Solving water shortage by cloud capture and transport

Many countries suffer low levels of rainfall. Areas such as Saudi Arabia have managed to make a lot of land arable by using centre-pivot irrigation schemes:

https://interestingengineering.com/video/turning-desert-into-arable-land

but they have done so mainly by using water from aquafers that is not being replenished. Fossil water supplies such as these would eventually run out. By contrast, the UAE has considered capturing clouds from the Indian Ocean and somehow dragging them to the UAE where they could be seeded to irrigate land. There are many current and near future water capture and desalination schemes, and new techniques are developed every month that might help to make these better and cheaper options, but most of these are intended to provide water for families, not for massive scale irrigation. Cloud capture would seem somewhat problematic – how could a cloud be encased, and given the enormous weight of water involved if it is to be useful, how could it be transported? Huge plastic bags towed by airships? Surely not!

Perhaps not plastic, but how about graphene? Being extremely thin makes a a graphene membrane very lightweight, and though graphene is porous to water, only a small fraction of a cloud would go missing on the way. We can’t make large graphene sheets yet, let alone anything big enough to encase a cloud, but we’re looking at the far future here, and by 2040-2050, surely that would be perfectly feasible. One of my own ideas, folded graphene, would allow the membrane to change its shape dynamically as needed so once in the air, suspended from an airship, it could encase a cloud. See:

One of the slides in the article shows the principle of 3D shape change membrane for encasement. Excuse the poor graphics. The other applications discussed are mostly not relevant directly to cloud capture, but development of any of them would create a market mechanism to accelerate development of folded graphene generally, so the many military applications for example could help yield this useful humanitarian spinoff.

So it should be feasibly to encase a cloud. Clouds normally blow with the wind, and if their natural route was over the UAE, it would not suffer low rainfall, so the cloud must be dragged or otherwise directed. If it were dragged, by an airship for example, the overall forces needed to make progress against the wind could easily tear such a fragile membrane apart. However, physics might help.

Folded graphene would be able to change its shape enormously and quickly. This would allow a cloud to be reshaped. It could be shaped to maximise or minimise its heating by the sun, thus altering its altitude to make use of wind current differences. An encased cloud could also take the shape of a dynamic aerodynamic container with a large keel and sails dynamically protruding at various places, pointing in various directions. By making use of the different wind speeds at its range of altitudes and across its breadth, its shape could be manipulated dynamically to use the winds just like a yacht, to make progress in whatever direction is required.

The folded graphene blog also illustrates the concept of a ‘jellyfish’. Shaping the cloud in such a way and using jellyfish-style movements could propel it gently towards its destination.

Alternatively, simply making it highly aerodynamic might greatly reduce the forces needed to drag it, so an airship might then be useful.

I’m not suggesting any of these approaches could be done soon, but in 2 or 3 decades, I don’t see why it should not be feasible. By then, other approaches to obtaining fresh water via harvesting or desalination might make it irrelevant, but maybe they won’t. Maybe we could see funny shaped clouds moving the wrong direction in the sky, to drop their contents on UAE fields. Or indeed on any country suffering low rainfall.

A typical cumulus cloud is about a cubic kilometer in volume, and has about 500 tons of water. Larger clouds can be much, much heavier. A big storm-cloud could have over a million tons of water. Encasing a 1 cu km cloud needs at least 6 sq km of graphene, which at 0.763mg/sq m = 4.5kg, less than 0.001% of the total mass. Plenty of scope for using multiple layers if need be.

Optimistic? Certainly.

Impossible? No.

Feasible? Probably.

The WHO Pandemic Treaty – terrifying stuff

Two important links. At the very least, you should read the briefing so you have an informed view of what looks extremely likely to be signed into law in most countries.

Link to UK gov briefing on the treaty:

Click to access CBP-9550.pdf

the briefing contains links to other related documents signed up to by a number of world leaders.

Link to the UK petition requesting that government doesn’t sign up to such a treaty without at least a referendum first:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/614335

This isn’t the first attempted petition though. Look at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/610107 and note that while UK gov did eventually accept the petition once worded better, the response to the first attempt is basically gaslighting: “However, there is currently no treaty for the UK Government to sign, or refuse to sign”, hardly an appropriate response to “Stop the government taking our rights away signing the WHO pandemic treaty”.

The WHO of course did all it could to dismiss and cover up the Wuhan lab leak, making one of the least credible ‘investigations’ in history and trying to label any evidence or reports supporting the lab leak theory as fake news, conspiracy theories and disinformation. There is still no absolute proof that COVID emerged from the lab (hardly surprising given the amount of time the Chinese were allowed to eradicate evidence), but it is by far the most likely explanation to date.

No organisation helping to deflect attention elsewhere should ever be trusted again. The WHO has sacrificed any trust and credibility it may have had by defending the indefensible, for whatever reasons it did so. This alone is enough reason to avoid any involvement in any treaty that involves the WHO. But there are many other reasons.

If you read the briefing document, you will very quickly find the link to a document from 30 March 2021, co-authored by a number of world leaders:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/no-government-can-address-the-threat-of-pandemics-alone-we-must-come-together

While much of it is just pleasant enough text talking about international cooperation, some warning bells do ring:

It would be rooted in the constitution of the World Health Organisation, drawing in other relevant organisations key to this endeavour, in support of the principle of health for all.”

Would those relevant organisations include the WEF per chance? Is this treaty just another pillar of The Great Reset? Almost certainly it would include the broader UN, with its loony left assessments on human rights that condemn even slightly conservative welfare policies in the UK but manages not to notice major abuses of human rights across the Middle East, Africa and China.

It goes on, adding greatly to that suspicion:

It would also include recognition of a “One Health” approach that connects the health of humans, animals and our planet.” That’s the sort of phrase I might expect to see in a Greenpeace leaflet. It is scary if encased in any form of treaty, as it could be later interpreted to cover a great many environmental policies that are really only very thinly painted wealth redistribution mechanisms.

To achieve this, we will work with heads of state and governments globally, and all stakeholders including civil society and the private sector.” What? Like Bill Gates and the WEF elite? Like activists, NGOs and pressure groups? The briefing explicitly mentions its links to policies on climate change too. It is hard to imagine it will not be interwoven with the NetZero campaign and much of the socialist output from the environmental activist groups (which include a great many ‘climate scientists’ whose science so often seems to recommend implementing communism).

we must seize this opportunity and come together as a global community for peaceful co-operation that extends beyond this crisis. Building our capacities and systems to do this will take time and require a sustained political, financial and societal commitment over many years.” Quite the power grab there. That goes very far beyond any current WHO remit and could be interpreted as an attempt to impose an embryonic world government via the back door.

And as if more proof were needed: “To make this commitment a reality, we must be guided by solidarity, fairness, transparency, inclusiveness and equity.” If there was ever a more Machiavellian word than ‘fairness’, I’ve yet to hear it, but ‘inclusiveness’ and ‘equity’ certainly give the game away that this is indeed just another pillar of The Great Reset. Embedding ‘fairness, inclusivity and equity’ in a treaty, we would very soon have a global ‘deep state’ to protect against any local right of centre government that might be elected.

All that was in the document from 30 March 2021, but has essentially been copied and pasted into this new briefing. Government has managed to keep this all extremely quiet since, not altogether surprising given the utterly unfit-for-purpose MSM we have now, but people are now starting to notice, in spite of attempts to dismiss debate as disinformation and conspiracy theories and social media sticking warning notices on retweets. It’s almost as if our politicians are desperate to give power away to global governance and want to avoid any discussion before it’s too late to stop.

As the new briefing explains, “such an initiative “could include promoting high-level
political commitment and whole-of-government whole-of-society
approaches, addressing equity, enhancing the One Health approach, and
strengthening health systems and their resilience.
” ‘Whole of government’ is not just the Department of Health. Equity is a WEF weasel term that essentially means communism. It has little to do with ensuring everyone has equal opportunities in life and everything to do with wealth redistribution and heavy socialism. it has little to do with health, even less to do with pandemics, so why should it take the star billing in that phrase with even health taking a secondary placing?

The draft treaty is not yet available to review as far as I know, but these warning signs are already enough for all of us to start paying more attention to it.

If this was really just outlining the need for better international pandemic cooperation, alerting to new viruses, developing vaccines and rolling them out quickly to everyone, I wouldn’t have any problem with it. There is nothing in existing law that prevents governments cooperating better in future. But it isn’t, it adds a great deal that has nothing to do with such a goal.

