Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thoughts on the driverless revolution:


Andrew D Atkin:

This article is essentially an extension from my previous piece on full-automation transport.

Google's driverless car has been proven, and Google has already got the state's of California and Nevada on board with them. They are now working with officials in these districts to develop laws for the implementation of fully-autonomous vehicles.

Google says that it now needs to move forward as fast as possible with this technology, which I believe can be decoded as: "All our competitors know as well as we do that driverless cars are the soon-to-be future, because we've shown that it can be done and that we will continue to develop this technology. And most importantly, the key political barriers have been removed". [note: This paragraph is not a literal quote].

In other words the race is on. No-one informed on this issue is second-guessing whether driverless cars are the future now. Even politicians, world over and in New Zealand, are starting to talk seriously about it. Good!

What driverless cars mean:

Most people think in terms of a new system under an old roof when thinking about driverless cars. It's wrong-thinking, because driverless cars will redefine transport as we know it and even much of the operational structure of our cities.

Firstly, most of us will not personally own a driverless car. Driverless cars will give us the rise of the taxi, though the demise of the taxi-driver. They will give us network-based transport whereby we simply order-up the car we want, for the job we want, and then ditch it (or should I say it ditches itself) after you've used it. Network-based transport will be the 'new roof'.

Driverless cars will be directly matched to demand, which means that most cars will be designed for single-occupancy usage only. This shift, more than anything, will revolutionise transport efficiency.

So how should the single-occupancy vehicle look?

The most substantial thing you can do to make cars more comfortable, is to design them to be self-tilting so as to get rid of side-forces while traveling. Doing that in a 4-wheeled vehicle is problematic, but in a 2-wheeled vehicle it is of course easy and necessary.

This is why I predict that the most common type of autonomous taxi will be a somewhat spacious, enclosed motorcycle. It will be stabilised with retractable wheels (for static stability) and/or gyroscopes*.

The following image gives us the Mono-tracer. It's an enclosed motorcycle similar to what I suggest.

















Also it's important to note that with driverless cars, the free time that's liberated makes comfort only more important. If people are to use their cars as an office, dinner table, bed, etc, then getting rid of side-forces will be even more important. This is especially the case for a hilly country like New Zealand which is almost nothing but corners.

And finally, an enclosed 2-wheeled vehicle is extremely economical and energy-efficient to run. With aggressive streamlining, you can get a hybrid vehicle of this type down to less than 10% of the fuel consumption of a standard 4-wheeled vehicle today.

Electronic infrastructure:

Google has demonstrated that it can fully automate its cars with no infrastructural investment in the existing road network to accommodate them. That is quite a testimony to how far this technology has come, and how close its implementation is. However, because we now know that driverless cars are the future, it might be to everyone's advantage to look at the possibility of directly conditioning the roads to assist electronic control - for the sake of reducing net costs, and possibly improving performance.

We could look at impregnating passive-RF chips in the ground, so auto-cars can get instant and totally exact feedback on their positions (with no advanced information processing), and we can maybe install embedded wires that contain a radio signal for easier positioning of the cars, etc. There is also the possibility of installing road-based sensors that communicate to auto-cars, allowing them to see around corners. This would radically empower the defensive-driving capability of auto-cars, and far beyond what a human could achieve.

Again, because we know where we're going with this technology, it makes sense to study how best to accommodate the driverless revolution via the public-infrastructural response.

Solid/mechanical infrastructure:

Although there are many important questions around how our cities could (or should) develop in response to driverless car technology, if we can loosely predict that the enclosed motorcycle is the future then the government could consider the following:










The idea is to condition existing roads so as to provide discrete super-elevation for autonomous 2-wheeled vehicles. The hump in the road (red part of the included diagram) would only be about 1 to 2 feet wide.

On the scale of things it would be a trivial cost and an easy thing to do. It would make autonomous vehicles safer, more efficient and significantly reduce tyre wear. Also it gives us the opportunity to smooth-out the roads for most traffic, further improving comfort.

The motorcycle would have to follow a relatively strict travel path on the road, but that's easy enough with electronic control. However, slight rear-wheel steering might be necessary if super-elevation is used in tight corners.

-Further to improve smoothness and comfort, the bikes should be series-hybrids. This means make them electric, but include a diesel-generator for range. Care should be taken to isolate vibrations coming from the generator, and to this end an opposed-piston engine would be very effective as it's almost perfectly balanced (vibrationless).

City planning:

Local governments in New Zealand are infatuated with the belief that their cities should be high-density in form, and they in turn believe their cities should be forced to evolve in that way. Ignoring the fact that they are desperately wrong, the fact remains that full-automation transport technology is a radical game-changer on its own, no matter what your current planning philosophy might be. Local and central governments will need to rethink their ideas in relation to a full-automation transport world.

For example, if people can commute on non-congested roads at 10% of the total cost of today's transport (not unrealistic), and do business in their car via the Cloud, how then would this affect the rational structure of a modern city form? Do we really need to suffocate land supply so as to force people to live closer together, when it's just as or even more efficient to let them spread out? And when such beautiful locations to live in are so easily accessible, in terms of both travel time/pleasure and cost, does it then really make sense to actively deprive people of this option? And how will your economy fare by taking away people's idealised lifestyles, while other economies do not? Will people even hang around?

Further still, if people can work from home yet easily access their work place for when they specifically need to, then how many new commercial buildings will we need to build? Maybe New Zealand would be better off just demolishing its dodgy earthquake-risk buildings and rolling-out the fibre-optics instead?

Commercial impact:

There is strong rumour that Google is already working to implement their autonomous technology to provide a delivery service. It's obvious enough that a delivery service would be an ideal first-step application for driverless cars. A car that delivers goods may only need to be about, say, a 30th of the size of a normal car, so it won't have the strict safety issues associated with bigger vehicles that transport people. And the operational costs of tiny autonomous cars will of course be trivial.

Micro-cars will give us the "physical internet". The impact that micro-cars alone will have will be fascinating.

I think one of the most distinct effects that we will see from micro-cars is home-cooking being reduced to hobby status, because it will be soon be too easy (and cheap) to have a good meal delivered to you. With micro-cars the rationale exists to develop massive kitchen complexes that mass-produce varied meals, because the system allows for a single production-point to reach-out to a large consumer-base efficiently (and quickly). Also these kitchens can be efficiently supplied with fresh local food. Watch out for food production monopolies/cartels developing in the future.

The micro-cars also make it convenient for people to hire more than buy, for infrequently used items. And they can allow retail to come to you rather than the other way around. I predict that retail as we know it will be largely converted to a showcase industry - most things will be bought and delivered online.

