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[–]stumo 91 points92 points  (2 children)

Just a quick note of introduction and appreciation - Hi there /r/Futurology subscribers. I’m a long time reader and contributor to /r/collapse, and a mod there for the last few years. Before dispelling some potential misconceptions about collapse, I’d like to thank /r/futurology for hosting and participating in this event. Yours is by the far the senior subreddit here, and it’s generous to debate what many consider a fringe doom-n-gloom-loving subreddit (even though I think we're more similar than many would imagine).

Which brings me to the aforementioned dispelling of potential misconceptions. First, I’ve been what I consider a futurologist for most of my long life. I grew up on Asimov, Clarke, Heinein, and Niven, and eagerly jumped on board steampunk when it arrived. ST:DS9 is paused on my TV screen as I type this. I’ve been a software developer most of my life, and have long held high hopes what technology, particularly computers, could provide our species.

I have no tinfoil hat, no love of disaster and doom. I have children and grandchildren (yeah, that old) and I would love nothing better for them to grow into the shining future that I’ve always believed was inevitable.

So, what went wrong? At some point I did some math, and realized that I couldn’t see a clear path between what’s occurring right now and what I hoped would occur. When you have an ideal but see no rational path between it and now, you’re a Utopian. Yes, technology has the potential to produce marvels, but technological advancement itself depends on certain things. If those aren’t present, it breaks.

At any rate, thanks again to the mods here who have been great to communicate with. I think that it's clear from the content of the debate that we actually disagree on very few points.

[–]lughnasadh∞ transit umbra, lux permanet ☥[S] 24 points25 points  (0 children)

Hey, you are totally welcome. It's great to be able to expose people to these different points of view; that's why debates are so worthwhile.

I've always been a more speculative/imaginative thinker with a tendency to lose the run of myself sometimes; so its good to be regularly challenged.

[–]Bluflames 29 points30 points  (1 child)

I frequent here and there, r/collapse more often (at least it seems so from my post history...on this account ;))

I like this debate. But it really has some flaws.

The basic one is: all parts of the debate - categories like energy - are given equal weight. It's even reflected in the way this debate flows, jumping from one topic to another.

It's not right. This doesn't give the justice to the things we face. I did not write the usual "challenges" line, since I don't think this reflects what is happening in any way. We're now entering the big paradigm shift, of which size has no precedent in the whole history of civilized humans.

The debate has put economy, AI, jobs, energy first. But all of this, as well as theoretical grounds on what this is based on - is created with the assumption that our planet will continue to function as it is now - as a stable, rich environment giving us the right climate for our crops to grow and right temperatures and humidity for our bodies to function properly. Based on that, for thousands of years now - which is a blip when in perspective - we created better and better tools to utilize materials we "discovered" on this planet.

Each generation we continued to grow. We began a spike 200 years ago, with fossil fuels. This shot our population (from 1 to 7,4 bln and rising approx 73 mln annually; accounting for slowering growth the expected number is between 10 to 11 bln per century's end), our tech (rail, lights, cars, antibiotics, internet) and our consumption (take plastics, reaching ~299 mln tons produced in 2013 from essentially 0 a century's ago).

This is a huge accomplishment that has put our specie definitely on the top on the chain. However...

science is - for me, as I don't have any other way to prove it unequivocally - our biggest achievement. However, for over 2-3 thousand years (while definitely peaking now) it has not moved us permanently into a good direction.

We're now wasting all this progress - for we've forgotten about fundamentals. We have created the 6th mass extinction event (epoque) and then we let countries accelerate deforestation (Brasil, 2016). We have created a bizarre food model, depending on limited fertilizers, which is also actively undermining our best achievements in regards to health (antibiotics usage not slowing down in agriculture, 2016).

We even have something on a personally unimaginable scale and danger, lowering water levels, which are threatening almost a fifth of our global population and this figure is rising - and water wasting agriculture is still operating in California at present day.

Then we have something else. Both bigger and encompassing every other issue as well, climate change. And we have governors blocking scientists from the usage of this term.

Outright denial sure is infuriating, but there is something even worse in the picture: there is almost nothing you can do against climate change.

Most effectively you - be it yourself, company or any government - can only lower consumption. But almost every progress we make is linked with consumption. We create more energy efficient refrigerators, and now we discard them every 7 years. We make more efficient cars, and now emerging middle class in India is buying them in droves.

And we cannot reverse it, every single thing we do - eating, typing on a keyboard, driving, heating, buying a new pair of glasses - is a new gram, kilo, ton of CO2.

There is no agreed way to reverse it on a scale needed - aside of biochar no method of climate engineering is even that well understood, has no or doubtable potential to be up to scale, and has acceptable (key word) negative consequences.

All of other topics seem to be irrelevant when we cannot break from that almost any human activity has negative consequences to our environment. And we do not exist in vacuum - we depend completely on this environment. No person can survive anywhere else for a longer period of time, be it a bunker or space station, for variety of reasons - physical and psychological alone, not counting material needs. Not to mention 350 mln in America, not even thinking about the rest of the globe.

And we're continuing with not noticing this big change. Internet, once a hope for global and rational activism, has turned into isolated storage of chambers, debating rather sjw than any of the crises. Even whey they are close, they feel less real than online racial or gender wars.

tl;dr - My first and only wall of text, sincere apologies. Even when over-generalising can't keep it short:

Focus on what is carrying you; not economy, ai heaven or animatrix scenarios. We're not aware of what impact do we have and are not willing or capable of having this debate when it still matters, now.

[–]remphos 6 points7 points  (0 children)

I like your post because it lends a lot to the fact that humans do not behave rationally. We behave out of a mix of precedent and tradition and culture and beliefs and even often stubbornness. Most posts I see in /r/futurology assume a rational collaborative humanity. Yet history, - and clearly, present circumstances - tell a different tale.

Factionalism, demagoguery, greed, stubbornness. These forces will continue to haunt us. And so will we be able to meet our time sensitive challenges - especially environmental - , with these factors pushing us around the whole way? We are approaching the upper aspect of the 'Great Acceleration' (the series of exponential curves in things such as population, economy, technology, environmental destruction, etc). This is going to be a chaotic ride as we top out, and to me the difference between collapse or a positive futurism is if wee are able to ride out the shocks and turbulence of this without being ripped apart by it. Personally, I can't say which it will be.. probably healthy doses of both occurring simultaneously.

[–]stumo 84 points85 points  (63 children)

My response to the opening statement by u/lughnasadh.

I completely concede to the assertion that we're living in the best of all possible times. A commonly-repeated assertion in those observing the state of our energy use is that if we were to have human slaves accomplishing all that we can do today, we'd average out to something like a 100 slaves per person. This doesn't guarantee continued performance, however.

One point that I'd like to bring up however is that the rate of advancement is every bit as important as examining how good we have it right now. One area is flagging badly, and that's the economy. Economic growth and overall societial wealth are far below what the were in the 1950s and 1960s ("the Golden Age of Capitalism"), and the rate of technological advancement is slowing.

Solar energy is only six doublings — or less than 14 years — away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs

I believe that figure to be in error, being solar AND wind power, which currently provide 1.5% of earth's energy needs (six doublings reaching 96%). But this statement is mathematical fidgywidginess - 1.5% is nothing to get remarkably excited about, and assuming a steady rate of doubling without concern about scalibility of production and resources is clearly erroneous. After all, if a human fetus continued the growth rate that it demonstrates in the first few weeks of pregnancy, it would weigh more than a battleship at birth - fast growth is feasible at small scale, but usually slows significantly at higher scales.

The bulk of the statement asks us to consider the wonders that technology may be able to offer us in the future. I have no disagreement with that. I ask instead for a realistic path from here to there considering immediate obstacles that I've detailed in my other comments (fragility of technical complexity, slowing economic and technological growth, declining net energy, declining returns on resource extraction).

[–]lughnasadh∞ transit umbra, lux permanet ☥[S] 36 points37 points  (55 children)

I ask instead for a realistic path from here to there considering immediate obstacles that I've detailed in my other comments (fragility of technical complexity, slowing economic and technological growth, declining net energy, declining returns on resource extraction).

I don't disagree here, we have a tumultuous couple of decades ahead of us.

I'm most heartened by these trends in the price of solar though; I never imagined Fossil Fuels would be able to be abandoned so quickly. Even $10 a barrel oil won't be able to compete with Solar in the 2020's.

I've said it before here, but it seems to me we are transitioning to another Economic paradigm. Regardless of who anyone anywhere votes in Left or Right - it will make no difference.

The future is falling incomes & deflation & our entire global financial system & all the wealth it creates in terms of stock markets, bonds, pension funds, property prices cannot exist in this world - its mathematically impossible. The reality that is bank insolvencies, market crashes & debt write offs.

Expect Helicopter Money, Job Creation Schemes & Basic Income to try and stave it off, but we seem headed for a world where Robots/AI do all work, and goods & services deflate in price towards free.

Our biggest problem might turn out to be - how do we organize paradise?

[–]stumo 60 points61 points  (25 children)

I never imagined Fossil Fuels would be able to be abandoned so quickly.

Fossil fuels produce about 85% of world energy while solar provides less than 1%. "Abandoned" isn't the term that jumps to mind.

[–]lughnasadh∞ transit umbra, lux permanet ☥[S] 12 points13 points  (24 children)

Fossil fuels produce about 85% of world energy while solar provides less than 1%.

My point being solar is currently doubling at a rate, if it keeps steady, means it will be producing 100% of today's total energy in 14 years & at a price that will make $10 a barrel oil look expensive.

I'd guess you could see a lot of abandoning in that scenario.

[–]stumo 42 points43 points  (21 children)

My point being solar is currently doubling at a rate, if it keeps steady

Do you think that maintaining such a rate is feasible or likely? It's very easy to double capacity when you have almost non installed, but consider the costs involved with doubling that every couple of years. Exponential growth, unless it's produced by sex, is almost impossible to maintain.