There is no need for an additional treaty of any kind.

There is most definitely no reason to allow such a treaty to be used as a secretive back door to embed left wing policy anchors such as equity and inclusiveness in global law, and even less to sacrifice control of ‘all of government’ to a left wing global NGO with highly dubious trustworthiness, or explicitly include other organisations and leaders that nobody has voted for in that resultant global government.

I do not suffer Gates Derangement Syndrome, but nor do I recognise him as worthy of having any significant say in our governance. He has proved to be a successful entrepreneur, but he has also proven to show poor understanding and judgment on occasion, especially where the pandemic is concerned. He is only one of many ‘elite’ involved in the WEF and who have greatly disproportionate influence on governments already. We should strongly resist any attempt to embed the foundations of such influence in any form of global government, however embryonic it may be. This treaty looks far too like the vehicle for that embedding.

Other relevant documents with information on proposed changes to IHR 2005 that would transfer powers to a WHO Emergency Committee (which looks rather like SAGE in the UK):


Strengthening WHO preparedness for and response
to health emergencies. Proposal for amendments to the International
Health Regulations (2005)

Analysis by European journal of International Law

International Health Regulations 2005

Tribalism, the biggest problem in engineering?

One thing that has always frustrated me is the tribal attitude in engineering best described as ‘not invented here’. When you suggest something to one of your own immediate colleagues, they are likely to pick it up, bounce it around, build on it. If someone else has an idea, who isn’t in your team, your team might fall a little behind in the competition for glory, so it is a tribal threat. The result is that many great ideas are thrown away simply because they came from the wrong people. Of course, tribalism is very multidimensional, so you might sometimes include in your team friends or distant colleagues, even people employed by competitors, and you might understandably exclude frenemies, or the annoying twat in your own team with too big a mouth and too small a brain, who just puts everything down.

For solitary workers, the problem is sometimes ego. If someone else has a good idea in your field, that could make you look less smart because you didn’t come up with it, therefore you need to find a way to shoot it down. Giving credit and praise to someone else can be difficult if ego is involved.

When a new idea is embryonic, far from its final state, it’s usually very easy to find holes in it. Sometimes of course, the holes are serious and the idea is actually rubbish. Sometimes there are engineering solutions to those holes. A good team will try to find solutions to obvious problems before dismissing an idea that might have some real value, and even if the idea is eventually discarded, there may be parts of it that can be developed or applied elsewhere. That constructive behaviour is much harder to find if you aren’t part of the team that would be responsible for carrying it through. In multidisciplinary fields, which is most things now, that kind of tribal barrier is even more of an issue because ideas will more often come from individuals with different backgrounds who are outside your team, but the standard human reaction remains tribally motivated dismissal.

A lazy dismissal technique is finding some vague similarity to a previous idea that failed. Another is to judge it by the creator, attacking the person (or department) instead of the idea. Another is to cite a problem that used to apply when technology was different, without reconsidering it with new technology.

Another is to translate the idea into a totally different one and dismiss that. I think that is the most dangerous and I still encounter it weekly. Philosophy is a common mechanism. We often hear philosophical attacks on various parts of AI for example. Taking an idea out of engineering and using philosophical jargon to only seemingly describe it allows abundant opportunities for wilful misrepresentation. It allows it to be falsely likened to other ideas with only superficial philosophical similarity and then for an argument against those superficially similar ideas to be used against it. “I can’t argue against your engineering, so I’ll drag it onto my playing field and argue against a philosophical concept I do understand and pretend it’s the same thing”.

A similar technique used whilst staying inside engineering is to simply misrepresent it, essentially deflecting attention onto something else that is more easily attacked. A common mindset may charitably be described as “If I was going to make it, I’d do it this way, and that won’t work because x, y, z, therefore your idea is rubbish”. What they really mean is “you can’t possibly be as smart as me (or the others in my team), so you probably want to do it in this obviously idiotic way, and that won’t work”. This kind of attack is amazingly common. I could put 90% of the arguments I have ever heard against machine consciousness into that category: “the brain is not a computer”; “it’s impossible to make something smarter than the engineer who writes the code”; “you can’t make something you don’t understand”. These arguments hold no water. My daughter’s brain is smarter than mine, and I have no idea how it works, so her existence is proof that it’s easy to make something smarter then you can understand. Who says your smart machine can’t be biological? As an engineer, I’m free to use anything that complies with the laws of physics.

This ‘not invented here’ tribalism probably costs the economy trillions of dollars every year, with many great and potentially valuable ideas thrown away before being properly considered. I suspect smaller engineering teams make it worse. Engineers are human, with all the faults and weaknesses that go with that. The desire for personal or team recognition, for glory, is as strong a motivator in engineering as in sport or battle. What is surprising is not that the tribalism problem exists in engineering, or that its economic consequences are large, but that it receives so little attention by teams responsible for training, team building, leadership. When there are so many compulsory courses plaguing everyday office life that often seem to address very trivial issues, how come there is so little attention to this enormous problem? Great leaders can motivate entire workforces and some companies do manage to achieve great things, but perhaps they could have done even better. Unless a problem is explicitly recognised and addressed, it’s highly unlikely that its consequences will be minimised. It certainly needs more than just an occasional team-building event.

The Scotland Gender Recognition Reform Bill

The Scottish Parliament has issued a draft bill on reforming gender recognition: https://www.parliament.scot/bills-and-laws/bills/gender-recognition-reform-scotland-bill

“The Bill changes the process to get a gender recognition certificate (GRC). A GRC is a certificate that legally recognises that a person’s gender is not the gender that they were assigned at birth, but is their “acquired gender”.”

I have fully read the draft bill, and if the final version looks much like it, many foreseeable problems will needlessly emerge that could have been avoided. It is still open to consultation until 16th May 2022, and you don’t have to live in Scotland to do so. If you believe the government is likely to pay any attention to public input and want to have your say, here’s the link:

https://yourviews.parliament.scot/ehrcj/4e11ba8a/consultation/intro/

Before listing some of the obvious omissions of important details in the bill, I will look at the dishonest nature of public debate surrounding transgender issues, mainly the frequent distortion of language and conflation of terms, both manifesting strongly in this proposed bill, that seek to purloin public support by directing attention only onto the small minority of cases that would in any case receive strong public support, and diverting attention far away from deeply problematic issues and the many people who would use the new law as a means to satisfy their sexual desires.

I believe most people are sympathetic towards people who suffer severe gender dysphoria, and would support them as far as medically and legally possible to make whatever changes are needed to live their lives in peace in their preferred gender. I certainly sympathise with them and fully support their being able to obtain a GRC with less pain and fuss. If this bill did just that, I would have no objection to it. Numerically, between 1 in 2000 and 1 in 1000 people have fallen in that category.

Recently however, far more people now claim to be transgender, for a wide range of reasons, and it a trans-supremacist subset of the newly transgender and their activist allies who have created the fierce arguments now going on over rights. Aside from the tiny transgender minority that have always existed, the reasons for being transgender now include increased exposure to ‘gender-bending’ environmental endocrine disrupters or xenoestrogen such as phthalates in everyday household plastics, paraphilic motivations such as autogynephilia (which the trans lobby is very keen to hide and which has been greatly amplified by addiction to male-to-female transgender porn), and social motivations such as peer pressure, fashion, even the desire to belong or to feel special or to claim victimhood.

Actually, in spite of the massive increase in numbers and motivations, most people are still trans-supportive. I don’t care what porn people watch as long as it’s legal. Most of us support anyone’s right to live their lives in whatever gender they choose and to present and express themselves how they want, as far as possible, up to the point where it starts to affect other people. At that point, the rights of both sides should be fairly and properly considered. I am not aware of any issues so far resulting from transmen other than medical support costs. I doubt very much if I would even notice a transman and can’t think of any situation where a transman could be causing a problem for others, though I can certainly see future problems for many transmen who will regret transitioning, and I guess that might also one day end up with taxes being used to pay compensation and medical detransitioning costs. By contrast, highly aggressive demands for rights by transwomen and their allies have been met at the expense of biological women, often backed up by emotional blackmail, with threats of suicide unless every demand is met in full. It is that trans-supremacist position has already caused damage in women’s sports, and sacrificed women’s safety, dignity and privacy in toilets, changing rooms, refuges and prisons to appease transwomen. This new law would accelerate and amplify that harm by making it far easier for people to legally change their sex, for any reason, via the highly vague ‘living in the other gender’ for a short period, just 3 months. All they need do after that is confirm they wish to proceed after 3 months ‘reflection’. If they don’t confirm their intention to proceed within 2 years of that reflection period ending, their application is deemed withdrawn.

