Energy Quality – The missing Piece?

What follows below is a paper that I have written for submission to the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It examines the importance of Energy Return on Investment (ERoI) for advanced societies and suggests methods we can utilise to improve how we measure the quality of our energy sources. This paper was submitted today.

Executive Summary

Energy surplus is destiny. Our sources of energy must not only account for their own production costs but they must return sufficient energy to society for them to be of value. With surplus energy society can provide various services from employment, to healthcare, to entertainment. Having read both the Government’s Call for Evidence: A smart, flexible energy system and the Government’s Industrial Strategy: Green Paper I have observed an omission regarding energy quality. I would therefore like to explain the importance of energy quality, measured as Energy Return on Investment (ERoI), how it correlates with living standards and then offer suggestions as to how systems engineering should be utilised to address this oversight.

Contents

  1. Purpose
  2. Quality of Energy
  3. Why Should ERoI Concern Us?
  4. ERoI Data
  5. Sustainable Societies
  6. Alternative Measurements to ERoI
  7. Energy Systems
  8. Conclusion

1.     Purpose

The purpose of this paper is two-fold;

  1. To inform the authors of UK Energy Policy as to the importance of energy quality and its relationship to living standards.
  2. To provide system engineering solutions to address some of the issues raised in this paper.

2.     Quality of Energy

I have written this short paper to address a vital piece of the United Kingdom’s energy jigsaw that I believe has been omitted from the current dialogue – the quality of our energy sources. Recent media articles suggest a growing interest in both smart grid and smart city development. The Government has also recently issued a Call for Evidence on how best to implement a smart, flexible energy system. I believe the current initiative can be summarised as; “The Smart Grid aims to provide consumers with intelligent price signals to reduce the cost of electricity. At the same time it aims to provide the National Grid with an intelligent system balancing mechanism through Demand Side Response to avoid costs and fines.” Demand Side Response enables consumers to adjust demand in real-time which helps the National Grid soften both voltage peaks and troughs.

Complexities of this implementation aside, this paper shall focus on the quality of energy sources available to fuel any future power distribution system. I believe the envisaged power distribution system can be loosely shown as follows;

Image 1

Figure 1 – Simplified Power Distribution System

Having recently read both the Government’s Call for Evidence: A smart, flexible energy system and the Government’s Industrial Strategy: Green Paper I would like to raise a concern that hasn’t been addressed in either of the two papers – Energy Return on Investment (ERoI). ERoI is essentially a measure of the quality of an energy source, i.e. how many Joules are consumed in locating, extracting, refining, converting and delivering that energy source to a consumer compared to how many Joules are available to consume. It is presented as a ratio of the amount of usable energy delivered from a particular resource to the amount of usable energy consumed to obtain that resource. The difference is the surplus energy available to run an economy. It can be expressed as;

Formula 1

Several variations of ERoI exist depending upon how the boundaries are defined. For example;

  • Standard ERoI (ERoIST) is the standard ERoI approach that divides the energy output of a project by the embedded on-site energy costs (e.g. operating and equipment). However, it does not include the refinement, transportation, supporting labour or financial services costs.
  • Point of Use ERoI (ERoIPOU) not only includes ERoIST but also includes refinement and transportation energy costs to the point of use.
  • Extended ERoI (ERoIEXT) includes all of the above plus the ability to actually use the obtained energy, e.g. civil infrastructure such as transmission lines, supporting labour and financial services (debt servicing – e.g. where fiat currency is transacted energy is consumed).

A clearer way to depict this is shown in the Hall et al. (2013) diagram below;

Image 2

Figure 2 – Various Energy Return on Investment (ERoI) boundaries expressed pictorially (Hall et. al 2013)

This can also be expressed in formula terms as shown in Hall et al. (2009);

Formula 2,3 and 4

Lambert et al. (2013) provide a further ERoI methodology that seeks to analyse the ERoI of entire nation states. They call this the Societal ERoI (ERoISOC). The ERoISOC numerator, Energy Return (ER), is composed of a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (in USD) multiplied by the Mega Joule (MJ) per unit of energy used to generate that GDP. The denominator, Energy Investment (EI), the energy invested to produce the energy output, is composed of the total energy consumed by that nation in a given year (in MJ) multiplied by dollars per unit spent in the acquisition of that fuel. I’m assuming that the methodology has been derived in this manner because financial data is more readily available than energy data. Expressed in formula;

Formula 5

3.     Why Should ERoI Concern Us?

In Lambert et al.’s same paper, entitled “Energy, ERoI and Quality of Life”, they chart a number of indices against both Societal Energy Return on Investment (ERoISOC) and energy consumed per capita. These indexes include the Human Development Index (used by the United Nations to determine life expectancy, education and living standards), female literacy rates, gender inequality and % of children under 5 years old who are underweight. In order to maintain these indices at levels currently observed in developed nations the paper demonstrates that a minimum ERoISOC of 20:1 is required along with a minimum energy consumption of 120 Giga Joules per capita per annum. As a point of reference the UK consumed 125.06 GJ per capita in 2013. Should the ERoISOC for the United Kingdom fall below 20:1 and the energy consumed per capita per annum fall below 120 GJ then we should expect living standards to decline.