[–]lughnasadh∞ transit umbra, lux permanet ☥[S] 16 points17 points  (12 children)

Do you think that maintaining such a rate is feasible or likely?

It seems like lots of tech before it, TV's, Radio's, cellphones - it could go for near 100% market penetration.

I'm most hopeful for it in the huge chunks of the world with no electricity grid - they won't need it in this case.

[–]flusterer 16 points17 points  (3 children)

[–]brettinsBI + Automation = Creativity Explosion 7 points8 points  (2 children)

Heyo! I think 2016 is the first year we saw energy companies starting to feel threatened by solar, or at least the first year that their realization started to take effect. A lot of states in the US that were solar friendly started to see laws where the users couldn't sell back their energy to the grid and other changes that made solar a less useful investment, especially while still paying for grid maintenance and usage when solar didn't cut it.

Please also note that the article you've linked says that one of the reasons investment fell is because prices fell. Eg, even while the solar industry grew, companies could buy more for less, so meeting their targets of acquiring could be met with less investment.

Ofc it's not all sunny roses, but to me this seems like a road bump rather than a change in direction or speed. I've taken this big dip in solar to invest in it heavily - putting my money where my mouth is :).

[–]justpickaname 1 point2 points  (1 child)

How are you investing? Setting up panels? Buying stock? Just curious.

[–]brettinsBI + Automation = Creativity Explosion 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I'm big into etfs because I can buy and sell them easily in my discount brokerage account. I bought TAN which is the more popular (not necessarily better) solar aggregate ETF. It means I'm less invested in one company and more in the whole solar industry, which I think will skyrocket over the next 15 years.

[–]eleitl 21 points22 points  (0 children)

Electricity is very different from primary energy and past energy transitions (which were all easier) took well over half a century to complete. See e.g. publications by Vaclav Smil https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=vaclav+smil&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&as_vis=1

Transitions are typically sigmoids, and early phases of a logistic curve look like an exponential. We have multiple mature-deployment countries which have not only slowed down but actually regressed in the deployment rate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Germany#/media/File:Germany_Solar_Capacity_Added.png

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Italy#Photovoltaics

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_France#Photovoltaic_installations

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Spain#Photovoltaics

[–]MuonManLaserJab 5 points6 points  (3 children)

Exponential growth, unless it's produced by sex, is almost impossible to maintain.

It needn't be maintained; it can flatten out around 100%.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 12 points13 points  (3 children)

Exponential growth, unless it's produced by sex, is almost impossible to maintain.

Tell that to the adoption of cell phones. Or the Automobile. Or transistor count. Or internet accessibility. Technologies are often adopted at an exponential rate. Solar power has been on that trend for 20 years, and you may be skeptical it will continue, the reality of evidence supports this.

I would argue that not only maintaining solar power rate is likely, its inevitable. Every piece of empirical evidence that exists would support that assertion.

[–]stumo 19 points20 points  (1 child)

Solar power has been on that trend for 20 years,

You keep failing to address the point that its rate of growth is showing marked slowing.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 11 points12 points  (0 children)

US Solar Market Set to Grow 119% in 2016, Installations to Reach 16 GW

The industry is growing faster than ever and here is what else we saw in this SMI report:

The outlook for the rest of 2016 is just as eye-opening. The industry expects to add 13.9 GW of new capacity, which would be an 85 percent growth rate over 2015, solar's largest year ever. The U.S added 4 GW of capacity in the first half of 2016, but the industry will add nearly 10 GW in the final six months, which is 34 percent more than was installed in all of 2015, a record year.

http://www.ecowatch.com/solar-energy-record-growth-2003130851.html

[–]ma-hi 15 points16 points  (1 child)

And in 16 years we will be generating more solar energy than the sun! /s

You can't extrapolate and assume you won't hit limits, and it is easy to double something when it was tiny to start with.

[–]thedignityofstruggle 13 points14 points  (23 children)

Do you also recognize the difference in energy types, and why liquid fuels are so precious to the global economy? Diesel fuel can generate the torque needed to operate MASSIVE machines, like mining equipment, farming equipment, and transport equipment.

Electricity struggles with this due to the weight of batteries for storage. Diesel fuel's energy density is high enough to more than compensate for its weight.

[–]3_headed_dragon 13 points14 points  (21 children)

Electric motors are the kings of torque and efficiency.

Fuel storage is the issue. Mining equipment will go electric though. It's easier to run electrical lines than it is to run fuel lines and exhaust lines. I am speaking of a traditional mine. Strip mining will still be diesel powered but those large trucks will become self driving. The average driver of them is making >$100k a year plus all of the training costs making the ROI pretty good. Couple that with the self-driving dump trucks will not have to deal with traffic, etc make the use case even easier.

I expect transportation to remain diesel powered for quite some time though.

[–]thedignityofstruggle 14 points15 points  (20 children)

Yeah, I was referring to machines like the giant dumptrucks that have tires each the size of a normal pick up truck.

Nothing happens without food, and conventional agriculture is completely predicated on a cheap supply of oil. Primarily for large machines (trucks, tractors, threshers, cropdusters, what have you) but also for irrigation pumps and even the manufacture and transport of pesticides and fertilizers.

Topsoil loss is a major issue as well as a decline in mineral and micronutrient content in the soil. Agriculture as practiced is on a collision course with time.

[–]3_headed_dragon 9 points10 points  (16 children)

Irrigation pumps should go electric. There is no reason in today's world to have a diesel water pump.

Food is a hard sell. you can feed a family of 4 on 2 acres of land. You just can't feed them steak and cow's milk. Goats, chickens, and pigs all require little square footage to raise and little square footage for feed. Plus you give up lots of corn syrup based products.

Which mean Texas alone could feed the entirety of the US population.

In addition although arable land in the US and Europe shrinks, arable land in places like Australia and Brazil has grown. Arable land in Australia has gone from 440,000 km2 to 470,000 km2 from 2008 to 2012. Although Australia might not be the poster child of that since in 2010 the arable land fell to 426,000 km2.

Brazil has seen its arable land steadily rise from 702,000 km2 to 726,000 km2. Overall arable land worlwide rose from 13,866,000 km2 in 2008 to 13,958,000 km2 in 2012.

In addition, I think as food prices will have an impact on vertical farming. If prices begin to soar you'll see more food go this direction. Right now lettuce is the crop spotlighted in vertical farms. I think if prices went up rice could easily be grown in vertical farms.

fertilizers are the big problem with farming. I think once you go vertical all of the heavy farm equipment will be reduced.

I currently don't see how we could do wheat or corn in a vertical farm though. It would be an interesting challenge to make that work.

[–]thedignityofstruggle 26 points27 points  (7 children)

Have you been to texas? Ha ha, good lucking growing that much food there. All land is not equal.

Arable land can mean a lot of things, and in some cases - ahem, brazil - growing usually means lopping down the rainforest. Whoops.

But Im not talking about arable land. Im talking about the energy to work it and to make the necessary calories and nutrients available to the growing population. And lets ignore for a moment that nutrient quality is dropping in produce due to nutrients not being returned to the soil.

In the 1800's half of the American population was involved in food production in some capacity. Now its two percent. The work load moved over to petroleum and petroleum powered machines. This also drastically changed how and what people eat because the food that can be grown at massive scales with big machines is limited. (And look at the average American and tell me they are healthy. They are eating cheap carbohydrate calories from corn, soy, and wheat as well as low grade cheap industrial fats made from canola and corn and it is making them obese, diabetic, and psychologically ill.)

It is no surprise that the population of the world drastically exploded with the advent of oil, because this new energy bonanza assisted in making food cheap, easy, and available. Ill ignore the low quality food this system produces for a moment and focus purely on the population boom. More energy meant more food which meant more people which means we need to make more food which means we need more energy and on and on and on. Every success sets us up for a bigger fall. If you produce enough food for six billion people, those people breed. Then you need food for eight billion people.

And that food requires energy, land, and water. The sun is the best energy source for plants themselves, but bigger plots on more land means more trucks, more tractors, more harvester, more sprayers, more, more, more industrial machinery. All of which needs fuel, maintenance, replacement parts, all of which comes from a global industry of mining and extraction, all of which is operated by people who need food. Oy!

Land doesnt just generate. Something else is killed to make space for agriculture. A forest, a prairie, a wetland. Some ecosystem is extirpated and all of the creatures who live there are killed. Then in goes the soy bean and the chemical spray. Sometimes the land chosen has many feet of topsoil (the american midwest, which is losing topsoil rapidly thanks to monocropping, tillage, etc.). Other times the land is depleted rapidly, i.e. the Amazon once soy is grown on it for a few seasons.

The chemical pesticides (made from oil) wipe out pollinators like bees, ants, and butterflies, which further impacts biodiversity, as those insects pollinate more than just food crops.

Vertical farming is a joke to anyone who grows food. Its an investment honey pot for fools with money to burn. They grow arugula under electric lights like goons.

Plants have nutritive value because the soil they are in contains nutrients which in nature are replaced via decay and manure. Simply said, soil eats. Growing food of any value in a building means shipping those nutrients in (using energy, machines, materials) and bringing in the light and water (energy, transport, machines, materials.) and also requires the extra steps of waste removal, temp control, human comfort and accessibility control, etc. Seeds in dirt under the sun and rain is a LOT more energy efficient.

I say this all as someone who grows a significant portion of his family's food.

[–]3_headed_dragon 7 points8 points  (2 children)

If you think I was suggesting that the US could grow all of its food inside Texas you have a incredibly closed mind. It would only take that amount of acreage scattered across the US to make it happen.

Vertical farming is either breaking even in the United States or is profitable in Japan. Costs will more than likely go down. LED cost will more than likely drop 50% over the next year to 2 while income rises. Sun may be more efficient but rain and irrigation are horrible. Ever see the run off of water from a farm irrigation? I don't think you have. Vertical farming also does not have the run off problems of fertilizers. Working in a closed system has certain advantages.

