Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sea Change or Swan Song: Part II: Deeper fundamentals of U.S. politics

Last time we explored the many reasons why the advance of the Republican Party, in the U.S. mid-term elections, may be a lot of sound and fury, signifying very little. For example, nearly all of the Senate contests this year inherently disadvantaged Democrats… but a large majority of those in 2016 imperil defending Republicans.

This time, I’d like to dive into some other factors that veer away from those wrangled-over by the media.

== Differences in personality ==

Lest anyone conclude “Brin is just a reflex liberal”… in fact, I have given keynotes at libertarian conventions (albeit as a representative of Adam Smith and not Ayn Rand!). I believe my party registration (it doesn’t really matter in California’s non-partisan elections) is still republican. 

In fact, I do weigh in fairly often against what I deem to be mad obsessions of a fringe on the left! Just because today’s entire-US-right has gone loco, that doesn’t mean we should trust the far-left, which sometimes reveals a level of nostalgic anti-science fanaticism that too-closely resembles their supposed enemies. 

(Oh, you new-age 'vaxxers,' go ahead and write in with your outrage! All you accomplish is to reassure me that my political spine can still turn and notice craziness in all directions.)

But yes, my main focus is on the GOPper right and its masters, right now, because their deliberate re-ignition of Civil War and their scheme to demolish American pragmatic negotiation constitutes bona fide treason against a civilization that has been very good to us. It is the clear and present danger. 

Mark my words, though. Someday, when we solve this crisis, we will need to turn our jaundiced gaze leftward again. 

And if your political spine is fused, making you only able to perceive threats to freedom and civilization in one direction, then you are part of the problem!  See a memic chiropractor.

== Suppose the feudalists get their wish ==

Indeed, all the more so, should the Koch-Murdoch-Saudi oligarchic putsch succeed!

In that case, lefty radicalisms like Marxism are guaranteed to revive. Along with talk of tumbrels. The surest sign that the Koch boys are nowhere near as smart as their sycophants say they are? Ignoring this blatant inevitability – that restored oligarchic feudalism will lead to worldwide radicalization of a kind that will not benefit them one bit.

See this turnabout illustrated in a book set in 2045, called Existence.

There is one cohort of American political life that remains sane and … well… American, in its attitude of pragmatic willingness to try an eclectic mix of solutions, to negotiate with their neighbors, to use politics, as a supplement to private endeavor. And for now, at least, that element – moderate liberals – still dominates the Democratic Party… no matter how many lies you are told by Sean Hannity.  As illustrated by this clear study and graphic, charting responses to the question: "Would you rather have a member of Congress who compromises to get things done, or sticks to their principles no matter what?":

== Compromise or not? ==

A recent Pew poll found sizable majorities of Americans think Republicans should try to work with President Obama and that Obama should work with them. But here again, there’s a stark partisan difference. 52 percent of Democrats and Dem-leaning independents think Obama should find common ground with Republicans, even if it disappoints them. But only 32 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaners say the same on their side, while 66 percent of Republicans say their leaders should stand up to Obama even if less gets done.”

This effect is illustrated by another chart from Pew, showing where folks like to get their news.  Missing from the survey is Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Sure, it is kind of sad that millions of kids get their news that way… but well… I have pointed out elsewhere that Stewart is actually fairly balanced, often skewering the left and having more top conservatives on his show than all of Fox has top liberals, in any given year.

The dismal, near bankruptcy figures for MSNBC say it all. No matter how hard MSNBC tries to copy Fox’s lucrative formula, liberals get bored at Nuremberg Rallies of a single point of view, and wander away!  No-so, apparently, Fox viewers.

== The crux ==

Okay, so from last time, let’s zero in upon the question of 2016!

Only once, since the Roosevelt era, has a two term president been succeeded by a newly elected administration from his own party… when Ronald Reagan was succeeded by George H. W. Bush.  Does this pattern bode poorly for the next democratic nominee? Presumptively now Hillary Clinton?

It’s a puzzler. Certainly, the American voting public tends to get nervous with one-party strings.  Hence, if the GOP chooses a non-ideologue candidate in 2016, there might be some swing momentum.  (Especially if the GOP can make people ignore the crowd of Bushite officials who will surround their nominee, as they did the "mavericks" McCain and Romney.)

