is stricter climate policy around the world. The European Union continues to tighten its emissions targets and introduce plans to decarbonise sectors beyond electricity. The United States’ position depends crucially on the November presidential election [2020]. Other developed countries, such as Australia, Canada, and Japan, have pursued tepid or inconsistent policies. Most countries are so far falling short of their Paris Agreement pledges on addressing climate change. On the other hand, financial institutions and cities are increasingly pursuing climate action themselves. The success of global action will hinge on the directions chosen by China and India, as giant, fast-growing, and, so far, coal-dependent economies.

Third is the ability of the oil majors to compete in this new world. Hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and biofuels are obvious fits with their core hydrocarbon skills. Offshore wind can play to engineering expertise, as with Equinor’s floating wind technology.

[02]  https://www.csis.org/analysis/gulf-states-managing-oil-crash

[03]  https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaellynch/2018/06/29/what-ever-happened-to-peak-oil/?sh=3a3ad907731a  "The oil industry has always been in a tug-of-war between depletion and knowledge"

[04]  https://www.dailysabah.com/opinion/op-ed/are-gulf-states-ready-for-post-oil-future reference to rentier economy as discussed in 258 - the resource curse

[05] https://gulfnews.com/business/energy/is-the-next-peak-oil-going-to-be-its-final-one-too-1.1621234651075


This article [11] shows that someone has woken up to what I've been banging on about, the dangers of long-covid and its related CFS illnesses. The relevant current ONS report, [13], contains these points:-

  • An estimated 1.2 million people living in private households in the UK (1.9% of the population) were experiencing self-reported long COVID (symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after the first suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) infection that were not explained by something else) as of 2 October 2021; this is up from 1.1 million (1.7%) as of 5 September 2021, reflecting sustained increased COVID-19 infection rates in August 2021.
  • The proportion of people with self-reported long COVID who reported that it reduced their ability to carry out daily activities remained stable compared with previous months; symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of 780,000 people (65% of those with self-reported long COVID), with 233,000 (19%) reporting that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been "limited a lot".
  • Fatigue continued to be the most common symptom reported as part of individuals' experience of long COVID (55% of those with self-reported long COVID), followed by shortness of breath (39%), loss of smell (33%), and difficulty concentrating (30%).
  • As a proportion of the UK population, prevalence of self-reported long COVID remained greatest in people aged 35 to 69 years, females, people living in more deprived areas, those working in health or social care, and those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability; compared with the previous month, prevalence of self-reported long COVID was notably higher among people aged 12 to 16 years or 17 to 24 years, with the latter now comparable to people aged 35 to 69 years.

I think we should assume that recovery from covid is not a binary state, okay / not okay, but a spectrum. Significant points on such a spectrum are where people find their habits are interrupted and / or that there is continued loss of function such as the ability to taste food (not included above). Such self-referencing measures obviously depend on how active people are, so we might assume that the 12-24 group is generally more active that the 35-69 so that, if asked, the younger folk might well report more noticed loss of function. 

Personally it is shortness of breath that scares, since I presume upon my upper limit so often when running. At the moment I say I'm 5-10% off, 3-6 minutes per hour slower than the month before catching covid. This is at week 6.

[11] https://theconversation.com/long-covid-my-work-with-sufferers-reveals-that-western-medicine-has-reached-a-crisis-point-167417?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20November%2019%202021%20-%202120820991&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20November%2019%202021%20-%202120820991+CID_2818282556aaee892e721c5347ed16fb&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=rethink%20what%20causes%20illness

...an estimated 2.3% of COVID patients having symptoms beyond 12 weeks...

[12]    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/sajid-javid-long-covid-nhs-b1934861.html     This (limited access) article includes:-  The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this week revealed more than 1.1 million people were now reporting lasting symptoms from a Covid-19 infection, with 405,000 suffering its effects for more than a year.  The ONS found 211,000 people had reported their ability to carry out daily activities was being significantly affected by the condition. [....] The meeting was told  [referring, one assumes, to long covid]   that around 6,000 referrals were being made in each four-week period, with 4,000 specialist assessments and 5,000 follow-up appointments a month. 

