Recently, on November 9, 2019, I celebrated 33 earth years of life on this planet.
I took a moment to reflect, and a feeling came to me that I had to ask myself as many people do, “now what?”
Just the same, I had an extraordinary feeling to be alive during this time in history to witness all the fantastic events and advancements happening around us.
Time is relative to our thinking, our different ways of viewing it, as well as our position in space.
One year on earth might be one day on another celestial body or 30 minutes on another, or it may represent just a billionth of a millisecond in universal time.
I cannot help to wonder why our lives seem so short in comparison to the age of the universe?
Even for those who live more than 100 years, a lifetime can seem short and insignificant.
I believe that time is very different from experience, and when it comes to living life to its fullest, the experience is much more important than time itself.
To me, the purpose of being alive is to experience life to its maximum potential, and even though our lifespan may seem insignificant to the age of the universe, it is still precious and adequate for us to experience life to our fullest potential.
To put my life in perspective and to get a feel of the big picture, I often use imaginary thought experiments, and here is one short example.
If we had been born a few hundred million ago, we might imagine ourselves alive among the dinosaurs, threatened by nature and natural disasters, or even subject to an asteroid falling to earth.
But today we live in a time where we can tame much of nature, to predict, avert and recover from most natural disasters, and even though we might not be able to put an end to all threats and dangers, we can at least avoid them to a high degree.
I look at my life through history in several different ways, and considering my life in this way makes me feel rather lucky to be alive in this day and age.
Another way of looking at life is that our world is built upon the accomplishments of past generations, yet our highest and most realistic obligations due to future generations as we borrow and use their land and natural resources in our own time.
Now I have reached the age of some inspiring figures well known in history who for various reasons did not live beyond 33 years, yet their accomplishments echo across generations.
Some to mention are Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity; Alexander the Great, who created one of the largest empires of the ancient world; Bruce Lee, philosopher, actor and producer; Roger Cotes, an English astronomer and mathematician, and so many more.
For only 33 years, no one can deny their remarkable achievements and contributions to the progress of our human existence.
Considering the accomplishments of figures such as these and their legacy left through history, it can make us feel rather humble and insignificant.
Given the same amount of time for our own lives, and with having much more in the way of tools, resources, and advanced technology, we seem to give out much less in return for what we are given.
Yet we cannot rightfully compare ourselves to the great minds of the past as such monumental genius is a rare gift left to us throughout time.
We can only learn from them, through their example, striving to continually better ourselves and to experience the most out of the personal life we’ve been granted.
I believe those who live short yet great lives have more profound experiences, so much more than many others who may go on to live 120 years in mediocrity.
The time given to us is meant to be spent to its fullest, at its maximum, regardless of our fears, hesitations, anxieties, or perceived limitations.
My own life required a bit of searching, and after finishing high school, I spent about two years dropping in and out of different schools.
I enrolled in a few courses here and there, but never seriously focused on anything in particular.
I took the time to seek out and explore alternatives, allowing myself time to figure out and determine what I wanted to do and learn from all the various possibilities I could find.
I did some long distance bicycle touring in the countryside to spend more time with myself and learn about my limitations.
I stuck with one subject that I felt was important and would be useful for my future research and study, and that was English.
The remainder of my focus was learning about computers and the internet, and exploring bookstores and libraries where I could read books on philosophy and celebrated figures in history.
As it is with most youths in their late teens, not knowing what I was doing or what exactly I was looking for, I did stumble upon a few right situations, which ultimately helped to bring me to where I am today.
Throughout the process, it was a bittersweet experience, with much uncertainty and confusion.
Fortunately, and for some reason, I found a strange comfort with feelings of uncertainty, and the feeling one gets in their gut when an important decision must be made.
But there was not much to lose in my late teens, there was a great amount of learning to do, and I knew the gains could be tremendous.
In this essay, I will share a few lessons I have learned, some of the things that I have come to believe and practice, and some of the things I avoid.