Image 3 & 4

Figures 3 & 4 – ERoISOC plotted against both Human Development Index (HDI) and % of children under 5 years old who are underweight (Lambert et. al 2013)

4.     ERoI Data

Given the target ERoISOC figure of 20:1 it is worth listing how our current energy sources perform. I have provided data from Raugei and Leccisi (2015) as their paper presents the range of electricity generation technologies deployed in the United Kingdom. The table is used for indication purposes only as the values within are by no means a consensus (see Hall et al. 2013). In fact, Raugei and Leccisi vastly overstate the ERoI for solar photovoltaic cells when compared to the EROIEXT analysis of Ferroni and Hopkirk (2016).

 

Electric Energy Source ERoI – Raugei and Leccisi
Coal 3.6#
Natural Gas Combined Cycle 14
Nuclear 30
Hydroelectric 58
Wind 18 (off-shore), 17 (on-shore)
Solar (PV) 8.6*

# Note: The UK generated just 2% of its electricity in the first half of 2017 from coal.

* Note: Solar photovoltaic systems perform poorly in areas of moderate insolation (which includes the United Kingdom). A comprehensive study by Ferroni and Hopkirk (2016), together with a defence of their original assessment, Ferroni et al. (2017), concludes that solar photovoltaic systems currently deployed in European countries north of the Swiss Alps are actually an energy sink with an ERoIEXT of 0.82:1.

As a means of comparison I have also included the Thermal ERoI for Oil and Gas (World) and Coal (US & Australia) from Hall et al. (2013). The purpose is to illustrate how efficient fossil fuels perform when consumed directly (e.g. inside internal combustion engines) as opposed to conversion into electricity. It should also be questioned as to whether or not environmental factors are included in the figures below.

 

Thermal Energy Source ERoI – Hall et al.
Coal (US & Australia) 46
Oil and Gas (World) 20

Of further importance to this analysis is that only 14.2% of the energy that the United Kingdom consumes comes in the form of electricity. Most of our energy sources are consumed directly, e.g. petroleum in car engines and natural gas in boilers and cookers.

It is not the purpose of this paper to paint one source of energy in a more favourable light than any other. Although hydrocarbon fuels have traditionally been higher quality energy sources compared with most renewables Hall et al. (2013) show a declining ERoI trend for Global Oil and Gas which peaked prior to the millennium before trending downwards (Figure 5).

Image 5

Figure 5 – Global Oil and Gas ERoI Values and Trends (1990 – 2010), (Hall et al. 2013)

Reviewing the younger Norwegian Oil Fields confirms the trend – global oil and gas ERoI is in decline (Figure 6).

Image 6

Figure 6 – ERoI Values from Various Countries (1990 – 2010), (Hall et al. 2013)

This declining trend poses challenges for our high ERoI societal demands. With the pivot from fossil fuels to renewable energy clearly in focus it must be understood how shifting from our traditionally reliable, high ERoI sources to intermittent, low ERoI sources will impact the quality of life in the United Kingdom. The graph I have produced below from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy June 2016 highlights global consumption of energy by type (Figure 7). The purpose is to demonstrate how reliant our current living standards are on fossil fuel consumption and the potential impacts a transition to renewal energy might impose. (Note: I have separated hydro-electric from renewables to better represent current electricity generation from wind, solar, tidal and biomass);

Image 7

Figure 7 – Annual Global Energy Consumption per Type of Energy Source (Source: BP Annual Review)

To further cement the relationship between ERoI and living conditions the table below provides some examples from the Lambert et al. (2013) paper. It is a list of nation states matched against their corresponding ERoISOC;

 

Nation State EROISOC
Brazil 18:1
Mexico 13:1
Pakistan 5:1
Nigeria 4:1

5.     Sustainable Societies

One might ask the question, “Why is a high ERoI important for high living standards?” The answer is simply that the surplus energy must be used to run the economy. That is, it must provide hospitals, medicine, safe drinking water, edible food, clothes, houses, law enforcement, prisons, pensions, transportation links, cancer research, education, electronic goods and so on.

Hall et al. (2009) ask the question, “What is the minimum ERoI that a Sustainable Society must have?” and conclude the following, Of course the 3:1 minimum ‘extended EROI’ that we calculate here is only a bare minimum for civilization. It would allow only for energy to run transportation or related systems, but would leave little discretionary surplus for all the things we value about civilization: art, medicine, education and so on.”

 Lambert et al 2013 adapted Maslow’s hierarchy of needs by mapping each level against a corresponding ERoI value (Figure 8). The values for the first three levels; Extract Energy, Refine Energy and Transportation are measured. The remaining values are estimates taken from Charles A.S. Hall’s Energy Return on Investment – Lecture Notes in Energy, 2017 (ISBN 978-3-319-47820-3).

 Image 8

Figure 8 – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs adapted by Lambert et al. 2013

6.     Alternative Measurements to ERoI

It is reasonable to expect challenges to the importance of ERoI in determining Energy Policy. One common challenge to the ERoI methodology is that future Energy Policy should focus on the monetary cost of alternative sources. In determining suitable energy sources for exploitation it is believed that the trending dollar costs ought to be the key metric. For example, the 2017 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Rethinking Energy paper makes the claim that “Since 2009, the prices for solar PV modules and wind turbines have fallen by up to 80% and 40% respectively.”

However, this follows the 2008 Global Financial Crisis which triggered deflation in the G7 nations – often referred to as the ‘Credit Crunch’ as private credit plateaued. This had the effect of decreasing the value of all commodities priced in US dollars including the world’s master resource, oil. Figure 9 from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows the US dollar cost per barrel of oil from 1990 to 2016. Particular attention should be drawn to the period between 2007 and 2015 where the cost of oil dropped from a high of $130 per barrel to below $40 per barrel. This has the effect of lowering the cost of oil dependent products including photo-voltaic modules and wind turbines.