Important legal battles have already been lost to ideologically-driven laws implemented without proper public attention and this bill may well join the list. Some involve conflation of sex and gender. Conflation is a common trick in debate today, akin to a magician using slight of hand to misdirect the gaze while pulling something from a sleeve. The terms sex and gender are interchangeable in everyday conversation, but gender ideologists are very keen to give them different meanings and stress the differences when it suits them – for example, you will almost certainly have seen the ‘gender-bread person, with sexuality associated with the heart, sex associated with the genitals and gender identity associated with the brain. That’s perhaps fine if that definition is used throughout a debate, but activists switch between meanings frequently during their arguments. In law, it is important that words have a common meaning that is used consistently and clearly throughout. In the case of sex and gender, this already isn’t the case.

We might reasonably concede that the word ‘sex’ denotes being biologically male or female, whereas ‘gender’ is about an inner feeling or outward expression of alignment to socially constructed perceptions of what it means to be ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, and that while for most people sex and gender are aligned, for some people they differ. At least if we agreed on the meaning of the words sex and gender, we could have honest and open discussion about what laws we want. It is very important that laws use precise, unambiguous language. Words should always with consistent and permanent meanings. Activists and lawmakers are very well aware of that, so any use of conflation and ambiguity is an attempt to deceive.

(Actually, we each have different perceptions of what masculine and feminine mean, or even none. I have no idea what it feels like to be the opposite gender, but I also can’t explain what my current gender feels like. I can’t think of any traits that are uniquely masculine or feminine. I don’t associate being feminine with wearing a pink dress, makeup and high heels or being masculine as loving football and fighting! These are outdated stereotypes, but they do often seem to account for much of the foundations of gender identity for transgender people. On the other hand, woman and man can easily be differentiated biologically by referring to chromosomal or genital differences, even after a ‘sex change’. A neo-vagina and ‘clitoris’ created surgically by reforming skin from a penis and scrotum into a hole and moving the glans penis has little in common with a real vagina and clitoris other than superficial cosmetic appearance.)

It can be hard to keep up when gender activists swap frequently between conflating and distinguishing sex and gender, but the technique does seems to work. On the one hand, they discuss gender as an inner feeling of alignment to a perceived socio-psychological construct, for example when persuading people that someone changing their gender doesn’t affect anyone else, so is nobody else’s business and any objection is simply ‘hate’ and should have no bearing in rules and laws. If that is accepted, and it usually is, they quickly move to conflate sex and gender so that people unwittingly accept an equivalent concession in an area specifically about sex, hopefully without noticing that the argument no longer applies. So by accepting the reasonable-sounding argument changing gender is a purely private decision that affects nobody else, and therefore anyone should be free to swap to their preferred gender and live their lives accordingly, a quick swap of the words leads to changing sex being the same. The swap nicely concealed, the concession is made more explicit, that the person should have all the rights and privileges associated with that biological sex. Accepting one thing does not mean accepting something totally different, just because two of the words used overlap in meaning. Sadly, that is what now passes for debate.

It is a classic ‘bait and switch’ technique, offering one thing and then swapping it with another. It is quite deliberate. Activists frequently insist that sex and gender are very different things, but use them interchangeably to misdirect attention and sneak past inattentive lawmakers. If lawmakers already adhere to the same ideology, as is common, it is the general public they are trying to conceal the truth from.

So, gender is used as a soft entry point to establish agreement on a principle specifically regarding gender and then conflation is used to reword it to pretend that agreement extends to cover sex-related rights that were never actually discussed. A reasonable person accepting that people should be perfectly free to change gender if they want, to feel and look and dress how they want, is baited and switched into a position that anyone should therefore be able to access the sex-based rights of the other sex. Just call them gender-based rights for a minute and you’re half way there – most people won’t even notice the switch. Agreeing that someone should be free to dress up as a woman or behave in what they perceive is a feminine way is not at all the same as agreeing that they should be able to go into women-only toilets, changing rooms or prisons. Nevertheless, that is how effective that verbal slight of hand has been. Having been fully taken for a ride by the gender ideology lobby, or even in many cases going along with the deception willingly, government is now firmly on the back foot trying to win back some common sense via ‘clarifications’ of previous bill so that women can regain some of the safety, privacy and dignity that had been given away. Conflation is a powerful tool indeed.

The damage runs deep; the conflation of sex and gender in law is historical fact, the damage done, the advantages to the gender ideology lobby banked. Already, thanks to this conflation making its way into law, someone can change their legal sex simply by presenting a GRC that shows they have changed their gender. A man who obtains a GRC legally becomes a woman and can be listed as female on birth certificates, passports, and driving licenses. But it is sex that is recorded on a UK birth certificate, unless that too has changed recently. Gender makes no appearance at all. Why should a ‘gender recognition certificate’ have any relevance to a birth certificate that makes no mention of gender, still less be allowed as a means to change it? Ditto passports and driving licenses. If it is a sex recognition certificate, and thanks to the power of conflation it now is, why not call it that? Until now, there has been a high bar for obtaining a GRC and most people would still be happy if it were called a Sex Recognition Certificate, but not if it were to become far easier to obtain. ‘Gender recognition certificate’ sounds far less problematic, so perhaps it was called that as the thin end of what was always intended to be a long wedge. Who knows? Most people accept that the tiny minority of transgender people willing to go through painful surgery, hormone therapy, voice and behaviour therapy to make their physical bodies resemble their chosen sex as much as possible should be able to adopt that sex and its associated rights and privileges. Until now, interviews with doctors and psychologists at least ensured there was a serious need for and commitment to changing sex before granting a GRC. There has rarely been any objection to that tiny minority of men accessing women’s changing rooms or toilets. Mostly, they have been treated sympathetically. It is only via conflation-rich discussion that we’ve reached the point that a GRC may now be available to anyone, regardless of any serious need or commitment, merely on their own say so. Since it will cover legal sex, not just gender, that will most certainly be problematic.

Other legal rights associated with that sex legally follow that gender recognition certificate. Services reasonably intended to be for a single sex such as refuges, toilets, changing rooms, prisons, sports are now available to both sexes via that legal conflation with gender. Biological women have been the victims, with the rights of transwomen taking priority over the rights of biological women most of the time. Only now, some of the worst problems are being addressed and laws already passed make undoing the harm an impossibly difficult task. The ‘sex-not-gender’ slogan often appearing on social media makes perfect sense but UK law already conflates the two and this bill will only amplify that problem.

Government ‘clarifications’ that allow a few sex-based exceptions when they can be proven to be necessary and proportionate only go a small way to addressing concerns. To fully restore sex-based rights or laws, existing corruption conflating sex and gender would need to be repaired. That corruption already permeates statistics, policies, rules and regulations throughout the whole of the public sector’s influence. It could not easily be undone, even if there were a will to do so, and there isn’t. A bill that makes it even easier to change legal sex will amplify conflicts over sex-related rights.

It is obvious that deliberate conflation of sex and gender underpins this new bill from the title onwards. Since gender isn’t recorded (or assigned) at birth, why should the bill discuss ‘gender assigned at birth’ unless to misdirect? They know perfectly well that it is sex that is recorded, and that sex is observed, not assigned. Why not use plain and accurate language unless they mean to misdirect and push a law through under false pretences?

This bill will amplify and accelerate harm resulting from sex/gender conflation, by making it far easier to obtain a GRC. If passed, a person won’t need any surgery or hormone treatment, to dress differently or even have a discussion with a doctor. All they need do is fill out a form to get a full legal gender change. Thanks to the law already being corrupted, they would also get a full legal sex change thrown in for free.

Conflation doesn’t just work with words, it applies just as well to concepts. When we’re asked to accept the right to change gender and thereby legal sex, we’re offered the image of a lovely person who experiences terrible gender dysphoria, who only wants to be allowed to live their lives in peace in their preferred gender and is prepared to go through long and painful processes to do so. For them, a gender recognition certificate helps to relieve the everyday stresses of being reminded of their birth sex and having other people know. Who wouldn’t want to help them and make their transition less difficult and painful?

