Coping: The New Doom Porn: Robotics & AI

If you’re going to be an urban survivor, you are going to have to “keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.”

Since 1997, we have been “calling it like we see it” when comes to market, tech, and futuring.  We’ve used all kinds of tools to get there, but when comes right down to it, the best “Future Detector” there is has already been installed between your ears.  The problem is that few people take the time to update their personal operating systems (uploading new knowledge) to deal with new information that moves the future around.

So this morning, a short survival course on  how to realistically assess the future.

(Continues below)

 

We raised a very interesting notion in the Peoplenomics.com report for subscribers Wednesday:  “Will AI Kill Markets?”

This is not idle speculation, as indeed, the process is already underway and has been since the 1990’s.

If you’re a young investor (like our reader Millennial Caller, for instance) you may not be old enough to remember ‘back in the day’ when the NYSE published program trading statistics.

When I first started watching the markets, the program trading was less than 10% of NYSE volume.  But since rudimentary (Big Data) AI is a feedstock of quantitative analysis, we can rest semi-assured that the investment question is quite real.

On the other hand, great promoter’s pronouncements about the danger of AI may be overblown a bit.  I’m talking here of people like Gates and Musk and all the others who are worried that AI will eat our lunch.

These people need to get out more.  One of the reminders that slapped us ‘upside the head’ coming back through the Amish enclave in Oklahoma Sunday was that there are humans who not only still get along without two cellphones and the latest Apple whizzies, but they also get along largely without petroleum.

Yes, there is a lifestyle shared, in many regards, by both Native Americans and Amish that has an incredibly low footprint in terms of energy and resource, but also has very little chance of failure.  Why?  Simply: They know where the off-switch is.

Oilman2 posted a note (with link) in one of the comments yesterday about how grid use is now about 2% colocation centers.

In a conversation, later in the morning, we got to musing about how much co-lo space would be needed to field a national fleet of any size autonomous vehicles.

As he explained it: “Sure, you can get most of the routines onto the onboard systems, but when things get hairy you’re going to need that back-link to moma…and the big database….”  There’s no doubt some truth to that.

But that does raise the question how autonomous vehicles will need continuous internet access, or have a very large computer onboard.  And the tradeoff there will be fuel economy offsets.  Computers will eat between one and two horsepower (745-watts to 1,490 watts) and that will be continuously, not pulsed. Serious processor, cooling, storage and associated peripherals including some old-fashioned linear actuators in most designs.

The idea that “drone swarms” and “drone delivery systems” will put humans out of the mix is about equally absurd.  Again, in the short term.

The problem isn’t that drones can’t carry weight…sure they can.  But we need to be very precise on  our thinking here.  Remember, convertible cars that could be both streetable as well as flyable have been conceptualized for 60-years.  Check out this Wikipedia snip:

“In 1956, the US Army’s Transportation Research Command began an investigation into “flying jeeps”, ducted-fan-based aircraft that were envisioned to be smaller and easier to fly than helicopters. In 1957, Chrysler, Curtiss-Wright, and Piasecki were assigned contracts for building and delivery of prototypes. They all delivered their prototypes; however, Piasecki’s VZ-8 was the most successful of the three. While it would normally operate close to the ground, it was capable of flying to several thousand feet, proving to be stable in flight. Nonetheless, the Army decided that the “Flying Jeep concept [was] unsuitable for the modern battlefield”, and concentrated on the development of conventional helicopters. In addition to the army contract, Piasecki was developing the Sky Car, a modified version of its VZ-8 for civilian use.”

Sounds to me a lot like drones.

The problem is people don’t sit back and think through the logical application of three sets of laws.  In the case of drones or autonomous vehicle, you have the laws of physics, the laws of electrochemistry and the laws of economics.  What’s more, there is also this ugly thing called “The Use Case.”

Let’s take the notion that Drones will end UPS and FedEx delivery driving.

Not so fast!

Let’s consider a helicopter – like the Bell 206 JetRanger.  We only need a few numbers here to start scaling our thinking in terms of payload.

Lift efficiency is related to swept area of the rotor.  In the case of the JetRanger, the rotor diameter is 33-feet 4-inches.

Next we will consider horsepower.  317 shaft horsepower was the limit due to the powertrain design.