On the other hand, there are other explanations. For example, George H.W. Bush was the only Republican vice president in 50 years who was even remotely qualified for the executive office. All the other GOP VPs were simply awful. (I personally despise GHWB, but for other reasons, having to do with the worst stain on American honor in 70 years. But on paper, yes, he was qualified.)  

Democrats, in contrast, always pick responsible fellows as VPs, who are calm and qualified… but also boring and hence terrible candidates for the top job: e.g. Humphrey, Mondale, Gore, Biden. 

These two trends have tended to curse a majority of successor nominees, who were, in most cases, sitting vice presidents.

== Dynasty Fatigue ==

Another factor will be possible dynasty fatigue.  If the dems nominate Hillary and Republicans choose Jeb Bush, the whole world will mock us. Even if it is just Hillary… who by now is vastly better qualified than she was in 2008, and is a solid person in most respects… the dynasty effect will still be deemed somewhat of an embarrassment.  Here I offer a simple piece of guerrilla webtheater that might deal with this, well in advance. Or else inoculate her from the issue. 

Of course, the dynasty thing gets even more disturbing when you realize that the Bush family consider themselves to be a branch office of a certain middle eastern royal house, that co-owns Fox. Do not believe that influence has faded, even an iota. As I said, for all of their “maverick” pretensions, both McCain and Romney surrounded themselves with Bush administration figures and family retainers, top-to-bottom. Until the GOP has a true, inner upheaval, the “brain trust” that gave us Iraq quagmires, economic calamity and near-total destruction of the US Army and reserves -- and zero positive outcomes in any metric of US national health - is what you’ll get with any GOP presidency.

One more element that might affect 2016 would be if the tech billionaires -- like Gates and Buffett -- decide that too much is at stake, and get involved to a degree that counter-balances the Koch-Murdoch-Saudi-Adelson oligarchy that has been busy buying American politics. The miracle is that a large percentage of our current wave of billionaires are actually loyal to the American enlightenment experiment that has been so good to them! Perhaps more will step into help save us… till we finally fix the debacle and work with Larry Lessig to get the money out of politics.

Of course, many other factors will come into play by 2016. We'll be distracted, by then, by the War Against the Newts. The return of Jesus and his new show on Comedy Central. The Purple Plague will be a factor. The sale of the first million Robot-Buddies. That really effective IQ-boost pill (oh, pretty please?) may truly alter that pesky War on Science...

...and don't forget the vast revival of both reason and hope that will overwhelm all cynicism on Earth, with the release of StartideRising: the Motion Picture. Ahem. If Mssrs Spielberg or Nolan will only get on the phone, chop-chop.

Ah… the possibilities. It’s why I spend most of my life living in the future.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The U.S. election: a sea-change for the GOP? Or swan song?

A notion has spread -- foisted not just by cable news, but all media -- that the recent U.S. mid-term elections manifested some kind of tidal surge favoring Republican Party policies. Alas, the most disturbing thing about that meme is how pathetically easy it is to refute.

1) Democrats in 2014 had to defend 13 Senate seats in red or purple states. Mostly, the GOP reclaimed a number of naturally-red seats that had swung out of their grasp in a wave of revulsion toward the Bush era, amid Barack Obama’s first landslide. Here's your GOP "wave" - Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina.  (In fact, the dems held on to Virginia, boding poorly for the GOP. See below)

Nothing makes more clear the dismal state of journalism than its inability to show this on a map.

Things will be different in 2016, when Republicans will defend 24 Senate seats, of which18 are likely to be competitive based on geography and demographics. Democrats will be in peril of losing just one seat that could be competitive. And it could get worse for the GOP. There is chatter about potential Republican retirements in Arizona and Iowa. If either John McCain or Chuck Grassley decided to call it a career, each of those races would be major Democratic targets. 

Further, says Chris Ladd, one of the few openly Republican commentators to lift his head and reject the connivers who’ve hijacked his party: 

Almost half of the Republican Congressional delegation now comes from the former Confederacy.” Illustrating my point that this is no longer about “parties or “left-vs-right” anymore. It is a re-ignited phase of the American Civil War.

2) Moreover, this election was just about the worst in U.S. history, for voter involvement. In 43 states, less than half the eligible population bothered to vote, and no state broke 60 percent. A first to be proud of. 

As Chris Ladd put it: “Republicans in 2014 were the most popular girl at a party no one attended.” Why? “Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last. Eventually, Democrats will help people get the documentation they need."

(Elsewhere I describe how failure to provide compliance assistance is the smoking gun, proving that voter ID laws had only one intent, all along.)

