June 16th


The first problem for today concerns the manner in which technology will develop. In reality, the great bulk of technological progress is incremental in nature: a few percent here, a few percent there. However, this model isn’t as dramatic as the “brilliant discovery” model of technological progress, in which a team of determined scientists and engineers unleash a great discovery on the world. This is what most players expect. Inasmuch as this is an educational product, I really should use the evolutionary model, but I think that, in order to make it more fun (something I’ll really need here), I should use the brilliant discovery model. This will be more difficult to implement. The evolutionary model would simply have a variable reflecting the state of advance of some technology, a variable that is incremented based on the amount of research and the demand for that product. The brilliant discovery model, on the other hand, must have a long list of technological discoveries that are then executed in semi-random sequence, the pace of which is set by research spending. Each discovery will be announced with a flourish (as well as an explanation of the technology) and will then be used to increment the technological level for that product. Of course, this requires me to compile a big list of all anticipated technological developments and estimate how much R&D must take place for them to happen.

Should I keep these things hidden or make them public? In the former approach, I would simply have some internal variables representing the discoveries and their import; then they’d be triggered at the appropriate times. The alternative is to define each as a page that contributes to the technology page for each production type. For example, we could have these technologies:

First-generation fluidized bed combustion
Second-generation fluidized bed combustion
CO2 sequestration technology
Second-generation sulfur scrubbing

Each of these would feed into Coal Technology, which in turn would feed into Coal Production. But this has a flaw: the first two increase the efficiency of coal production, while the second two decrease its emissions, and these act in very specific ways. Ideally, the first two would feed into Coal Production, while the third would feed into CO2 emissions and the third would feed into sulfur emissions. But can the existing structure handle such an arrangement? I think I can make it work.

3:00 PM

Another problem, however, is that the effect of technology is not to make possible some things, but to make those things cheaper. For example, CO2 sequestration now costs about $60 per ton -- much too expensive. However, the goal of technology would be to make CO2 sequestration technology cheaper. Hence, we’d have $60/ton CCS, and later we’d have $50/ton CCS, and then $40/ton CCS, and so forth.

There’s also the problem of how this gets integrated into the overall calculations. With cleaning technologies, such as CCS, we’ll have to set a taxation bar: dollars per ton. When the price of the technology falls below the taxation level, the pollution is diminished by the technology.

But there are other technologies that are not so easy to deal with. For example, wind power might have a price-supply curve looking like this:

The improved technology then improves the performance of wind so that more power is available at any given price. But now the question becomes, where is this information stored? Does it merit a page of its own, or should it be subsumed inside the wind energy page? Does every such technology get its own page? For example, if we have a technological advance for “network integrated wind power”, should that be on one page, while another page is reserved for “real-time blade shape management” technology? Or do we group all such technologies into a single page? Hmm...