Ideas and technique

Duizend jaar oude organisaties, hun geheimen

De RK kerk, de Genda Shigyō Papiermakerij en de Staffelter Hof zijn alle meer dan duizend jaar oude organisaties. Wat is hun geheim?

De rooms-katholieke kerk bestaat al bijna tweeduizend jaar. Wat is het geheim van meer dan duizend jaar oude organisaties? Bron: Wikimedia Commons

Instituten waren en zijn essentieel voor het functioneren van de menselijke beschaving. Het waren kloosters die als centra van kennis de Europeanen door de donkere Middeleeuwen loodsten. Willen we een toekomstige periode van barbarij enigszins heelhuids doorkomen, dan is het nuttig om een organisatie achter de hand te hebben die duizenden jaren kan blijven functioneren zonder dat deze uiteenvalt. En voor de Long Now Clock, die zo’n tienduizend jaar lang de tijd aangeeft, is het natuurlijk wel handig als er generaties van klokkenmakers zijn die de klok netjes onderhouden. Bijvoorbeeld, omdat ze deel uit maken van een duizend jaar oude organisatie.

Duizend jaar oude organisaties

Dit verklaart de interesse van de Long Now Foundation voor de geheimen van meer dan duizend jaar oude organisaties. Zouden we net als Hari Seldon in de Foundation-SF reeks van Isaac Asimov, een organisatie op kunnen richten die over het voortbestaan van de aarde en de mensheid waakt? Die als een soort modern klooster de kennis van nu beschermen tegen verlies, zonder uit elkaar te vallen?

Uit het eerste onderzoek van de Foundation blijken al enkele gemeenschappelijke patronen. Zo zijn de organisaties vrijwel altijd klein. Er werken niet meer dan driehonderd mensen. Vaak richten ze zich op een niche-activiteit, dikwijls het produceren van alcoholische dranken als wijn of whiskey. Tradities spelen een belangrijke rol en vormen de voornaamste bestaansreden van de organisatie. Winst maken is vooral nodig om te overleven.

In onderstaande lange verkenning gaat de Long Now Foundation dieper in op deze vraag.


The data of long lived organisations – Long Now Foundation blog, 2021

Return to the moon in the next decade

The moon has been quiet for half a century. That will change in the 1920s. Several space superpowers have announced plans for a return to the moon.

For example, Russia and China have already announced that they will build a moon base together. Others, such as the US, Europe, India and Japan, are also busy.

Astronaut Eugene A. Cernan of the Apollo 17 mission is one of the last three people to walk and ride the moon. After half a century, there is now finally a return to the moon. Source: NASA

Return to the moon in this decade

The moon is the closest celestial body and also the only celestial body on which humans have walked. It seems unbelievable, but with the primitive technology of half a century ago, with on-board computers that could do less than those in a bank card now, people landed and walked on the moon. This was mainly due to the then much greater risk appetite. A crew of the Apollo 13 mission did not survive. A few other missions were close. Partly because of this, and the enormous cost, our barren satellite has been quiet for nearly half a century since the last Apollo astronaut took off.

That will change in the 1920s. Various powers have announced plans for a return to the moon. Isaac Arthur here shares the plans of the Americans.

The moon is especially interesting as a transfer point and for mining. The moon's gravity is low, allowing spaceships to take off and land with relatively little fuel. Also nice is that the Moon close to the earth. The moon can be reached with a journey of no more than a few days. All other destinations, such as Mars, Mercury or the outer planets, require months or even years with today's technology. Although there is less to be gained on the moon than at more distant destinations, and the day length and gravity are unfavorable to humans, these advantages outweigh the disadvantages of returning to the moon.

Cybernetic Government: AI as Prime Minister

We humans do not excel in integrity politically. What if we opt for a cybernetic government, i.e. appoint an AI as government?