Indeed, some factors that depress turnout during midterms have the opposite effect in presidential years. For example, good feelings. A sense that things are improving. Take the steadily improving US economy.  U.S. consumer spending rebounded last month, but confidence among consumers is surging at a faster pace. 

Deficits are declining steeply, as always happens in Democratic administrations. Throw in lower gas prices, engendered partly by U.S. shale but equally – say experts – by the 2009 CAFÉ increases in car mileage standards that sent fuel efficiency rocketing skyward, saving consumers billions… and which the GOP has sworn to repeal.

Midterms tend to say “relax” to folks who see times improving. But presidential elections bring such voters out, in force.

(Regarding budget deficits, any US citizen who sincerely cares about fiscal responsibility would have to be crazy ever to go anywhere near the GOP, ever again. The second derivative rate of rate of change of debt is always negative under democrats and always positive under republicans. Period. Always. A grownup faces facts that veer from expectation – and adapts. See: Do Outcomes Matter More than Rhetoric?)

3) Policy-wise, voter decisions were very different than this purported “landslide” would have you believe.  For example:

- Every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful, including every minimum wage increase, even in the red states.

- Every “personhood amendment” failed.

- Libertarian minded voters are starting to take note that the archaic-insane Drug War is being deregulated away only in Blue States. Hence, the current libertarian cant (fostered at great expense by the Koch Brothers and Steve Forbes) that “Republicans are less anti-freedom than statist democrats” is starting to shred.

Further, word is getting out that only democrats deregulate onerous government over-reach. Who abolished the ICC? The CAB? Or broke up Ma Bell? Or unleashed an unregulated Internet? Democrats. The GOP – for all its ranting about bad bureaucracy – has only ever deregulated one industry… Finance/Wall Street. And we saw how that went.

- But the biggest reason to doubt that this election reflected preference for GOP policies is simple.  What policies? 

Other than the Keystone Pipeline, there are no positive things on their agenda, only negatives -- explaining why this U.S. House of Representatives has been the laziest in the history of the republic. (See below.) And sure, Fox uses negative motivation effectively.  But it has driven away people who want to move ahead. (Also below, see stats on US scientists.)

5) The hypocrisy of those who now proclaim a “mandate” from the American people, based on a margin of 3% in actual votes, in the lowest-attended national election ever… after they shrugged off two landslide elections of Barack Obama as “meaningless,” is stunning proof of selective insanity.

6) All of the voting machine manufacturers are now owned by radical republican factotums, some of them with criminal records. This does not matter much in most blue states, where laws require that the process include a paper receipt that the voter can peruse and verify herself, and that can be hand-counted in random audits of precincts.  This means any large scale reprogramming of the voting machine results will eventually send the machine makers to prison.

In red states, there are often no such laws. No one knows how to audit the machines’ output and that is just fine by the party running those states. In other words, many tens of thousands of votes may be electronically altered without repercussions. No single fact more clearly portrays the fundamental difference in basic citizenship, between the Olde Confederacy and its blue opponents, in our ongoing struggle over American destiny.

7) As for future GOP prospects?  They are very dim in any election wherein women, minorities or the young actually vote. The map of “safe” states for a democratic presidential candidate is spectacularly good.  Mr. Ladd again:

 “…at the outset of any Presidential campaign, a minimally effective Democratic candidate can expect to win 257 electoral votes without even trying. That’s 257 out of the 270 needed to win.”

If one includes Virginia… and Ladd argues one should… then the total number of “safe” democratic presidential electors is 270, all that’s needed to win.

== So what will the GOP Congress actually do? ==

Almost certainly nothing. Or nearly so. Again, to be clear, under Speaker John Boehner the United States House of Representatives became the laziest, least productive and most corrupt in the history of theRepublic, with fewer bills passed or even introduced, fewer hearings held or subpoenas issued, and fewer days in session, than any Congress since congresses began. Oh, but the most days spent away from the Hill, raising mountains of money.

Sure, the pace of legislative deliberation may pick up, now that the GOP controls the Senate. One can hope. Take this headline. Mitch McConnell's Mission: Making The Senate Work Again.” We’ve seen a week of hype that Senator McConnell sincerely wants to get down to business! Or this from The Washington Post: Republican leaders, too, are inclined to clear the legislative decks of must-pass bills so they can start fresh in January, when they will have control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in eight years.”

Indeed we can hope! And that they negotiate with the President and their colleagues on the Hill.