Industrial impact:

Autonomous transport allows for efficient outsourcing in production. So efficient, that it can give us a "go-anywhere" production-line, allowing the production process to be efficiently split amongst various factories. The advantage is better utilisation of capital and skills for smaller production runs. Conversely, full automation allows machinery to be transported efficiently to a site, also allowing for better utilisation of capital. Hiring an expensive machine is easier if it's used twice as often.

The physical internet makes bypassing the middleman easy enough. Manufacturers will no doubt prefer to sell their products directly, as traditional retail is seen more as a parasitic cost.

Conclusion:

Both the public and private sectors need to start thinking about driverless car technology, and how it might affect their operations.  Driverless technology will penetrate society in ways far beyond what I have currently speculated over. It's not here yet, but it's close, inevitable, and the impact will be nothing less than profound.

The sooner we can know what we're dealing with, the better we can manage (and exploit) its future impact.

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*The feasibility of gyroscopes is questionable to me, simply because of the bearing wear. Small gyroscopes must spin at an incredible speed for an application like this, and I don't know if they will prove to be efficient or practical for general vehicle use.

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EXTENDED THOUGHTS:

Tourism:

New Zealand tourism, in particular, could benefit enormously from driverless cars. This is because New Zealand is like the entire world under one small roof. It goes from snowy mountains in the South to sub-tropical in the North, within a total length of 1,600 km. Obviously if people can take a driverless (and self-tilting) car to where ever they want to go, without any hassle, fuss or significant discomfort, then this will be worth a lot to any traveler, especially a traveler who does not know their way around.

I have expressed before that I believe there is huge potential for New Zealand tourism exploiting driverless technology. Maybe it's time to focus on what this will mean. Realistically, the value of New Zealand's attractions are as great as they are accessible. Driverless technology can and will hugely improve practical accessibility.

Public transport:

Auckland and other areas of New Zealand are hell-bent on investing in rail systems, which they believe to be the future for transport. The modern polycentric city does not work too well with collective transport, which is almost always only effective for supporting CBD's of which, generally, represent about 10% of metropolitan transport demand.

Without going into details on this debate, I will point out that one of the first "casualties" of driverless technology will be the shuttle-bus, because this is where driverless technology for passenger transport will make the most sense to begin with (maximum bang for the buck).

So how will buses and trains compete with automated shuttle-buses that can platoon to form road-trains, as required, and can operate with more flexibility, frequency, are faster, and have a much reduced operating cost? Auckland is currently looking to invest billions into what is about to become a glorious white elephant rail system. See here for my article on automated shuttle-buses.

Google HUB:

If Google plays it's game right (and I think they probably will) they will work with their driverless technology to become the one-stop hub for most material online transactions.

A driverless delivery service is about reducing costs and increasing convenience, and a logical way to reinforce this value is to provide standardised online formatting for consumers and suppliers who are using the automated transportation network.

This means creating a standardised web format (similar to blogger, which is what you're reading right now) so that anyone selling a product and/or service can easily put their products online with Google. Having a standardised format means that consumers don't have to "learn" a new website every time they want to make an online transaction with a new supplier, which of course makes online purchasing more attractive.

Another thing Google should provide is Google credit. Basically, the model I'm thinking of is to have the consumer install credit onto a 'Google account' in the same way that we install credit onto our cellphones. From here, within the standardised web format, people can make a one-click purchase instantly to any third party integrated with Google's system. Total streamlining - no time-wasting duplication.

Google has the golden opportunity to do this, because it's in the lead with producing an automated delivery service. They can compound the value of their services and accelerate the demand and evolution of them, by simultaneously developing this kind of online support infrastructure. I hope for everyone's sake they move in this direction as it only makes sense, and I would be surprised if they do not. The online world needs a fully streamlined hub like this, for efficiency.

Safety:

Google has suggested that driverless cars will one-day cut the road toll by 50% or more. I have to say this assertion is beyond conservative, and looks more like playing it safe (by not over-promising) than realism. I would say they're probably claiming 50% for in case the worst happens in these sensitive early stages.

The truth is in a driverless world accidents will quickly become freak incidents. They will happen from things like landslides and tornadoes, and maybe the odd kid running out on the road at the very last second, overwhelming the stopping power of rubber-on-road.

...But try more like a 98% reduction - not just 50%!

The key to making fail-safe systems is redundancy. Build your system so that if one component fails there will be another to take over its role, to avoid an accident. You can achieve redundancy through both hardware and software. For hardware, for example, you can install a powerful handbrake that can also co-function as a fail-safe for the main breaks, if they fail, etc.

As for software, you simply programme fail-safe adaptive programmes into the computer. Think of driving your car down the road and the accelerator and brake gets stuck. What do you do? Turn off your engine, change gear for engine braking, and maybe apply the handbrake. This example scenario would not be a back-up in terms of hardware, but a "software" response to failed hardware.

Google will no doubt use very reliable components in all their cars, and in time they will surely develop appropriate redundancy - making auto-cars far safer than what humans are or could ever be. This is another key advantage of having a network-based system - you can afford to invest heavily in safety features for each working car, because each car is replacing about 20 privately owned vehicles, trivialising the costs.

Also, a driverless world means less cars parked up alongside the road. The result is that pedestrians can see the cars coming much better, and the auto-cars can likewise see pedestrians better. The result can only be much safer for everyone - not just the people in the auto-cars.

Auto-Taxi: How it may play out.

Let's say it cost $50,000 to fully automate a taxi that's used 24/7. (And $50,000 is more than generous. It will be much less than that, in time). Looks costly, but even at that price it will pay for itself in about 3 months from labour savings. This is why we can expect the first mass-uptake of auto-cars to come from taxi operators - huge bangs for the bucks.

The consumer will not see a major reduction in taxi fares during the initial stages of the implementation of auto-taxi's. The profit will go to taxi operators, but that is what we want because it then provides the profit-signal that induces more (and rapid) investment into auto-taxi's.

However, in good time the (existing) market for taxi's will be saturated, and nearly all taxi's will be auto-taxi's. From here, established taxi companies will compete against each other, and they will also compete against start-up's for market share.

This is the point where the consumer will start to get the pay-off. Because auto-taxi's are much cheaper to run, their fare-price can drop hugely before they fail to make a tangible profit; and indeed, this price-lowering will happen progressively over time*.

So, the competition and initial market saturation will drive down prices to where you would expect them to be, relating to basic supply costs and profits. And as a result of lowered prices, auto-taxi's will begin to compete with personal transport and proportionally claim a greater market share over land transport in general.

Prices will further drop (and performance will increase) as auto-taxi's increase in number, which allows the total-system to better avoid redundant travel from the empty-returning/sending of vehicles.

