Friday, April 25, 2014

April 25 2014: THE ANSWERS ARE OUT THERE—IF YOU ARE PREPARED TO LOOK. TAKE HOUSING FOR INSTANCE. MAYBE WE SHOULD JUST PRINT THEM! (Yes, the house illustrated below was 3D printed at a cost of under $5,000)

Small home constructed from 3D-printed building blocks (Image: Winsun New Materials)

THINKING, WRITING & CREATIVITY. Fundamentally, this blog is about thinking, writing and creativity—with a dose of social comment thrown in (which I plan to split out into its own home fairly soon)—and, I hope, some humor. Where would life be without a profound appreciation of the ridiculous!

But an underlying theme which I come back to again and again—because I think it is so important—is that the answers are out there (if we are prepared to look). Currently, we don’t seem to be doing much looking. Fatalism seems to have struck this Great Can-Do Nation.

Why—because it’s the antithesis of what America should be all about?

  • FEAR.

Bluntly, we needn’t be in this mess—and we wouldn’t be if our system of government was working in our best interests. Demonstrably, it is not..

I HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF EVIDENT. I didn’t always believe that. Though I have always been intellectually curious (and skeptical of “what most people think”), nonetheless, I accepted many circumstances as being pretty much inevitable—the poor are always with us etc.--even though my instincts told me otherwise. However, I am now somewhat ashamed of such intellectual inertia—because  since I started researching the U.S. economy in a fairly organized way ten years ago, I have been struck by the following facts (which to me are self-evident—and which are supported by a substantial body of data).

  • SEVERE STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS. Although we talk in terms of talk in terms of wanting a healthy economy, growth, and getting back to normal after a recession— a veritable circus of clichés—we tend to ignore the fact that the American Way of Life is marred by severe structural problems—and a large number of them at that.

In fact, the term “structural problem” is almost never used in the context of the economy. A structural problem—in the sense I mean it—refers to something built into the system (the structure) which virtually guarantees the most serious problems ahead.

Much as a house will eventually collapse if its structure is flawed, so will an economy. However, a house collapse tends to be dramatic and fast—whereas an economic collapse can take place almost unnoticed. Economic collapse can be an insidious process. You just get a little poorer every day but you don’t really notice it because you are borrowing a little more—and the official line is that the economy is growing. Well, it may be—BUT that growth is going to the ultra rich while you are getting squeezed. Do you want some examples of structural problems? Let me list a few:

  • WE’RE IN DECLINE. Whether we know and accept it or not, as far as most of us are concerned, the U.S. is in decline—and becoming more and more unaffordable for a significant percentage of the population. The adequately paid Middle Class job is vanishing. The Middle Class itself is shrinking (fast).
  • WE DON’T HAVE TO BE. Virtually none of the structural problems which I have identified are that difficult to resolve—given political will..
  • THE ULTRA RICH LIKE THINGS THE WAY THEY ARE. The ultra rich, who effectively control this county, have no interest in dealing with such structural issues because the status quo makes them ever richer.
  • ULTRA RICH PROPAGANDA WORKS. The ultra rich keep popular indignation in check by spending some of their money on buying Congress and the legal system—and on an unceasing campaign of highly effective propaganda. They regard such expenditure as just a cost of doing business—and in relation to the payback which comes from hijacking a complete country, it’s a small cost.
  • U.S. NO LONGER A DEMOCRACY. The U.S. is currently not a functioning representative democracy any more—or any kind of democracy. We have the trappings, but not the substance.That may seem like a somewhat provocative statement--not to mention shocking—but that is no longer just my opinion. It is now backed up by some formidable research.



Small home constructed from 3D-printed building blocks (Image: Winsun New Materials)Thumbs upTEN HOUSES 3D PRINTED IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS. This small home may look plain, but it represents a significant achievement in rapid construction. A Chinese company has demonstrated the capabilities of its giant 3D printer by rapidly constructing 10 houses in less than 24 hours. Built from predominantly recycled materials, these homes cost less than US$5,000 and could be rolled out en masse to ease housing crises in developing countries.

MAINLY RECYCLED MATERIALS. Outside the major urban centers, there’s still a vast need for quick, cheap housing, and Suzhou-based construction materials firm Winsun has stepped forward with a very impressive demonstration of rapid construction by using 3D printing techniques to build 10 small houses in 24 hours using predominantly recycled materials.

CENTRAL PRODUCTION OF INSULATED PANELS. Rather than printing the homes in one go, Winsun’s 3D printer creates building blocks by layering up a cement/glass mix in structural patterns (watch the process here). The diagonally reinforced print pattern leaves plenty of air gaps to act as insulation. These blocks are printed in a central factory and rapidly assembled on site.

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