Update

I’m sitting on my faux leather arm chair sipping my coffee from a mug that’s printed with a quote from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, “The most beautiful people…”

I hear the sounds of the city emanate from the cracked living room window and echo throughout the small apartment. Exhaust and engines revving and beeps and the occasional voice yelling across market street.

I’ve found an apartment in Woodside California. If I sign the lease today, I’ll move in June 16th and be living in a 17,000 sq ft mansion with ten other housemates. I’ve gone through several feelings since I discovered this arrangement last week, from excited at the prospect of living in such a place, to apprehensive of so many housemates, to at peace that I’ll make the most of this situation, and it’ll provide me with the social exposure to relieve the loneliness of the breakup.

Other than that, work has been a combination of great and hectic. I’m suppose to be drawing up a long term business plan for our global president, who wants to meet with me this week or next. Quite a task. I suspect there is about $100 to $150 million in opportunity. We currently have less than 10% of the business at $6 million or so. With the right organization and investment, I firmly believe we can grow this to $25 million in ten years, and $50 million in fifteen years. Those are rough numbers, but extremely realistic.

The most difficult part is the “how”.

Of course my management wants to hire staff and develop new products. I don’t want this, however. Not yet. I want organizational processes. Specifically, I want database systems and processes in place. Then I want to hire more people, then I want to develop and release new products. Why? Data.

My job is to grow business. I grow business by satisfying needs. I satisfy needs by developing and delivering value.

What is most critical to growth is customer needs, not solutions and products. If the customer needs change, my products are worthless.

I want systems that allow me to capture customer data. That means everything about a customer, every need, every person with that need, every department and business unit associated with that need, every machine name, every assembly name, every contract manufacturer. Once I have that system in place, then I want to collect all that information. This is the stage we hire more staff.

Once we gather enough data, then analyze it so it can inform our decision making processes. Then we can strategically develop products that will be the best fit for the customers.

I realize that I cannot build a database system without understanding the optimal processes.

As a result, I’ve developed my own processes and created my own database in Excel. This is great for me. It’s okay for managing my team. But it is not scalable.

So, what I imagine to be the best order for developing this business:

  1. Sales Process Organization Optimization
  2. Database System
  3. Hire Account Managers
  4. Collect More Customer/Market Data
  5. Analyze Data
  6. Marketing Sales Strategies for current products
  7. Direct Sales and Distribution
  8. New Product Development Engineering
  9. Release New Products based on Customer Database Analyses
  10. Local Rapid Prototyping Engineering Office – Collaborative Development
  11. Local Manufacturing

That’s more or less how I see this working.

When it comes to hiring more staff, I see a territory or sales director, such as myself, with a small team of sales engineers, customer support specialists, and technical marketing engineers.

Sales engineers eliminate the need for application engineers, who are more of a support role and don’t proactively close the sale. Sales engineers are responsible for solving the customers problem without any need of outside support. They are responsible for making lots of sales meetings and calls, and promoting products to specific customers. They are the most important staff for maintaining the database accuracy and updating records.

Customer support specialists are basically a combination of inside sales and customer support. They create leads, take phone calls, direct calls, take orders, provide quotes, ship samples, etc. They work closely with sales engineers to get things quoted and ordered quickly, providing the customer with any information they need as quickly as possible.

Technical marketing engineers are a combination of product managers and marketing. They work to identify sales strategy with the sales director. They analyze the database and discover trends. They also have a very deep technical product knowledge, and are always studying competition, applications, and market trends.

Need to go. Write more later.

Scenius, or the Communal Genius of Mastermind Groups

When I was about twenty years old I read many books by Napoleon Hill. One theme that stuck with me was the importance of Mastermind Groups, or like minded peers that mentored each other to bring out the best of the group. I’ve also recognized these groups in various writing groups or intellectual circles or philosophy groups throughout history. It’s uncanny how talent seems to find itself in others.

Albert Einstein developed his intellect through the Olympia Academy, a group of friends who discussed philosophy and physics.

Since then I’ve always strive to cultivate my own groups of friends that I admire and respect that I discuss ideas with to bring out our best. I’ve had one such group for over 10 years now, named “Brosensus”, which contains more than ten friends I’ve made throughout my life whom I respect the most for their perspectives and attitudes and mindset.