But given six years of filibustering obstructionism and laziness, one can be excused some cynicism. Recall that the GOP controlled Congress for TWELVE years, from 1995 to 2007 and for the last six of those, they controlled every branch and lever of the US government, from presidency to courts to Congress and so on. 

What did they do with that perfect and complete lock on power?  Did they take control of our borders?  Solve the "entitlements crisis?" Balance budgets? Deregulate reviled agencies? Offer a plan for health care reform? Can you recall anything they actually did, during those years? Other than deregulate banks and Wall Street? 

No. If liberals are the manic side of our national bipolar disease, conservatives are the depressive side. In an era when we need agility while charging into an uncertain future, their reflex is to growl: “No! Let’s do nothing. And get off my lawn.”

== But 'NO" is a magic word ==

Take the accompanying graphic… it is obsolete. By now a vast majority of blockages – across all of US history - have targeted this administration alone, depriving the American people of a functioning government. But to the GOP's owners that is a feature! 

The deliberate destruction of politics as a pragmatic system for negotiating solutions to problems has been the great achievement of the Koch-Murdoch-Saudi axis. Earlier phases of the confederacy never accomplished such a thing. But this version has an openly stated goal that “government of the people, by the people, for the people SHALL perish from the Earth.”

Is all of this about to change? On the one hand, McConnell and his colleagues know the math for 2016. They can see they need to craft a better image or else go extinct. Perhaps there will be a few White House lunch meetings and one or two mentions of compromise.

But in fact, there truly is no chance of a détente. Across the last 60 years, democratic congresses have generally deferred to or negotiated with republican presidents, allowing them (with some big exceptions) to get their nominees passed. This has never been true in reverse. Not once, ever. Especially since the GOP openly declared its Hastert (“never negotiate”) Rule.

Indeed, few issues did more to divide the Senate over the past several years than the vetting of Mr. Obama’s judicial and executive-branch nominees.  

And now note: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg is 81 years old.   You can be certain of a firestorm, when Obama appoints her replacement. (She of course should have retired a year ago.) 

No, the turtle does not change his scales.

== A Genuine paladin for reviving a sane GOP ==

I’ve mentioned before that there are glimmers, here and there, of what America must do, in order to end this deliberately re-ignited phase of our self-destructive Civil War.  

What is needed is for fifty million “ostrich republicans” – basically sane, pro-science, and pro-markets, but right now burying their heads in utter denial, staring at Sean Hannity and pleading with him to keep them hypnotized – what’s needed is for fifty million of them to finally wake up. To see and admit and get angry over the fact that their movement has been hijacked by (at best) crazies and (at-worst) outright traitors.

What will it take for ostriches to take notice and rebel, to save their movement? To return it to being about competitive enterprise, community empowerment and Adam Smith?

Signs of sharp divergence from those things have been visible for years.  For example, the American right, which used to admire knowledge and expertise, is now in full tilt war against science. (See The Republican War on Science, by Chris Mooney.) Thirty years ago, 40% of U.S. scientists called themselves Republican, now it is 5%. They are voting with their feet, the smartest, wisest, most logical and by far the most competitive humans our species ever produced. 

And not just science! Can you name for me one profession of high knowledge and skill that is not under attack by Fox and its cohorts?  Teachers, medical doctors, journalists, civil servants, law professionals, economists, skilled labor, professors… oh, yes and science. Should this brain drain matter?

Not according to Fox, which touts the notion that brains automatically correlate with stupidity and lack of wisdom. What a meme! But some of you believe it. Indeed, that noxious meme is shared in some quarters of the left.

Is anyone out there trying to ease the pain of Barry Goldwater’s ghost, or to stop the spinning in William F. Buckley’s grave? 

George Will – almost by his witty self -- could have done this thing and helped to save the country, if he weren’t a rationalizing coward. There are glimmers of an uprising over on the pages of The American Conservative… but that rebellion and re-evaluation is tepid, glacial, timid.

Still, one seeks hope.  Indeed, at last, we may have found a hero who has the intellect and courage to condemn the Koch-Murdoch-Ailes-Saudi hijacking of U.S. Conservatism.  I quoted from Mr. Chris Ladd, above. I know very little about the fellow, but his postings show that he is no shill for the statist left. His opposition to the Murdochian madness is based on a wish for the United States to have a party dedicated to enterprise and finding competitive, non-state solutions to real problems, in a flat-open-fair marketplace of products, services and ideas…

as Adam Smith prescribed -- and as every generation of Americans has had to redefine and refresh. It is not leftism that today’s oligarch-owned GOP opposes, but the very principles and practical miracles that it is supposed to defend.  Which is why conservatism today never mentions Adam Smith.