The first months of 2021 were not a peak of democracy. Once again, parties came to power that excel in short-term politics, cheat voters time and again and act against the interests of the Netherlands. What if we leave politics to computer algorithms? Futurologists seriously consider a future society that is primarily cybernetic in nature.

In fact, more has come from cybernetic government politics than many people realize. Econometrician and feared, because expert and conscientious Member of Parliament Pieter Omtzigt (CDA) stated in his book A new social contract (2021), which for an outsider is nonsensical government policy intended to make purchasing power models correct. A good example of Omtzigt is the new employed person's tax credit in the 2021 Tax Plan. Politics wants to do “something nice” for the middle class. So politicians invents a complicated employed person's tax credit that is maximum for people with a middle income of around 40,000 euros. Not coincidentally the electoral group of the ruling coalition.

Cybernetic government is not as far away as we realize. The reason for the existence of this bizarre scheme is the purchasing power of the middle class, according to the CPB calculation model. That must be correct, the VVD thought. Source: National Government of the Netherlands

The Secrets of the Cybernetic Government

These models are secret according to good Dutch political practice. Just like the epidemiological models of the RIVM, which support the covid-19 decisions and which are scientifically controversial.

If computers already largely dominate the Netherlands anyway, could we not make this process more transparent? Why should we have lying, blundering and spinning politicians as intermediaries between the voter and the calculation model? Why not directly disclose the source code of the algorithms that govern us? And give us a say? It's time for that psychohistory?

Planned Obsolescence: Why There Wasn't a Perpetual Light Bulb

The alu hats are right. It was not without reason that there was no perpetual light bulb for sale. Time and time again, manufacturers make deliberate design decisions in order to sell as much as possible. Design decisions, which mean more pollution and more resource depletion. Meet planned obsolescence.

What is planned obsolescence?

At some point, products have become obsolete. Sometimes this is due to normal wear and tear that cannot be prevented. Sometimes due to technical obsolescence. Or because they are going out of style. And sometimes, because they are meant to break down much faster than normal. Or decline in functions, because the manufacturer, for example Apple, slyly downscales the performance in smartphones. So that consumers have to buy an expensive, new smartphone. The latter concept is “planned obsolescence” (planned redundancy) called.

The “Centennial Light Bulb” has been burning continuously for over a century, but now emits much less light than in the beginning. Planned obsolescence makes incandescent bulbs burn shorter but brighter. Source: Wikimedia Commons / LPS.1

Why does planned obsolescence exist?

This is largely due to manufacturers. But also to us, the consumers. Time and again we choose fashion items instead of quality that will last a lifetime. And especially our economic model. We register change as growth. An economy in which nature is rapidly transformed into a mountain of waste has much higher growth figures than one Eldorica-like economy, where, for example, cars last a hundred years and houses a small eternity.

What are the consequences?

For manufacturers there is of course a huge advantage: more sales. But the extra employment generated by planned obsolescence is also doing well in the unemployment figures. And for tax revenues.

However, the price that the earth, and therefore we, pays for this is very high. Much more waste and air pollution from the manufacturing process. A lower quality of life. Depletion of raw materials that are difficult to replace.

An end to planned obsolescence?

No wonder that governments with sustainable objectives are now increasingly trying to intervene. In the 1910s, for example, the French Assembly imposed a fine of 300,000 euros for companies guilty of planned obsolescence. The European Union is now preparing legislation that makes it mandatory to make appliances repairable. So smartphones whose battery can no longer be replaced will then become a thing of the past.

The question is also whether there are smarter ways to produce public goods such as employment and social security than over-consumption with an endless mountain of waste.

And the perpetual light bulb? We now have something that is better in every way. LED lamps are four times more efficient than incandescent lamps and last around 100,000 hours. That's about a lifetime. A hundred times as long as incandescent lamps in the time of planned obsolescence.

2D becomes 3D with pen

A pen as a 3D printer. Watch a 2D drawing of a flower on a stone turn into a three-dimensional flower after immersion in a solution of potassium persulphate.