Life and everything about us are composed of patterns and cycles, while artists and mathematicians more easily recognize these patterns and cycles than do most other people.
By the word “artist,” I don’t necessarily mean someone who can sing, paint or act, instead I mean those people who were born with or somehow have natural creative or intuitive tendencies.
The patterns and cycles I have noticed within my life seem to be related to three words, which are ignorance, lost, and discovery.
First, it may seem obvious, but we don’t know that which we don’t know, which means we are all ignorant of many things.
When we realize and admit that we do not know very much, this brings us to the point where we accept we are lost in darkness, and only then will we be able to find, discover, learn and grow.
It is through this process of questioning ourselves that we are led to self-realization, thereby making it possible for real deep-seated learning to take place.
This questioning, learning, and discovery process continues in cycles as we learn new things, or re-learn old things forgotten or never fully mastered.
Another lesson I learned about life is that wealth can neither be created nor destroyed, but only transferred, while those who understand, prepare, and are willing to work smart will inherit the transfer.
In believing this way, I discovered the difference between greed and ambition, and how not to be trapped by the pursuit of money or possessions.
Greed is not healthy or beneficial because it leads to just wanting more things for ourselves, while ambition is necessary to achieve, move forward, and to do good.
For example, the Buddha had great ambition, as he wanted to end suffering for the whole world with positivity and compassion, not by force.
I have learned to be content as one among many in the universe, not to try to do or be everything, but to serve a few particular purposes, those which I seem to do best.
I believe all the wealth of the world should be shared, not equally, but equitably distributed more fairly and evenly among all the people so that at minimum, everyone is reasonably able to satisfy all their basic needs.
I believe it is best if all people can readily attain their basic needs and find personal contentment because that way, we can all work together more cohesively toward something higher or the greater good.
I have come to be content with what I have in terms of material possessions while still having the ambition to acquire additional resources to explore and develop humanitarian projects with a higher purpose.
We alone actively create our experiences on earth, whether good or bad, through our wants and desires, and our perceptions of our outer world, and especially our perceptions of all the other people around us.
If we wish to have a great life experience for the time that is given us, we must perceive others and the world around us accurately, knowing what we want and don’t want.
If we find that there is something about our world that we don’t want, we must have the motivation and courage to initiate the necessary change, however disruptive such change may need to be.
Over the years, I have come to learn that I am a bit of a mystic, a philosopher of sorts.
I believe in the natural power of the universe, and the connectedness between body, mind, spirit, and energy.
Although technology plays a significant role in my life each day, I still see it as taking second place to the beautiful and amazing biological machine we all possess, the human body.
The living flesh we inhabit will always be the most significant machine over all the sophisticated technology man will ever be able to conceive and devise.
We study the history of the universe, the stars, and planets, how earth and water formed the chemistry to bring life, and these things seem to make sense, yet consciousness is complicated, if not impossible to define.
We may be conscious as one being for this lifetime, but I believe the cells of our body, which are as numerous as the stars in the universe, carry and transfer our memories.
We might think of ourselves as our unique universe, an ecosystem with each of our cells serving its specific purpose, carrying and transferring memories held within as new cells continually evolve.
Or in comparing ourselves to a computer, the cells of our bodies have memory, similar to RAM or disk storage, and thereby everything we think and do is remembered through our evolving cellular structure.
Some functions are automatic, such as breathing and blinking, while others are more deliberate, requiring ambition, motivation, and will.
Our brain can only think or process and cannot remember, processing the memories held in the cells of our bodies.
I have come to believe and agree with thinkers such as Nikola Tesla, especially about the idea that nothing is invented, where instead, humans only discover that which has always been there all along.
All the ingredients for whatever we dream are here with us now, the grand design already exists, and we only need to discover how it all fits together to build something new for ourselves.
This process of discovery is similar to assembling and completing a complicated puzzle.
As we assemble the puzzle, we are obligated to do so using natural, universal laws and principles.
