Framing the discourse in everyday communication – less feelings of want, more feelings of happiness

Blogging on personal leadership opportunity here came with some advice – to select “an opportunity where you believe you will be realistically able to (begin to) implement actual change in this area while on the programme”, with the “aim of intervention to initiate/ alter a particular activity or behaviour; and/or to influence opinions/ values/ beliefs”, assuming the role of a change agent. I found it wise words after  setting a pretty lofty goal of introducing the idea of focusing on personal happiness as a way to shift perspective of those around me from things to personal satisfaction. In a city where material property (and public showcasing of it) is quite high on the general agenda and is one of the main differentiating factors between all those that live in it.

While I have already set out on including satisfaction of individuals as a point in everyday communication, two significant events happened to me which helped align the course further since the first blogpost on leadership opportunity in March – one is learning more about what the word “discourse” means (I literally heard the whole idea of discourse analysis the first time in the first resident workshop in Cambridge), and the other is having an accident while on vacation – lesson learned, don’t drive a motorbike in Thailand, especially wearing only flip-flops and shorts.

Life sucks when you’re in pain. Eternal optimist might say there’s a silver lining of pain making all other problems seem irrelevant, but that was one thin silver lining. Similar perspective on a big problem is easy to transfer to anything that dominates your worries right now, Blog Reader. Same goes for any issue discussed in a business or private communication, especially in meetings and exchanges dedicated to planning action (except maybe if its legal action, though there may be some happiness there too!)

After much suffering during the return home (ever tried keeping your foot elevated during a 7 hour flight?) I found myself in care of a surgeon – wound care specialist. As we had multiple treatment sessions every few days, I came to learn that here was a doc who went to study surgery not because things were easy, but because they were challenging, and that made him happy. I learned a bit about his family and way he handled life back in the day of a grueling schedule of studying by day and working by night in Iraq where he was from, to today’s successful work and life in UAE. He would usually start from something that challenged him or a member of his family recently, then how using a proper mindset turned it around to being a good thing and he would always end up saying how “doing that finally lead to feeling of happiness” or “…and that feelings of happiness start to appear“. Have you ever heard your doctor speak about something like that?

Similar principle, I’m starting to discover, can be applied in everyday chats, directly or indirectly addressing sustainability. I mentioned discourse as a concept back there, didn’t I? Well, in musing about this before starting to write this blogpost, and having in mind that my upcoming dissertations will utilize discourse analysis to figure out that the WHAT and HOW someone says things is formed by their specific context and goals and how that leads to a bigger picture (and policy making). Seems fair to say that my, more or less subtle, changes in language used in meetings went to contribute to the agenda already set by leadership of Dubai government of putting happiness first. Someone might think it’s an easy right when set in that context, but for example when one gets into energy, it’s easy and often necessary to slide into technical discussions and ideas on large renewables (we’re building the largest solar park in the world here) or distributed solar photovoltaics (putting a PV on every rooftop in Dubai) and need to push forward for example more stringent water use efficiency standards on appliances.

Coming up with real world examples of how happiness is put into such a discussion without going into boring detail of specifics of what my organization does is a bit difficult so I’ll try to generalize a bit – as a policy making entity, our job is to communicate with a variety of actors representing sometimes opposing interests (even under the same vision, under which government is aligned). After a round of technical exchanges on who should do what in implementing a specific policy or action, or adjusting the course of the same, we usually deal with ways in which different involved teams will react when presented with change – Middle East is a very consultative environment where very few things are imposed. What I do is try to figure out what makes each of individual teams happy (fulfilling their interests while presenting things to align with their character and cultural values), and then try to make it a part of the execution plan.

Moving forward, I’ll try to use a bit more of the knowledge as I pick it up through research. For example, in this report, there’s an interesting quote (abbreviated by me):

 (there is)…potential to use happiness as a motivator. The connection could be emphasized … in civil society. If environmental discourse is changed to include happiness research, the environment versus economy debate could be reframed, with focus shifted from the pursuit of pure economic growth to increased levels of subjective well-being.

So how about to go about change people’s opinion through debate? Anybody ever try to tell you “don’t do this and this”? These kinds of messages (and people!) are really not pleasant – nobody likes to be wrong but even more to be told so. Hostility gets people nowhere. On the other hand, everybody is happy when for example a service provider or product manufacturer offers more sustainable choices to the same consumer we were telling is wrong in the first scenario (making change at the source vs. at demand). Seems like a simple perspective shift but some people seem to have trouble understanding it (including some on our own cohort!).

Another interesting paper looked deeper into this topic and I could not help myself from doing a copy paste, for your but also for my benefit and recollection in next post in this series:

Sustainable happiness is a concept that has the potential to enhance urban planning policies by raising the profile of happiness and well-being, while reinforcing the links with sustainability… In the absence of more explicit discussions regarding public happiness or “Genuine Wealth,” there continues to be tension between sustainability objectives and meeting the more public demands that are embedded in a consumer society view of happiness. Additional research regarding happiness, health and the built environment will undoubtedly encourage such discussions. Fostering an informed discourse about happiness and sustainability will require attention to education.
               …
Sustainability seems to be consistent with behaviour and policies that support high levels of life satisfaction, and sustainable happiness reinforces this relationship. The concept could be used to motivate sustainable behaviour from sectors of the population that are weary of dire environmental messages. One drawback, of course, is that mentioning “happiness” in many academic and policy circles is still met with scepticism. As one transportation colleague suggested, “I don’t care if people are happy, I just want them to get out of their cars!” Another challenge is the current limited set of choices for sustainable lifestyles and livelihoods…Finally, stakeholders who have a vested interest in unsustainable policy and practice are likely to resist sustainable happiness.

So as my own status overview for Dubai, not specific to energy (yet), I’ll borrow and modify the list of steps from this report, now and in the future, in tracking the pursuit of my goal of promoting personal happiness in discourses on sustainability:

Step/Action Status
Highlight the close link between sustainable behaviours and happiness PLANNING
Use sustainability projects as drivers for community spirit and vitality PLANNING
Moderate excessive materialism through happiness ONGOING
Nurture basic psychological needs ONGOING
Incorporate subjective well-being when designing and evaluating policy measures ONGOING
Add happiness as a goal of public policy ONGOING*

* with a lot of help from Government of Dubai which already put happiness on the policy agenda.

And with that, on I go to make all this more specific to daily work in my organization and family life at home.