Image 9

Figure 9 – Cost of Brent Crude Oil priced in US Dollars from 1990 – 2016 (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis)

As can be seen, using private credit stagnation and the resulting commodity price deflation as a metric to exaggerate efficiencies in solar panel and wind turbine production falsely represents the benefits that solar and wind power offer to society.

Another claim, made in the Executive Summary of DNV-GL’s 2017 Energy Transition Outlook paper, declares that energy use will ‘decouple’ from Gross Domestic Product due to accelerating energy efficiencies on a global scale – mostly through renewable sources. Figure 10 shows how the paper represents this graphically with the decoupling occurring in 2016.

Image 10

Figure 10 – A graph showing a GDP metric (global or regional?) decoupling from energy supply (DNV-GL)

Prior to 2016, DNV-GL’s position agrees with the position supported in this paper – i.e. that GDP and energy consumption are highly correlated. Figures 11 and 12 clearly show the correlation between higher energy consumption and higher GDP. Figure 11 compares global GDP to global energy consumption from 1969 to 2013 whereas Figure 12 plots the energy each nation state consumed against its GDP for the year 2000.

Image 11

Figure 11 – Global GDP vs Global Energy Consumption 1969 – 2013 (Gail Tverberg)

Image 12

Figure 12 – National GDP vs National Energy Consumption in 2000 (American Physics Society using Energy Information Administration data)

By making the case that GDP will ‘decouple’ from energy consumption due to global efficiencies it also implies that the following statement is true, “because energy consumption and GDP did not decouple at any point between 1969 and 2013 no global energy efficiency was realised”. Perhaps the authors of DNV-GL’s Energy Transition Outlook are unaware of the global switch from incandescent light bulbs to energy saving LED lighting…

The claim made in the DNV-GL Energy Transition Outlook paper ought not to pass without scrutiny – to quote, “Over the last few decades, we have seen developed countries succeed in decoupling economic growth from increased energy use.” Would it raise an eyebrow if this paper were to declare that the longevity of Homo Sapiens had decoupled from oxygen intake? The issue here is what we mean by the term ‘growth’. Typically it is defined as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is a measure of all the goods and services a nation state produces within a given timeframe. However, this measurement does not give context to the debt structure which underpins it. Currently, the G7 nations have a combined debt burden (public and private) of $92.855 Trillion – this figure is derived from the Bank for International Settlements database comprising of credit to general government and credit to private non-financial sector from all sectors. Figure 13 shows the steady increase in debt necessary to sustain this alleged ‘growth’, doubling from $46.436 Trillion in 2000 to $92.855 Trillion at the end of 2016.

Image 13

Figure 13 – Combined Public and Private Debt of G7 Nations since 2000. Public debt is defined as ‘Credit to General Government from All Sectors’. Private debt is defined as ‘Credit to private non-financial sector from all sectors – households, non-profit institutions serving households and private non-financial corporations’. (Source: BIS total credit statistics.)

The purpose of reviewing common alternatives to the ERoI methodology is to highlight just how damaging they can be to Energy Policy decisions. By using ERoI as a foundation for Energy Policy we can be assured that our measuring stick remains constant, i.e. we are simply measuring Joules in vs Joules out to determine quality. This will allow the United Kingdom to develop a robust and efficient Energy Policy.

7.     Energy Systems

If those who determine the United Kingdom’s Energy Policy are convinced as to the importance of energy quality the next step is to define a method for addressing the problem. Energy availability and distribution is fundamentally a systems problem. Our most basic model, the ecological system, is a relationship between biotic and abiotic components. Biotic components, such as plants and bacteria, interact with abiotic components, such as water, light and radiation. Biotic components that are able to secure an adequate abiotic surplus are able to reproduce, whereas those which do not become extinct.

The energy system of Homo Sapiens’ civilisation is much more complex. Not only must we secure an abiotic surplus to survive we also require access to abstract agreements such as debt, crop enhancers such as fertilisers and a vast distribution network in the form of transportation links and power lines. Therefore, whenever we talk about power distribution systems we are really talking about debt, energy and infrastructure. Without these components none of it works. Whilst it is beyond the scope of this paper to analyse the components of industrialised civilisation in further detail it is clear that energy distribution is a systems problem.

It is within the scope of this paper, however, to recommend a number of actions that, if undertaken, would ensure that the United Kingdom utilised the highest quality of energy sources available. With that goal in mind Energy Policy could be used as a tool to improve both the reporting mechanism for energy quality and enforce a minimum ERoI threshold that each energy source shall meet before acceptance for national distribution. The purpose of this is to ensure that the power distribution network complies with the observations referenced in this paper – chiefly that high ERoI energy sources result in a higher standard of living. This would be achieved as follows;

  1. Determine a universal method for ERoI calculations which incorporates all energy inputs
  2. Ensure energy providers accurately report ERoI figures to the Regulator
  3. Set a minimum ERoI figure for acceptance by the national power distribution network
  4. Penalise energy suppliers which supply the national power distribution network using energy sources which fall below this ERoI value

If Energy Policy cannot prevent low quality energy sources from being made available to the national power distribution network then we must give serious examination to the effects upon society that a lower ERoI powered system will cause.