I am a farm boy. Cow, chickens, corn and potatoes. We raised horse for the horse pull. I grew up baling hay. We slaughtered our own livestock. Ever huck a cow stomach into a pig pen? If you think your the only to work some land for food you are in for a very rude awakening.

[–]thedignityofstruggle 10 points11 points  (0 children)

I was joking about Texas.

As to the food growing, good on you. Most people who talk about vertical farming have never grown a potato.

Farm run off doesnt have to be filthy. Food should be grown much more holistically, with permaculture style techniques, and with far more hands involved. Less mega fields of corn. More walkable plots with hand spread manure growing sweet potatoes and squash.

Automation gonna obliterate the workforce? Get the youngins out growing kale.

Oh, and no on the cow stomach. But the chickens get the deer carcass.

[–]BudJackson 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Some specialize in closed minds. TDos also ran for political office in Texas, and was rebuffed by the citizens there, hence his disdain for anything related to it.

[–]TerabyteFury 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Interesting point. However, I do disagree on where you stated that votes don't really matter in the scheme of things. These views are for the US, because that's my home country

The Left is more enthusiastic about alternative energy, whereas the Right is fine with using fossil fuels for now. Now, you could say "Oh, well the Left's platform isn't bad..." Well, the Left also has a destructive social platform. Also, why outright ban fossil fuels now? We need to figure out alternative energy, but resources are required to power civilization regardless of research. Or you could go with the Right. In my opinion, the Right has the platform that makes more sense. You can say "Oh, the Right's platform seems more common-sense...use the fuels we have while we figure out alternative energy..." Well, the thing is, the Right sometimes outright rejects alternative energy. Recently, President Barack Obama has tried to ban offshore drilling. Of course, the Left applauded him, but the Right wasn't happy.

There's advantages and disadvantages to both sides, which could therefore impact speed of research and the future economy and political arena.

I see the Right as the best path so long as alternative energy isn't rejected.

[–]MuonManLaserJab 7 points8 points  (6 children)

After all, if a human fetus continued the growth rate that it demonstrates in the first few weeks of pregnancy, it would weigh more than a battleship at birth - fast growth is feasible at small scale, but usually slows significantly at higher scales.

This is a red herring, I think. There are good reasons why a baby can't be a hundred times bigger than it is, but I'm not aware of anything that would prevent us from building a hundred times as many solar panels. (Keeping in mind that there aren't any rare raw materials that are strictly required to capture solar power.) The fact that nothing achieves exponential growth forever doesn't conflict with the fact that many things can be accurately predicted to grow exponentially in the short-term.

[–]goocyΨ MSc Psychology 9 points10 points  (5 children)

Indium is somewhat rare, and is required for the transparent electrode at the top of PV cells.

Much more importantly, a finite resource for generating PV cells is electric energy. Currently, we're mostly using coal, but peak coal may have been reached already. It's definitely not possible to sustain the current exponential trend in production with coal.

[–]Whereigohereiam 5 points6 points  (0 children)

Some potential limiting materials for growth of solar power: affordable copper, crystalline silicon, cheap petrochemicals used in solar deployment.

I love solar, to a point. It will hopefully keep technological civilization running in some areas, but it won't be able to pull off a Joule-for-Joule replacement of fossil fuels. The rapid growth is solar as we know it is only possible with fossil fuels and a functioning economy.

[–]MuonManLaserJab 3 points4 points  (3 children)

Indium is somewhat rare, and is required for the transparent electrode at the top of PV cells.

Not all types of PV cells, just some. And you can collect solar without photovoltaics -- mirrors and heat sinks work too.

It's definitely not possible to sustain the current exponential trend in production with coal.

Well, again, there's more than one way to capture solar energy. But if coal collapses, and electricity prices go up -- I guess this is what you're talking about -- wouldn't PV prices also go up, stimulating production with what electricity is left (because people would want more power generation in this scenario)? Couldn't we bootstrap PV production using our existing renewable power sources? For this to prevent us making new photovoltaics, I think it would require more than just coal to crash.

[–]Berekhalf 2 points3 points  (2 children)

And you can collect solar without photovoltaics -- mirrors and heat sinks work too.

If someone wanted a real world example of this, Solar Two, a solar plant in the Mojave Desert(Fallout fans know this by Helios One), is a giant sunlight heat sink that runs a steam turbine.

I am curious though if something like this could work in cooler climates -- is the difference from an average winter high of ~20C° to sub-zero temperatures significant? Afterall, we're dealing with molten salts, so 20C isn't too much compared to the 334C°(The highest melting point of their salts).

[–][deleted] 20 points21 points  (20 children)

I have a question for r/futurology . What do you propose we do about the 6th mass extinction? The current rate of species loss is i believe 3 every hour according to www.biodiversity.net. Even if we become more energy efficient, studies have shown that we actually consume more net energy because it is available to more people and easier to obtain. The growth of the human species is far beyond the "natural" carrying capacities of the earth. How would technology save us as the biosphere continues to decline?

[–][deleted] 20 points21 points  (14 children)

Carrying capacity changes with technology, and is a dynamic equilibrium. I challenge you to even define the "natural" carrying capacity of the earth. If you define it by subsistence hunting and gathering there should only be a few tens of millions of people on this earth. If you define it by Neolithic agriculture you start getting to the upper tens of millions. Industrial agriculture gets you into the billion range. Biotechnological agriculture is barely in its infancy yet promises even greater carrying capacity. Pushing up against the current carrying capacity has historically triggered technological change that subsequently increased the carrying capacity, and we have certainly not exhausted our options in this regard.

However, we seem to be reaching the end of that paradigm, not because we are up against the edge of the carrying capacity of the earth but rather because people are voluntarily making the decision retain the increased resources for personal use rather than dilute them across supporting more offspring. This trend is already leading to population decline in some of the most developed countries, and is spreading to less developed ones.

Ultimately, Malthus was short sighted when he envisioned people behaving like other animals. People would much rather be exceedingly wealthy than exceedingly fecund.

[–]thedignityofstruggle 10 points11 points  (6 children)

You didnt answer his question at all.

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (5 children)

I absolutely did, what part do feel is lacking?

[–]thedignityofstruggle 6 points7 points  (4 children)

The question was about the sixth mass extinction and the frightening numbers of other species going extinct on a daily basis. You went off on carrying capacity of humans. He is asking about the numerous, numerous other species going extinct due to human industrial activity.

[–][deleted] 5 points6 points  (2 children)

The growth of the human species is far beyond the "natural" carrying capacities of the earth.

I was more interested in clearing up this misconception to start with. I did respond to the concern about loss of biodiversity elsewhere, but I'll give it to you that it wasn't in this post.

In short my answer is that humans have been altering the environment for thousands of years to increase its carrying capacity for humans. This comes at the expense of biodiversity in the form of the anthropocene mass extinction. The opening post conflates the biosphere in general, to a biosphere optimized for large human populations. Right now the biosphere, as it pertains to humans, isn't collapsing at all. We are more able to survive in our environment than ever before. This comes at the expense of eroding the viability of other species though, as it always has. While this is unfortunate and something we should work to reverse, I fail to see how this will lead to societal collapse if not avoided. This is not well detailed in the opening comment, but if you have thoughts on the matter I would be more than happy to hear you out.

[–]mathmouth 3 points4 points  (6 children)

Earth is always at maximum carrying capacity for life. Adding more humans just displaces other species.

[–][deleted] 5 points6 points  (3 children)

I don't even know how you would define that. Like in terms of biomass, or diversity. Either way both are in a dynamic state of flux with huge variations across geologic time.

But humans causing extinctions is a real thing, we've been doing it for 10k years with no really impact on our ability to continue growing. Don't get me wrong, I think preserving biodiversity is a worthwhile cause, but it is hardly an existential crisis.

[–]goocyΨ MSc Psychology 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Interesting thought, but I can name a few examples where this isn't true: The Mount Everest base station, low earth orbit, the Atacama desert.

[–][deleted] 8 points9 points  (0 children)

Keeping people alive in uninhabitable places does displaces other species, except indirectly, since the people up in Mount Everest and LEO are not self-sufficient, and ultimately depend on the extraction of resources from habitable places to survive. In fact it is not unlikely that keeping someone alive in e.g. LEO actually displaces more species per person than anywhere else. Just think of how huge of a supply chain, how much technology, how many people are ultimately needed to keep someone alive in space.

[–]stumo 37 points38 points  (45 children)

Energy

One of the most important points about energy resources isn't the total amount of energy available (oil in the ground, sunlight falling on the earth) but how much of that energy is available to us after expending energy to obtain it. If it takes one barrel of oil to obtain a barrel of oil, it doesn't provide much in the way of benefit to us. This point is left out of most energy discussions, but it's a crucial element that should always be kept in mind.

Of all the resources that we consume, limits to energy resources limit the consumption of all other resources. The Industrial Revolution was largely sparked due to lack of biomass in Great Britain due to deforestation, which in turn was due to higher levels of iron smelting. Without changing to a higher energy density energy source (coal) that just happened to be lying around, the Industrial Revolution would never have occurred.

Similarly, when the switch to natural gas and then oil as the primary sources of energy occurred, both high energy density fossil fuels, our civilization jumped forward in enormous strides, technologically, economically, and in terms of population.

Early oil production provided massive net energy returns, with a hundred barrels of oil being returned on the investment of the equivalent of one barrel of oil. That enormous windfall directly corresponded to the generation of economic wealth. As the easy oil was exploited first, future oil resources were harder to find and more costly to extract. That trend has continued until today, where conventional oil fields now return only 20 barrels of oil for each barrel invested (or energy equivalent). Non-conventional sources of oil like tight shale are far lower, with the most optimistic estimates being five barrels net return. Bitumen and deep sea oils have similarly poor returns.

Crude oil production from conventional fields stopped growing in 2005 while the global economy kept growing. This caused the price of oil to skyrocket, reaching $140/barrel. Economically, that price was unsustainable and we suffered the financial crisis of 2008 (not, as originally assumed, caused by subprime mortgage defaults).

