What You Need to Know About EPA’s New Boss Andrew Wheeler

by H Sterling Burnett


Former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) marked the end of a productive but tumultuous period for the agency. The good news? Pruitt’s replacement, Andrew Wheeler, will likely continue the needed reforms Pruitt began. In the immortal words of The Who, “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss.”

However history judges Pruitt’s tenure at EPA, critics and supporters can agree he initiated a series of efforts to fundamentally transform the antiquated agency. He ended sue-and-settle agreements; reshaped its science advisory committees; reduced graft; and rolled back myriad regulatory actions, including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, the massive increase in the Corporate Fuel Economy Standard (CAFE), and various energy efficiency mandates for appliances. Thanks to Pruitt, EPA is finally changing how it conducts business.

You might be concerned that Pruitt’s absence could result in a complete change in course, but fear not! President Donald Trump’s energy and environment agenda will not substantively change with Wheeler’s ascension to the agency’s top post.

Sadly, and not surprisingly, environmental zealots treated Wheeler’s appointment as though it is the end of the world. A Huffington Post headline stated, “Scott Pruitt’s Replacement Is Even Worse.” In the article, Frank O’Donnell, president of the left-wing group Clean Air Watch, stated, “This is like rearranging deck chairs on the environmental Titanic.”

The Left’s histrionic response to Wheeler mirrors its response to Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. Regardless of an appointee’s qualifications, anyone Trump nominates to lead the EPA will inevitably be tarred and feathered by the Left and braded a climate-change-denying polluter. 

Environmentalists dread Wheeler for the same reason small-government advocates applaud him: Wheeler could be even more effective than Pruitt at rolling back onerous regulations. EPA’s new chief has significant experience working within and outside of the agency. In fact, Wheeler won awards for his work at the agency between 1991 through 1995. Subsequently, Wheeler worked as majority staff director and chief counsel at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, with EPA oversight. Wheeler will be more than capable to rein in EPA overreach.

The regulatory rollback at EPA started under Pruitt is expected to increase with Wheeler at the helm. EPA is currently working on overhauling CPP, WOTUS, and CAFE to improve transparency and ease compliance with commonsense guidelines.

In his short time as the agency’s acting administrator, there has been no shortage of statements supporting Wheeler as a more disciplined, less scandal prone replacement for Pruitt.

“We have full confidence in Andrew both from his past experience and the job he has done at EPA,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner. “We think he will carry on the Trump reform agenda in a really competent way.”

“For the top people at the EPA, the various Pruitt accusations have been a real challenge and a distraction,” Ebell continued. “Once Pruitt is gone, and Andrew is in charge, people will get back to doing their jobs everyday rather than accusations.”

“With Andy Wheeler stepping in to replace Pruitt, I think we’ll see a change in style but not in substance,” Jeff Holmstead, a former deputy administrator of the EPA in the George W. Bush administration, told the Washington Examiner. “Andy probably is the ideal person to lead EPA at this point.

“Pruitt got a lot of regulatory reforms started, but he’s never worked a regulatory agency and didn’t fully understand the administrative process and what it would take to get them finalized. Andy certainly does,” Holmstead said. “He’s worked on these issues for years and may actually be more effective than Pruitt when it comes to carrying out the reforms that Pruitt started.”

No one knows exactly what Wheeler’s tenure might mean for EPA climate policy. Driven by the endangerment finding, EPA has begun the process of drafting a replacement of CPP. However, if Wheeler’s past statements are any indication of EPA’s future actions, it seems like sound science will replace climate alarmism.

The Huffington Post notes in 2010, while working for the Senate, Wheeler “accused the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of blurring ‘the lines between science and advocacy’ and functioning ‘more as a political body than a scientific body,’ suggesting EPA could ‘reconsider its endangerment finding without almost exclusively relying upon the IPCC.’”

All Trump administration officials operate under an intense (and biased) media spotlight. It is difficult, if not impossible, for any Trump appointee to stay below the radar, but if anyone can remain effective and ethical, Andrew Wheeler certainly can. With his knowledge of the inner-workings of EPA’s regulatory processes and his low-key, non-confrontational style, Wheeler can complete the job Pruitt started and restore the EPA back to its mission:protect human health and the environment.



A Transhumanist Explores a New Type of Community - "Zero State"

[A 2014 article from transhumanist Amon Twyman who is an advocate of radical social and technological change leading to a zero state, no gender, no individuality, no freedom, where the majority are nothing more than engineered man-machines comprising the vast part of a one world community under autocratic control.  His statement; ".. direct democratic action to circumvent obsolete political institutions." promotes the 'social justice' of Aldous Huxley's eugenics world dream via 'mob rule' anarchy  - ED ]

Interview with Zero State founder and transhumanist Dr. Amon Twyman. [Emphasis DNI]

Rapid advances in technology are paving the way for new ideas about the future, including those of the communities we live in. I had a chance to catch up with transhumanist, Zero State founder, and cognitive scientist Dr. Amon Twyman, who is a leader of one such community that is exploring new directions for the betterment of humanity

Dr. Amon Twyman

 

Q. Dr. Twyman, What is Zero State?

A. Zero State (ZS) is a community that grew out of the transhumanist movement back in 2011. It’s now part of a broad coalition of groups and movements that we call WAVE, referring to a coming wave of radical technological and social change. The basic ZS idea is to create networks of people and resources which could evolve into a distributed, virtual State. Right now there are only a few thousand ZSers (albeit well connected to much larger networks), but in a hypothetical full-blown Zero State there would be tens of millions or more, all supporting each other and being part of a single nation no matter where they live in the world. Our motto is "positive social change through technology."