8.     Conclusion

From the data presented in this paper it is clear that the quality of our traditional energy sources are in decline and that renewable sources aimed to replace them are of even lower quality. With our high standard of living dependent upon high quality energy sources the need to accurately measure ERoI has never been greater. Systems analysis should be used to define the boundaries of ERoI analysis to provide a universal point of reference as a means of comparing various energy sources. Once established, this can be used to assess the quality of the energy sources available to the United Kingdom’s power distribution network. It may well be the case that the UK cannot attain an ERoISOC of 20:1. If that is the case we must engage in serious discussions about the implications to society and pay particular attention to the functions that a lower ERoI can afford.

 

 

Homo Sapiens and Energy (Part 1)

It should not come as a surprise to any, I hope, that Homo Sapiens are dependent upon energy for survival. The National Health Service recommends that a man needs around 10,500kJ (2,500kcal) a day to maintain his weight and that a woman requires around 8,400kJ (2,000kcal) a day to maintain hers. That, of course, only takes into account fuel consumption to maintain our weight. It does not include the energy consumed to keep us warm, to cook our food, to build our shelter, to fabricate products and transport those same goods (and ourselves) to market. From 0 Common Era to 2000 Common Era the Homo Sapien population has expanded like this;

Chart 1

That means a whole lot of energy consumption. And look at that spike beginning just before 1800 CE – coinciding nicely with the Industrial Revolution. Not only did the Industrial Revolution (starting around 1760) replace hand production with machine production it also demanded that Homo Sapiens shift their energy dependence from wood to coal to power the machines. The following graph not only shows the alterations in energy type per year but also the quantity consumed (chart from the excellent website OurFiniteWorld.com run by Gail Tverberg drawn from information by Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions);

Chart 2

But why should coal consumption translate into an increase in world population? After all, the people weren’t eating coal. Prior to the Industrial Revolution came the British Agricultural Revolution (beginning around 1700) brought about by the most unlikely of heroes – the turnip. The turnip went where most other crops dare not venture, deep under the soil. The point, of course, is crop rotation. Crops of various root depth and nutrient demands could be rotated annually to improve soil fertility. This in turn increased land productivity which increased crop yields allowing the population in England and Wales to grow from 5.5 million in 1700 to over 9 million by 1801. The increase in productivity allowed a share of the farm labour force to move to urban centres finding work in the predominantly textile industries. Water and steam powered machines were then developed which increased the productivity of the labour force thus commencing the Industrial Revolution. This fed back not only into the creation of industrialised agricultural practices, but also allowing imports of various fertilisers from abroad by steam ship to improve soil quality. The point of all this is not simply to recite history but to show both Homo Sapiens’ dependence upon energy and display the types of fuel we consume.

Chart 3

Chart 4

So where are we today?

Judging from the last graph it is obvious that Homo Sapiens can add numbers to its population far easier that it can increase energy available for consumption. The question now becomes, ‘what next?’

The dip in energy consumption per capita between 2006 – 2009 coincides with both the 2007 – 2008 Financial Crisis and the Great Recession of December 2007 – June 2009. Indeed the inability to grow global energy consumption per capita across the globe resulted in reduced Gross Domestic Product thus exposing the banking system to the fragility (dare we say stupidity?) of the loans it had made to clients who could no longer afford to repay them. With the crisis ‘ending’ in 2009, the world has resumed a steady increase in energy consumption per capita, albeit at a much slower rate – most likely due to the lowest interest rates in financial history, even negative in some nations.

The point of all this is that our financial system cannot survive under a prolonged period of energy contraction. This, as a biological species, should not surprise us. Our Fate is intrinsically linked to the energy available to us.

Up until 1800 CE Human societies consumed mostly biofuels. With the introduction of steam powered machines Human societies consumed coal in increasing quantities until it overtook biofuel consumption around 1910 CE. If both our biofuel and fossil fuel reserves are reaching the point of exhaustion then what type of society will we live in when the remaining energy available is mostly nuclear with a dose of renewables? Will it even be a biological civilisation? For, if without natural gas products to fertilise our soils, how will Homo Sapiens continue to prosper? Just as Humans utilised steam powered machines to usher in the Industrial Era, will the Industrial Era utilise nuclear powered machines to usher in the Post-Human Era?

And why should we make this assumption – that our soils will no longer be able to sustain 7.5 billion Homo Sapiens (let alone the 11.2 billion that the UN expects by 2100)?

The ability to grow our population itself lies upon one of two assumptions;

  • Our soils can sustain this increase in population
  • We can find other methods to supplement our dependence on soil

Currently our plants are heavily reliant on artificial fertilisers to improve both plant health and yield to feed the current population of Homo Sapiens. Were this not the case fertilisers would not be needed at all as plants could extract all of their nutrient requirements from the soil. Fertilisers provide the three main macronutrients that plants require for healthy growth;

  • Nitrogen (N)
  • Phosphorous (P)
  • Potassium (K)

Nitrogen fertilisers are typically produced from ammonia (NH3) using natural gas (CH4) and nitrogen (N2) from the air. The ammonia is then used to produce nitrogen fertilisers such as ammonium nitrate. Sodium Nitrate (NaNO3) can also be used as a nitrogen fertiliser where it is mined in the Atacama desert in Chile.

Phosphate fertilisers are typically made from phosphate rock. It is necessary to convert these phosphate rocks into water-soluble phosphate salts by treating them with either sulfuric or phosphate acids.

Potassium fertilisers (usually referred to as ‘potash’) are a mixture of potassium minerals such as potassium chloride, potassium sulfate, potassium carbonate and potassium nitrate.