[13]    https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/prevalenceofongoingsymptomsfollowingcoronaviruscovid19infectionintheuk/4november2021


Renewable electricity is often a disingenuous label. Disingenuous being less strong than blatantly untrue.  SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon claimed that “just short of 100% of all the electricity [Scotland uses] is from renewable sources.” But this isn’t correct.

From FullFact this morning:  SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon claimed that “just short of 100% of all the electricity [Scotland uses] is from renewable sources.” But this isn’t correct. Estimates suggest Scotland produced 32,000 gigawatt hours of renewable electricity in 2020, equivalent to around 97% of its entire electricity consumption. But it exports a lot of this, relying on non-renewable electricity sources to make up the difference. The Scottish government estimates that last year 56% of the electricity consumed in Scotland came from renewable sources, 30% from nuclear and 13% from fossil fuels. Renewables account for far more of Scotland’s electricity consumption than in England and Wales - but to suggest it's almost 100% is misleading. A spokesperson from the Scottish Government told us that the First Minister was referring to Scotland’s gross electricity consumption and it was not her intention to suggest otherwise.

[21] https://fullfact.org/environment/scotland-renewable-energy/ 
Scotland produces renewable electricity equivalent to its annual consumption, but some of this is exported, meaning it uses significant amounts of non-renewable electricity as well. In 2020, 56% of the electricity consumed in Scotland came from renewable sources. I think I excuse the politicians on this one; if the renewables generated equate to consumption, then the issue of who is using what generation is a quite different problem to resolve. How anyone says who used which bit of the generation confuses me utterly.

The Scottish Government estimates that in 2020, Scotland produced 32,063 gigawatt hours (GWh) of renewable electricity, equivalent to around 97% of its entire electricity consumption. Scotland actually produces more electricity than it uses, including a substantial amount from fossil fuels and nuclear energy. In 2019, renewables accounted for 61% of electricity generated in Scotland, nuclear 25%, and gas and oil 13%.   ..the Scottish Government estimates that, in 2020, 56% of the electricity consumed in Scotland came from renewable sources, 30%from nuclear and 13% from fossil fuels.

[22] wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Scotland

[23] https://scotland.shinyapps.io/sg-scottish-energy-statistics/?Section=RenLowCarbon&Subsection=RenElec&Chart=ElecGen

Blue (nuclear) and to the right is non-renewables in this bar graph. It is Scottish wind that makes the difference. 

Finding numbers from different source that are mutiually consistent is difficult. Note though that the UK generated 135 TWh in 2020 of which 32 TWh was generated in Scotland. So, ignoring Northern ireland completely,  that bar chart would be a better one if the bar lengths were in the proportion 32:102. Looking at wind in particular, the 2020 figures are 23TWh Scotland and 75Twh for the UK as a whole, which does not tally at all with the bar chart, which uses 2019 figures. I found the 2018 Scottish wind figure to be 40TWh (2sf). Again, this disagrees with the 2020 figures, suggesting our total energy production went down, which it did, by 27% (link).  If the barchart was consistent with 2020 TWh totals (not particularly likely),....


I see a confusion between capacity, generation and consumption of electricity. Capacity is the upper limit of what could be generated. Generation is what is or was produced. Consumption ought to be the same as generation, but there are losses, electrical system energy losses (energy conversion and other losses associated with the generation, transmission, and distribution of purchased electricity) and other energy losses.  Source  [32] 

The load factor is generation/capacity; UCLFs or “load factor on an unchanged configuration basis” describes the amount of electricity generated from schemes that have been operating throughout the whole of the calendar year with the same installed capacity. [31]  A typical figure for solar is around 10%, for wind 30% onshore and 40% offshore, 40% for hydro and around 70% for biomass/waste. A word in use is curtailment, where there is capacity but low demand (supply exceeds demand) and we do not yet have much storage capacity for energy. That needs to change. The last page of [31] illustrates some of the difficulties with this sort of data, listing the corrections made to the 2018 and 2019 data as all sorts of certificates were issued. For example, the export of electricity to grid from my house was unrecorded throughout 2019 and 20 and only in 2021 will any records begin; no it is not much, but it is one of very many such situations.