 Q. How does transhumanism relate to ZS?

A. Our core principles and ideas are deliberately compatible with transhumanism. That comes naturally, as ZS grew out of transhumanism and our most active “citizens” tend to self-identify as Transhumanists. That said, it’s important to stress that people don’t have to be transhumanists to join ZS. More generally, we consider ourselves to be a “Social Futurist” community, which is to say that we believe technological breakthroughs don’t happen in a social vacuum. There are social, economic, and political issues which not only stubbornly continue to exist in the face of techno-optimism, but which are sometimes greatly exacerbated by technological change. In short, we believe that technology should be applied to improving the human condition on both physiological and societal levels.

Q. How can ZS help the world?

A. In the first instance, we are focused on helping ZS’ citizens, or more accurately, helping them to help each other. An increasing number of people are finding themselves in need of help of one type or another these days, and we would like to demonstrate that mutual support is made more achievable than ever before thanks to the power of cutting-edge technologies. We tend to focus on bringing together people and ways to access current technologies such as meshnets, cryptocurrency, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence, while exploring ideas such as longevity, super-intelligence & wellbeing, accelerating change, and direct democratic action to circumvent obsolete political institutions. Beyond working to help our own people, we actively work to support the wider network of like-minded groups and believe that compassionately, intelligently applied technology has the potential to improve the lives of everybody in the world.

 Q. How did you come to be the founder of ZS?

A. My background is in a combination of psychological research (consciousness and decision making, Artificial Intelligence) and digital & performing arts. Although I’d read my fair share of science fiction as a kid, I decided I was a transhumanist while studying at university, after reading “Mind Children” by Hans Moravec. Over time, my various interests in art, science, transhumanism, and contemporary social/political issues coalesced into a coherent worldview, and I eventually decided to form an organization to pursue these ideas. The result, Zero State, was heavily informed by my experience as a co-founder of the UK Transhumanist Association, which has since evolved into Humanity+ UK. I started building WAVE, the broader network ZS is part of, two years later. That was once we’d had time to realize that there was a bigger picture emerging; a large number of like-minded groups forming to address a vast array of specific issues with a common outlook. That common outlook is characterized by technological savvy, distaste for old thinking and limits, and a keen awareness of social issues.


A. What does the future hold for ZS?

Q. ZS-affiliated project groups continue to work on developing tools for our members. A lot of these projects are collaborative and many have a distinctly transhumanist flavor, such as experimentation with Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (using electrical charge to help concentration—work being done in collaboration with Dirk Bruere and Andrew Vladimirov). Some of the projects seem more like simple fun than serious experimentation at first glance—such as the ZSers building Minecraft environments in which to test their AI software—but that’s half the point; For people to do something useful and have fun at the same time. Our most vigorous efforts are currently going into WAVE, expanding the wider, networked context in which ZS operates, doing what we can to help out like-minded groups. We’ve been establishing connections with large networks, such as The Zeitgeist Movement and an emerging coalition of online transhumanist organizations. We live in extremely exciting times, with lots of rapid change both good and bad, and it looks like Zero State will soon get its chance to help people help each other in that brave new world. If you believe in the promise of technology, the importance of social justice, and the power of community building then feel free to jump in and join the fun!


Zoltan Istvan is an award-winning journalist, philosopher, and activist. You can find him on TwitterGoogle+Facebook, and LinkedIn. Zoltan is also the author of the recently published #1 Philosophical bestseller novel The Transhumanist Wager. Available in ebook or paperback, the controversial novel is a revolutionary reading experience. You can check it out here

 



Zoltan Istvan

Zoltan Istvan is an American-Hungarian philosopher, journalist, entrepreneur, and futurist. He is best known as a leading transhumanist and the author of the controversial novel, 
The Transhumanist Wager, a #1 bestseller in both Philosophy and Science Fiction Visionary and Metaphysical on Amazon.[ He has a B.A. in philosophy and religious studies from Columbia University. The article first appeared here. If this doesn't give you reason to pause, I don't know what could - DNI]




Birth of ‘living materials’ at MIT combines synthetic biology, materials engineering

by Kenrick Vezina

Illustration by Yan Liang, via MIT News.

A team at MIT has combined techniques from synthetic biology and materials engineering to create hybrid “living materials”: bacteria engineered to take up functional nanoparticles and grow into thin layers with usable properties, like electrical conduction or light emission. This achievement is a perfect follow-up to news from earlier this month that another group at MIT had successfully created bionic plants   [Emphasis Others] (Read our Gene-ius post on the news here.)

Anne Trafton, writing for MIT News, reports: 

These “living materials” combine the advantages of live cells, which respond to their environment, produce complex biological molecules, and span multiple length scales, with the benefits of nonliving materials, which add functions such as conducting electricity or emitting light. 