Then we have empty weight and maximum gross takeoff weight.

2,000 pounds empty,  with 3,200 pounds full (four passengers, pilot, fuel, and oil).

From here we can work the numbers as follows.

3200 pounds and 317 horsepower or about 10-pounds per horsepower.

When you back out the pilot weight (170 pounds) you’re talking about 402 pounds of usable load (cargo, passengers, etc at full fuel)  You can add capacity by dumping as much of the 91 gallons of fuel (618 pounds worth) as you want.  Hell, throw out the 170 pound pilot, while you’re at it.

We need to begin thinking about the 10 pound typical delivery package now.

We can already see the basics coming into focus:  A drone that could handle a 10 pound package would likely weigh a minimum of 30 pounds.  And since the rotor loading number is ab out 4 pounds per square foot of swept area, we would assume our single-rotor drone would need (rounding) 30-square feet of swept area.

So how about area divided by pi equals r-square?  That would be 9.6 for r-square (roughly – I don’t design things before more coffee, usually) or about a 3.1 foot swept area.

OK, making progress.

Now we need to think about our fuel source.  The JetRanger burns about 30 gallons per hour holding things up against the ‘will of gravity.’  Since we know the JetRanger does 10 pounds per horsepower, our drone will likely be similar – so we need a 3-horsepower source for whatever our flight time is.

Here’s where we see OM2’s point about energy density makes drones a fine scam but hardly practical.  Reason?

Here’s the power density of Jet A: 43.15 MJ/kg.

Now the power density of a good lithium ion battery: 0.36–0.875 MJ/kg.

Simply:  Jet-A is 49-times more power dense than a Lithium Ion battery.

By extension then, we can fly a jet-powered drone an hour on 3/10-ths of a gallon of Jet-A.  But the same platform on batteries?  Maybe five minutes with equal load.

And here’s another thing:  Batteries don’t charge in a linear fashion.  Trust me when I tell you this – I have worked on serious battery instrumentation issues (see Google results):  Battery quick-charging is an evolving art, especially with new chemistries.

Moreover, there is another problem with lithium ion, but you need to visit some sites like Cadex’s Battery University site over here.  When you scroll down to the cycling performance of Lion batteries, there is yet-another problem that drone promoters don’t mention.

The faster and deeper you discharge any battery, the fewer number of cycles it will deliver.

As the Cadex chart shows (they’re smart on this stuff): The lithium ion test battery lost about 25% of its rated capacity at 500 cycles.

In other words, put this drone we’re designing on a UPS delivery rig.  Deliver one 10 pound box and then it’s battery change time.  Maybe you could get 8 cycles per day on  a battery pack for a drone.  Cool, right?

But here’s where cycle life bits you on the ass:  At the end of a month and a half of service, the lithium batteries would still work, but now you’re down to a 7.5 pound box, or so, or it’s time to buy a butt-load of batteries.

And we haven’t even gotten into heat and cycling and how drones would work in places like Denver on a hot day where density altitude degrade lift quickly and where summertime cooling of an 8-10 battery rack on a UPS van (which aren’t now air conditioned) would also degrade performance.

You really think delivery companies that wouldn’t put in a/c for their drivers will do it for their drones?

Above all, though, this gets us circled back to the laws of Economics.

We are living today in a world most of us never thought we would see:  We’re making business models out of fishing, camping, gender, r/c airplanes, computer programming, and a host of other activities that are, mostly, non-essential.

And this underscores the main problem we see for the world:  We live under economic systems that reward people for participation, even if the participation doesn’t make a lot of sense.  And that’s worrisome.

How long can this track persist and still drive markets to new all-time highs?

It’s a bunch to wrap your head around, but likely worth doing so while you still have what pilots call “airspeed, altitude, and ideas…”

Write when you get rich,

George@ure.net

Comments

Coping: The New Doom Porn: Robotics & AI — 15 Comments

  1. Self-driving cars must be completely autonomous. If they have to check back with a hosting center to handle an unexpected case, the crash will happen before the server responds. Internet transit times between nodes and thus overall response times are not guaranteed.

  2. “If you’re a young investor (like our reader Millennial Caller, for instance) you may not be old enough to remember ‘back in the day’ when the NYSE published program trading statistics.”