Leveraging data science to reach zero carbon cities – potential & opportunity

Achievement of global climate stabilization goals requires reduction of carbon emissions in the industrial world to a degree which effectively requires all developed world cities to become zero carbon between 2030 and 2050 (Kennedy & Sgouridis 2011). Such cities will source all energy from renewable energy sources. The operational landscape of electricity, heating and cooling, water and transport systems is increasingly integrating data collection, storage, sharing and analysis to optimize operation and align multiple stakeholders in each infrastructural value chain towards common goals of efficiency and cost-effectiveness (Fleming 2017).

Today’s cities are the engines of the new data economy. The rise of energy trading systems, distributed energy sources, electric vehicles, on-demand transport, intelligent water management and responsive lighting are rapidly replacing the legacy infrastructure and service delivery models that served the cities of the twentieth century (Barns 2018). As a consequence, the millions of interactions and transactions that take place in cities on any given day — from volumes of energy used, movements of people, traffic, water and waste, social media interactions, emails, financial and retail transactions — are now generating huge volumes of data of increasing value to governments and businesses as they seek to apply data-driven methodologies to improve the quality and efficiency of city services (Ahmadi Zeleti et al. 2016).

Both academia and industry are focusing on energy management in cities, with many practical solutions developed at the level of buildings or individual city systems (Ejaz et al. 2017). Integrating these systems requires upgrading the institutional knowledge infrastructure associated with participation in decision making, public and social services, transparent governance, and political strategies and perspectives (Bibri 2018). Data science can empower a city with new insights and intelligence to support the identification of patterns and human relationships, enabling citizens, planners and city managers with smart instruments that support appropriate decision-making, discovery, exploration, and explanation on complex city dynamics (Kourtit et al. 2017).

Data science initiatives such as big data, internet of things, blockchain and business intelligence have the potential to improve implementation, foster greater understanding of social challenges, facilitate collaboration between governments, citizens and businesses, and usher in a new era of digital government services, but more research is needed to explore how best to consider data science in that context (Bertot & Choi 2013). In the energy sector, production and consumption data and energy systems are increasingly supported by emerging information technologies, changing the landscape of traditional energy industry where data science can lead to significantly improved efficiency and new business opportunities. Based on the big data analytics and services, energy is now being saved in ways that were not possible in the past (Zhou et al. 2016).

While governments have the unique legitimacy to collect and process large amounts of data generated within their borders and manage basic infrastructure to the benefit of all its citizens, private sector innovations based on technologies like big data, internet of things or blockchain cannot be replicated in the public sector with the same speed as they have in the private since their social impact is much greater (Kim et al. 2014). This may be due to difference in goals. The main goal of the private sector is to earn profits by providing goods and services, developing/sustaining a competitive edge, and satisfying customers and other stakeholders by providing value. In government, the main goal is to maintain domestic tranquillity, achieve sustainable development, secure citizens’ basic rights, and promote the general welfare and economic growth (Deloitte 2016). Most businesses aim to make short-term decisions with a limited number of actors in a competitive market environment. Decision making in government usually takes much longer and is conducted through consultation and mutual consent of a large number of diverse actors, including officials, interest groups, and ordinary citizens (Kim et al. 2014).

As an example of applied data science, big data could potentially transform city governments being more efficient, effective and evidence-based but critics point towards the limited capacity of government to overcome the siloed structure of data storage and manage the diverse stakeholders involved in setting up a data ecosystem (Giest 2017). In the past, city leadership had relatively limited engagement with users of city infrastructure, having to arrange specific public meetings or surveys to get feedback on system effectiveness and gather proposals for improvements and/or policy measures (Fleming 2017). Today and increasingly in the future, cities are able use the data from sensor networks embedded in city infrastructure and, through social media, people’s opinion to more rapidly identify opportunities to optimize all aspects of the city (Philip Chen & Zhang 2014).

In their effort to utilize big data, city governments largely focus on one of two data use models: a centralized structure where a city data centre is established or a decentralized model in which data scientists are integrated into different city departments who then compile data from various sources (Giest 2017). There is a concern that under time pressure, these structures are short term and end up enforcing the existing silos of people, IT and data. They further lead to an overemphasis on technological aspects of big data integration rather than more profound local government reform addressing the collection and use of big data.  The focus on technology also pulls resources from a potential information management system that specifically addresses the ways in which the data are integrated into decision-making (Barns 2018). Adjusting government structure for energy strategy and policy implementation to accommodate data science elements increasingly challenges the existing capacities within the government and processes of evidence-based decision making.

As an example, using data that currently exists in most large cities, it is possible to estimate the annual carbon emissions at a city level, but not yet in real time or in terms of understanding the detail of citizens’ behaviours. There is a lack of both quality and quantity of data to provide a true city-wide picture in real time. Data are also not uniformly available, as data is rather concentrated in clusters (Kourtit et al. 2017). The challenge is acquiring these existing data, extracting useful information and transforming it into actionable knowledge to facilitate implementation of set policies and strategies. How to deal with the variations in availability and quality of data is a key issue for cities not just to address the digital divide but also for the research community to develop new algorithms to help close the gaps in data and knowledge (Creutzig et al. n.d.).

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Image from: Frost & Sullivan

Personal leadership – adding happiness to the sustainability dialogue by tracing the legacy of Adam Smith

My personal leadership opportunity is reframing everyday work and non-work conversations to promote personal happiness as an aspiration on top of general discourse of sustainability in the global growth-oriented economy. In this way I want to contribute to a paradigm shift towards living using less resources yet yield more satisfaction for each individual and society.

This opportunity and challenge is about communication – and my role of a project manager in a strategy and policy-setting government organization is to communicate, communicate, communicate. Communication aligns people, and people aligned together do extraordinary things such as build airplanes and tall towers, invent computers and travel into space. Communicating right distinguishes development of nations, today separating likes of growing China, prosperous Scandinavian Countries and excellence-oriented United Arab Emirates from countries decidedly far less-blessed – it’s not hard to argue communication, developed and transmitted in the right way, can change everything.

Following lessons from Workshop 1, I looked into some personal much discussed in that week – stopping eating beef, ending use of bottled water and considering for example where my clothes were sourced from. Results of actions such as these are long term and will be positive if collective action is taken – so in essence all of us aware of the issues behind these initiatives are already, or can be, leaders of change. In seeking my own leadership opportunity I wanted to look at the bigger picture and into the human element of sustainability, moving away from the omnipresent “world is headed to a catastrophe”, “sustainability is complex” and “reduce your carbon footprint”-like discussions, as in my opinion they tend to reduce the focus on solutions and the way forward.

