Letters From The Earth

Making sense of the future with Sidely

By Calvin Frost | March 13, 2017

I have a simple pattern that I follow when trying to write these columns. I sit at my writing desk, which looks out onto our backyard reflecting on the complexity of worldly issues while enjoying the peace and beauty of our gardens and back nature area. It is quite the antithesis to my normal routine: hard travel, busy crowds, late nights versus these moments of quiet and contemplation. But, there’s something else: Sidley. Sidley sits next to me, looking, watching, and occasionally talking. How I wish I could understand what he is saying. I’d like to know his views - his views on the issues that I write about, views on the future, views on cause and effect, and so on. Our relationship is close and has developed over 13 years. Our only problem during this time is our inability to communicate. I have been determined to change this. I wanted to know what he was thinking. I know what CD thinks; I know what Trump thinks: global warming is a fraud. It’s not happening! Sidley’s opinion, however, is important. I think he agrees with me and 99% of scientists who review global warming statistics. But, I could never be certain.

I had a chance during the last month, just before the latest climate change statistics were released, to solve our communication problem. I bought a translation collar. This would let me know exactly what Sidley was thinking and saying. I could forget about the Trumps of the world and get Sidley’s sensible, unemotional view.

Translation collars, while expensive, are incredible. They are, first, very comfortable. Sidley is now sleeping with his. Second, they are very pretty. They come in a variety of colors made by 3D Printing. The collar is called Catterbox and made by Temptations Lab in Australia. A bit Down Under, right! The technology uses digital sensors to analyze cat noises and translate them into human voices. It is absolutely brilliant. You can even decide what kind of voice you want to hear: French, someone from the British aristocracy or, better yet, a British butler. In spite of the high cost, demand for Catterbox has been overwhelming. This meant Benny wouldn’t get a Catterbox. He was really disappointed as he was unable to join our conversation.

Thank goodness Sidley and I were able to practice speaking before the climate change statistics were announced. Sidley became incredibly animated and it was quickly obvious that he is a very bright cat. We looked at the data together and read and digested the statistics released several weeks ago. Sidley became very agitated when we read that climate scientists said that the earth reached its highest temperature in 2016.

In fact, another record was set: it is the first time in measuring global warming data that temperatures have exceeded the previous record three years in a row. We know El Nino caused some of this “when it released a huge burst of energy and vapor into the atmosphere.” But, for sure, and I’ve been writing about this for years, the biggest cause of rising temperatures has been increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And, our industry is guilty of contributing to this situation. Our materials aren’t friendly and as Avery Dennison has stated, we generate upwards of 60% waste in pressure sensitive roll label technology. So we are part of the reason we have rising temperatures. We are part of the reason the arctic has experienced 20 – 30 degrees Fahrenheit higher temperatures in large parts of the Arctic Ocean. This has caused rising oceans, which in turn has caused coastal erosion and tidal flooding. A friend in Finland just sent me a note: “No real winter. Global warming must be a fact. We will be ‘away’ but those after us will suffer.” He continues, “I think that even worse is the population explosion that also leads to the erosion of nature and global resources. And it happens in the places it should not. In Africa.”

Contrary to Trump and CD, my friend in Finland and Sidley agree the earth is in serious trouble. Reading and discussing all aspects of this with Sidley was a lifetime experience. It will never be forgotten. He went from global warming to predictions of the future. He was like a fountain that wouldn’t turn off. He had so much to say, mostly about the future as he didn’t want to talk about our foolishness. Below find a few of his comments, edited for brevity and profanity:

In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. All medical X-rays used Kodak film. Cameras, both commercial and industrial, security cameras – imaging of all sorts. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years – and most people won’t see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that three years later you would never take pictures on film again?

Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore’s law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a long time, before it became way superior and got mainstream in only a few short years. It will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs. Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Welcome to the Exponential Age. Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5 – 10 years.

(Sidley went on and reminded me that):
Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world; 10 years earlier than expected.
In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% less lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain. THIS IS PROBABLY THE BEST EXTINCTION OF THEM ALL.

Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, four times more accurately than human nurses. Facebook now has pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Autonomous cars: In 2018, the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You won’t want to own a car anymore. You’ll call a car with your phone, it will show up and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the distance driven and can be productive while driving. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% less cars. We can transform former parking spaces into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 60,000 miles, with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 6 million miles (10 million km). That will save a million lives each year.

Many car companies will probably become bankrupt. Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. Engineers from Volkswagon and Audi are completely terrified of Tesla.

Insurance companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, the insurance will become 100 times cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear. Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood.

Electric cars will become mainstream about 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all new cars will run on electricity. Electricity will become cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an expontential curve for 30 years, but you can now see the coming impact.

Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. Energy companies are desperately trying to limit access to the grid to prevent competition from home solar installations, but that can’t last. Technology will take care of that strategy.

With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination of salt water now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter (at 0.25 cents). We don’t have scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he or she wants, for nearly no cost. Was Sidley looking into a crystal ball? Did he eat a “fortune pounce”? I wanted to ask him a few questions, but the poor guy was exhausted from telling me what he foresaw. In fact, he lay down and started purring. I wonder what he will predict for our industry? Where is it going, what new technology will we see, will the industry shrink, who will survive. I had so many questions and sadly, Sidley was asleep. Just then, Benny jumped into my lap and nodded that everything was okay.

Another Letter from the Earth.

Calvin Frost is chairman of Channeled Resources Group, headquartered in Chicago, the parent company of Maratech International and GMC Coating. His email address is
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