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Feb 5, 2023Liked by Ed Conway

Hello, Couple of thoughts:

Agree with the premise - the sheer scale of reinvention required is greatly underappreciated - it's telling that the Knowledge newsletter sent me here rather than linked to an MSM article.

The task is likely harder because the new ways we need to make stuff are often not better in any other respect than being lower emissions, and will start off much more expensive. So the motivation to invent and for inventions to diffuse is limited without a clear emissions-reduction signal i.e. carbon price, which much of the world does not have. I suppose the (expensive) alternative is to subsidise the heck out of the new stuff as per the US "inflation reduction act".

I note that you didn't point out that we have an existing energy technology that can consistently produce plenty of emissions free heat and electricity using very dense energy sources...not trying to start the fight that normally occurs when the n-word is mentioned, but it does reinforce the value of being able to make use of this resource in a way that is both safe and perceived to be safe.

Finally the conventional economic wisdom is that it takes a few decades for productivity benefits to be obvious from major new technologies as it takes a while for people to get the best out of them and for existing structures and processes to be reoriented around them. So any new inventions tomorrow will start showing up in the productivity stats around 2050 when we are supposed to be hitting net zero...

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In addition to these manufacturing revolutions, innovation in materials recycling, and using more sustainable materials (such as lime and timber etc. where possible) and being more efficient in our use of materials (retrofit/repair rather than demolish and rebuild) will be interesting to see!

Also, it would be a great shame if all we revolutionised were pre-existing processes and technologies, all that effort just to be standing in the same place minus the emissions! I think it's really important to focus on the opportunities for dividends from these new technologies, and also focus on changing the way we do things, e.g. private car ownership to active travel and public transport, not simply combustion engines to EVs. This helps solve health issues from inactivity to air pollution to fewer traffic accidents, less wasted time stuck in traffic, liveable streets and so on.

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