Sunday, September 10, 2006

Khosla's excellent Articles on Biofuels

Articles and Presentations on Biofuels - by Vinod Khosla founder of Khosla Ventures

A series of papers, powerpoints and videos discussing thoughtful rationale in efforts to partially transition to use of renewable fuels - most notably in the automotive sector. Pragmatism, coupled with can do attitude in acheivable and useful innovation covered indepth. Excellent reading to understand the issues and motivations behind the desire to transition to use of some Biofuels.

Written from the perspective of a world class leading Venture Capital investor, who is taking his own capital to effect a positive partial transition in automobile fueling infrastructure. The strategies and rationale are emumerated in a thoughtful and measured manner, the intent to attempt reducing pollution and environmental burdens of automobile transportation among other matters.


Blogger Robert Rapier said...

Of course in the interest of a balanced discussion, it is important to point out that Mr. Khosla's claims don't all stand up to scrutiny:

Vinod Khosla Debunked



4:26 PM  
Blogger Mark Wendman said...


I posted your comment out of proper fairness. You work hard at your craft so you deserve a hearing even on my blog. You are accomplished in your field.

I will point out, two long ago posts of mine of relevance to the weakness of your perspective as an engineer in a more general sense.

Some rather simple but profound perspectives on engineering - successful Development Engineering - regarding what it actually takes to solve truly challenging and difficult [engineering] problems.

I have below the links to these earlier posts of mine that you might find thought provoking.

Which are words of wisdom from one of the finest of Intel's Sr. executives in process technology R&D

And a missive on why preparedness in a domain - across a spectrum of broad knowledge is critically important to have a chance in attaining breakthroughs that others struggled with and previously lost against.

This particular post I wrote after an unfortunate turn of events that transpired due to the oblivousness of folks who should know better, who ignored the importance of deep and call it profound effort in learning and review of relevant prior art in substantive breadth.

When one undertakes a substantive technical challenge than many of one's peers have previously failed at, the only manner to gain a useful advantage in insight, is to know and learn of past errors as best as practically possible. This is to both avoid repeating comparable mistakes, and to gain a significant understanding of what opportunities for improvement might be possible, upon reflection of what one has learned.

Sometimes if one has already been party to the prior herd of failures in the endeavor, one's own pride can get in the way of a real understanding of the lay of the land of the particular challenge.

On the other hand, one might otherwise learn from one's prior mistakes in a positive sense, but yet one can also end up deeper in the quicksand of negativism, unable to see the real opportunities that might transform a negative experience into the desired postive.

Potential for breakthrough success really comes down to outlook and preparedness. The outlook itself canot solve the problem - one still must be sufficiently honest to not be a pollyanna, but one has to sustain oneself enough to be able to continue. Edison does come to mind as an example of the aspect of persistence relevant to truly difficult tasks.

Can one wrack one's own brain with enough almost brutal honesty, so as to gain a unique perspective than enables a breakthrough, or does one give up and turn to naysaying?

If in attempting a truly almost intractable problem, one merely makes variations of the analogous prior errors, or weak attempts at solving the truly difficult - one is likely to merely repeat in slightly different form, comparable poor results.

There is some comparison between weaker less important "window dressing" patents, and otherwise strong patents, that has some bearing on this - the superfluous, and the substantive so to speak...

Preparedness of substance can provide the technical and skills aptitude that others missed.

Often substantive innovation arises from sufficient deep understanding of the difficult path, and insight in what new tools or combination of old and new, can actually have a chance to address with success old stumbling blocks to progress in truly difficult problems.

One can easily fall back on the crutch that saying something is impossible, which is far easier than solving the truly difficult. Much easier, and less substantive.

I am not intimating that you might lack some skill in innovation, I am pointing out a rather subtle difference in, call it a marker for unusual success in very challenging R&D endeavors, that few gain traction in from a historical perspective.

Debunking is a characteristic of rearward vision, and while some prominent folks seek publicity out of this kind of perspective and debate, it is truly meaningless especially when the nuances being debated are not nearly as substantive a hurdle as the differences claimed.

Vinod and his peers working towards traction with E85 ethanol in the marketplace will traverse the challenges ahead - there are numerous normal bumps in the road, but none are anywhere near as substantive as you wish or proclaim.

Time will bear this out, and the results will speak more loudly than any missive you or I might write.

Vinod is truly a one of a kind fellow, a leader amongst his peers in every sense of the way, and not merely in raw leadership, but in a variety of substantive metrics that have borne the test of time.

E85's future commercial and technical progress will be a testament to his and others' drive to do what some such as yourself say cannot be done or cannot be done unless .... for things less important than you care to admit.

Cheers and Good Wishes,


p.s. debunking is not a substantive career path.

11:24 PM  
Blogger Robert Rapier said...


At this point, I no longer consider our exchange substantive, because you have gone out of your way to misinterpret and misrepresent my position. I am not naysaying and arguing that “it can’t be done.” I am disputing exaggerated claims that have been made to build support for the technology.

Let me give you an example from something closer to your field. I recently read “The Singularity is Near”, by Ray Kurzweil. It really blew my mind. However, a lot of this stuff is completely outside my area of expertise, so it would be useful for me to read a critique of his claims. If you pointed out that Kurzweil has exaggerated certain items in order to support his view that we will soon have nanobots coursing through our bodies, that doesn’t mean that you are naysaying. If Kurzweil was taking these claims to the legislature to get the government to fund his ventures with taxpayer money, and you knew for a fact that some of his claims were false, would you be content to allow him to make them? Even if you thought it was ultimately a good thing, you should, if you have the expertise, challenge his exaggerated or false claims. That is the way science progresses. That is the basis of peer-review. A critic is not necessarily the same as a naysayer, yet you have conflated the two.

It takes a lot more than cheerleading, Mark. If that’s all it took, we would have manned colonies on Mars by now. But there are significant technological challenges that prevent us from doing this. It does nobody any favors to downplay these challenges and just suggest that what we need is a visionary who will mow down these challenges.

We should not fund technologies on the basis of blatant exaggerations or misrepresentations. This is not that difficult to understand. Yet you insist on misrepresenting my position.

By the way, I will be in Silicon Valley on Friday. I did not get invited out there because I am a naysayer. I got invited out because of my ability to critically analyze ideas. You should learn the difference.


9:38 AM  

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