“Duh Technology”

I love that expression. Indeed… why not harness the human torque that drives revolving doors in large metropolitan buildings to generate some turbine energy to power up some lights at little to no cost? Kind of a no-brainer.

Surely even our retrogressive friends on the Right could agree that small-bore innovations like this that discretely capitalize on energy efficiency and conservation are a rather good thing, no?

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28 Comments

Filed under Energy, Technology

28 responses to ““Duh Technology”

  1. Surely even our retrogressive friends on the Right could agree that…discretely capitaliz[ing] on energy efficiency and conservation [is] a rather good thing, no?

    No. I don’t think you’ve truly come to terms with what we’re dealing with here.

    Our “friends on the Right” are actively pro-waste and pro-inefficiency. They don’t dislike indiscreet methods of conservation because they’re indiscreet; they dislike them because they conserve.

    The process you praise will offend them not in its method, but in its aim. Neocons are the Mr. Creosotes of Canada’s politically active class. They eat not so that they may be sustained but only so that they may vomit. Their speech performs a nearly identical function.

  2. *Sigh*

    I suspect you’re probably correct.

    For me, it’s not a political matter, but more just a reasonably scientific matter of fact: maximization of efficiency and reasonable conservation of power is all to the good — profligate, inefficient and gratuitous waste is a heinous loss of otherwise useful, productive energy.

    Hard not to moralize on the subject or extrapolate into broader contexts…

  3. Everything you argue should indeed be persuasive to a “conservative”. The notion of efficiency is crucial to classical liberalism (which is what the more literate neocons pretend to espouse): “Economic Man” ostensibly seeks to optimise his utility through maximally productive uses of his resources and aptitudes.

    The problem is that conservation–as a norm–presupposes the need for consistently imposed external constraints on freedom (fortified by an abstract ethical imperative driven by scarcity), whereas Economic Man tends to be suspicious of any option that has not sprung from the spontaneity of his unfettered free will operating on behalf of his self interest. Such an option seems to be not a real option at all, but an obligation, a summons.

    It has always been a tenet of liberalism that true freedom presupposes waste. He is sovereign who is safe from scarcity and need not shape his behaviour according to its demands. The hungry beggar, who cannot afford to waste a crumb of whatever he is given, is a slave to his food; the wealthy gourmand is free of his. External constraints rob the former of choice; carelessness of waste gives the latter his freedom. The production of waste is, accordingly, a positive good–a badge of one’s emancipation from the necessities–the prime generator of human progress.

    The great liberal William Blake said, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”–Mark Steyn avant la lettre.

  4. SF — A most interesting take on the matter — I had never considered it from that vantage.

    I might however argue certain aspects of your contention (e.g., the presupposition of external physical constraints as a militating intellectual framework), but I gather your point. The assertion that “true freedom” equates with waste is especially irksome. By that metric, Louis XIV would be the exemplar of liberty.

    He is sovereign who is safe from scarcity and need not shape his behaviour according to its demands.

    Indeed. And I dearly cherish that sentiment, but in no way does it validate the creed of grotesque waste.

    The hungry beggar, who cannot afford to waste a crumb of whatever he is given, is a slave to his food; the wealthy gourmand is free of his.

    Perhaps. But there’s also the matter of “relative appreciation” that enters into the equation and works in a delightfully perverse manner to level the experiential playing field.

    External constraints rob the former of choice; carelessness of waste gives the latter his freedom.

    It depends. There are many available choices even when one is economically deprived. And conversely, the “freedom” afforded to those who are more privileged is subject to all manner of stultifying confinements.

    The production of waste is, accordingly, a positive good–a badge of one’s emancipation from the necessities–the prime generator of human progress.

    Yes, that’s certainly one way of viewing it, but I would contend that it’s a notion rooted in the post-Feudalistic miasma of 18th Century revolutionary thinking.

  5. Mark McLaughlin

    “Surely even our retrogressive friends on the Right could agree that small-bore innovations like this that discretely capitalize on energy efficiency and conservation are a rather good thing, no?”

    Way to turn something non-political into a partisan back hand.

    It’s actually an interesting idea, but here’s how a Conservative would look at this new tech if you want to get all parti-zany.