Such beliefs, as mentioned herein, have inspired much of how I approach life and business.
They work for me, as well as for our team at SmallWorld, KOOMPI, and several other groups and individuals in our startup ecosystem.
They encourage us to seek out different, innovative ways of doing everyday things, never against, but always in harmony with nature, natural law, and the unwritten laws of the universe.
Nature is all-powerful, and to harness the potential of life, we must live, act, work, and think in harmony with the laws of nature and the universe.
Here are a few thoughts on some things in life I have decided to either do daily or regularly.
I enjoy daily meditation and find it to affect my health and well-being positively.
I find meditation to be effortless and natural, and can meditate anywhere, in any position, sitting, standing, lying down, cycling, or even when I am among a crowd of people.
I don’t meditate the way people traditionally think of meditation in a lotus position, whereas instead, wherever I happen to be, I will take time and make an effort to be quiet and introspective within my head.
Thoughts and ideas always seem to come and go, some are distractions, some seem elusive, some seem concrete, while others appear as pure fantasy.
I enjoy this interplay and flow of ideas within, and in the end, the time invested for meditation and self-introspection helps to bring focus and clarity.
I ride a bicycle, not so much for exercise and not for sport, but merely as a sensible, efficient, and environmentally friendly means of transportation.
I do engage in some sports, such as running to build heart, lungs and endurance, and football, because it is excellent for developing team camaraderie.
At 33 years of age, I continue to live as a student, sometimes working through the night, sleeping at the workplace, although I would not suggest that everyone do the same.
I enjoy spending my time with younger people and working with them in any way possible because they are inquisitive, and I continually learn from their fresh approach to life.
When I work with younger people, I will often think back to when I was their age and how ignorant I was of simple things, which today seem so obvious.
I experiment with diet and nutrition, sometimes eating only fruit for several days, sometimes fasting half a day, or all day.
Here are some thoughts on some things in life I have come to avoid.
Since around 2008, there are some foods I decided that I will no longer consume.
Over the years, I found that I feel best when I abstain from all meat except fish, so now I don’t eat beef, pork, poultry, or any other animal flesh.
The idea of eating this way came upon me around the year 2008, when I felt that I didn’t want to be chewing so much.
We eat meat for energy, yet we expend so much energy just chewing the meat, so now I only eat fish for protein, rice (grains), vegetables, and fruit.
I also feel that the sun, as well as clean, fresh, pure air and water, offer us tremendous health and nutritional health benefits.
I prefer my drinking water to be warm or at room temperature because I believe this helps the body to conserve energy.
When we drink cold water, our body must ultimately heat it to body temperature, 37 degrees, which to me, is a waste of energy, and that energy could be used for some better purpose.
I don’t eat fast foods, except pizza maybe once or twice a year with friends, but if prepared and cooked properly, pizza is not a fast food anyway.
Occasionally I will enjoy a croissant or good quality bread.
Over the last four years, I might have had 5 or 6 glasses of wine, but it has come to the point where I feel no desire for alcohol whatsoever.
When we drink alcohol, it often presents a bad image, and when I was young, I recall people in my hometown who would drink and tend to act stupid, not themselves.
To me, cigarette smoke tastes terrible and smells terrible, while addictive and mind-altering drugs offer no useful benefits or sensations for me.
I don’t drink coffee, energy drinks, or carbonated sugary drinks, and I only drink water and herbal teas without caffeine.
I have found that anything that alters consciousness or boosts our nervous system, in the end, always seems to bring us down to a lower level from where we first started.
I avoid all pharmaceutical drugs unless I am experiencing severe pain or hospitalized for some unfortunate reason, and I tend to always seek out alternative and natural health remedies.
I intend to cut out all television and related corporate mainstream media, yet I do find much useful learning content on Youtube, even among the trash which the algorithms tend to push.
These are my thoughts as I reflect upon my 33 years of life and as I look ahead to the next great challenge for our up and coming years together at SmallWorld.
