In the annals of human history, marked by the scars of warfare and conflict, a fascinating anomaly emerges: the Americas. Spanning from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, this vast continent, home to 35 nations and one billion people, has remained largely untouched by the nationalist wars that have ravaged much of the world since 1900. The few conflicts that its citizens engaged in were primarily Americans fighting outside of the Americas, such as their involvement in World War I and II, rather than wars within the continent itself. The sole significant nationalist war fought within the Americas since 1900 was the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia, which resulted in approximately 90,000 casualties. In stark contrast, outside the Americas, over 200 wars have erupted, claiming upwards of 150 million lives. This staggering number includes casualties from World War I (20 million), World War II (70 million), the Sino-Japanese War (20 million), and numerous ethnic conflicts with death tolls exceeding 100,000 each. Yet, the Americas have largely escaped this pattern, experiencing only minor border disputes or wars with relatively low casualty rates, like the Falklands War between the UK and Argentina, which claimed fewer than 1,000 lives on both sides. While the Americas have not been immune to violence – the Mexican Revolution, certain insurgencies, and high levels of criminality have left their marks – these conflicts have predominantly been internal in nature, distinct from the nationalist and tribal wars that have plagued other continents and inflicted horrendous casualties, including the Holocaust, where a single ethnic group, the Jews, was targeted for extermination. Nothing of this scale has transpired in the Americas since 1900. In fact, Jewish immigrants like my family, who arrived in Argentina around 1900, never experienced wars or deadly antisemitism and were not compelled to participate in any wars.
This leads to the question of why. What unique combination of historical factors and demographics has rendered the Americas an unlikely bastion of peace in a world where war is all too common? I posit that the difference lies in the immigrant composition of the Americas, which sharply contrasts with the ancient lineages and deep-seated ethnic ties found in European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African nations. Since the 16th century, waves of people have flocked to the Americas in search of better lives, creating a tapestry of cultures, languages, and ethnicities where no single group predominates. Consequently, the type of nationalistic, tribal wars that have plagued continents characterized by homogeneous cultures, susceptible to divisive “us vs. them” rhetoric, are nearly non-existent in the Americas.
The Americas’ melting pot has molded national identities in a fundamentally different way from the cultural, ethnic, and religious homogeneity seen in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Nationalism in the Americas has often revolved around shared immigrant values, human rights, and the rule of law rather than ethnic or cultural purity. This divergence has made it challenging for virulent nationalism, which ignited 20th-century wars, to take hold. Consider Argentina and Brazil, for instance: despite historical disputes and differences, the idea of war between these nations is inconceivable. Their diverse populations make rallying around a singular, exclusionary nationalist cause unrealistic. Any rivalry that exists centers not on military conflict but on friendly competitions like soccer.
The Americas have witnessed their share of demagogues and would-be autocrats attempting to exploit divisions. When I was a child in Argentina, the fascist military dictatorship of General Videla, as well as that of General Pinochet in Chile, attempted to incite conflict between the two countries. However, these efforts largely failed to gain lasting traction, thwarted by the inherent diversity and heterogeneity of these societies. Argentines and Chileans, above all, remain good friends. The immigrant narrative in the Americas has weakened the grip of clan and tribal mentalities that prevail in nations built on singular histories, ethnicities, cultures, or religions. Families arriving in the Americas left behind old allegiances, forging new bonds based on shared ideals rather than bloodlines or birthplaces. In my native Argentina, descendants of those who fought in Europe’s wars intermarry and leave behind their combative pasts. In a country where you frequently encounter many different nations living in peace within its borders, it becomes exceedingly difficult to convince anyone to attack another like-minded nation. This shift has created a political landscape less susceptible to tribalism and intergroup violence, factors that have fueled conflicts elsewhere. Consequently, while immigrant societies may experience higher crime rates and internal violence, with the notable exception of the Bolivia-Paraguay War in the 1930s, they have largely avoided large-scale wars against one another.
Overall, the Americas’ history of immigration and resulting diversity have played a pivotal role in shaping a continent that stands out as a relatively peaceful exception amid the turbulent global landscape of the 20th century.
