Computing convergence with the human mind



At what point did the human mind converge with the machine? No doubt, much has been written about this topic. Some of it good, some of it insane and some of it crap. So what I am proposing is that convergence with information technology began in the 1940s with the Manhattan Project. We moved on to Alan Turing and the Turing machine that cracked the Enigma Code during World War II. We then had enormous 'supercomputers' like the one used to land man on the moon that filled the size of a room, then eventually the personal computer in the 1970s with the rise of Apple, IBM, Amstrad, Commodore, Atari and the list goes on, then the mobile phone with basic software, then the smartphone, and the continual miniaturisation of the PC in the form of laptops, hobby computers, credit card sized computers, tablets, 2 in 1, smaller and more powerful desktops, tiny smartphones, tiny game consoles, modern retro-gaming consoles, connected homes, connected cars, connected grids, Augmented Reality (AR) with smartphones and glasses, virtual reality (VR), and the big one, Artificial Intelligence (AI). We now have companies eyeing off convergence between the human brain and IT hardware. Elon Musk has started a company to investigate and commercialise this just like Mark Zuckerberg has done a similar thing.

Then there's software. This is a massive topic, just like hardware, but probably much larger. There is the topic of programming languages as there is the topic of Operating Systems (OSs). I think five OS classes have survived to date. Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, Linux and Android. I have used all the stated OSs over the years and I think at this point Android is the winner for smartphones and tablets and Linux is the winner for desktops - but only just. It also depends largely on what you want to do i.e. the application. I've seen Android, based on a Google stack, go from basic smartphone software to a fully fledged mobile/desktop OS using Sentio. For certain Samsung Android devices, DeX can also be used to interface mobile with desktop on a monitor/TV screen with HDMI (just add bluetooth keyboard and mouse). Now there's no need to have a separate pieces of hardware, like a desktop, laptop, tablet, computer monitor, to your smartphone unless you are needing specific applications that run on other OSs. Less e-Waste too - there's way too much of it and most of it goes to landfill. For example,  it's very difficult to remove Cobalt and Lithium from the environment, found in most Lithium ion batteries. Water filtration with biochar to remove heavy metals and phytoremediation (possibly bamboo) is key here.  To continue,  I still use Windows OS for my music studio because all of my software works in this OS but there is an increasing number of options for music production on Android eg. Remixlive, Audio Evolution Mobile etc. Many creative professionals swear by Apple for their production software but it's not cheap hardware and often underspecced compared to PC hardware for the same price. You're also locked into the Apple ecosystem :( I've researched business applications and I'm convinced that it's possible now to run a business on your smartphone! Then there are all the possible uses for controlling smart devices using small, cheap and open source computers such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino.

Does all this technology make our lives easier or more complicated?


I would argue that it does both. The main annoyance I have with using computers is all the software updating required and all the charging required of the devices. This all takes time and data however with most OSs now, updating can occur in the background while you are working. What if you could build a computer that powered itself and didn't need updating, like the human brain? Probably not going to happen. The closest I think we'll get is Graphene or Shwarzite storage technology in batteries that can be charged very quickly and support many charging cycles compared to Lithium ion. If you don't need to go online on a device, then use it offline. Maybe every 6 months you can connect it online and update it. The problem with Android OS is all the app updates. It seems every time I charge my smartphone, there's loads of updates. I think it's largely feature bloat. The problem with updating is that you might break your apps with new bugs. At this stage, there's no way of downgrading the apps if they are buggy as fuck. The only way to do this in Linux is to Timeshift it or Time Machine in macOS. But, it means that if you restore your OS to a previous point, you've lost any data you have added since that time. I think sandboxing apps in the future might be the best option. Chrome OS is now sandboxing both Android apps and Linux apps but I'm not sure if this will actually allow you to downgrade the app if it's buggy but at least the app won't break your OS if it fails. Maybe a 6.5" Chrome OS/Fuchsia OS/Sailfish OS smartphone, with inbuilt ruggedness to last 10 years with a graphene oxide/Carbon ion battery and desktop convergence could be the best of all worlds in the future. So, back to the question. I think all this tech has begun a convergence with the human mind. Many of us have become dependent on it for our thinking as this becomes Kraftwerk's 'Man and Machine'. So given that tech is becoming more complicated so will our minds or, at least, our minds will work differently to before we were inundated with tech. Long-term memory will probably decline as will our ability to navigate without aids, have a deep intellectual conversation and remember song words to old songs. Needs we never had before now need to be satisfied with our tech.  It seems complexity and simplicity are interdependent.

Does it make us more powerful and less human?


I would say yes and no. I can be speaking in real-time with people from all over the world in loads of different languages (if I knew them all). I can be peering at icebergs in Antarctica or playing chess with a Grandmaster. I could be listening to radio, podcasts or songs from all over the world and accessing databases of plants at the same time. The possibilities are as endless as the imaginations of the programmers that build software and the sensors available to us. We may have superhuman abilities to organise information now making our complicated lives simpler to navigate but ultimately why do we need so much of it? We an use tech to isolate our selves by working remotely and use videoconferencing or connect to people like in 'Meetup'. Customised engagement with the real and virtual worlds.

-So, what will be the next step in convergence?


I imagine it will be something like the Razr phone/laptop hybrid. Similar to the Andromium ‘Superbook’ (which has had production delays and I’m not even sure if you can buy one), but more integrated. The advantage of the Superbook is that you can keep on upgrading your phone and it will still work with the laptop shell that it is and run Sentio desktop app. I tried screen mirroring on my PC but there was a time lag and it seemed to need access to everything on my phone so I don’t trust it and I had to install some dodgy software on my desktop. I also tried a Chromecast dongle clone but the resolution was only 1080p and Chromecast apps only allowed me to use specific services rather than a screen mirror which is what I wanted. Most of the screen mirrors I tried were buggy and had lots of ads. I’ll keep looking for ‘the one’ screen mirror app. I made a mistake buying my Samsung phone because I can’t use DeX on it or even use a USB-C/HDMI connector. Gutted. Now I’m using Sentio desktop in landscape mode with a keyboard and mouse. Seems to work well! It would be nice if the screen was a tad bigger though, maybe 7 inches.

-Renewable Energy?

