Currently, the CO2 levels are 400 ppm (part per million), but it used to be 270 or something.
This means there is a lot of molecules that could be put to better use.
I think about this sometimes, and yesterday I had an idea:
- Build a safe artificial super intelligence
- Instruct the super intelligence to design a system of billions self replicating drones that can scale up to the entire earth
- Capture CO2 in the rotating blades of the drones, release it at docking stations using moisture
- Use the material in automated factors for clothing, building bricks, solar panels, cars etc.
Technically, I imagine something like this being possible some point in the future, perhaps a few hundred years without super intelligence, or a few decades with a safe version. At the rate we are doing, CO2 levels will still be a problem in hundreds of years, because it requires enormous amount of energy to extract it and store it from the atmosphere. The sooner we can do get the levels down, the better.
Some scientists and engineers think of “trees”, but there is a fundamental problem of how large systems you need to capture CO2 fast enough. I imagine that swarms of drones could make it easier to deploy the system everywhere, and one can use simple radio signals to communicate with it, such as “keep away” to clear out drones from places where people live, or where the noise disturbs wildlife. We probably need billions of such drones to make it efficient.
Why you need a safe super intelligence
One reason you need a super intelligence for this, is because the system to produce the drones, docking stations and automated factories must be one integrated system. The drones themselves might require some advanced scientific research that normally takes decades. A super intelligence that can learn science using path semantics could derive the theories and conclusions automatically. The most complex connection is the utility of the captured CO2, which requires technology far beyond current level to be fully automated.
No industrial scale today can match up with the production you need to make as little long term damage to the environment as possible. If it can synthesize threads, we can make clothes of it. Instead of just storing the CO2, we could supply all humans with free choice of clothes and disposal of old ones. If it can make pellets or fibers, we could produce modular building bricks that can be used in housing construction. With large enough supply of materials, people could live anywhere on earth and choose how to live in a palace if they wanted to. You just have to be smart about the design and architecture, and make sure biological diversity is not harmed. The task of the super intelligence is to make the whole system functional and non-harming to the environment and to people.
To make super intelligence safe, one could make it non-human but based on an advanced form of path semantics. It would be able to reflect over its actions and sub goals. Since it has a characteristic non-human intelligence, it needs specific instructions, because path semantics is more like a knowledge base than an active agent. When it is not running, it will just turn itself off and not interfering with human activities. When it is running, it can communicate with humans and show the proofs, designed in a such way that it can not hide anything. The source code can be open and free for everyone. It does not need to be self modifying or emulating human behavior, which prevents large classes of risks.
You need air flow to capture CO2, and drones get this simply by keeping themselves up in the air. The rotating blades could suck in some of the air and output lower concentrations. There will be billions of such drones all around the earth, but the atmosphere is big enough to not make it feel intrusive. Drones would have no camera, so there will be no surveillance. Instead, they can use simple radio signals to navigate and communicate. No internet connection, just signals for controlling the drones. The behavior of drones could be simple herd navigation logic. Design hardware for supporting the behavior and nothing else. No security holes, no Turing complete computer you can hack for other purposes. Color could be white to increase albido and reflect more rays back to space.
Advancing civilization through the automated factories
Imagine some person walking out in the desert and putting up a radio beam, emitting a signal to the drones to start assembling a factory. Drones are not very strong, but if they are many they can carry a little weight. To transport something at long distances they can take turns, since there are many enough drones nearby to always prepare a local swarm for the transport. A few weeks later, the factory is complete.
Drones themselves do not do the thinking, but propagate the message to some center where a safe super intelligence make plans and issue orders.
The design of the factory could be made such that it can be removed later without making harm to the environment. It could be fitted to the climate and weather patterns on the area it is built. If no one uses the products, it will automatically be deconstructed by drones.
Think of this as an earth-around free supply of products by need. People can move around, settle somewhere else, and tell the drones what they want.
- Free clothes
- Free housing
- Free food
All this is possible because there is an excess of materials that has no better purpose. It is time to think differently about CO2!