Having an ever-present attitude of gratitude can be a compelling force in each of our lives, and to conclude, it is only appropriate that I offer some of my reflections on the importance of love and gratitude.
Often during my day, I will take time to silently consider and give thanks to all the various people in my life with whom I have crossed paths, and with this, I wish to mention here only a few, as a complete list could be very long.
I send thanks and gratitude to Charles DiBella, my long-time mentor of 13+ years, for proofreading and editing my various writings, helping to guide and ease my journey along the way, and providing valuable information from his own very unique life experiences.
And likewise to my parents and siblings, for always and continually being at my side, allowing me to have total freedom to think and act as I do, even when my ways seem to go against traditional social norms, or are difficult for them to understand.
And my love and gratitude continually go out to our SmallWorld family, which has grown so large over the years, and whose names are many.
I cannot acknowledge all of you here individually, but will mention a few, yet want all of you to know that the thought of every one of you always brighten my days.
My love and gratitude goes out to Daniela Pappi and Maryann Bylander, for showing me how to give and invest time and resources toward helping people, and to Fatima Mohammed, for her gracious generosity which in 2010 enabled me for the first time to experience much of the broader world outside of Cambodia.
And my long-time friends, Sakada, Chhunny, Putheary, Sopheak, Vannak, Phanna, and Sengky, who were there with me in our very early days to believe in our dream and to begin this journey toward creating our SmallWorld family.
Special thanks to Phirom, Kesor, and the whole SmallWorld-SmallBand team, who, during those early years, delivered happiness to so many thousands through their musical creativity as they carried our name and ideology to the Cambodian people.
I pour out my thanks and gratitude to Bong Sila Chy, Sokly Kuoch, his friends, and 32 other Earth Walkers, as I have named them, for trusting in me and our SmallWorld dream, providing the initial funding to set this dream firmly into motion, and even now are always there to help and guide us along the track.
And special thanks and gratitude go out to Willson Lin and the Kang Family for entrusting me with the SmallWorld and KOOMPI vision, and their continued support for the often strange but unusual projects we dream of doing for the future.
I pour out my thanks and gratitude to the KOOMPI team for their unwavering belief in our mission, breaking through so many barriers toward new heights, even when at times it seems impossible.
No one can claim to understand the mysteries of love wholeheartedly, but I believe it is possible to convince oneself to love anyone, yet sometimes love comes without the need for any convincing whatsoever.
Love is an intentional act of care, concern, kindness, and understanding, pushing us to want the best for people to be happy, free, and comfortable.
On a global scale, my thanks go out to everyone, whether we have met for the short term or longer, your presence in my life has helped to shape me into the person I am today and will be in the future.
Your knowledge, intentions, and actions are both meaningful and robust.
-- Questions and comments on my Telegram AMA
This website is hosted at one of SmallWorld's Computers.
Imagine making fuel, plastics, and concrete out of “thin air." That’s the promise of Direct Air Capture (DAC).
Imagine making fuel, plastics, and concrete out of “thin air." That’s the promise of Direct Air Capture (DAC), a technology that fundamentally disrupts our contemporary oil economy.
Mimicking what already occurs in nature, DAC essentially involves industrial photosynthesis, harnessing the power of the sun to draw carbon directly out of the atmosphere.
This captured carbon can then be turned into numerous consumer goods, spanning fuels, plastics, aggregates and concrete (as I write this blog, I’m even wearing shoes 3D-printed from carbon).
A vital component of every life form on Earth, carbon stands at the core of our manufacturing, energy, transportation, among the world’s highest-valued industries.
And in the coming 10 years, sourcing carbon out of the air will become more cost-effective than carbon sourced from the ground (oil).
By 2030, the carbon capture and utilization (CCU) industry is expected to reach $800 billion. And by 2050, that number will surge more than 4X to a $4 Trillion market, according to McKinsey.
But let’s start with the basics…
Direct Air Capture: The What and the How
Carbon capture might seem like old news, usually written off as prohibitively expensive and unrealistic.