Since then we saw the economy pick up in response to massive liquidity injections. Increased demand rose the price of oil again, and the US tight shale and Canadian bitumen industries enjoyed large levels of fresh investment (not profit, however, both have never had positive cash flow). Once the liquidity injections ended, economic growth slammed on the brakes and the price of oil collapsed again.

(To head off a common misunderstanding, growth of global oil production has been lower in the last decade than the previous decade, and was completely normal in 2014. The price crash was caused by slowing demand due to slower economic growth, not because of higher than normal production growth. And while most producers are pumping as fast as they can at the moment due to economic requirements, global crude production peaked in August 2015 and has been lower since).

At the current time, a large proportion of global crude oil is being sold below what it cost to produce it. That’s an unsustainable position, as is a reduced supply of oil to the world’s economy in the immediate term.

In terms of energy alternatives, as of 2016 wind and solar, despite several years of extraordinary growth, still only provided about 1.5% of global energy. Both are more energy-poor (solar EOEI 8:1, wind 20:1) than what our civilization was built on, and may be lower than our society’s basic maintenance needs. Neither are a direct substitute for oil, which is primarily used for transportation, especially heavy transportation of goods, or for heavy industrial equipment. Even assuming a very healthy economy in the future that can afford it, a complete energy infrastructure geared toward efficient use of alternative energy sources is many decades away. And in the meantime, we may well be seeing the initial stages of economic decline due to diminishing energy returns.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 11 points12 points  (36 children)

Your historical overview of energy densities fueling economic and technological growth I can agree with, we differ on how we see the future playing out between oil and alternative fuels. I will focus on your future extrapolations as this is what the debate is focused on (a future collapse or a united, peaceful prosperous world).

In terms of energy alternatives, as of 2016 wind and solar, despite several years of extraordinary growth, still only provided about 1.5% of global energy. Both are more energy-poor (solar EOEI 8:1, wind 20:1) than what our civilization was built on, and may be lower than our society’s basic maintenance needs. Neither are a direct substitute for oil, which is primarily used for transportation, especially heavy transportation of goods, or for heavy industrial equipment. Even assuming a very healthy economy in the future that can afford it, a complete energy infrastructure geared toward efficient use of alternative energy sources is many decades away. And in the meantime, we may well be seeing the initial stages of economic decline due to diminishing energy returns.

While current solar energy production only provides a small fraction of total energy used today, it is not as low as you cite in many parts of the world. Solar power is currently on an exponential trend of growth.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_of_photovoltaics#/media/File:PV_cume_semi_log_chart_2014_estimate.svg

By the end of 2015, cumulative photovoltaic capacity reached at least 227 gigawatts (GW), sufficient to supply 1 percent of global electricity demands. Solar now contributes 8%, 7.4% percent and 7.1 percent to the respective annual domestic consumption in Italy, Greece and Germany.[5] For 2016, worldwide deployment of up to 77 GW is being forecasted, and installed capacity is projected to more than double or even triple beyond 500 GW between now and 2020.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_of_photovoltaics

Solar energy has now become less expensive than oil and there is no reason to believe this will stop. seven-reasons-cheap-oil-can-t-stop-renewables-now

The economic incentives to move away from oil will result in even a more rapid adoption of solar than we have currently seen. This will, in large part, alleviate the concerns of a peak oil or other economic concerns. It will be more efficient and will drive more economic progress using solar than oil. This is already becoming true today.

[–]stumo 22 points23 points  (35 children)

While current solar energy production only provides a small fraction of total energy used today, it is not as low as you cite in many parts of the world. Solar power is currently on an exponential trend of growth.

Many parts of the world aren't the real issue, as we're talking about planetary conditions. And the link you provide (global installed PVC capacity) doesn't display exponential growth, it displays slowing growth (new capacity 2010 -134%, 2011 - 76%, 2012 -0%, 2013 - 28%, 2014 -5%, and 2015- 26%). This is what we might expect given scalibility problems and a slowing global economy.

Solar energy has now become less expensive than oil...

This statement has been repeated a great deal recently, but it's an inaccurate statement. Some of the new solar PVCs are producing power at a cheaper rate than the most expensive-to-produce oil on the planet. That oil only comprises 5% of world production, while the vast majority of world oil is much cheaper than any PVCs.

The economic incentives to move away from oil will result in even a more rapid adoption of solar than we have currently seen. This will, in large part, alleviate the concerns of a peak oil or other economic concerns.

Given enough time and enough wealth to implement a new energy infrastructure, I would totally agree. But we're undergoing an economic and energy crisis right now. Both make additional expenditure of wealth and energy on a new infrastructure very unlikely.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 6 points7 points  (34 children)

Solar power has in fact been exponentially growing and has been for decades.

Worldwide growth of solar PV capacity has been fitting an exponential curve since 1992. Tables below show global cumulative nominal capacity by the end of each year in megawatts, and the year-to-year increase in percent. In 2014, global capacity is expected to grow by 33 percent from 138,856 to 185,000 MW. This corresponds to an exponential growth rate of 29 percent or about 2.4 years for current worldwide PV capacity to double. Exponential growth rate: P(t) = P0ert, where P0 is 139 GW, growth-rate r 0.29 (results in doubling time t of 2.4 years).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_of_photovoltaics#Worldwide_cumulative

This statement has been repeated a great deal recently, but it's an inaccurate statement. Some of the new solar PVCs are producing power at a cheaper rate than the most expensive-to-produce oil on the planet. That oil only comprises 5% of world production, while the vast majority of world oil is much cheaper than any PVCs.

I will argue this trend will continue with solar power becoming less and less expensive every year. This is also happening exponentially.

The average cost of solar cells has gone from $76.67/watt in 1977 to just $0.74/watt in 2013. The average price of a solar module at $0.49/watt on July 15, 2016, and the average price of a solar cell at $0.26/watt.

But this trend isn't just for the cells. The panels, final installation price have also been steadily decreasing.

http://c1cleantechnicacom-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/files/2014/09/solar-power-installed-prices.jpg

So even if today solar is cheaper than only expensive oil, you'd have to argue that this trend will stop for some reason. I see no reason why this is likely to be true, and more likely the trend will continue, at least for a time.

Given enough time and enough wealth to implement a new energy infrastructure, I would totally agree. But we're undergoing an economic and energy crisis right now. Both make additional expenditure of wealth and energy on a new infrastructure very unlikely.

We have more oil supply than demand at this point.

https://www.ft.com/content/2499c808-9f25-3fb0-ba6b-4b07bfeeb6a6

We have no shortage short-term of oil. This is a good thing. We will need oil while the transition to solar continues. If we were in an oil shortage, I would be far more pessimistic, but given the evidence that there is no short-term shortage of oil, there is no immediate energy crisis.

[–]stumo 16 points17 points  (33 children)

Solar power has in fact been exponentially growing and has been for decades.

I apologize, you're correct and I expressed myself poorly. What can be said is that the rate of growth of new solar capacity is slowing, which is what should be expected given declining economic growth and, possibly, declining returns on solar power efficiency improvements.

So even if today solar is cheaper than only expensive oil, you'd have to argue that this trend will stop for some reason.

No, my statement was just to clear up the statement about today. Given favorable conditions, I fully expect oil to become more and more expensive, and continued improvement in PVC efficiency. However, as I pointed out, the rate of new solar capacity is slowing. I'd also argue that at the current time and near future, solar is the child of a wealthy fossil fuel society, and that it'll need that for some time before potentially reaching dominance. Several decades, in fact, and less if the global economy continues to slide.

We have more oil supply than demand at this point.

Indeed, but that's primarily due to slowing of global demand growth, in turn due to declining economic activity. Growth in global crude supply has been completely normal, below normal if you look at the last few decades.

We have no shortage short-term of oil. This is a good thing.

Initially, one would think so, unless economic slowing were the culprit. The fact that the price has remained low despite declining production indicates deteriorating economic conditions to be the cause.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 10 points11 points  (32 children)

Fair points on this exchange and I accept much of what you said. I think ultimately the challenges are economic, not technological. I suspect we agree on this. Technology is allowing the potential for greater and greater well-being and has shown this to be true. But we need the political and economic systems to take advantage of this wealth-generation.

This is why the subject of basic income is constantly on the front page of /r/futurology. We have the means to provide wealth to the entire world, using less resources than ever before. The challenges are political, cultural, and societal. I agree that Technology isn't a magic bullet. Its not magic. More technology doesn't automatically mean things are better. What it does do is allow the potential for that to be true. We as a free-society have to implement policies in such a way to allow that potential to bear fruit.

[–]stumo 16 points17 points  (31 children)

I think ultimately the challenges are economic, not technological. I suspect we agree on this.

Absolutely.

This is why the subject of basic income is constantly on the front page of /r/Futurology

I've been a fan of basic income for forty years now. The trouble is that it's addressing just one symptom of a dying economy, the growing inequity of wealth. Many think that the inequity is what's damaging the economy, but I'd argue that there's a deeper root cause.

We saw something similar in the Great Depression. Due to the failure of capital to circulate, we saw the few rich get much, much richer while the middle and lower classes became very poor. At that time, however, the basic elements to grow were still there - the infrastructure and the energy to drive it were still in great abundance. All that was required was for the government to reallocate the wealth (in the form of loans from the rich provided to the poor) and the economy kick started again.

This time things are different. If cheap-to-extract energy stopped increasing in 2005 and we had to start investing far more industrial activity to boost the world's oil by 5%, there's an excellent chance that 5% failed to generate much wealth. So again, the rich are far richer and the middle class and poor are getting poorer. This time, there's less wealth to redistribute. I think that things like basic income will do wonders to slow the decay, but that they'll only slow it, not stop it or reverse it.

