Being alive at the end of the twentieth century here on planet Insanity has afforded us a few special privileges in the observance of human history. We’ve seen the birth of the microprocessor, the creation of the internet, and other technological marvels that have vastly improved the quality of the human condition for billions of people.
Unfortunately, even with all of our modern technological advancements, there’s still a huge number of people living in extreme poverty. Most of the poverty can be directly linked to a lack of cheap and abundant energy. According to the IEA, “Modern energy services are crucial to human well-being and to a country’s economic development; and yet globally 1.2 billion people are without access to electricity and more than 2.7 billion people are without clean cooking facilities. More than 95% of these people are either in sub-Saharan African or developing Asia, and around 80% are in rural areas.”
Even in many places with access to power, it’s not cheap enough or abundant enough to lift the population above the poverty line. Access to energy is the defining limit on the ability of any given population to pull itself out of poverty by increasing its productive capacity.
All real wealth comes from the ground. Wealth starts as raw materials that are transformed by human intervention into usable goods that improve the quality of the human condition. Extracting and transforming resources from the planet takes a tremendous amount of energy. The cheaper and more abundant the energy resources at our disposal, the cheaper and easier it is to extract and transform resources; which ultimately means cheaper and more abundant goods and services for all of humanity.
For most of human history, the energy to transform resources has come from our own manual labor, the leverage of simple manual tools, and of course – fire. Even today, we live in what could still broadly be categorized as the combustion age. We use combustion to produce the vast majority of energy on the planet, and it’s still by far the cheapest means of producing energy yet available to man. We burn coal and oil to power our homes and factories, we burn gasoline to power our cars and planes, we burn crude oil to power our tankers and shipping; it’s all a big bloody burning mess.
Numerous wars and insurrections have been fought over the control of energy resources, and all the while, the power grid acts as a control grid that forces massive swaths of people to herd together into compact concrete jungles. The human condition on planet Insanity is so intimately linked with the production of power that we use the same word to describe everything from politics to finance to the performance of an engine – Power.
Imagine what the planet would look like if every person had access to a compact generator that was capable of providing enough energy to power a small factory, while requiring no fuel, producing no pollution, requiring virtually no maintenance for decades, and being portable enough to fit in a small vehicle. It’s hard to fathom because the potential for invention and mobility becomes nearly limitless. People could live comfortably in the middle of the ocean or in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Homes could be flying recreational vehicles that never have to land. Cars could be airplanes and airplanes could be transformed into space vehicles. With such an invention, we could even colonize the inner planets of the solar system.
With such an invention, the power grid becomes obsolete. Humans become untethered to the entire utility grid, water and sewage included. Water could be pulled from the air or desalinated from the oceans. Trash and sewage could be incinerated on demand. Unlimited personal power brings with it virtually limitless potential. Unlimited personal power brings with it virtually limitless freedom.
I’m telling you now that such an invention exists, and in the next year or so, it’s going to change the face of humanity forever.