Anybody remember this illustration from Workshop 1 lecture by William Day? Narrative was about us humans collecting more and more stuff, not realizing that eventually that same stuff will cut off our the branch holding our nest. And this is where economy and economics come into the picture.

Capture

Adam Smith published his magnum opus “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”, generally referred to by its shortened title “The Wealth of Nations” in 1776, providing the foundation for new economists, politicians, mathematicians, biologists, and thinkers of all fields to build upon. The core of Smith’s thesis was that people have a natural tendency toward self-interest (in modern terms, looking out for yourself) and the result is prosperity.

By giving everyone freedom to produce and exchange goods as they pleased (free trade), people’s self-interest would promote greater prosperity than with stringent government regulations. Smith believed humans ultimately promote public interest through their everyday economic choices. In his famous example, a butcher does not supply meat based on good-hearted intentions, but because he profits by selling meat. The point made by the example is one of self-regulation, which in theory ensures maximum efficiency.

Almost 250 years later we may be seeing some downsides and imperfections either in the thinking or the way it was interpreted and grew up to the present moment, but many ideas are very much valid and alive.

Smith also explained the counter-forces of monopolies, tax preferences, lobbying groups, and other “privileges” extended to certain members of the economy at the expense of others, resulting in imbalances. These imbalances or rather inequalities have other consequences as noted in for example Rasmussen’s paper. Economic inequality leads people to sympathize more fully and readily with the rich than the poor, and this distortion in our sympathies in turn undermines both morality and happiness. The poor strive to imitate the wealthy and the wealthy imitate celebrities and other icons. The focus on the rich leads the less rich to want more, bringing us to a consumerist society and the illustration above – reflecting utter unsustainability of this way of thinking and living.

Even before studying Smith I had a feeling that there was a lot of merit in following some core philosophies on Buddhism – that the way to bliss is removing wanting (desire/cravings)… but that may be another blogpost.

Capitalism may not be the greatest system ever designed… but so far nobody has established a better one. For Smith, the reality was shades of grey. He believed corporations don’t corrupt our world – they simply serve our appetites and supply whatever it is we demand. The answer to society’s problems does not lie in getting rid of capitalism, but instead in learning how to make better use of it.

The father of modern Capitalism wrote another great work which is seldom discussed – Theory of Moral Sentiments (link to full book). It provided the ethical, philosophical, psychological, and methodological underpinnings to Smith’s later works, including the Wealth of Nations.  Since the original work is written in 18th century style of English, to facilitate better understanding I took an indirect approach to reading it through the excellent work of Russ Roberts in “How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life”.

At the core of his work, Smith was driven by a desire to discover the best ways to make individuals and nations happier.

His Wealth of Nations was really an extension of The Theory of Moral Sentiments. As analysed here, the self-interest of the market players (buy and sell side) needs to be pursued by people of conscience and with a clear moral capacity; he argues that sympathy is required to achieve socially beneficial results. The self-interest Smith speaks of is not a narrow selfishness that allows whatever market transaction, but involves sympathy. Pure selfishness he declared inappropriate, if not immoral. Therefore, self-interest of any actor includes the interest of the rest of society, since the socially-defined notions of appropriate and inappropriate actions necessarily affect the interests of the individual as a member of society. If this sounds philosophical and convoluted, grab a copy of Roberts’s book, it’s an easy and inspiring read.

A blogger noted that Smith’s famous metaphor of the invisible hand is only mentioned once in The Wealth of Nations, and presented as the same idea in The Theory of Moral Sentiments – so we cannot really have any misunderstanding about that. The Sentiments presents the psychological mechanisms behind the workings of the invisible hand. And it places economics in the broader context of life as a whole, a society in which morality and a wide range of virtues matter. The difference is that in the economic domain we place a little more emphasis on certain virtues, in particular ‘prudence’ – acting wisely with a view to your own interests.

Smith argues that morality promotes our own happiness. He gives two descriptions of why people are happy, one circumstantial and the other internal. As far as a person’s circumstances contribute to their happiness:

“What can be added to the happiness of the man who is in health, who is out of debt, and has a clear conscience?”

Smith makes this observation, not to suggest that someone could not be made happier once he met those three conditions, but that any addition would be relatively small in comparison to what he already had. This paradigm easily reminds us of various independently developed theories such as the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (which was published about two centuries later).

How does one tie these thoughts on global economy with sustainability and make it a personal challenge? The first part has many examples, such as commoditizing greenhouse gas emissions as one of the large consequences of current unsustainable economy, as established by the Kyoto protocol. There’s also some further creative ideas to be found online such as a GHG currency in a justice framework. These very lofty ideas can be superimposed with technology to make things a bit less institution centric (i.e. take out UNFCCC from Kyoto Protocol idea) – try the omnipresent idea blockchain for example, with some implementations have already been developed, such as ClimateCoin. It would be easy to go on with this, but the second part, making it a personal challenge, is a bit more tricky but involves knowing and promoting all the protocols, frameworks and technologies related to sustainability.

As a general “silver bullet” to utilize my opportunity is gradually incorporating a simple question when discussing plans at work or at home – “Why do we need it?”; the “it” being any goods, service or action. Putting things into perspective of cause and effect by answering “why” and linking it to a need, which can then be examined in the perspective of sustainability. See here about the importance of “why”.

Anything that contributes to goals and sustainability is needed and therefore contributes to happiness as Smith stated, whereas everything else doesn’t – providing the basic three necessities are taken care of – health, being debt-free and of clear conscience. All three I’d take in a broader sense then just their literal meanings – good health isn’t only physical, but also psychological/emotional – involving family, friends, exposure to new cultures and ways of thinking… but even maintaining relationships and traveling can be done having in mind basic principles of sustainability.

How to bring about this change?

In his book, Russ Roberts highlights an interesting thought: “When you can trust the people you deal with – when you don’t have to fear that your trust will be exploited for someone else’s gain – life is lovelier and economic life is much easier. How does trust get created? By the myriad of small interactions we have with each other when we honour our word and pass up the chance for opportunism.” Trust is also one of the key deficits we have in many organisations, and possibly, in nations. In fact, on a daily basis, we have more than 20,000 interactions (words we speak, our body language, our facial expressions etc.) with people around us. These 20,000 moments define our leadership, influence and levels of trust in us.