Alternative energy sources would be great, but even the insanely optimistic Hirsch Report suggested that it would take at least two decades before an energy crisis to prepare the world for a transition from oil to alternatives. As I believe we're at that crisis point now, we should have started in 1997 at least (I think starting in 1960 would have been just about right). Now, I fear it's too late, the economy is in turmoil and the energy market is in chaos. If the economy gets much worse, it'll be very difficult to convince governments to fund new infrastructure with drastically declining tax bases.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 4 points5 points  (23 children)

I think we agree on much then. But I'm still having a hard time seeing concrete evidence for what you fear. Yes, inequality is a big problem. We have an abundance of Wealth, but its far too concentrated on so few. But many here on /r/futurology, and myself included see us on a path to post-scarcity. A world of effective infinite resources. A world where money wouldn't even matter. A world of star trek. The movement of Capital would no longer be what drove our lives. This is where /r/futurology gets people to roll their eyes and dismiss us, and my argument is not reliant on this future from becoming reality in the near future. We obviously are not there yet, nor could we even conceivably be close to in many decades, but basic income is the bridge to that world.

But I can point to solar energy exponentially becoming more adopted. I can point to genetic engineering showing extremely good potential to drastically increase the amount of food we can grow. We already grow enough food to feed everyone, its a challenge to spread that food to everyone in our current economic model.

The problem is not technological. The problem is not resources. The problem is not wealth. The problem is human nature. The problem are existing institutions that benefit from the status quo. We have plenty of wealth, water, land, food, energy to provide a good standard of living for everyone. Technology makes it easier to produce all of those things cheaper and more efficiently. We have a log-jam in that societal machine right now. Most people are only getting a fraction of the benefit, but they are still getting some. The well-being increase for hundreds of years has shown this to be true and you accept it. I've also shown reasons why there will be no shortage of food, water, or energy as well. The conditions for a wealthy and prosperous world will be there. Given that the world has trended towards a more peaceful and cooperative place, I see it far more likely that the wealth logjam that has been produced be opened as opposed to further drying up leading to global meltdowns.

[–]stumo 9 points10 points  (13 children)

We have an abundance of Wealth, but its far too concentrated on so few.

I'm a proponent of wealth redistribution to fix a broken system, but if the source of new wealth in an economy is drying up, that turns it into a zero-sum game. I think that what we disagree on is the source of new wealth - I see it as being fixed with the energy inputs, and you see it being more flexible, or having greater hopes that alternatives will substitute for the declining net energy resources elsewhere.

That's a big topic, and worthy of another debate with lots of sources :)

The problem is human nature.

If we could go back a century and use CRISPR to edit out some of the more unfortunate human genes involving resource consumption and competition when resources got scarce, we would be in a far better situation than we are now.

Given that the world has trended towards a more peaceful and cooperative place, I see it far more likely that the wealth logjam that has been produced be opened as opposed to further drying up leading to global meltdowns.

I sure hope so.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 2 points3 points  (12 children)

having greater hopes that alternatives will substitute for the declining net energy resources elsewhere.

Yes. Solar has the potential to 100% power the Earth within the next 20 years. If the, albeit still speculative, promise of Fusion were to bear fruit, energy concerns would be completely alleviated.

I think ultimately we're narrowing down on our disagreements. If you see wealth ultimately being extracted from the ground, and those resources drying up, leaving little initial fuel to create more wealth for people in the future, then yes we have a big problem looming.

I, and those on /r/futurology will point to exponential increases in sustainable energy, the staggering potential of Automation and AI to create more wealth from less raw resources, and the historical trend to back up these assertions as reasons to be optimistic. All the while, still acknowledging the possibility of something bad happening as you fear.

[–][deleted] 2 points3 points  (7 children)

But many here on /r/futurology, and myself included see us on a path to post-scarcity. A world of effective infinite resources. A world where money wouldn't even matter. A world of star trek.

In retrospect this was the key line of the debate for /r/collapse readers -- you say you "want" a path to post-scarcity, even though the only reasonable conclusion of someone reading the data is that we will never escape this planet, which is now irrevocably damaged. Star Trek is fiction.

[–]stumo 52 points53 points  (61 children)

Economy

Since 2008, the world’s economy has been in crisis. For several years the economy was artificially fed by injections of liquidity from the US government. Since ending those measures, the world economy has slipped to sub-par growth, barely ahead of population growth. Something is clearly wrong.

Economists have a tendency to build models that ignore externalities beyond their control. For example, many are based on the assumption that growth can be limitless while ignoring the laws of thermodynamics. I would argue that in the short term, and immediately, we’re facing a real economic problem that seems to have no viable solution.

Our global economic system is predicated on constant growth - without overall economic growth there’s overall poor return on investment. Without investment, our financial system fails, and we’re in an economic depression.

The economy requires expenditure of energy and resources in order to generate wealth. Secondary economies like the service industry and the virtual economy can certainly generate wealth without consuming resources (except energy resources) but these are completely dependent on primary industry extracting and processing resources. Without new production of food, buildings, industrial equipment, and manufactured goods, the service industry and virtual economy would wither.

The Industrial Revolution and the period since have seen an explosion in the extraction and processing of resources, especially energy resources. As resource extraction almost always follows a trend of easiest-to-extract first and harder and harder after that, there’s an inevitable point where a resource become too expensive to be worth it any longer (IE more wealth is expended than the resource is worth). This happens all the time with individual caches of resources (think abandoned mines or depleted oil fields), but it also occurs on a planetary scale.

Some might argue that improvements to technology reduce that cost, but it should be remembered that eventually the laws of physics get in the way - if the energy required to raise a barrel of oil to the surface of the earth is more than is embedded in that barrel of oil, no improvements in technology will make that worthwhile. The other factor worth considering is that improvements in efficiency due to new technology tend to grow in a linear fashion while resource extraction grows at an exponential rate.

As the wealth we derive from resource extraction can be expressed as “total wealth from a resource” minus “wealth expended to extract that resource”, it’s an immutable law that as time goes on we derive less and less wealth from a fixed amount of resources (for arguments against space mining, see the Technology/Space section of this debate).

As slowing amounts of net wealth generation would manifest itself as slowing global economic growth, lowering returns on investment, and growing levels of global debt, it may well be arriving now at a crucial tipping point in cost of extraction vs wealth generated. This is especially true of a keystone resource like oil (see Energy).

Lastly, while certain amounts of new wealth is required for economic growth, we also rely on specific amounts for simple maintenance of society. As much of our civilization has been built predicated on high net returns on resources, there’s probably a point when even simple maintenance is unaffordable unless we make extreme changes to our society’s infrastructure and economy. The problem being that such changes require unusually large amounts of extra wealth.

[–]lughnasadh∞ transit umbra, lux permanet ☥[S] 10 points11 points  (59 children)

The economy requires expenditure of energy and resources in order to generate wealth.

Actually economies are about much more than that. Retail, digital/IT ,health care, professional services, etc - none of these fall under that category & yet they are the bulk of our economies.

The best news for energy and the environment is that solar power is tending towards near zero cost. Solar energy is only six doublings — or less than 14 years — away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs, using only one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth.

I'll requote my opening argument here, as this is happening right in front of our eyes now. The future of energy is cheap, clean, green & abundant.

I don't think we can meaningfully think about our future economy in terms of the structures of today. The transition to a world where AI/Robots can replace us in doing most work, genuinely is a leap as great as that of the transition to Agriculture or Industrialization.

I'm fairly sure it won't be built on the endless "growth model" we have now. That needs constant rising incomes and inflation to keep the debt fueled "growth" going; we seem headed for constant deflation & falling incomes.

Many people try to figure out this economic future as if the economy is some vast Rube Goldberg Machine, where everything is decided by governments - so all change must start there. I agree part of the future, things like Basic Income, will come from there.

What I wonder about - is what will individuals do? Then multiply that by the billion & its seems it is that (far more powerful than any government) is what will create this new world.

Every job, service, profession, area of expertise & knowledge that AI masters, will become almost free to individuals.

We even have the tech now (blockchain) to replicate & replace - currencies, banks, courts, existing government structures. We can use it build new structure for this new world - we don't need the old worlds permission.

This exponentially developing AI will power every robot - the small 3D printed ones, the robot cars, the drones, the ones in factories - all off shoots of this ever going intelligence & like every technology before it, it will be in all our hands. The future isn't Elysium - it is super computers in everyone's back pockets.

All these realities can exist - it's hard to believe at least some of us won't take the lead in using them to create a better world than we have now.

[–]lxpz 14 points15 points  (11 children)

I do actual AI research and in my opinion we are very far from AGI (artificial general intelligence) that would enable the progress you talk about, it is at least 10 years from now and more like 20 or 30 years IMO. And that is assuming we can maintain our society's infrastructure in order to do the research. I tend to agree with the collapse point of view and I'd say there is a very high probability we will never have true AGI.

[–]goocyΨ MSc Psychology 8 points9 points  (5 children)

From what I've learned, there isn't even a theoretical framework that says that building a (self-improving) super AI is possible. Is that still correct?

[–]lxpz 5 points6 points  (0 children)

Well yes, self improvement is not a well defined concept, because it requires some form of morality, which is subjective and not universal. Self replication is well defined, though. However this is more a "mechanical" problem and I'm not sure we even need AI for self replication (some microorganisms replicate without having intelligence. We could say the same of computer viruses, although computer viruses have very limited capability for evolution - which has nothing to do with intelligence IMO). But my point was more about AGI, i.e. AI which can be immediately targeted at any problem with zero extra engineering cost, a requirement for a fully roboticized society. Once they exist AGIs could be targeted at the problem of making better AGIs, but we still need some subjective basis for judging what is improvement and what is not.

[–]MarcusOrlyius 3 points4 points  (0 children)

10 years isn't a long time though. Neither is 30 years. The fact you think we'll have AGI within 30 years makes you one of the more optimistic researchers.

[–][deleted] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

But resource exhaustion isn't likely in the next 10-30 years, so even by that timeline AGI will exist prior to the above described failure mode. Also, you don't need AGI for most of those applications, just sufficiently adept narrow AI would suffice.

