Monday, September 30, 2019

Seeking Cooler Than 1.5

Why 1.5ºC?

The Paris Agreement goal is to reach less than 1.5º C. It completes by the year 2100. The goal's target is to allow Earth to warm to about 1.5ºC (2.7ºF) above the average temperature from 1850-1900. Also note, 1.5ºC  is the global average: locally your town or city could warm greater than 1.5º C; it could warm more than of 10º C (or 18º F, like during the summer of 2010: "[...] anomalies were particularly pronounced, exceeding the 1970–1999 mean (18) by 10°C [... ]".) And lastly, the goal follows (economically) viable trajectory to 1.5 that includes exceeding 1.5ºC before returning to below 1.5ºC at the end of the century.

The section of my previous post, Climate Action to Carbon Removal Q&A: "Why is the amount of Carbon so much larger ..." is incorrect. The climate modeling publicly available referenced in the  Nature Article: 'Scenarios towards limiting global mean temperature increase below 1.5 °C' shows the climate returns to that of the mid-2020s or the 2000s in another graph. Because of this difference, I can't use the historical projection of radiative forcing to project the target climate. The climate of 2100 from SSPn-1.9 is more likely comparable to a climate similar to mid-2000 or mid-2020s and includes all climate extremes for those decades. Not to mention that the temperature will still rise from industrial use mid-century before finally descending to about 1.5ºC-1.4ºC. And it's worth underscoring, 1.5º C is relative to the starting timeframe of 1850-1900, per Special Report 1.5.

Figure 1. Climate Models of SSP1 1.9 IMAGE modeled by MAGICC in Green and FAIR in Purple by the IAMC Scenario Explorer hosted by IIASA

So why is the amount still so much more vast to reach 280 ppm in the atmosphere and oceans compared to only reaching a little below 1.5º C?

Think back to the original problem, we emitted Carbon Dioxide, which has accumulated in the atmosphere and oceans since the start of industry (1750). The accumulation of Carbon is roughly 460 gigatonnes of Carbon (1.8 trillion tonnes CO₂) or 80 thousand Great Pyramids of Giza, or 1.5M Empire State buildings, spread between the atmosphere and oceans. To restore the climate to a desired Carbon Dioxide concentration, we need to remove Carbon Dioxide we added that now resides in the atmosphere and oceans. We emitted about 360 gigatonnes of Carbon (1.3 trillion tonnes of CO₂) from 1750 to 2010. The target scenarios would remove on average 100 gigatonnes of Carbon (366 gigatonnes of CO₂) which has the potential to return to a climate roughly similar to 2010. Given the changes to the other greenhouse gases, the MAGICC model in Figure 1. shows a temperature more similar to what's projected for the mid-2020s. The amount to return to pre-industrial times would be the entire amount of Carbon we've emitted, all 460 gigatonnes of Carbon. This difference is perceived as politically untenable as it's perceived to be too expensive (with today's pricing of renewables and need for fossil fuels). If we wish to have the climate of say 300 ppm, we'd have to remove another 300 gigatonnes (≈1 trillion tonnes CO₂) beyond what it would take to reach 1.5ºC. To restore to a desired temperature in addition to removing CO₂, we would also need to draw down much of the short forming greenhouse gasses.

Figure 2. Cumulative Emissions are a super-exponential inducing changes to the natural sinks. SSP1 1.9 IMAGE, as well as SSP1 RCP2.6 IMAGE, are modeled for comparison. The X's listed in red are the amount of CO₂ it would take for the Atmosphere to reach 450 ppm and extrapolated to the Cumulative Emissions line. We are likely to deglaciate Antarctica when we hit 450 ppm. The SSPs splines were generated from a linear extrapolation of the SSP Database data.

No doctor would ever say to a cancer patient, 'We might be able to treat your cancer by providing the least amount of care and intervention.' That's exactly the target goal 1.5ºC primarily due to political will based on public support. It's from the support my government has historically supplied. And for that, I apologize to the world.