3D pens have been around for some time. They form a kind of hand-held 3D printer, fed with a roll of 3D filament that can be used to draw shapes in the air.

This technique works differently, with two types of material. One type, the 'glue' (here: the black ink), adheres to both the substrate and the second type. The second type, here red, contains a water-repellent agent and therefore detaches when the solution squeezes under the ink.

In its original form, the ink was too weak and the object lost its shape. The inventors remedied this by adding iron to the water-repellent ink. This reacts with the persulfate ions in the solution and forms a hard layer on the outside. Thanks to this layer, the flower retains its shape.

Colleagues elsewhere in the world of South Korean inventors Sumin Lee and Seo Woo Song call the discovery a breakthrough. It is now possible to send 3D objects by letter post. The recipient can place these in a development solution and let the 3D object dry. They also see many applications for the manufacture of electronics. That is, if it succeeds in printing electronic circuits.

And for creative artists of course.

This is just a simple example. The source contains much more complex designs. Such as butterflies that can flap their wings under the influence of a magnetic field.


Sumin Lee and Seo Woo Song, Direct 2D-to-3D transformation of pen drawings, Science Advances, 2021

Invisible wealth must be forbidden

Of the majority of the world's possessions, only a small number of people know who they really are. They are invisible wealth. Why is this allowed?

Visible wealth

The differences in prosperity in a small-scale society such as a village are relatively small. The reason is simple. It is known of every villager what he owns and where that wealth comes from. So if a villager is very rich, the other villagers will more often ask the wealthy to take his responsibility. For example to sponsor poor villagers or a common project. By nature, people love equality. As a rich person, keeping all wealth to yourself makes you little loved by the rest. Hence, only when property becomes anonymous do the differences in prosperity become too great.

Often neoliberals see poor people as parasites, who contribute nothing net to the system. That's bullshit. If a cleaner and a garbage collector would earn ten times as much from their work as they do now, they would be “great contributors”. At least, according to the accountant, then. In the Covid-19 crisis we saw how important the work of the lowest paid workers is. Shelf fillers turned out to be indispensable. Bag fillers don't.

Invisible wealth rules the world. What are we doing about it? - Predjama Castle, author: Stephen Colebourne from London, UK

Where is the invisible wealth?

A well-known way of making wealth invisible is trust, in full: trust of foundation. The recipe is simple. The wealthy “trustor” transfers his assets to a foundation. And from that moment on, the wealth is invisible. In the meantime, this foundation is under the management of administrators, the trustees. The trustees manage the trustor's assets. This one has nothing to say officially. He does, however, enjoy the benefits of ownership. These trusts are common. Not only for private individuals, but also for multinationals.

The trust is just one example of a legal entity. A legal entity is an invention from the nineteenth century. The local supermarket is not owned by a person, but by a BV (bvba) or NV. If this BV goes bankrupt, the creditors can whistle for their money. A popular trick is to load one BV with debts. This BV subsequently goes bankrupt. And simsalabim, the debts are gone. In the meantime, the tax authorities have become wiser, but this type of fraud still occurs regularly.

Invisible wealth, power without control

Large companies are now owned by one worldwide web of investment firms and hedge funds. These funds often also have shares in each other. It has become an inextricable tangle. A money machine that extort a large part of the world and distribute the proceeds to a small group of the super rich. Nobody is responsible. They pay less and less tax, but can use the protections of the states where they operate for free.

For example, if someone disrupts the order in a StarBucks cafe, or comes to rob the place, the police will come. If you start a restaurant under the name "StarBucks", the police will come to the door for a violation of StarBucks trademark law. That costs the Dutch and Belgian state, and therefore us, money. Yet Starbuck pays hardly any tax, due to a sophisticated construction [1]. That means the company is parasitizing the societies where they plug their expensive coffee full of unhealthy sugars.