The organic analog of choice is bone. As Amina Kahn at the Los Angeles Times puts it:

 Our bones are remarkable feats of engineering; strong and yet light, shot through with holes and yet able to bear incredible loads. This super-strong natural material is built as cells incorporate hard minerals like calcium into living tissue

The MIT team, led by assistant professor of electrical engineering and biological engineering Timothy Lu, was inspired by this interplay of living cells with nonliving components.

The process Lu and his team used begins with the bacteria E. coli and genetic engineering. They chose E. coli because it naturally produces thin, slimy films that adhere to surfaces — it’s this adhesion that’s key. In order to adhere to surfaces, E. coli produces “curli fibers”, comprised of repeating protein chains.

The MIT team replaced the bacteria’s ability to produce curli fibers with an engineered genetic circuit that only produces curli fibers if given a certain molecule. Now the team essentially has an on-off switch for the bacteria and can control the formation of biofilms: supply the bacteria with the trigger molecule and they produce curli fibers and form biofilms.

On top of this, the team engineered another set of E. coli with a similar on-off switch but based on a different molecular trigger. And these bacteria were modified one step further: researchers altered the genes coding for the creation of curli fibers so that the protein chains would grab on to gold nanoparticles

So they had two varieties of engineered bacteria, both controllable via distinct molecule of their choosing, and one of the two’s ability to latch onto its environment with curli fibers has been co-opted to make the bacteria gather tiny bits of gold from its environment. 

Take both varieties, grow them together; manage their growth relative to one another with the two on-off molecules; and supply some nanoscale bits of gold. The researchers did just this and managed to coax the bacteria to build a tiny film laced through with gold nanowires: a conductive surface comprised of living cells

And the conductive biofilm is just one of several proofs-of-concept to come out of this project. 

The team was also able to embed quantum dots — semiconductor nanoparticles that glow a particular color after being illuminated by light — in their biofilm through a similar technique.

The final success lies in getting their modified cells to communicate with one another, as emphasized by the Christian Science Monitor. The molecular “on-off switches” described above don’t necessarily need to be supplied manually; in fact the researchers produced a third variety of E. coli which naturally produced the chemical trigger, activating the generation of gold-locking curli fibers in the second variety.

The potential applications for these living materials include batteries and solar cells, diagnostic devices and scaffolds for tissue engineering. According to Trafton, “The researchers are also interested in coating the biofilms with enzymes that catalyze the breakdown of cellulose, which could be useful for converting agricultural waste to biofuels.”

This latest breakthrough is sure to be one of many similar efforts that blurs the perceived boundaries between living and nonliving, artificial and organic. We’re increasingly able, as Lu and his team demonstrate, to manipulate our world at the level of molecules and atoms — whether those are DNA molecules or gold nanowiring.

 
Sources:

Additional Resources:




The article first appeared here.

How to build your very own Self-Directed Immortality Avatar for 2045!

by 2045.com


International Manifesto of the "2045" Strategic Social Initiative

Mankind has turned into a consumer society standing at the edge of a total loss of the conceptual guidelines necessary for further evolution. The majority of people are almost exclusively absorbed  in merely maintaining their own comfortable lives.

Modern civilization, with its space stations, nuclear submarines, iPhones and Segways cannot save mankind from the limitations in the physical abilities of our bodies, nor from diseases and death.

We are not satisfied with modern achievements of scientific and technical progress. Science working for the satisfaction of consumer needs will not be able to ensure a technological breakthrough towards a radically different way of life.

We believe that the world needs a different ideological paradigm. Within its framework it is necessary to form a major objective  capable of pointing out a new direction for the development of all mankind and ensuring the achievement of a scientific and technical revolution.  The new ideology should assert, as one of its priorities, the necessity of using breakthrough technology for an improvement of man himself and not only of his environment.

We believe that it is possible and necessary to eliminate aging and even death, and to overcome the fundamental limits of the physical and mental capabilities currently set by the restrictions of the physical body.

Scientists from various countries in the world are already developing technology that ensures the creation of an artificial human body prototype within the next decade. We believe the biggest technological project of our times will become the creation of such artificial human body and a subsequent transfer of individual human consciousness to such a body.

Implementation of this technological project will inevitably result in an explosive development of innovations and global changes in our civilization and will improve human life.

We believe that before 2045 an artificial body will be created that will not only surpass the existing body in terms of functionality, but will achieve perfection of form and be no less attractive than the human body. People will make independent decisions about the extension of their lives and the possibilities for personal development in a new body after the resources of the biological body have been exhausted.

The new human being will receive a huge range of abilities and will be capable of withstanding extreme external conditions easily: high temperatures, pressure, radiation, lack of oxygen, etc. Using a neural-interface humans will be able to operate several bodies of various forms and sizes remotely.

We suggest the implementation of not just a mechanistic project to create an artificial body, but a whole system of views, values and technology which will render assistance to humankind in intellectual, moral, physical, mental and spiritual development.

We invite all interested specialists: scientists, politicians, mass media personalities, philosophers, futurologists and businessmen to join the "2045" strategic social initiative. We welcome all who share our vision of the future and are ready to make the next jump.