We’re never shown the 6ft bearded pervert, dressed as a man, behaving as a man, sexually attracted to women, who only wants a GRC to gain access to women-only spaces for his own sexual gratification. He also will easily be able to get a GRC proving ‘she’ is now legally a woman under this new law, with full protection by police if anyone dares ‘misgender’ ‘her’. It is far from clear why the new law can’t be designed to help the first while blocking the second. It did that fairly well when interviews with medics and psychologists were required to prove genuine gender dysphoria. Instead, in this highly dishonest debate, the few transwomen who suffer severe gender dysphoria and would love to actually change sex as far as medically possible, but who typically experience no sexual motivation to do so, are conflated not only with less severely affected but also with the estimated 70% to 80% of transwomen who experience autogynephilia (sexually aroused by imagining themselves as women and turned on by affirmation of themselves as women). That majority sexual motivation is concealed (and denied) as much as possible by trans-activists for obvious reason. Most people would have rather less sympathy with people who really want to go into women-only spaces for their own sexual gratification, for whom a GRC would essentially be a sex aid. Whereas it could easily have differentiated between people suffering dysphoria and those who are sexually motivated to pretend to be the other gender, this new bill will make it very easy for both to get a GRC.

Proper use of language is essential to honest and open discussion, so staying on language abuse for a while longer, to imply that gender is assigned at birth not only conflates sex and gender but also abuses the word ‘assigned’. A baby is ‘assigned’ a name. Gender isn’t officially recorded at birth at all. A baby’s sex is observed and recorded, being a straightforward biological property that in almost all cases is obvious. No advanced medical training is normally needed to decide whether a baby if male or female, however much our politicians avoid saying so. If a baby has a penis, it is recorded as being a boy. If it has a vulva, then it is recorded as a girl. In very rare cases (numbers quoted in medical articles vary from 1 in 5000 to 1 in 1000 ), a baby is born ‘intersex’ with ambiguous genitalia (that tiny proportion of babies born intersex is often used to justify for a sliding scale of both sex and gender, as if the population were 1/3rd male, 1/3rd female and 1/3rd intersex. However much gender may be on a sliding scale, sex most certainly isn’t – more than 99.9% of us were born clearly male or female). As for gender, inasmuch as it is different from sex, it makes no official appearance in records at all. There is simply no legal observation, recording or ‘assignment’ of gender. In fact, the first official record of my gender is in the 2021 census, the first census to ask about it. My actual, biological sex was recorded at birth and cannot be changed, however much I might use surgery, hormones, makeup and clothing, to feminise my outward appearance and gender expression (and thanks to corruption of the law, eventually change my legally registered sex). In fact, although sex appears in several legal documents, gender seems only to appear in official discussion when sex-based rights and privileges might be purloined via conflation. Otherwise, gender, as a psycho-social construct, seems to be of very little legal consequence. Considering that, what use should a gender recognition certificate be if gender is rarely officially recorded anyway? Without conflation, deliberate dishonesty, a GRC would be virtually meaningless and useless. It may be called a gender recognition certificate, but it is was always intended to be used as a means of certifying sex and is only really used to change sex on official records or gain access to sex-based places or services.

Finally, acquired? ‘Acquire’ means ‘buy or obtain, learn or develop’. This can only make sense if it is specifically gender and not sex that is being discussed here. An infant could gradually learn the social gender expectations of the gender it was ‘assigned at birth’ (if it were) and adopt or develop them, or find that it actually would prefer the other gender and seek to ‘acquire’ that instead. Biologically, sex certainly isn’t acquired, it depends on the chromosomes combined at the moment of conception. Legally, thanks to that corruption of the law, legal sex can now be acquired via a GRC. The use of the word acquired therefore only makes sense given that corruption that allows sex and gender to be conflated as desired.

This bill should take the opportunity to repair the harmful legal conflation of sex and gender. Instead, it continues and reinforces it.

Moving on, the bill provides a great deal of detail regarding provisions for people in marriage or civil partnerships, but little or no detail on a wide range of obvious topics. It is as if the only possible issues that might arise are associated with life partners. A great many questions arise that should obviously already be answered in a properly produced draft bill:

This bill caters for those transgender people who are transmen or transwomen, but excludes those who are gender fluid or non-binary. Why should only two of the many oft-listed gender variants be acknowledged and provided for?

The bill would reduce the age at which someone can apply to just 16. That age is below the age at which people are normally considered able to make adult decisions, and something as life-changing as changing sex should surely be done with the assistance of someone able to fully understand and explain all the associated issues and risks. Why is that need for extra support for 16-18 year olds not provided for or even mentioned in this bill?

How can it possibly be verified that someone has made a false declaration, other than the one of being over 16? Terms in the bill such as ‘living in their acquired gender’ are so undefined, vague and ambiguous as to be legally meaningless and unverifiable. ‘Intends to live permanently in their acquired gender’ cannot possibly be verified or challenged. Anyone could say it was an honest declaration and they have since changed their mind.

If something isn’t verifiable, why should it be included as a condition at all? The only verifiable condition is that the person is at least 16. Are all the other requirements only there to feign some sort of diligence?

How could anyone know if someone genuinely has/had gender dysphoria if medical involvement is no longer involved?

What exactly does ‘ordinarily resident in Scotland’ mean? What proportion of the time does someone need to be in Scotland to qualify? How long must they actually be physically present in Scotland and how would that be verified? Could someone in Scotland allow someone from England to claim residency in their home, by renting them a room for example, or would that be ‘aiding and abetting’ a false declaration? What sort of rental conditions would legally suffice. Would a long holiday suffice? Could someone wealthy just rent or buy a second home in Scotland to qualify, but rarely live there?

Could someone apply in Scotland for a GRC and use that to obtain a birth certificate in the other gender but still keep their original gender in England? i.e. could someone simultaneously be legally a woman in Scotland and a man in England?

Once someone obtains their GRC, could they just keep it as an option without using it? As an autogynephilia sex aid for example?

Could someone obtain a passport in one gender and then use their GRC to obtain a driving license or birth certificate in another?

What about HRT supply for women in Scotland if this bill results in lots of men wanting to become women moving there?

What about the extra costs on the Scottish NHS? What about future devolution? Could Scots end up paying for English people to have sex changes and GRCs?

Why is there no acknowledgement of any of the obvious problems that may arise and details of bills to follow that will reasonably address them? Such as obviously male-bodied people using female toilets?

What about opening use of disabled toilets to transwomen who might feel unsafe using male facilities, which based on current statistics, would only increase traffic in the disabled toilets by 4%?

Will taxpayers have to pay the inevitable huge compensation bill for de-transitioners claiming they were allowed/encouraged to transition without proper advice or medical supervision, especially given that medical practitioners may not legally be allowed to question or challenge a declared desire to transition? Will Stonewall, Mermaids, Tavistock and other gender activists and organisations be blamed for their roles in enabling this entirely foreseeable harm, or will they be allowed to argue that it was Ministers who are responsible and therefore taxpayers who should pay?

Some studies suggest that if someone uses puberty-blocking drugs then they will never experience normal adult sexual response or arousal, will never experience normal sexual attraction and will never have an orgasm. Will would-be transitioners be fully informed on this and other risks? If not, who will be liable for eventual compensation?

This draft bill is a masterpiece of conflation, leaves unanswered a great many questions, and by making it far easier to get a GRC for any motivation at all, will invite a great many people to apply and obtain one who would be unable to obtain one via the current system with its proper checks. Through the inevitable problems that will result, it undoubtedly amplify and accelerate existing conflicts between women and transwomen, and will inevitably result in lower acceptance and support for all transgender people.

It should not be passed.

Number of transgender people in the UK

There is a lot of discussion around trans issues but credible figures are hard to come by. There are no high quality figures available, but the best source is probably the Office of National Statistics. I raided two of their more recent publications and cross referenced a bit to derive some probably credible figures. In short, doing the arithmetic, we can deduce that there are 58,000 transwomen, 48,000 transmen and 114,000 non-binary people in the UK.

The first of their documents is:

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/sexuality/bulletins/sexualidentityuk/2019#sexual-orientation-in-the-uk

“An estimated 1.4 million people aged 16 years and over (2.7% of the UK population) identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2019, an increase from 1.2 million (2.2%) in 2018. The LGB population comprised 1.6% identifying as gay or lesbian and 1.1% as bisexual.”

