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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Putin plays Risk, while World plays deeper game.


The media loves coming up with grandiose names for things. Remember The Gang of Six? Well, now it's the "Group of Seven,"—G7?—who're going to put that pesky Putin in check with a new round of sanctions. If Vladimir Putin's not careful they might just toss him in the briar patch! Putin in the metastasized form of a mad-Russian Pac-Man is gobbling up square miles of Ukrainian dirt faster than Kobayashi can take a hotdog. What are we to do?

Land it's just so precious. It's worth so much. Millions of people ... billions of people? ... have fought and died to protect it, to safeguard it, to own it. We raise crops on it, build homes on it, let our herd animals graze on it, drive through it, fly over it, tunnel under it, mine it for precious minerals, drill for oil and natural gas, and finally, we bury our dead in it. If it's ours we're proud of it, and if it's not we're jealous of its owners.

That's all about to change.
The total land surface area of Earth is about 57,308,738 square miles, of which about 33% is desert and about 24% is mountainous. Subtracting this uninhabitable 57% (32,665,981 mi2) from the total land area leaves 24,642,757 square miles or 15.77 billion acres of habitable land.
I didn't grow up playing Risk™, but I have played it. I've also played Monopoly™. The winner wins by taking all the land. In the old days perhaps that strategy would have constituted success, but that's all going to change pretty soon. While generals and presidents squabble endlessly over ephemeral borders, and disputed demarcations, there is a much bigger game going on.

In the old days, before computers, before robots, before automation and control systems, before magnificently fantastic materials like graphene, way back in feudal times and before, the people living on the land also lived off of the land. It provided crops, it provided fodder. It provided wood to burn in the cold and a place to lay down at night. We're still psychologically locked into that pattern of thought, that deep mental rut that has been trodden ever deeper, over the generations and eons.

Ask yourself this question: what is your land worth if you can't live off of it? Guess what? 99% of the people on the earth don't own enough land to live off of. They live on it, but they don't grow enough crops on it to survive. They don't own enough land to hunt the animals on it and survive. Yet still somehow they do survive. How is this possible? It's possible because of specialization. Even if we don't own land to eat, to sleep, to live on, we can still—with our labor—utilize a monetary system to rent a small patch to live on, and purchase food that someone else grew on land we've never even seen.

The point is, that land really isn't all that big a deal anymore. The problem is that most people just haven't figured that fact out yet. For proof of this principle, ask yourself this question: what's worth more, the land a factory sits on, or the factory? In a world with ever more efficient manufacturing processes, where these factories continue to grow ever more productive and efficient, what's more valuable? What about the land these increasingly valuable factories sit on? I'm betting that land is just going to sit there.
LONDON — It looked like a burger. It smelled like a burger. It tasted, well, almost like a burger.

The first lab-grown beef hamburger was cooked and eaten in London on Monday. “We proved it’s possible,” said scientist Mark Post, who created the cultured minced meat in his lab at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. He said his hope is to come up with a new and environmentally friendly way to feed the world.

Although the burger was a culmination of a five-year research project, it took Post only three months to grow it, using stem cells harvested from a cow’s shoulder. “That’s faster than [raising] a cow,” he said. Stem cells not only proliferate rapidly but can differentiate into various kinds of cells: muscle cells, bone cells, etc.
They're now growing beef in a test tube! Do you see? Factories won't just be packing meat, they'll be growing it. How much is your cattle ranch worth now, Mr. Bundy? We saw in 2008 with the housing bust, the first intimations of this growing understanding. Land just isn't that big a deal, and as our buildings grow taller with the aid of incredibly resilient new materials, as food is increasingly created—literally from scratch—It's my bet that old-school tyrannosaurs like Vladimir Putin will wake up and discover to their dismay that they were playing the wrong game all along.

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