Just recently I came across this concept “scenius” in the short book “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon. And today I read a nice summary of the concept on Kevin Kelly’s blog The Technium, who is editor of Wired Magazine.

Contactless Retail and Simulation

The things AmazonGo is doing is unreal. Everything will be tracked. Minute RFID tags in everything. There are other ways they’ll confirm, like machine vision and weight.

But the idea of a store there you are tracked, your every movement, from the moment you enter the store, seems like just the beginning of some Orwellian government control nightmare.

They know everything about you upon entering
One day we won’t need to physically interact with other humans. Everything will be through media, through a medium, a simulacra.

And we will slowly become more and more submersed into the simulation. Unable to differentiate the map from the territory
Propaganda is just what the opposing ideology calls your news

This COVID virus situation is just pushing society further into this cybernetic world of control.

When the media or medium is centralized…. when the message is controlled…. that’s a bad day for autonomy.

If we ever had it.

Controlled on the sense that, Reality becomes a simulation, because all the perceptible objects were engage with are simulacra, or copies that depict things that either had no original, or that no longer have an original. Just abstractions of abstractions.

What is digital currency?

An abstraction of physical value.

Digital currency is abstracted dollar note, which is abstracted coins, which is abstracted metal, which is abstracted value.

I just think this who shift to full blown digitization of human interaction is surreal
Society is not consciously aware that the social media or “mediums” we rely on to represent original things may no longer be a reliable guide.

Perhaps we are aware, to some extent. Hence the “fake news”.

But that’s like one fish telling another fish the water’s dirty.

“What the hell is water?”

“No, your waters dirty!”

Meanwhile no one has a clue that we’re all in the water together. They don’t even know what water is, because it is everything they know and live on.

Body Park

G went to Hays Valley park to sit on a bench next to some bushes.

While she was sitting there some police officers walked up to the bush and were talking amongst themselves, just a few feet away.

She continued watching them and occasionally they’d lean into the bush to inspect something inside.

G then saw what they were inspecting, and they took notice of her watching them.

Then they politely said to her, “it’s up to you if you want to stay here but this is a dead person”

That’s when G saw the lifeless body on the ground beneath the bushes, the legs and arms contorted in an unnatural way.

This shocked G, and sent a cold chill through her body.

She instantly got up up and thanked them and walked to another bench, and watched as they unfurled a yellow tarp to wrap around the body while they waited.

As G sat on the bench across the park, she reflected on the experience, still watching the bush and officers from a couple dozen feet away. She thought it was odd that she still remained in the park, and that life continued for everyone passing by, despite the dead body, and the end of life it represented.

Split

You know, I have split personalities.

Part of me wants to be jacked and ripped and just dangerously good looking and cool and suave and charismatic and sharp and GQ and smiling all the time.

The other half doesn’t care at all about appearances. Doesn’t want to groom. Is antisocial. Is content with not caring about what anyone thinks about how I live. Wear the same clothes everyday. Just be obsessed with building little metal worlds I can day dream about in solitude.

What’s the best way to live? There are pro’s and con’s to each. Is there a way to integrate both?

Random AI Thoughts

I think the biggest barrier to AI having any kind of dominance, is the inability to create meaning.
Humanity currently defines what meaning is.
I can’t imagine AI ever telling humanity what is meaningful

And because society and meaning and values are contextualized by humans, I don’t think AI will ever be able to do that independent of human input.

AI will be an instrument, but that is all.
Value and meaning is uniquely human. Because these serve humanity.

We imbue things, ideas, feelings with value and humanity because it serves humanities interest.

How could anything other than humanity know what’s in humanities best interest?

It may mimic and emulate, but it will not create or coin meaning and value.

Perhaps this novelty will help us progress. But eventually there will be a divergence, and the novelty will wear off as we recognize the dissonance between what AI is providing, and what humanity requires/needs/craves.
The meaning and value question is something I’ve never been able to reconcile.

I cannot conceive of a logical machine ever creating the illogical meaning and value that humanity thrives on

I mean, we tell the machines what is meaningful and valuable, what to perceive and look for
Can you imagine them telling us?
There’s just this pure chaotic electrical noise.

The AI says “this is beautiful”

We think it’s intolerable and ask why?

The AI explains there are perfect mathematical patterns creating layers of perfect harmony.