The UN Climate Action Summit 2019 theme referring to the climate emergency, was: 'A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win.' We should seek much lower than 1.5ºC should we want to secure an environment that fairly provides economic justice to all life on Earth. We didn't save the condors, bald eagles, Asian elephants, black-footed ferrets, kakapos, manatees, orangutans, the spotted owls, giant pandas, tigers, the leatherback sea turtles, the great blue whales, the humpback whales, and the redwoods, thousands square meters of rain forests, only to be lost again in another 60-100 years. We didn't decide we wanted to have Sustainable Development Goals only for the G7. A world on the brink of peril, say one created from vast amounts of CO₂; about 360 gigatonnes of Carbon (and 1.3 trillion tonnes of CO₂) similar to 2010 or that of the mid-2020s, isn't one social-ecological and economic justice.

And why? Because we're too lazy to change an existing infrastructure that delivers fossil fuels that creates wealth, and renewables are too expensive today? Those reasons aren't good enough to risk Earth for centuries to come.

Open Questions

What's the total amount of cumulative CO₂ since 1750 that equates to 450 ppm, and other tipping points? What scenarios get us away from these tipping points the fastest? What temperature relative to 1850, is safe and acceptable warming, that provides environmental justice for all plant, animal life on Earth? Note this allowable warming is relative to a point in time that was changed by human emissions, therefore this number could be negative. What's the fastest, safest rate we can remove Carbon from the atmosphere to restore the climate the fastest?

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Climate Action to CDR Q&A


Image Credit: CC-BY 4.0 Shannon Fiume, 2018 https://bit.ly/2V3qP80


How much Carbon do we need to pull out of the air (and oceans) to get to a Carbon Dioxide concentration of 281 ppm, as it was in the pre-Anthropocene?
   As of late last year by the latest emissions figures reported by the Global Carbon Budget Project, we need to pull about 460 gigatonnes of Carbon or remove 1.6 trillion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere.

And what’s the fastest rate could we pull this out of the atmosphere?
   This question isn’t simple, as we don’t know what’s the optimal rate to pull Carbon out of the atmosphere. Here are some hypotheticals. If were to remove all Carbon from human emissions, in the next twenty-five years, we’d need a fast rate of removal, say slightly over 18 gigatonnes of Carbon (or about 67 gigatonnes of CO₂) per year. If we expect to reach restoration in a somewhat longer time, say 30 to 40 years, then that number could lower. If we want to finish by 2100, when many of us have died, then we can reduce that number even further. If we lose the carbon sequestration capacity of the land sink, meaning the Carbon trapped underground or in plants goes into the atmosphere and subsequently pushed into the ocean, then the total goes up. We actually should plan on the amount being high initially such to steer us clear of tipping points.

Why are tipping points bad?
   There are large deposits of Carbon locked up in frozen methane, ice, and permafrost. Should these large quantities of Carbon get released quickly in a matter of years, or less, it will radically increase global warming. There are other tipping points, such as removing large amounts of ice cover, which would also quickly increase global warming. This radical increase in warming presents a much more difficult path where Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) is theoretically not able to keep pace with warming. For CDR to be successful, we need to get to emission neutral and practice removal to stop the planet from warming enough to set off the tipping points.

Why is the amount of Carbon so much larger than the figure quoted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and popular press?
   The way to lower Earth's temperature is estimated by the UN IPCC in climate models that break down many hypotheticals ways into scenarios, and some of them target to not exceed 1.5º C. Their reports use a measure of heat named Radiative Forcing, which is Watts per area of gas or body such as Earth. The lowest amount of allowable warming to not exceed 1.5º C is RF 1.9 W/m². (Outlined in the technical science reports global modeling teams use different software to model how to achieve RF 1.9 W/m². The data from these team's scenarios are used to generate the probability of attaining below 1.5º C.) Reaching 281 ppm would be a Radiative Forcing of 0 W/m² and 0º C of allowed warming. Reaching a Radiative Forcing of 1.9 W/m² would be akin to reaching the climate of 1984, whereas a Radiative Forcing of 0 would be a climate just after the mini-ice age/global cooling in the 1790s.¹ (Search for 1984 in the previously linked NOAA reference page.) (This section is incorrect, and is corrected in this blog post: Seeking Cooler than 1.5ºC.)