Smith seems to have figured this out almost 250 years ago.

For those who want to know more and have an hour of free time, here’s a great video interview with Russ Roberts:

Just as it’s difficult to measure if a society is moving nearer of farther from sustainability, judging whether I am succeeding in being a leader through this opportunity will not be a straightforward exercise, and can only become apparent after a longer period of time. What gives me assurance on this path is the example of successfully introducing the paradigm of monetizing energy efficiency savings as a better communicational tool for communicating benefits of optimizing energy performance. Money speaks louder than kWh of electricity or imperial gallons of water saved – an idea now widely used within the UAE government, which I like to think originated from the small team I’m a member of. Perhaps starting to ask “why” in the right way and in the right moment in daily interactions can start to bring about positive change as well?

Making sense of Blockchain and its use for energy systems (2): Relationship of cryptocurrencies and blockchain and their link to contracting in energy systems

Since the first post, I came across a great little book on blockchain, cryptocurrencies and bitcoin among other things – it’s short, fun (feels more like talking to a knowledgeable buddy in a bar then a guide, yet is ultimately a guide) and cheap, so it’s a good trifecta for a reference book: The Sceptic’s Guide to Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies and the Blockchain. Both opened my eyes quite amd made me understand the key limitations and uses of blockchain, so I’ll borrow from it a little below.

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain

Let’s start with some quick definitions:

  • Blockchain is the technology that enables the existence of cryptocurrency (among other things).
  • A cryptocurrency is a medium of exchange, such as the US dollar, but is digital and uses encryption techniques to control the creation of monetary units and to verify the transfer of funds.
  • Bitcoin is the name of the best-known cryptocurrency, the one for which blockchain technology was invented.

90% of stuff being said out there about these three is hype and is used to “wow” people by promising the “train of the future so you better get onboard”. Forgetting that, let’s think about what this particular piece of technology is actually useful for – a technology can do many things but one question everybody seems to forget to meaningfully answer is “why do we need this?”.

To see what the use is, it’s helpful to keep in mind some limitations of this technology in its currently most popular use. Borrowing from The Sceptic’s Guide:

“While technically, Bitcoin’s transaction records consist of a small piece of code which is used to verify the transactions, this code is deliberately extremely limited in what it can do. Effectively, the only thing which is worth doing with it is the original idea: transferring coins…… Now Ethereum is a completely new thing. Here, the transaction of coins is almost a sideshow to the fact that almost arbitrarily complex computer code can be attached to the transaction… the Ethereum developers had a good, long sitdown, and after much soul searching, finally decided that, you know, that original rule that the blockchain is immutable, yeah… that one which is the reason all these things exist… well, it’s only computer code, we can modify it as we want.”

Then let’s see about some limitations. First one I came upon is the size of the blockchain.

BitInfoCharts.com is a treasure chest for data junkies – while it’s nice to scroll through, my eye catches on the blockchain size – measured in Gigabytes… with growth of any given blockchain, it will grow by order of magnitude. Now, in today’s world of fast net links, shouldn’t be that much a problem surely? Or not? Well, open your dictionary (yes!!) after you see this conversation for example, as it mentions:

  • For blockchain scalability they build sharding
  • For data storage they build swarm
  • For fast processing a team build raiden (offchain)
  • For contract execution computing power a team build iexec (offchain)

If one thinks of payment, it boils down to the issue of the number of transactions (as we can assume human ingenuity will solve other issues):

“For the version of Bitcoin in use at the end of 2017, this is around 2500 transactions per block. No matter how

many people want to pay their coffee with Bitcoin in the entire world, only up to 2500 of them will actually

succeed within 10 minutes… The human population is nearing 10 billion, and Bitcoin can sustain 4 transactions per second.”

Here’s a nice little text on why it’s ultimately ridiculous to think of bitcoin as an awesome silver bullet that’ll solve all the world’s payment problems.

A banknote’s value is purely an agreement between people that they will respect the Central Bank of a country, and value is guaranteed by signature of the Central Bank Governor. For cryptocurrencies, value is determined by pure demand and supply, pretty much like stocks, which you’d never use for payment of anything, right?

Some other issues with governance and what cryptocurrencies were made for and how it works out in the real world can be read under a really bad title for an excellent article here.

So, letting go of value and focusing more on usefulness, we have two things to consider – use of tech for making a transaction and the speed of it.

Blockchain and contracting

Blockchain is a decentralized database which chronologically and securely records transactions. The transaction can be of cryptocurrency, but it can also represent the transfer of value on systems like Ethereum and others. Value might be a service, a product or an approval in the form of a Smart Contract.

The four potential uses of blockchains are:

  • Recording Value Exchange (as described briefly above)
  • Administering Smart Contracts
  • Combining Smart Contracts to form a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation(DAO)
  • Certifying proof of existence for certain data (for instance, providing a securely backed up Digital Identification)

A Smart Contract is a computer program that works on the if / then principle. In this way the contracts are administered. So if the painter has painted the wall then he requests it’s inspected. If the person responsible for inspecting the work agrees it’s acceptable quality then the painter gets paid. Smart Contracts can be used for each of these if / then scenarios and recorded on the Blockchain (and can be collateralized with cryptocurrency). This all happens securely because of the use of cryptography in Blockchains to store transactions in Blocks of data that are replicated on multiple servers/computers around the world.

Another example is the delivery of goods allowing clients to buy directly from the supplier because the Smart Contract can provide more trust in the transaction. Payment to a supplier can be staggered and liability transferred to different parties. Take for example a piece of a solar photovoltaic plant. A client could purchase direct from the supplier, pay a portion of the cost when it’s verified the panels have left port in the origin country, transfer liability to the shipping company, release further payment when the plant arrives on site, again transferring liability, this time to the contractor responsible for installation. Then final payment can be issued once the plant has been installed and commissioned.

All these stages can be stored on the Blockchain and provide more opportunity for direct transactions without the need for (often costly) middlemen.

A group of Smart Contracts can be used to create a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), an organization ran by rules encoded as computer programs using smart contracts. For example, with the Internet of Things (IoT) and the amount of metering and monitors that can be put into buildings, that the building itself cannot be set up as a DAO at the beginning of a project, through the construction phase and beyond to the in-use phase.