StarBucks is not unique in this. Worldwide, companies such as Starbucks and Action societies and immensely enrich their owners. They cut wages and increase costs by charging ever-higher prices for their products and licenses. For example, Microsoft receives five to ten dollars for almost every Android phone sold [2]. The reason: the package of software licenses, with which Microsoft threatens to sue smartphone makers. As a result, smartphones are becoming more and more expensive.

How can this invisible wealth be addressed?

Ownership is one negative law. Namely, it gives one person or group of people exclusive right to a certain item, for example the patent on a certain technology or country, to the exclusion of others. There are certain obligations against this right. For example, the duty to contribute to the land in which the property is recognized through the payment of tax. At this point, the owners are escaping this duty by hiding. They benefit from legal protection for their property, but do not pay for it. They violate the social contract.

Time, then, to get our share of it social contract also no longer to be met. If a homeless person in StarBucks makes a fuss, the police can stay home. If Warda and Joost “illegally” start a new Starbucks café without a license, have the mayor do the opening and wholeheartedly recommend it to the local fool.

Of course they are too patents of companies that do not pay tax are no longer valid. We invite smartphone manufacturers to start producing without royalties here in the Netherlands and Belgium. Bet these companies pray and beg to pay their taxes properly from now on?


  1. This is how Starbucks avoids tax, Arjan Noorlander, NOS, 2014
  2. Analyst: Microsoft gets $5 for every HTC Android phone, ZDNet, 2011

Left and right distinction is now possible via facial recognition

Researchers developed an AI algorithm that in 70% of the cases on a face can distinguish left and right in voting behavior.

The election battle between left and right in USA ran high at the end of 2020. Source: Wikipedia

In discussions between left and right, it often seems as if two different human species are talking to each other. Nowadays left and right talk more and more past each other.

They see the other as alien. Mostly left has a hand in this and reacts more emotionally. An important distinction is also that left-wing voters show more emotions in their face than right-wing voters.

Not clear why left and right look different

The annoying thing about neural networks is that they can make a reasonably accurate prediction, but not on the basis of which they make that prediction. The researchers were therefore unable to pinpoint exactly what kind of facial features their system correlated with political affiliation, but they did find some trends. Like the attitude of someone's head.

The degree to which some form of facial expression could be seen in the photos also seemed to provide some clues. For example, people who looked directly into the camera, a favorite hobby of ex-VVD politician Wiegel, who is known for his conservatism, usually judged the algorithm to be more progressive. Those who looked away and showed disgust, therefore ended up on the “conservative” pile.

Difficult to replicate

Repeating this research by others, an absolute requirement in science, is difficult. After all, the photos and political preferences on which their algorithm has been trained contain pretty privacy-sensitive information. Other researchers will therefore have to create their own collection of left and right voters and apply the algorithm to this.

That is only going to be difficult, now that the proportions are so polarized. And this correlation may not be correct outside the (California) target groups from which the researchers obtained their data ...

How can you use this knowledge as a spin doctor?

The intention is to allow voters of your political preference to vote, and to discourage others from voting. For example, you could identify left and right voters by means of facial recognition. If you want mainly left-wing voters to vote, you can appeal to them and encourage them to vote. You want to deprive right-wing voters of the desire to vote with cynical jokes about the “pocket-filling politicians”.

Michal Kosinski. Facial recognition technology can expose political orientation from naturalistic facial images, Scientific Reports (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-020-79310-1

Sodium from salt replaces lithium - is lithium shortage over?

Lithium, which was formed during the first few seconds of the universe's existence, is becoming increasingly scarce. But we are literally swimming in sodium, from table salt. Is this the solution to the growing shortage?

Light and sparse metal

Lithium is the lightest metal that exists in this universe. A block of the metal floats on water, while it bubbles and hisses with the water. It also reacts quickly with the oxygen in the air. That's why you have to keep this metal under oil.

Until the end of the last century, lithium was mainly known (in the form of lithium carbonate) as a medicine in patients with bipolar disorder. Until the lithium-ion battery was invented. The result: demand for the relatively rare alkali metal exploded. And with that the price.