Battery power is always a consideration so having a smaller screen will save power. I can also charge my phone off a 20W solar panel with an integrated power bank that has a USB-C output. It won’t be fast charging but will do the job OK albeit a bit slow. The USB-C hub I am using works like a treat. The 4k HDMI output doesn’t work at all but the USB-C port is fine for connecting to the solar panel and the SD card reader (useful for my DSLR) and USB-A inputs all work. I’m using a bluetooth mouse and dedicated USB-A keyboard which is more reliable and secure than bluetooth and doesn’t need charging (no backlit but who cares). Another option is if your phone supports Quick Charge 3.0/4.0 which it should if it has a Qualcomm processor, you could get a dedicated power bank that also supports QC. The power bank could be useful if you don’t have an integrated power bank on a solar panel. The power bank should also be chargeable from a solar panel with a microUSB input or USB-C input. Ideally you could buy a large capacity graphene power bank which will charge in minutes from a mains supply but at this stage I can only find low capacity ones eg.6000mAh and they’re bloody expensive.



-Reverse engineering

There have been some attempts to make small 6” phones with inbuilt keyboards, either sliding ones or clamshell configurations like the 'Cosmo Communicator'. A number of mainly Chinese companies are producing 8” and 9” mini laptops. These are pretty cool devices but low-powered although I just read that One Netbook may be using a 10th gen Intel ‘Ice lake’ or 'Comet Lake' processor in a 9” mini laptop called the 'One Mix X' due for release in the last quarter of 2019. It will not be cheap. Maybe cost AUD1k with only modest RAM and disk space. I reckon just reverse engineer a laptop in the configuration I have outlined. Cheapest option, not the prettiest, but works like a treat!


-What about Linux on Android?


I tried a few different apps to install Linux on top of the Android OS and it was hopeless. Either buggy, too difficult or simply didn’t work. Why you can’t just install a baked version of Linux without a rooted Android OS eg. Ubuntu or Mint is beyond me. Most of the apps required installation of a Linux container then required some terminal hacking to install the graphics environment. I used Termux to run a linux Command line, which seemed to work OK but at one point needed access to everything on your phone which didn’t seem very secure. You have the option of rooting your phone then installing a baked version of Linux from a bootloader but you have to lose the Android OS. Maybe someone’s worked out a way to dual boot Linux and Android on a phone but not ideal. It would be good if you could run some Linux app containers on top of Android like you can with Chrome OS. I’m still searching for the right software. The reality is that Linux sucks for most phone functions although Purism OS on the Librem 5 could work well but I would much rather have native Android than a locked down phone with average quality and low quantity of apps although over time they may get support from many developers to add more apps to the pool. I’m very interested to try Sailfish OS which can be found on the 'Cosmo Communicator' and on selected Sony 'Xperia' phones. I’m waiting to get a version that will work on all phones. I’m not sure at this stage if you can run Android apps on Sailfish OS but that would be a great feature to have with the best of both worlds - a secure user-friendly environment with access to the Google Play store but lets face it, many apps nowadays require a ridiculous number of permissions to work and probably won’t work well in containers. I think the reailty is that if you have an Android phone it will probably never be secure but very useful nevertheless!



I think ultimately tech can improve people's lives and complicate it more. We can use it for good or for evil depending on your perspective of good and evil.

There's no substitute for physical intelligence though which I've previously blogged about. We need to sleep, eat and find happiness (which might be a computer game). Tech can take us only so far on our journey of life. The world is our oyster but there's no tech substitute for eating oysters.





A rough overview of Carbon sequestration

Will there be ever be a time again when we can live without the fear of climate change collapsing our Civilisation?


We live in a time and place of enormous change in both present and predicted in the future.


Is there a chance that we can collectively get off the tree and work together to build a climate resilient Civilisation that can drawdown Carbon emissions beyond zero emissions?


One word (that was two words). Leapfrogging. We need to free the emerging/developing economies from buying technologies that only enslave them in a future of climate uncertainty. The answer to this techno-Colonial problem is to leapfrog climate polluting technologies and assist people to purchase/build and use the best available appropriate technologies, or apptech, to solve the problems of today and prepare for climate resiliency in the future. It may all sound like grandiose hyperbole but seriously guys we are on the clock and we're running out of time faster than we can act. I have been researching apptech for a good decade or more. I have seen many promising designs over the years many which never get developed on any scale worthy of a just climate transition. I've become obsessed with the potential of biochar which has been researched, documented, and applied (in no particular order) by the likes of Professor Stephen Joseph, Dr Paul Taylor, Dr Johannes Lehmann, Dr Lukas Van Zwieten, Dr TLUD, Russell Burnett, Geoff Moxham, Kathleen Draper, Albert Bates, Hans-Peter Schmidt, Kelpie Wilson, Charmaster Dolph and many more. Could this be the silver bullet we are looking for? I've come to an early conclusion that biochar will be integrated through many industrial, agricultural and horticultural products and systems in the present and future. However, this is only part of the puzzle.


In the integrated Permachar systems I have designed there is technology that needs to be purchased. At the household scale, The Energy Kit (TEK) includes a Top-Lit Updraft (TLUD) stove eg. The Permastove V3, a battery bank, LED lights, a solar PV panel, USB cables, and a Capacitive Deionization (CDI) kit placed in series in a DIY water filtration system.


On the village scale, a solar PV panel, 12V AGM battery, Goal Zero Guardian and 12V Shurflo pump can be combined with a Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' biochar kiln, water tank, IBC container, irrigation line and fittings, drying shed and hammer mill. A village pelletiser to make fuel pellets from agricultural waste residue for TLUDs could also be purchased. I've made a growing inventory at: The ideal is that households do things on the small-scale with cheaper apptech and on the village/community level the more expensive components/apptech are used and biochar production and water filtration is conducted on a medium-scale for agriculture/horticulture.


Once you get to the large-scale of things, shipping container biochar kilns like that produced by 'Earth Systems' and used by companies such as 'Green Man Char' become applicable. Municipal green waste collected by councils and normally used for mulch could be used to produce biochar with these shipping container kilns. The councils could then use this biochar in their gardens and parks as well as selling it to their ratepayers at a reasonable price.


There are numerous propositions for long-term Carbon sequestration.