At some point of the evolution, either sooner or later, we will see the introduction of ultra cheap single-seat vehicles. [Note: I would recommend to Google to look at doing this more sooner than later, because the cheaper and smaller the cars are, the more of them you can get on the road, and sooner, providing a rapid increase in service appeal. You can't lose with small cars. In a massive 7+ billion world that spreads from poverty to wealth, small cars will always be the ideal for a specific target-market, somewhere].

As cheap taxi's proliferate, we will see them come to completely dominate modern transport demand. Network-based transport will be the new model, and the new transport world.

-Some people have said that we won't see a driverless revolution until some time like 2040. Nonsense. Once driverless cars get a foothold in the taxi-world, which should be only a few years away, this progression will go off like a bomb. It's all about price signals and the price signals are too strong.

Note: Respect that the only thing we need for a 'taxi revolution' to begin is the legal go-ahead for cars to at least empty send/return. People can still drive them if we insist (while inheriting the advanced safety features and platooning capabilities of self-driving cars, included). So, you could begin with small 2-seat taxi's weighing only about 500kg or so (ultra efficient), and the central advantages would already be achieved. Legal authority to ride without driving can come later, if need be. Again - that is how close this movement is.

This, the TWIZY, is the sort of vehicle Google should begin with. Only use a doored 20_kw version, and employ a ~7_kw diesel-electric generator as well.



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*er...so long as "McTaxi" doesn't somehow bribe your government to enforce regulations that choke-off competitive supply-responses. You have been warned! Don't let our property disaster happen in transport too. Make sure your government works for the citisen, and not some monopolistic creep show.

Seeing around corners:

In an urban environment, which is lit, you can mount a simple camera on an existing lamp-pole, whereby the camera serves the function of detecting oncoming traffic in terms of speed and position - collecting and sending only the most basic information. This is all you need to optimise the safety of an auto-car system, and it should be extremely cheap to install.

There's nothing to it. Just a basic camera, a solar panel + battery, a micro-chip with minimal visual software (to detect and calculate the speed of oncoming cars), a blue-tooth type message-send (to the auto-cars), and finally visible lines on the road to provide a reference for the camera-assembly to calculate the speed of passing objects. Refer to the following image:










Being able to have a system that can see around corners for cheap, means you can put these sensors anywhere you feel you might need them. It will help to make the system bullet-proof as far as safety and defensive driving goes.

Micro-cars:

In thinking about how we might form micro-cars, it would seem clear that we would exploit containerisation. The micro-cars will pick-up and drop-off standardised containers, because this is the most efficient way to utilise the service. It would be like the old milk bottle system.

Containerisation maximises the efficiency of the micro-cars, as the cars don't have to wait for a human to empty them of their pay-load. They just drop off the container, send a text-alert to the recipient (informing them that their container has arrived), and move on to the next errand.

Also, with relatively simple robotics many containers can be stacked together, rapidly, to allow for efficient long-distance freighting (small cars/items have high aerodynamic drag relative to their volume*). Of course there would be a range of different container sizes, along with different micro-cars, but they would still be standardised so that different sized containers can be tightly stacked together.

The following image is my best guess for how a practical micro-car might be formed, as follows:
It could basically be described as "A vacuum-cleaner sized, full-automation forklift".










The container would be fully externalised so it can rapidly and easily clip on and off. The drive-wheels would be positioned on the rear, along with the heavy batteries to balance the system, with its variant loads. The steering-wheels would be positioned central to the total vehicle for maximum turning capability (providing a very small wheel-base), which is important for practical manoeuvrability indoors. The suspension and steering system would be structurally the same as a motorcycles.

There are of course many different way you could form these vehicles, but what will surely be employed, I believe, is a system based on containerisation.

Wheels: Also, with this system you will notice that there will be a strong design focus on the wheels for the smaller micro-cars. It is essential to reduce the unsprung weight of the wheels in a very small car moving at speed, because it can otherwise be too easily destabilised should it hit a rock or pothole, etc. There may even be room for the development of a flexible wheel that distorts (buckles in) in response to hitting a large obstruction, which can probably be achieved with a post-tensioned rim and non-pneumatic tyres (I'll spare you the details).

*Note that for intra-city operation, the micro-cars can drive extremely close to any leading car (as close as a couple of centimetres, or so), which will largely remove their aerodynamic drag within cities, giving them excellent range.

Office-in-car:

In a car it's hard to concentrate on important work because of the subconscious distraction of movement. Other than having a self-tilting vehicle structure, and electronically controlled suspension, the best thing you can do is have the riders body completely supported while working. The following is what I think is the best system to achieve that end.

Rather than sitting up to type, why not lie back and have the keyboard directly attached to your chair? For those who cannot touch-type, visual presentation of the keyboard can be re-represented on the monitor, using cameras. Your hand would be rendered as a ghost-image in the screen (over the keyboard), allowing you to clearly see the symbols you are typing on.

















I could imagine this system being appealing on other contexts as well, not just cars. But the trick to making it practical will be to cut right back on unnecessary visual information-processing, so as to get rid of excessive latency between hand movements and their visual representation on the screen. Also, the keyboards should still be formed with "clear" tactile feedback for ease of physical orientation.

This system should be perfectly workable, allow for fast typing, and be exceptionally comfortable to use. Another advantage of this system is that you can change the symbols represented on the screen at will, which can be good for when you're using unusual programmes; and this functionality effectively expands fast-access functions on an otherwise small keyboard ie. one click and your keyboard has basically reinvented itself.

-Voice recognition would be a useful tool in cars, as well.

-By the time these cars are available, your personal computer will be your cellphone. The car, as a terminal, will simply expand from your phone.

-Note also that the in-car armchair can be mounted on pneumatic vibration isolators, isolating for both horizontal and vertical vibration. This should help a great deal as well, in making the car more effective as a moving office.

Voice mouse:

Operating a mouse is a precise job, and the movements within a car could make it strenuous. My suggestion to make operating a mouse easier is to employ a "voice mouse". Basically, in conjunction with a large touch-pad, allow for the function of pressing a button so as to lay a grid over the screen of your computer, which highlights all the links that can be clicked-on by placing a simple number/letter code on them. For example, going by the below image, if you wanted to click on "My computer" you would activate the grid and then call out "A3". This would be the same as clicking on "My computer".














Voice-activation should work well in this context, because voice is easy to use in a private car, and there are only a small number of voice-codes necessary to run a practical grid, so it becomes easy for the computer to differentiate amongst verbal signals i.e sloppy-speech friendly.

An ideal commuter car?

In my comments (below) I asserted that 2 and 4-wheel vehicles, not 3, will be the way to go with driverless cars. This was based on my presumption that 3-wheelers will not self-tilt. Well, Toyota may be changing my mind. Their tricycle (refer to the following video) self-tilts in a simple and economical way. It will not be quite as efficient as a 2-wheeled vehicle (other things being equal), but the difference between being 10x or 7-8x more energy-efficient than a modern sedan is not really a mass-market concern. Comfort is going to be more important.