How do we get to the climate of the 1790s and why 281 ppm?
   We need everyone to do everything in Project Drawdown to get us nearly emission neutral and get involved in CDR and carbon tech. 281 ppm was the global average Carbon Dioxide concentration from 600 BCE to 1750. We need scientists to identify if 281 ppm is the optimum Carbon Dioxide concentration. We don't know what the optimum Carbon Dioxide concentration is.



Scatter plot of Antarctic Ice Core CO₂ concentration data from multiple ice cores: Law Dome, Dome C, Maud, Taylor Dome, WAIS Divide, Vostok, and the 
South Pole from the time of 200,000 BCE to 2004 CE. The pale green line is the mean of 280.9 from 600 BCE to 1750 CE.

By when do we need to hit Carbon neutral or emission neutral?
   We need to hit emission neutral ASAP, not by 2030, or later, but as fast as humanly possible. We need to start carbon removal as soon as humanly possible to steer Earth’s climate clear of tipping points. We ought to hit double-digit gigatonnes of Carbon removed in the next couple of years. We have to scale an industry that doesn’t exist.

Go back to the safety of this much removal, how safe is it?
   At this point, we don’t know. We need scientific labs to find the upper limit of how fast we can remove Carbon and not cause the climate to fall into a mini ice-age. We need labs to identify what’s the slowest we can remove and not set off the tipping points, and not have the climate extremes like the present time. While labs are working to find the fastest and safest rate, since it takes time to scale the technologies to remove gigatonnes; we need entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers to create, enhance, and scale CDR technologies.

What can we do, how can we take climate action?
   We need everyone to create, extend, and scale renewables and CDR technologies. We’ll need many early adopters to buy or try open CDR solutions. We'll need everyone to switch to the renewable option asap. These efforts will get the economic engine to prefer recycled-emissions carbon-based goods. And we need everyone to get involved in CDR now, and so we can go carbon negative!

¹ In the paper Alternative Method to Determine a Carbon Dioxide Removal Target, as well as in "A solution to the misrepresentations of CO2-equivalent emissions of short-lived climate pollutants under ambitious mitigation", the historical RF precedent is used to substantiate temperature in the place of generating a model.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Why Beyond 1.5ºC?

I wanted to see exactly how much carbon we've put into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. I graphed cumulative emissions from fossil fuels and human land-use change since 1751 to the present, along with how much science has figured where this carbon has accumulated. I also wanted to see what it was like in the atmosphere before humans were changing the atmosphere. The result is the graph below:
From my paper to be published, and presented in the poster session at the International Conference on Negative CO₂ Emissions at Chalmers University of Technology, Götenborg Sweden. Note: the start of the left hand axis equals 113.18 ppm which equates to 0 GtC of anthropogenic emissions increases.
I've stacked the data from the land and ocean sinks below the atmosphere which make up the green, dark blue and light blue curves, respectively. As one moves along the red curve, the other three curves grow correspondingly. In a relatively short time, we've made radical exponential forcing to the natural sinks such that we have global climate warming.

Targeting below 1.5ºC or RCP 1.9 which is radiative forcing of 1.9 would bring back warming to what it was around the time of 1984.
https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/aggi.html


Looking at the exponential forcing in the diagram above, and remembering the extreme El Niño of '82-83, we have quite a bit of warming we induced from our emissions.

As much of the current policy is around getting below 2ºC and 1.5ºC, we should have more studies on what is the optimum carbon concentration that should remain in the oceans an atmosphere to return climate back to pre-anthropogenic change. We should also study what's the fastest, and safest way to get to that optimum.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Gwynne Shotwell reaches out to STEM Women

On a related note is the commentary on the SpaceX asking why were so few women in the photo? Gwynne Shotwell and SpaceX has put major effort to reach out to women and minorities. I swear, I thought I saw maybe a year or over six months ago an article on SpaceX how they have over a thousand women engineers, and it included really large photo of a crowd of women and their female director with a capsule in the background. The were excited about the falcon heavy. I don't get it.... I can't find it, anywhere.