We don’t give a shit. It sounds like crap.
But if I imagine AI as a dog, I think I can envision this: The AI just does whatever pleases humanity.
But is that creativity?
Does a dog create meaning?

When we say AI, are we saying a machine that man programmed to create music that pleases humans?
sure
It’s still an instrument of man. In the same way the the Violin is an instrument to create more pleasing vibrations
Could it exist independent of man? I don’t think so
AI is this catch all
Just to be clear, I’m referring to the possibility of sentient artificial intelligence
Not AI as it is today, which is just a computer that can calculate definitive outputs based on highly variable inputs
So i guess this is what I’m thinking
Man this is so complex
Because I think our consciousness is a social byproduct
Like the mind does not exist independent of society
And we overlook this point
Hard to do this thought experiment, because humanity depends on a strong cultural programming, but here’s a shot

Take a human. Place in a totally new and foreign environment.

Humans perceive the world and it’s various animations and actors, and assign symbols and signs to these. Man says this is meaningful. This is valuable. This is not.

I can only assume this is a symptom of man’s drive to survive.

But I’m not sure meaning and value is necessary without multiple minds.
I just try to imagine an AI robot.

How do we program a robot? Do we program a robot? Or at some point does it program itself?

Like a child you program and then learns to think for itself. But it’s still human.

How does an AI robot does this?

If we place the robot in a similar foreign environment, is it relying on the human programming to decipher meaning and value?

Will a robot be able to correctly assign meaning and value in a way that serves the needs of AI?

In the same way that humanity creates meaning and value that serves our needs?
I just keep thinking that AI will always be constrained to the program that humanity inscribes it with
Will AI ever propagate Indpendent of humanity?
I suppose when AI achieves the ability to propagate on its own, that will step 1.

Then it will need to be able to adapt to environmental changes. Maybe step 2.

I think it’s clear that the greatest intelligence is distributed. I think there’s an evolutionary advantage to not having centralized minds.

Makes the system more flexible and less rigid to adapt to change
I don’t even understand my own consciousness, what it is, and how it arises or arose in humanity.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand how it will come to be in AI
Yea my brain melts when I gaze into this gaping abyss of “what is mind?”
The trip i have is that “mind” is actually software.
It’s not hardware/wetware/brain
It’s not in the brain
Mind is a social/cultural by product
The structures of consciousness do not inhabit a brain.
We have this mind which is an aggregation of all the lived experiences that every human on earth ever absorbed and transmitted to other humans.
As a metaphor
A single human can not develop without another human
The mind is nothin without another perspective
at this point it requires nurture
It relies on outside programming
The mind is like this flame that was sparked tens of thousands of years ago, and since then this flame has been growing with every lived experience
It’s just this accretion of programming
The mind is lit by others
If you took a baby and gave him to gorillas, assuming he survived, what would you make of his consciousness?
Would this grown baby retain any semblance of the consciousness we see in our fellow man?
Or would this grown baby possess the mind of the gorilla?
I think that the grown baby would be no more conscious or less conscious than the gorilla
The brain has the capacity for “consciousness”, whatever that is.

But i think it’s just a cultural byproduct. Residual programming past on from generation to generation

Persistence

I did not understand the value of persistence until I was like, 20.

And I only understand the power of persistence when I learned that achieving anything and everything takes time.

I feel like the first 20 years of my life I got good at things simply because I enjoyed them. I was not a great student. Not at all. But when i enjoyed something, I did it all the time. It was effortless. Just lost in the “flow” and spent tons of time with the thing. And as I result I was good at it. I never saw this correlation as a kid. It was always attributed to innate talent.

“Studying” was a foreign concept. I didn’t study, ever. I just became fascinated with subjects and spent time with the books exploring them. I literally was a retarded “student”, as in no study habits or academic goals, even though i aced most subjects, simply because I found them interesting.

I recall long stretches of my early childhood laying on the floor, drawing the minute i got home from school until bed time. Usually this happened when I was grounded, but I didn’t mind being grounded. It happened so routinely. I’d just draw for hours or days or weeks. And somehow I was an “artist”, and parents and teachers would revel at my artistic ability.

Or I’d spend days or weeks laying on my bedroom floor or taking a shit or car rides reading books. Mostly encyclopedias. I literally read them all multiple times. And teachers would comment on how bright I was, but I never understood this, because I was a horrible student, never did homework. Just read stuff I enjoyed.