THE AVATAR R&D NETWORK OF THE 2045 INITIATIVE

[To the right of the main page, click on “Immortality Button”:  “Click this button to start the development of your personalized immortal Avatar”]

The main objectives of our movement are:

1. To achieve the support of the International community and create conditions for international co-operation of interested specialists around the "2045" Initiative.  

2. To create an international research center for cybernetic immortality to advance practical implementations of the main technical project – the creation of the artificial body and the preparation for subsequent transfer of individual human consciousness to such a body. 
 
3. To engage experts in the selection and support of the most interesting projects in the quest to ensure technological breakthroughs.

4. To support innovative industries and create special scientific education programs for schools and institutes of higher education.

5. To create educational programs for television, radio and internet, to hold forums, conferences, congresses and exhibitions, and to establish awards and produce books, movies and computer games with the view of raising the profile of the initiative and spreading its ideas.

6. To form a culture connected with the ideology of the future, promoting technical progress, artificial intellect, “multi-body”, immortality, and cyborgization.


REQUIREMENTS:


For the registration of your pre-order, please answer the following questions:

Are you 18 or older?

Are you of sound mind so as to bear legal responsibility for your actions?

Do you personally -- yourself or as legal representative -- dispose of the funds required for the development (> $3M) for your avatar?

Have you decided to commission the development of your custom-made immortal avatar?

If you answer “no” to a question, you cannot proceed further 

[Note:  Guess this is yet another way to de-populate the world -- Russian-style.  Note that the Russians charge in U.S. dollars! -- DNI]


Beware - Web Spying Companies Recording all User Keystrokes

by Allen Williams


A few weeks ago, I decided to have a look at one of the web visitor data recording companies out there to see what kind of information they could collect.. Motherboard reports that a Princeton study revealed that over 400 companies (so far) record your every keystroke and them transmit it to a third party website.  

Typical companies providing this service are FullStory, SessionCam, SmartLookUserReplay, etc.  I opted to try SmartLook simply because the ’geniuses’ at Webnode provided a convenient widget to insert their tracking code.

It just isn’t enough today that American Intelligence agencies are spying on everyone with their Prism software, but they are partnering with major business and social media like the CIA’s 600 million contract with Amazon .com  for cloud access.  We already know that Facebook and until recently Twitter provide information to the CIA.  The bad news here is that all purchases through Amazon are retained on their cloud servers and the CIA will have access.  You can be certain that any cloud service that your application communicates with will be available to the intelligence services as well as a host of unknown third parties because the data is NOT encrypted.

It’s far better to get the ‘mark’ to provide personalized data on him or herself to the tracking recorder thinking that he’s browsing anonymously or at least ignored  but “…many of these companies have dashboards where clients can playback the recordings they collect.   Yandex, Hotjar, and Smartlook’s dashboards run non-encrypted HTTP pages, rather than much more secure, encrypted HTTPS pages.”  The biggest liability is that once the data is removed from your site all control is lost, virtually anyone could have access to this data and you’d never know.

I was curious to find out just what could be collected by SmartLook.  However, I was surprised to find that the actual service is quite haphazard.  Either SmartLook is developing their recording software ‘on the fly’ as the saying goes or you really don’t get much on the ‘free’ side.  But upgrading the service means you’re paying to have your readers spied on.

Fortunately, the SmartLook collected data is not totally accurate or reliable.  Primarily because the staff is not well organized, knowledgeable or well versed in English.  After adding their code to The Patriot’s header and getting nothing, I contacted SmartLook support where a woman named Sofie informed me by email that  “In one case Only in webnode premium you can add code directly to the HTML header of the whole website.  In webnode free, you need to install the code in all pages you wish to track.”   Anyone, who is remotely conscious or understands the language, knows that free websites don’t have custom registered URLs as we do, ergo, we are a premium user!   So this individual is likely responding with canned phrases from the company’s data forum without any understanding of what was conveyed because they can’t communicate beyond an elementary level in English.

In another case, two different users known to me personally, one residing in Kansas and the other in Ohio accessed our site but showed the same IP address in the data collection set.  Upon questioning one of the support staff as to how this could happen, I was told that “The only explanation is that it was the same person and the two different names appeared because you have wrong code settings.”  The company’s help link indicates that if you want to track a particular user, you have to type their email address directly into the tracking code and they give an example case. The SmarLook tracking code is ‘paste-in’ and Webnode provides the widget access so unless you can’t type an address within the two apostrophe markers, you can’t have wrong code settings unless either SmartLook or Webnode made them.  

Individual email identification is no better as I have seen a whole day of data collection of 6 or more people with the same email but different IP addresses. Guess the user has multiple identities so he or she switches every couple of hours throughout the day.  The responses I’ve received from their support staff are disingenuous and you can’t really trust their assessments.

After some dickering back and forth with their support personnel to get things working the way SmartLook advertised,  I indeed found that I could watch a visitor enter our site and view virtually everything he or she clicked on.  This kind of information can and will be abused down the road and It's already happening as "The CBS report suggests in no uncertain terms that the personal information pertaining to millions of Americans collected by one of the World’s largest ad agencies is sold to the CIA." 