An active-tilt 3-wheeler has the advantage of providing independent suspension, electronically controlled suspension, and better isolation of the rider from the vertical movement of the wheels. The 3-wheeler also provides rigid resistance to small movements from side-wind gusts. In short, it should be notably more comfortable than a 2-wheeler, while still providing excellent efficiency and tilting.

Toyota's format looks to me like an excellent contended for the mass-market commuter car of the driverless future.

Standardised core cars:

I would hope that with the driverless revolution we develop a core vehicle fleet, as cars become more exclusively a social utility than a fashion statement of sorts. The advantage of having highly standardised cars is of course that they're more efficient to manufacture, and more importantly it facilitates efficient mass-production style maintenance (including cleaning).

Cars can drive themselves onto the first stage of a production line, be explicitly scanned for any defects (using cameras and Xrays, etc), and then from there drive themselves to any given maintenance line appropriate for necessary servicing. Components can be rapidly removed and replaced, robotically.

Not only is this highly economical, but as a system it ensures the extreme reliability of the bulk of the vehicle fleet. We could have this kind of operation for maybe 4 totally standardised core vehicle types, especially including the commuter vehicles which would be the most common type of all.

Obviously there's a place and demand for special out-sized vehicles, of which will require more specialised (and slow) servicing, but for 99+% of the demand standardisation should be embraced.

Rail + Rubber?

With full-automation, you have cars that can drive themselves along the road with rail-line type precision. This provides for another interesting opportunity.

The idea is to employ a central rail wheel in between the rubber wheels of (some) of the cars - mostly freighters. The steel wheel extends and retracts as a load-bearing option only, for the sake of reducing rolling losses over longer distances. The steel wheel does not offer drive and braking, so it's simple. Drive and braking is achieved through the rubber wheels only, and the steel wheel extends and retracts so as to increase the traction of the rubber wheels as required in operation.

The system would require electronic stabilisation of the suspension of the rubber wheels (or it will tend to 'rock' about the pivot point that is the rail) but this should hardly be a problem.

This idea is not new. It has been investigated comprehensively by the Bladerunner development, as included (here).
















The issue of sensor cost:

Some commentators have mentioned that they believe driverless cars will be a long time coming, due to the costly sensor/computational apparatus. Yes, they cost a lot for the prototype systems Google is using today, but there's every reason to believe that cost will drop progressively, and heavily.

Firstly, with driverless cars you move to network-based transport, which means 1 car will serve 20 or 30 people, which in turn makes otherwise costly technology affordable by default. Even still, maybe $100,000 worth of sensor technology per-car is a heavy bill to have to front-up with.

However, we can see that when economies-of-scale come into play, there will be no reason to believe that we cannot produce the supporting hardware for driverless cars at, theoretically, a fraction of that cost. To explain:

The reason why you can buy a small electronic system that is hugely complex, but at a very low price, is because of two things: It's mass-produced and it's small. With robotized production lines, the physical process of fabricating a given product (per-unit) accelerates in time the smaller it gets, as the physical processes of production speeds up. Putting it simply, it takes less time to drill a small hole than a large hole, etc. Anything small can, in theory, be built cheaply even if it's highly complex and precise, so long as there's a large enough production demand for it, likewise facilitating heavily investment in 'high-speed' automated production lines.

Sensor technology certainly comes under this category, like all information electronics. And indeed we have seen the predictable, progressive lowering of sensor costs over the years, which is a trend that should continue today and into the future - especially as ever-lower costs drive higher demand, which in turn drives more investment in production plants, and miniaturisation, etc. Also of course, the smaller a product is the less material it requires, compounding the reduction in production costs.

There are other factors which should drive down sensor costs. Google's current hardware system for its prototypes is highly elaborate, and probably an overkill. With refinement Google will probably find they can do away with a lot of their more expensive apparatus. But this is not their current focus, and nor should it be. Google's driverless car project is primarily in the business of software development (at this stage) which makes sense, as this is what the race-to-market will be essentially dictated by.

And after the "big push" from Google, and maybe others, there will be the "big pull". When governments realise driverless cars will be on the roads in a only few years time, and realise this conclusively, there should be investment in road-based sensors which take the pressure off driverless cars to do all the sensing and processing on their own. It makes sense for governments to invest in road-based systems in support of a fully optimised system.

To conclude, the current costly sensor technology is not really an issue, and will almost certainly become a non-issue, quickly, as time goes by.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Affordable housing? Is there any hope?

Andrew D Atkin:

































Believe me I hate being a pessimist, but the truth is what it is.

The New Zealand prime minister, John Key, has openly declared that young New Zealand can forget about housing affordability.

Quote from this article: 

Speaking in response to the TVOne poll at his post-Cabinet press conference on Monday evening, Key said it was not the government’s intention to make moves which would lower property prices.

"That would actually undermine the value of everyone’s home in New Zealand – that probably wouldn’t be welcomed by the bulk of New Zealanders, certainly not home-owners," he said.

Ends:

Wow. Ok. So how does the government provide or facilitate affordable housing, while ensuring that existing property values are left unscathed? There is only one way you can do it. Make sure your new, affordable housing is...crap. Make it housing of the type that no-one really wants.

If affordable housing is of the type that people want, then existing property values in Auckland (and the wider New Zealand) will collapse relative to where they are today. If you're building affordable homes that are good to live in then you won't have those thousands of people lining up, desperate to buy into the now-existing housing stock. And that pressing demand is, of course, exactly what the massive property inflation that we have today is dependent on.

So there is no hope for housing affordability coming from our current government. I know this and so does John Key. But don't hate Key for it because he can only be a puppet to the dictates of the National party collective. The truth is he is our friend on this issue, because he outright stated the truth. He has told us, in slightly gentler words, that his hands are tied and that he will likewise continue to allow established land-holders rip-off rights over young New Zealander's. And it will be done for political (vote buying) reasons. That is the situation that he's basically admitted to.

John Key has given us our cue to rebel. He has informed us that his government will not be providing young Kiwi's with any real solutions. In fact he will suffocate the solutions so as to protect the status quo.

In comes Labour:

And so now we have our hero respondents. The Labour party. THE VERY PARTY THAT CREATED THE HOUSING CRISIS TO BEGIN WITH, from the last time they were in power.

Lucky for Labour, people are nearly as ignorant on their history as they are on their economics. What can I say? Asking Labour to fix the housing crisis is like asking Satan to breastfeed Jesus.