In Apartheid South Africa from 1948 to 1994, racist laws and policies severely oppressed the black majority population. The government explicitly classified and segregated South Africans by race, restricting where people could live, work, attend school, etc based on skin color. The black majority could not vote, hold office, or legally protest against the system. They faced arbitrary arrest, forced removals from homes, and restrictions on movement through internal pass laws and segregated public facilities. South Africa’s white minority government promoted racism, punishment and exploitation.
In the USA under Jim Crow laws in many U.S. states, rigid segregation was legally enforced between white and black Americans in all public facilities from the late 19th century until the 1960s civil rights movement.
In transportation, black people had to sit in designated separate railroad cars, streetcars, and sections of buses. Waiting rooms, train platforms and airport facilities were segregated.
In education, black and white children attended separate public schools and colleges. Black facilities received far inferior resources and funding.
Restaurants, drinking fountains, public restrooms, hotels, theaters and other venues were segregated by race with blacks excluded or given inferior accommodations. Signs often specified “Whites Only” or “Colored” areas.
Public swimming pools, parks, beaches and recreational facilities were segregated, usually denying access to black citizens entirely.
State and municipal codes prohibited interracial sports, dancing, concerts, cohabitation and marriage.
This pervasive and degrading segregation system denying equality to African-Americans was upheld by discriminatory courts and enforced by threat of arrest, fines, intimidation or violence. The civil rights movement eventually repealed these unjust Jim Crow laws through prolonged advocacy and courageous activism.
Now compare this to the condition of a Israel’s 2 million Arabs.
– Arabs make up about 20% of Israel’s population. They have full voting rights and some even serve in the Israeli parliament.
– Arab citizens have equal legal rights and protections under the law. They can own property, live where they choose, receive healthcare and social services, file grievances in court, etc.
– Arabs participate in civil society as activists, journalists, business owners, professionals, and more. Some have risen to positions like Supreme Court justices, diplomats, and directors of hospitals.
– The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. Road signs, currency, and public services are often available in both languages.
And here’s the remarkable case of an Arab Judge who sent a Prime Minister of Israel to jail.
Salim Joubran served as a permanent justice on the Israeli Supreme Court from 2003 to 2017. He was the first Arab to join the court in a permanent capacity.
In 2012, Joubran was one of a three-judge panel that convicted former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of breach of trust. It was the first time in Israel’s history that a sitting or former prime minister was convicted of a crime.
The conviction stemmed from a real estate corruption case against Olmert during his term as mayor of Jerusalem years earlier. Joubran’s inclusion on the panel and support of Olmert’s conviction demonstrated the independence of Israel’s judiciary and its willingness to prosecute senior government officials impartially regardless of ethnicity or religion.
While there are many examples that explain how different Israel is from South Africa or the US until the 60s the case of an Arab Judge sending a Jewish PM to jail illustrates a reality incompatible with a concept of an Apartheid state.
Media Bias and its Distorted Representation of Health Care and Environmental Challenges
In the 21st century, social media platforms and journalistic establishments, have emerged as potent tools for quickly disseminating information and shaping public discourse. While this newfound power has democratized knowledge to an unprecedented extent and put it in the hands of anyone with a smartphone, it has also led to skewed narratives on a host of critical issues. Of particular concern are the portrayals of issues in the fields of health care and environmental stewardship. Here I share an exploration of how media discourse disproportionately emphasizes certain subjects that are hot and attractive while underplaying the arguably more urgent and widespread challenges within these domains that may require more study and hence be less suitable for quick consumption.
Health Care: A Tale of Misplaced Focus
Today, public discussions around health care are invariably dominated by contentious issues such as abortion and gender affirmation. While these topics undeniably warrant attention, we should consider their relative impact on the health care landscape. Accidental pregnancies are indeed a health care problem and abortion bans in certain states is a relevant issue and deserves attention but compared to other health care issues as access to all of health care and not just to abortion for the whole population of the United States it pales in comparison. On gender affirmation if we consider the coverage in news and social media that this issue gets and its reality the differences are striking. Facts are that there are 330 million Americans and only 861 gender affirming affirming surgeries were performed in 2021 does this issue deserve the coverage it gets? This stark disparity reveals a disconnect between the issues that prevail in public discourse and those that affect the most significant portion of the population such as overall access to health care.