I hope Mr. Ladd gets some scrutiny and attention.  It will be interesting to see if his “GOPlifer” column maintains quality and gains traction.

== Continue to Part II

Friday, November 14, 2014

Is this intelligence? And more science...

Commencing our weekend science roundup -- leaving comets (!) for another time.... 

artificial-intelligence-dangerOn io9... fast becoming the "it" site for open and hungry minds... George Dvorsky's column takes on some big picture stuff.  

In a recent posting, he interviewed me about artificial intelligence (AI) and how we can get into a good mental state to take on the many issues involved: Are We Overthinking the Dangers of Artificial Intelligence?
== Genes for longevity? ==

George goes on in another article to explore " “supercentenarians” living past 110. Superficially, it would seem that there is a genetic component to longevity, since centenarians do not differ that much from the general population in lifestyle choices and their relatives also live longer than average.  Researchers: “mapped the genomes of 17 supercentenarians (16 women and one man). Now, that may not sound like a large sample pool, but keep in mind that there are only 74 super-c's alive today, with 22 in the United States. These 17 samples were compared to those of 34 people aged 21 to 79.”

“From this small sample size, we were unable to find rare protein-altering variants significantly associated with extreme longevity.”  On the other hand: “It is not surprising that a highly complex trait such as longevity is not explained by a single Mendelian gene”

==Should we uplift?==
In a recent piece for New Scientistsome doubt is cast on the “genius of the sea” status of dolphins. I am not surprised. Although I portray descendants of today’s Tursiops dolphins piloting spaceships -- dazzling civilization with poetry and wisdom — I have never been one of those romantics who proclaimed them to be our equals presently, in any meaningful interpretation of “sapience.” That doesn’t mean they aren’t special! (Or that we should not bend our wills mightily toward saving the whole planetary habitat; see EARTH.)
What impresses me most about dolphins is their capacity for non-kin altruism, which is nearly as great as ours, and perhaps more consistent. And their stunning eagerness to learn new things, with a level of curiosity that seems to exceed adult chimpanzees by some distance. Those traits — and anecdotal impressions from some researchers — lead me to think that we would get many Tursiops volunteers, if we could somehow offer them a choice, whether to undertake the long and difficult path of uplift. A path that might lead to those brilliant partners and critics, who would accompany us to the stars.

uplift-sapienceShould We Engineer Animals to be Smarter? See this BBC Future article by Tim Maughan about animal uplifting, featuring myself and George Dvorsky. I've been in this field a long time and my views are actually fairly nuanced. I am not convinced we should do this thing. Indeed, some arguments against uplift (e.g. the pain of transition) I deem to be more valid than others (e.g. other species have their "own intelligences" -- that's true, in a sense, but those fallow populations would be left alone.) 
Here are some of my own insights on the matter: Will We Uplift Other Animals to Sapience? and Are Animals Intelligent ...Enough?

BonoboTwo books that peer into the minds of animals: 

The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates, by primatologist Frans de Waal, explores the biological origins of ethical behavior in primate communities, such as the bonobos -- arguing that morality originates, not in religion, but rather as a product of evolution -- and an instinct for fairness and altruism.

Another interesting concept... Hope they send me a copy to review. “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know.” Cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz takes a look at the canine world, exploring how dogs perceive the world around them, each other, and what dogs might think of that other quirky animal -- their human owners:

inside-dog"Horowitz introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draws a picture of what it might be like to be a dog. What’s it like to be able to smell not just every bit of open food in the house but also to smell sadness in humans, or even the passage of time? How does a tiny dog manage to play successfully with a Great Dane? What is it like to hear the bodily vibrations of insects or the hum of a fluorescent light? Why must a person on a bicycle be chased? What’s it like to use your mouth as a hand? In short, what is it like for a dog to experience life from two feet off the ground…” reads the summary on Amazon.