Integration of Blockchain and the Building Maintenance System (BMS) could lead to a building’s DAO placing an order for a new light fitting, accepting delivery and liability for it, calling out someone to install it and paying both the supplier and installer. Payment would be made from the DOA’s wallet (bank account) which is connected to wallets of those that live in the building. It’s not a far jump to see that rents could be collected, body corporate fees, and insurance payments all managed autonomously by a building’s DAO. Some Dubai-grown application of this right here.

Project governance can also be captured on the Blockchain. Records of approvals in pre-construction phase but also during the in-use management of the building for voting on various issues requiring approvals. The DAO’s transaction record of money, insurance, voting and ownership are captured by the program rules and are maintained on a Blockchain.

Finally, the creation of a Digital ID allows people to share relevant information that is validated by an authorizing body. Identities of people and/or vendors could be securely recorded in the Blockchain, and additionally used to build reputation for work or contracts over time. This identification and reputation system would allow for people who don’t necessarily know or trust each other to be able to do business. In construction, for example, we can think of having proof of membership to relevant professional bodies to be able to self-certify work, also police security clearance to work at airports, schools and on government contracts.

Blockchain, contracting and energy systems

When a renewable-power plant generates a unit of electricity today, in most of the world, a meter provides data that gets logged in a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is then sent to a registry provider, where the data gets entered into a new system and a certificate is created. A second set of intermediaries brokers deals between buyers and sellers of these certificates, and yet another party verifies the certificates after they are purchased.

Such a byzantine system racks up transaction costs, while leaving plenty of room for accounting errors that can range from honest mistakes to outright fraud. The lack of transparency also scares many people off entirely.

What if the meter wrote the data directly to a blockchain instead?

The electricity sector is still mostly based on massive, centralized power plants that generate power sent long distances over transmission and distribution lines. Only in the last 5-10 years a growing number of smaller “distributed” power generators and today also storage systems, like rooftop solar panels and electric-vehicle batteries, have been connecting to the grid.

The owners of these systems struggle to maximize their value because the legacy electricity system is so inefficient.

Then there’s the issue of payment for using part of a grid, taking care of who sold what to whom… and in general raises interesting questions as examined here, near the end of the article.

The potential cost-saving and process efficiencies are too compelling to ignore. Some energy companies have calculated the savings of 30 to 60 percent on their structural costs. These savings come mainly from reduced labor costs, reduced manual and semi-automated process-related efforts, reduced capital costs through faster settlements, and reduced technology costs by reducing the dependency on multiple systems.

A cup of common sense for the end 

I remember an article about a smart refrigerator – it would monitor what’s inside him, what’s being put in (oh wait… or did you have to put it in and then find it in a menu on the fridge itself, doubling the amount of time for a seemingly simple task?), and when something was running low it would tell you so and/or try to order items from an online seller?

I am as tech-oriented as one can be, yet I like having my wife letting me know we’re out of eggs or bread, taking a walk to the grocery and emptying the bag of grocery items onto shelves of the fridge without even thinking about it. Any why for goodness sake would I for example want my fridge to have my credit card (for online ordering)???

Not all tech is useful nor is it needed (but if you buy now, you’ll get a set of steak knives!!). Are cryptocurrencies needed? Sure, for specific purposes, and I’d agree that due to severely cut transaction costs, if bandwidth (block size) is solved to be on par or beyond i.e. Visa credit cards, for micropayments of articles in newspapers, parts of a book and similar, done seamlessly so as not to bother the user who just wants to i.e. read – it’s totally on point.

This is not a cryptocurrency blog post. This is a blog post identifying cryptocurrency as applied blockchain technology, and other uses of blockchain technology which can potentially be meaningfully used in the energy sector.

“Smart” contracting (who hates general adjectives like “smart” used without context? Anyone else but me?) – it’s always been and always will be “goods or services for goods or services”, where at least one of the goods is usually (but not necessarily) money, or some form of value which can be used to exchange for further goods and services.

Blockchain is simply a way of utilizing technology to make this centuries old system more efficient, consequently a lot cheaper and faster and in the end run more applicable to transactions which have previously been deemed to small and/or too important/rare to be executed either with payment involved or without a whole bunch of different people (each adding cost) involved.

Technology implementations of this concept will surely be an exciting thing to see, not just from tech standpoint but from awareness standpoint – as transaction processes get redefined, we’ll get to remember that transaction processes were there in the first place (nothing like breaking a habit to blow one’s mind!).

In the next edition, let’s see what can and should be done to ensure this area is regulated in a way which will be a motivator instead of a deterrent, which can spur innovation and creativity while ensuring user safety and minimizing any potential for misuse.

Making some sense of blockchain and its use for energy systems (1)

Integral considerations

So, buzzwords… you got a loving or a hating relationship with those? As a kid, deeply into IT and all the abbreviations & huge concepts (anyone remember „robust“ as a buzzword?), I used to be full of them. About a hundred conferences, seminars and discussions later, I’ve grown to learn people who use them generally know very little about what they’re talking about, and smartest ones almost make it too simple – because knowledge is in explaining complex things in simple terms.

I’m a master of electrical engineering, majored in power systems. The most boring topic ever. There’s the power plants, power lines, transformers, get to the wall plug, turn on your hairdryer, i mean what is there to talk about for crying out loud?! Throw in some physics, math, a teaspoon of economics, a bit of people management, and it still turns out electrons follow the path of least resistance, Ohm’s law can’t be changed, supply matches demand at all times or lights go off and in general people just don’t care about the whole thing – until they need to charge the new gadget’s empty battery that is.

Then one day your favorite news outlet reports that some guys made 34 million dollars in an initial coin offering (ICO) on something called a Power Ledger, an energy trading application for peer-to-peer energy trading. Eh, what’s going on? When I included „making sense“ into the title here, it reflects the same issue the Power Ledger team had – it takes them 10 pages of their excellently written whitepaper to start explaining what they’re doing, and seemingly every blockchain discussion starts with about half hour explanation of what a blockchain is, leaving little focus & room to get to talking about applications of it.

Oh well, at some point back in horse carriage days, I bet talks of cars looked about the same, yet today it’s exotic to talk about horses, isn’t it?

Other leading blockchain players in the energy industry include Grid Singularity, Grid+ and LO3 Energy. Then for a bit of an exotic try the “Earth token”. But before all that…

Grassroots knowledge – demystifying Blockchain

Blockchain in its conceptual essence is really not that complex – the technical execution is, but that’s okay, Windows are also really complex yet it’s not difficult to explain what an operating systems is.

Here’s the basics of the market below.