    16 light bulbs probably isn’t enough benefit to justify the additional cost, but here’s the lefty, progressive, make-the-whole-thing-pointless kicker.

    “Let’s hook up a TV that tells you how much energy you just made to ‘incentivize’ (is that even a word?) energy conservation.”

    I wonder if they’d also include how much energy the TV is using to completely negate that energy you just produced.

    It’s not about conservation. It’s about the ILLUSION of doing something positive.

    And that’s how a Liberal would look at it. We didn’t need to get ideological about this thing, but you started it.

  6. sapphireandsteel

    Mark, do you need your diapers changed?

  7. Ted

    We actually organized a recent conference on just this kind of technological wave – the microgeneration of energy – and Ontario has gone to great lengths to explore this, most visibly in the smart metres that allow excess capacity to go back into the grid.

    It is a fundamental shift in business organizations that has been ongoing for quite some time and applying it to energy. The foundation of telemarketing and credit cards and other businesses exist and succeed because of a massive accumulation of small units – data in the case of telemarketing, small loans in the case of credit cards – where the whole is much greater and more valuable than the parts. It is the same concept behind microloans as well.

    No less so than with energy. One house with one solar panel doesn’t make much of a difference; but a whole city, like several test cities in Germany, all with solar rooftops or roof-mounted power and you not only have enough for yourself but are a net producer and seller.

    The revolving door generation is just another example of a thousand similar ideas.

    The big hurdles are three: (1) the cost of implementing the technology, but this is coming down all the time while the costs of not doing it go up; (2) energy is not static – use it or lose it – so getting the systems in place to make use of the generation, either through to the one building or back to the grid is critical; and (3) instead of distributing the energy, find ways to store it with new battery technologies.

    The new battery technologies is, in my view, the really exciting technology frontier that will blow open the whole industry. Imagine if everyone of us could store up our own energy and use it as and when we wanted, or even transfer it to others at a convenient time, or take it with us. Energy then becomes a currency and you have enormous built-in incentives to accumulate and use it efficiently.

    The problem with Sir Francis’s view on waste is that it is theoretical analysis. A business doesn’t care about “freedom”; a business cares about efficiency and the market and economic incentives are growing for energy conservation and generation.

    Not just “duh technology” but “duh business plans”.

  8. Sir Francis is quite right.

    Again, the problem is the conflation of the terms “conservative” and (neo) “liberal.”

    A genuine conservatives seeks to conserve: conserve the past, conserve the society, conserve the culture, conserve national independence, conserve the family, conserve tradition, & conserve that which is scarce.

    Modern “conservatism” is not conservative in any way, shape, or form. Rather, it is radical liberalism wrapped under a historical banner to which it has no relation, or continuity.

    Classical liberals – throughout the modern age (that is, from about 1750 …) – have always been the most wasteful and excessive class of people. Their core value is the belief that they have the absolute freedom (under the law) to do what they please – regardless of the cost to community and society.

    This was never really the “conservative” way in Canada – at least up until 1982 or so. It was the Tory Party that created The National Policy, the CRBC, Ontario Hydro, Imperial Trade Preference, and maintained continuity with the traditions of restoration England.

    At the heart of this toryism was a recognition that man was seriously flawed, and that the liberal promise of absolute liberty was a sham propagated to advance the social and financial claims & self-interest of nouveau riches. The genius of the scam is that even the most common of the commoners find it hard to refute the rhetoric of “freedom”. To that end, they end-up manning the forges where their own chains are fabricated. By the time the realise that they are enchained, it is too late.

    Today’s neo-liberals defend environmental waste in the same manner that their predecessor utilitarians defended child labour during the early-to-mid Victorian age.

    To them, a constraint on their freedom is never justified. Social & environmental costs borne in the process of maximising profits are merely by-products of the ABSOLUTE necessity of the process that is, classical liberalism (or neo-liberalism).

    As Grant and Ellul pointed out exhaustively, liberalism and it’s bastard son “technology” are about the triumph of science over morality. Because the final outcomes of science cannot be refuted, they validate the process – no matter the cost.