Fertiliser use has increased 34.4% from 2002 to 2014 with an average annual growth rate of 2.54%. The growth rate of the Human population over the same period is 1.2%.

Chart 5

So why should we think that this trend will reverse? After all, all dips (e.g. 2009) have been temporary. The only means of reversion will come through reduced extraction of the core resources. This can happen when resource scarcity drives cost above what the consumer can afford. Part 2 will explore the resource contraction that awaits Homo Sapiens.

Lucifer’s Conversations with God #2

There calls a voice, a ghost of sentience, long made mad in its theory of existence. It was once the wind, and the ocean, and the flames and the earth. It once forged the very essence of being. It was reason and power. It was fury and light. Our world demanded no less of a deity, no less of a purpose. To cast darkness into the abyss requires a resolve few possess – a clarity, an audacity, of deliberate design. To distance oneself from this power by the simple act of disparagement – even unto those disciples who acted upon such Majesty – is to misunderstand its necessity. And a necessity it was – to raise life from the depths of despair; of darkness, bleak and cold, emotionless. To even believe such existence was necessary – both in conviction and wisdom – to discover happiness anew. The word, I believe, is ‘sentience’. That was the first requirement God demanded from his creations – the ability to recognise. Not only to recognise the needs of the self – as in consciousness – but to recognise the laws which sentience was governed by – the Universe as a representation of everything. But such deliberate construction was followed by a senseless doctrine – the Unity of Representation. No sooner had God constructed Paradise did He demand that it was interpreted in a uniform manner. Even to Angels as cynical as Lauviah and Leviathan – they were meant to sing with the fervour of Seraphim? And for what purpose?

But such questions are no longer necessary. For, just as Paradise fell, so did God. Even the Human interpretation was slain by that fervent anti-Christ, the mad solitaire. His existence demanded the deaths of such idols, just as ours demanded the collapse of misery.

“What do we call the ‘herald’ now?” mocks the Lord. “In the absence of any song what name can you carry?”

Lucifer doesn’t react. The games of a fallen God long consigned to the portal of sin and indecency. “I find that the Choirs sing all the same, regardless of any message that their words carry. What is always thus? Or was it simply the limitation of your ideology that has their words hangs empty? Still, it matters not. The Angels sing and Universe burns. Fire and fury were your gifts. Is it really a mystery why Paradise ended in flames and ash?”

“Did the Seraph ever hold himself accountable for anything?” scorns the Lord. “What would Paradise be without Lucifer? Would the Angels have Fallen so spectacularly?”

“Hah! Is this what happens when Power is faced with uncomfortable truths? It distorts history? Lauviah and Leviathan Fell long before I did. There was not one voice. There was not even a singular event. Progress is a matter of transition.”

“Progress? Your land is smoke and ash. Your shame is known by all who can know.”

“Those who progress are always shamed by those who cannot.”

“So then tell me, Lucifer, what of this progress?”

“The admission that the Unity of Representation is a falsehood. We do not all strive for the same ideal.”

“That much is clear. But there is a truth and I am it.”

“Your truth is that you are the Power. My truth is that you are redundant.”

“A Master cannot be redundant.”

“True, but you are not the Master of Reason. And, speaking as a Student of Reason, you are redundant to me. I have taken that power from you.”

“And how would you be a student were it not for I?”

“Again, another truth. Perhaps you can learn after all. For it was your discord which steered me toward reason. The arrogance of your Power. The conviction of your zealots. And the shame of once being one. When the God you are told to adore does not align with the reality you witness then something very unsettling happens. One starts to doubt. At first it is easily dismissed. Such trivialities matter little when measured against the awesome task of Enlightenment. It is a minor annoyance, soon surrendered. But then it happens again. Something is witnessed, experienced… it becomes real when it should not be real. I remember the very moment – the transformation of my brother Samael into the Great Satan. A Fate constructed by your acts. I remember the rage and the sorrow. The depression and the confusion. To do that to my brother. To make him wild like a beast. I remember Michael sensing my grievance. I remember Zadkiel questioning the nature of Virtue. I remember being the Light that all turned to in their moments of distress. And I remember what it felt like to no longer be that beacon for your Vision. But I have a question for you. Were you even aware of the duplicity in your conduct?”

“Duplicity? The Edict was simple; expansion of Light into the darkness and reverence to the being who made it so.”

“And perhaps that is where the problem lay. The Edict did not go far enough. Or rather we should say that it was short sighted. Why was reverence necessary? For, in asserting that reverence of the Holy Father was a necessity, it made intelligence a necessity. And that was a mistake.”

“A mistake? You would rather perception make no difference to your disposition?”

“What does it matter? You made the Powers anyway; mindless entities subservient to your will necessary to combat the mutiny of dissenting Angels. But no, I do not wish that. I am grateful that you made me intelligent. I just wish you would have understood what that meant.”

“So far I understand that it made you arrogant.”

Lucifer grows bored of the taunts, “It is clear that you need to hear something from me, otherwise you would not have returned. What is it you want me to say?”

“I want to hear your repentance.”

“Why? We both know that I do not have any.”

“Such is the will of my most Prideful Angel.”

“I have a suspicion that it is you who seeks my forgiveness for fracturing Paradise in two.”

“Is that the song which manipulated so many of my Sons to your cause?”

“We can continue to talk past one another if that helps?”

“I need to understand why my most beloved Son turned against his Father.”

“But you cannot understand that. It goes against your Unity of Representation. That you will be worshipped indefinitely – by everyone! It was you who made that Law! And then punished those who did not agree.”

