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September 18, 2007

The World Grows Less Violent

It sounds ridiculous, but consider the facts...

September 06, 2007

Automated World

The ILO's Key Indicators of the Labour Market indicate that agriculture is no longer the economic sector that employs the most workers worldwide. Peter S. Magnusson observes:

Worldwide, in 1996 agriculture employed 42%, industry 21%, and services 37%. In 2006, the numbers are 36%, 22%, and 42%. So in the period, services has overtaken farming on a global scale.

Magnusson draws attention to the fact that the number of people working in manufacturing has remained steady. Workers in growing economies are skipping the manufacturing stage and going straight to services. In order for people to move out of agriculture and into something else, you need two things:

1. Some means of making sure that you still get the food

2. Something else for these people to do

Improved farming techniques (technologically improved, that is) takes care of the first point. A growing economy takes care of the second. The familiar pattern throughout history has been one of workers going from farming to producing some other goods. Services comes later. However, the world economy doesn't seem to need any more people working in manufacturing than it already has, at least on a percentage basis. So workers are going straight into services.

So worldwide we have more food with fewer people working to produce food, and apparently more wealth overall with fewer people working to produce stuff. Automation is driving these changes. It will be very interesting to see where these numbers are in another 10 years. Will agriculture continue to drop? Will industry hold steady at about 21-22%?

We shall see.

September 05, 2007

Goodbye to the Gas Engine?

Okay, "goodbye" may be premature, but then again...

An Austin-based startup called EEStor promised "technologies for replacement of electrochemical batteries," meaning a motorist could plug in a car for five minutes and drive 500 miles roundtrip between Dallas and Houston without gasoline.

By contrast, some plug-in hybrids on the horizon would require motorists to charge their cars in a wall outlet overnight and promise only 50 miles of gasoline-free commute. And the popular hybrids on the road today still depend heavily on fossil fuels.

"It's a paradigm shift," said Ian Clifford, chief executive of Toronto-based ZENN Motor Co., which has licensed EEStor's invention. "The Achilles' heel to the electric car industry has been energy storage. By all rights, this would make internal combustion engines unnecessary."

So what's the trick? ZENN is replacing battery technology with ultracapacitor technology. This sounds great, but if they are truly able to do what they claim, it means they've mad an unprecedented leap forward in capacitor technology. We shall see.

Meanwhile, if you need that electric car now, you still have the option of the one powered by laptop batteries.