Out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and copays often lead to effective underinsurance, making health care prohibitively expensive even for those ostensibly covered. Furthermore, insurance coverage limits often exclude crucial services such as mental health support, long-term care, and preventive services. Despite these widespread challenges, media discourse disproportionately centers around issues such as racial disparities in clinical trials, while substantial economic barriers persist for the population of all races.
Furthermore, the most lethal health threats in the US – cancer, heart disease, metabolic disorders like diabetes, COPD – often find themselves sidelined in the media. The opioid crisis and rampant alcoholism, issues that lead to thousands of deaths and profound societal and economic impacts annually, remain under-discussed in the shadow of topics like abortion and gender affirmation. And this is not only true of health care, it also happens in our dealings with the environment.
The Environmental Narrative: Climate Change Overshadowing Critical Threats
The realm of environmental issues displays a similar narrative distortion. Climate change, characterized by rising global temperatures, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels, dominates the environmental discourse. These phenomena are indeed responsible for an estimated 50,000 deaths annually due to extreme weather events. However, the focus on climate change often obscures other environmental challenges that arguably present more immediate and catastrophic threats. Frequently, the tremendous progress we are making by massive deployment of renewables in the fight against fossil fuels, is ignored.
Air pollution, a prime example of an ignored topic, results in approximately 7 million deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization – a figure that dwarfs the mortality rate attributable to climate change. Despite this enormous disparity, air pollution often fails to secure media attention proportionate to its impact.
Additionally, the environmental damage caused by the irresponsible disposal of chemicals and plastic pollution are both severe and pervasive. For instance, a study published in Science Advances in 2020 estimated that 11 million metric tons of plastic waste enters our oceans annually. This pollution harms marine life, affects human health, and has broader ecological implications. Similarly, the use of harmful chemicals in agriculture and industry has led to widespread water pollution, soil degradation, and biodiversity loss. Yet, these issues rarely generate the same media attention or public outcry as climate change.
Urbanization, another critical environmental issue, is rapidly altering landscapes and ecosystems, contributing to habitat destruction and biodiversity loss. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 68% of wildlife populations have declined since 1970. Human-induced wildfires, responsible for 9 out of 10 wildfires in the USA, further exacerbate this problem. Yet, these urgent issues are frequently relegated to the background in environmental discussions.
Towards a More Balanced Discourse
While media outlets’ efforts to raise awareness about issues like abortion, gender affirmation, and climate change are commendable, it is crucial to ensure a balanced representation of the diverse challenges faced by society. Misplaced focus and disproportionate attention can lead to policy missteps and misallocated resources.
Therefore, to enable informed public discourse and effective policymaking, media outlets must endeavor to provide a comprehensive, unbiased portrayal of the issues at hand. This shift entails expanding the conversation beyond popular topics to include underrepresented yet critical issues. In doing so, we can hope to foster an informed society capable of driving comprehensive solutions to the multifaceted challenges that confront us in the domains of health care and environmental stewardship.
Bitcoin, as a groundbreaking digital currency, has introduced several noteworthy advantages to the financial landscape. But the broader crypto world, faces numerous challenges and shortcomings. Let me go into this in more detail.
Advantages of Bitcoin:
- Decentralization and Transparency: Bitcoin operates on a decentralized network, reducing reliance on centralized authorities and enabling transparent transactions. Its blockchain technology allows for public scrutiny, enhancing trust and accountability.
- Financial Sovereignty: Bitcoin empowers individuals by providing them with full control over their funds. Users can transact without the need for intermediaries, ensuring greater financial autonomy and privacy.