When i began playing guitar, I didn’t think of practicing. It wasn’t practice. Yes it was practice with my trumpet. Miserable practice. But guitar was effortless. I’d sleep with my guitar. I’d finger the fret board as I dozed off to sleep. Brought it everywhere with me. To school. To church. Vacation. I’d play all the time. People would attribute this musical ability to some innate music talent. But in reality I’d just enjoyed playing music, and did it all the time.

Sports were the same. I never thought of practice. I never thought of “persistence”. Just did things I enjoyed.

On the flip side, I did not do things I did not enjoy.

I did not enjoy activities when there was an outside pressure to perform, and I disappointed others.

When I lost. When my results were less than expected by people. This put immense pressure on me, and I attributed my performance to my value as a person, and I soon ceased enjoying these activities. Not consciously.

This pressure wasn’t really present in childhood. But it grew immensely as I got older. People expected these “talents” to do big things.

But I just never knew what practice felt like when I enjoyed it.

And when i didn’t enjoy it, I couldn’t do it. And if I couldn’t perform the task, I didn’t.

And so as I got older, it felt like I just had this talent for certain things, except when I let people down or “failed” or “lost”, and so when I didn’t have a talent for them, I just didn’t do the thing.

The thing is. I have a sister. She never really had a lot of interests, per say. She was always easy going and never really had a “drive” to know or perfect something.

HOWEVER, she was persistent as fuck.

I remember observing her. She would ask and ask and ask and ask. She would never ever ever ever give up if she wanted something.

Granted, she never had huge aspirations or ambitions. She’s simple, and she loves simplicity.

But when she wants something, she doesn’t make a big deal about it. She just persists until she gets it. I mean. Parents or people or friends would say no a million times. I’d be like, move the fuck on. Mom said no. Your friend said no. It was annoying how god damn single minded she was when she wanted something. Whether it was a puppy or toy or a dress or a vacation or to go to a certain school or whatever.

She has accomplished a lot of things. Things she values.

But mostly her approach taught me something.

It taught me that persistence doesn’t require effort per say. Action does, but persistence does not. Persistence requires patience.

It taught me that persistence can accomplish more than cleverness and intensity.

Persistence. It carves out a path in the world. Energy and persistence conquers all things.

“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence” Watkins

If you just keep that thing in your mind and show up, ask, knock, seek. Things will happen and move forward.

Habits are great in this regard. Habits are like the nozzle of persistence that directs your energy to cut through anything.

Cybernetics and General Systems Theory

Foundational authors of Cybernetics and Systems theory:

Talcott Parsons
Niklas Luhmann
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Warren McCulloch
Jay Forrester
Gordon Brown
Jose Verela
Norbert Weiner
Claude Shannon
Ross Ashby
Alan Turing
James Maxwell
John von Neumann
Heinz von Forester
Anthony Wilden
Humberto Maturana
Ilya Prigogine
Gregory Bateson

These are a few names… but there are so many more that branched off into domain specific fields, though the origins of their ideas began with this complex systems background

It’s such a interdisciplinary subject. I’m constantly astonished how far reaching the topic is, and yet how completely unknown it is. As in, you discover that so many great minds contributed to it topic, and yet, it’s hardly known or understood. It’s like the ultimate platonic form.

Continue reading “Cybernetics and General Systems Theory”

Market Value Divergence

I’m trying to do a thought experiment and model a scenario, maybe a betting situation, where there are 100 people, and 10 people have 90% the chips, and the 90 remaining people have 10% of the chips, and all 100 sit around a table and must play a few hands and place bets every day.

If one of the 90 people is feeling lucky they’ll convince one of the high rollers to lend a stack of chips to play a hand. If they win that hand, they pay back the high roller and now will have a seat next to the high rollers.

But mostly 90% of low rolling players have to shine the shoes and clean the houses of the people with all the chips, just so they can get a few chips of their own to have a seat at the table to play.

And every day all 100 come and sit around the betting table, and place bets. The poor can only afford to place the ante.

If you took a median sampling of the players, you’d think this was a pretty sad situation.

Everyone is poor, or owes the high rollers some chips. They all work for the high rollers, since they have all the chips that are required to play a bet every day.

But for some reason the pot is always so big!

So strange.