I found this piece from spring of last year: ‘Shotwell shared a quote from former U.S. representative Bella Abzug, which stated, “Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel.” For Shotwell, Abzug’s words still ring true decades later.’ as quoted from the 33rd Space Symposium 2017. http://www.satellitetoday.com/launch/2017/04/06/gwynne-shotwell-future-women-spacex-space-industry/

In a recent piece, 'She strongly believes you should not have to downplay your gender to thrive in male-dominated industries.' https://yourstory.com/2018/01/lessons-from-the-life-of-gwynne-shotwell/

So here's video footage from Gwynne speaking to womens groups and other STEM groups, and universities:
Women in Technology International Conference 2014: https://vimeo.com/214686174
Makers Conference : https://www.makers.com/profiles/591f25066c3f64632d4fb808
Society of Women Engineers 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ivIh_x0KoA
Women 2.0 : http://www.women2.com/2014/02/20/gwynne-shotwell/
Engineering America: Gwynne Shotwell at TEDxChapmanU 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THQPNDNulVc
SpaceX | TAMEST 2018 Annual Conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjTHJzWPTnU
Navigate the Atlantic Tech Conference 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoCDLUHb0y4
http://www.thespaceshow.com/guest/gwynne-shotwell, 2017, 2014, 2012, …
MIT 2017: https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/72vluq/gwynne_shotwell_speaking_at_mit_road_to_mars/
Stanford 2017 : https://mainenginecutoff.com/blog/2017/10/shotwell-at-stanford
National Space Counsel meeting 2017 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYH_UiDlDEM

And there’s tons more coverage of in Business media channels, Businessinsider, Forbes, etc, featuring Gwynne and other SpaceX engineers, like Joy Dunn http://www.businessinsider.com/most-powerful-female-engineers-of-2017-2017-2

And they do reach out at local events: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/closing-the-gender-gap-in-the-tech-industry-tickets-39244291733#

Does the media not cover women in #STEM the same way we cover men in #STEM? Is that why women don't think of places like SpaceX as a place they want to work at? Gwynne is the highest person payed at SpaceX. SpaceX is rumored to have about 14% women in #STEM. If that is true, that is low among tech, but I'm not sure if that's low among aerospace. I think the risk of publicly having your rockets blow up as was common in the early years deterred many women. SpaceX was known to pay all employees slightly below average. Given the effort, risk and comparison compensation, I don’t feel that SpaceX is denying women. To support the contrary, even meeting random SpaceX employees, a SIGGRAPH conference speaker, was incredibly nice and encouraging and supportive of advancing women and minorities in #STEM fields. I was inspired when I heard the WiTI talk by Shotwell back in 2014. I would have joined then if I wasn’t doing my startup.

14% if true, is low. If their numbers aren't an equal percentage of qualified #STEM women as to the qualified #STEM workforce, now that they are more established, I hope they will continue to reach out, support groups that actively work at creating a more qualified #STEM women, promote, and increase hiring and retaining #STEM women. Given their previous history, I'm sure this is already in the works.

Yes, I’m deeply frustrated about inequality for minorities and women specially in a field that I dearly love, physical sciences. I’ve heard so much bullshit about feminism this and feminism that from non #STEM people, it makes my head want to explode. Change will improve only so long as we fairly call out those who are unjust, not just aren't photogenic.

Change accelerates when people like the girl in Happyrobot: http://www.veryhappyrobot.com/my-blog/gwynne-shotwell.html blogs… Or when parents encourage all their children to be engineers, or scientists, or even mathematicians.

Indeed, lets work together and all do better at promoting women and minorities among #STEM fields.

Feminista scienceista media where are you?