- Borderless Transactions: Bitcoin’s global reach enables seamless cross-border transactions, overcoming barriers and facilitating efficient peer-to-peer transfers without traditional banking systems’ limitations and fees.
- Store of Value: I view Bitcoin primarily a store of value, akin to digital gold. Its limited supply and increasing adoption could potentially lead to long-term price appreciation. Since Wenceslao Casares first introduced me to it in 2011 I have seen this as its primary use.
But among the sound basis of Bitcoin a crypto world has emerged that is frequently a black hole of value. Let me enumerate the shortcomings.
- Market Volatility: The crypto market is notorious for its extreme price volatility, driven largely by speculation and pure market sentiment. This unpredictability poses risks to investors and hinders wider adoption as a stable medium of exchange.
- Regulatory Uncertainty: The regulatory landscape surrounding cryptocurrencies remains uncertain and inconsistent across different jurisdictions. This lack of clear guidelines and oversight creates legal ambiguities and investor concerns.
- Security Vulnerabilities: Cryptocurrencies are susceptible to hacking, fraud, and theft. Instances of exchange breaches and wallet compromises highlight the need for robust security measures to safeguard digital assets. Crypto is safe but dealing in crypto frequently is not.
- Market Manipulation: The crypto market has experienced manipulation, including pump-and-dump schemes and insider trading. Such practices erode market integrity and harm unsuspecting investors.
- Lack of Scalability: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies often face scalability issues, struggling to handle a large volume of transactions quickly and cost-effectively. This limitation inhibits their wider adoption for everyday use.
- Environmental Impact: The energy consumption associated with Bitcoin mining has drawn criticism due to its carbon footprint. The energy-intensive nature of mining contributes to environmental concerns, particularly when fossil fuels are predominantly used for mining operations.
- Limited Real-World Use Cases: While Bitcoin has gained acceptance in certain sectors, cryptocurrencies, as a whole, still struggle to find widespread real-world utility beyond speculation and investment. Adoption by mainstream businesses and individuals remains limited.
- Lack of Consumer Protection: The absence of comprehensive consumer protection mechanisms exposes cryptocurrency users to various risks, such as scams, misleading information, and inadequate safeguards against fraudulent practices.
- Initial Coin Offering (ICO) Pitfalls: ICOs, despite their potential to fund innovative projects, have become a breeding ground for scams and failed ventures. Investors often face substantial financial losses due to inadequate due diligence and regulatory oversight.
- Speculative Nature: The speculative nature of the crypto market can lead to irrational exuberance, contributing to price bubbles and subsequent crashes. This volatility and uncertainty deter risk-averse investors and hinder cryptocurrency’s credibility as a stable financial instrument.
Bitcoin’s advantages, including decentralization, transparency, financial sovereignty, and borderless transactions, highlight the potential of internet-native money. However, the crypto world presents numerous challenges, such as market volatility, regulatory uncertainties, security vulnerabilities, and scalability limitations. Additionally, concerns about environmental impact, limited real-world use cases, lack of consumer protection, ICO pitfalls, NFT debacles and the speculative nature of the market make me and many others believe that crypto beyond Bitcoin is a dangerous swamp.
Those of you who are against the existence of the state of Israel use as a main point the misconception Israel represents a “white” colonization of the “brown” Middle East. This oversimplified perspective disregards historical facts and diverse demographics. By examining key aspects of the current population of Israel: the Holocaust’s impact, the Arab inhabitants of Israel, and the expulsion of Jews from Muslim countries and subsequent immigration to Israel, we can shed light on the fallacy of this viewpoint and conclude that Israel is also a “brown” country.
- Holocaust: A Tragic Reminder of Jewish Origins: The Holocaust stands as a stark reminder that European Jews, with their roots in the Middle East, were victims of genocide perpetrated by the Nazis. Approximately two-thirds of European Jews were annihilated, around 6 million of them, solely due to their Semitic heritage. Nazi ideology, driven by Aryan supremacism, perceived Jews as racially inferior. Jews were not killed for their beliefs, to the Nazi murderers it did not matter if someone was a religious or secular Jews, Jews were killed over their semitic racial heritage. Thus, Israel’s establishment served as a refuge for the survivors, allowing them to reclaim their ancestral homeland not as European but as semites. Having said this now Jews of European origin are a minority in Israel.