Anyway, the solution offered by Labour is the building of 100,000 new affordable homes in Auckland. The problem is it's a "solution" that will not include the adequate release of land for new-builds, which has long been the core of the problem. In other words, Labour wants to build 100,000 chicken-coop type dwellings as affordable housing. And they want to build them for about $300,000 a piece. (Is that really even affordable? Affordability = $200,000 or less).

National's (probably staged) response to Labour's ambition is that it's unrealistic. Well, what a great way to ensure that Labour looks like the housing affordability party - that is, have the opposition tell everyone that they're being "too ambitious" on housing. And what a great way to suffocate the development of a real rebellion. Make the false rebellion look credible.

Note: Understand that if you're not reducing the actual cost of housing supply for new-builds, then you cannot expect progress towards affordability. Labour does not propose to reduce the cost of supply, and it therefore makes no sense to see their ambitions as any kind of solution. Turning the state into a property developer will not make a material difference.

The media:

The propaganda behind the housing crisis is founded in a central lie that nearly every (and usually ignorant) public commentator on the issue adheres to. That is, the belief that the housing crisis is a complex problem.

No it isn't. Behind the near-endless volumes of junk-commentary on the issue is the economics-101 of it all. I have explained it myself in a single blog post. Also, I will include that New Zealand's best (true) expert on the issue, Hugh Pavletich, has said also that the housing problem as a "nonsense problem"...because the solutions are so obvious. And Hugh is of course right.

But alas; the media, the banks, our major political parties, local governments, and even Australian and other national governments have all co-functioned, wittingly or not, to preserve this bizarre and unnecessary madness of radically unaffordable housing. As it appears, all the safety valves have been removed.

Conclusion:

BOTH main political parties, National and Labour, have functionally colluded to destroy hope for the development of affordable detached homes, with a bit of garden and lawn. This is the kind of housing that most people want, especially if they want to make a family.

And, so sadly, most young people will now believe that their hope is with the Labour party. Alas, false hope is the ultimate expression of no hope, because you don't then even seek out the alternative.

....and no, the Green Party is even worse than Labour. These semi-communist pseudo-environmentalists believe that 1 part in 125 urbanisation is too much intrusion on the environment already, and so they wish to outlaw the use of new land for housing more than any other political party today. They preach housing affordability the most, yet are functionally contradictory. And these people also seem to think that a possible [yet temporary, I will note] $20-pw increase in petrol spending is more costly than a $300-pw increase on your mortgage.

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What to do?

Find a cozy little spot on the planet (that's warm and sunny and full of good-looking girls) and build a 'smart village' that is, basically, a new settlement for young rational Kiwi's who have been [economically] driven out of their country. Or find some other established place where the living is good and the people aren't too culturally alien.

My message to young New Zealander's is that, thus far, this nation of yours does not deserve your residence. I don't like saying that but I'm being realistic. (mum and dad can Skype you).

Try not to go down with the ship. Let other fools be damned.

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Update: 30-1-13

The New Zealand prime minister, John Key, seems to be redeeming himself. Here is a direct quote from his State of the Nation speech:

"Labour’s so-called ‘plan’ to build 100,000 houses doesn’t do anything to fix the actual cost of building – so will either fail miserably, deliver dwellings that people don’t want to live in, or require massive taxpayer subsidies."

Very heartening and very true. (Except those 'massive subsidies', if ever employed, would only be inflationary on the general property market. Pumping in new money can only be inflationary if the under-supply is not resolved i.e land supply).

However, rhetoric in itself is still only skin deep. Politicians can show they understand a problem, sometimes perfectly, but still do nothing real about it. It is VITAL that people get educated on this issue, and to keep the pressure on.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Styrofoam-brick Houses?

Andrew D Atkin:

This post was inspired by my inquisition into Styrofoam dome houses.






















As follows:

From an engineering perspective the principle of using expanded (meaning, puffed-up with air bubbles) polystyrene for dome houses is fantastic. I cannot imagine a more economic, robust, materials-efficient method of containing a given volume of residential space.

The dome shape provides the ultimate in structural efficiency for a self-supporting structure, and plastic molding allows you to eliminate unnecessary material use as the shapes can be perfect (no material mass used for where you don't need it).

Also as an expanded plastic it won't rot, and it's an inherently good insulator. For practical insulation, you can't do better than a thick mass of non-convecting air bubbles.

Safe?

There is the fire risk concern as plastic can be toxic when it burns, but that concern is mitigated with fire retardants absorbed into the polystyrene, and coatings. And of course there's nothing stopping you from employing fire alarms, etc.

Styrofoam domes would be brilliant in the face of hurricanes in terms of direct wind resistance due to their shape, but not so much for resisting debris due to their low point-loading strength (you could easily shoot a bullet through it). Maybe you would want some extra protection if you're living in some kind of tornado alley, or if your climate is prone to massive hailstones?

For earthquakes, you wouldn't want to be in anything else. You would sooner die from being thrown across the room than from your house caving in on you.

However!

Though I believe that plastic dome's have huge potential for industrial, commercial and many residential applications, I nonetheless believe they may be a thrifty-overkill for much of the mass-residential market.

Aesthetically, it's hard to make a dome that doesn't have an underlying industrial feel to it, and I know that a lot of people will have a problem with that. A lot can be (and is) done to alleviate this problem by breaking the spherical structure up with additions, and matching it to good settings, but the dome-y undertone is still going to be there in the end. They will always look like a bit of a water-tank.

Another more minor concern is the wasted space. Because furnishings and facilities do not fit precisely into a circular floor, the dome needs to be larger than a squared structure for a given domestic serviceability. Dome houses may also require a suspended ceiling for those who do not like the cold spatial feel that can come with an excessively high ceiling.

Acoustics?

I have never actually been inside a dome house, but I can say that what would surely be a concern is sound-proofing. The weakness of using low-mass walls is that middle to lower frequencies will tend to cut too easily through them. However, this problem can be mitigated easily enough, and I will talk about it later.

Note: Normal styrofoam for packaging is about a 70-to-1 air-to-polystyrene ratio, making it flimsy. Styrofoam for housing construction is significantly more plastic-dense than this, and likewise stronger.

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Following on, I would like to suggest another approach that is crudely related to the styrofoam dome houses, but is what I believe to be a better optimum for a mass-market appeal.

Modular Styrofoam-brick houses:

With the focus being for economical housing, I think using Styrofoam as a structural base would be ideal. The model I believe would be best is modular, lego-style construction. That is, reduce all the components that make up the house to Styrofoam bricks that are about 1-foot square, and also employ larger bricks that are about 2-feet high.

From this base, structural reinforcement would be applied only where required, as you don't have to use expensive materials for the purpose of mere containment and structural integration. This is the core of where you would get your materials-efficiency from. You can also achieve huge savings in labour with this format of housing construction, as a house made up of large, glued-together precision-built bricks can be rapidly erected and with minimal skill.