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Figure 1 – Concept of blockchain-based local energy trading between residential (source)

Remind you of say stock market trading? Owners of shares (in this case electricity) exchange stocks (in this case electrons), and do it through a physical channel (through power lines) and a virtual one (the market). The difference with introduction of blockchain is that the whole thing is done through a sort of a public ledger instead of through a central stock exchange database.

Next two illustrations below go a bit deeper. Traditional intermediaries, e.g. a bank, are no longer required under the blockchain model, as other participants in the network act as witnesses to each transaction carried out between a provider and a customer, and as such can afterwards also provide confirmation of the details of a transaction. All relevant information is distributed to the network and stored locally on the computers of all participants. So it’s like one huge town square where everybody knows everybody’s business.

Where a provider and a customer agree to enter into a transaction, they specify the recipient, sender and size of the transaction, as very basics. All information relating to an individual transaction is then combined with the details of other transactions made during the same period to create a new block of data. This is comparable to sending emails, which are also split into separate data blocks.

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Figure 2 – The blockchain process (source)

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Figure 3 – Traditional transactions vs. Blockchain (source)

From here on it can get technical, just like the simple 1+1=2 can be mathematically proven over a couple of hundred pages. So hang on and let’s do a reality check & plan a bit first.

Everybody’s talking Blockchain today – even about things which are really not Blockchain but a database-based system, it just sounds cooler and few people know the difference. Before approaching things deeper, it’s useful to refer to keep a bit of a skeptical eye to all this, having in mind the following:

  1. The most widely known blockchain implementation – cryptocurrencies – in reality still have a limited success as well as use. Yes, about 14 million people use or have used Bitcoin, and about a million are using Ethereum, the two most known currencies. Altogether, this is less then the population of say Mumbai or New York. And it’s been years and years and loads of media hype. Looking purely at prices one could argue 15 million people are either making killer returns or playing a fools game of “musical chairs”, waiting for the superpeak after which something will trigger the real-estate-market-like bubble burst & bust.
  2. If you ever traded bitcoin, you may remember how long it took for the first transaction to happen. In my case, it was nail-biting 30 minutes, during which I had absolutely no idea what’s happening to my money or when the transaction will be finished (I still remember googling like a mad person to troubleshoot the delay and only then learning this is an ongoing issue… this is before all the forks that happened recently). Then there’s the issue of various little fees to pay on entry or exit from any trading platform… not that accessible, is it?
  3. Since we’ll be talking about energy and blockchain, it doesn’t really make sense that bitcoin consumes enormous resources – check this graph out… is it going exponential? Yup. So in a day, about 2.6 million households could be in the dark because bitcoin is being processed… or looking at it another way, you can power a not-so-small American city instead of computing Bitcoins. That’s quite a steep price just to begin with… and governments are catching on the the model of putting data centers in countries with underpriced electricity. Not exactly sustainable yet, is it?
  4. It’s a new technology, sure, but some problems come with a high risk and high price to those who are on the losing end – have a look here, and also here. There was even a link to the wallet on which the stolen money was stored, like here– imagine being able to literally see where all the money went by the hacker/thief and being completely unable to do anything about it. Nuts.

Okay, so it’s not like when cars were invented people had answers to road congestion issues, security of vehicle or ideas on emission standards… but it may come for Blockchain too. Just that possibility makes it worth digging deeper.

To understand more, and set myself a plan of research & blogposts, these would be the bullet points:

  1. Relationship of cryptocurrencies and blockchain and their link to contracting in energy systems
  2. Initial coin offerings and how they work for energy projects
  3. Regulating for Blockchain success in energy systems
  4. Communicating 1-3 to executives (probably the top challenge right now!)

Plan is to cover one point per week. Research is on!

Heat and cold – getting it, spending it and what if we could be sharing it?

Raise your hand if you’re thermally comfortable right now? Is the weather cold outside? Have you made a cuppa tea in the past hour, had a hot shower or if you’re in a desert climate like myself, have you heard the click and whoosh of air conditioning coming on? Ever think of heating and cooling as a service or something to share?

Let’s look at hot or cold as two nouns for services, in whatever form we get them – air, water, gas. Just like electricity doesn’t come from the wall socket, neither do the hot and the cold – they need to be generated somewhere, brought to us in some form we can handle, they are consumed over some period of time (don’t you wish time is endless after those 24 degrees are reached indoors with outside being 40+ in summers?), and then they are gone – either by convection through walls, windows or by simply opening the doors to the non-cooled space.

In a nutshell, this is the way heating and cooling (or HVAC, if you’re into tech/engineering jargon) work. Linear, right? Can it be circular? What about sharing – can we create a subset of the sharing economy out of it? Maybe there are some solutions towards that idea already?

Should we even look into this and should we care?

Why it matters

Cities – the final frontier. Star Trek may have skipped this part but with 80% of humanity living in cities in not that far of a future, it’s easy to see how, before we set off for Alpha Centauri and boldly go where…, buildings are going to be the subject of a lot of R&D, tech discovery and policy discussion – simply because so many of us will be living and working in buildings. It doesn’t take much research to find basic stats, indicating that up to 90% of the time across the year is spent indoors – meaning buildings again. There’s a whole plethora of things to consider when thinking about buildings, for example see the following image:

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Structure of the buildings sector model (Source: IEA)

The topic has been dissected virtually a million ways with just as many solutions – the question is how it ends up looking today, after all said and done – certainly a lot will be done and global projections indicate that trends are indeed changing, with both contributors to (almost exponential) growth of consumption in the future, as well as measures to reduce the impact of growth through better technology, product performance and building envelope improvements as indicated here:

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Decomposition of global final energy demand in buildings by key contribution (Source: IEA)

The first question is – what if expected savings are not delivered, for whatever objective reason? What if the feasibility studies of individual measures don’t pan out? What if building envelope retrofits never becomes an attractive investment? One risk mitigation measure might be to target primarily the biggest systems in buildings, hoping that innovation and global awareness will drive savings even beyond the ones expected.

This is where heating and cooling in buildings comes into the picture.

When it comes specifically to heating and cooling, focusing on the green (light and dark) and dark blue colours in pie charts in the following picture becomes increasingly interesting. Since 2002, energy demand per person consistently rose to more than 3.3 MWh per person in 2014, as increasing living standards and growing demand for energy services and thermal comfort continued to drive demand for commercial fuels. Globally, space and water heating demand continue to account for the lion’s share of energy consumption in buildings, representing nearly 65% of buildings final energy use in OECD countries and roughly 50% in non‐OECD countries (largely based on traditional use of solid biomass for water heating purposes).