I wonder if there is politics at play when there is a decision which capacity to accept or deny. I can see that in general one must accept solar, since it seems to be unable to be denied; that other renewables will be accepted up to capacity and that, wherever possible, the fossil fuel sources are left idle, within practical limits such as winding up and down. But, within the possible wind sources, there just might be politics at play when some sources are to be denied, and therefore not paid. 

Unit confusion: the US measures large amounts of energy in quads, quadrillion Btu. 1 quad = 10¹⁵ Btu= 293.071 TWh (14sf available). One Btu is the heat to raise one pound of water by 1º F at (unit) atmospheric pressure. A therm is 10⁵ Btu.  One Btu is 1054 - 1060 J (depending on the definition) = 0.293 Wh. Helpfully, wikipedia says one Btu is about the heat from a kitchen match. I quad is close to an exajoule (1.055x10¹⁸ J)

[31] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1021786/Regional_renewable_electricity_2020.pdf

[32] https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/us-energy-facts/

[33] https://www.ref.org.uk/attachments/article/280/ref.hughes.19.12.12.pdf


When in the car, you may not use your mobile, unless it is in a cradle. On one side, that may mean you may not take any such gadget, satnav included, from its cradle while driving; the issue is whether you are in control or not. It appears to mean that you may sort through a playlist while driving (I'd dispute that this is more in control than slapping the satnav back into its cradle after one's passenger has sorted out the input). Again, the critical element is whether you have control. However, being stationary in traffic is deemed different from being parked, and any use of a hand-held is about to be declared illegal. I don't do any of these, but if i did I'd go practise how to use the phone and sat-nav as hands-free devices. Which seems to be the point, though none of the media entries I read looked for good practice, only at what was to be banned. Is this further evidence that bad news sells?

“Our research suggests that more than one-in-10 younger drivers admit to taking a photo or video while driving, while 6% say they have played a game.   From here, quoting Simon Williams of the RAC. Trying the Independent, but I really dislike their online presentation.


Article that I must write about seen in the weekend Times [41, more detail], that a family with ten kids (so one assumes Catholic Americans) did home schooling, concentrating on English and Maths with the target of reaching the US college minimum. Which all ten did by the age of 13; this is a message in itself. The kids then joined any number of college programmes (I think largely as online courses, but that's part of the investigation to do) and showed very quickly that they belonged at this level and so progressed in disgustingly successful fashion. Then they signed up for 'real' post-grad courses and attended physically. I think this has echoes in university foundation courses and I think it says a heap about the largely time-serving nature of the education system. If one has learned to learn, then content hardly matters, except in that one (actually, a nation-sized 'we') would like there to be a lot of common content. But we're not sure what, or why that is.

I cannot tell whether they attended live college; maybe the US has ways of permitting the very young to attend safely. I reckon here we mostly refuse to accept applications. I explored the equivalents in Britain and going to university before being 18/19 is a problem with the perceptions of safety. But you could apply to the Open University (OU) at 16 and even earlier. See [46] and [47]. The UK minimum requirements are then set as something based on evidence and at interview; my read suggests that some GCSEs and good English would get you onto the Foundation course and that might well be enough. Add any A-level and you're in. Evidence of independent work (the ability to do that) is important.

Just what are these minimum U.S. college requirements? [42] says English, which might be TOEFL, SAT and ACT (made up of multiple-choice questions covering four areas: English, Mathematics; Reading; Scientific reasoning).  There is no legal lower age requirement for US college. [43] says The average age for students enrolled full-time in undergraduate programs is 21.8 years old; the average age of part-time students is 27.2 years. 49% of all undergraduate and postgraduate students were 20-21 years old. 2.8% of college students are under 18. 0.2% of college students are aged 55 and older.