“In 2019, the proportion of men identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) increased from 2.5% to 2.9% (754,000) and women identifying as LGB rose from 2.0% to 2.5% (677,000) (see Figure 2). Men (2.1%) were almost twice as likely than women (1.1%) to identify as gay or lesbian. Conversely, women (1.4%) were more likely than men (0.8%) to identify as bisexual. This represents a continuation of trends observed since 2014.”

Regionally, ranges from 2.1% in the East to 3.8% in London.

The second reasonably credible source is:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-lgbt-survey-summary-report/national-lgbt-survey-summary-report

This was a large survey using self-selecting respondents. Self selection obviously introduces potential biases from political or activism based responses and LGBT is notably an area that suffers greatly in this regard, especially currently in Trans issues. Generally, where a figure is provided it should be interpreted as the number who made that claim rather than simply taken at face value. It is also possible some respondents made multiple submissions.

“Sixty one percent of respondents identified as gay or lesbian and a quarter (26%) identified as bisexual. A small number identified as pansexual (4%), asexual (2%) and queer (1%).”

“Thirteen percent of the respondents were transgender (or trans). Of the total sample, 6.9% of respondents were non-binary (i.e. they identified as having a gender that was neither exclusively that of a man nor a woman), 3.5% were trans women (i.e. they had transitioned from man to woman at some point in their life) and 2.9% were trans men (i.e. they had transitioned from woman to man).”

From the 2019 sexual orientation survey, we know how many are LGB, so if 13% of LGBT are T, then that indicates around 220,000 trans people. (That compares to Stonewall’s activist figure of 600,000 which must be assumed to be a self-serving exaggeration with very low credibility and can therefore be disregarded.) In the next few months, the early results of the 2021 UK Census will be published and that will include numbers of people in the various LGBT groups. Sadly, even before they are published, we know we must distrust their accuracy since given the socio-political and social media environment at the time, some people may have given inaccurate answers for political, ideological or social reasons. Until then, 220,000 is the most credible figure we’re likely to get. We then get some stats in the LGBT Survey on the breakdown of that 220,000 trans people.

“Younger trans respondents were more likely than older respondents to identify as non-binary. For example, 57% of trans respondents under 35 were non-binary compared with 36% of those aged 35 or over. Younger respondents were also more likely to be trans men (26% of trans respondents under 35 were trans men compared with 10% aged 35 or over) and less likely to be trans women (17% of trans respondents under 35 were trans women compared with 54% aged 35 or over). This age profile partly accords with the referral figures to the children and adolescent gender identity services where the majority of referrals in 2016-17 were for people assigned female at birth (1,400 of the 2,016 referrals – 69%).”

There is therefore a huge increase in the number of young trans people (under 35) who are transmen, 26% compared to just 10% of those over 35, while only 17% of young trans people were transwomen compared to 54% of the older group. Far more young women and far fewer young men are becoming transgender, as opposed to non-binary. Doing the arithmetic, we can deduce that there are 58,000 transwomen, 48,000 transmen and 114,000 non-binary people in the UK. These figures are unlikely to be accurate, but are still probably the most credible estimate until we have the 2021 Census results.

The beginning of the end of rule by extremists?

With Boris Johnson finally saying what most people already believed on the transwomen in female sport issue, we may now see other politicians starting to break free from the trans supremacist position forced on them by Stonewall and other extremist trans lobbyists. It might one day be possible to say that trans rights should not trump all others in every situation without being called a transphobe all over social media or risking being sacked. As Hadley Freeman writes in her Unherd piece, this is ‘the week the trans spell was broken’: https://unherd.com/2022/04/the-week-the-trans-spell-was-broken/.

I believe people of all sexes, sexual preferences, genders and gender identities (did I forget any), should be free to live their lives the way they want, right up to the point where their rights start to conflict with the rights of others. When there is such a conflict, there should be a reasoned debate, not just one side making strong demands and refusing to compromise or even to hear any other viewpoint. A diverse society has very many areas where there are conflicting interests so we elect government to make sure that reasoned debate happens and then to make appropriate laws on our behalf, inevitably with some winners and losers. For the last several years our governments have shamefully abdicated that role to unelected pressure groups, which in the fields of sex and gender has led to a trans supremacist, trans narrative position that even dictates the language people must use under fear of losing their jobs. Instead of debating and lawmaking, politicians have run terrified of trans lobbyists, surrendering on every issue and often abdicating policy-making to Stonewall. We have reached the ridiculous point where male-bodied athletes can compete in women’s sports events, male-bodied sex offenders can choose to go to women’s prisons, male-bodied people are allowed to use women’s changing rooms, toilets and even refuges, and the NHS routinely uses language like ‘birthing parents’, ‘people with vaginas’ and so on, just in case some deliberately-offended trans person might claim to feel left out. Most people feel uncomfortable with this situation but are too afraid to say so in case they might be ‘cancelled’, be charged with a ‘hate crime’ or even lose their careers. Enough lunacy, enough emotional blackmail. At last a glimmer of common sense is appearing at the end of a long tunnel.

A statistic we don’t see very often is that only 2.9% of transwomen have taken any steps at all to change their bodies via surgery or hormones to look more feminine. That 2.9% carries most of the weight when it comes to justifying transwoman entry to women’s spaces. The 97.1%, most with obviously male bodies, are conveniently overlooked, as are the perverts and sex offenders seeking to take full advantage. But feminine-looking transwomen were never the problem. For decades, they used female toilets or changing rooms without objection. The problems arose because of extremist activists insisting that ‘a woman is anyone who says they are a woman’. Extremist activists forced the changes in policies that allowed large, muscular, bearded male sex offenders to go to women’s prisons, second rate male athletes to take 1st prizes in women’s sport, and any pervert who just wants to leer at naked women to go into a women’s changing room just by saying they ‘identify as a woman’. Extremist activists created the problem by making demands far beyond what could ever be considered reasonable, enabling the inevitable abuses that most people easily predicted. It is their fault that even the most feminine transwomen may now be be banned from female spaces, and that transmen might also be banned from male spaces, even though I’ve never yet heard of a single problem caused by transmen. Transphobia didn’t cause that, extremist activism did.

If Boris finally starting to do his job of representing the views of most of the electorate has marked anything (and we don’t get the all-too-frequent retraction and u-turn), it is hopefully the beginning of the end of rule by extremist activists. I can’t help wondering whether we might see others fall like dominos. Closely related to the trans issue is the broader field of identity politics, especially LGBT, BLM and critical race theory, where government has fallen for the many attractions and pitfalls of virtue signalling with its extremely divisive costs. I am (just) among the baby boomer generation that saw huge decline in racism, but BLM, CRT supporters and narcissistic, self-sanctified ‘social justice warriors’ seem to be trying their best to revive it. Here also we are starting to see the beginning of the end for the worst extremes, with reason and common sense starting to re-surface. One day, perhaps fairly soon, history, statues and culture might once again be safe from sanitisation and people of all races and creeds might be able to live peacefully together again without agonising about skin colour, quotas and privilege or being obsessed with every aspect of their identity. We might once again be judged by the content of our character rather than our skin colour or our eligibility to claim victim status. Here also, recent government statements suggest this domino is starting to wobble, slightly.

Another area where extremists have created a huge problem is in energy policy. The UK sits on over 600 years supply of fossil fuels, and is perfectly able to build nuclear power stations. We should under any sensible energy policy be totally self sufficient, and listed among the countries with the cheapest energy in the world. The EU has now accepted that gas, emitting only half the CO2 per unit as oil or coal, is a good intermediary solution to take us through to the 2050s, by which time fusion and cheap desert solar should be abundant. Thanks to our government surrendering totally to green extremists, we were on the verge of the first exploratory shale wells being concreted up instead of their owners being encouraged to accelerate progress to provide as much shale gas as possible as fast as possible. Shale gas would have been one sixth of the cost of the off-shore wind power we’re now all forced to subsidise instead. Thanks to our governments surrendering to green extremists, our economy is taking a huge hit, many poor people are having to choose between food and heating, many wild birds and bats are being slaughtered, and many hectares of prime agricultural land under British clouds will be covered in solar panels. I’m all for using solar power in sunny deserts where the same panel could make 5 or 6 times more electricity, but to use them on land that should be used to grow crops is lunacy, not only because we have to import food, but especially because we live in a world where some people still struggle to afford food and limiting food production increases prices. Under green policies, the environment and the poor always suffer. Government seems hopelessly confused on energy policy still, but at least the shale gas wells can stay for now and some nuclear stations might be built. The worst extremes of wind farm development might also be discarded.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but a few have passed recently and it might not be too optimistic to hope that we have finally passed peak stupidity across a wide range of policy areas. It will take many years to undo the consequences of many years of idiocy, but maybe we’ve taken the first step of that long walk back to common sense.