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Buildings energy intensity per capita and final energy use by key regions in 2017 (Source: IEA Technology Perspectives 2017, http://www.iea.org/etp/)

District heating and cooling

Remember economy of scale, marginal costs and associated topics from Economy 101 back in school? It works well for heating and cooling too. The fundamental idea of district heating is to use local fuel or heat resources that would otherwise be wasted, in order to satisfy local customer demands for heating, by using a heat distribution network of pipes. Traditional excess heat resources are combined heat and power (CHP) plants, Waste-to-Energy (WtE) plants, and industrial processes. Established expertise of district heating has paved the way for introduction and deployment of district cooling systems, mainly for covering space cooling demands in buildings. However, this district cooling development has been more recent compared to the development of district heating. District cooling systems are therefore neither as common nor as extensive as district heating systems.

Many a European will have experience in paying bills for district heating. This resident of Dubai can tell you a lot about the Dubai market for district cooling – not least because it’s the biggest in the world (source here), with goals set by the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy of 40% of all buildings to be district cooled by 2030, from current approximate 16%.

A great overview of both district heating and cooling markets has just been published by Sven Werner here, so whoever is interested can read more on it. One interesting outtake from near the end of the paper goes to show this is an increasingly interesting topic for research lately (and you thought thermal comfort a boring topic, right?). If (research) money talks, it’s increasingly talking about heating and cooling for the sustainable future.

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Investments into R&D in heating and cooling in European Union
(Source: Sven Werner, Energy, 2017)

Technological scale-up does work – providing heating and/or cooling at a large, district scale indeed has benefits – for example, for cooling only 0.92 kWh per refrigeration tonne delivered while other cooling methods may require almost double the energy, as per RSB Dubai study available here.

Remember how distributed generation came into play for large utilities? What if district heating/cooling industry is about to face the same challenge? Here goes…

Sharing the heat and the cold

Once upon a time (okay, the 80-ies of last century), electric power systems meant large, vertically integrated utilities that were the omnipresent „mom and dad“ of your electricity supply, usually set-up as monopolies. Renewable energy, if anybody talked about it, meant large hydropower in places which had the predispositions to build them. Things slowly started changing with introduction of the concept of „distributed generation“, largely an area of interest of energy enthusiasts who looked into way of local, building-level energy generation and reducing dependency of a building on the electrical grid.

Enter 2017 – hearing about utilities forming venture capital funds is becoming more and more common.  I’ve listened to a presentation of one of the managers of such a fund based in Dubai – the utilities are seeing the changing landscape, the markets have become free and open worldwide more then ever before, independent power producers are everywhere – the landscape seems to be one where a large electricity supplier is simply not needed. Because your whole neighbourhood will be one big energy hive of generation and consumption, utilizing advanced local trading algorithms together with artificial intelligence to deliver thermal comfort and electricity needed to run your household – completely sourced locally. Throw in the fact that energy can now be stored at increasingly lower prices (while getting my engineering degree, we were told „electricity grid is tricky because whatever energy is produced must be instantly consumed“… well Mr Professor, times have changed). If you think any of this is outlandish, here’s a good example of a company creating localized „energy hives“ – and it’s been well recognized in media and globally – to the point of being invited to testify in front of US House of Representatives recently. Artificial intelligence developers going to discuss advancements with the government… anybody thinking of Skynet and Arnold Schwarzenegger yet?

So, what does this have to do with heating and cooling?

At a Mission Innovation Workshop held in Abu Dhabi, 1-2 November 2017, an interesting discussion developed. Data centres have large demands for cooling, evacuating heat from indoors. At the same time, a nearby industrial plant might need additional heat for its operations. A nearby laundromat is hot when busy – why should you be cold in your apartment and/or pay the full heating bill to the utility company? And what if we have some sort of a district thermal storage, or even use geothermal energy as a heat source or heat sink, depending on climate? Just for a rough idea, here’s what the group I participated in came up with conceptually:

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Office building, low-rise multi-family residential and a family home – connected with a heating and cooling network underground, with possible use of geothermal energy as sink/source. Conceptual from Mission Innovation Abu Dhabi workshop, 2 November 2017

Some ideas have been implemented and seem to be working well, but are quite recent and still considered an engineering novelty – for example in UK as shown here.

So, we have prosumers appearing increasingly, with a growing difference between “base” and peak loads in energy supply, including heating and cooling as subsectors. On the other side we have central generation assets that today sit idle some of time, more or less called into use only to meet the peaks – the bulk energy system’s decreasing load factor is a sign of increasing asset underutilization … just like the spare bedroom in a house that’s vacant most of the year (and hello Airbnb).

Are there compelling sharing economy opportunities in the electricity sector? What products or services can be shared in tomorrow’s Smart Grid? Energy efficiency, demand response (demand flexibility), distributed generation such as rooftop solar, distributed storage such as batteries, smart thermostats, heat pumps and more can become the front lines of a sharing economy revolution for the grid – and mini-heat pumps, linked to district-level thermal storage might just well be the next frontier.

Barriers, enablers, future and research

The Mission Innovation workshop provided some insights into barriers and enablers for the concept of shared economy applied to heating and cooling:

Enablers:

  • Many synergies with technological ecosystems of smart grid, distributed prosumers
  • Mitigates the urban heat island effect by reducing heat rejection into the environment in urban centers (heat and/or cool air/water is used where it’s needed instead of being released as waste)
  • End-user would retain ultimate control of the electricity consuming equipment (the heat pump or fan coil)

Barriers:

  • Infrastructure requirements might be high – mini heat pumps, metering equipment, sensors and control software
  • The concept competes with the existing industry of district energy – this may also be an opportunity if district energy providers create synergies with start-ups in the sharing economy arena
  • A technical solution for metering heating and cooling in such a structure would need to be developed
  • Business model and even infrastructure type could be highly dependent on climate and use mix – basically, every situation and combination of buildings would require a slightly customized approach

What’s there to do?

Well first of all if you actually went through all of the above and got the idea, make yourself a well-earned cup of tea. The idea of applying shared economy to heating and cooling, when googled yield about 3 useful results, and even then the content is a stretch.