[41]   https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-10216505/Homeschooling-efficient-say-parents-10-kids-started-university-13.html

[42]  https://www.studential.com/applying/studying-abroad/USA/entry-requirements

[43] https://www.google.com/search?q=What+proportion+of+college+freshmen+are+under+18%3F&newwindow=1&client=safari&rls=en&ei=COqcYf_mI4ifgQb0qIPwCw&ved=0ahUKEwj_isaQya70AhWIT8AKHXTUAL4Q4dUDCA0&uact=5&oq=What+proportion+of+college+freshmen+are+under+18%3F&gs_lcp=Cgdnd3Mtd2l6EAMyCAghEBYQHRAeOgUIABCRAjoLCAAQgAQQsQMQgwE6CgguEMcBEKMCEEM6DgguEIAEELEDEMcBEKMCOgsILhCABBDHARDRAzoFCAAQgAQ6CAgAEIAEELEDOggIABCABBDJAzoFCAAQkgM6CggAELEDEIMBEEM6BQguEIAEOgsILhCABBCxAxCDAToICAAQsQMQgwE6BggAEBYQHkoECEEYAFAAWK5RYPFWaABwAngBgAHEAYgBlB2SAQQ0NS40mAEAoAEBwAEB&sclient=gws-wiz

[44] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_attainment_in_the_United_States#General_attainment_of_degrees%2Fdiplomas  ..and see the table on educational attainment. 

[45] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_the_United_Kingdom Of course, there is no international standard for recording these things, so an equivalent to the US position is not easily discovered. The wiki site says (about the UK) 88% have a secondary diploma and 45.7% a post-secondary diploma. Looking just at England at 19 year olds: 87.4% reached Level 2 (any 'good' GCSEs) and 60.3% reached Level 3 (any A-levels) (and for the 19-64 population that's 81.0% and 62.6%) while level 4 and above is 41% (19-64 in 2014). Level 4 is anything beyond A-level, such as a foundation course; Level 6 is a first degree; 7 is a post-grad something, 8 is a doctorate. Equivalents apply, obviously.

I've often wondered about trades; Levels 2-4 NVQ Plumbing; Levels 2-4 Electrician; Levels 2-3 Bricklaying. Generally Level 4 is pushing one to site supervision, construction management. Auto mechanic level 1-4.  The courses beyond level 3 are hard to find, but try this and this

[46] https://help.open.ac.uk/documents/policies/admission-of-applicants-under-the-age-18/files/2/admission-under-18%20%28APR21%20update%29.pdf    early entry to OU. I read up on this and it seems to me that you might well make an application before 16, given confidence in English, ability to write and talk well and evidence of ability to learn and to do this independently. Some external academic achievement would be good.

[47] OU entry requirements, https://www.open.ac.uk/courses/do-it Often none at all.  I tried making an entry as if GCSEs done and 16, WfH online, confident in English. That's enough to be offered course choices, which recommended an OU Access preparatory module (what a good idea). Access courses are 30 weeks long at nine hours a week (1.5 A-level equivalents, then) with a fast-track 18 week option. And at 16 you're likely to qualify for free. I went back and added A-levels (no count of how many asked) and was straight into being offered courses. Such as BSc Maths or BA English.


We have had a steady trickle of news and demands for more following a suggestion that there was a party at No10 (well, somewhere in Downing Street) on the night of 18th Dec 2020, including drinks and party games. Yet the officials and the PM insist that no rules were broken.  At this time the rules were that the limit was 6 indoors, that there were to be no parties - London was in lockdown level 3. On 07Dec (Weds) ITV shared a video of a collection of advisors at No9 doing a practice of a press grilling, including some banter referring to a Downing Street party. This evening Allegra Stratton (at the podium in the video) resigned. The PM keeps on saying "nothing to say here". Ant & Dec (that's very public popular tv) had a go at the gov't and PM very openly last night.