One of the first media outlets to pick up my #openscience effort on climate change was Mens Health according to Google. This was April of 2017. At the time I thought it was funny. Now, I see the really cool stuff I want to do is in Mens Health: blow up carbon dioxide, rip apart ions, use lasers, etc. I'm not a guy. I'm not a lesbian. I'm not even bi. (And it shouldn't matter if I were, either.) I'm a scientist, who also happens to be a woman. I don't picture myself like the glowing smiling women below. I like to picture myself in a lab or in a helmet. So when I saw that pic pop up on twitter, I said mentally to myself, pass.
(It's from Women 2.0, and they were discussing the female safe and sanctioned way for women  to get ahead by networking.)

Then I saw this come up on my twitter feed. It was Mens Health on NASA astronauts training. And well, facepalm! Would this turn away women, of any age? Does NASA not promote  females? No, in fact NASA does promote women, and advertise to girls, often! So what's the problem, this is a mens outlet? It's a larger problem not specifically with NASA or Mens Health. In fact it's so large I don't even know of all the pieces.

One of the pieces is that women don't get marketed cool STEM tech or jobs. It's perfectly ok for Mens Health to run a story on how to get jobs NASA. But what about the equivalent female magazine or outlet? Should there be? Marie Claire ran a story on Gwynne Shotwell, and so did Elle and Vanity Fair. You can be in STEM so long as it's to rise to the top? And for anything else see a STEM outlet? Is there a women's gendered media channel that would show how to get cool #STEM jobs, and cool tech, say something that would show Anna-Katrina Shedletsky's detailed teardown of the galaxy note?

Would there always be a mens channel that's has all the latest cool tech, but no females anywhere to be seen? When reality the sciences and other STEM channels are busy trying to be gender balanced or neutral, but the men still get the cool tech. Is this just me?

I did check Womens Health Mag for similar STEM articles like the mens one, but I only found articles about how the a lone determined woman is able to transcend boundaries and make it in #STEM and mostly around International Womens Day and the like.

Maybe the problem is we (#STEM women) weren't large enough as a media channel to have some really cool hardware/maker/STEM media outlet that shows off the really cool jobs, tools, toys, tech for women. So, we need more Wired, Recode, Ars Technica, Salon, Axios, NPR, Economist, Scientific American, IEEE-Spectrum, Nature, Science, Popular Mechanics, Nuts and Volts, Make, etc... dressed up like Elle or Vanity Fair to show women (and men) we do cool #STEM too. Actually this is like the facebook, g+ feed or twitter feed of any woman STEM expert or STEM lover, minus the glossy Elle UI.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Horseshoe bay

The git based repository for Open NanoCabon is named Horseshoe Bay after the bay that the future home of Starfleet headquarters overlooks. This is a hope for doing grandiose things with project ONC to have a major benefit to all humans and the planet within our lifetimes.
Many navy ships were named after places, and thus I found it fitting to name the effort to ship after a place that would inspire people, with a more humanitarian purpose, to reach for the unknown: Ex Astris, Scientia.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Social/political aspects of the future Sam Altman's talk at InforumSF/Commonwealth Club

Virtually saw Sam Altman speak with Nellie Bowls at Inforum SF late last week. Great talk.

Given the important nature of the social ramifications of the tech we're creating, this post is going to cover the social/political aspects rather than focus on the tech/entrepreneurial aspects of the talk.

The near future is quite concerning to everyone. Causes, effects and possible solutions are discussed: the wage and prosperity disparity as seen as a factor in the past election, humanitarian consequences of AI automation and pre-requisits to build smarter cities

There isn't much research on Universal Basic Income (UBI), or what happens after jobs are eliminated due to better technology automation despite broad support for UBI. Nellie commented that people think it's strange/inappropriate for a startup investors to do an experiment on families in Oakland. He thinks it's strange not to want to study what happens. Sam: 'We're doing this thing it's working really well, it's going to cause massive effect on everybody and how can we responsible citizens of the world.' 'We feel we have an obligation to contribute to the policy discussions with some actual data.' In an effort to gather data, YC Research is conducting a research project on UBI with an initial sample size of 100 families to be expanded to 1000 in Oakland. Sam: 'It comes down to wanting to know what happens when you take away the need for absolute survival, and what happens in reaction to the need or drive to struggle to survive, how will people live and spend their time?' In creating the research project, YC encountered pushback from some local governments of prospective cities. It's critical that the local government of the city that housed the research participants is fully supportive of the study. In order to not change the study, he's not able to elaborate on the current progress of the study. They will share the data after the study is concluded. Ultimately the they think the government will be leading these types of studies in the future.

