[p2p-research] Solar energy and the artificial leaf

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Fri Nov 6 02:06:08 CET 2009

Ryan wrote:
> Very interesting solar breakthrough, or near to it at least. Plus more
> on the state of the solar industry.
> The release:
> Chemists describe solar energy progress and challenges, including the
> ‘artificial leaf’

With all this kind of stuff going on, why do so many economists and policy 
planners still have their heads in the sand about what the next twenty years 
will bring? Why can't they make reasonable predictions based on the 
likelihood of breakthroughs in these technologies? Why do they need to act 
like none of this abundance is ever going to happen?

Is it because many of the mainstream macroeconomics equations fall apart 
with divide by zero errors as abundance increases and demand stays flat? :-)

"Trying To Explain The Economics Of Abundance In Two Minutes Or Less With A 

But, I still think that video misses the big picture, because the whole 
system of ration units begins to fall apart and we get more of a gift 
economy and peer production and so on. Instead, that video seems to predict 
a growing service economy for paid services. But I don't think we are going 
to see that, between a gift economy, peer production, and automation and 
better design. They're right we will get some new services based on free 
things, but, as you suggested, I don't think that will replace all the 
displaced jobs.

For example, rather than go to a hair salon, I much prefer having my wife 
cut my hair with a electric clipper my parents gave us for our beloved dog 
at the time (we had already had one for the dog, so we didn't want to waste 
a gift); we watched the accompanying video, we picked the poodle cut as most 
appropriate, and that's what I've been getting for the past decade. :-)

I've never liked most hair salons, especially with all the chemicals they 
spray around. But, without the cheap clippers and an instructional video, 
I'd still be paying US$10 or US$20 or whatever plus tip every few months to 
get my hair cut somewhere I did not want to go. OK, for a short time my wife 
used to work for a hair salon chain doing their computers and picked up a 
few techniques too watching some of their seminars. :-) But in any case, 
some cheap information, and some cheap tools, and a little bit of practice 
makes for a manageable situation where the convenience value of doing 
something in house is much greater than any value from an "expert" doing it 
at some remote location I need to travel to. Now, many people may enjoy 
going to hair salons, and if so, terrific for them as an enjoyable thing for 
them to do. I'm just happy not to have to go to one anymore myself.

That's just one example. There are many more services that the internet 
makes it easier to do for yourself, assuming you have the time and 
inclination to learn.  So, while people may not be doing brain surgery any 
time soon learned from the internet, the internet certainly puts a downward 
pressure on wages for many services, even other medical ones like avoiding 
influenza (vitamin D).

So, if everyone can produce their power at home using artificial leaves, 
where does that leave the people who work in most oil companies or coal 

They can either fight these trends, or they can lobby for something like a 
basic income before they need it.

--Paul Fernhout

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