- Arab Origins within Israel: Contrary to the notion of Israel as a white European entity, a significant proportion of its population is of Arab origin. Today, around 2 million Arab citizens reside in Israel, accounting for about 20% of the population. Way more than the 450k Arab citizens who resided in Israel when the country was established in 1948. They enjoy equal rights and actively participate in various aspects of Israeli society, challenging the notion of Israel as a colonizing force. They have more democratic rights than Arabs in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
- Jewish ethnic cleansing from Muslim Countries: The majority of Jews in Israel hail from Muslim-majority countries such as Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Morocco, and others. These Jewish communities have ancient roots dating back to before the advent of Islam. Tragically, they faced expulsion and persecution in their countries of origin, prompting their migration to Israel. This historical reality undermines the assertion of Israel as a white European endeavor and emphasizes the return of Jews to their ancestral land. Most of Israel settlers come from Muslim countries.
- Reclaiming Homeland, Not Colonization: Viewing Israel as a white European colonization overlooks the fact that many Jewish inhabitants were expelled or displaced from what is now Israel, and their return signifies a reconnection to their historical homeland. It is essential to recognize their rights to self-determination and reclaiming their heritage.
Understanding the multifaceted nature of Israel’s history and demographics is crucial in countering the erroneous portrayal of Israel as a white European colonization of the Middle East. The Holocaust’s impact, the Arab origins within Israel, the expulsion of Jews from Muslim countries, and the nation’s cultural diversity highlight the fallacy of this perspective. Recognizing Israel as a brown country, where different communities coexist and reclaim their roots, fosters a more nuanced understanding of its complex story. Most of the Jews who now live in Israel faced harassment and death in their countries of origin.
Natural resources have long been viewed as critical factors in a country’s economic development. However, the true engine of prosperity lies not only in having land, minerals, oil and other natural wealth but in having highly educated, hard working, and talented population. A few examples come to mind.
Israel vs. Saudi Arabia:
Knowledge-Based Israel, a country with scarce natural resources, has achieved remarkable economic success when compared with Saudi Arabia. By prioritizing human capital development, Israel has nurtured a thriving technology based economy. The nation has emerged as a global leader in innovation, particularly in defense, cybersecurity, biotechnology, and agriculture. Groundbreaking research and development endeavors have paved the way for high-value products and services. This emphasis on human resources has propelled Israel to surpass Saudi Arabia in terms of GDP per capita, despite the latter’s abundance of oil reserves. Latest figures showed Israel GDP per capita at $52k vs $20k of Saudi Arabia.
Netherlands vs. Argentina:
The Netherlands, renowned for its highly advanced agricultural sector, exemplifies the power of human resources in maximizing a nation’s potential. Despite the fact that you need 177 Netherlands to make one Argentina, and it having very limited arable land, the Netherlands ranks among the world’s top exporters of agricultural products beating Argentina on $100bn of agricultural exports vs $65bn. The country’s commitment to innovation, adoption of advanced farming techniques, and investment in research and development have fostered high agricultural productivity. Conversely, Argentina, with its vast land resources, faces challenges in infrastructure, technology adoption, and value chain development, constraining its ability to fully capitalize on its agricultural potential. Decades of corruption and poor government have left the Argentine countryside barren compared to the tiny agricultural land of Netherlands. Holland’s success underscores how skilled human resources can overcome physical constraints, driving economic prosperity.
Costa Rica vs. Venezuela:
Sustainable Development through Human Capital Costa Rica and Venezuela present divergent examples of human resources’ impact on economic development. Despite its smaller land area and limited natural resources, Costa Rica has positioned itself as a leader in sustainable development. By making substantial investments in education, healthcare, and environmental conservation, the country has nurtured a skilled workforce while attracting international investment. In contrast, Venezuela, blessed with abundant oil reserves, has experienced severe economic decline due to mismanagement and the neglect of human capital. Insufficient investment in education, healthcare, and other critical sectors has impeded Venezuela’s ability to effectively harness its natural resources. The result is that Costa Rica GDP per capita is $11k, slightly higher than that of Argentina and Venezuela who has the largest oil reserves in the world has a GDP per capita of $1350.