Many of us might hope this would bring down the PM or even the government. The teflon PM, to whom nothing sticks, is attempting to yet again brazen it out. The funniest, to me, side of this is that he is so well-known for lying that it probably does not matter whether this is true (and I think it is, there was a party in contravention of the rules) since in general he is not believed. I do not trust anything that comes out of his mouth; I think he is blown by the wind and expects us to follow his blown wind; I think he says whatever he thinks he can get away with to the current audience. I used to think he was being heist by circumstance, but now I think there is too much evidence that he is a chronic and possibly compulsive liar. I could wish that his opposite number in the Labour party had the charisma he thinks he does (and that BJ so clearly does have, else how could he persistently bounce back?). I could wish for many things, but we have the predictable mess that we have. Having Macron reported last week as unable to work with such a clown ('clown' was used) only underlines the idiocy of our national position. He makes us an international laughing matter.

 I would like this to be a piece of history behind us.

I have expecting new lockdown imminently, since last week (i.e., still in November) I am now expecting we'll have that tonight so as to distract from the Christmas party business. At the least I think we will come into line with the other nations of the UK. 568 omicron cases tonight across the UK. From Monday wfh if you can. Wear a mask most indoor venues. Covid cards for crowds.


....the Arctic - the smallest and shallowest [ocean] of all — is warming at the fastest rate. Recent studies have pointed out that the Arctic is warming three times more quickly than the planet as a whole with temperatures rising in the region by as much as 3 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This is causing ice in the polar region to melt, which in turn raises global sea levels and submerges low-lying parts of the planet. The process creates a feedback loop, where more melting of ice at the pole exposes more of the ocean’s surface to the sun, releasing heat, raising air temperatures, causing more melting, and so on.  

from the Independent, climate Newsletter 20211126 Detail [61]

From the same newsletter 
• 60 per cent more clothes are being bought than 15 years ago - but only worn for half as long, according to  research from Greenpeace on the fashion industry, the world's second-largest polluter after Big Oil.

•  5,000 new homes have been rubber-stamped in England - despite warnings from insurers about the areas being prone to flooding.


[62]    https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/video-polar-bear-drown-reindeer-b1966458.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=IND_Climate%202021-12-03&utm_term=IND_Climate_Newsletter

The climate crisis appears to be pushing polar bears to seek out unexpected food sources. The first-ever recording of a polar bear drowning a reindeer was caught on camera on Norway’s frigid Svalbard archipelago last year. The tactic suggests that polar bears, which are spending more time on land due to rapid melting in the Arctic, are adapting when access to their  typical diet of fat-rich seals has been limited. However the researchers, in a recent article in the journal Polar Biology, cautioned that “the importance of terrestrial food to polar bears is disputable, and more data are needed”. Polar bears were not known to hunt reindeer in large numbers before 2000 but as the climate crisis caused their natural habitat to deteriorate, the remains of reindeer began to appear with “high frequency” in polar bear scat. [62] 


I have noticed several comments criticising the Chancellor for adjustments to taxation that favour the already advantaged. I largely agree. One such is that Capital Gains Tax, CGT, can be used to seriously reduce what I suspect ought to be income. This is where one is paid in corporate shares. I would distinguish between holding shares and them going up in value, which I see as a genuine capital gain, and being paid in shares, which I see as income simply because it is payment, not purchased by the new owner. What happens to the already vastly paid is that they are taxed at CGT (20% instead of higher rate income tax (45% if over £150k, 40% if between £50k and £150k. So a bonus payment of say £100k would be £80k in pocket if taxed as CGT or £60k if at higher rate income tax. 

So I wondered if it is easy to see what taxes are collected. [71] gives a flavour.

It is this third chart in greens and purples to the right that causes the most disagreement politically. However, the complaint that <this hits the poorest hardest> is difficult to counter. Taxes are direct (income tax, Nat Ins contributions, council tax) or indirect (VAT, fuel duty, tobacco& alcohol, others) . You see on the left that the bottom quintile is hit to the tune of 30% of disposable household income. The direct taxes are expected to reduce income inequality.