Smartlook claimed their software only retained three days worth of data but that’s because I wasn’t paying them to collect it.  Data was collected from approximately Nov 3rd to Nov 24th obviously more than 3 days. There was no data collected beyond Nov 24th, 2017 by their system even though I still had their code installed on the site for several more days.  At first, I thought it was yet another glitch but when nothing more was recorded, I removed the code.  On Nov. 27th, all archived data subsequently disappeared from the SmartLook control panel or at least was interred somewhere where I couldn’t access it.  You can be reasonably certain that it’s still archived there even if I no longer have access to it.

UPDATE  12/12/17 Why Have you Stopped Using SmartLook?

Hi,

I have noticed you removed our code from your website. Can you tell me why did you stop using Smartlook? Just pick a letter:

A) Smartlook doesn't record my website properly
B) I don’t have time to watch the recordings / I find no added value in Smartlook
C) I just removed Smartlook temporarily - plan to use it again
D) I am missing feature X (please fill in)
E) Neither of those, let me tell you why...

I will be glad for any feedback, even if it's negative.


Best regards,


Vladimir Sandera
cofounder, optimist
Smartlook


I received this correspondence from one of the SmartLook co-founders in early December after removing their code from our header.  Why was this an issue? Could it be that they wanted me to leave the code installed to keep recording visitor data whether or not I chose to use it?


Update 1/24/2018

 “We're excited to tell you we're migrating all our data to more powerful cloud service (AWS)! Your account included. The process is time-intensive, but we're working hard to complete the migration by the end of next week.

While the long-term benefits will be great, we wanted to let you know you might experience a few bumps and minor interruptions along the way. (Might.)

The good news:

  • AWS provides us with more safety, stability, and speed
  • Your data will be better serviced and stored securely
  • Smartlook features will run faster
  • This migration is a lot of work, and we appreciate your patience during the next few days while we finish up”

Your Smartlook Team

Long term benefits for whom? This move simply presents more opportunities for data to be accessed by more persons unknown as it’s unlikely that Smarlook’s new AWS storage is any more secure than Yahoo who experienced a major hack. 

I recommend readers give serious consideration to a good AD blocker:  “If you want to block session replay scripts, popular ad-blocking tool AdBlock Plus will now protect you against all of the ones documented in the Princeton study.


Another One For The Transhumanist Scrapbook: Draconian Punishments

by Joseph P. Farrell


So many people sent me versions of this important and significant development that it was simply a kind of moral imperative that I alert readers here to it, and say something about it. In this case, there are four different articles, each of which reveals, almost immediately, what the new concern is:


Is Biotech Seeking Ways to Make People Suffer Eternally?

Should Biotech Make Life Hellish for Criminals? 

Enhanced Punishment: Can Technology Make Life Sentences Longer? 

Could we condemn criminals to suffer for hundreds of years? Biotechnology could let us extend convicts’ lives ‘indefinitely

When Dr. de Hart and I were writing Transhumanism: A Grimoire of Alchemical Agendas, one of the questions we were impelled to raise, one which the transhumanist movement itself raises repeatedly, is what does it mean to be “human”? And this, we implied, was not simply a philosophical question. Nor was it a question of biological or chemical “scientism” with its convenient, and largely useless, materialist reductionisms. It was a question of culture, society, jurisprudence, and morality

Within the transhumanist “vision” there is a common underlying theme, regardless of whether or not one accepts the “heaven scenarios” of such advocates like Ray Kurzweil, or the more sobering assessments of transhumanist researchers like Joel Garreau and their “hell scenarios”, for in both cases, the favored transhumanist “GRIN” technologies – genetics, robotics, information processing, and nano-technologies – open both favorable and horrific vistas of the future.

In this case, we are concerned with the horrific ones, for as the articles suggest, what if such technologies made life extension possible as a matter of judicial punishment? This unpleasant prospect, as the articles aver, is actually being not only entertained but its advocacy is even being implied in some circles. What if, in addition to this, other technologies are super-added to life extension, technologies of the “androgynous and alchemical fusion” of man and machine, to implant criminals with chips, to subject them to forms of “virtual torture” and suffering? Some transhumanists have envisioned the downloading and uploading of individual’s personal memories as a technique of virtual life extension. But what if such technologies could recover the memories of victims of crimes? Would criminals then be punished by making them relive in some sort of “virtual reality” the horrors of the crimes they committed on their victims? Could criminals of the future be sentenced to “life extension and ‘hard reliving’ of their crimes from the victim’s point of view” for “x” number of years, without hope of parole or reprieve? While such questions sound like science fiction, as the above articles point out, they are already being entertained, and they are being entertained, because the technologies impelling them are already under development.

Indeed, one can envision a state of development where such technologies were so advanced that a sentence of life in prison with “at hard virtual labor” would be so horrific, that the death penalty, far from being a thing to be avoided by defendants, might become a thing sought.

But there are yet other possibilities as well, possibilities that were, in fact, explored in the television science fiction series Babylon Five in the 1990s: the “death of personality.” In that series, convicted murderers are subjected to a kind of “death of the ego”: the erasure of the personality, memories, and emotions of the perpetrator

While some may view all of this favorably, and argue that it is “ethical,” I incline to the other opinion, and hold that it is barbaric, and a measure of the dehumanizing that such philosophies and technologies are inevitably bringing with them. I submit that such punishments are indeed “cruel and unusual” and little other than a form of torture.