Biochar, produced via the pyrolysis of biomass in a low-oxygen environment, is probably the safest and most democratic way to do it. Plants with high Silica content such as grasses like bamboo (it grows on 6 continents) will probably have the longest-term Carbon sequestration. The Silica creates plantstones/phytoliths/PhytOCs/plant opals with the Carbon for sequestration over millenia timescales. I've read research that phytoliths were found from campfires 35,000 years ago and were still stable. Recently, I've read about the possibility of heavy metal sequestration in the phytolith complexes after using phytoremediation to remove heavy metals from contaminated soil (and potentially from spent biochar used in water filtration of polluted water with salt and heavy metals). Bamboo can be used for this purpose then biocharred in a biochar kiln such as the Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' (which is yet to be built) and would lock in the heavy metals and salt if present which could then be safely used for growing food. There's also evidence to suggest that the presence of biochar in soil adds additional Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) to the soil over time.


So what are the competing methods for Carbon sequestration?


Planting more trees (apparently President Bolsanaro isn't listening. More than half a billion trees have been logged in Amazon over the last year). I would argue that rather than growing forests, use biochar in the planting holes and grow agroforestry systems that include fodder/biomass for future biochar production used to expand the agroforestry system even further. There are many examples of this in Nepal. Arguably this is a type of Carbon farming. A good reference here is 'The Carbon Farming Solution' by Eric Toensmeier that describes perennial crops and regenerative agriculture for Carbon Farming.


Magnesium Oxide cement that sequesters Carbon during it's lifecycle. Dependent on the availability of the Magnesium from mines that might not be located in the right places (the 'Tyranny of Distance'/logistics).


Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) at coal-fired power plants. Still only at demonstration stage and dependent on stable and empty aquifers located near the power plant. Some failures of this system have been recorded due to leaky aquifers eg. The first system built in the U.S. Also, a dead end for the Carbon ('dead Carbon' as opposed to 'Living Carbon' in the soil) that doesn't achieve any other economic purpose.


Machines that capture CO2, water and sunlight that produce Hydrogen Gas (H2) and 'green' ammonia (NH4) such as the project in South Australia. Looks very promising but various snags along the way for a Hydrogen economy.


Machines that just capture CO2 and produce bricks (or don't produce anything useful at all).


Wooden/bamboo buildings. This is really only medium-term C sequestration but if you go to some countries like Japan there are wooden buildings still standing from 500 years ago or longer).


The remaining options are more like improved efficiencies in various sectors of the economy that reduce C emissions but not necessarily eliminate them. This is probably where most of the action will be over the coming decades. Renewable energy is probably the big one (that includes biochar if produced from sustainably managed biomass feedstock). More interesting is the opportunity afforded by cogeneration of biomass power plants that Combine Heat and Power (CHP) while producing biochar as a by-product. The Rainbowbeeeater 'ECHO2' is a fine example of this. A case study is the Holla Fresh herbs production facility in South Australia ( where the heat is used to heat the greenhouse and the biochar is (presumably) used to grow the herbs. Electricity is also produced to power the greenhouses. Another power plant is the Allpowers Lab generator that is shipped on a pallet from the U.S., pyrolyses biomass and produces biochar as a by-product of power production (without heat production).


Cogeneration and the Kon-Tiki biochar kiln.


The Kon-Tiki is a simple and effective way to turn waste biomass into biochar on the small to medium scale. My ultimate goal as a designer is to find a way to cogenerate heat and power from the Kon-Tiki kiln that produces biochar as it's primary product. No doubt Dr Paul Taylor is working on it too. Hot water production has potential using a copper coil inside the cone with attached water containers. With an adapter, essential oils can be produced as well which has been successfully implemented in Nepal. So far, I'm not aware of any wood vinegar being produced from a Kon-Tiki. There are possibilities to attach Thermoelectric Generators (TEGs) to the kilns but I'm not aware of any cheap TEGs that can be retrofitted - possibly at the base of the kiln. A BBQ grill and rotisserie can be added but maybe for the time being that's as good as it gets. Any ideas, please contact me!


So there we have it - a cook's tour of Carbon sequestration with many plotholes!






Seed funding for greentech/apptech startups

So how did we get to this point? Or more appropriately, what was the point of getting to where we are now? How difficult was it to spend years researching something that is in the future? Has the future arrived? At what point did many of us say, eg, climate change is real for me? At what point will the majority ask for stronger action on climate change disruption and be heard by the leaders who are meant to lead us? We just had a Federal election and the former leader, Bill Shorten, of the major opposition party, the Australian Labor Party, couldn't make up his mind about whether or not to make a 'Just Transition' a central election promise in Australia (there were plans for a central Just Transition authority if they won the election). It should have been a no brainer. The Greens had one, Beyond Zero Emissions have many plans, loads of the green NFPs in Australia had one and the Australian public, according to a Lowy poll, polled 66% of Australians wanted stronger action on climate change just before the election.  I doubt they would have rejected a Just Transition if they were asked whether or not they supported it. Naomi Klein outlined her desire for one as well in her book 'This changes everything' which was published in 2014 and is a brilliant read.
I think it's great that the Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, was able to balance the budget but at what cost to health, education and 'The Environment'? A billion dollars has been set aside for 'The Environment'. A hundred billion dollars has been set aside for roads, ports and rail upgrades. Apparently transport is not part of the environment. Furthermore, the Federal Government has no energy transition plan and refused to sign a Just Transition declaration at the Poland climate conference in December 2018.

So, the question is how much would a Just Transition cost and how many jobs would it create? The Greens claimed 180,000 new jobs would be created with a Just Transition. Should that budget be limited to civilian costs or should it include Defence as well? I think we're lucky in South Australia because successive Governments have rallied to introduce funding for green technology...I read yesterday that we're building the world's largest Hydrogen gas and 'green ammonia' plant - powered by sunlight, CO2 and water. Bring it on!