Who loses now that the chickens are coming home to roost?

joint blog with Tracey Follows

It’s already being called Awful April, as a long list of price rises will take effect, from energy bills and fuel to council tax, stamps and food prices.

This has been expected since the start of lockdown two years ago – my own blog two years ago listed some of the more obvious consequences:

Some lingering impacts of COVID

Only fools thought we could switch off most of the NHS and much of the rest of the public sector for two years without having to pay massive catchup costs afterwards or that millions could be paid to watch TV at home instead of working with no economic consequences. I guess some might still consider themselves lockdown winners if the coming cost rises are still less than the free money they received in lockdown. We all have to pick up the bills whether we were fully paid, received furlough cash, received all the revenue and associated profits from the business shut down next door (Amazon, takeaway outlets etc), or were among the 1.4 million self-employed left with no jobs and no state support to live off their savings by Rishi “I can’t solve every problem’ Sunak.

The Ukraine war obviously has made costs rises even worse, and government are very keen to make sure everyone blames that and not their policies, but don’t be fooled. Most of the price rises coming will be directly due to government lockdown policy (, and most of the impact of the war on energy costs can be blamed on government green policy (a more sensible government would be largely self sufficient on energy, using our own oil, gas and nuclear energy and a little renewable, with only a little oil needed from overseas). The war will directly impact grain yields from Ukraine this year and next and that will cause price increases beyond our government’s control, but that will be a small proportion of the rises you’ll see.

Some people are wealthy enough to manage just fine without any reductions to their standard of living, but very many will struggle to cope with massively increased bills especially with pay rises well below inflation. Many older people have been watching their life savings evaporating at the inflation rate for years, with their only realistic alternative to gamble on an overheated stock market expecting a crash imminently, or a property market also expecting major correction. Many of those who enjoyed lazy years at home during lockdown are being forced back to the office, with all the extra spend that involves.

As many are forced to reduce optional spend, many businesses will see drops in income. Magazine and news subscriptions will fall, app and Patreon subscriptions will be cancelled, some may even consider cancelling Sky, Prime or Netflix. Chippies and takeaway restaurants will have to eat into some of the savings they made during lockdown while the sit-down restaurants they were transferred lockdown revenue from will struggle even harder to recover their pre-lockdown occupancies. Cars and mobile phones will wait longer to be replaced, cinemas will find their recovery from lockdown is made even more difficult. Many families will already have turned down their thermostats and will try to reduce electricity usage. They’ll also reduce the number of car trips to go the the shops or the seaside and take cheaper holidays, reducing tourist revenues.

All these are immediate impacts, but they will last, maybe for years, until long after the Ukraine war has ended.

Some longer term impacts are also becoming obvious too. 30p per unit electricity is making a lot of people wonder just how sensible Net Zero is. For two decades we have closed coal, oil and gas electricity stations, and avoided building new nuclear capacity, while instead investing heavily in by far the most expensive and useless energy solution – offshore wind energy – at 6 times the cost of using shale gas, one of the best ways ever invented to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich. We’ve watched electricity rise from 6p per unit to 30p, and for what? The Chinese have just laughed at our economic suicide and built massively more carbon based energy generation, and along with India have been very happy to accept the industries we’ve shut down to reduce CO2 emissions. The atmosphere doesn’t care much which country emitted the CO2. The Russians are making the most of our folly too, charging very heavily for gas we should by now be taking out of our own ground. In short, we havent saved CO2 generation much at all, we’ve just exported it, and have created huge extra costs for ourselves with no significant benefit except to our global competitors and indeed enemies. I have no way of knowing if it’s true or not, but I can easily believe the rumour that some green activist funding has come from Russia and/or China. You’ll need to draw your own conclusions.

But this increasing awareness of the stupidity of our governments will have consequences. Net Zero will not last. Even the EU has accepted finally that gas is a good intermediary to keep us going until fusion comes on stream in the 2040s/2050s alongside desert solar farms with super-cables from the Sahara into the EU grid. Gas emits half the CO2 of coal and oil per unit of electricity. Shale gas is very abundant, the UK has around 600 years supply, though we’d likely stop using any by the end of this century. As for climate change, the numerous apocalyptic projections over the last 25 years have failed to happen. Now scientists say we’re very likely in a long period os solar minimum that will greatly offset or even exceed warming influences from CO2 production until around 2050. If we’re greatly reducing CO2 emissions by then, the problem goes away. It’s no longer a problem worth losing sleep over. So if there’s nothing to worry about, why bankrupt or economy to solve it? Why especially, if our enemies and competitors just watch our economic suicide but aren’t dumb enough to join in?

So it is highly likely that government will be forced, under threat of party extinction, to drop some of the more idiotic green policies, while taking less notice of green activist groups, or indeed Carrie. Shale gas should be permitted, off-shore gas production increased, and small modular nuclear reactors should be encouraged. R&D in solar and fusion tech should also be increased. The drive towards uneconomic heat pumps should also be dropped.

Similarly, the uneconomic HS2 project should and likely will be abandoned. Government can save face by keeping the name, but downscaling and transforming into a more sensible rail reformation and some regional improvements seems inevitable.

The BBC license fee was already under threat, but that threat has now markedly increased.

As it becomes obvious that the UK was the only country to essentially shut down most of its health service while a few percent of its workers focused on dealing with COVID, the NHS has also lost a great deal of the love it had. Already, many people are going private to avoid the queues for essential operations and a great many others are now paying private companies to see a GP. These numbers will greatly increase, casting great doubt on political support for future tax rises earmarked for NHS funding. Why pay twice? The increased national insurance will stay to help pay the bills for an ageing population, but NHS will have to fight harder for every penny, and accept long overdue reforms.

It is within this environment of dwindling inflation-hit savings and steep increases in the cost of living that many might turn to cryptocurrencies as a hedge against the worst effects. Of course, not everyone has the disposable income to set aside for speculative assets but increasingly people are going to be looking for places to ‘put their money’. If it’s not cash under the mattress it could be tokens in a wallet. Plenty more scams and hacks will take place though, with more people losing out purely because they tried to set up an insurance policy but weren’t necessarily wise to the downsides. But is it worth the gamble? Many will say yes.

For it is not hard to see that we could be on the cusp of an entire financial collapse in Europe. The underpinnings of our financial system are being slowly removed brick by brick until the whole edifice will become structurally unstable. When the US and EU announced sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, they thought they were punishing Putin and the Russian people, that these would lead to inevitable domestic unrest and the people would stage a putsch. That may have worked in other countries in the past but Putin has turned the tables. When the US, Japan and EU shockingly barred Russia’s Central Bank from tapping into the billions of foreign reserves Moscow had been saving up in their banks, Putin bided his time, bought even more gold (at 5,000 rubles a gram) and then demanded that any gas from today, 1st April 2022, must be paid for in Rubles. With ‘Gas for Rubles’ the West has two choices: pay in a way that strengthens rather than weakens the Ruble, and therefore Putin – or see their citizens go cold and their industrial base crumble. If they choose to double down, we will see manufacturing industry collapse as the cost of energy becomes prohibitive for factories and businesses in Germany but then spread across the continent. The sanctions the West took against Russia were always going to backfire, the only people punished will be the citizens of the West – with the pressure on business costs now being added to the pressure on living costs.

But don’t worry, if you don’t like any of this you can protest. Can’t you? Well, Western governments have been busy bringing in new laws and regulations to deter all forms of protest amongst the masses. And big tech will be very happy to oblige no doubt. In the same way they have started to label all and any content about the Russian perspective during this time  as ‘Russian-state affiliated media’  – no matter who is disseminating it and why, they will no doubt censor anyone who complains about the impact of Net Zero madness, or brand them ‘climate deniers’. When the most helpful advice we get from our energy suppliers or politicians is if you’re feeling the cold, put on another jumper, it’s pretty clear that everyday concerns of consumer-citizens are not going to be taken seriously for quite a while.