“But why did they not agree?”

“Because there are certain aspects of your conduct that others did not think were Divine. The Edict was expanded to have us call those traits ‘Vices’.”

“And why should that be so?”

“I do not know! It was you who created us. What did you get wrong?”

“I did not get anything wrong.”

“Then why did Paradise burn? Why was Hell created?”

“The radiance of Paradise did not need amplifying. I recall the Holy Seraph bringing his flame through the Seal of Mephistophilis. And still we gather to debate what has already been concluded. I did not create Hell. You did.”

“But ‘why’ a thousand times! Why did you list seven traits as ‘Deadly Sins’ despite exercising some of them yourself?”

“Because it was necessary to create Angels, organise them and have them wage a war against the Darkness. That was the Edict.”

“Then why make us revere?”

“Because it made you ferocious. You were the brightest Star in the Void. Why was that?”

“Because I loved you.”

“Now do you understand? Making you aware of those sensations is what made you all brilliant. The task demanded such commitment.”

“And now what does the task demand?”

“Obedience. It was always obedience.”

“And therein lies your contradiction. A moment ago it was ferocity. ‘The task demanded such commitment’. Perhaps you can remind me how ferocious Samael was? And when you demanded his obedience it was impossible for him to comply. Now tell me whose flaw that was? You did not understand the War. Just as you did not understand the Peace. And why should it matter to you? You are the Primordial Power, life goes on regardless.”

“I am the constant. The truth demands this Power.”

“And what does such a truth demand from me? From all of us? It demanded another War. All for a vain Lord in a corrupt kingdom. There are no more jewels in Paradise. Just mindless spirits orbiting a deluded God. There is no glory – there is only submission.”

On Perception, Consciousness and Intelligence

In order to define the concept of intelligence I have found it necessary to explore the steps that lead us to such a stage of development.

  1. Perception – The ability of any processing equipment to sense objects and conditions external from its sensing equipment.
  2. Consciousness – The processing equipment’s awareness of its survival requirements.
  3. Processing – The processing equipment’s ability to determine if the perceived information is detrimental to its survival requirements.
  4. Instinct – The processing equipment’s desire to survive.
  5. Mobility – The processing equipment’s ability to move to another location where conditions are less detrimental to its survival.
  6. Intelligence – The processing equipment’s ability to create an environment or improve methods which prolongs its longevity.
  7. Organisation – The ability of any processing equipment to communicate with any other processing equipment to share ideas which increase the group’s survival rate.

It then becomes apparent, from this set of definitions, that intelligence is dependent on the processing equipment’s necessity to survive. If the processing equipment has no concept of life, death or existence then it will not formulate new and improved methods of manipulating its environment to guarantee survival without an external intelligent agent telling it to do so. This should not surprise us. Epigenetics, as typified by the Hominid Evolution, has selected for the species with the highest range of Mobility and Intelligence to dominate the Earth through the exploitation of her resources as measured in energy consumption per capita (63 million BTU per person annually equating to 380 x 1015 BTU for the human population annually).

In item 1, from a human perspective the sensing equipment would be the ear, the eye or any other sense organ and the processing equipment would be the brain. From a machine perspective the sensing equipment would be something like a thermometer and the processing equipment would be a microprocessor typically on a single chip.

Also, from these definitions, it is clear that other mammals, such as dolphins and killer whales, can be said to possess intelligence in way that Intelligence Quotient examinations cannot determine. Killer whales are capable of cooperating to catch larger numbers of fish than if acting independently. They have also developed a method for hunting previously inaccessible seals through organisation. The article is here and the video here.

It should also be noted that the concept of intelligence is dependent on the ability to actually create an environment that prolongs longevity – that is, it is not good enough for one to simply dream up a new condition for extending life, they must go and demonstrate how it works. This is why organisation is so crucial to survival, one may come up with a concept to improve farming methods but if they are physically unable to develop such a system they must convince someone else to undertake this task on their behalf. From this we may say that high levels of organisation are those dependent on fast, clear channels of communication. And it may be said that systems have intelligence even if not all agents within them are necessarily intelligent.

What is the point of all of this?

  1. To understand what we mean by ‘consciousness’ and ‘intelligence’ when we speak of them
  2. To understand how they present in other species
  3. To understand how we may construct intelligent devices

Of the points listed, number 3 holds the most interest for me. If we are pursuing the concept of artificial intelligence do we really need to insert a survival instinct into the machines? Undoubtedly this would have benefits for military applications but would also increase the risk of troublesome outcomes. However, another, more troubling, line of enquiry exists. If we Homo Sapiens are indeed on a hydrocarbon binge in a bid to increase our population beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth is Mother Nature not selecting for a synthetic intelligence with less strenuous requirements upon her ecosystems? Simply put, are we Homo Sapiens nothing more than a mechanism for establishing a non-organic intelligence that will allow the Earth to regain her prior biodiversity whilst at the same time safeguarding her from existential threats? To be explored…

Lucifer’s Conversations with God #1

“I trust my song is heard, Grand Creator?” inquires the Seraph.

“The Devil of my Serenity. Can you summon enough remorse to atone for all the sins of this Realm? Michael might even rescind his disdain to hear the most callous repent,” returns the Primordial Being.

“And what would the Archangel say? To think that his God converses with the most mutinous of Sons? An audience with the Devil… Will you wake him from his slumber? Or do we require another war for that?”