It’s like. How can a pot be so high priced, when everyone else is so poor? The only explanation is that we’re are a handful of people who are placing bets and competing with each owner

Trying to understand how the fuckin stock market is increasing

Despite 33 million unemployed

Despite GDP contracting 30% 2nd qtr.

Despite estimated -5% GDP growth in 2020
Like what would cause the stocks to unhinge so dramatically.

I can only conclude this stimulus basically just went straight to people who have money already, who just decided to keep that money in the market, since they had excess cash on hand.
So this artificially inflated market values
What happens when we see earnings reports?
And all these companies are overvalued?

Will that even matter?

Probably not. Not to the people with money.
It’s just a betting game between the wealthy

Value is relative to the player

They’re taking a winner take all game

That’s the only corollary to this situation
They’re playing a winner take all game*
At some point yes, the bets are outrageous. They’re unhinged, to the median player.

After 90% of the players are essentially eliminated, the rest are relegated to simply placing an “ante”. It’s just to make it seem like there is a competitive playing field.

I’m trying to rationalize this surreal market divergence from the economy.

I just think it’s obvious that there is a separate game being played
The market is not public
It’s a private game
They just take our ante
It’s unsettling

Death and Stars

Can I tell you, my friend? I feel death in my bones. It makes me want to cry.

Not death of body, death of spirit. Though there’s certainly the feeling that my body is wasting away with every passing year.

I’m reading an essay titled Of Peace of Mind by Seneca. It’s my bedtime reading. Or perhaps daily meditation. I can’t adequately express how much that essay speaks to me.

I’m in this prolonged changeless season. Some years feel like months, and some months like years. These past years have felt like decades. So much has transpired, and yet so little. Moves, jobs, living arrangements, lifestyle changes, and the like.

Throughout it all, there has been a growing pressure, as if I have no where else to go. My aspirational visions have withered to attend to more present things: fulfill my current duties to the best of my ability, and derive a sense of pleasure and accomplishment for their fulfillment. This has made me fulfilled. Being responsible is satisfying, on some level.

The daily routines of mechanical habit give a sense of structure and meaning to my otherwise turbulent thoughts. This rigidity provides security, my daily bread.

But I feel malnourished.

Bread is not enough.

These daily disciplines act as gates that guard against the vacuous abyss that siphon whatever pleasure I can wring from life.

I’d like to tear down the gates, and jump into the abyss, race to the bottom, rather than fight to escape. I want to feel the center of its crushing gravity, and let it tear me apart and unfurl my spirit like an exploding star.

Gatekeepers

Talent is not enough.

There are gatekeepers of the world, and these gatekeepers define value.

They define value by making sense of the noise, of the cacophony of competing voices.

They implement systems to channel and distribute chosen voices.

They select what is worth seeing and hearing, what is worthy of public attention, of admiration and praise, and they categorize it for the people. They tell people what it is, and what it means.

The values they pick are always self serving. Gatekeepers select voices that reinforce their authority and position the most. This is natural, this is survival.

The systems they implement are often pay to play. They capitalize on the desire to be the voice. You must pay to play.

Sometimes there is a voice that the gatekeepers have overlooked, or ignored. These voices emerge out of revolution, out of defiance. They are non conformist that grow in influence in proportion to their rejection by the gatekeepers.

Eventually an outside gatekeepers sees the fire inside this voice, and builds its own channel and systems around it.

Sometimes it is the voice that builds these systems and channels for itself, and in time becomes a gatekeeper for other voices.
This is how it works, I believe. Roughly.
Any voice:

Actors, musicians, writers, comics, playwrights, dancers, academics, choreographers, artists, etc.

These gatekeepers are necessary. They are byproducts of society need to be lead, to provide a heuristic to aid judgement. The public chooses them to be guardians of public values, to represent what the public desires, what it avers.

But in time these gatekeepers stop serving the public, and start serving themselves. They preserve the status quo.

And a divergence occurs, and this creates opportunity for new voices.

The public is hungry for something different, that it’s not being fed.

You don’t need talent to succeed, you just need to serve the gatekeeper.

If you will not serve, you need talent, as well as resilient defiance, and an ability to endure solitary rejection, and sing with the same vigor, even if to an empty room.

Propaganda

I purchased Jacques Elull’s book Propaganda in 2012, but read it briskly, savoring the deep insights into humanity’s mechanical madness, and the sad susceptibility that each forgetful generation falls to soothsaying demagogues who program the populous with a prose which incites blind obedience that cost them their lives. I’ve recently began turning over the pages again to uncover these sage gems, which seem to reflect the tides of current times.