Getting the cost of labour and materials down is the name of the game.

I would also suggest burying a typical house about 2-feet into the earth, and using a low-height and aerodynamic roof.

With a light-weight Styrofoam roof providing a low center of mass, and low final house height, the building would have inherently high structural resistance to both winds and earthquakes (like with a dome house, but to a lesser extreme). This translates further into a reduction in structural mass/requirement, especially in New Zealand where earthquake resistance is critical and a mandatory building requirement.

Basic details:

Bricks:

The following image shows a plan view of the Styrofoam bricks locked and glued together - forming the walls and the studs.






















Some of the bricks would have concrete sections impregnated within them for extra compressive strength, and also for the sake of providing dead-weight mass for acoustic insulation.

The concrete sections will have holes in them so that a thin steel rod can be threaded through the bricks (like beeds) to be post-tensioned on installation. This provides significant tensile strength within the studs, for as required. Also, post-tensioned concrete can provide excellent acoustic insulation, as it will not deflect (at all) from normal dynamic loading (= sound waves).

Many of the bricks will have flutes for wiring and ventilation.

Roof: 

This is the best roofing format I can think of. I can't (yet) see a better way to make a cheap roof that would still be modular-friendly.

The idea is to produce a light, rigid roof with low windage. Think of a freezer panel bloated-out to provide a thick curved side, including cylindrical cavities to remove structurally irrelevant mass. Refer to the following image:
























The ceiling would be suspended, maybe with small tension springs to ensure that noise impacting the roof does not (directly) conduct to the ceiling. The large cylindrical cavities provide a substantial air-gap/distance between the integrated ceiling and the upper-section of the roof.  With the cavities filled with a lossy sound absorbing material (to suppress harmonic resonance between the boundaries), the double-boundary can then provide for excellent acoustic resistance at lower frequencies. However, the ceiling section may still need to be mildly weighted.

A model design:

The economical housing design I suggest [and this is just an example, of course] is extremely quiet, giving excellent internal privacy. All the main zones (living, kitchen/dining, bathroom and bedrooms) are almost completely isolated from each other acoustically, so the internal styrofoam walls should not need to be weighted (or much). The principle of using wide double-boundaries is strategically exploited everywhere.









































The lounge is isolated from the kitchen, because the modern kitchen is too noisy to be openly integrated with the lounge, I believe. However, the kitchen and dining areas are integrated, with the kitchen bench co-functioning as a dining table (requiring some minor adjustment of floor levels). This saves a lot of space and makes the kitchen more practical and social (like a bar).

The segregated lounge has panoramic views and allows for a highly dynamic feel within the house, in turn avoiding the 'living in a box' feeling that small houses are notorious for. The hall area has a section of deep open shelving for all items, making it easy to keep the house clutter-free which also is important for a somewhat compact house.

The more you sprawl a house out with semi-external rooms (like the lounge in my model), the less thermally efficient it becomes. However, if you're using styrofoam for walls and ceilings, and double-glazed windows, this concern becomes moot. Indeed, you can build all kinds of practical and interesting house structures, and cheaply, with a system based on styrofoam modular bricks.

The wider context:

The easiest way to get rid of noise is to put your house in a place that isn't noisy. With new, large-scale residential developments, achieving this is easy if you exploit modern transport technology. I suggest basing new developments on the ULTra system (or similar) to eliminate the noise of cars, and the ugly sight of dominating wide roads. I talk about this opportunity in detail here.

Conclusion:

I believe there is vast potential with styrofoam as a fabrication-base for houses, using lego-style modular systems. I can't think of a fundamentally more economical and efficient way to erect durable, well insulated, high quality houses that feel excellent to live in and with explicitly taylorable design potential.

Keeping the system modular on the brick-scale allows for detailed design flexibility. This is important for the sake of optimising the feel of your home. The truth is you can't design a house (properly) until you have a detailed knowledge of the environment it's fitting into. A small but well-designed home can feel great if it works with the context, and conversely a large but inappropriately designed house can feel terrible. Having detailed design flexibility allows you to economically build to the conditions, empowering a good designer to get the most out of any given environment.

Another key advantage of a styrofoam-based house is that it's very light. Making it easy to transport, elevate (on stilts, etc) or even float.

Fabrication for module components can be developed with relative ease using modern tool-making. Check out the following video showing rapid prototyping (for dies), using solid modelling. 3d printing has a lot of potential as well. These are significant enabling technologies for modular house structures of the type that I am suggesting.



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Update: 27-02-13:

Plastic Bone:

To optimise the styrofoam bricks to their function, it would be ideal to make them like bone - dense on the outside, less dense in the center.














You could always make the bricks in two separate sections (an inner and outer component of differing densities), but I would be curious to know if they could be fabricated seamlessly, with the molds producing merging densities in one fabrication phase. This would certainly optimise the strength-to-material mass ratio, and efficiently.

And to note, a density-merging system could also have significant applications with rapid 3d printing, for large(ish) load-bearing structures.

Update: 17-08-13:

Thinking further, I would imagine many of the reinforced studs would/could be structured as the following image suggests. Specifically, to anchor the whole house.











This structure would require a thicker single steel rod for post-stressing, but it would provide bending resistance on any horizontal axis - making for a simple, reliable anchorage for the body of the house. You could also make these structural components wider than the thickness of the walls (without a significant aesthetic compromise) if you integrated them with the external corners of the house.

Also note that the styrofoam brick becomes in itself the concrete mould for prefabrication. Once you have made your styrofoam brick (very rapidly and cheaply) the wet concrete is just poured into it, to set. This should provide for an extremely economical (and precise) form of fabrication.

Update: 05-05-14:

Toothpaste suburbs?


3d printing for entire houses is getting a lot of attention as a construction possibility. It's certainly interesting and no doubt has potential, but I don't see the technique being more efficient than building houses lego-style, with big easy-fit-together blocks. Standardised components formed out of moulds lends itself to efficient mass-production for highly affordable prefabrication, and surely more affordable than 3d printing as it's faster to fabricate, easier to transport, and ultimately requires less material due to greater precision that can be achieved with moulds.

Anyway, the following video shows us a house being fabricated with 3d printing. It uses recycled materials. It comes from this article.



I think 3d printing has serious potential not in a prefabrication factory, but on-site building new large-scale developments - entire townships and suburbs, ranging from maybe 50 to 5,000 houses.

3d printing could be a superb tool to this end. A highly mobile concrete printer could run through a development printing appropriate structural components for houses (to be later fitted with other materials) and all kinds of civil infrastructure - water tanks, outdoor paths and stairs, pond and pool linings, a castle in a playground, an outdoor stage...whatever!