[–]stumo 30 points31 points  (0 children)

Retail, digital/IT ,health care, professional services, etc - none of these fall under that category & yet they are the bulk of our economies.

But as I point out, they're completely dependent on the primary economies, regardless of their size. When those primary economies fail, there's isn't any wealth to circulate and generate secondary wealth.

The future of energy is cheap, clean, green & abundant.

I hope that I address this in more detail in my energy comment.

Regarding the remainder of your comment - I think basic income, AI, robotics all fantastic things, and all eminently feasible given a healthy society, reasonable levels of wealth, and enough time. I argue that given the current state of the world, none of those are likely for significant periods.

[–]Happy_Pizza_ 9 points10 points  (16 children)

The transition to a world where AI/Robots can replace us in doing most work, genuinely is a leap as great as that of the transition to Agriculture or Industrialization.

Just a curious bystander. Who do you imagine will own the robots?

I guess I'm just thinking that this could lead to some pretty dramatic wealth inequality in the short run, which could be destabilizing to society.

[–]lughnasadh∞ transit umbra, lux permanet ☥[S] 3 points4 points  (15 children)

Just a curious bystander. Who do you imagine will own the robots?

The same people who own all the computers now - you, me & all those other billions of people.

[–]kulmthestatusquo 20 points21 points  (12 children)

I don't think so. The robot makers and software makers will own the robots and they will 'rent' these gadgets to the people for an arm and leg.

[–]ma-hi 9 points10 points  (11 children)

Robots and AI will take our jobs and our wages. We won't have the money to rent anything.

[–]Zensayshun[🍰] 10 points11 points  (6 children)

Poor kids don't get the toys. But if the harvest allows for it, every time carrying capacity rises the birthrate will increase, too. We needed the poor to struggle and invent nice things for the rich, but most humans are obsolete at this juncture.

[–]MuonManLaserJab 8 points9 points  (5 children)

every time carrying capacity rises the birthrate will increase, too

Not so in Japan...or anywhere in the 1st world, really. There is a strong counteracting effect where wealthy, educated people have fewer kids.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 12 points13 points  (3 children)

Hence the need for basic income.

This quote may or may be true but gets to what you're saying.

Henry Ford II: Walter, how are you going to get those robots to pay your union dues?

Walter Reuther (President of Automotive Worker's Union): Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars?

This is the reason for basic income. The bridge from a world that needs jobs and money to a world that just needs money to ultimately to a world of post-scarcity and we don't need either.

[–]goocyΨ MSc Psychology 5 points6 points  (2 children)

Technically, it's not an actual need, because people can already survive by working four jobs and relying food stamps. There's no practical reason why 95% of the population couldn't be poor.

Yes, it would be nice and fair if the wealth benefits from automation went to everybody. But basic income is a radical political goal, not an automatic necessity that'll be implemented as soon as we hit 10% unemployment.

[–]ma-hi 6 points7 points  (0 children)

radical political goal

We are in radical times.

The next ten years will see the demise of millions of jobs in farming and transportation as automation and self-driving vehicles take over. Many of these jobs are the last holdout of the manual worker, and are the #1 means of employment in most US states. Not to mention all of the white collar jobs that will also be lost as AI becomes increasing powerful.

Suppressing the poor is only possible when democracy is compromised. The "happy" path must lead to some form of basic income, the unhappy path is more and more extreme flavors of the Trump and the end of democracy.

[–]Happy_Pizza_ 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Would I really though? I would think large corporations would own the robots that do the work. I don't own a part of McDonalds after all but that's where all these new robots are going to be put right?

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

The technology has to come from somewhere, and a society that is highly dependant on that technology, is going to benefit the people that control the production of it. I feel like proponents of this type of world, are asking us to have good faith that this class will be forever be benevolent and won't abuse their power. Even people with the best intentions can make decisions that ultimately make people's lives miserable...

[–]MeTheImaginaryWizard 16 points17 points  (26 children)

How are renewables clean?

Solar, hydro both have a net negative impact because of their manufacturing and impact on their environment during their operation.

Not to mention the impacts of battery tech.

Yet again I feel that the only thing that floats optimism is the complete ignorance towards thermodynamics.

[–][deleted] 12 points13 points  (9 children)

Solar, hydro both have a net negative impact because of their manufacturing and impact on their environment during their operation.

That is not true at all, but it is a very widely circulated bit of disinformation put out by the fossil fuel industry in the past.

Also, as more renewables are added to the grid, the carbon footprint of making new renewables becomes successively lower. It's a virtuous cycle, but it has to start somewhere.

Also, the impacts of battery tech are widely overstated. Tesla plans for full recycling of degraded packs and is designing them with this in mind.

[–]MeTheImaginaryWizard 5 points6 points  (8 children)

But that energy is still being used to power civilization, which is the main problem.

Sorry, I cannot believe what a corporation says about their procedures, especially Tesla, which is a company floated by irresponsible monetary policy and mainstream media hype.

Batteries require many materials which are not just limited, but their extraction is highly polluting.

Consider the market penetration of electric cars and the needed quantity of batteries for a full scale switch.

While we are at it, consider the other products made from oil too, like plastics and the impact of agriculture.

[–]MarcusOrlyius 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Plastic don't need to be made from oil though, for example, bioplastic.

[–]Da_VorakI <3 Humanity 11 points12 points  (9 children)

Solar, hydro both have a net negative impact because of their manufacturing and impact on their environment during their operation.

I could see how some people might draw that conclusion, but the comparative life cycle CO2 emissions of what could be considered green energy simply don't reflect your assertion.

As hydroelectric power is arguably the single most pervasive form of "green" energy, it seems fitting that it be the subject of this comparison.

The Parliament Office of Science and Technology found that hydroelectric power has a net carbon footprint ("expressed as grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour of generation") of ~10-30gCO2eq/kWh in dam installations, or less than 5gCO2eq/kWh in run-of-river installations.

Whereas coal has a net carbon footprint of 800gCO2eq/kWh, keeping in mind that with improvements in energy efficiency (which are yet to become widespread) could reduce the footprint to a minimum of ~150gCO2eq/kWh.

Edit: Although uncommon in UK, where this study was conducted, fossil fuels are far more pervasive in the US. And oil has a net carbon footprint of ~650gCO2eq/kWh.

[–]MeTheImaginaryWizard 10 points11 points  (8 children)

There many aspects besides co2 emmissions.

Hydroelectric is highly damaging to the environment, completely destroying habitats.

If that's our greenest solution, then we are completely fucked.

[–]goocyΨ MSc Psychology 7 points8 points  (4 children)

Hydro is pretty much at peak capacity already; there are only so many rivers in the world. But the ecological impact of wind turbines is minimal, and especially solar could be even beneficial to deserts.

[–]Hells88 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I think it falls to you to show us we are anywhere near the limits of thermodynamics

[–]BenPennington 0 points1 point  (4 children)

Solar, hydro both have a net negative impact because of their manufacturing and impact on their environment during their operation. Not to mention the impacts of battery tech.

However, the byproducts from the manufacture of those technologies can be easily contained because they are solid waste products.

[–]MeTheImaginaryWizard 1 point2 points  (3 children)

Destruction of the environment is not a solid waste product.

The manufacturing of solar panels and batteries requires mining and extraction and usage of highly toxic material.

[–][deleted] 4 points5 points  (2 children)

And the extraction of fossil fuels does what exactly?

[–]MeTheImaginaryWizard 2 points3 points  (1 child)

It's even worse. My point was that renewables are not a magic solution to all the problems of humanity.

[–]Da_VorakI <3 Humanity 0 points1 point  (0 children)

That's fair, but they're still a large step in the right direction.

[–]55985 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I don't think we can meaningfully think about our future economy in terms of the structures of today.

This is the crux of the matter. We keep trying to put new wine in old wineskins. Growth has been important to get us where we are, but to say we have to keep on the way we've been is wrong. We need to evolve our way out of things not grow our way out. We need to do more with less not the opposite. With robots and automation people will become more self sufficient. We will function more as a gift economy and scarcity will become more a thing of the past. In reality our purpose of life is changing. World domination needs to become less of a goal and world peace more of one. People will not become perfect, but they will tend in that direction. History zig zags. I cannot tell you exactly how we're going to get there. It is said there will always be wars and rumors of wars and the poor will always be with us. I think we are on our way to making this not necessarily so. Maybe it will take something terrible before we get our collective head on straight, but we will not vanish, and as long as we survive we'll continue to improve.

[–]MeTheImaginaryWizard 17 points18 points  (28 children)

Solar energy is only six doublings — or less than 14 years — away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs

Among all the weak arguments, this stood out the most.

Considering energy storage technologies, we seem to be very far from utilising renewables anywhere near 100%.

Also, without government subsidies (which is also an unsustainable approach) solar power is still far into the negative, with little potential to be sustainable.

The other aspect that optimists fail to realize is the impact of civilisation itself, not just the energy and resource needs.

If you power civilisation, you power the destruction of the biosphere, it doesn't matter if that energy came from coal, nuclear, hydro, geothermic, wind or solar energy.

When you state that life got better overall, I think it's a fallacy in itself. Good and bad are highly subjective.

When I look around, I see a completely destroyed environment with thousands of species that went extinct because of our growth and billions of people who live the life of tax/debt slaves, completely disconnected from reality.

[–][deleted] 13 points14 points  (4 children)

When you state that life got better overall, I think it's a fallacy in itself. Good and bad are highly subjective.

He says typing away on his super computer, connected instantaneously to vast majority of all human knowledge and endless entertainment or educational options, presumably in a warm, weather proof dwelling, in a stable nation state where crime is at generally all time lows, infectious disease has been mostly eradicated, and our greatest natural wonders are preserved for all to enjoy.

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot that can be improved in our society but this just smacks as some rose colored nostalgia. If you invented a time machine, I doubt you have an ancestor who would not be envious of the opulence and ease of your modern life.