    Shout out FTW! Your right, i had to google that as i never knew they did that! Be cool if they still did.

    Also, i have a question. Do you expect this time around (Greater Depression) that the wheels will come off the civility bus and people get “stupid” real quick thus making going out really, really unsafe? Also, do you fully expect another AmRev? Thanks Mr. Ure! You sure have made this 22 y/o much smarter and more aware than most of my peers.

    • You know, most of your peers are little pre-programmed financial units, lol.

      Yes. I don’t want to be in a big city when TSHTF for the reason that when full bellies end, so does civility. Check history for examples

      • Millenial Caller –

        Google has free translation services. You might want to keep an eye on Venezuela, but go for sources in Colombia or in Caracas. They are hitting a crisis we will inevitably hit when all the debt we have incurred as a country is called by the banks. So a ‘weather eye’ on Venezuela may be helpful.

        Argentina has been slowly collapsing due to left/right politics and massive corruption (sound familiar?). You might want to keep an eyeball peeled on Buenos Aires news as well.

        My experience in both countries is that theft/burglary and hiway robbery became common when the freebies dried up. It was best to be armed and travel in caravans for additional protection. In Venezuela, we had to tack weld the rims of wheels to the brake rotor or else the vehicle would be left on blocks or wooden stumps without wheels very often.

        Even when FARC was going nuts and bombing in Colombia, theft/burglary was uncommon. Kidnapping maybe, by cartel types, if you were obviously anglo (I can pass either way, fortunately).

        Mexico has another issue, but it may well turn into a full blown civil war, rather than cartel turf wars. The world economy and oil sector slowing has hit Mexico harder than people here realize.

        As we haven’t been through this kind of divisive violence in our country since the civil war. The Great Depression is our only recent reference – and it wasn’t as violent as a lot of things already happening today.

      • True that Mr. Ure! Im just glad i found your work as it has really woken me up to the reality of things.

        Sounds exactly like i feared. I figured i would double check my gut feeling. Thanks for confirming! Ill prep accordingly.

  3. George,

    It’s always seemed to me that the greatest weaknesses in drones was not in payload, flight time or ecomony of operation, but rather the fact that they’d be pretty easy to skyjack [now THERE’S a term we don’t here much anymore]!

    And since even low-end commercial drones are pricey, there would quickly be a new [black] market niche for same. Forget about jamming sophisticated navigational hardware… just a well-aimed 10’x12′ cargo net would do the trick. Smack the onboard cam/GPS with a ball-peen hammer and it’s instant payday for even the most clumsy of crooks. There may even be an added bonus for idiots who would try this: beyond the salvage rewards could come a form of social justice for striking back at TPTB.

    Of course, battle drones are another thing entirely and even if you have a spare RPG laying around you’d likely still be outgunned.

    • Gregory and others –

      Just remember that many robots and drones rely on visual navigation and sensors. A paintball gun is quite useful in rendering a robot or drone useless. Paint goes everywhere when it hits a larger drone rotor, if it doesn’t knock the thing out of the sky completely.

      The more complex the tech, the more vulnerabilities it possesses.

  4. Everything. Is always about the energy.

    Back in the day we all went down to the market and traded our stuff for other stuff we needed.

    Then we added a layer of complexity and farmers started shipping all their stuff to the grocery store, where we would go to get what we need. More energy was required: to build the stores, to transport the goods to market, to get us to the market, etc.

    Then we added a layer of complexity and started ordering stuff online and having it delivered to us. More energy was required: mostly in the final transportation leg where now each and every item purchased requires its own delivery. No more “truckloads” to the market. More energy to build and operate internet data centers.

    Now we are considering adding another layer of complexity: drones. Every layer of complexity, while improving “convenience,” comes at a cost of more energy required. Rare earth batteries. GPS. AI.

    new energy formula: convenience = more energy required.

    Now all of this occurred during a time when energy was relatively inexpensive. The EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) was hugely high. However, we are entering a phase where EROEI is dropping. Eventually it will go negative as all the “easy” oil is recovered.

    Unless we solve the problems with nukes. Personally I think fusion will always be a dream. Solar/wind won’t get us there. Too much complexity: rare earth metals, lack of energy density means the scavenging plants are HUGE, which comes with huge infrastructure complexity and maintenance. EROEI is already too low on solar and wind.