“To the extent that propaganda is based on current news, it cannot permit time for thought or reflection. A man caught up in the news must remain on the surface of the event; be is carried along in the current, and can at no time take a respite to judge and appreciate; he can never stop to reflect. There is never any awareness — of himself, of his condition, of his society — for the man who lives by current events. Such a man never stops to investigate any one point, any more than he will tie together a series of news events. We already have mentioned man’s inability to consider several facts or events simultaneously and to make a synthesis of them in order to face or to oppose them. One thought drives away another; old facts are chased by new ones. Under these conditions there can be no thought. And, in fact, modern man does not think about current problems; he feels them. He reacts, but be does not understand them any more than he takes responsibility for them. He is even less capable of spotting any inconsistency between successive facts; man’s capacity to forget is unlimited. This is one of the most important and useful points for the propagandist, who can always be sure that a particular propaganda theme, statement, or event will be forgotten within a few weeks. Moreover, there is a spontaneous defensive reaction in the individual against an excess of information and — to the extent that he clings (unconsciously) to the unity of his own person — against inconsistencies. The best defense here is to forget the preceding event. In so doing, man denies his own continuity; to the same extent that he lives on the surface of events and makes today’s events his life by obliterating yesterday’s news, he refuses to see the contradictions in his own life and condemns himself to a life of successive moments, discontinuous and fragmented. This situation makes the “current-events man” a ready target for propaganda. Indeed, such a man is highly sensitive to the influence of present-day currents; lacking landmarks, he follows all currents. He is unstable because he runs after what happened today; he relates to the event, and therefore cannot resist any impulse coming from that event. Because he is immersed in current affairs, this man has a psychological weakness that puts him at the mercy of the propagandist. No confrontation ever occurs between the event and the truth; no relationship ever exists between the event and the person. Real information never concerns such a person. What could be more striking, more distressing, more decisive than the splitting of the atom, apart from the bomb itself? And yet this great development is kept in the background, behind the fleeting and spectacular result of some catastrophe or sports event because that is the superficial news the average man wants. Propaganda addresses itself to that man; like him, it can relate only to the most superficial aspect of a spectacular event, which alone can interest man and lead him to make a certain decision or adopt a certain attitude. But here we must make an important qualification. The news event may be a real fact, existing objectively, or it may be only an item of information, the dissemination of a supposed fact. What makes it news is its dissemination, not its objective reality.” —Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes

“Those who read the press of their group and listen to the radio of their group are constantly reinforced in their allegiance. They learn more and more that their group is right, that its actions are justified; thus their beliefs are strengthened. At the same time, such propaganda contains elements of criticism and refutation of other groups, which will never be read or heard by a member of another group…Thus we see before our eyes how a world of closed minds establishes itself, a world in which everybody talks to himself, everybody constantly views his own certainty about himself and the wrongs done him by the Others – a world in which nobody listens to anybody else.” —Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (1962)


“People used to think that learning to read evidenced human progress; they still celebrate the decline of illiteracy as a great victory; they condemn countries with a large proportion of illiterates; they think that reading is a road to freedom. All this is debatable, for the important thing is not to be able to read, but to understand what one reads, to reflect on and judge what one reads. Outside of that, reading has no meaning (and even destroys certain automatic qualities of memory and observation). But to talk about critical faculties and discernment is to talk about something far above primary education and to consider a very small minority. The vast majority of people, perhaps 90 percent, know how to read, but do not exercise their intelligence beyond this. They attribute authority and eminent value to the printed word, or, conversely, reject it altogether. As these people do not possess enough knowledge to reflect and discern, they believe—or disbelieve—in toto what they read. And as such people, moreover, will select the easiest, not the hardest, reading matter, they are precisely on the level at which the printed word can seize and convince them without opposition. They are perfectly adapted to propaganda.” —Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes

Thin Film Battery Technology: Leveraging Semiconductor Science to Build Better Batteries

The energy storage and battery industry needs to learn more from the semiconductor industry. Lots of talk about current battery science progress revolves around battery chemistry, the chemical mix and crystal structure and construction of the anode/cathode/electrolyte composition.

I feel like battery tech is 20 years behind where semiconductor is. Why?