 But whatever one’s opinion may be, the cultural transformation of culture and society that the transhumanists are championing or, in a few cases, decrying, are indeed hurtling down the tracks toward us and will force each of us to deal with the types of questions these articles are pointing out.


See you on the flip side.



The article first appeared here.


2030: You Own Nothing, Have No Privacy...

by Chris Campbell


“Welcome to 2030. I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better.”

In 2017, we find ourselves caught between the incredible and Earth-shaking potential of exponential technology — and a million minds, pulling the reins, trying to tame the beast and train it to build out their particular vision of the future.

One such vision is horrifyingly articulated in an article promoted by the World Economic Forum late last year.

The article, written by young Ida Auken, was published ahead of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils.  It details a techno-utopian circular economy, which, on the surface, sounds great. In the circular economy, products are turned into services. Everything is Uber-ized. So, of course, nobody owns anything and all non-ownership is transparent.

“When products are turned into services, no one has an interest in things with a short life span. Everything is designed for durability, repairability and recyclability. The materials are flowing more quickly in our economy and can be transformed to new products pretty easily. Environmental problems seem far away, since we only use clean energy and clean production methods.”

The devil, of course, is in the details. And a tiny, unavoidable glint of darkness emerges halfway through the article:  “Once in a while I get annoyed about the fact that I have no real privacy. Nowhere I can go and not be registered. I know that, somewhere, everything I do, think and dream of is recorded. I just hope that nobody will use it against me.”

Ah, I see.

In this scenario, without privacy, forget about freedom of speech, assembly or the basic ability to form one’s own opinion about the nature of things.

If the politicos are still at the top of the food chain, if the sociopathic wolves still guard the chicken pen, we wonder, what would this society look like?

The flow of information would likely be managed to the bit. Models of reality would be shaped in real-time. Maps would be mistaken for the territory, as nobody would have a reason to think different.

“Free” education would perfect the art of brainwashing. A.I. programs would parse through text messages, emails and social media, in search of “problematic” language. And those deemed a threat to the civility and order of the “Free Society” would likely be, at best, casted out to live with the rurally deplored or, at worst, hanged (humanely as possible, of course) in the public square.

Think of all of those meandering thoughts which run through your mind, of which you cannot control.  Now imagine that any one of them could be used against you. Welcome to 2030. I own nothing, I have no privacy and life couldn’t be more terrifying.

Fortunately, privacy isn’t dead. And technology is a wild beast which might prove impossible to tame completely. In fact, for those willing to put in the work to protect themselves, there are plenty of options to keep your information safe and protected from prying  eyes. Today, to talk about one tool you should add to your privacy arsenal, we invite Simon Black of Sovereign Man.

Read on.

Here’s a FANTASTIC Security Tool You Really Should Know About

By Simon Black


Chances are you probably use a cloud service to store at least a portion of your files. Dropbox. iCloud. Microsoft’s OneDrive. Mega. Box.

There’s so many of them these days. And a few of them, like Switzerland-based Tresorit, focus heavily on privacy and security to keep your data safe.

But let’s be honest– privacy is definitely not a top priority among most of the top cloud providers.

Dropbox states right on its own website that the company has direct access to your files.  ensitive company data. Financial records. Intimate photos. Personal information. Password files. Cryptocurrency keys.And even if you delete the files, the backup copies are STILL stored on Dropbox’s servers.

(It’s not just Dropbox– most of the major cloud services operate this way.) This presents a significant amount of risk from multiple fronts.

Hacker threats are nearly ubiquitous these days. Hardly a month goes by without another announcement of some major data breach… and we only hear about the big ones in which millions of people are affected.  One of the latest hacker trends is when attackers gain control of your mobile devices by calling up your mobile carrier and convincing them that they’re you.  This allows them to reset passwords and easily gain access to your emails and files.  Then of course there are legal risks.

If you’ve never been sued, congratulations. Let’s hope it stays that way. If you have been sued, congratulations. It means that at least someone thinks you’re successful. Broke people typically don’t get sued. Bear in mind that the ‘justice’ system today has very little to do with justice.  It’s about government prosecutors or some twisted, amoral, money-hungry lawyer convincing 12 strangers on a jury that you’re a terrible person.  And during the discovery process of a lawsuit, EVERYTHING is up for grabs. A court can literally subpoena your entire life, including your emails, files, financial records, etc. Chances are they can find something in all that data to make you look bad.

Then there’s the other never-ending issue of government spying and the NSA archiving every kilobyte of data that passes across the Internet. It might be easier to simply CC the government on every email you send and add their email address as an authorized user of your Dropbox account. Despite all these known risks, though, and the constant stream of stories about hackers and government spying, few people take steps to safeguard their data.

(As an example, according to a study by Keeper Security, the most common password is 123456. Not exactly hacker-proof.)

But there are some very simple tools available that can help.

