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Be Not Afraid

Let’s all “stare into the abyss and chew on glass!”

That’s how Elon Musk depicts the crazed mental and even gastro-dental distress of people faced with threats to the survival of their paradigms, their companies, and even our precious planet. Today, the abyss-staring and glass-chewing focuses on artificial intelligence (AI) and climate change angst.

The cowering titans fear ghosts and even aliens: computer programs gaining consciousness and stabbing us in the virtual backplane. Bad weather stampeding beyond human ken or control as a result of humans eating, heating, procreating, and breathing out CO2.

Widely invoked is the “precautionary principle” of emergency socialism: “better safe than sorry.”

For investors, the precautionary rule can be interpreted as, “buy the stocks of the goliaths that rule the summits of the prevailing markets.” That’s the leaders of the Dow and the S&P. Their lobbyists and bureaucracies say they can save you from all dangerous and disruptive surprises hatching from irresponsible entrepreneurs below. Those new guys are out-of-control. ‘Fear them,” we are told.

By contrast, our rule is to invest in those wild and crazy guys. “Creativity always comes as a surprise to us. If it didn’t,” as Princeton’s Albert Hirschman wrote, “we wouldn’t need it and government planning would work.” In our view, out-of-control beats bureaucracy every time.

Leaving the elites and their experts chewing on glass, we are moving on to a new carbon age, required by the coming end of the copper and silicon age.

The providential rise of graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms, will revitalize all industries and create a new carbon economy.

Craig Mundie, then Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer, outlined the problem at my COSM conference in 2019: the heat barrier at the end of Moore’s Law: “We have now run into a brick wall. What brought all of us faster computing was raising the CPU’s clock rate” [The central processing unit’s speed per compute cycle, measured in hertz or cycles per second, rose from a few hundred kilohertz in the 1970s to 5.8 gigahertz (billions of cycles per second) today.]

“A faster clock increased power consumption. We could only increase the clock rate without consuming more power because we could lower the voltage. But we can’t do that anymore because we’re down into electron volts where quantum uncertainty takes over. If you can’t lower the voltage, you can’t raise the clock rate without using a lot more power.”

That’s amps times volts, which equals watts, which means heat. Not global warming; that’s cool compared to most of human history. I’m old enough to recall the “Medieval Climate Optimum” in the 15th century. What we should worry about is electrical warming. At a certain point, everything gets red hot. And then white hot.

It’s already happening. Your cloudy data center, besieged by massive demand for Artificial Intelligence—hey, it’s better than no intelligence at all—is already experiencing multi-million-dollar equipment failures as it generates more heat than light.

Fear not!

Readers of my newsletter, and my recently published book, “Life After Capitalism” (for a 50% book discount, use Offer Code AFTER50 at checkout), will recognize the providential properties of graphene. It is two hundred times stronger than steel at one fifth the weight (thus a thousand times stronger per kilogram). In airplane bodies, aluminum is used because its strength-to-weight ratio is three times steel’s. Opening new horizons for the aero-space industries—“flying cars at last”—graphene’s strength-to-weight ratio is a thousand times steel’s, and over 300 times aluminum’s. It is as stiff as diamond, far thinner than paper, as flexible as rubber, and commands a million times more current density than copper.

Of all elements, it has the largest area for its weight. A sheet of one transparent gram, a nanometer deep, could cover a football field. In a now famous trope, it would take the weight of an elephant perched on the top of a sharp pencil to penetrate it.

With a third the friction of Teflon, it is useful for films, coatings, and paints, and could provide touchpads that bend and fold. It could form a diaphragm to filter air or water from viruses and bacteria or remove salt from seawater in more efficient desalinization plants. And its optical properties enable it to reflect light a hundred times faster than current photonic switches.

But all this miraculous versatility distracts us from the central promise of graphene.

Most momentously and auspiciously in the industrial heat crisis at the end of Moore’s Law, graphene—of all the known elements in the universe—is the best thermal conductor and heat sink.

Graphene boasts thermal conductivity some 60% higher than the previous king, diamond, which is another carbon allotrope (or chemical kin).