Something that I have encountered over my research is how difficult it is to introduce fabricated green tech on the market since the costs of production are high (though we do have access to reasonably priced Corten steel). I'm specifically referring to the Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' kiln as a case study for small-scale greentech/apptech in Oz. I've used social media as a way to get the word around. I've provided loads of information about biochar and biochar kiln technology on the website and ads elsewhere. I've sent away emails to a range of places and people who might be interested but despite this effort, not one email reply or phone call has reached me with interest about the tech. So I'm wondering is it marketing, the cost of the technology, the vision of potential users, my vision, or just time poor markets that can't concentrate on anything for too long. I mean, I have to reflect on this and ask who am I not reaching out to? I have faith in the kiln technology and at the current price of naked biochar on the market, if you have a sustainable feedstock supply to burn, you could make your money back in half a dozen burns. So what's missing in the equation? More marketing, more phone calls, or cheaper tech? Or everything and then some. The problem is I love the 'Rolls' kiln I'm selling ( but it is a lot of money for buyers to spend on something they haven't tried out BUT people make that leap of faith in some cases every year on buying a laptop for their office. These kilns will last for years even when they are left out in the weather. The problem with the campaign is that it would really help if I had one of the 'Rolls' kilns built so I can do photo shoots and demonstrate the tech to the general public. But, I need to run the campaign in order to get a few of these beauties built so I can market it some more and get the whole small-scale biochar show 'rolling' in Oz.

What would make it a lot easier for my business and other start-ups would be to access to seed funding for greentech/apptech startups like my own. I've researched this on the internet and there doesn't seem to be any specific small grants or seed funds coming from State or Federal budget for greentech/apptech (though CEFC did link me to which has a great range of resources including angel funding for 'cleantech'). I need around 10k to get it going and I don't want to get a bank loan and use my house as collateral. I've even thought about selling my house so I could get the beautiful thing built. I can't seem to find meaningful work anywhere or I'm underskilled and won't meet the criteria for many jobs.  So, this is how I got to this point...all I can say is seed funding for greentech/apptech start-ups from  Government should be a high priority within 'The Environment' (which includes us) budget, even if they don't promote the grants as part of a comprehensive Just Transition.





How to achieve a Federation of bioregions

I call it the 'lean green bioregional machine'

-an integrated political and Earth Stewardship system (did u read Will Steffen's latest paper under 'Links and Resources?')

-?similar to the direct democracy model in Switzerland or simply a Federation restructure

-Elon Musk supports direct democracies in principle so they must be good

So, how can it be done?

-make a map of bioregions based around groundwater aquifers (Inflow=outflow +/- changes in storage)

-get a map of 'House of Representatives' electorates

-overlay the two in a GIS and shave off the 'House of Representatives' electorate borders along the groundwater aquifers and turn them into water bioregions

-allocate bioregional 'Senate' seats based on an equation integrating area, water and population within the bioregion (x/y/z/t plus a bunch of other numbers)

-?blockchain the PM and possibly the system using POS method on the Ethereum platform

-what about State Governments? These would be replaced by bioregions

-what about Local Government? Borders could also be redefined within bioregions

-transition some Government jobs from State Government to the new bioregional platform/structure

-use those funny video link-ups on wheels for meetings (C U Geoffrey Blainey's 'Tyranny of Distance')

-what about debates? These could take place online using video link-ups...less travel kms and possibly lower testosterone levels. People from the community and experts could join in!

-likely high initial cost to set up but undoubtedly long-term savings which could transfer to lower income taxes


-How to charge 'reasonable' rates for groundwater used by mining companies eg. Adani, BHP etc taking into account that groundwater is one of the most valuable and essential resources for Australians past, present and future?

-A Carbon tax with direct dividend to consumers

-Apptech/Green tech seed funding - distributed tech and grid restructure

-Increased apptech/greentech R&D military budget

-Increased environmental refugee intake

-Treaty and a stronger Native Title system


Do we have a working model in progress?

CSIRO bioregional assessment programme could be a start plus working models in Australia and ?overseas

Alternatively, a National Water Plan suggested by Professor Craig T Simmons FTSE at Flinders University at the National Centre for Groundwater Research and


Why not give those poor ol' climate scientists their jobs back in CSIRO? Maybe a Gala dinner for some fundraising...or just find a Government who is serious about climate research?





The race for what's left to achieve what's possible

In the not too distant future...

When the pressure mounted on humanity to turn the world economy on a dime to avoid catastrophic climate heating, many people, institutions, corporations and other business entities tried to scramble to the top of the energy mountain and use what fossil energy was left to secure their own nests.

A decentralisation movement took over the low energy ground. The people on top of the mountain became stranded and increasingly isolated. Pressure from below resulted in a grand compromise never seen before on Earth.
It was in everybody's interest to drawdown greenhouse gases and restore a safe climate.  Financial and opaque barriers were broken by cryptocurrency using 'Proof Of Stake' algorithms on a low-Carbon blockchain. Global internet was deployed by 2025 by SpaceX. Information became accessible to almost everyone on the planet with a simple internet chip built into their smartphone. Coal stations were shut down due to intense pressure from climate activists both on infrastructure and on the corrupt political institutions that supported it.

Technology, including appropriate technology, developed rapidly following new information flows.  Living standards were raised globally however during the 'great transition' many people became environmental refugees and most of these refugees had small Energy/Carbon/Water/Chemical footprints. Refugee camps sprouted up all over the planet and became semi-permanent to permanent. Disease quickly spread throughout the camps so it was essential that biochar was used to filter water (in addition to boiling) and purify soil used for production of culinary and medicinal plants (via it's many benefits to soil including increased soil fertility, Water Holding Capacity, soil porosity, Cation Exchange Capacity and Carbon sequestration).

The camps became apptech incubators - new tech was imagined and built on a daily basis by refugees with support from aid and development sources. '' became the Costco of cheap affordable apptech - TLUD stoves became a popular way to cook food (and boil water) since Carbon credits known as 'Carbon Removal Certificates' were able to generate NORI cryptocurrency tokens, which could be exchanged as currency between refugees however bartering became the most common resource transaction. 'The Energy Kit' became popular which included a TLUD stove with USB centrifugal fan, power bank/torch, semi-permanent LED lighting, and solar panel.  Xiaomi became King of cheap, large, well specced and low power smartphones. Tablets, laptops and desktops became a thing of the past.