One of them is called Cryptomator, which came to my attention from a close friend of mine who works in the US Army’s cyberwarfare divison, which was established to defend government systems against foreign hackers. Cryptomator is free, simple program which encrypts every single file you store on a cloud server. Let’s say you use Dropbox to sync files between your laptop and the cloud.

Ordinarily, your files are stored unencrypted on your laptop, and they’re accessible by certain Dropbox staff through the cloud servers. Cryptomator encrypts the files on BOTH ends, i.e. the file that’s stored on the Dropbox servers is encrypted, AND the file stored locally on your laptop is encrypted.

Dropbox employees who try to access your data would see nothing but gibberish. And anyone who gains physical access to your laptop would see nothing but gibberish.  Only you have the ability to unlock the files.

Now, this sounds like a cumbersome process… having to constantly encrypt and decrypt files, enter passwords, etc.  But it’s not. Cryptomator has created a streamlined platform where you can group files together in ‘vaults’. Then you can decrypt an entire vault, attach it to your file system, and easily re-encrypt it when you’re finished. You can see an example in this video.

Try it out if you’re interested; the software is free, available on Mac OS, Windows, Linux, Android, and iPhone.  Plus it’s open-source, meaning that anyone who knows the Java programming language can download the source code and verify that the software contains no backdoors or malware.





[Ed. note: This article originally appeared on the Sovereign Man blog, right here at this link.]  Chris Campbell is the Managing editor of Laissez Faire Today. Before joining Agora Financial, he was a researcher and contributor to SilverDoctors.com.  The article is published under a creative commons license here.

Municipal Waste Combustion Management for a Cleaner Environment

by Allen Williams


As government regulations continue to play an increased role in the nation's economy, there is a demand for cheaper energy sources to promote economic growth.  

America is committing vast land resources for the storage of Industrial and residential waste.  Municipalities must contract out or arrange for waste  transportation to landfill sites which amount to vast quantities of energy buried.  

Municipal waste is a growing problem in both rural and urban communities across the United States. Toxins are leached from the materials in the landfill over time that potentially threaten the water supply and many of today's modern components take centuries to decay in the earth. Landfills contain Combustible materials that could provide low cost energy for cities as well as improve the environment.

Photo: Land fill space a growing problem../

The average American now discards approximately 16-20 pounds of solid waste per day per person. This waste has traditionally been disposed of in landfills, which require huge tracts of land and have finite storage capacity.  Many landfills will have to close by 2040, increasing the cost of trash disposal and preventing the land from more productive use.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has noted that the energy content of solid waste in landfills has been steadily rising over the last decade, hitting 11.73 million Btu/ton in 2005. The heat content of interred waste provides the basis for developing an engineered fuel supporting many industrial applications such as the production of hydrocarbons, solvents, motor fuels, and even electric power generation.

A 2010 study(3) has found that emissions from landfills versus municipal waste combustion using EPA's life cycle assessment (LCA) model for the range and scenarios evaluated, that waste combustion outperforms land filling in terms of Green House Gas emissions regardless of landfill gas management techniques.

Innovative technologies can use buried waste as energy to convert bio-waste into needed products.  Recently, Sweden's 144 million Kristianstad biogas plant has successfully converted municipal bio-waste into methane for use in automobiles and heating, saving some $3.5 million per year. Biogas can be further processed to produce organic liquids and even motor grade fuels.

Municipal Waste can be converted into fuel pellets with combustion performance comparable to coal. The solid waste can be processed with an engineered heat content amenable to fluidized bed and other furnace combustion equipment.  Optimally, the pellets could be manufactured to a specific heat content. This is accomplished by feeding shredded rubber from scrap tires into a Cuber machine to produce fuel cubes of very high heating value, approximately 10,000 to 12,000 Btu/lb, suitable for utility power generation.

Developing a plan

The rising level of municipal waste provides incentive to develop alternative fuels but municipal waste contains many non-combustible components, some of which possess considerable recycle value. Recovery of these materials help to defer the cost of producing an engineered heat content fuel.  Figure 1 illustrates the potential economic return based on EPA waste content.

Figure 1 - Salvageable Materials And Byproducts Revenue

Locating a suitable waste transformation plant directly on a Landfill site saves added costs for property and waste transportation to a site as trucks are already servicing the  facility.  In natural gas producing landfills, a cheap supply of methane for hydrocarbon synthesis is readily available.

In cases where a bio-gas facility such as Johnson County Wastewater may be nearby, combustible waste sludge can be transported via pipeline for fueling a suitable fluidized bed boiler. The pipeline can pay for itself quickly as only the installation cost from the wastewater facility to the landfill need be considered.  Additionally, Industrial solvents such as methanol and other light hydrocarbons can be produced from the readily available methane feedstock along with steam and or electricity. 

Waste Site Considerations

An ideal plant site would be an 850-acre landfill of which approximately 770 acres are used for solid waste internment. Road infrastructure would already exist to handle the associated truck waste transport traffic. Only small infrastructure changes would be needed to support an onsite waste processing facility.

Waste transport vehicles would contain an average of 11 tons of municipal trash and make 1 to 3 trips per day to the site depending on weather and other factors. The landfill could receive as much as 5000 tons of trash per day, averaging nearly 19 trucks per hour.