Japan vs. Brazil
Japan’s transformation from post-war devastation to an economic powerhouse exemplifies the transformative power of human resources. Despite minimal natural resources, Japan prioritized the development of a highly skilled workforce through investments in education and training. This cultivated human capital served as the driving force behind Japan’s industrialization and technological advancements. In contrast, Brazil, endowed with vast natural resources, has faced challenges in translating its resource wealth into sustainable economic development. Insufficient investments in education, infrastructure, and innovation have hindered Brazil’s ability to diversify its economy and fully leverage its human potential. Result is that Japan has a GDP per capita of $40k and Brazil of $8k.
While natural resources can contribute to economic growth and if you are a country like Norway that is lucky enough to have both natural and Human Resources you become the world champion on GDP per capita (over $80k). But if you have to choose Human Resources invariably beat natural resources. By investing in education, skills development, research and development, and fostering a culture of innovation, countries can nurture a highly productive workforce capable of driving economic growth, diversification, and sustainable development. Recognizing the power of human resources allows nations to thrive and overcome the constraints imposed by limited natural resources.
Several well known thinkers have expressed concerns about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Elon Musk said that AI could become an “existential risk for human civilization,” while the late physicist Stephen Hawking warned that it could “spell the end of the human race.” I acknowledge these concerns but to some extent; AI can indeed pose a tremendous risk, much like nuclear weapons. However, it’s important to emphasize that, akin to nuclear weapons, AI cannot initiate an attack on its own. It must be programmed to do so.
AI, at its core, is a tool, a mirror. It possesses no personal agenda, no inherent morality, and no autonomous motivation to cause harm or good. It merely reflects the intentions of its creators and users. The real danger isn’t the mirror itself, but the reflection it casts – a reflection influenced by human actions.
Deepfakes, sophisticated cyber-attacks, manipulative social engineering, autonomous weapons, and perpetuation of biases are just a few examples of how AI can be misused when reflecting malevolent human intentions. Each of these scenarios underscores that the true threat isn’t AI developing its own harmful agency, but rather, those who may use AI as a tool for harm. AI can cause enormous harm, but not on its own.
It’s also equally important to remember that the reflection can be one of great good. AI can be used to create incredible benefits for society when utilized responsibly and ethically. Here are some examples:
Healthcare Advancements: AI can improve patient care, enhance early disease detection, and aid in the development of new treatments and medicines. Combine with pharmacogenomics AI can make medical care more personalized and efficient.
Climate Change Mitigation: AI can help us analyze and understand climate patterns, predict natural disasters, and optimize renewable energy sources. It’s a great tool in our fight against environmental damage.
Education Personalization: AI can tailor educational content to individual students, helping them learn more effectively and at their own pace. It’s transforming the educational landscape, making learning more accessible and personalized.
Poverty Alleviation: By aiding in resource allocation, predicting economic trends, and providing access to digital services, AI can contribute significantly to poverty reduction efforts.
Space Exploration: AI can analyze vast amounts of data from space, help navigate rovers on distant planets, and even aid in the search for extraterrestrial life. It’s an essential tool in our quest to explore the universe.
Like any tool, the benefits or harms of AI largely depend on the hands that wield it. AI itself isn’t the risk; it’s the potential for misuse by those with malevolent intent. Our focus should be on fostering responsible AI development and usage, guided by strong ethical principles and societal norms. AI can augment evil but use properly it can augment kindness. And that should be our objective.