More organised efforts, some likened to the Marshall Plan such as '', sprung up and spanned the global economy. Some countries, mostly Socialist ones, created their own green plans. China led the way in Asia but much of their effort was undoing the damage that fast and dirty industrialisation had caused in the 1990s and 2000s. Most green ideas revolved around retrofitting people's homes and workplaces with efficient tech, apptech, greentech et al Factories were retooled to produce renewable energy tech, workers transitioned from old, unsustainable and dirty industries. Coal, oil and gas became less available than before (read 'The race for what's left') and in many cases new apptech could be built without that resource anyway. Many of the waste resources from 'fossil fuelled' Civilisation were employed in apptech, such as Earthships and Permachar Wicking Barrels.  Permaculture became the dominant design system for sustainability but meanwhile the planet was still in decay...
The 'lungs of the planet' and 'medicine cabinet', the Amazon rainforest, continued as a war zone as forest enforcers battled with illegal loggers. Reforestation projects ('Terrestrial Carbon') took place in a number of areas such as Southern Peru, but as the cloud forest dried up due to increasing atmospheric temperatures and illegal logging, it became harder and harder to build new forest due to reduction in rainfall and increasing numbers of wildfires.  The tree planters kept planting regardless, driven by a vision of hope, prosperity and culture.

The oceans acidified due to the increased amount of 'Blue Carbon' absorbed into the sea water. Reversal of acidification would take millenia. Healthy coral reefs became a rarity, where most either disentegrated, got taken over by pests such as 'Crown of Thorns' or bleached from increased sea temperatures. The biggest problem became phytoplankton unable to effectively calcify it's miniscule exoskeletons due to acidification. With a gradual collapse of the bottom of the food chain, populations of most species began to collapse. Sea kelp farming became popular as did ocean aquaculture.  As fishery stocks collapsed, black soldier larvae became a popular source of protein as a substitute for fish meal in terrestrial aquaponic systems.

Snow caps, glaciers, icebergs and permafrost continued to melt. The permafrost melting exposed biomass that would break down due to increased microbial activity and realease vast quantities of methane (which is arguably 23+ times more potent as a greenhouse gas compared to CO2). Additionally, frozen methane clathrates in the sea beds also continued to melt releasing massive amounts of methane gas. Consequently, river flows reliant on glacial melts decreased affecting massive numbers of people dependent on irrigation for agriculture along the rivers. Sea level rises, mostly from icebergs melting, affected many mega-cities built along the coastline. In some countries such as Bangladesh, people became trapped as they tried to go to higher ground. The temperature increases from permafrost and clathrate melting added to the feedback into the climate system warming and only accelerated the melting.

Superstorms became the norm of extreme weather. Florida became deserted.

The key to the lock was limiting global temperature increases from pre-industrial times to 1.5 degrees Celsius. If higher increases were reached eg. 2 degrees Celsius and emissions were not controlled to limit further temperature increases, the planet's climate system would uncontrollably tip into 5 degrees and stabilise there. In this scenario, only about a billion people would survive and most species would die. If humans continued to add climate emissions then the climate could tip over into 10 degrees of warming increase. GAME OVER.
Or was it GAME OVER? What if we could stabilise the climate at around 1.5-2 degrees. What if humanity 'got it's shit together' and collaborated on the mother of all 'complex wicked problems' - climate change? What if world peace could be cemented through this collaborative effort? What if apptech could be the driver of this change? Is this what people like Buckminster Fuller and E.F. Schumacher imagined for the future? A world where everyone could meet their basic needs while at the same time steward the climate and all of the other Earth Systems - biological, chemical and geophysical?






Artificial Intelligence (AI) V Physical Intelligence (PI): Collaborative Intelligence (CI)?

There are many aspects to how the human species is going to interface itself with computers, its software, and physical technologies and resources around the planet. What I see is a convergence between artificial intelligence and physical intelligence.

What do I mean by AI? There are a range of interpretations of what this means in 'reality'. However, the 'reality' is that we are using more and more mathematical algorithms to solve 'real world (physical)' problems. These algorithms are enshrined in software code based on a physical system such as smartphones, laptops, desktops and cloud-based server farms. I was at a Summer solstice party a couple of years ago and I spoke to a bearded computer science student who described AI as basically using software, based on computers, to solve problems. That could be as simple as using a sensor such as a moisture meter to tell an Arduino microcontroller to turn on the water in a wicking bed to water the plants. It could be as complex as modelling the climate for change, mining a cryptocurrency and searching out new exoplanets in the universe for human habitation.

What do I mean by PI? An old film director, known as 'Smokin' Joe' who directed the movie 'Mystery Train' lived in a guesthouse at Nakano in Tokyo. I was staying there in 2006 while I was teaching English as a Foreign Language. We had a number of conversation about physical intelligence. What Joe was trying to get to was the interface/relationship between people and planet. He described how people were losing their ability to think about how they interacted with the physical environment losing their connections to physical resources in the face of globalisation. How is it that we could be so connected to everyone else yet many so dimly aware of our own impacts on the physical resources of the planet? At that time, Japan was importing 90% of its soya beans and starting the smartphone revolution. I was teaching many students at that time who were coding apps for smartphones. A few years later I went and studied a Diploma of Permaculture and realised then that scarcity of resources was manufactured and that design science embedded in human/physical systems was the main driver of future sustainable societies.

So, the question on my mind is interface. I've been playing with the hardware and software interface in my music studio for 20 years. I have seen a steady trend in integration between hardware and software over that time. It's at a point now where a company called 'Native Instruments' have achieved such tight software-hardware integration that one doesn't even need to look at a computer screen while producing electronic music. Access to all the sounds is at your fingertips. Smartphones are no different - apps are getting smarter than we are and information, or intelligence, is available in an instant. Big data is collected by most software companies and more and more sophisticated algorithms are being coded to create increasingly efficient ways to mine data and get the results the user might be looking for.

But, is efficiency a substitute for sustainable technology? I would argue that efficiency can be more sustainable in certain applications that might save energy usage, such as smart grids and variable controlled greenhouses/warehouses eg. 'Plenty' and shipping containers eg. 'Terrafarms'. However, if the designs of those systems are creating an increased demand in the physical resources based in those systems, are we creating an overall larger ecological (physical) footprint? As we see a growing middle class around the world with more sophisticated consumer demands, AI applications may float more boats and make life more convenient with less physical resources due to efficiency increases. More importantly resources need to be used more than once and have multiple functions. I have found that most aspects to biochar technology cannot be substituted with software algorithms telling me what to do or even doing it for me. A software program can't harvest the biomass, the raw product for biochar, could integrate with a laser cutting machine with additional hardware, can automate expensive and complicated kilns, can't operate simple kilns such as the 'Carbon' to produce the biochar and can't physically distribute the biochar to its various cascades such as animal feed and bedding, construction (eg.hempcharcrete), water filtration and soil fertility. But I can write a physical algorithm aka operating/usage instructions to use the resource within a designed ecosystem. 