Of course I smelled at the oblique Grouch Marx connection, in the title.
==On the Fringes of Life==
Scientists have created a crystalline material that can pull all the oxygen out of room with just a spoonful. (Probably a spectacular exaggeration.) And it can release that oxygen when and where it's needed. Will this lead to the gill-masks that I portrayed both in EXISTENCE and the uplift novels? 

life-deathFascinating: The ever-regenerating hydra: All you would-be immortals! Watch this interesting animation in which Robert Krulwich shows us the animal that refuses to die! Ah, but then, when you penetrate the mystery, it turns out to be a PATTERN that never dies. But is it the same individual?
Precise brain stimulation techniques are now available for the realization of non-invasive computer-brain interfaces (CBI). This appears to mean that computer-mediated brain-to-brain communications are in the offing.
Mammals can’t regenerate lost limbs like salamanders can, but they can repair large sections of their ribs.  BTW see my short story about organ regeneration leading to something very very weird, in last month's ANALOG Magazine.
Replace colonoscopies with Yogurt? Scientists are developing synthetic molecules that can be introduced into the body via yogurt, and will interact with cancer in a way that produces telltale biomarkers. These molecules can then be detected easily when passed in urine.
More on how curiosity can be learned... and it then helps learning!

Dweebcast is one of these joyfully-geeky mini-shows that celebrate tech optimism. In this episode they ask me: "Hey, where are the hoverboards we were promised in Back to the Future?" 
==Physics and Technology Updates== 
As reported in Science Daily: “Researchers twist four radio beams together to achieve high data transmission speeds. The researchers reached data transmission rates of 32 gigabits per second across 2.5 meters of free space in a basement lab. For reference, 32 gigabits per second is fast enough to transmit more than 10 hour-and-a-half-long HD movies in one second and is 30 times faster than LTE wireless.”
Engineers have printed an ant-sized radio onto a silicon chip that costs pennies to make and draws power from the information it receives. This brings to life the ubiquitous smart dust potential that author Vernor Vinge prognosticated in fiction, more than a decade ago.
Printable solar panels? Kewl. But I have a sci fi reason for watching this tech. There will come a day when we learn how to make solar panels so simply that it could be a Cottage Craft, like blacksmithing, even after (if) civilization falls. Imagine if we ever experience a truly major fail… but simple craftsmen can provide villages with panels like roofing tiles that provide electricity. From then on, the utter baseline state of humanity will never again be caves or log cabin misery. There would always be light and basic electronics. And a limit to how far we could ever fall again.

imagesA fascinating experiment is being concocted for Fermilab, to place two 400m Michelson interferometers side-by-side and see if their random quantum positional jitters correlate with each other. If they do, then they will have used this Holometer to reveal “holographic noise” at the Planck scale that communicates in a quantum way across space-time… a link not only between the two interferometers, but also between the two realms of physics that (so-far) have not meshed well. For more details, see The Fermilab Holometer Proposal. 
Aren’t you proud to be a member of such a civilization?  Oughta be.
Graphene “paint” may be the most durable and corrosion resistant coating ever.
One of two British explorer ships, from the infamous-mysterious Franklin Expedition that vanished in the Arctic more than 160 years ago, has been found, in vivid sonar images. 
Here’s a cool (and necessary) notion.  The conceptualized 3D Re-Printer allows its user to feed used plastic items, which they would normally discard as trash, into the top of the machine. They machine will then grind the plastic up into a powder like material. At this point, the printer melts that powder, and extrudes it in molten form. Though it will take years to perfect it to the extent we saw in Back to the Future, where Doc Brown dumps anything at all into the Mr. Fusion.
Neat stuff: blasting incoming missiles and drones out of the sky with a high-energy laser, carried aboard a rugged truck. The see-saw of attack-defense just took another swing. It's a sci fi world. Now let's produce science fiction the (accurately) predicts something better than dystopias.
== Plus a reminder ==
Peter Ward is not optimistic. The changes we are wreaking on Earth go far beyond a few degrees of warming. Or even ocean acidification, which is clear and irrefutable (denialist-cultists always yell Squirrel and change the subject). Ward shows that the dead Black Sea and dying Mediterranean and Caribbean are only the beginning.
Green-sky-wardIn “Under a Green Sky” he shows parallels with the Permian Triassic extinction, in which hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas fizzed into the atmosphere, killing far more life than that measly dinosaur-asteroid. It is part and parcel to the steady acidification of the oceans, which is a clear fact and caused by human generated CO2. 

One thing is certain, you denialist-cultists who obstructed even moderate-compromise (TWODA) measures - sensible, moderate steps we could take, just in case all the smart people actually turn out to be right - none of you will have a place on any life arks.