10 June, 2013

My Lunch With a Radical Futurist...

Over lunch with one of the most compelling and fascinating conversationalists I've ever known (and he's asked me to keep his name out of this), I assumed the conversation would be heavy on sports, as we shared a table in a Houston Buffalo Wild Wings sports restaurant. But no, we had a far-ranging conversation on a few current topics of national moment. Here are some nuggets:

  • More people die in bus-related accidents in India in a week than have died due to commercial nuclear power since the industry existed.
  • [on the "green-ness" of pure electric cars] The best thing folks can do today is to maintain and continue driving whatever cars they own right now. Manufacture and eventual disposal of battery packs for pure electrics will place on enormous burden on the environment. Cash for clunkers, aside from jacking up the price of all used cars, has at least gotten many of the real rattletraps and gas guzzlers off the road. Electric cars' demands for things like rare earths put the US at a strategic disadvantage with China, a condition we needn't exacerbate.
  • Tesla is a technologically advanced electric but still in no way a "people's car" or a practical sole car for average Americans to own. True long-term costs of ownership remain unknown and ephemeral incentives are fueling a "bubble"that Elon is quite rational to reap.
  • China has no intention of conforming to "environmental norms" for the foreseeable future. This seems to be baked into their "cultural DNA" from the individual to the top apparatuses of government and economic power. Look at the pictures of Beijing smog turning noon into midnight that their leaders are trying to suppress. 
  • When you talk about something like adulterating baby formula in China, that wasn't perpetrated by some ignorant-ass peon. Someone with very advanced knowledge of the chemistry and how the product would be tested was required to figure out what adulterant to use, when to introduce it, and how much was permissible.
  • The leadership in Japan is at some level grateful for the atomic bomb. They see that it saved a good bit of the population from terrible slaughter in fire-bombing campaigns such as had been unleashed on cities like Dresden and Tokyo. On a larger scale, they recognize it saved Japan from Stalin and the experience of eastern Europe post-war.
  • On the topic of sports, he did offer that RG III perhaps was "out there a bit too much" with press conferences, etc., and would be better served by "keeping more mystery". He also reports that he's not been to an Astro's game since they switched to the American League.

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