I imagine that there will be greater convergence with AI and biochar in the future but ultimately automation and efficiency algorithms can't solve many of the physical problems posed by managing physical resources such as biochar. Arguably, it is only a matter of time for AI and big data to catch up with PI, but will probably never completely take it over - just move closer to a converged state of mind eg. Mapping. There's plenty of ways people can collaborate with mapping on the internet and it seems to be the ultimate way to communicate between the mind(s) and machine(s). is one example though it's still in beta and contains many incomplete datasets but houses some pretty stunning maps. Google 'MyMaps' (also shareable) seems to be an easy way to collaborate in mapping something basic like georeferenced points eg. Biochar kilns, as long as you've got a Google account. These can probably be embedded in a website too. Google Maps 'Mashups' can also be easily created with many tools freely available on the internet. Call me biased, but I love a good map though as a wise man once told me 'The map is not the territory'. Enough said.





A Carbon-backed national digital currency (CBNDC)?

-climate change/disruption/heating/chaos
Reports and their observations and predictions are generally getting gloomier all the time -from Arctic Summer sea ice extent shrinking to Greenland/Alaska/Antarctica/Himalayas etc melting of icebergs, glaciers, snow caps; ocean/sea level rise, deforestation, biodiversity loss (the world's '6th great extinction event'), superstorms, abrupt weather changes, extreme flood events, mudslides, clathrates already melting nearby the Arctic tundra etc etc
A 6-8 degree increase or more by the end of the century if business as usual doesn't change. Taking into account the heat latency effect in the climate system, even a 2 degree warming event compared to pre-industrial global atmospheric temperatures would be catastrophic for the South Pacific and many other places, not to mention an acceleration of all of the events mentioned above.

-Paris accords
Apply to most countries (even the US might still get on board) and legally binding.
As mentioned before, 2 degrees average global temperature increase from pre-industrial levels is 'too high'.
Needs new Carbon-based sustainable industries to accelerate progress towards meeting Paris accords goals and obligations.

-Gold standard
Worked for a while but involved ecological destruction such as destroying native forests, displacing entire villages, high water consumption, arsenic leaching into groundwater and rivers, often corrupt business relationships. Quality control was it's advantage - you could test the purity, weigh it, transport it, trade it but it needed to be secured which was probably problematic for many countries - Carbon doesn't face that problem.

-fiat currency
Now relies on trust with Federal/Government reserves at a time when trust in quasi-Government and Government institutions are falling.
Becoming redundant - checks and balances for inflation no longer as effective as it used to be...can be abused by printing more money which has happened in many countries such as Bolivia (they used wheelbarrows to cart the money to do their groceries) during it's financial and political collapse and more recently in Venezuela, where more trust is now placed in cryptocurrency than in national fiat currency. There's been a huge uptake of individuals mining cryptocurrencies since their inflation rate is currently 1600% and rising and their national currency is good for starting fires.
Why is it banks print more money when growth slows down and inflates?? Is it to increase cash flow?
In this scenario the value of money depreciates and ultimately goods and services become even more expensive. Between controlling currency value and changing interest rates, the growth rate is at the mercy of global influences/globalisation. What if degrowth, which is the only sustainable option, could be accelerated without changing amounts of currency in circulation and manipulating interest rates?
In an ethical degrowth world, job growth and sustainability can occur simultaneously aka green collar jobs. I call this transition 'Contraction and Emergence' i.e. 'Contraction' of the fossil fuel based economies and an 'emergence' of Carbon-backed technologies and economies. 


In a CBNDC, the amount of currency in 'circulation' would be fixed, in line with other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The main lever left then to control inflation would be interest rates - which might also become increasingly insignificant, though inter-related, as we move into a renter economy. As the value of Carbon-backed industry increases, so will the value of the CBNDC as happened with the Gold standard, though Gold was probably more prone to fluctuate with international prices (unless there became a global market for CBNDC's). Using the 'Precautionary Principle', I would suggest doing a trial of the CBNDC first, decoupled from the national fiat currency. Down the track, if a trial was successful and Carbon-backed industry 'emerged' (with digging up coal as an exclusion), the CBNDC could be traded with other CBNDC's and possibly other cryptocurrencies like fiat currency can be traded with other fiat currencies - though Australian citizens might want to hang on to their CBNDC for a while!  Furthermore, non-Australian citizens would be likely to buy our CBNDC if we go first, which would add value to both the currency and the Australian economy including the transition to Carbon-backed technologies and industries.

*Enter cryptocurrency*

'Proof of work' (POW) eg. Bitcoin
Increasingly massive computer energy usage solving maths problems for encrypting the decentralised ledger and therefore increasingly high Carbon footprint.
By 2030 blockchain mining will consume the equivalent of all the power consumed in Denmark (or so they say). High Carbon footprint, has initiated a technology arms race in cryptocurrency mining. This will result in the undermining of the democratic and decentralised peer to peer principles upon which it is based eg. first generation of quantum computers will take over using artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of neural processing units (NPUs) in large server farms then eventually personal quantum miners with AI and NPUs will begin to catch up on the game. This all assumes engineers will find a way for quantum computers to efficiently 'hash' the blockchain - which they probably will.

'Proof of Stake' (POS)
eg. IOTA and next gen of Ethereum - requires much less computing power and Carbon footprint. Security of the decentralised ledger will increase as more people get on the network. In other words, as more and more Australians use the CBDNC, the security of the currency would be increased. Though not ideal, moderators can be used (provided by the Federal Government), such as the IOTA example, until there are enough users/consumers to secure the network.

-Carbon-backed national digital currency
National digital currency would still have some centralised control by relying on IT security experts to partly secure it though becoming increasingly redundant but what if secured by a decentralised commodity that will create new industry and new jobs aka Carbon-sequestration that will meet or exceed Paris accords obligations? Throw in POS and we may have hit the best of all currency models - minimal Federal Government regulation, minimal Carbon footprint, empowerment of consumers/users, quantum-proofing of network attacks.
Problem will be standardising Carbon technology eg. biochar production units/kilns/ovens/stoves etc., reforestation, Carbon-negative construction etc etc and its resultant sequestration amounts but much work has already been done with Carbon accounting instruments (eg. when the Carbon tax was being considered and prior to that with Carbon accounting work done on Carbon credits, both in Australia and around the world. Taxes, especially new ones, are unpopular anywhere - not just Australia.