    When EROEI goes negative, society WILL be required to shed complexity in favor of simpler, and lower energy, systems. There is no alternative.

    It will happen. Prepare accordingly.

    • Many of us are already doing this, great synopsis by the way. All the items for prep routinely columned by George and discussed in the comments reference this and repeat it, your assessment was very straight forward and easy to understand which means it will reach more people yet again. Thank you.

  5. Having traveled a lot, and not just in metro cities, Americans have a lot more cash and usable income compared to the rest of the world. In rural Mexico, people still live in cinder block homes with dirt floors and no windows or a/c – but they have a big screen TV. In Vietnam, people still live in similar straits. In lots of places, they simply don’t have the money for things Americans spend their money on.

    Globalism levels the playing field, as long as the shipping costs are low enough and you have limited options. For Americans, we get to drop our standard of living. The corruption in DC was fine when we were making good coin – it was far away and we couldn’t be bothered – growing richer, the American dream.

    Now things are beginning to tighten down; zero wage growth for decades, hidden inflation squeezing, costs for essentials climbing and fewer and fewer options available. Hell, we are no longer even allowed to NOT have expensive health insurance.

    There will not be a government fix for any of this, because the “fix is in” with government. Congressional (where laws are made) gridlock sponsored by (insert your favorite lobby group here) is in full court press mode. Even then, more congressional scum are choosing ‘meetings’ or ‘seminars’ or ‘working groups’ as the way to spend their work days. Watch C-Span and count faces. Watch the BS things actually obtaining passage in congress.

    Things will get worse, things will lock up after slowing down to uselessness, voting will bring a different color in as a faceman but there will be no relief. Government and banking are not just bedfellows, they are wed completely. Their mutual in-laws are big corporations. Want to know who runs things? Then look at the corporate positions of all of these institutions and find the single, glaring commonality.

    It’s like that movie “They Live” – you have been taught to believe your lying eyes your entire life, when the truth has always existed in full view, completely camouflaged by indoctrination.

    Sometimes the only winning move is not to play…

    • You can’t win.
      You can’t break even.
      And you can’t quit the game.

      • CPA Prepper – the Amish opted out long ago, just barely staying in the system. The only real reason others don’t do this is convenience and fear of change. Yet humans are the most adaptable life form on the planet.

        Winning is survival for you and yours, just as it always has been. Anything else is just a myth, like us leaving the solar system to colonize space – great fiction, but highly implausible in many ways.

        I think people will hang on to BAU for as long as they can, only changing when circumstances force their hand. My general outlook for the last decade has been, ‘collapse now and avoid the rush’, mainly because circumstances are going to force a severe shift in our current reality. Everyone can feel the forces in play.

        It’s baked into the cake at this point, barring some kind of disaster that takes out DC, NYC, Cali and Florida – yet leaves the rest of us relatively unscathed.

        Thus my choice is to scale it back, simplify things and try to enjoy what is possible within my own limitations. My ‘American Dream’ ended long ago during my travels overseas.

    • Here is the problem: The IQ of the 5% surpasses the IQ of the 90% by such a large margin that that is hard to imagine for the 90%, who think they are smart, because some are educated. JMHO!

    • Agreed OM. This is a purposeful take down of America, end chaos is the goal, they don’t really care if we stay an economic engine, the deal is to destroy the economic engine, more dead useless eaters, easier societal control, they just need to load the table heavily enough, that ‘tip’ or hitting ‘critical mass’ when it comes, will slip on slide down hill. However, your posts are excellent to read because those that have they eyes to see can see it and make choices now to get ahead of it. We all should be heartened in our preps, not only is it, “if the Amish can do it, we can do it”, it should be we cannot not do it. WE CAN DO IT!

    • OM2, The Amish didn’t opt out, they never allowed themselves in.

      Bruno, not so. It’s purely a problem of perception. Their I.Q isn’t any higher, only their opinion of either their intelligence, or our lack. When our opinion is never acknowledged, the masses only hear theirs. I’ve met MENSANS who were garbage collectors and store clerks, and professors whose degreed accreditations were longer than their names, who were flaming idiots.

      I will take reality over perception, 100% of the time, but I am, I fear, a part of an extremely small minority who still does so…