However to achieve this, you need a mobile printer - not something that operates on rails and only moves in a straight line and on flat ground. For the sake of perspective, the following image gives you my rough guess as to what a flexible mobile printer would be like. It would compensate for the poor rigidity by using robotically-active stabilisation. The technology to provide this kind of precise stability in a flexible crane is here today.

















In operation you would mount two polls on the construction site (like cellphone towers) that allows the concrete printer to know its exact location down to a very small area within the development. With the houses and infrastructure already designed on a computer, the printer would move around the site systematically doing all the foundation concrete work, automatically, for the houses (and other) to be completed later.

Again, on this level, 3d printing could be extraordinarily efficient and make for some very interesting residential developments. But again, this I believe is where 3d printing belongs. We have better options for most other prefabrication work.

3d concrete printing, mass-produced composite bricks for pre-fabrication, and full-automation network-based transport (here) could all work together to drastically reduce the cost of urban developments, while at the same time revolutionising their liveability.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Debunking Primal Therapy? I doubt it.

Andrew D Atkin:
















Ok, I've been meaning to write this post for while - a kind of tour of duty. So here we go...

If you refer to my post on Understanding Mental Sickness you will see I make reference to Dr Arthur Janov's Primal Therapy, as a possible - and in my view probable - solution/method to breaking down traumatic repressed pain. I have studied Arthur Janov's literature quite extensively for a long time, and I have followed his long-running blog and made many contributions to it over the last few years. I have even asserted (though often speculatively) some theoretical clarifications on various things.

Well, getting to it, there is this guy on the Internet who has an anonymously authored website called "Debunking Primal Therapy", which is primarily targeted towards Arthur Janov's therapy. It is the author's best attempt at damaging the image and credibility of Arthur Janov's therapy.

Though I know there are many people out there who would laugh at the author's work, few have posted in critical opposition to it. So I have decided to say what I have to say of it, in defense to what I know of Arthur Janov's work.

Motive:

I will first mention that the author of Debunking Primal Therapy, as he has admitted, was closely involved in Janov's therapy himself but rebelled from it later. Why? Janov has claimed [in direct and public response to my questions] that the guy who formed this website was a trainee primal therapist who failed, and had to be dismissed - he just couldn't do it. The trainee then 'got himself a mission' to hurt Arthur Janov and his clinic, and likewise formed the debunking website.

I can only report here on what others have said, but I think these assertions should be noted.

Debunking:

Firstly, we should ask ourselves what we need to do to debunk Primal Therapy. What questions do we need to ask? Really there are only two core questions that need to be confronted to give us the meat of what we need to know:

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1. Is it true that traumatic pain is blocked within the nervous system, leading to (and driving) symptoms and general repression, like Dr Arthur Janov describes it? Is repression, like Dr Arthur Janov [and Freud, for that matter] describe it, real?

2. Is it true that blocked pain, that we assume to be a reality, can be later integrated? That is, can we de-repress and allow for the originally blocked pain signal to run though it's course, little by little, as the mature brain can then tolerate its assimilation, and again like Dr Arthur Janov describes it?

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Well, as I said these are the only two questions that we really need to look at. Whether or not Janov's therapy facilitates the integration of blocked pain, or whether or not it does so well, is ultimately a secondary issue. What we need to know about is if the therapy is standing on an accurate premise - not whether or not Janov's personal therapy has or ever has had any operational flaws.

[And no doubt it has had its bugs, like all new developments. Nothing is perfect at conception. Maybe he is still making mistakes today? I don't know. You can do any right thing wrong, but again Janov's therapeutic competence is not the critical question.]

Now this is where I have my biggest problem with the debunking website. It never goes to what's real - directly. It does not ask or answer the only two questions that really matter. It's a vast mass of hard to read (because it's boring - no substance) material that makes up for a huge pile of empty accusations that, in themselves, debunk nothing at all.

The questions:

Well, I for one do not need any more evidence on the idea of blocked pain driving neurotic behaviour. To me, from so many observations of both myself and others, this has become obvious. Countless mainstream therapists (including neurologists) are on my side with this too, I will add.

-Though some are not. Some seem to believe that all repressed memories are false memories, created via the suggestions of unscrupulous or incompetent therapists, and that repressed memories do not have an active impact on the brain. May I say that it's true that false and implanted memories are real, but obviously not all memories are false. The existence of the unreal does not invalidate the real, and false memories and repressed memories are two different topics.

The real question that is considered controversial is Janov's claim that he can de-repress blocked pain. When Freud tried this he merely ended up with abreaction (Keeping it simple: think of abreaction as a somewhat benign externally-induced psychotic episode), of which did not (and does not) lead to the integration of prior repressed pain. Freud then came to the conclusion that repressed pain could be triggered but not actually integrated and resolved, so the force of blocked pain was unfortunately permanent until the individual's death.

Janov claims that Freud's observations were accurate with respect to abreaction, but Freud was achieving abreaction only because he did not discover how to achieve Integration. Freud formed the assumption that integration was impossible, which Janov came to refute. This, in my view, is the only core difference between Janov and Freud.

My own experience with the Integration process:

When I was 17 years old my defense system truly broke down for a short moment, and I had what Janov calls a Primal - an event of pain integration.

Note: This happened before I knew anything about primal therapy or developed any serious interest in psychology and mental sickness. So no-one can say this was some sort of externally suggested experience. It most certainly was not.

Anyway, I will give you the basic run-down sequence of what happened.

1. Forced to my knees and let out an absolutely spontaneous cry. Immediately prior to this I felt, for a very short moment, the experience of truly losing control (mentally) which was the distinctly uncomfortable part of the experience. This experience has a quality that cannot be described to anyone who has not experienced it. I will say it feels like profound vulnerability.

2. I then felt what was like a straight-jacket (that I was always wearing) being sequentially released around my mid-line, again as an entirely spontaneous motion. [Janov accurately calls this "dropping into the feeling"].

3. I then felt utterly like a 4 year old child, and in a specific feeling that was completely real for me. The best way I can put it was that I finally went to the real [prior repressed] feeling, rather than battling to deny it, which, as Janov again describes, is what we are all unknowingly doing all of the time. I will not give you the details on the feeling but it was the saddest feeling I remember having.

4. I enjoyed the feeling. It was a deep relief to feel it - rather than battling away from it.

5. After going to bed to feel my feeling, and feeling it for a time, I then found myself profusely sweating. This actually distressed me a bit because I could not understand why on earth I was sweating. It was like my body was not making sense.

6. I then felt very cheerful, if not elated, because I knew it was the end of the issue I was having at the time and I was fascinated by how I had really felt. The best way I can describe the cycle is as a true, full-bodied acceptance of reality. In true acceptance there is resolution. When you have really resolved something you know it. It is not abstract. It is not something you try to tell yourself and convince yourself about (like cognitive therapy). It is inherently real.