Sam: 'This is a mega change of society, we have evolved to struggle to survive basically for a long time, in different ways and if you take that away from people and if you take that need or drive or whatever that is, what's going to happen? Again, I think it will be great, I'm optimistic about it. But it is a big change, would be good to have some data, on how it impacted people before we're in a situation where we have huge amounts of jobs limited in a small number of years, and have to make an on the fly decision.'

Nellie (and Shannon via twitter): 'What skills are AI proof?'
Sam: 'In the short term, all repetitive work that doesn’t require a human emotional connection is likely going to be greatly supplemented by machine learning. There will be some jobs that need a human connection [like human learning, hospital care]. In the future the definition of repetitive work will move down the field.' Unfortunately he thinks we'll find much of what we do is quite repetitive.

Nellie: Do you think this to partly to blame for populism?
In short Sam agrees, and surprised at how people blame both globalization and technical automation together. He said none of the nationalistic methods work against automation.

Sam: 'Struck how I didn't know how to find 100 Trump voters. That alone seemed deeply problematic.' 'If I get data that my model of the world is wrong, I then go and update my model.'

On the informal organization which is still forming, on tech values:
Sam: 'Can we come up with a list of values that we want tech companies to agree too. Are there a set of statements that we can ask a tech company to commit to: won't turnover user data without due process, will fight unconstitutional or illegal orders for user data, will protect it's immigrant employees, provide money and assistance to people that are running into problems with immigration raids or the borders, committing to creating jobs not just in San Francisco but through the country, committing to pay equity, are there a number of issues relevant to the current political climate that we can get a bunch of tech companies to agree to?' It's an informal group of about 100 people. Sam: 'A clear statement of values of things from tech companies about things that are at risk from current policy actions is good but not enough, not sufficient.' It's unclear what the correct org should be named. 'Leverage is for employees, where they would say I won't work at a company that doesn't commit to these values.' However, he counters, 'I think this is a small thing and we need to do big things.'

The sentiment that Trump was able to capture is that, many Americans have been left behind. Sam feels the tech industry has some responsibility. 'San Francisco is an incredibly optimistic place in ways other parts of the country aren't.' 'We need an economy that has a lot more winners. There's a graph that has helped me understand it's a graph that shows real productive gains, and real wage growth or ave hourly wage.' Says real wage growth diverges at about 1973, and has flatlined ever since.  '...Is seen as obvious proof things are clearly broken.' 'The Trump voters believe this sense that the system is completely rigged, and that normal people don't get ahead in life'. 'The idea that we need to figure out something to do, for our citizens, who's life is not going, like this idea of the american dream seems comical to, that seems really right.' He agrees with the diagnosis that the system is rigged, doesn't agree that Trump has correct answers to fix it. Disagrees with the Tech community ostracizing of Peter Thiel due to Thiels political support for Trump. Been trying to convince people to run for governor of California in hopes of having a progressive counterweight to the current administration. 'Would love a progressive version of a Koch brothers.' In passing the olive branch, he's hopeful that the administration would be successful at making gains for the average American. He's supportive of Elon Musk on Trump's counsel, in hopes that overall they will have better tech guidance. His comment to non-Trump supporters, 'Let's at least do something proactive and not just complain ...'

Sam: 'Is there a way to build houses for 100K? It used to happen, [...] that seems comical now.' 'Can we make housing super affordable? In a place that are near their jobs, and live in a city.' He thinks it's unbelievable the number of people in SF that are pro environment that are anti-housing in cities. 'if you want to have people stop emitting carbon, let them live near their work, don't make them drive an hour or half.' 