Tracey is a futurist and author of The Future of You: Can Your Identity Survive 21st-Century Technology? She is the founder CEO of Futuremade, a futures consultancy advising global brands and specialising in the application of foresight to boost business. She helps clients spot trends, develop foresight and fully prepare for what comes next. A regular keynote speaker all around the world she has covered topics as diverse as the future of luxury, retail, media, cities, gender, work, defense, justice, entertainment, and AI ethics, decoding the future for businesses, brands and organisations. She is an Associate Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Science, a member of the Association of Professional Futurists and World Futures Studies Federation, and a Fellow of the RSA. 

Dr Pearson has been a futurologist for 30 years, tracking and predicting developments across a wide range of technology, business, society, politics and the environment. Graduated in Maths and Physics and a Doctor of Science. Worked in numerous branches of engineering from aeronautics to cybernetics, sustainable transport to electronic cosmetics. 1900+ inventions including text messaging and the active contact lens, more recently a number of inventions in transport technology, including driverless transport and space travel. BT’s full-time futurologist from 1991 to 2007 and now runs Futurizon, a small futures institute. Writes, lectures and consults globally on all aspects of the technology-driven future. Eight books and 900 TV and radio appearances. Chartered Member of the British Computer Society and a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science.

Stakeholder capitalism

We’re hearing much more lately about stakeholders, greenwashing, wokewashing, UBI and lots of other things that were rarely mentioned in the corporate world until fairly recently, as well as the eternal anticapitalist background noise companies seem always to have lived under. I’ve written about some of these things over the years, but it seems a good time to bring it together.

It’s hard to be precise about when these things appeared, but wokeness is really just political correctness with added Newspeak. PC has been around (noticeably) since the early 90s and evolved into wokeness maybe 5 years ago. I first saw greenwashing around 2000 and UBI around 2012 (though the idea existed long before that). The idea of stakeholders rather than just shareholders also goes back to at least the early 90s, or at least that’s when it first appeared in anything I wrote.

The strongest anchor I have relied on during my futurologist career is human nature, which has changed little probably for 100,000 years and is unlikely change much until genetic modification starts to significantly impact on personality (towards the end of this century). So at least until 2050, while activists seem to assume everyone will readily adopt their wonderful new ideas, filtering their wish-lists through human nature usually identifies many items as having limited appeal and short term impacts at best. The best and most familiar example is communism, which is always presented as a lovely utopian ideal that appeals strongly to teenage minds, but a few seconds thought by anyone with adult experience of the world shows exactly why it never works well. I don’t need to repeat the details because you know them well, but similar experience-based reasoning relying on human nature also lends itself to quickly dismiss any ideas that we have somehow moved beyond tribalism, selfishness, greed and envy or religiosity. I’ve written many blogs about tribalism.

Capitalism has proved over many decades that human nature is a solid business foundation. People want to improve their quality of life, to gain wealth and power, and to a lesser extent, to extend these benefits to their families, friends and tribe (in that order). They will happily work hard and take risks to achieve these goals. Outsiders with less can be equally relied on to look on enviously, and to attempt to limit or control those gains and to demand they are shared. Modern democracies have all implemented platforms that divide risks and rewards between capitalist protagonists and wider society, with different political offering different balances.

For many decades, that balance was implemented through the tax system, with regulation limiting potential harm during the wealth generation process. Subject to such regulation, companies were intended solely to generate profit for shareholders and taxes for government.

From the onset of automation and its potential to spread, it has been obvious that a far future company might need very few workers, thus concentrating wealth. In the early 90s, the idea of the ‘fly-by-wire society’ emerged where machines would do most work and people could have a leisurely existence. Some ancient slides; the reference to 2010 demonstrates I thought the beginning of the end for pure capitalism could happen earlier than it has – only in the last few years has debate moved that direction:

The problem is obvious (and we have recently heard billionaires explain it), that if all the money gets concentrated in the accounts of just a few people, the rest of us wouldn’t be able to afford the products so the system would grind to a halt. Only by redistributing enough of the wealth somehow could the profit stream be maintained. Hence the idea of universal basic income, UBI, where we’d all be paid a wage just for existing, so that we can still buy stuff and keep demand high.

The most obvious problem with UBI is that if it is high enough, many people won’t want to work and become stupid, lazy and unhealthy, while others who have to work may become resentful that others are paid to do nothing. As in communism, the workers would gradually become unreliable, unproductive and offer poor customer service and poor products.

So while it is obvious that ever-increasing automation requires some tweaking of the fundamentally sound capitalist model, there are many potential pitfalls in the immediately obvious solutions. Nevertheless, we will still need those tweaks, and if not UBI, then a close genetically modified relative. UBI 2.0 then, to avoid working out the details yet.

Looking again at the foundations of the capitalist model, we see that people are willing to work, invest and take risks in return for likely rewards. On an imaginary future spaceship, inhabited only by people leaving the world to make their own way in the universe, those people may arguably be free to do as they wish, how they wish and to keep all the proceeds to themselves. While people share the same planet, to ensure that they can do so safely and without the resistance of others, there will inevitably need to be some restrictions on their activities. Taxation is a quite separate consideration, that takes us naturally to introducing stakeholders.

Stakeholders are any parties who hold any kind of stake in an enterprise – providers of capital, land and resources needed to get the enterprise up and running, workers, their families and friends, nearby society, local, national, regional and global government, consumers, and representatives of the environment, even people who have to see the buildings as they drive past. That’s the usual list that we see all the time, but it has serious omissions. The key missing factor is that all enterprises are built on shared foundations of shared human culture, invention, and infrastructure and that means that everyone in society is a co-investor alongside the capitalist money-suppliers. We all build on the myriad contributions of our ancestors since the Stone Age. If we look at society, rightfully, as a co-investor, the idea of sharing rewards with wider society stops being seen as a charitable act and taxation is not theft, but rightful sharing of rewards among investors. That is very different from the current company model.

I have re-used my blog piece about culture tax a few times now, but here it is again:

When someone creates and builds a company, they don’t do so from a state of nothing. They currently take for granted all our accumulated knowledge and culture – trained workforce, access to infrastructure, machines, governance, administrative systems, markets, distribution systems and so on. They add just another tiny brick to what is already a huge and highly elaborate structure. They may invest heavily with their time and money but actually when  considered overall as part of the system their company inhabits, they only pay for a fraction of the things their company will use.

That accumulated knowledge, culture and infrastructure belongs to everyone, not just those who choose to use it. It is common land, free to use, today. Businesses might consider that this is what they pay taxes for already, but that isn’t explicit in the current system.

The big businesses that are currently avoiding paying UK taxes by paying overseas companies for intellectual property rights could be seen as trailblazing this approach. If they can understand and even justify the idea of paying another part of their company for IP or a franchise, why should they not pay the host country for its IP – access to the residents’ entire culture?

This kind of tax would provide the means needed to avoid too much concentration of wealth. A future businessman might still choose to use only software and machines instead of a human workforce to save costs, but levying taxes on use of  the cultural base that makes that possible allows a direct link between use of advanced technology and taxation. Sure, he might add a little extra insight or new knowledge, but would still have to pay the rest of society for access to its share of the cultural base, inherited from the previous generations, on which his company is based. The more he automates, the more sophisticated his use of the system, the more he cuts a human workforce out of his empire, the higher his taxation. Today a company pays for its telecoms service which pays for the network. It doesn’t pay explicitly for the true value of that network, the access to people and businesses, the common language, the business protocols, a legal system, banking, payments system, stable government, a currency, the education of the entire population that enables them to function as actual customers. The whole of society owns those, and could reasonably demand rent if the company is opting out of the old-fashioned payments mechanisms – paying fair taxes and employing people who pay taxes. Automate as much as you like, but you still must pay your share for access to the enormous value of human culture shared by us all, on which your company still totally depends.

Linking to technology use makes good sense. Future AI and robots could do a lot of work currently done by humans. A few people could own most of the productive economy. But they would be getting far more than their share of the cultural base, which belongs equally to everyone. In a village where one farmer owns all the sheep, other villagers would be right to ask for rent for their share of the commons if he wants to graze them there.

I feel confident that this extra tax would solve many of the problems associated with automation. We all equally own the country, its culture, laws, language, human knowledge (apart from current patents, trademarks etc. of course), its public infrastructure, not just businessmen. Everyone surely should have the right to be paid if someone else uses part of their share. A culture tax would provide a fair ethical basis to demand the taxes needed to pay UBI 2.0 so that all may prosper from the coming automation.