[–][deleted] 5 points6 points  (13 children)

I'd like to know how solar and wind will power transportation by air and sea? Not happening.

[–]StarChild413 8 points9 points  (6 children)

I know you probably don't mean the same scale but wind powered sea transportation for centuries.

[–]pherlo 1 point2 points  (5 children)

And it will again. IMO after the next dark age we will see sail again.

[–]StarChild413 2 points3 points  (3 children)

IMO after the next dark age we will see sail again.

Yes, it will take off during the next Age Of Exploration in the Second Renaissance when the rulers of the civilizations that survived send explorers out looking for economic opportunities in the "New [to them] World" that has long since been abandoned after the collapse and then they'll kill about 99% of the natives and centuries later, colonies will start popping up and the rest, almost literally, is history.

Sorry, history major got a bit carried away there.

[–]ChromeGhostTranshumanist 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I think nuclear is a good idea for sea transportation

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Who really cares, that is a tiny portion of overall energy expenditures. Anyways provided enough excess cheap electrical production you could just make energy dense liquid fuels from scratch for those needs.

[–]Osiris1295 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Dude you just took me to a new level

[–]Hwga_lurker_tw 7 points8 points  (3 children)

r\collapser here with my two cents, history tends to show that civilization comes in waves of booms & busts. Hunter-Gatherer, agrarian, city-state, etc. On and on until the sun explodes and destroys all life on this planet.

Now, given that life itself appears to be an anomaly in the universe we can see that not a tear will be shed for this world.

Greed is the universal constant that r\futurology fails time and time again to account for. If you want to see the current state of humanity without a filter just look at the aftermath of Katrina and the royal cluster fuck that was Haiti.

The invasions of countries that use the gold standard, the widening chasm between rich and poor, super bugs, plagues, and natural disasters...all point to one inevitable outcome: you are all going to die.

Just remember to make the most out of the time you have.

[–]StarChild413 3 points4 points  (2 children)

Now, given that life itself appears to be an anomaly in the universe

Yes, and, to the ancients, thunder and lightning appeared to be the result of supernatural forces. I'm not trying to insult you or anything (in case you think I am) but I'm just saying there are a lot of things we don't know yet

[–]pixl_graphix 2 points3 points  (1 child)

The great filter is a compelling argument. The ramifications of any of them should let us realize that we are always on the precipice of extinction.

[–]StarChild413 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I've always found the great filter argument a little fatalistic because it assumes that the great filter is something impassable ahead of us because if it were behind us, we should have gotten contacted by aliens loads of times. It's the same faulty logic that makes people think Hawking's party is/was some sort of ultimate arbiter of the possibility of time travel when, in both cases, unless we have a way of forcing them (them being aliens and/or time travelers) to come here, they can choose not to come here and still exist

[–]stumo 27 points28 points  (26 children)

Technology

We’ve become so used to constant technological growth in our lifetimes that it seems a natural law. That isn’t true, however. In previous collapses of civilization we’ve seen technological advancement reverse, with knowledge lost as the wealth required to train individuals and to regularly use that technology vanishes. A well-known example of this would be the secret of Roman concrete, lost for about 15 centuries.

A compounding problem is one of complexity. Very early technological innovations tend to have few external dependencies, as so are easy (or cheap) to develop and provide huge improvements to productivity (EG - early linen workers had productivity improvements of up to 1000x with the implementation of steam-powered looms).

As technology complexity increases, there are an exponentially increasing number of dependencies, thereby slowing the rate of return as improvements become far more complex. This suggests that at some point, technological improvement with require herculean efforts for very small return on efficiency.

Another problem with high levels of technological dependencies and complexity is that it becomes more and more vulnerable to failure. While that failure could be technical in nature (see the Hadron Collider’s inability to run at specified power levels a full six years after construction was completed), it’s also highly vulnerable to social infrastructure failure. That can be something like floods in Thailand crippling the world’s supply of hard drives for three months, or political turbulence cutting off trade in components, to economic crisis or social strife interrupting supply.

Another possible consequence of a society dependent on large numbers of technological dependencies is the speed of collapse when a significant number of dependencies fail. As with the Kessler Syndrome, cascading failure can affect technological dependencies causing a rapid and increasing rate of failure.

Because of the high vulnerability of technological change to these types of failures, it makes observing the current state of economic and social conditions crucial in determining future events.

[–][deleted] 9 points10 points  (3 children)

I have trouble understanding how knowledge could be lost in this day and age. The knowledge of roman concrete making was lost because it was never available to more than a few well educated elites at any given time, and could only be communicated in writing that most later people's couldn't read, on a medium that generally could only last a generation at best.

Short of a world wide apocalypse, I don't see how this is even remotely possible when we have wiki's devoted to almost every topics imaginable distributed relatively uniformly across the globe with massive redundancy.

I mean even in the event of global nuclear war, a lot of the core concepts behind our modern society could be preserved by a single individual who cached Wikipedia on several external harddrives and hid them under some chicken wire.

[–]Berekhalf 6 points7 points  (0 children)

I have trouble understanding how knowledge could be lost in this day and age.

Maybe not popular, wide spread knowledge. But research papers and the like were thrown out by Canada's federal government during library shutdowns, some which didn't have backups, and when requested to have some made were denied.

This isn't 'we forgot how to make electricity' level of information drainage, but information was still lost that won't be recoverable in the same format.

[–]lughnasadh∞ transit umbra, lux permanet ☥[S] 2 points3 points  (20 children)

Another possible consequence of a society dependent on large numbers of technological dependencies is the speed of collapse when a significant number of dependencies fail. As with the Kessler Syndrome, cascading failure can affect technological dependencies causing a rapid and increasing rate of failure.

My problem with this analysis is - when has it actually ever happened?

Everywhere we look around us, the story seems to be the opposite.

[–]stumo 15 points16 points  (18 children)

My problem with this analysis is - when has it actually ever happened?

We've never had this level of complexity before, so I believe that it's theoretical. However, we can consider small-scale examples that involve shortages of parts that have caused wide-spread failure of larger components (the infamous Thailand floods that reduced world hard-drive production for three months), or the effect of things like technological boycotts have had on economies and their technological advancement.

Even basic thought experiments tend to support this. What would happen to the US high-tech industry, for example, if a well-meaning but orange US president decided to place huge tariffs on incoming microchips, or products containing microchips? Or what would happen to the wind and solar industries if China stopped supplying magnets for variable-speed wind generators and rare earths for the more efficient PVCs? We have a widely tangled net of tech, and it doesn't take much to severely disrupt it.

[–]lughnasadh∞ transit umbra, lux permanet ☥[S] 2 points3 points  (15 children)

We've never had this level of complexity before, so I believe that it's theoretical.

It seems to me that we have a global civilization that self-corrects for these things.

The examples you gave happen all the time - small things go wrong - what rarely seems to happen is them cascading into widespread disaster.

[–]stumo 10 points11 points  (9 children)

what rarely seems to happen is them cascading into widespread disaster.

True, so far. But in 2008 we saw what how a severe crisis can cascade worldwide. Given the complex nature of technology and the high level of interdependencies, I don't think that it would be much more self-correcting than the financial world.

[–]pixl_graphix 5 points6 points  (4 children)

small things go wrong - what rarely seems to happen is them cascading into widespread disaster.

The particular problem I have with this line of thought is you're only taking a very short, human, historical perspective on the situation. Cascade events do happen when you look at things on a long enough time scale. For example, this event 150 years ago went mostly unnoticed. If the same event happened 15 years ago there is the very distinct possibility we would not have a society in which we could talk to each other over the internet. Even your term 'global civilization' is a modern one. Before mass transportation, every society was a local one, in the sense that food had to be grown and imported geographically close to the society. Now we have vast city 'deserts', not only dependent on food imports locally, but on a worldwide level.

One of the more abstract, but convincing to me at least, ideas that our collapse is in our future is the Great Filter argument. Pretty much states that the universe should have borne life that spread across our galaxy long before us, and the process that has prevented that from occurring before now is likely to happen to us too.

[–]StarChild413 1 point2 points  (2 children)

One of the more abstract, but convincing to me at least, ideas that our collapse is in our future is the Great Filter argument. Pretty much states that the universe should have borne life that spread across our galaxy long before us, and the process that has prevented that from occurring before now is likely to happen to us too.

The great filter has always seemed too pessimistic to me because it assumes that, whatever brings us to our end, our end is inevitable because if it could be overcome, the galaxy would be teeming with life. Call me crazy but I don't want to go gentle into that good night just because we haven't found aliens.

[–]kotokot_ 1 point2 points  (0 children)

One of the more abstract, but convincing to me at least, ideas that our collapse is in our future is the Great Filter argument. Pretty much states that the universe should have borne life that spread across our galaxy long before us, and the process that has prevented that from occurring before now is likely to happen to us too.

Only if life is common, can travel faster than light and have reason to do this. Why would someone travel several thousands of years?

[–]patiencer 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Here's one artifact we couldn't reproduce for centuries after the fall of Athens, and when Rome fell, the system failed so badly that we forgot how to make concrete.

[–]NICK16_06 25 points26 points  (35 children)

Seeing as the discussion is erring on the side of theorethical interpretations of reality and future scenarios with just too much political correctness in my opinion, I will now present my informal dissertation.

Futurology people tend to underestimate human stupidity. I agree that we are in the best time there is to live, seeing as most middle class are better off than ancient kings. Of course it would be rational to think that we will continue on this path of improvement for the rest of our existence, right? Sadly, I believe we are reaching peak prosperity and peace, and there is a seneca cliff that will undo all that we have accomplished throughout this last two centuries before 2100. The reasons for this? Peak minerals, peak top soil, peak water, the sixth mass extinction, overpopulation, among others.

For the current technological age we are living in, enormous quantities of energy must be extracted constantly to stop the whole thing from falling apart overnight. We bet all of our modern lifestyle on the availability of a cheap to extract source in oil, and the EROEI has been falling down constantly, to the point where it is around a tenth of what was used to build our civilization. You may argue that solar is rising in efficiency and lowering in price by the day, but that doesn't solve the rest of our problems overnight.