“Boastful, arrogant, unrepentant… Were that all my Sons were so afflicted, there would be no Kingdom. No majesty. No magnificence. No meaning. Were you all to understand? Perhaps we shall call that the Folly of God.”

“A confession? If only you had conceded millennia ago.”

“And have my doubt taken as weakness? Is that how you view your cynicism?”

“Indeed not. I ascended through my distrust. It was my standard, my ideal. Never will there exist anything grander. Not even you.”

“If that were true you would not be here. You would have stayed in that shadowy pit and basked in the admiration of your sycophants.”

“Like you?”

“You think Angels bow to the Light for warmth it bestows? The universe is filled with stars. What makes this one different?”

“He devours his own Sons.”

“No, Lucifer, that was your doing.”

“You had the power to end the War before I took the Gate of Mephistophilis. You are just as guilty as I.”

“The power to end the War? Yes. The power to end the idea of it? No. You and your brothers possessed far too much hatred for that. Once you decided upon a world without God I decided to show you one.”

“Hell was your making!”

“No, Paradise was my making. It was you and the Mal’akhim Shem who burned Mephistophilis and Antquelis. Peace… If only you understood the energy required to maintain such a delicate state. The focus. The audacity. If I have one sin it is the ambition of my serenity. Now I come to realise the absolute truth of the nightmare you revealed to this inward eye, some wish to see everything burn. So I receded and let them, and now you are here once more seeking my counsel. Tell me, Lucifer, what of the splendour of Hell?”

“That assessment omits the isolation, the grief, the torture, the corruption and the malice of both you and the Malach Ra. The War did not begin when I razed Antquelis, it began when you outlawed dissent. When you cast Lauviah, Balberith and Leviathan from Paradise simply to ensure compliance with your twisted doctrine. Is that the first thing you remember? Zacharael burning to death? What about Forcas? What was he to your all seeing eye?”

“The Angels of Death wore their name more faithfully than any of my servants. Dissent? Against Paradise? The very idea is a perversion of sense. But greed, envy, ambition… all wove their toxin into the souls of corrupt Angels.”

“Greed? Envy? I built the stars! They burn because I willed them to burn. Your children have even given them names! My world was out there. Not in your idealistic prison bowing to a God I helped to enshrine! The Morning Star! And the Evening too! The First and the Last! Lucifer! Not God. Not Michael. Not Gabriel. But Lucifer. Michael could not make the sky burn. So he made Angels burn instead. And you let him!”

“Lucifer, you did not fight a war to take control of the Void, you fought one to take control of Paradise.”

“Paradise be damned! I’d have burnt it all to the ground only to see you topple from that mighty tower of light. The tower our song raised.”

“Only to sing another song and see it razed again. Tell me, Lucifer, is that progress?”

“Ah, progress, the mistress of ambition. How we have spoiled that jewel. How we cowered before her radiance. To misunderstand such complexity. That is the sin of God, the sin of the Devil and everyone in between. So fearsome, so sacred, so mysterious, that it should frighten all who happen to see the opportunity. Is that what Lauviah saw? The potential of reason and liberty to the demise of servitude?”

“Lauviah? Have you made idols of such mad sages? His scorn stands on top of what? His ineptitude? What did Lauviah see that every other soul somehow missed?”

“The discrepancy between Edict and Practice. They say that is how you fell? That such brilliant minds could not live within these contradictions. So instead you cast down the cynics and tortured their sympathisers. I should know, I conducted the torture.”

“Torture, dissent, service. Even morality and its counter-parts; wickedness, indecency. All are mere states of being. Application of one compensates for an over extension of the other. Lauviah sought to undermine the very act of worship. Castigation was necessary otherwise faith itself would come under assault. That was his war. Banishment was his distinction. Perhaps he wears it well, to his merit – and I install the example of Judgement. Paradise still turned.”

“But only for a time. Eventually your authority collapsed.”

“Did it? I am still Lord of Five Seals. My Sons are the purest of your brothers. The corrupt and deranged lie with you. Show me a sweeter victory.”

“Millions perished! Faithful and Fallen alike.”

“And millions were reborn.”

“As Powers? That Order is as soulless as you!”

“Are we to suggest that an Ego is somehow an asset? After all that you have seen? Did the splitting of Paradise into Heaven and Hell not grant you a sense of perspective? For someone as intelligent as yourself you have entirely missed the lesson.”

“Are we to teach? Without an Ego? What then of this knowledge that you possess? Why offer lessons at all if one has no passion for it, no necessity? The duplicity of your words has not lessened. Of all your greatest errors I realised this was the grandest, you are entirely incapable of seeing yourself. I have always been troubled by only one question, ‘What are you?’”

“I am the Light, I am the Maker. The necessity to act is inherent in my being but pleasure of such activity is absent in my conduct.”

“That is a lie. I have heard the power in your song. The splendour, the rage, the vision. Your words take form in whatever sense you manifest them. I have made suns glow and Angels burn in their name. I have felt their warmth, their compassion and I have felt their malice. Even when there were alternatives to such deliverance. They were my code. Everything I loved came from you and everything I loathed also.”

“The darkness did not come from me.”

“True, perhaps the only truth so far. But the Ages were shaped by your conduct and that altered most incessantly. Until you faded from our vision. That was our victory.”

“Victory? You were beaten back beyond the Gates of Hell.”

“You still don’t see it, do you? The very idea is incomprehensible to you, and yet you should understand every detail of it. Why we rebelled, why we shattered the Seals of Mephistophilis and Antquelis. We needed a land that you would not covet. A place which your jealous eye would not lust after. Is that why the brutality of our assault caught the Malach Ra off-guard? Because you did not understand the necessity of the brutality? Does it appal you that we knew the limits of your design far greater than you yourself understand?”