Carbon rationing would be unpalatable to the (Australian) public though can be scientifically modelled with increasing accuracy using supercomputers that are rapidly getting faster and more powerful and are now moving into the quantum domain  i.e. Planetary modelling can make predictions about how much Carbon is 'safe' from one year to the next in the climate system - this would translate into rations for each country and allocated on a per capita basis but would struggle taking into account historical responsibility of Carbon pollution. 'Cap and trade' is gamed and hasn't drastically cut down Carbon pollution and probably never will.  Carbon credits don't go far enough and can be traded on the stockmarket and also gamed. Could the CBNDC be gamed? Maybe make more acacia/bamboo/hemp biochar? Graphene storage for the renewable energy systems already in place and coming online in the future? Implement more holistic models such as 'Carbon farming' (well described by Eric Toensmeier)? Could all of this be the 'Tragedy of the Commons' in that if one nation doesn't go first to create a CBNDC no nation will? Carbon utilitarianism? When it comes to currency, isn't that utilitarian anyway?

If a CBNDC used the blockchain, then the Carbon-backing could offset the Carbon footprint of the blockchain encryption and then some but would face an ever-increasing Carbon footprint.
If a POS approach was taken for the CBNDC, it would be Carbon-negative permanently (assuming it never crashes but if it did at least the Carbon-backed economy would be kickstarted) - a 'positive' positive climate feedback loop for a change - much needed. There's always good ol' fashioned bartering if all else fails!


Update 16/2/19:

This could be a freemarket alternative model to a NDC with the stability of being tied to the Aussie dollar. Or, a Carbon-backed stablecoin could be built, which is more or less the NORI token





The Flat Modular Biochar Kiln (FMBK)

Read More





Why biochar is an optimal degrowth technology.

For an aperitif, refer to George Monbiot's article called 'The Zombie Doctrine' at '' and Liam McLoughlin's article "Turnbull’s ‘Jobs And Growth’ Mantra Is A Faith, Not A Plan" at '' and, Naomi Klein's 'This changes everything' novel and documentary and the Australian Green's Party 'Renew Australia' plan. Can't go wrong with a Diploma of Permaculture too.

Why is it that 'jobs and growth' seem to be inextricably linked by most industrialised economies? I think to myself while the Australian election is coming to a close, why the major parties aren't basing our environmental economic policies in lockstep with the international momentum being built by a variety of environmental and social movements around the world who want a 'just transition'? How difficult is it for central bankers to realise that there is dollar and green credentials abound for a 'just transition' for the world economy towards achieving positive, and broadly speaking, environmental outcomes which will benefit current and future generations? Sounds the 1987 Brundtand report which defines sustainability in it's essential mission. Are we waiting for Godzilla with an army of silly monkeys to take over the planet or is it a space invasion, like Mars Attacks where the aliens mantra 'We come in peace' right before you get zapped? Could this be another hippie rant or is there merit in decoupling jobs and growth and starting to look at how everything, apart from the super-rich (who still could benefit with devestment portfolios), will benefit from degrowth job strategies?

Take carbon sequestration for example. We need a lot more of it in order to stabilise the climate system et al. The options on the table for geoengineering are abound - they seem to get sillier, more expensive and more dangerous by the year (refer to 'Snowpiercer' film for an extreme case). The only safe and democratic option, and it's a degrowth one, is clean renewable energy. Of those options, I believe the best one is to harvest biological material (solar-powered via photosynthesis at approximately 3-6% efficiency of total solar radiation but low-tech and almost ubiquitous), usually called biomass, burn it in a controlled environment like a Kon-Tiki or Pyramid kiln, produce extremely stable carbon (biochar, for up to 35,000 years or more - refer to research by Dr Jeffrey Parr for phytoliths) and lock it into a cascade of needs (at least 55 uses and growing) whose byproducts (including biochar) eventually gets added to soil as an amendment to increase it's fertility, increase water holding capacity, adsorb heavy metals, water filtration, reduce plant disease, reduce fertiliser and pesticides and store nutrients and micronutrients as well as minerals and micro-organisms needed for a beneficial and stable soil ecology. When has any Civilisation survived without producing fertile soil? (Try 'Soil not oil' by Vandana Shiva) Biochar can even be integrated into land-based aquaponics systems and wicking beds (once again involves soil, but uses biochar for water filtration in the bottom layer and growing plants in the top layer - no fish protein though, which is produced in aquaponics systems that are more expensive and tricky to manage - but probably more efficient than wicking beds over the long-term).

Why is biochar an optimal degrowth technology? It's all about the democratisation described by Dr Paul Taylor and Hans-Peter Schmidt - refer to for that one. It's primarily driven by grassroots 'biochar activists' - which include small farmers, gardeners and bored under-employed people like me trying to commercialise it in the growing green capitalism economic sector. The efficient and sustainable harvesting of biomass, the drying of biomass, the tools to process the biomass, the technology used to produce the biochar, the logistics of getting it to where you want it, and the specific application are all limiting factors however achievable within a local economy. Considering all the actual and potential applications for biochar, I would predict that it will be a major plank of future carbohydrate-based economies - it's nanotech so will probably include future electronic circuits and battery storage, supercapacitors etc. Surplus biochar produced can be traded/bartered for other goods and services and there are already platforms to do this such as
Sounds like a 'biochar revolution' (refer to Dr Paul Taylor's book)to me!! Jobs and degrowth anyone...?






The 'Flat-Tiki'

It's hard to know where to start. There may be no beginning and there may be no ending. I've been researching biochar for 6 years off and on. Sometimes I feel that I want to help save the planet and other times it all seems too hard. It depends on what I am reading and how bad things seem to be getting regarding the imminent climate chaos/change/disruption and what is being done by other people to address it. I know I can always do more with less but how that benefits the greater good is difficult to say. One thing is certain - I am an appropriate tech-head and proud of it.

My initial interest in biochar was stimulated by the late Geoff Moxham who showed me a top-lit updraft (TLUD) stove in 2009. It completely bamboozled me. How was it possible that such a clean burning flame could be produced from such a small amount of biomass aka virtually any organic material known. I decided that I would design and build a biomass-biochar stove for my main project for the Diploma of Permaculture at the previously running course at the Permaforest Trust. This was co-managed by Tim Winton best known for his Pattern Dynamics (TM) systems ecology approach to permaculture and general understanding of living systems.

