Thursday, December 9, 2010

WikiLeaks, Thorium, and Mood

Finally back from my travels. Not much has changed in the last week, but my interpretation remains that we are teetering on the edge of the abyss, not building a base for the next huge Bull market. Time will tell. As for the socionomic landscape, I want to touch on a few mountains rising up in distance.


I initially regarded the media storm over the WikiLeaks release of U.S. diplomatic cables as just another media event. More bread and circuses for the media-consuming public while the political elites conducted a take-down on Assange via the laughable “sex crime” charges that have been brought against him. But the law of unintended consequences, teamed with a negatively biased mood, may turn this into a larger story about the struggle between authoritarianism and freedom.

The Socionomist has covered the basics of this struggle, so those of you who subscribe to the newsletter, get it. The thumbnail version is that there is significant evidence to support the socionomic thesis that controls over information flow and behaviors will increase as mood darkens. At least, the various political and policing elites will attempt to cram such controls down on societies across the globe. The technological wildcard presented by the internet is now being tested. I alluded to this in an earlier blog post and an expanded version in last month’s Socionomist, where I suggested that computer systems, “connectivity,” social networking and the various darlings and feel-good stories of the previous positive-bias era (and the rallies since 2000) would turn into Frankenstein monsters of some sort during this negative-bias era we are slowly, but steadily, marching into.

Operation Payback is one of those Frankenstein monsters, at least in the eyes of those who would govern our Republic and “guard” the liberties spelled out in the Bill of Rights:

Just a note on this YouTube clip – it is a bit unpolished in parts, but that is not the point. Those who would oppose the authoritarians are just learning. You are seeing it born. This is just an low-scale operation right now – but this is how you learn to get better at your trade. And it is all happening outside government control.

The hacktivists continue to fight back against various corporate and government authorities. They have the tools, they have an excuse which enables them to paint their cause as just and they can scale their attacks as needed:

1. WikiLeaks backers threaten more cyber attacks
2. Facebook Confirms It Pulled Operation Payback Page
3. Anonymous' 'Operation Payback' Twitter Account SUSPENDED
4. Teenager held over WikiLeaks web assaults

All the ingredients of an open-source war are being cooked up right before our eyes. Note that I am quite sure that these initial attacks against various websites will be fought off successfully and that funding sources, various sites that host Anon and others will be challenged and that in general this initial wave will fizzle. What is important, though, is that the hacktivist community will get their initial lesson in how to handle the response and watch the terrain development. Just as the car and roadside bombers in Iraq learned to quickly adapt to countermeasures, you may rest assured that Anon and others will learn as well.

The key piece, in my opinion, is whether or not the mildly negative-bias mood shifts to positive or whether it will intensify. The more anger and negative emotion, the more fuel these groups will have and the more grievances they will find worthy of using as a reason to hack and attack established authority and corporate entities on the web.

Thorium Power

Another “mountain” looming on our landscape of mood and markets is energy and resources – and the potential for protectionism and anger to shatter existing market structures.

I’ve blogged a bit before on the socionomic thesis of negative mood driving trade barriers, specifically when it comes to the “rare earth” minerals and energy products. China has generated rather severe anxieties over their monopoly on rare earth mineral supplies (see here for more details).

By a stroke of luck or fate, we here in Missouri have a significant ore seam that could be exploited for Rare Earth minerals at Pea Ridge. In addition, wherever you find Rare Earths, you find Thorium – a mineral that can be used as a material to generate fuel for nuclear reactors (see here and here for all you would ever need to understand thorium fueled reactors). I attended a conference discussing which hopes to develop a combined approach of putting the Rare Earths back on the list of “strategic” minerals, get some government help in avoiding the inevitable low-ball pricing China would unleash on a producer and to find a use for the Thorium that will drop out of the Rare Earths refining process as a fuel source for a new generation of reactors.

It was all entirely reasonable. As an American, I sat there appalled at the way we allowed ourselves to become utterly dependent upon China for the raw materials of pretty much every high tech device on Earth. The Thorium reactor concept is well known to me, as I helped design one in college for a project. It is a great design that would be safer than current reactors and the fuel costs ridiculously cheap. There was talk of lobbying Congress to develop a new regulatory agency and avoid the heavy hand of the NRC. All very well thought out and all of it would benefit America.

And with all that, likely none of it will get done. If this coming era is defined by net negative mood bias, then big plans such a new regulatory agencies (to get things done, as opposed to obstructing or enforcing laws) will be impossible, the mining part might happen as part of a trade war, but we have to also build a refinery for ~$1 billion to just meet current U.S. needs (we sold the refinery we did have to… China – who literally took it apart and rebuilt it there. Sigh.). Not impossible, but again, we’ll be going upstream against the forces of anger and breakdown and large projects will suffer. The thorium reactors themselves are a great idea – for a positive mood era. A negative mood era, colored by extremist environmentalism (a course I expect) and anti-science mood will not treat Big Science projects well.

We are watching it all unfold, friends. It is a slow process, but the wheels of time grind fine.


David said...

Wise people weep, not for what is, but what could be that isn't.

But for natural collective human stupidity, we can imagine the peace and plenty of a world where institutionalized coercion and the socially destructive thing we might call "political government" is not tolerated.

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