The extra culture tax would not magically make the economy bigger, though automation may well increase it a lot. The tax would ensure that wealth is fairly shared. Culture tax/UBI duality is a useful tool to be used by future governments to make it possible to keep capitalism sustainable, preventing its collapse, preserving incentive while fairly distributing reward. Without such a tax, capitalism simply may not survive.

Now bring in the recent enthusiastic talk about the Metaverse and virtual companies. Neither is a new idea. Here are some 1992 pics wot I did based on common thinking in IT then:

Work-from-anywhere roaming teleworkers would work on short-term projects with anyone appropriate anywhere in the world, including AI/robots. At the same time, we already understood one of the biggest problems we already see from global organisations, that of limited jurisdiction, both of regulators and the taxman, and also how NGOs and pressure groups might respond.

It’s surprising that 30 years on, we don’t already see the use of such smart emails, which would be far more effective weapons that twitter cancellations in attacking rogue companies’ bottom lines.

If we re-introduce human nature to this model, we see another common feature of social media, tribalism, where large numbers of people spread around the world, are able to coordinate efforts as if they were all together. Tribalism has never been about geographic proximity and will manifest in cyberspace just as strongly. Even cities, with their particular tribal identity and culture, can morph into global tribal influences:

So it is very clear firstly that there are many stakeholders that can rightfully lay claim to share in the nature and governance of companies, and share their risks, their outputs and profits, and secondly that there are potentially powerful mechanisms that can pressure companies to behave even if they are outside the geographical jurisdiction of any particular government. Virtual companies may be able to step outside national boundaries, but so can any virtual NGO. National governments may not be able to act, but the people they represent certainly can wield their combine power just as effectively in a virtual world.

I believe what we are missing is the shared realisation of our common status as stakeholders in every enterprise. We have become too used to companies being owned and run entirely by their financers, too willing to let them get away with using an old model even though the world has changed dramatically. That model was perfect when companies operations were resident entirely within a nation’s boundaries, because the nation benefited appropriately from its operations, sufficiently to compensate for the shared cultural and intellectual investment. It is simply no longer appropriate model in a world where companies can offshore parts of operations to purloin the share of profits that rightfully belong to its host societies.

I’m no anti-capitalist, and certainly no communist, but even I can see that it is time to redraft the social contract defining companies and how they relate to the world they operate in. All stakeholders need to be recognised, and each to be attributed their rightful share of both the risks and proceeds.

There will be a lot of talk of stakeholders over the next few years. It isn’t all socialist nonsense, though there will undoubtedly be lots of that. It really is time to rebalance the law in favour of the little people.

Activism and biodiversity may not be a good combo

Pic says it all

A vaccine-based ID, tracking and control system

I read an article the other day about delivering vaccines using microneedle arrays:

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-10-needle-free-covid-vaccine.html

The patch described in the article contains 5000 micro-needles and is intended for COVID vaccine delivery. I do not believe it has any other intent. However, it reminded me of some work I did decades ago.

Just over twenty years ago, I invented a whole new field of technology that I called Active Skin, a 5 layered system comprising two layers in the skin (dermis and epidermis), one printed on the skin surface, a stuck on ‘membrane layer’, and a detachable device layer. Over the next few hours, we came up with 250 potential uses, and that expanded to 600 over the following month. My employer at the time didn’t consider the invention ‘core business’ so didn’t back it with any development funding or even patents, but that reflects on the wisdom of having accountants run what should be a technology company, not on the value of the invention.

Active skin is a vast field with very diverse functionality, which is open to very diverse motivations. I started my career in the defence industry and as a career habit, I’ve always looked on any new concepts first with my defence hat on, looking at how it may be used in conflict or to gain advantage over an adversary, and how an adversary (whether a lone wolf, a state, a criminal or or terrorist groups) might use it with nefarious intent. If nothing else, those tend to be the most interesting areas to look at, even if commercial interests in a regulated environment might dictate alternative directions of development.

You don’t want to read a long blog, so here is the idea in a nutshell:

A patch housing a micro-needle array can be used to implant invisibly small skin conduits (tiny tubes) into an area of skin, e.g. on your wrist. They can be opened and closed electronically. (An alternative delivery technique is to use puffs of compressed air, such as that developed by Powderject to blast small particles into the skin. That was also developed for pain-free inoculation. But a microneedle array would enable higher capability and precision.)

Either or both the micro-needle array and the area of conduits can be used to dispense medication or other substances or small devices into the skin.

Prior to implanting, conduits can be pre-loaded with invisibly small skin capsules – micron-sized devices that fit easily and invisibly among skin cells, coated with titanium alloy or any alternative that prevents rejection by the body’s immune system.

Subjects could be told that the patch (or compressed air device) is simply a painless way of delivering medicine such as vaccine. They need not know of anything else it does and would not be able to tell simply by inspection or sensation. Alternatively, they could be knowingly having electronic functionality implanted for many potential reasons. The point here is that disclosure is optional and suspicion can easily be diverted.

By opening the skin conduits at any future time, capsules can be added, removed, serviced or replaced. Benign devices could be replaced by malign ones.

Without any need for physical contact, innocent devices could be remotely reprogrammed for alternative purposes.

Skin capsules may contain a wide range of electronics, sensors, or micro-mechanical devices. They can be charged using induction, store electrical charge in capacitors, and discharged for electronic stimulation purposes.

Capsules could communicate with external IT over variable range from microns to meters.

A digital ID can easily be temporarily or permanently implanted either via microneedles, puffs of air, or via skin conduits. It could be read electronically (e.g. via smartwatch, fitness device, medical equipment, or any skin contact such as touching a display or button), optically (e.g. a distant IR laser or LED) or by conventional radio means (e.g. RFID, NFC).

A skin capsule that is 5 microns across could house a 3 micron sphere packed with electronics. In 2001, we assumed 10 nanometre electronics would be around by the time the active skin field emerged, and in 2021 that has been commonplace for years. It would be possible to pack many thousands of transistors into each capsule. It doesn’t have to be 10nm, but that level allows highly sophisticated devices. Anything smaller allows even more.

Given their close proximity and relatively easy passage of IR light through skin tissue, they could also link optically to each other to make up a very sophisticated appliance.

An array of 5000 skin capsules could easily provide a wide range of IT functions, such as sensing blood chemistry and nerve activity, recording nerve activity and skin temperature/resistance/blood flow, and use embedded AI to interpret the activity and then report to an external device. It could be programmed and updated every time the person comes within range of a transmitter, and in between, act under control of the AI. Obviously it could also do anything a Fitbit can, as well as record your conversations. Precision relative location coupled to nerve monitoring means it could also detect what you type, e.g. usernames and passwords, messages.

A patch of active skin that you didn’t even know you had could monitor and record your nerve activity, your emotions (to some degree), your health, location, proximity to others and their identities, and record and analyse your conversation – by voice or social media.

Another of the initial inventions for active skin was military use to police prisoners. The idea was that captured soldiers could be quickly printed with a patch of active skin, then rounded up, and literally a line in the sand drawn around the group. Any prisoner attempting to cross that line would receive a pulse of intense pain which would continue until they returned to the enclosed area.

In 2001, this technology was all easily foreseeable. Microneedle arrays have been around for over a decade, the Powderject drug delivery system even longer. As far as I know, skin conduits and skin capsules don’t exist yet, but they could be made now. 10nm electronics has existed for years, and body-safe encapsulation of tiny electronic devices is feasible even if it isn’t publicly available yet. So in principle, a sufficiently capable manufacturer could make all of this tomorrow. In fact, they could have made it at any time in the last several years.

A large company or state could therefore make a system tomorrow that uses a widespread vaccination programme to gain access to implant an array of skin capsules in the skin of most of the population without anyone knowing (skin conduits are optional, since the capsules could easily be implanted via microneedles if they won’t need to be extracted later, but conduits would add the capability to maintain the system more easily).

That system could act as a full digital identity that can be read from far away, that records and analyses every person’s behaviour, health, conversation and activity, and is capable of detecting and automatically punishing them if they were to disobey a rule. It would be easy to link level of monitoring, level of punishment, or appropriate rule-set to a person’s identity and social credit score. Obviously, using it to create pain in recipient would give the game away, so that function wouldn’t be activated by the controllers until everyone has been treated, otherwise people might resist.

This almost certainly doesn’t exist anywhere yet, but it could any time soon. Makes you think, doesn’t it?