But DAC is fast changing the rules of the game, capable of sucking massive quantities of carbon dioxide out of the air, anywhere, at any time.
First-generation CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) used a technology called Point Source Capture to take CO2 directly from smoke stacks and pump it into the ground for permanent sequestration.
Yet this process required massive industrial plants tethered to CO2 emission points, allowing far less flexibility.
DAC, by contrast, can be deployed anywhere, completely independent of emission patterns.
This is because CO2 gets distributed evenly within the atmosphere. There is as much CO2 above Los Angeles, California as rests above the Patagonian Desert. And for the purposes of DAC, this equal distribution means decimated transportation costs.
So how does it work? While a few different techniques have been developed, the most common involves industrial-scale fans that transmit ambient air through a filter. This latter component then uses a chemic adsorbent (which holds molecules in the form of a thin film on its surface) to produce a pure, storable stream of carbon dioxide.
But beyond the value of carbon itself, DAC could serve as a negative carbon technology, helping us lock away atmospheric CO2 while birthing an abundance of material products.
Today’s Biggest Players
Companies like Global Thermostat, Carbon Engineering, and Climeworks are now on the cutting edge of DAC technologies, capturing record quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Just last October (2018), a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report even stated that DAC could be feasible enough to reach worldwide adoption in just the next 3 years. As estimated by NAS, once the price of CO2 extraction dips below $100-150 per ton of carbon, the air-captured commodity will be economically competitive with traditionally sourced oil.
Since the report’s release, DAC has gained tremendous traction. Bill Gates-backed Carbon Engineering recently closed a $68 million series C financing round and now claims it can achieve CO2 extraction at as little as $94 per ton, at scale.
Or take Swiss startup Climeworks, which has recently deployed its third DAC plant after receiving north of $35 million in funding from the Zürcher Kantonal Bank.
Yet another contender, Global Thermostat has already demonstrated that its technology can remove CO2 for a mere $120 per ton at its facility in Huntsville, Alabama. And at scale, the startup predicts it could achieve DAC for as little as $50 a ton.
Demonstrating the sheer range of use cases, Global Thermostat has now closed deals with industrial giants from Coca-Cola—which aims to use DAC to source CO2 for its carbonated beverages—to Exxon Mobile. In just the next few years, this latter oil and gas giant intends to pioneer a DAC-to-fuel business on the back of Global Thermostat’s techniques.
Iterating upon the basic method of DAC explained above, Carbon Engineering’s approach involves a potassium hydroxide solution. This reacts with CO2 to form potassium carbonate, which—in the process—removes a certain amount of carbon dioxide from the air passing over it.
While air remnants containing less CO2 are released, the final solution is then treated to separate out captured carbon dioxide.
Once carbon capture is complete, processes like DAC-derived fuels can begin.
Direct Air Capture Fuels
The know-how for converting air into fuel has been around for a hundred years or more. After all, it’s the way all plant life grows. But until now, there was no cheap and abundant source of CO2.
For millions of years, plant species have captured CO2, converting it to sugar via photosynthesis. In succession, plants have then either burned the sugar directly or converted sugars to hydrocarbon fuels via high pressure within the Earth’s surface over long periods of time.
Theoretically, this is not hard to do. The process requires two steps: first, electrolysis separates hydrogen from H2O. Secondly, the Sabatier reaction (1897) and Fischer-Tropsch process (1925) together result in bonding of the carbon molecule in CO2 to hydrogen molecules to thereby create hydrocarbon fuels— just like the ones we purchase at gas stations or use in our stoves.
Essentially, DAC uses solar (or other renewable energy sources) to capture carbon dioxide from the air, bond it with hydrogen molecules and create burnable fuels molecularly identical to natural gas and diesel.
In other words, the process mimics a battery in its method of energy storage. It takes energy from the sun and stores it in a permanently exploitable fuel source.
Very soon, we will indeed be able to make fuel out of thin air.