Engineered fuels could be manufactured from this solid refuse on approximately 5 of the remaining 70 plus acres. The solid waste would be screened to remove various metals and other non-combustible materials before processing into specified heat content fuels.

Waste Separation process

Figure two illustrates dual waste handling units separating typical recyclable materials, shredding and blending recovered solids and vehicle tires from the municipal waste to produce a serviceable fuel pellet.  It is a time and motion illustration of the effort required to produce a 24% blend of solid waste and rubber.  The chart was developed from a real waste processing pilot operation by RCR Partners of Colorado during the early 1980's.

Since that time computer model studies have shown that a 50-50 waste blend of solids and scrap tires provided a better heat content fuel at 10,221 Btu/lb suitable for a small industrial boiler consuming approximately 30 tons of fuel pellets per hour.  The 50-50 blend represents only an incremental change in processing times.

The 2010 RCR industries salvageable Materials and Byproducts chart documents recovery revenues that are used to offset the cost of manufacturing an engineered fuel which is the basis of the Figure 2 chart.  From this study, recyclable materials savings, operating and labor costs can be estimated.

Figure 2 - Solids Separation and Fuel Pellet manufacture


RCR Material Flow

Bags enter the breaker machine from the truck where large boxes and bags are opened without damaging the contents. This permits the separation of light and heavy components. Food waste is removed prior to mechanical separation.

The solid waste moves through three mechanical separators upon entering the waste handling facility to remove glass, metal cans and plastic. Separation efficiency is greater than 90%.

Material next enters the first of two identical separators, all components less than 1-½” size pass through the first separator and are collected together with any metals in a common bin. These materials require further processing to segregate glass and metal

Separator No 3 removes all fractions less than 3" x 8”. Plastics fall into a collection bin exiting the 3rd separator.

The remaining material enters the shredder and is now all light fraction material.

The shredder slices the solid waste into approximately a ¾” size. The material passes through a cyclone separator to remove any dust generated by the shredding operation. The material can then be moistened and compressed by a Cuber machine into approximately 1-1/2" x 2" size fuel pellets.

The pellets may then be conveyed to storage vessels.

Photo: Fuel Pellets conveyed to Storage


Economics

Company reports are often good sources of economic cost data. Our fuel processing cost is estimated from an RCR Partners pilot plant study for the year's 1982-'83. The ordinary expense average for these years was $2,308,500 per year and defines the fixed costs. The Jan. '84 - Mar. '11 inflation rate was 146.7%, adjusting the ordinary expenses to present costs gives $5,694,244 per year.

The following utility rates were used in the economic evaluation: Coal at $55.00/ton, electricity at 7.3 cents per kilowatt, plant water for 3.2 cents a gallon and engineered fuel expenses according to the following cost relation.  Fuel Cost/(ton) = X% * fixed cost + (1-X)% * rubber + processing

The base rate is calculated from the total production cost minus the revenue from salvageable materials separated out during the manufacturing process, i.e.  [$Cost - $Salvage]/Total Tons = $Cost/ton

The salvageable material quantities from waste separation that can be re-sold are indicated in figures 1and 2.  Ferrous metal scrap pays a max of $250/ton, Aluminum $0.75/lb and plastics $150/ton.  Salvageable tire steel belt is 2.5 lbs/tire:

Details of computer simulated quantities and expected margins in the production of an organic solvent using engineered fuel pellets may be found in the July 2012 issue of Chemical Engineering, Vol 119, No. 7


Conclusions

One of the most significant features of engineered fuels is the ability to reduce the quantity of sulfur that must be scrubbed out of atmospheric releases during combustion.  In our simulation, the computer model predicted a 20.67% reduction in SO2 emissions..

Mercury is virtually eliminated from stack gas emissions and other airborne contaminants can be significantly reduced through controlled waste blending.

Combusting Municipal waste in a controlled environment not only alleviates the need for further land repositories but may also facilitate recovery of burnable materials from many existing landfills.

Literature Cited:


1. "Methodology for Allocating Municipal Solid Waste to Biogenic and Non-Biogenic Energy", Energy Information Administration, Office of Coal, Nuclear, Electric and Alternate Fuels U.S., May 2007 Report

2. “Evaluating Green Projects – Modeling Improves Economic Benefits”, A. Williams, K. Dunwoody, Chemical Engineering – 119, 7, July 2012

3.   "Life-Cycle Assessment of Waste Management Greenhouse Gas Emissions Using Municipal Waste Combustor Data", J. Envir. Engr. 136, 749 (2010); doi:10.1061/(ASCE)EE.1943-7870.0000189 (7 pages),Brian Bahor, Michael Van Brunt, P.E., Keith Weitz, and Andrew Szurgot

4. "Multisolid Fluidized Bed Combustion", H. Nack, R.D. Litt, B.C. Kim, Chemical Engineering Progress, Jan 1984

5. "Energy Recovery from Fluidized Bed Combustion", Robert J. Sneyd, Chemical Engineering Progress, Jan 1984

6. "Methodology for Allocating Municipal Solid Waste to Biogenic and Non-Biogenic Energy", Energy Information Administration, Office of Coal, Nuclear, Electric and Alternate Fuels, May 2007 Report