So what's my point? My point is that this sequence is identical to what Janov had described way back in the seventies, with his classic The Primal Scream.

So is Janov a con man making it all up? From this experience of mine, and for many other reasons, I really doubt it. For me, the main question is simply "How far can the regressive process go?". Is infantile pain as far as we can go, or can we go further into fetal level pains? I am not yet in a position to completely affirm what I think is probably the truth. I need direct experience beyond my current experience to know for sure.

Note: I want to mention that the integrative process is not something that a therapist does "to you". As you may have already gathered Integration, by Janov's definition, is a natural process. It happens on its own, conditions withstanding. So a primal therapist merely performs a facilitation role, allowing the individual to naturally experience and integrate their pain. It seems that the brain will heal itself - you just need to give it the chance.

The zealot detractors:

Ok reader - let me tell you something! One thing I have learnt in my political interests and studies (and other) is that if you have a strong opinion on something, then no matter how right and well-explained you might be, you are going to piss people off. And that includes intelligent people who are prepared to prostitute their intellects to the service of wishful-thinking rationalisations. Leaving you, guaranteed, with an army of detractors who may seem right (to the uneducated eye), yet, just as easily, be so completely wrong.

My point is that websites like the debunking primal therapy page are to be expected, no matter how right or wrong Arthur Janov may or may not be. Believe me, Janovian primal theory is for many people a charged territory.

Please take note of that, and do not be prematurely spooked out of Janovian Primal theory/therapy by this highly arguable debunking site. On the surface it appears to say so much, but from what I have seen it really says so little. Personally, as I have already said, I think it's a mass of speculative junk. In my analysis of it (a couple of years back) I could not find any real substance. I just reeks of an agenda to look for any way, no matter how spurious and weak, to make some kind of a case to damage the image of Arthur Janov's therapy. Payback for being kicked out of the clinic? Who knows.

They just don't get it:

I've had lots of conversations about Janov's theory on Janov's blog and elsewhere, and here's another thing I can tell you for sure. Countless people, including those who have a direct interest in this area, just don't understand it properly (which is why I wrote my understanding mental sickness). Most of the critics I have seen on Janov's therapy, including the highly credentialed ones, also so often demonstrate that they have only read the back cover of The Primal Scream, at the most.

Go directly to the source if you want to get a grasp of what Janov's theory/therapy is all about. It's a tricky territory to grasp at first, and there's a lot of misunderstanding out there.

Note: Also, reader, respect that the most substantial anchor you have for forming a perspective on any therapy or theoretical idea, in the psychology world, is your own first-hand experience - that is, from naturally observing both yourself and others, over the years. Ask yourself: Are the author's claims consistent with the simple truths that I already know and can see? If they're seriously out of whack then you're probably listening to someone who's more interested in using intellectualism to escape from reality, than clarifying it.

Janov warns about "pseudo" Primal therapy:

Janov makes the claim that he is the only guy in town who knows how to do this therapy properly. In making this claim he creates the suspicion of just being a profiteer.

Well, I can say myself that I know he is right - in part at least. Though I do not dismiss the idea that others can develop a therapy of effective regression like Janov has [probably] done, there still are, bluntly, a lot of people out there of the type who never should have been involved in the sensitive territory of psychotherapy, including and especially including the potentially dangerous therapy that is Primal.

I won't bother going into details, but I will personally recommend that you stick with Janov if you develop a serious interest in this. Take it from me his warnings are not unfounded or merely money-motivated.

Conclusion:

What we need is a serious investigation into repression and integration as a process, using Arthur Janov's clinic as a study piece only to that end - and not to use Janov's failings, be what they may or may not have been, as an excuse to outright dismiss the concept of Integration. And we need to be agnostic on the possibility of regression therapy until we know what we know.

Already a lot of work is being done on post traumatic stress disorder (intensive neurological studies) which spell out clearly enough the function of at least recently repressed pain (not pain from very early childhood, as such). Trauma and repression is real, and so are the long-lasting effects. How we can and do relieve blocked pain is the question, if that's possible at all (respecting the need for clinical evidence), and that should be the center of our focus. Thus far, the "debunking primal therapy" site tells us nothing.

Clarification: Do I personally recommend Janov's therapy?

As a possibility to independently study - absolutely yes, and before anything else. But I can only recommend it from this position, because I have not yet had direct personal experience with Janov's therapy. Until I try the therapy myself (which I will do in good time), and comprehensively investigate it, I feel I do not have the right to outright recommend it from my current position. I need to test what I believe in terms of first-hand experience.

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Update: 2-10-12: Personal statement: The debunking site:

The debunking site is a smokescreen of cheap intellectualism designed to intimidate the novice. For the most part, I just see a mass of cryptic drivel with no anchor in real. The author leans more than heavily on the abstract (and likewise spurious) to try and prove his case.

If you ever look through the debunking site you would see that virtually all of the accusations could, with dedication and effort, be applied to nearly any group or movement that isn't the spitting image of stereotypical conservatism. This, if I may speak freely, is part of the reason why I find it so obnoxious - it's just one cheap shot after the next.

If this guy from the debunking site really had something to say then he wouldn't need a trillion words to say it. He would have quality - not quantity. The site is often childishly accusational (like calling Primal Therapy a cult), takes quotes out of context, and is frequently economical with the truth. Though the site calls itself friendly it is obviously an antagonised beat-up. There is nothing friendly about strategic misrepresentation.

I have not gone into the specific details of the content of the debunking site, because there's just so much of it (where do I begin?) and it's the wrong focus anyway. To avoid the never-ending circle of a geek-style debate, I again ask the reader to just first focus on the only two questions that actually matter:

Is repressed pain real? Can repressed pain be de-repressed, and integrated?

Note: Trying to pin the 'cult' label on primal therapy is the nastiest of the authors accusations. In doing this he's not just claiming that primal therapy is ineffective, he's basically telling people that the boogeyman will get them if they even give it a go (which is no doubt his intention). I could respect his accusation if he had any real substance to justify making it, but he doesn't. As I see it, the attempted cult labeling is seriously defamatory.

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Update: 23-05-15: 

I think the essential problem with the research focus, historically at least, is it's been all about "primal therapy" rather than just the "primal".

In making it all about the therapy and not the primal itself, it has allowed people to keep a defensive distance from the raw forensic truths that we can see, or potentially see about the primal.

My calling, again, is to go straight to the primal itself and study what's really going on - from the psychological, neurological and biological levels. Please let the coalface truths that we can see for ourselves be the foundation on how we come to study and interpret other relevant information, relating to the primal and its derivative therapies.