Over the last 6,000 years, the world has consumed some 700 million tons of copper. According to Dan Denning of Bill Bonner’s Private Reserve, over the next 22 years the world will require another 700 million tons of copper. He predicts booming copper markets at prices rising from roughly $4 a pound to $10. But it is not going to happen. Copper will widely and increasingly give way to graphene.

Graphene emits roughly one eighth of the heat of copper and one twenty-fourth the heat of silicon, the enabling elements at the heart of our overheated incumbent industrial culture.

In the one billion electrical motors created every year, the electrical coils that generate power are hot and heavy. According to FAA rules, if used in aircraft, the coils must be cryogenically cooled. As in other such applications, advanced cooling requires more bulk and energy than the coils enable in the actual operations of the system.

But graphene offers the remedy. New polymer coils coated with graphene would be drastically lighter, cooler, and vastly more conductive than copper coils.

Similarly, across the power grid, long haul electric lines waste the weighty copper, since the electricity flows only on the circumference: along the surface and not below it. All these conduits could be replaced with long, radically lighter non-conductive polymer wires with graphene as a nearly superconductive outside coating. The electrical conductivity would be a thousand times greater than copper, while the heat emitted would plummet.

My “Moonshots” guide John Schroeter summed up the promise of graphene to revolutionize electronics with 100 times better internet speeds, a thousandfold better cameras, better earphones, better foldable touchscreens, cooler mobile and even nano-ribbon antennas, cheap printable Wi-Fi systems, and supercapacitor instant chargers.

UCLA research finds graphene can charge and discharge a thousandfold faster than lithium iron batteries and are flexible, malleable, and easy to produce.

And this is just the beginning of the saga of graphene, pioneering a new carbon age, that we will be covering in our newsletter, Gilder’s Technology Report.

P.S. You’ve got to come to COSM 2023, Nov. 1-3 in Bellevue, Washington. COSM 2022 and 2021 were probably the best tech gatherings we’ve ever been to, and the 2023 version is not to be missed.

COSM is the ultimate expression of George’s worldview, the Gilder Team’s insights into what is happening in tech, how it matters to the world and especially to our readers and tech investors.  Save the dates of Nov. 1-3:

The focus this year is on AI and all its works. Key speakers include:

  • The Wall Street Journal’s Andy Kessler on the economics of AI.
  • Juan Lavista Ferres, Microsoft’s chief scientist on AI’s potential for global problem solving.
  • Ray Kurzweill will shock you with the prospects for AI immortality.
  • Archana Vemulapalli, head of solutions architecture at Amazon AWS, will plunge into the AI open or closed debate.
  • Michael Milken will propose a new AI-enabled high-yield healthcare system.
  • …and more

Plus, you will meet lots of key folks from the companies we cover.

  • Ariel Malik, the venture capitalist backing a dozen graphene companies spun out of Jim Tours Rice University Lab, will give important updates on the graphene revolution.
  • Steven Balaban, of Lambda Labs, a George Gilder favorite, will cover the prospects for companies enabling AI on the edge.
  • DO NOT MISS Vered Kaplan CEO of Orgenesis on the amazing prospects of affordable cell therapy.
  • Another half a dozen start-up heroes.

Speaking of heroes, the brilliant and brave Michael Shellenberger (recently harassed by Congress People of Limited IQ) will speak on Free Speech in the Digital Age.

As always, Carver Mead will give a riveting reflection on our three days together.

Social time is great—meet old friends and fellow subscribers and investors.

George and Nini, of course, and the rest of the Gilder Team, John, Steve, Paul and Richard will be there, too.



P.P.S. Come join our Eagle colleagues on an incredible cruise! We set sail on Dec. 4 for 16 days, embarking on a memorable journey that combines fascinating history, vibrant culture and picturesque scenery. Enjoy seminars on the days we are cruising from one destination to another, as well as dinners with members of the Eagle team. Just some of the places we’ll visit are Mexico, Belize, Panama, Ecuador and more! Click here now for all the details.

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