Imagine a world powered by carbon-neutral fuels. The advantage here, in part, is that DAC fuels use the same infrastructural elements—pipes, gas stations, and the like—that already support our modern fossil fuel economy. Yet even using legacy distribution systems, DAC eliminates the environmental toll.
Perhaps most exciting, DAC could equalize fuel costs across the globe, democratizing immediate access. Remote or oil-distant regions, which currently suffer high fuel prices given long-distance transit, will be able to source their own fuel, regardless of geography. And not only will DAC fundamentally redefine geopolitics, but it will be an economic boon to nations like Australia, no longer in need of international oil shipments.
But captured CO2-to-fuel is just one of many exciting examples of DAC’s extraordinary potential.
Commercial Use Cases Are Limitless
In just the next few decades, we are about to manufacture a significant percentage of the world’s plastics and building materials out of the air.
Take concrete, for instance. One of the most widely used materials on Earth, second only to water, concrete now accounts for a whopping 7 percent of global CO2 emissions.
Yet as it turns out, injecting CO2 into cement as it’s being manufactured strengthens the mixture and produces a far sturdier end-product. This process also permanently sequesters CO2 into cement, largely offsetting the material’s high footprint.
Up until now, however, we had no cheap and abundant source of CO2 to achieve this. Yet with current DAC technologies and soon-to-come iterations, suppliers can now produce far more robust cement at lower costs.
NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE finalist CarbonCure is one such enterprise. Having raised more than $9 million, the team is now developing its latest application of DAC to create carbon-neutral concrete.
Yet another XPRIZE finalist, Carbon Upcycling UCLA, utilizes CO₂ to create a product dubbed CO₂NCRETE. A low-carbon concrete-equivalent material, CO₂NCRETE™ has achieved a CO₂ footprint approximately 50 percent lower than that of traditional concrete. And the product is just as viable.
Or take Carbon Capture Machine, which can create carbon basic solids usable in a variety of applications. First, proprietary CCM technology dissolves CO2 from any source in dilute alkali and creates a building material.
Diving quickly into technicality: the carbonate solution reacts with readily and abundantly available calcium (Ca++) and magnesium (Mg++) brines to selectively precipitate CaCO3 (Precipitated Calcium Carbonate, PCC) and MgCO3·3H2O (Precipitated Magnesium Carbonate, PMC).
In success, these conversion products are carbon-negative, high-value feedstocks in great demand across countless legacy industries. PCCs, for instance, are currently used in paper-making, plastics, paints, and adhesives, while future applications in cement and concrete are now under development.
Cement PMC, on the other hand, is an entirely new product that can be cast into final shapes and thermally cured at low temperature. As a consequence, the solid undergoes spontaneous reaction bonding to form rigid solids (blocks, panels, tiles, etc.).
But beyond Earth-bound utility, DAC could hold countless vital applications in extra-planetary ventures.
With a 98 percent CO2 atmosphere, Mars could be an ideal target for DAC, not to mention an optimal source of needed commodities. To successfully colonize and establish a society on Mars, DAC could help us produce everything from fuel and food to 3D printed replacement parts and construction tools.
Even today, SpaceX’s intended Mars strategy largely relies on the conversion of CO2 into methane for rocket fuel. Meanwhile, NASA is hosting a $1 million CO2 Conversion Centennial Challenge, inviting teams to devise carbon utilization technologies that turn CO2 into sugar molecules on Mars.
Direct Air Capture will soon allow us to sequester gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere, yielding material abundance for countless everyday products. By making CO2 a vital part of our economy, we can begin to derive incredible value from one of our principal climate change agents, currently emitted as a “waste” product.
And applications of captured carbon are near-limitless. Whether for fuel on Mars, smart city infrastructural equipment, or everyday plastic commodities, our atmosphere’s carbon reserves are free for the taking and will fundamentally transform our global energy and materials economy.
Welcome to the age of carbon-derived abundance.