Now there is a problem. Easily extractable lithium is becoming scarce. This also applies to cobalt, an indispensable part of lithium-ion batteries. So if we want to provide every earthling with a rechargeable plug-in car, we need to find a new source of these metals. Or… a replacement.

Sodium replaces lithium

In a battery or accumulator, electrons transfer to an atom, to which they bind more strongly. For example, if an electron jumps from a lithium atom to a chlorine atom, it produces about two volts. 3.15 volts (chlorine) minus 0.98 volts (lithium) gives 2.17 volts of voltage. We can give those electrons back to lithium by applying 2.17 or more volts of voltage to it. This way you recharge the battery. Chlorine is not that practical. After all, it is a gas. That is why most lithium ion batteries work with solids, such as cobalt oxide.

- Lithium-ion battery operating principle

If we take a step down in the periodic table, immediately below lithium, the metal is sodium. Sodium is much heavier than lithium, but chemically the two metals are very similar. The good news is, we are swimming in this metal. Literally. Because every liter of sea water contains twelve grams of pure sodium. The salt in our kitchen is even 2/5 part.

Sodium reacts very violently with water. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Greater mass not so bad

The disadvantage is that a kilogram of sodium contains more than three times as few atoms as a kilogram of lithium. So, in theory, much less energy can be extracted. Fortunately, this turns out to be not so bad in practice. The anions, that is, the negative ions to which lithium and sodium are linked, are the same. And these anions are heavier than the lithium, or sodium. In total, the sodium makes up only 20 percent of the total mass of the design. The electrolyte (that is the medium through which the ions travel from one pole to another pole), the material of the poles and the negative ions (anions) are more important in terms of weight.

Sodium is also more active than lithium, so that 0.93 volts is enough to pry an electron loose. Much more is needed with lithium: 0.98 volts [1]. This makes up for a lot. This increases the energy of the reaction. Sodium batteries are also safer than lithium, can withstand much lower and higher temperatures and release their power much faster. Why then lithium, and not sodium, in our smartphones and laptops?

Main technical bottleneck now resolved

A problem is that sodium atoms (and therefore sodium ions) are much larger, and therefore more bulky, than lithium atoms. And thus more difficult to travel through the battery. The material of the electrode must therefore contain a kind of “highways” for sodium ions. Two discoveries, in 2014 by a group of Japanese and in 2020 by a Swiss team, now make this possible. Both teams worked on sodium hydroborates as an electrolyte. The Japanese succeeded in 2014 in improving this substance in such a way that it allows Na + ions to pass through smoothly. [2] Unfortunately, this mixture only worked at a very hot 250 degrees C (523 K). Not so handy on your lap, of course. Unless your name is Chuck Norris.

Fortunately, the Swiss team managed to extend the range to 100-700 Kelvin. That is, this battery works on Jupiter's icy largest moon, Ganymede, as well as on Mercury. Day and night. The temperature in the house is certainly not a problem [3]. More good news is that boron, hydrogen and sodium are not scarce on Earth. So once we have a good way, we can make these batteries for next to nothing.

Two Swiss institutes are currently working together to develop a prototype of this battery. Will this succeed? And are they and their fellow researchers inventing a cheap production process? Then this means a major breakthrough for the cheap storage of solar and wind energy.

1. Electronegativities (table) - Wikipedia
2. Terrence A., Udovic et al., Sodium superionic conduction in Na2B.12H.12, Chemical Communications, 2014, DOI: 10.1039 / c3cc49805k
3. Matteo Brighi et al., Closo-Hydroborate Sodium Salts as an Emerging Class of Room-Temperature Solid Electrolytes, Cell Reports Physical Science, 2020, DOI: 10.1016 / j.xcrp.2020.100217

Rydberg receiver can receive all radio frequencies

Imagine a radio with which you can receive all possible radio waves, from extremely low frequency, up to 20 gigahertz. This is now possible with the Rydberg receiver.