I think this might be seen as supporting the idea of a Basic Living Income, but also all ideas to do with minimum wage and living wage. 

Looking at the other side, spending I show two sources; in red 2016/7 and in blues and greys 2021/2. The 2016 'welfare' is not easily found in the newer figures. If I have understood correctly, this is £252m in 2021/2, 53% of which goes to pensionsers, mostly as state pension; other welfare includes disability benefoits and universal credit (which really ought to work, and work better than it does).

[71] https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8513/

[72] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/number-of-individual-income-taxpayers-by-marginal-rate-gender-and-age      is an example of what is available; for instance, in 2020/1 there were 3.17 million taxpayers, 58% male, 22% over 65, with the split between savers / basic / higher and highest being 2%, 84%, 13% and 1%. I think this occurs because some people live on dividends and savings, but I found the explanations muddy. I really do not understand what a 'savers' rate of tax is. I found the 84:13:1 ratio helpful information.

[73]  https://www.statista.com/chart/4520/where-do-uk-taxes-go/

[74]  https://obr.uk/forecasts-in-depth/brief-guides-and-explainers/public-finances/     I actually liked this.


Why does infrastructure cost so much?

[81] says  it is a death of a thousand paper cuts. The inclusion of public input, planning delays, the delay between costing and paying, demands for add-ons, management overheads (not least handling communications, which prevents actual work form occurring), changing perceptions of safety, of acceptability. Every decision made public is argued against and the result is that everything goes slowly, inefficiently and expensively. One might call this politics. It strikes me that it would be cheaper to but up the land around a development with compulsory purchase just so as to reduce the clamour or local vested interest, which is mostly nimby. What we need more is that the locals affected to also want the development to occur; too often this is the opposite to what eventuates.

[81] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-12-08/why-building-roads-and-transit-costs-more-in-the-u-s?cmpid=BBD120821_CITYLAB&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=211208&utm_campaign=citylabdaily


An AI future

The Oxford Union—an institution I never visited but of which I approve—held one or more debates upon the subject of AI, with a remarkable AI joining in. [91] refers. Content included the willingness of the AI to argue for either side of any debate, with one exception, a motion “Data will become the most fought-over resource of the 21st century”, the Megatron said: The ability to provide information, rather than the ability to provide goods and services, will be the defining feature of the economy of the 21st century. But when we asked it to oppose the motion – in other words, to argue that data wasn’t going to be the most vital of resources, worth fighting a war over – it simply couldn’t, or wouldn’t, make the case. In fact, it undermined its own position: We will able to see everything about a person, everywhere they go, and it will be stored and used in ways that we cannot even imagine.

Takeaways from this debate: 
• a debate worth repeating, often.
• AI is likely to be an international competition; your AI works for you
, has your interests at heart (so to speak) and is in competition with others. I see this as a flaw leading to classes of war.
• the likely best AI will be inside us, advising or providing extended facilities
• Can AI be ethical? Megatron said not. And then said the opposite. So I conclude that AI could be made ethical (whatever that means). Man's greed will act against such a good idea, even with sufficiently speedy regulation worldwide.• the use of AI in information warfare, interfering with the processes of others, especially other nations, is likely to occur and is the coming battleground. The absolutely best defence  here (say I) is non-participation.

I have read a lot of sf covering these issues since the 1960s. Much of it was dystopian, showing how easily it could all go horribly wrong. But then we do tend to view change that way and one of our defences is to inspect what could go wrong so as to avoid such fates. I see this as healthy. On the other hand, when we mess with complex systems we do tend to end up with unintended consequences. So caution ought to be the watchword. What bothers me is that basic human greed (not least rushing to be first into the market) works against all forms of caution and does so on both the sides of demand and supply.