Nellie: How would you to make a city built by tech folks that have a civic soul? (Shannon:) For smart cities, how do we ensure we don't accidentally create a smart divide?
Sam responds assuming we can figure out the technical questions, we want to engage with the existing residents of that city. 'We’d only want to do this in a city where we had civic engagement.' He thinks tech has done a poor job, and also seen the cities do an equally poor job. Believes there is work todo on both sides.

On divisiveness:
Sam: 'Any time there is a two party system of any sort, it becomes super tribal. 50% of people would now object to their children marring someone of the opposite party. The same number, incidentally was of marring someone of a different race 50 years ago. Now that number is below 20 percent... This super tribalistic thing that supports fringe behavior is bad. There's a version of this, tech industry and cities. Rather than 80% of the people would like some sort of middle ground solution.'

Q&A:
Question: What's SV view towards ancient cultural values?
Sam: There are books that list current values, funny how AI takes on many of culture values. ... Most all back to theses needs that cross all values.

Question: Direct democracy?
Sam responds on replacing repersentive democracy, interested in the experiment but with caution. Sam: 'There are times where the crowd is just wrong, it wasn't that long ago when women couldn't vote, that interracial marriage wasn't allowed. [ ... ] What happens when people are just wrong?'

Question: How can you ensure the solution is immune to corporate greed?
Sam: 'Gets back to we the people. There are many people, we collectively have power, we get to chose our leaders, if we don't engage if we all say that's someone else's problem we won't get the future we deserve. If we say the system isn't fair, we can get outsider leaders and that's how things will change. We need to be engaged, if the principle of democracy, if regular people engaging continues.'

Question: Tell us more about OpenAI.
Sam: OpenAI, to build with no obligation to share holders, and the benefit is to maximize to humanity. [...] We worry that AI could go badly. Wanted an org dedicated to thinking about [...] AI safety.

Question: What are problems that startups can tackle?
Sam: 'Fusion, Cancer, housing, autonomous cars, [...] need more things that startups to take on. Feels it's easier to start a hard company than an easy company. If you do something that is really important to the world, many people want to help you. I often think it's easier, and and people don't try enough.  I think startups are going to solve, and I hope a lot of the problems we face.' He thinks it's possible to develop Education startup, to have an big impact.

Question: Startups focused on middle eastern market?
Sam: There are a few, saw an uptick from other companies, after a successful company returned to Egypt.

Question: What about diversity?
Sam: 'We like non-track founders. This next part is more bad than good, we have 5 top women partners, one black CEO of our core program, I'm gay and I run the whole thing. I think if you don't get a really diverse group of founders, you'll miss problems that a lot of the world faces.' Feels this provides a significant edge over traditional VC firms in the valley, but would like to be more diverse. Additionally he spends huge amounts of time outside of the valley to speak to non-tradition founders.

Question: What's your advice to find not just the diversity of people, instead to address the problems that really count to the most people?
Sam: 'It's easy to get caught up in a reference problem here in the bay area. [...] Go visit slums in Africa to ask what kind of technology they want invented. Anything you can do to help something is valuable. [...] Ask what can I do that will really impact million or billion of lives, who are a lot less fortunate.' Agrees many problems to be addressed, thinks it's important to balance that view the positive change that has happened: decrease in global poverty rate in the last 40 years. 'I think we can do a lot more. A company in YC is a model for universal health care, starting for a small village in Africa.' They are working on something quick. Believe's '[it's] a great way to think about the world, and start with it there. I think about that's a great way to think about the world and having an impact. [...] They are starting with a small group for one thousand people but thinking about how it will scale to a billion people.'

Nellie: What is your 60 second idea to change the world?
Sam: 'I think how can we make every person in the world, ... Thinking about how we use technology to make every person in the world, happy, and healthy and rich enough and fulfilled to be able to do whatever they want in their life lives, and to be able to live their lives as the way they want and that is energy and AI, and biotechnology companies.'

Sam: 'The way I think about this, I can use this lever of enabling entrepreneurs, how can I enable, inspire people to use these technologies to solve these problems.'


I'm very grateful that Sam Altman and Nellie Bowls chose to speak at InforumSF by the Commonwealth Club. The more we have open dialogue the better.