    Classical liberalism is all about the process called “freedom.” Conservatives used to believe in a different value called “liberty”. There are important differences between the two terms.

    *Have you ever wondered why spell-checkers never recognise the term “tory”?

  9. Mark — Guilty as charged. Yes, it was a cheap shot and the only reason I politicized it was in reaction to the perverse urge to demonstrate gluttony and counterproductive waste that some “conservatives” seem to delight in — e.g., turning on all the lights in their house on Earth Day or fighting tooth and nail to hold on to their wasteful heat-producing incandescent light bulbs.

    16 light bulbs probably isn’t enough benefit to justify the additional cost, but here’s the lefty, progressive, make-the-whole-thing-pointless kicker.

    I don’t know… what’s the cost of powering 16 light bulbs over the lifetime of a building? It may be a questionable proposition in terms of retrofitting existing structures, but certainly it’s something that could be included as standard gear in future buildings for little additonal outlay.

    “Let’s hook up a TV that tells you how much energy you just made to ‘incentivize’ (is that even a word?) energy conservation.”

    I wonder if they’d also include how much energy the TV is using to completely negate that energy you just produced.

    Excellent point, but keep in mind that this is a demonstration project and therefore the energy canceling addition of a visual feedback system (i.e. the TV screen display) in this instance is just for show to give the idea traction.

    It’s not about conservation. It’s about the ILLUSION of doing something positive.

    There’s a certain element of truth to this assertion, but as with the previous point made, I’d argue that creating a basic awareness of the problem is valid as an initial step to promote the idea that we can all do little things that, taken collectively, make a significant difference towards positive improvement.

  10. ATY — Classical liberalism is all about the process called “freedom.” Conservatives used to believe in a different value called “liberty”. There are important differences between the two terms.

    Interesting distinction. I couldn’t help but note however from the description of “classical liberals” and today’s “neo-liberals” that they bear a striking resemblance to that class of individuals who style themselves as “libertarians” so I wonder how that figures with the freedom v. liberty dichotomy you’ve suggested…

  11. Navvy

    Don’t the majority of neo-liberals fancy themselves libertarians? I don’t believe I have ever heard a “libertarian” “conservative” call themselves “liberal”. Libertarian is an especially useless label given the incredible range of political beliefs it encompasses. From something close to anarchy to the guy at the pub who calls himself a libertarian because he doesn’t like tax (though he’s not too crazy about the gheys getting married).

  12. Too bad Mike wasn’t around to defend the Libertarian position, but yes, you make a very good point about the uselessness of that label given that it encompasses just about anything one wants it to…

    I hate to say this, but it’s always struck me as an incredibly juvenile philosophy at its core. It’s perhaps no surprise that so many libertarians are drawn to Ayn Rand’s novels with their celebration of heroic selfishness — how perfectly fitted to the teenage mind is that?

  13. Navvy

    Well, as many have said before, the ideology is unworkable from the start. How can anyone honestly argue based on their rights as a human being, when those rights only exist because the state says so?

  14. It’s kind of solipsistic, to be sure.

    As to your point, I think a libertarian would argue that those rights are inherent aspects of human nature, quite apart from whatever the State may rule as being legitimate and sanctified by law.

  15. Ti-Guy

    Way to turn something non-political into a partisan back hand.

    Think of as an experiment in behavioural psychology. It elicited a rather telling response; that you believe these so-called “Liberals” are only interested in proposing illusions of solutions, rather than actual solutions themselves.

    We’ve had decades of this. Sometimes it’s true, most of the time it isn’t and virtually all of time it’s knee-jerk, premature and tedious.

    On the topic itself; well, you know what I think about technological innovation and complexity, Red. Even the innovative term “Duh technology” is bringing on a case of the crankies. 😉

  16. Yeah, I know. There is a risible element to it, but I think that’s offset in the big picture of progressive technological evolution.

  17. CWTF

    <>
    As with many problems, it depends what constrains we frame it by.

    Incandescent lights are inexpensive and produce better light than the fluorescent counterparts. As for the heat that they give off, is that really a problem in a northern climate? It is not as if I’m going to turn on the A/C to offset the heat (I don’t own an A/C unit but that is besides the point).