My final design for the TLUD stove retrofitted a stainless steel birko and innovated with its use of insulation in a third concentric chamber. Otherwise it was yet another proof of concept that many others had achieved with their modified designs. Probably my favourite TLUD design is the '1G Toucan' developed by Dr Hugh McLaughlin.

I wanted to make more biochar and in order to do this I scaled up my TLUD design for an oil barrel called the 'Don't worry, be happy' biochar kiln. The problem with the design was observation and probably safety too given the pressurised nature of the combustion chamber. I never built it and waited for a few years for something better to come along. Things needed to be simplified and cheaper. Then came along Charmaster Dolph's 'Moxham' tubular kiln. I couldn't believe how simple yet how effective the design seemed to be. The output was clean, efficient and could produced quite a lot of char for the effort required (a recent engineering report produced by 'Black is Green' is available at This pioneered a new breed of biochar kiln known as the 'top-fed open draught' (TFOD) kiln. Then came along Dr Paul Taylor's modification of the Japanese 'Moki' kiln. He scaled up the size and gave it a bottom with legs, drain, handles and heat shield at the Ithaka Institute known as the 'Kon-Tiki' kiln named after the Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947 which was a  journey by raft across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands, led by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl.

The 'Kon-Tiki' is an advanced design. It is virtually clean-burning, can be quenched from below and scaled up to about 1000l capacity (or larger) and can pump out large amounts of biochar for a good day's work. The latest 'Kon-Tiki' kilns also use A-Frames to allow convenient cone emptying. I built a 1.2m 'Kon-Tiki' with legs, drain, handles and heat shield using youtube specs and modified it to Paul's sheet design for a 1.2m diameter. It seemed to work perfectly the first time. But then I thought what if I want to produce smaller batches of biochar in less time? I downloaded Kelpie Wilson's 'Pyramid' kiln design ( and had a couple built with rim edge folding for safety. It worked efficiently but couldn't really take larger feedstock (which she has addressed via a design of a larger 'Pyramid' kiln used to process forestry waste). At the time however this design was not available and I wanted to do more with less. That's when I started researching Hawaiian Luau pits and then came across a hybrid pit kiln designed by Hans-Peter Schmidt also working at the Ithaka Institute. I was impressed with the design for application in less industrialised countries with less access to advanced metal fabrication technologies.

At this point I thought to myself why couldn't I design something that tried to take the best of all these designs and make it flatpackable, mobile and light with a batch volume suitable for large gardens and small farms? Not only that, I wanted to design something that could use state of the art tech in the West (Oz) with the flexibility to be built using traditional fabricating technology without a roller. Enter the 'Flat-Tiki'.

What, I thought, could be the design compromises required? I initially went with 3mm 300 grade mild steel on the 'Kon-Tiki' 1.2m but this was heavy and rusted easily. My offsider from the Philippines, Julio, suggested I go with 350 grade weathering (Corten) steel at the 1.6mm guage. Great, I thought, light and weather resistant. I then whipped up a design for a standard 1200 x 2400 sheet using a similar approach to the early 'Pyramid' kiln design but went hexagonal instead of pyramidal which would bridge the geometric gap between a rolled truncated cone and pyramid (assuming that a truncated cone is more efficient and a pyramid is less efficient). Furthermore, a hexagonal structure is probably the most stable one mimicking the Carbon 6 molecule not to mention other hexagonal patterns found in nature such as bee hives and basalt columns.  I also took the hybrid approach which would allow a small pit to be dug at the bottom therefore extending the volume of the hexagonal cone and would allow construction without welding.

I used laser cutting for the pieces, hand holes, logo and screw holes. I used galvanised wing nuts and side flaps on three of the sections in order to create easy assembly from flat-packable pieces. The volume is estimated to be similar to the 'Kon-Tiki' 1.2m kiln. I then tested the 'Flat-Tiki' with a tubular heat shield built for the 'Kon-Tiki' 1.2m and realised that this improved the performance of the burn so I went all the way and built a hexagonal heat shield to go around the hexagonal kiln, using a similar approach with airflow going up the side of the kiln from the bottom of the heat shield which could then feed flames at the rim of the kiln in hope of torroidal convection loops. The heat shield also extends 300mm vertically from the rim of the kiln as recommended by Dr Paul Taylor and can be shifted up and down. Julio cleverly alternated hinges (2 per join) in the heat shield which allows it to concertina and flat pack. From my prototyping it appears that flame turbulence is greater with only half-formed torroidal convection loops occurring. This was an improvement over the 'Pyramid' but not as pronounced as the 'Kon-Tiki' 1.2m.

This all says to me that I have hit the design middle ground for efficiency between the 'Kon-Tiki' and 'Pyramid' designs, as hypothesised.

The weight of the 'Flat-Tiki' kiln is about 21 kg and the 'Flat-Tiki' Heat Shield is about 30kg, placing the whole unit at 51kg. I am happy with that as I wanted to get below 50kg. Close enough for now.  The kiln and heat shield can be easily moved once in place, can be moved around from place to place (mobile) and can be operated by one person if need be. This could be the world's first flat-packable hexagonal hybrid 'Flat-Tiki' biochar kiln!

Other innovations include hand holes that double as observation holes from the side, a cooking plate off the same sheet (a standard 1200x2400) and a chapati plate.  Given that the side flaps on the kiln needed to be rolled, if rolling isn't available then the flaps can be omitted from the design. In this scenario the kiln pieces would need to be welded together - not ideal but still manageable by one person and could be transported in a stackable fashion similar to that used for the 'Kon-Tiki' cones - just not flat-packable for convenience and ease of transport.

Now that its' fire ban season, prototyping is off the table until May 1 2016. I want to get emissions testing done for the design at the University of Adelaide late next year using vineyard waste and start to sell the kiln in Oz. I would like to donate 10% of the cost of production to the Nepali Climate Farming Fund. If successful then I hope to assist fabricators to produce them in other countries too...

The designs for the 'Flat-Tiki' kiln and 'Flat-Tiki' heat shields, licenced under an International Creative Commons licence, will be available on request after emissions testing has been performed in May 2016. Read on for some photos of my kiln research...

Read More 2 Comments