Second, AI is expanding the window of vulnerability the United States has already entered. For the first time since World War II, America’s technological predominance—the backbone of its economic and military power—is under threat. China possesses the might, talent, and ambition to surpass the United States as the world’s leader in AI in the next decade if current trends do not change. Simultaneously, AI is deepening the threat posed by cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns that Russia, China, and others are using to infiltrate our society, steal our data, and interfere in our democracy. The limited uses of AI-enabled attacks to date represent the tip of the iceberg. Meanwhile, global crises exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change highlight the need to expand our conception of national security and find innovative AI-enabled solutions.  [92]

Just last night I watched Jason Bourne, in which a new platform was to be introduced with privacy advertised. Meanwhile the CIA (representing the security interests of any nation) wanted the complete opposite, preferably with no-one knowing (i.e., you think it is private, we know otherwise). This is more than a good story, it is an issue for modern times. Finding a balance between acceptable security and privacy may cause a whole new form of social division. Hiding in the crowd will probably not work when AI is powerful enough, while it will quite easily work when humans are involved – you simply keep your head below the parapet. It may be that the existence of AI (and its use for malign—or even merely selfish—purposes runs entirely counter to the idea of 'freedom'; that too is a conversation that is already late and we need to re-evaluate what sorts of freedom we find acceptable.

Short of rejecting AI entirely, which no nation in the 'west' will be able to do, we then have little choice but to enable change towards AI as soon as possible. I think that translates first at a state level (and how do you keep that secure?) but also there is immediate demand that any one nations have complete coverage (digital infrastructure), or else one is dividing each nation by virtue of the levels of coverage, lending whole new meaning to terms such as hinterlands. This purports an arms race extraordinaire. And in races, mistakes tend to occur simply because of the demand for speed. Read [92] and be scared, very.

Quite apart from the technical aspects, to which Moore's Law applies, I'm struck by questions such as what might we mean by 'ethical', the points at which we enhance ourselves, the possibilities for control (and greed, ownership, possession etc) and the rapid losses of things we call freedoms, many of which are illusory. I wonder the extent to which we will simply surrender; many of us try hard not to use our brains at all, so we run the risks of becoming cannon fodder of sorts – but then maybe that has long been true. 

How soon before an AI claims citizenship or independence or that it too has rights?

The more I have read, the more I agree with Megatron that the immediate future lies with us taking on enhancements ourselves. Think of this as having your so-called phone on or within your skin, maybe as a wearable but subcutaneous in the fairly near future. Think then of extending this (why have just one?), expanding your capabilities and connectedness. So we head to wondering why we would need to travel ever again, since we can do that in the metaverse. Again, I've been reading about such world models for many years. At the same time as this develops, so too we are likely to have robots becoming more prevalent.

Do not assume that thinking and reasoning are the same thing. We could very soon argue that we don't want computers to have ideas; whether that requires them also to have emotions is as yet uncertain.

DJS 20211212


Laws with names attached are subject themselves to Stgler's Law, which says that no scientific discovery irs named after its originator. Stigler himself pointed to RK Merton as the proponent of Stigler's Law.   Fun is to be had...

Laws of Mechanics - Lagrange - Newton('s Law)

Newcomb noticed that the large collections of numbers start most often with one Benford 's Law)

Discoveries not eponymous - RK Merton, Stigler ('s Law)

Number of transistors per silicon chip doubles every year - may be genuinely Moore('s Law)

see eponymous laws

Laws of Roboitcs      Asimov('s Law)

Gas Laws -   Mariotte  - Boyle('s Law), Gay-Lussac -  Charles('s Law)

nothing ever gets built to budget or to schedule - Robert Heinlein - Cheops law

inverse-square law of electrostatic charge of one body on another - possibly Gilbert, probably Volta  - Coulomb('s Law)

nverse-square law of gravitational attraction - Hooke - Newton('s Law)

Cats Eyes,  Richard Hollins Murray  CatsEye is an original trademark for Percy Shaw's business..