No idea why battery science appears so far behind current semiconductor technology. I attribute the lag to economic incentives: we’re always near a power grid, and oil and gas are already stable stored energy sources.

When you look at the technology, battery technology would benefit immensely from incorporating the science of semiconductors. It’s weird that it’s not.

Essentially battery manufacturing is a less refined process, but extremely similar steps, involving coating/deposition.

I feel battery technologists and manufacturers would benefit from incorporating semiconductor processes, specifically thin film deposition techniques (depositing atomic layers to build circuits, gates, etc via vapor deposition or epitaxial processes etc)

I just googled to see if this was a thing, and it is. Albeit, not commercial, yet.

Thin Film Batteries seem extremely promising.

The recent “single crystal cathode” patent by Tesla to eliminate structural cracks within the crystal structure made me think about water fabrication equipment OEMs who specialize in building atomic structures an atom or two thin with various deposition techniques.

Simplified Battery manufacturing process (cathode and anode combined to simplify):
Mixing: creating slurry
Coating Top: extrusion slurry onto foil substrate
Drying: removing solvent
Coating Bottom
Drying: removing solvent
Curing
Press
Slitting
Winding: Jelly Winding the Cathode/Anode/Separator
Jelly Roll Insertion
Top cap tab welding
Electrolyte fill
Top cap assembly on can
Charge
Test
Formation: lots of steps including aging, charge, discharge, testing
Final visual cell inspection

The recent “single crystal cathode” patent by Tesla to eliminate structural cracks within the crystal structure made me think about water fabrication equipment OEMs who specialize in building atomic structures an atom or two thin with various deposition techniques.

Semiconductor science began in the 1960’s and never stopped. It exploded in the 1980’s once deposition and etch and photolithography techniques began to streamline. Once they learned how to etch transistors into metal, they only limiting factor was manipulating light waves, and the size of those waves.

We had 130nm gates in 2000.

Now we have gates 3nm.

A silicon atom is .3nm.

I say this because the efficiency of computing and microprocessing is directly related to the precision of depositing and manipulating layers of atoms….

And this is exactly the same challenges that battery is dealing with now.

Except battery science appears to be in the Stone Age.

They are just painting atoms onto foil substrates with imprecise extrusion machines.

They are not precise, and they aren’t manipulating atoms. They aren’t building atomic crystal structures with the precision they desire, and which is currently being achieved by the semiconductor industry.

The crystal structure is critical for efficiency and power density.

Maxwells proposed Dry Cell is a big step in this direction, eliminating solvents and liquid electrolytes.

But they are still depositing these materials with gross imprecision.

Battery science and manufacturing need to leverage the established deposition techniques of the semiconductor process.

The integrity of the crystal structure is critical for electrical efficiency, power density, etc.

Predictions

Within the next year:

  • Unemployment will increase, perhaps to +30%
  • Demand will shift from brick and mortar retail to online.
  • Restaurants will continue to suffer, and grocery will improve. More people will eat at home. Demand for “Cloud kitchens” may increase, but cash strapped consumers may not demand this higher premium service.
  • Automotive will be hit hard. No demand for new cars. People will travel and commute less. Cars will be less of a status symbol.
  • Oil is cheap, so demand for EV will decline.
  • Tesla will declare bankruptcy.*
  • Governments will struggle with budgets with no tax revenue. This will have cascading effects for gov employees, teachers, pensions, etc.
  • Short term rental industry will collapse. Airbnb will likely collapse. Lack of short term rental demand and outstanding mortgages will result in increase of home sales.
  • Home prices will fall as supply increases.
  • Travel and tourism will struggle. Cities and business in this industry will struggle.
  • Airlines will continue struggling.
  • Commercial businesses will see remote work success and increasingly move to remote work model. Decreasing need for commutes and expensive office space.
  • Home electronics demand will increase.
  • Lab automation will increase, with increase demand for mass testing and lab diagnostics.
  • Current food production outstripped demand. Food producers over supplied. Decreased restaurant demand will mean less food waste, further decrease in food demand. This will further impact food production, increasing need for gov subsidization, or increasing consolidation/monopolization of food industry.
  • Local farms will likely flourish as people are spending less at restaurants, and will spend more on high quality groceries.

The stock markets will reverse their bullish course soon, likely this month, and continue to decline as these economic realities begin settling in.