When I was a child, back in 1972, the Club of Rome, a global think tank, released a report titled “The Limits to Growth”. In this report, it warned the world about the possible consequences of unchecked growth. These warnings were based on Malthusian theory, proposed by Thomas Malthus in the late 18th century. Malthus suggested that while populations grow exponentially, food production can only grow linearly, which would eventually lead to global starvation. The Club of Rome extended Malthus’s arguments to include resources like oil, gas, and minerals. Most scientists in the 70s believed that the Club of Rome was right in predicting our economic demise. My childhood and adolescense was marked by a sense of doom, that by the year 2000 global wars over resources were going to be common place and humanity was going to be impoverished and hungry. Few would have guessed that by 2000 we mostly had global peace (especially compared to WWI and WWII) and while population had doubled so had GDP per capita around the world.
As we moved into the 21st century, we realized that the predicted Malthusian catastrophe had been averted. Despite the global population increasing from 3.7 billion in 1970 to 7.8 billion by 2020, surprising and phenomenal advances in technology allowed us to overcome the forecasted food and resource shortages.
Key among these was the Green Revolution. It involved the creation of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, and distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers. The introduction of disease-resistant wheat and rice dramatically increased per-acre yields. For instance, wheat yields in developing countries doubled between 1961 and 1982.
The energy sector also saw significant advancements. New oil and gas extraction techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and horizontal drilling were developed in the late 20th century. These technologies enabled access to reserves that were previously uneconomical to extract, leading to an unexpected abundance of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel production grew way beyond the most optimistic predictions of the 70s.
In the face of the current global challenge, climate change, many are drawing parallels with the Malthusian predictions of the past. Scientists warn that if we continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, we risk causing catastrophic climate changes. However, I believe that just as technological advancements got us out of the Malthusian trap, they will also help us tackle climate change.
For instance, the cost of solar photovoltaic modules has fallen by nearly 99% since 1976, thanks to improved manufacturing processes and efficiencies. From 2010 to 2020, the cost of installing solar power dropped from $0.378 per kWh to $0.068 per kWh, making it competitive with traditional forms of energy.
Wind turbines have also significantly improved. Modern turbines are taller, have longer blades, and are more efficient than their predecessors. They can now generate power at a capacity factor of 45%, up from 30-35% in the early 2000s.
Battery technology has improved too, largely driven by the rise of electric vehicles (EVs). The cost of lithium-ion batteries fell by 89% from 2010 to 2020, from $1,160 per kWh to $137 per kWh, making electric cars more affordable.
Meanwhile, nuclear fission has made progress, with several countries investing in small modular reactors (SMRs), which are more flexible and cost-effective than traditional reactors. And while fusion power remains largely experimental as of 2021, the ITER project, a multinational collaboration aiming to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power, is expected to begin plasma experiments by 2025.
Electrification of transportation is another promising development. By 2021, there were over 10 million electric cars on the world’s roads, up from virtually none in 2010. Companies like Tesla, Nissan, and BYD have been at the forefront of this transition, with models like the Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, and BYD Qin becoming increasingly common.
While I think it made sense to think like the scientists of the Club of Rome thought back in the 70s that the world was going to destruction via starvation and resource depletion and that it makes sense that Al Gore, Greta Thunberg and millions of others think that we are on the same path regarding climate change, paradoxically, what scientists consistently get wrong is their own ability to engineer their way out of seemingly unsurmountable technical challenges.
I am confident that just like we can now house, feed, educate and take care of 8 billion people (if there still is over a billion people living in extreme poverty that is out of poor politics and not lack of resources), we will be able to deal with the temporary rise in temperatures as we stop burning fossil fuels. Wind, solar, nuclear and batteries are way on their way to give us the solution we need to avoid climate catastrophe.
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I have been actively following Covid since the start helping the government of Spain design a Covid fighting app and in the process dealing with many doctors, epidemiologists and experts. Still what is sad about Covid is that there every month we seem to have more unanswered questions. Here is a list of Covid mysteries that I put together, feel free to contribute.
1) Do children pass it on?
First it seemed they did not, now some studies says they do. Still to be determined.
2) Does it spread outdoors?
Again first it seemed it didn’t now some superspreader outdoor events are pointing that it is possible to have significant transmission outdoors.
