IPAT Revisited

By Hugh Abner
[48 Years and Counting Manufacturing Batteries and Battery Machinery]

Back in June I revealed my interest in a certain book which I was reading; THE INFINITE RESOURCE, by Ramez Naam.

The book prepares the reader in the first parts to have a fundamental understanding of the growth we humans have experienced to date, the problems this growth has presented, and, the failure of some of the projections of impact which the simple formula (I = P x A x T) led many to believe. With; I for Impact, {Meaning impact on the earth’s ability to absorb human activity), P = Population, A = Affluence and T = Technology which was the first form of the equation it was easy to assume that the number inserted for, “P”, carried the same weight as “A” and “T”. Even during the 1970’s when this equation was put together it was easy to accept that the number for “P” was surely only to get larger while the other numbers were not as easily to project. For example, while it was almost a certainty that technology would increase it was not a given even though it was highly expected. Remember, an improvement in technology was expected to reduce human impact. Some though, like Thomas Malthus – AN ESSAY ON THE PRICIPLES OF POPULATION, which had been written back in 1798 still believed that while population increases exponentially food production only increases arithmetically and this would result only in tragedy. This though has turned out to be totally false. Population has certainly increased but food production has more than kept up.

So as time has passed since the introduction of the (I=PAT) relationships all of them have been examined, adjusted and reexamined. There is a factor brought into play by us humans: INNOVATION. It seems that from our history with all its struggles we have always found a way to innovate ourselves into improved conditions, (Speaking relatively of course).

It seems that from our population someone or some groups appear that lower the barriers and allow us to advance. This particular book even goes so far as to suggest that greater innovation can be expected because of a growth in population. I, personally, struggle with that one but it is certainly interesting reading and really what I am trying to do here is to get you interested in this book because it is filled with interest far beyond anything I point out in this blog.

In my former blog I used some agrarian metaphors in order to make a couple of points with the major one being that we mostly have gathered in the low hanging fruit when it comes to our innovations to date. Keeping the thought in mind that increased populations will bring forth an increased number of superior brain powered innovators I want to use one more agrarian visual thought. I said that I personally struggle with the concept of – more people = more innovators because it gives me a visual of all of us pulling a wagon. In this wagon is the future, our youth, and the numbers of that youth is encouraged to grow larger so the wagon has to become larger. The concept then is that from the wagon will emerge innovators that will reduce the struggle to propel it. In fact, the number pulling the wagon will be reducing as the number filling the wagon gets larger. This is because those initially pulling will get older and less efficient, and yes, even being returned to the ever growing wagon for a free ride to the end. To me this puts an unreal burden on the future innovators but the scholars such as Mr. Naam see it differently and believe me, I want to be a believer.

Alright I have had my fun here so now I have to make all this fit in with our battery industry. We really do not have to worry about anything except what kinds of ingredients will these batteries have. You see one of the barriers our future innovators will have to eliminate or make less tall is that of energy supply. Today we can read of many potential energy systems which are regenerative and can mesh in with today’s mineral and fossil depletion types. If it is regenerative then somewhere there will be a standby battery to take up the slack when the water, wind or solar sources are momentarily unavailable.

When it comes to the future ingredients of batteries I look to the youth in my wagon to innovate with nanotechnology that begins building products from the atoms themselves and not from the low hanging ingredients of our natural resources.

Now that I am nearing the age where I will be put in the wagon for my free ride I hope while while I am riding to read about some youths that had an idea or developed a skill while I was pulling that enabled them to jump out and pull with far more power than me and my group could ever conceive of.

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