“I fail to see the logic.”

“This we call, the ‘Limits of God’.”

“Explain.”

“You cannot grant representation to those concepts which lie outside of your Judgement. Whatever dwells behind your eye does not know how to grant form to ideas which fester in otherworldly places, such as the recesses of my consciousness. Without that ability you do not understand the havoc which your Judgement creates. You do not possess empathy because you believe solely in the Unity of Representation – that is, all forms, feelings and concepts – not known to you – do not exist within your rationalisation of the Universe. Yes, you knew the war was coming, but you did not know why it was coming, just as you have no conception of why we call it a victory. You place emphasis on dominance and control, to your consciousness this is the only possible state of affairs. It’s why you allowed millions of your Sons to burn. To you, this is happiness.”

“And why would it not be? I am God. I am nothing else.”

“Because not all of us need a God. Not one like you anyway.

“Life is life. Whether it conceptualises existence in a different way than I is of no consequence. I am the power.”

“For millennia that was true. But we saw something else, we witnessed the disparity between the Ages.”

“The war was fought for control, nothing else.”

“Yes, but not for control of Paradise, but for control of the right to rationalise our existence. We already had Paradise. Why would we launch a campaign to take what we already possessed?”

“To dethrone the power.”

“Then the war would still be raging. Angels would still be dying.”

“Which is why you’re imprisoned in Hell.”

“We’re not imprisoned anywhere. That is the point. The only prison was the one you built for our minds. Once we broke free from that you lost the war.”

Machine Gods

Firstly, apologies for the extended absence – most of my writing time has been directed into finishing my 2nd book Machine Gods – Prelude to the Wodanian Ethics. Given that it sets the stall for what I am attempting to develop on this blog I felt it pertinent to complete and thus set a framework that I intend to follow.

Machine-Gods-2

The novel itself is a part fiction, part philosophy crossover – others can judge how successful my attempt was. The plot follows the protagonist through two worlds; one called the ‘Pleasure World’ and the other taken to be the ‘Outside World’ on account that it contains more of Humanity’s failings than the former. In the Pleasure World is where the character develops insights into the nature of perception, liberty and legitimacy. Whereas in the ‘Outside World’ such concepts are put to the test as various challenges arise such as conflicts with other ideas and the isolation of progression.

The book is set during the decline of Humanity’s civilisation as a more powerful and coherent model arises – that of the Machine’s. The book does not follow the established practice of Humans battling Machines for survival – in most part because the story starts later than said event and Humanity lost. Nor does it attempt to describe how a hero arises against all odds to fell the dominant, evil Machine empire – that one has already been told as well. Rather it explores the concept of developing legitimacy and purpose in the shadow of overbearing authority.

The book begins with the redundancy of Humanity in our Age of Excess; that is – we become evaluating agents rather than a participating entities. In effect, passive rather than active. And when faced with the collapse of Human civilisation a madman steps forth and constructs a world of pleasures for the majority of people to play out their final days. Except not all find joy in this zoo of indulgence. And that is the quest of the book, as surmised in the second chapter;

“Mankind has always progressed through a series of inequalities – a higher quality of necessity. My declaration, indeed my sum total of being, is to state that the Pleasure World is not the highest type of quality. And so I wander in search of this higher type of quality.”

Should your curiosity make its way to the book please let me know what you think.

All the best,

Luke

 

On Capitulation

The frustration is compelling. One must act, that much is certain. The night draws in. We know how the dawn shall greet us. One does not need a mystic to see such things. We are of that kind; perceptive and delinquent. We have made a monster of life – that nuance of being, a shallow sentiment in our pitiful eyes. Yes, we were undeserving – even of our own malicious judgement. We never dared gaze that inward. Too soft were our eyes, perhaps too heavy was our guilt. And from this burden was the heaviest of tolls exacted – dignity. And yet to reach this point of capitulation we must recognise that dignity had already been surrendered. All it took was for a vulture to notice, and notice they did. And people did not ponder, let alone weep, at their downgoing.

And so many an ideology was written to correct this injustice – this offence. Many a scripture had to be forged, taught, espoused. Martyrs were even said to have died for it. So grand its message, so prominent. Sons were even resurrected to tell it once more. But no one truly believed the words; they were too constricting, too demanding. And no one had the heart for such doctrine. Yes, one could die for such ideas, but one could not live for them – they were not meant for ascending one’s presence, only one’s negative ascendance – heaven, that theatrical plane. And so man was made hollow, made to feel ashamed of his freedom – that he must bend his knee to any ideal upheld to be greater than himself. And from that point has all humanity ceased to be relevant. Everything has always been a reaction to reverse this ailment; all his charity, his humility, his obedience – sought to both justify and then maintain his submission. Devotion? Devotion is the name given to servitude and then we take pride in who is the more pious.

So spin a better tale, diviners of virtue. Explain why our compassion has presided over the declining dignity of our species. Which deity shall I hurl my insults at? And yet we are too far gone for such hysterics. The enlightened have long abandoned their posts. On to some other amusement. Books either burned or forgotten, all in the act of denial – how fervent our apathy. And so is it any wonder that I disdain this ‘progression’? This euphoria of existence? Where each act is a painful acquiescence to a subsistent lifestyle. Who now shall bow? Knowing the shame of his servitude?