3) Why are some people superspreaders?
Superspreaders play a key role but we really don’t understand what makes a person a superspreader other than they are.
4) Is a mask mandate enough?
Some countries like Sweden do not have mass mask wearing and do very well in the second wave. Are masks essential? They clearly seem to help but are they enough?
5) Are people who stop showing antibodies frequently susceptible to re
Many people who had Covid test negative on IgG and IgM a few months later. Does this mean they are susceptible to get re infected? Re infection cases are known but very rare.
6) Why did Sweden do better than Spain with its mask mandates and
Is Covid unavoidable or are there clear policies that stop it short of shutting down the economy? Why do some countries do so much better than others? Not clear.
7) Is long Covid a lifelong challenge?
We have only had Covid for 9 months so how can we know how long Covid is. Will people still have Covid symptoms in 2030 of an illness they had a decade before?
8) Anosmia, why?
Theories abound that Covid infects the nervous system, the brain, but we really don’t seem to understand why anosmia is so common among Covid patients.
9) How did Sars CoV 2 originate?
Is it bat to another animal, to humans? Is it a lab? We don’t know.
10) Why does every Asian country, even chaotic ones like the
Philippines, do better than any European country?
This one baffles me. Philippines is so chaotic, so poorly managed as a country, so poor. Why do they do so much better than Belgium or Netherlands?
11) Is there herd immunity?
Many believe there isn’t and it is clear that some places like Madrid got hit hard in the first wave and the second wave. But other places didn’t.
12) And if there isn’t, how are vaccines supposed to work?
Vaccines are there to achieve herd immunity in a less complicated, less painful, less deadly way. If we don’t have herd immunity via infection how are we supposed to get it with a vaccine?
13) Why didn’t Western countries use the attenuated virus that China
used for the vaccines since it’s proven to work in flu, mumps,
The Chinese approach to vaccine development seems so proven, why are Western companies trying to reinvent the wheel with the vaccines? Is it because they need new IP?
14) When and how do monoclonal antibody cocktails work?
What explains the unreal recovery of Trump? Is it the Regeneron mab cocktail? And if so will these type of therapies only work very early in the illness? The Lilly cocktail was shown not to work well in more advance patients. Will mabs be like the morning after pill?
15) Why are superspreaders asymptomatic and what percentage of them
are pre symptomatic?
This has been a debate since the beginning. Are people who spread the virus the most about to get sick themselves? If so what percentage is?
16) Why does Covid spread from those without symptoms?
Is the success of Sars Cov 2 based on a virus that has figured out that humans spread it through speaking and not coughing?
17) Are rapid antigen tests good enough to stop asymptomatic contagious people?
If the key to stopping the pandemic is to detect people when they spread it but don’t know it, do we need to rapid test everyone once a week?
18) Why do so many people keep testing positive on PCR?
Many people who recovered from Covid keep testing positive for weeks or months, are they contagious? And why do they test positive while other recovered patients don’t?
19) Until when after symptoms are people contagious?
How long should quarantines be? If we make them too long people are afraid to test themselves and more likely to hide their symptoms.
20) What percentage of people are afraid to get tested because they
don’t want to be quarantined?
How successful are we at finding Covid? are positivity rates enough? Is contact tracing enough?
21) Do politicians really have the impact we believe they have on this
illness or does it have a “mind” of its own?
Covid has unfortunately become so politicized. We live in a world in which the left seems to care about Covid and the right about jobs. But does the virus listen to politics? Probably not.
22) To what extent is weather a significant factor in the spread of Covid?
Warm weather and its outdoor life seems to limit the spread of Covid but then you have situations like Manaos, in the middle of the Amazon as one of the cities with the most incidence of Covid in the world.
23) Do children give Covid to adults in a significant way or is it
mostly the other way around?
How safe is it to open schools? Are kids active contributors to the pandemic?
24) Why are obese people so common among the hospitalized, in ICU and
among the dead?
That the average BMI of Covid patients is higher than that of the population where they come from is well known. But why?