Rydberg atoms. By adding more and more energy, the outermost electron of an atom jumps to a higher orbit. Less and less energy is needed to jump a track higher, until that energy is almost zero. That's the Rydberg condition. Since the electron now requires almost zero energy to escape, the Rydberg receiver is extremely sensitive. Source

What is a Rydberg receiver?

The operation of a Rydberg receiver is based on Rydberg atoms, in this case of the element rubidium. Rydberg atoms are atoms that are much larger than normal atoms, because the outermost electron has a lot of extra energy. That is why this electron is in a very wide orbit around the atomic nucleus. That makes Rydberg atoms very unstable. After all, very little energy is needed for the electron to escape. And therefore sensitive. Even the weakest signal is enough for Rydberg atoms to make the electron jump away, and thus to give an electrical current. For example, the weak signal from a radio wave.

Rydberg receivers can receive very many different frequencies thanks to extremely sensitive Rydberg atoms. Source: army USA

In this receiver, the rubidium atoms are pumped up with a laser to Rydberg atoms and placed in a microwave circuit. That microwave circuit amplifies the signals received by the antenna. Rydberg atoms are so sensitive that they respond to all wavelengths - from extremely long wavelengths (think tens of thousands of miles or more) to centimeter waves.

Very handy in the army, of course, when somewhere an oil or resource-rich country needs to be liberated from an anti-Western dictator, or democratically elected president. They will no longer benefit from their jammers, because the Rydberg receiver can receive any frequency, including the non-disturbed frequencies.

For now, don't expect a Rydberg modem that allows you to play Space Invaders online while your train is driving through a tunnel. The US army first wants to develop their new toy into an adult communicator. We will hear more about this.


  1. David H. Meyer et al, Waveguide-Coupled Rydberg Spectrum Analyzer from 0 to 20 GHz, Physical Review Applied (2021). DOI: 10.1103 / PhysRevApplied.15.014053
  2. David H Meyer et al, Assessment of Rydberg atoms for wideband electric field sensing, Journal of Physics B: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (2019). DOI: 10.1088 / 1361-6455 / ab6051

Future technology, from 2022 to the year 4000

Some future technology is already available in rudimentary form. Think of quantum computers and wetware, the interface between brain and machine. Predicting that this technology will become more effective and cheaper is therefore quite safe. Or that it gets new applications.

Truly disruptive technology is harder to predict. That is technology that gives people capabilities that they did not have until now. Especially technology, which is the result of new scientific breakthroughs. Still, the creators of this video, a brave attempt. This is based on existing trends and known physical laws.

The prediction in the video that the Alcubierre drive works is controversial. The effect on which this drive is based has not yet been demonstrated in an experiment. Although the warp field on which the Alcubierre drive is based is a valid solution of the general theory of relativity.

That is, valid, if negative energy exists on our scale, not just the small particle scale. And there is a method to create it. We can also build wormholes ourselves. In principle, you could even travel time with that.

Wormholes and warp drives are still unproven future technology, but theoretically possible. Source: Genty / Pixabay

Do you think nanotechnology is small? Well, it can be even smaller. Imagine storing an entire factory in the space of an atom. In theory this is possible with femtotechnics. Technology on the scale of an atomic nucleus. We may be able to manipulate the strong nuclear force in the future in the same way as the electromagnetic force now. Then completely new techniques would arise. And new opportunities. New things to experience and explore. Think of a visit to the interior of the sun, or the earth, for example. That, and much more, would then be possible.

New laws of nature, future technology

Everything stands or falls with the question whether our laws of physics are the only laws that exist. Or that new laws may still exist. Indeed there are things that we cannot yet explain with the laws we now know. So we have no idea what dark matter is precise. And where those huge rings come from in heaven. So big that they are almost the remainder of one collision with another universe appear to be. When we discover new laws of nature, we also discover an enormous number of new potential devices.