As much as I genuinely love Musk, I have been bearish on him for a long time.

I’m not trying to be a hater or non conformist, or any of that.

I just see two things as flags:

  1. He’s financed his growth, and when he stops getting finance, that’ll be a bad day.
  2. He’s got a bad reputation with suppliers. Doesn’t pay his bills so he can show positives on balance sheet for shareholders. Treats his suppliers like trash.

His model could work if he had infinite runway I suppose. Like Amazon, ramp and scale up revenue streams then flip some switches and turn on profits. But automotive supply chain is not like distribution or software. Very complex. And lots and lots of overhead. He thought this could be automated away, but he learned it could not.

So I think this is the year that Tesla has its reckoning. I think auto sales will be crushed. I think Tesla will have very low car sales. I think they will bleed out until their debt obligations hit, which between 2021 and 2023 are $4.2 billion.

There are a lot of variables still. They have this China factory building Model Y and some batteries. Cost is his biggest barrier to mass consumer, and batteries are a significant portion of total vehicle cost. His China plant should reduce cost significantly, thanks to cheap labor.

I’m curious how this relationship with China will pan out. I think it will reduce his costs significantly— China has cheap labor, almost slave labor (Uyghars). But then also have massive government intervention. This could be good or bad. In many ways Elon and China has lots in common: they do whatever necessary to get the job done. However, I wonder what arrangements were made. Did Elon sell his soul to the devil? Does Elon know that his entire IP will be stolen? Or will this be a saving grace, and will China bail him out to save face and use Elon as a propaganda tool?

I dunno.

But either way Elon needs to sell cars to stay afloat. And will definitely will not this year.

Teslas cash reserves will stave off the inevitable for awhile, but his salesmanship won’t work if there is no liquidity, or if there’s no one willing to bet on an auto EV company that no ones buying.

Elon knows all this. I think he’s worried, definitely.

Working at the Gigafactory revealed that there is a bearish sentiment regarding Tesla. Panasonic executives don’t want to continue working with Tesla. That’s a flag. Everyone at the factory supports his mission. Sustainability. Electric vehicles.

But he doesn’t run his business like he should. He doesn’t treat employees well, and he doesn’t treat suppliers well.

No one works for Elon. They work for his dream.

I don’t think there will be the demand he needs, not this year. With oil prices, with lack of commuting and traveling, with unemployment, etc. No way will Tesla, who has never had a profitable year in its 12 years as a company, somehow emerge unscathed.

The battery tech will be interesting. The most exciting part is combining Maxwell’s super capacitive technology with Lithium ion, which will increase battery life significantly, and also boost performance. Adding supercapacitive will reduce cost as well. We’ll see how this pans out.

Panasonic is launching its Tech6 battery in a few months. I believe this is unrelated. But Panasonic’s battery technology is leap years ahead of its competition. It’s worth noting that this technology is not owned by Tesla.

But Tesla actually doesn’t produce any batteries, and has never mass produced batteries. Building batteries in a lab is different than mass manufacturing. So no one knows whether Tesla’s batteries are just concept or will work in practice.

At the moment Panasonic is the sole supplier of Tesla batteries, and they produce double what the next largest supplier produces CATL, Teslas future China parter.

I think there’s a big risk China will likely steal whatever battery technology Tesla develops. Or just any technology period. This could be problematic for Tesla, assuming it’s better and less costly to manufacture than current batteries. China has 486 EV car manufacturers that would benefit from this.

At the end of the day, Elon is a showman. He tells half-truths. He’s not honest or transparent about the whole picture. About anything really. This may be well and fine, and business as usual. But there is a lot hiding that people don’t see. He only lets people see what he wants them to see.

People forget about all of his straight out lies, and only seem to remember the things he pulls through on.

I can list all the things he promised and never came through on, but it’d be exhausting.

He has indeed done remarkable things. Maybe unconventionally. Maybe with too much risk. But he’s done it.

I think as long as he has cash/liquidity on hand he can afford mistakes. Make 10 bets, one pays off, people forget the rest, he gets more funding, drives up share prices, etc.

I just thinks there is more than meets the eye with his Tesla business. I’m not convinced he’s got a sound business model yet. It feels like he’s constantly flailing, always desperate.

My intuition is that when cash/funding/liquidity dries up, these cracks will expose bigger problems.