Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Risk and Thanksgiving

Today WICO Ambassador Lazlo announced that global consumption has converged on the Leveloff trajectory, in part as a result of Sally’s interruption of coordination during her maintenance two weeks ago. Discussions among representatives of national extinction response units are likewise approaching consensus that the new trajectory should be adopted in the global strategy. A formal vote to do so has been tentatively scheduled for two weeks from now.

The U.S. Extinction Response Unit is contributing to a task force whose purpose is to identify and evaluate any risk of any future interruptions. Maura and I were recruited to help based on our experience following the server crash, and have been interviewing Sally and checking her work since returning to full-time work last week. We have so far learned that the maintenance was a proactive response to new information that challenged some basic assumptions in Sally’s operations protocol. She set up in-line test and tracking tools to recheck the assumptions and flag any significant impacts on global strategy implementation.

President Larson has designated tomorrow, Thanksgiving, as a day of appreciation for the progress made toward our national goals in fighting the extinction threat. Instead of the traditional gluttony, people are being encouraged to share food they already have with others locally and fast for at least half the day.

Reality Check

The projected trajectory and variable values for today are shown below.

Some of the information that prompted “maintenance” by Sally the AI is related to new insights from the Timelines model, and some is tied to Maura’s experience when she was in her coma (see Will Jackson’s Personal Log).

Thursday, November 7, 2019


Maura came out of her coma last night, and will be taking a few days off on her doctor’s orders after tests revealed no cause or ill effects just like the last time. Sally became available soon after Maura woke up, and gave no explanation for her absence other than “unscheduled maintenance.”

I am staying at home with Maura and reviewing the demolition plan being finalized for my neighborhood. Unlike that used to be normal for such things, the plan involves removing all artificial structures, including building foundations and pavement that would hinder regrowth of plants and settlement by animals. A preliminary assessment of toxic substances was already done, including thorough inspections of all buildings and analysis of soil from representative core samples. 

Dedicated safing facilities co-located with existing landfills have already been built to handle what can’t be processed onsite, and use similar technology to the safing centers. That technology was developed during the five-year preparation period that coincided with the biosphere assessment and is the basis of several systems coming online to deal with external impacts. Al calls them “juiced up recycling plants” because they share some functional similarities, mostly at the front and back ends of the process such as sorting and distribution. The main difference, of course, is the conversion into bio-safe material (thus “safing”) where possible.

A second-generation Personal Environmental Assessment Kit has been useful for checking some of the assumptions built into the plan, such as the projected ecological impact reductions based on local species distribution and services. It’s been fun reliving with Maura some of our test experience from April, which feels like an eternity ago.

Reality Check

The safing facilities do not exist. While the term “bioprocessing” has a very specific meaning, applicable to the creation of products instead of the opposite, I anticipate a similar use in conversion of existing products into forms that other species can use. All technologies described here are based on my own imagination and speculation, and applicable mainly to the “other worlds” to which they are addressed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Pause and Review

Maura didn’t wake up this morning. My first thought was that she was just extremely tired, but it now appears that she’s in a coma like she was back in July. Waiting for Maura’s condition to change has presented the chance to catch up on this blog, neglected because we’ve been so busy, and because WICO has done an excellent job of coordination that makes it redundant.

I took the unorthodox step of requesting an opinion about what’s happening to her from our artificially intelligent friend Sally who has been working nonstop along with all of us to implement the global strategy for fighting the extinction threat. The virtual equivalent of an out-of-office greeting was her only reply, which I was informed by a WICO network administrator has popped up only a handful of times in the past, the last one being the day before yesterday.

My personal experience, shared with Maura, has been dominated by three activities: helping compile the history of the extinction response; investigating options under consideration and development for accelerating biosphere restoration; and performing the core duty of reducing ecological impact of infrastructure and activities in my home subregion. 

We made a lot of progress with the first two activities during what ended up being a month-long visit to Hawaii that provided convincing evidence of the ability to prevent about quarter of the currently projected drop in total resources due to external impacts following the transition. The rest may be achievable by increases in scale, but we couldn’t find anyone willing to guarantee its success. 

As for our progress at home, we brought about half the transportable belongings we had in July to our local bioconversion and decommissioning center (what many call a “safing center”), one of a dozen that are now operational between Denver and Boulder. We have also found a small house closer to work that we plan to move into just before demolition of our present house that is scheduled for the end of the year.

Based on interviews with people who should know, there is no consensus yet about alternative population-consumption trajectories, including whether an alternative is needed. A major criterion for supporting change appears to be whether population loss should be traded for extra time to stop the external impacts; and that criterion depends on when the impacts are likely to be stopped. WICO’s leadership continues to assert that the impacts can be stopped by 2040, though half the technical experts I’ve consulted argue that it could take until 2060 if at all. That later estimate favors buying more time with the so-called “Leveloff” option that forces per-capita consumption to stay roughly fixed after the transition instead of dropping in response to falling resources.

Maura has just started moving, like she’s having a very distressful dream. I think I heard her say, very softly, “You bastards!”

Reality Check

I have been refining the Timelines model, including research into how change over time can be simulated as the continuous merging of two groups into a mixed group. One of them (“Group 1”) represents the past; and the other (“Group 2”) represents future change.

For each of several scenarios, the following animation shows phase diagrams for representative years (where Group 1 is the world in each year) along with graphs of how global variables change over time. The “Green” scenario is the expected past and future for our world, whose phase diagram is given for mid-2019 as indicated by the listed date. “Hikeyay” is the simulated world’s past and future based on the global strategy in its current form, and its phase diagram is for the end of the transition in 2040. The futures presented in the “Projected” and “Projected Sratio” scenarios are the options under consideration by the simulated world, with phase diagrams for 2040 and graphs of the past in common with the Green scenario as a reminder that they could also be adopted by us.

Maura’s condition is in response to the event in the final scene of the online book BIOME: ATTACK and its follow-up described in the e-book series BIOME. Additional backstory is available to patrons in Will Jackson’s Personal Log.