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Archive for April 23, 2021

Younger Generations in West Losing Touch with Physical Reality: 1

April 23, 2021 20 comments

Regular readers of my blog know that I have written numerous post in past couple of years about how various factions, institutions and entire countries in west seem to have lost touch with physical and material reality. What makes this progressive loss touch with of reality in west especially interesting is that most of people outside its borders haven’t lost touch with reality- and this says a lot about the rapidly and terminally declining influence of western countries. Which brings me to the next and inevitable question- will this loss of touch with reality continue to its inevitable conclusion or will it stabilize and perhaps even reverse itself. While anything is possible on a long enough time-span, it appears unlikely that any significant deviation from current path of self-abasement will occur in near future.

But why am I so pessimistic about the ability of younger generations in west to correct the loss of their touch with physical reality in near future? Well.. there are many reasons for my skepticism and here are some examples of why I think that they might be (in many cases) even more detached from reality than previous generations. Of course, I also recognize that sooner or later a significant minority of this generation will almost certainly go against the current trend of pretending that physical reality does not exist or matter. However, I don’t think that their numbers or influence will be sufficient, barring some violent revolution, to affect the current course of events. Here are a few examples of why I maintain that belief..

Some of you might have wondered about why so many, especially in younger age groups, seem to believe that widespread use of electric and truly self-driving automobiles is inevitable in near future. If you ever go to message boards of sites frequented by autistic programmer-types such as ycombinator, slashdot, arstechnica etc, you will see tons of people who firmly believe that widespread adoption of electric cars and truly self-driving automobiles are around the corner. Fun fact- these people were saying the same things a decade ago. So why didn’t things change to any worthwhile extent over that decade? Some of you might say that the share price of Tesla suggests that I am wrong. Well.. what percentage of automobiles sold today are electric or truly self-driving? And do you really think that this state of affairs will change over next two decades- if ever?

To understand what I am talking about, let me ask you a simple question- why does a new technology replace an older one? Why were steam engines the dominant mode of traction for trains (all over the world) until after WW2 and why was the switch to electric and diesel so quick after 1950? Why did turbojets and turbofans rapidly become the main power-plant of airliners after the early-1960s? Why did the adoption of personal computers explode after mid-1980s? Why did smartphones displace older types of cellphones so quickly after 2008? Conversely, why do we still use Ibuprofen and Naproxen to treat inflammation and fever- even though they are over 50 years old? Why does the toilet look and work almost identically to one from almost 100 years ago? Or why does your refrigerator function and even look very similar to one from over 50 years ago?

It all comes down to a simple question- Does the “new” technology work significantly better than “older” technology and cost about the same or less. Steam engines were dominant until after WW2 because they were relatively inexpensive to build, reliable, easy to fix and had amazing torque. Diesel locomotives became competitive with steam in terms of cost and reliability once the diesel-electric transmission was refined by late-1940s. Once that occurred, replacing steam with diesel locomotives became a no-brainer as they had good horsepower, decent torque and required much less maintenance. Similarly, using electric locomotives on main routes became far more viable once an increase in widespread electrification of many countries occurred in aftermath of WW2.

Turbojets and then Turbofans became dominant power-plant of large airliners as it was much easier to build and maintain such engines with power outputs high enough to propel airliners capable of carrying over 100 people. This is also why turboprops are nowadays restricted to smaller airliners (cost-effective) or military transports (slower but rugged). Also, there are mechanical reasons why piston aeroengines making over 4,000 hp (or equivalent thrust) were never built in any significant numbers. Similarly personal computers boomed after mid-1980s once they became relatively affordable and able to do useful things such as help compose documents, spreadsheets or play games. Similarly smartphones displaced older types of cellphones after 2008, because they opened up entire categories of new possibilities for what users could do with a handheld device.

Did you notice a pattern? If not, let me spell it out for you- Newer technologies displace older ones when they can do stuff better or cheaper or, ideally, both. This is why, for example, LCD/LED TVs replaced CRTs so quickly after 2005. Or why power plants using natural gas exploded in popularity compared to coal-powered ones in past two decades. Hint: it was the cost of building, maintenance and fuel, and not lower CO2 emissions, which made natural gas the fuel of choice for generating electricity in north america within past two decades. That is also why coal-powered power plants will maintain their dominant position in countries such as China, India and many others without ready and reliable access to natural gas. This is also why we use older drugs such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen over more newer drugs or why toilets and refrigerators haven’t changed much in over 50 years.

But what does any of this have to do with the loss of touch with physical reality exhibited by, what appears to be a majority of, younger generations in west? Well.. because almost nobody is asking questions such as what are the theoretical and practical limits to rechargeable battery technology, where they are going to get all that lithium for so many batteries or rare-earth elements for modern brushless electric motors. Very few of them seem to be concerned by issues such as the problems inherent in removing automobile wrecks containing damaged lithium batteries off the road or the logistics chain problems involved in building, maintaining and repairing electric cars on the same scale as ICE-powered ones.

Even fewer seem to understand the problems caused by such decisions to the entire chain of crude oil refining which is necessary for supplying starting chemicals for everything from plastics and agricultural chemicals to drugs and specialty chemicals for a gazillion different industrial processes. And best of luck trying to run military vehicles, airplanes and container ships on lithium batteries. To put it bluntly, trying to stop production and use of of ICE-powered cars is a suicide move for any country larger than a city-state or micro-country. And here is what makes this even more interesting.. a majority of younger generations in China, India, Russia, Japan etc have a far better appreciation of these issues than their equivalents in the west. This is not to imply that China or India will ignore electric-powered automobiles. In fact, they will likely adopt them at decent percentages in future for specialized uses.

It is just that no large country outside west will replace ICE-powered automobiles until an option which is cheaper and more rugged/dependable than internal-combustion engines come along. Sure.. they may give lip-service to that idea and sign non-enforceable agreements, but when push comes to shove they are going to keep building ever more internal combustion engine-powered automobiles. However for some “odd” reason, a lot of supposedly “educated” young people in west don’t seem to understand this reality. Even more curiously, they think that the demographically decrepit and technologically stagnant west has any leverage over anything beyond small third-world countries. This belief is even laughable as the ability and infrastructure to make stuff on a large scale has already shifted to countries such as China.

In the next parts of this series. I hope to tackle issues such as the reasons behind younger generation refraining from having kids, acting “woke” and going along with other stupid “intellectual” fads, believing in inevitable major technological breakthroughs which will revolutionize lifestyles when none have occurred for almost 50 years and believing in laughably stupid bullshit such as the viability of peaceful but real political change.

what do you think?