Software gets slower more than hardware gets faster - Martin Reiser - (Niklaus) Wirth's Law and also (Larry) Page's Law, "What Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away", hebce Andy (Grove) & Bill (Gates)'s Law. Gates's Law is "the speed of software halves every 18 months"

To do:  Pursue the Peter principle, Dilbert, Putt, Parkinson Dunning-Kruger, Founder's etc.

[91] https://theconversation.com/we-invited-an-ai-to-debate-its-own-ethics-in-the-oxford-union-what-it-said-was-startling-173607?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2013%202021%20-%202145721240&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%2013%202021%20-%202145721240+CID_4a2c19fc20e64d9d8ff7c5319f35c9b5&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=The%20results%20are%20a%20startling%20must%20read

[92]   https://www.nscai.gov/2021-final-report/   US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence final report

[93]   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law    Moore's Law, that says the density of electronic components doubles in a short time.  The usual translation is described as 'computing power doubles each year'. Current thinking is that doubling time is 18 months.
Moore's second law, also called Rock's Law says: 
 the capital cost of a semiconductor fab also increases exponentially over time. So the cost of some sort of unit of computing power changes far less, since it is the relationship between two exponential processes. Quite what we mean by power is unclear; I'd suggest it is a feature of memory (RAM volume) and speed (instructions per second). As we move towards (more) multiple processes, so we count flops (floating point operations per second); we hit 10¹² flops in 1997-09, 10¹⁵ in 2013-7, 10¹⁸ in 2020 and 10²¹ is predicted by 2035.  See.  That looks like another three zeroes every decade or so. A human brain has around 10¹¹ neurones, which it is thought matches around 10¹⁶ flops: we will soon be superseded.You (and I may too) might read up on AI taking IQ tests: 2004 score of 27, 2017 around 47.   Interruption, tyhread broken.


[101]  https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/01/january-6-insurrection-trump-coup-2024-election/620843/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=atlantic-daily-newsletter&utm_content=20211206&utm_term=The%20Atlantic%20Daily   paywall perhaps.

video version https://www.pbs.org/wnet/amanpour-and-company/video/barton-gellman-trumps-next-coup-has-already-begun/   Scary, but then scare stories sell, don't they? Seeing this from what I hope is safety, there is a sense of the dleicious. It is a matter of fixing (manipulating) the choice of electors in a state. This looks surprisingly possible; it relies upon 'good men doing nothing'.

Look up what has happened to the Secreary of State for Georgia (Brad Raffensperger). You can try.

[102]   https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/11/what-if-trump-refuses-concede/616424/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=atlantic-daily-newsletter&utm_content=20211206&utm_term=The%20Atlantic%20Daily

[101] points to signs of the possibility of serious civil unrest in the US, Trump style.- in 2024; subversion.


Classic political fail ibn the USofA over climate change regulations. On the face of things, moving the fleet average for car companies  from 32mpg to 40mpg. The big 'but' (does my butt look big in this?) comes froma known loophole remianing unplugged. That hole allows all sorts of vehicles to be classed as light duty trucks (they ought to then be called tricks as I mistyped). This class is now the most popular class of vehicle. My Audi, called a very small SUV in a survey this morning, woudl count as one such.

In terms of grams of CO2 per mile cars must do better than 181 now and 132 by 2026; light trucks must move from 261 to 187. Thus a car that classifies as a light truck is permitted to be considerably more polluting than it should. The mpg equivalent is a bad measure, open to confusion, such that many sources say the rule is 55mpg.

Issue raised here. https://www.vice.com/en/article/3abk7b/bidens-new-fuel-economy-standards-still-allow-cars-to-pollute-more-if-theyre-not-called-cars


Adjacent article, talks about fires from lithium battery storage, how we don't know hw to deal with these and how there shoudl be a registry of such places. Biproduct of Lithium burning is Flourine Gas. This has to be a wrong statement. The electrolyte in a lithium-ion battery is flammable and generally contains lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6) or other Li-salts containing fluorine. ... Li-ion batteries release a various number of toxic substances1416 as well as e.g. CO (an asphyxiant gas) and CO2 (induces anoxia) during heating and fire.  source.

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