You are Linear
Being linear is not a bad thing. It means that you are human. But it also means that you are terrible with certain things. You can test this for yourself:
Did you try it? Here is the trick question: when the magnets were still 3” away, could you predict how much force you would need when they are 1/4" apart? Of course not. Depending on your magnets, you might feel nothing at 3”.
The distance between magnets changed in fixed, linear increments. The force did not.
Let’s look at a parallel problem:
Time changes in fixed, linear increments. One hour is one hour, yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Energy consumption and pounds of electronic waste increase exponentially per hour (when averaged year-to-year).
The question about magnetic force is just as relevant to this parallel problem. In the year 2018 – where “the magnets are still 3 inches apart” – how much electronic waste will exist in 2021? I don’t know, but the likely answer is “too much.”
The invisible problem referenced above is energy use.
I want to revisit Bitcoin – it is still a hot topic in the press and a unique nightmare. Its energy footprint is also very invisible to investors.
As I wrote previously, creating a Bitcoin requires computer software that automatically solves arbitrary math problems – in exchange for making your electric meter spin. At last estimate, the energy consumed by the Bitcoin network is approaching Hong Kong’s total energy use.
I took data from Digiconomist regarding the estimated energy use for Bitcoin over a year. I let Excel fit an exponential curve to this data, then reverse-engineered the equation to project where it will go.
The graph on the left is actual data with exponential curve(s). The graph on the right is mostly projected data. Note that the energy axis on the right graph is not linear; it is logarithmic. Bitcoin is not linear.
How much energy will it actually use 3 years from now? Or 5 years from now? I do not know. We will either cook ourselves or it will hit a hard wall before then. In the future, Bitcoin may become unreliable due to insatiable energy use. If it is displaced in three years, the pollution has already been released.
Tech for the Sake of Tech
Linear humans and invisible energy use. (It is invisible to the investor. The lights in your neighborhood do not dim when you start a Bitcoin transaction.) Where do we go next?
Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, is another source of invisible energy use. The distributed ledger inherent to blockchain is the problem. The technology requires every participant to have a copy of every transaction.
So, dear linear human, let’s do a blockchain example on paper. An average convenience store has 1100 customers per day. Assume that everyone takes a receipt – each store prints 1100 receipts per day. If blockchain was in charge, and done on paper, every customer would get 1100 receipts. The store would print 1.21 million receipts: 1100 receipts times 1100 customers. That is just one store.
Blockchain is non-linear growth. One new customer generates thousands of new receipts. One transaction generates thousands of new receipts for other customers. And each receipt uses energy.
We are so distracted by the “benefits” of blockchain that we are happily turning linear systems everywhere into exponential ones in many industries. This is exponential power use.
There is Still Time
By the time someone has spotted a problem in an exponential system, it is far too late for business as usual. A drastic, sweeping change is required. This is Shift Sight.
Doctors have a term for unsupportable exponential growth. They call it cancer. We all know what happens when it is detected too late, such as when the “magnets are only 2” apart.” The linear patient was unable to notice the “magnetic force” that was in their body either when it was 3”. They complained sometime after.
Shift Sight’s position is not that of a Luddite. We simply believe that technology should improve lives rather than ruin the planet. The Earth is at a unique point where many exponentially growing systems are poised to collide in catastrophic ways if we do not act today.
Ty is a Founder of Shift Sight, LLC.