    If you think about it, the heat generated by incandescents are useful in my household.

    I can’t really adjust to fluo bulbs, I don’t know if it’s the lack of lumens or quality…

  18. Navvy

    As to your point, I think a libertarian would argue that those rights are inherent aspects of human nature, quite apart from whatever the State may rule as being legitimate and sanctified by law.

    Well, as you demonstrated, tongue in cheek, before with the Somalian “libertarian paradise”, talking about your rights with someone who just broke into your house and is in the process of liberating your appendages from your body rarely ends well.

  19. Ti-Guy

    big picture of progressive technological evolution.

    Well, is it really evolution, or simply greater complexity, the unintended consequences of which result in a wash, at best, with respect to the evolution of human civilisation?

    I don’t know. It has nothing to do with this specific innovation, but is related to a podcast of TVO’s Big Ideas I listened to yesterday, featuring the editor of Skeptic Magazine Michael Shermer. He made the oft-repeated claim that IQ’s have been steadily rising over the past decades, while mentioning offhand that it might simply demonstrate that those who are good at IQ tests are getting better at them.

  20. CWTF — Agreed. I have to admit that I do actually prefer the warm glow of an incandescent light, but not for ideological reasons — it’s simply a matter of aesthetics.

  21. Navvy — It’s always a fine line between “libertarianism” and complete anarchy. It’s all well and good to sit back and criticize the present arrangement — proudly espousing specious cant from Ayn Rand and what have you — to what the actual outcome of such a chaotic, selfish, and spitefully beggar-thy-neighbour approach to life would result in.

    I might suggest that libertarians purchase an island someplace and put their theories to the test. Let’s see how they work out in the real world. As they are now, it’s just a lot of academic wankerism, imho.

  22. Pingback: “Duh” technology « From Rednecklandia to the Emerald City

  23. Ti-Guy

    The real problem with libertarians is the mistaken belief that their rights exist independent of the rest of us. That they are inalienable and self-evident and that the rest of human society has no other choice but to accept them as inevitable as accepting that the sky is blue. That this is contradicted so often (my favourite example is from George Carlin, when he remarked that the US took the rights of Japanese-Americans away at the exact moment they needed them the most) doesn’t seem to disabuse them of that notion.

    Rights are social conventions. The first concern people should have is about the rights of others, not their own, especially when they’re not under any immediate threat.

  24. Navvy

    The first concern people should have is about the rights of others, not their own, especially when they’re not under any immediate threat.

    And especially when they’re lawyers or political science students who would starve within 3 hours of the collapse of civil society.

  25. Ti wrote:

    “The first concern people should have is about the rights of others, not their own, especially when they’re not under any immediate threat.”

    Essentially this is correct. In a philosophical context a right is a claim that one makes that applies to all others in the polity. One cannot claim a right that is exclusive. It either applies to all, or it is not a right.

    I do not believe in natural right – which is the conceit of liberalism. As a tory, I believe rights are things that have evolved and been confirmed – eventually – by statute in force as law.

    Parliament will decide. Parliament should decide.

  26. ATY:

    Off-topic here–but are you aware that your WordPress identity appears to be occupied by Biblecollegeonline.com?

  27. jkg

    I do not believe in natural right – which is the conceit of liberalism. As a tory, I believe rights are things that have evolved and been confirmed – eventually – by statute in force as law.

    It seems like there has been so many transpositions and inversions, and I cannot make any sense of it anymore. It seems to be that the populist neo-conservatives have embraced the creation of inefficiency and waste but only in opposition to their ‘infringement of the natural right.” The only aspect of ‘conservation’ seems to be in the social context, but that would contradict their overall concept of the preventing no one not even the state from infringing on their individual and natural right. If I understand this correctly, it appears that this disparate fusion has really absolved neo-conservatives of the most important concept of conservatism, which is to exercise restraint. Is the adherence to social conservatism a compensation for the excesses that would be brought about by their penchant for freedom, a hallmark of liberalism? I should also ask, given the general distrust of collective entities, does that result in a general distrust for the rule of law?

  28. SF:

    Thanks for the heads-up! Gadzooks!

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