Wednesday, December 19, 2012
"Did we come here to laugh or cry? Are we dying or being born?"
Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes
With panting excitement, the Oildrum published a list of energy-positive posts proclaiming the death-knell of the Peak Oil Theory and the beginning of the Renaissance of a new era of Oil's wells so all's well, while Energy & Capital, like similar Investment newsletters trumpets the easy way to profits is by investing in America's newly-found oilwealth, as it crows about the soon-to-be bonanza to be made as the US becomes a Natural Gas exporter (so get in now before the rest of the suckers and be one of the insiders during the ramp-up).
Meanwhile in the SFChronicle, the big news is the 25% rise in California property values, largest since the economic meltdown in 2008, heralding a new era in prosperity for the State.
In another report the miracle substance graphene is being drooled over while tantalizing vistas of cash mountains, soon to be dumped into your bank account, are temptingly dangled in front of readers' eyes.
A new tidal wave of Irrational Exuberance is gathering force in the ionosphere as the Bernanke Put (as into his bank accounts) puts money to work and throws people out of it. It's all so reminiscent of that avatar of the Computerized future, Alvin Toffler, and his series of books on the subject: "Future Shock", "Power Shift", and "The Third Wave".
Breathlessly looking to the future with utopian eyes, Toffler explains how the world of tomorrow, which of course, is today, will be transformed by technology, not into a time when millions of people will be suckered into buying cookie-cutter McMansions in locations so far removed from their workplace that any rise in fuel costs will put them out of reach, but instead he describes the Brave New World of the Electronic Cottage, that'll usher in the Home-centered society which will be so family-friendly it'll, "please the most ardent environmentalist or techno-rebel."
He explains how employees can do all their work at home, and even changing jobs will "only require a simple act of plugging in a different computer". This miraculous transformation will engender another one, one that will "transform neighborhoods into stable community centers, with less stress on individuals, fewer transient human relationships, and greater participation in community life".
He goes on to explain how this will lead not only to less energy utilization, but its decentralization, because "energy demand will be spread out and thus make it easier to use solar, wind, and other alternative energy sources". That's what he wrote in "The Third Wave". "The Third Wave" was published in 1980. Before another year elapsed, the solar panels on White House would be gone.
And that 's the problem with techno-fantasies and masturbatory delusions of quick and effortlessly-acquired riches. As Anthony Trollope so well documents in his tome, "The Way We Live Now", about financial fraud and the salacious get-rich-quick schemes it stimulates (in none more so than the already-wealthy), by the time they actually get put into place and brought into reality, all the money has been skimmed off and put into the bank accounts of the financier-class, with the result that the implementers of their chimera are left with the trickle-down dollars to try and eke out some modest replica of the dream that was sold in order to vacuum the wealth out of investors pockets into theirs.
And worse, as the Toffler quotes are meant to demonstrate, even if none of the advantages to society promised by them actually come to fruition, and in fact, they have the exact opposite effect, and the benefits flow only to a small well-connected elite, by the time that reality bites, the money's gone and the old way of life has been so thoroughly and pitilessly uprooted that the possibility of going back to it has been utterly demolished. Then, no matter what the cost, the installed base must be maintained and expanded upon to keep the wheel of trade turning and the flow of life's necessities, well, flowing.
And that 's why the babble is reaching a deafening crescendo now. Having orchestrated the financial debacle of the century to demonstrate to the new nouveau-riche their utter dependency (So you think you're middle-class? Well ... Management knows better) on the continued flow of oil and its byproducts to their physical well-being, the stage is set to have the new Tofflers take the stage and crow about the new future awaiting them, one of ease and family caring/sharing and techno-pleasure.
But far from writing here to tell you not to listen to them, I'm here to tell you the opposite. Because in 1980, when Toffler was publishing his second book in the series, I was working for a little company called NCR-Comten, a Front-end processor (FEP) manufacturer and RCP (remote concentor processor: a sort-of store and forward message system where the messages were network flows) installer that was using new, exciting, proprietary technology to wrest control of the network away from IBM and AT&T and deliver IT into the hands of their customers who were, up till then, in a more-or-less hostage situation vis-a-vis those powerful monopolies (the Justice department was soon to have an Anti-Trust suit against the one, and order the break-up of the other).
It was only by working in the heart of the beast, installing what was referred to as CNS, Communication Networking System, that I was put in a privileged position that enabled me to see the internal dynamics of major corporations and how, for all their talk of Free Enterprise, they always and everywhere in these great United States, worked the hardest and strove the mightiest to shake those most lucrative, dazzling fruits from the customer-base tree: the Government (and especially the Federal Government) Contract.
But who cares? Being on the cutting edge, knowing technology that's a mystery to the rest of the world beat the hell out of standing in a Teller's window or sitting forty hours a week as a drone under the thumb of management in the insurance industry (yes they actually called the make-busy work of desk-clerks, industry), if for no other reason than that management treats you as though you're a man of importance (see they knew before I did how important that was to me).
However, remember this if you choose to follow the path of the pioneer: You'll be destroying other peoples livelihoods, throwing entire industries into the dustbin, and eventually suffering the Karmic reverberations as the years go on and the stench of obsolescence now begins to cling to you, and those who once treated you as a guru start to think, "He's through".
Because it 's not only oil that leaves a residue, a CO2, a filthy flue, as human resources are burnt up and their worn husks readied to be thrown onto the slag heap, provision's been made, plans have been laid and the price will be paid. The mentality that pumps wells dry and leaves a blighted, debauched landscape, sucked dry, succubus-like, of its lifeforce, behind, with no provision for its reclamation or renewal, has the same plan, ie, none, for you.
So plan well, and save wisely. Investigate the mystery of what is wealth, and what is money, and know that the two are not synonymous. A Sandy Soil when filled with oil is good for men who wrest from it bitumen, but as you should know, even water's flow though good and great, when it drops like freight, Sandy waters destroy and your world's but its toy.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 11:20 AM