On the other hand, the group of researchers and some members of industry i sat down with for a discussion along the above lines seem to think that if we plug in some measured numbers into new models, new and hopefully positive conclusions might start to come up. Someone must model feasibility of different configurations, figure out the lifecycle cost and what technologies need to be developed to enable such a system of sharing thermal comfort or heating/cooling energy in general. A pilot project or two would be the next step before we let economists develop a win-win business model.

Something to keep us sustainability leaders more than occupied in the upcoming decades, isn’t it?

Think big – think biggest. Think what would a President of the Universe do.

42? The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do’ I typed it out. End of story.

— Douglas Adams

president-of-universe

Douglas Adams must have been ingesting interesting things throughout his day when writing the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy… Not sure if I’d want the same menu but thank goodness he did, life would be just that little less interesting if he had not.

A mere 7.5 million years of computing and checking to tell one double digit number to this insanely hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who wanted to be know-it-alls… of course it became the center of everything, even if the search changed – from seeking an answer it became a challenge of finding a question.

It didn’t really matter what was said. It was who said it, either in the book or in reality where we’re talking about the book. Because – well read… it is the hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional being asking, it is 7.5 million years of calculations, I mean IT MUST MEAN SOMETHING RIGHT?. Sure, means a great joke.

I’m Croatian. In our educational system at age 14 you choose which high school to go to – general gymnasium or something more specific like technical school I chose (nobody told me that I’d be stuck among boys only for 4 yeas…). Then at 18 you choose which university to go to and for the next 5 years you sweat and curse that choice until the relief of getting a diploma. What then? Are you ready to do anything? Hells no, you just learn that the school just started, you just happen to go into it with some important papers.

In these musings around the age of 20, I found myself one idle afternoon in a bar thinking – how do you make all the right choices – how do you become the greatest – what does the greatest guy ever do – what school did he go to – how does he behave – what does he eat and drink… hey wait a moment, who would the greatest guy ever be? Don’t think past, or near or even far future, think Star Wars and Start Trek and multidimensional and alternative, Back-to-the-Future (all 3!) timelines… of course it would be – The President Of the Universe.

How do I become the president of the Universe?

Little did I know, diving into what was my first ever box of books ordered from Amazon, that there’s a writer who invented Zaphod Beeblebrox, president of the Imperial Galactic Government.

Typing this out in Word and seeing I’m almost a full page deep and considering making a joke about how I ended up working in a government and, for those who know me, whether the above will be interpreted as ramblings of a mad futuremegalomaniac, maybe it’s time to put my initial question here – how would the greatest man ever (President of The Universe of course) lead? I do study sustainability leadership, so might as well move away from the naturally more comfortable technical aspects of sustainability to this fickle world of humans and who they follow and how and why.

Fast forward few dozen books on leadership, about a dozen on psychology, one hopeless attempt at getting into sociology and anthropology and finally landing into the School of Common Sense (a bit wiser after all those reads earlier), it’s pretty easy to make quite a Hitchhiker’s conclusion:

DON’T PANIC. Also, have a towel.

OK now, seriously, first don’t panic.

Pretty much all you do is OK it seems – not because there’s an absolute OK in this world, but because there’s always someone who finds whatever you do or say, as long as it’s said with conviction, as perfectly OK, regardless of if it’s totally mad.

I mean just look at this – 12 totally different styles of leadership. Think of your favorite dictator – how many people would call him a leader (forget who’d call the same guy insane for the moment)? Now think about likes of Obama, Kennedy, think Einstein or Newton, Shakespeare (let’s stay away from spirituality/religion here but you get the point)… all leaders, or thought leaders… and all so different. What’s that common strand that thousands of books and courses out there haven’t yet covered? What should we do with all those silly talks of whether a leader is born or built (I say neither)?

Here’s a thought – it’s about how you travel this planet, in mind and body. It’s about consistency and being true to first and foremost yourself – with that, it’s then just a matter of finding the group of people who’ll just go along with it.

Not what your values are, what style of communication you use, race, religion, personal history, CV, diploma, marital status, gender, salary, property, how much you can lift in a gym or hairstyle. All that immense diversity just brings me back to a mantra I repeat to myself often, stealing shamelessly from Shakespeare:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.

In a theater, being the star means having your role, having a role means other people expect you to fulfill it – so if you’re fulfilling your own role naturally and knowing yourself and your abilities, limits and set of values… well… all eyes on you.

So how does a leader preach sustainability? Does he live sustainably? Or is it similar to those interesting rumors that top management of tobacco companies are non-smokers? Something to think about.

Remember Al Gore? Well dang it… seems he doesn’t really practice what he preaches when it comes to his own house.

Do Greenpeace guys live in caves? Or do they want us to, regardless of what tech is coming our way to make life better and cleaner? And are they looking wide enough? Sure, they agree with solar, but I could not find one reference to see their position on way materials are extracted and used to make the solar panels they promote. Oh and yeah, I think they cherish their iPhones, the Internet and so on, many of which would not really come around if we stop technology altogether, would they?

Do oil & gas guys really not care about environment at all? Sure they do, if they can make a buck on it – and they will. Good for us. Not so good for those who are adamant that oil & gas are villains. There’s a reason Shell went from being an oil company to being an energy company. I’ll go check the number of Cambridge graduates there a bit later.

That’s just some preset paradigms that came to mind when typing this all up, simply to say – there is no recipe for this.

Remember Zaphod Beeblebrox? In lieu of another President of the Universe, he was pretty much a deviant drama queen, not that much unlike today’s politicians. Dang it, another role model busted.

Seems we’ll have to expose ourselves to free thinking, something that Erich Fromm, a popular philosopher for my father’s generation, had a lot to say about – we’re simply afraid of it because we don’t know what to do with it – once we finally have it, we run back to the familiar arms of non-freedom… get a job, find a worry, find something to criticize or simply some other sort of thing to occupy our time and thoughts.

So what do to?

“If other people do not understand our behavior—so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being “asocial” or “irrational” in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them. How many lives have been ruined by this need to “explain,” which usually implies that the explanation be “understood,” i.e. approved. Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds, your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself—to his reason and his conscience—and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.”

― Erich Fromm, The Art of Being

Somewhere in there is the answer to how to become a President of the Universe. Key is in the universe – your universe. The one involving all the cool people around you, people you like and love, regardless of how close they stay in your circle of life.

Yeah I gotta end predictably here. So Long, and Thanks for All the blog reading, fish. I literally have a flight to catch.

 

Dubai Airport, 9 November 2017, about 15 minutes until boarding  EK514 to Delhi