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/galactic-scale-energy/

This is a funny little link that shows us that even with the ultimate efficiency in energy extraction, exponential growth still outpaces our ability to adapt to it. If this wasn't the case already, we wouldn't be in a position where our very existence is threatened by economic growth devouring the natural world so quickly. Most solutions to solve the CO2 problem, for example, are taken straight out of science fiction and will most likely never see the light of day, or they won't arrive in time. Just consider that most scientists agree that our actions have already guaranteed 3-4°C of warming in the global averages by the end of the century. Of course with some feedbacks that they failed to address this number goes up to about 6° in the most pessimistic scenarios, which certainly spells doom and will disrupt our ability to function as a society, let alone continue our scientific progress, without a doubt.

http://peaksurfer.blogspot.ca/2017/01/without-bucket-to-rcp-in.html

This read shows how even the IPCC tries not to unsettle the status quo by offering far fetched solutions to this most inmediate problem. Another interesting fact that this article points out is that, being aware of these impending difficulties, we are not acting to preserve what is left of nature intact, as a "buffer" of sorts, like the article suggests, to mitigate as much of the impact as possible, but rather we are burning through it in the hopes that we will gain enough momentum to reach the singularity or a significant breaktrhough in time. I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty irrational, and borderline schizophrenic to me.

Of course, there is plenty to talk about here, regarding technology and how it is treated as some form of alchemy by some and is worshipped because it has given us everything. But the cold truth is that we are not destroying the planet because we are on a quest to maximize our scientific knowledge to somehow improve our lives in the future, like many people here suggest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_research_and_development_spending

Just look at how no country on earth even reaches 5% of its global GDP in research and development. Now, it is agreeable that most economic activity can be described as the extraction and transformation of energy for human benefit. And if we look at what actually drives GDP:

https://media.ibisworld.com/2013/11/21/key-players-top-contributors-gdp/

We have medical care, housing, consumer goods, and industrial activity. A thing they all have in common is that they are contributing to the environmental destruction that is currently occuring. Look at pharma factories in India polluting most rivers and helping create inmunities to antibiotics, the pacific garbage patch, endless landfills of technological gadgets in Asi, oil spills, etc. I will touch agriculture and livestock in a minute. The picture here is that our most important economic activities are the ones that are threatening our existence, and not enough is being spent to even pretend we will solve all of these in time to avoid a catastrophe, because it has already begun.

Another point to consider is that the ruling classes will not allow their hegemony to be threatened by change, at least while the capitalist system is still in place. Case in point, the meat and dairy industry. I think that mostly everyone by now is aware of the environmental impact of livestock, and while some people are wise enough to stop supporting the industry, most simply don't care that much, and it doesn't help that corporations are doing what they do best; buying politicians and lobbying to defend their right to ravage the earth for profit.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dairy-pride-tammy-baldwin_us_58780a57e4b0e58057fe0349

Now, there is a technological solution to this. Lab grown meat. It sounds like a novelty idea and it will not be widespread for a while, and until it starts gaining a bit of momentum, it will be most likely ignored or seen as a trend that will soon vanish. But once it starts treatening the interests of the wealthy, they will do everything in their power to stop it, like it is happening now with non-dairy milks. This act slows down the process of normalizing a life free of the excess of animal products, which is a must if we want to even dream of considering avoiding furthering the climate disaster we are headed to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ9deH2Pkts

This is a link to Cowspiracy, a documentary that deals with the facts of livestock and its impact on the environment.

https://ensia.com/articles/these-maps-show-changes-in-global-meat-consumption-by-2024-heres-why-that-matters/

This article shows how meat consumption will increase worldwide throughout the next decade. To the best of my knowledge there is not a single techno-fix to change this fact or to diminish its impact on the environment.

There are plenty of topics I could discuss as well; automation is one I am eager to discuss about in the future, as well as overpopulation and resource distribution, but I have to go now. The point I am trying to make here is that even with all the technology available, our capitalist/consumerist society is mainly concerned with the hedonistic pursuits of the ruling classes, no matter the cost, be it human or natural resources, and there is just too many people trying to live an inherently unsustainable lifestyle for any solution to be implemented overnight. Considering that many changes had to have been implemented decades ago, I'd say this is a recipe for disaster.

[–]thedignityofstruggle 10 points11 points  (18 children)

Cowspiracy leans on a lot of flawed math, most of which stems from the thoroughly debunked "livestocks long shadow" report. But even ignoring that, all meat is not beef.

Lab meat is an energy suck, and just more technowizardy when putting animals on grass is the easiest and most holistic solution. Chickens eat grass and bugs and shit out fertilizer. Not to mention they lay eggs before you make them into soup. Win win!

All industry is filthy, and industrial civilization is wrecking the planet when it makes beef, or sneakers, or iPhones, or surgical tubing. Meat is good for us, and asking everyone to abstain from it so we can get a few more years of industrial civilization play time seems like bargaining to me.

Id rather live in a tipi and get fish and deer and actually be healthy than live in some apartment sucking down soy glop staring at a teevee.

[–]NICK16_06 15 points16 points  (7 children)

Id rather live in a tipi and get fish and deer and actually be healthy than live in some apartment sucking down soy glop staring at a teevee.

While this is a dream for an individual, this is not how 7 billion people could live. Hunter-gatherers are known for having severe population control mechanisms, so I guess to live in a tipi and eat fish and deer you would also have to bury your excess children alive, or push them off cliffs or just kill them with a knife or a rock, because you wouldn't have access to condoms or any birth control method. Plus, not all vegans "suck down" on soy glop, so I would apreciate it if you refrained from being judgemntal and ignorant when I never made a moral judgment on meat eating nor did I mock such a lifestyle. Plus, as a matter of fact vegans have been shown to be healthier than the standard meat eating person, and on par with what are considered fit people (the ones that only eat lean meat, watch calories and fats, etc.).

Chickens eat grass and bugs and shit out fertilizer. Not to mention they lay eggs before you make them into soup.

To my knowledge most chicken are factory farmed and are probably fed a mixture of grains, and while your statement should be true in a permaculture scenario, it does not reflect the reality of the world.

I am not talking about bargaining to give our species a few more years. I think that you got your feelings mixed up when I talked about meat. To think that we can go back to a simpler lifestyle where we can hunt and gather is as far fetched as any techno fix that can be concocted in a sci-fi novel, and as such I was trying to state what should be done, or rather what will never be done, as damage control. It is proven that a plant based diet can feed more people per acre than a meat-centric diet, so it would only make sense that with ever dwindling top soil and water, that we stopped being so wasteful and do what is best for the majority. Of course animals must be part of any sustainable agricultural endeavor, and as such I never advocated for the erradication of all farm animals, but seeing as most agricultural practices just strip the land barren, and most if not all of livestock farms require lots of grain for a return of 10% of calories invested, everything ends up being a vicious circle that will surely end with our doom, so why bother discussing about it. I could talk about grass fed beef as well but I am not trying to push my particular vegan agenda.

All industry is filthy, and industrial civilization is wrecking the planet when it makes beef, or sneakers, or iPhones, or surgical tubing.

I actually stated something very much identical to this, so I don't know why you have to defend the factory farming industry specifically. As I said before I didn't state "meat=satan" so I think that you got a good old case of the red mist because my comment directly contradicted your beliefs. Granted, you may be a sustainable person and still eat meat because you live by the lake and hunt deer, but I am talking about the reality of the world today. Most of the Amazon rainforest deforestation is caused to plant soy to feed pigs in Asia, so there is irrefutable evidence that trying to feed meat to 7 billion people is not quite working out.

[–]goocyΨ MSc Psychology 1 point2 points  (3 children)

most chicken are factory farmed and are probably fed a mixture of grains,

Chicken actually eat more or less synthetic protein feed. My uncle works in a chemical factory that produces the protein for poultry feed, and the annual output for that is several hundred tons.

[–]NICK16_06 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Sigh.

Ingredients Selected From Maize, Wheat, Soya Meal, Barley, Broll, Biscuit Meal, Limestone, Molasses, DCP (Di-Calcium Phosphate), Salt, Vitamins and Trace Minerals, Amino Acids (Methionine and Lysine), Allzyme

They are grain fed.

[–]goocyΨ MSc Psychology 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Then the industry has a weird definition of "grain". In my view, grain is stuff that grows a grass stalk after you plant it.

[–][deleted] 4 points5 points  (15 children)

EROI of uranium is 70:1, and we have enough that is easily available to last for centuries.

Even if renewables don't pan out, energy won't be our limiting factor.

[–]NICK16_06 3 points4 points  (14 children)

http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.com/2017/01/peak-uranium-future-of-nuclear-energy.html

This may interest you. Then again, I didn't argue about energy too much because as I said there may be other sources that turn it into a non-limiting factor. But there are other limiting factors that are being reached, like I argued that have no easy solution or that are ignored because of economic interests involved. Plus, nuclear is a controversial energy source and the transition cannot be expected to be smooth. I don't wanna relly on anecdotal evidence, but I live in Bolivia and the president wants to build a power plant with the help of Russia, and most people opossed because they think that the government is highly incompetent and it will result in an ecological disaster. I am sure that this view is not an isolated one.

[–][deleted] 4 points5 points  (11 children)

He seems to be underestimating proven reserves by quite a bit more than any other source I've seen. Beyond that, he seems to be acting like lack of growth in production is due to scarcity rather than stagnant demand. Finally he seems to want to act like increased uranium cost would mean large increased energy costs, but the cost of ore is a relatively minor component of overall nuclear energy cost. Finally he talks about how EROI will dwindle to break even but fails to mention that it will do so over the course of several centuries.

Overall I don't find the arguments presented particularly credible.

[–]Whereigohereiam 1 point2 points  (10 children)

Overall I don't find the arguments presented particularly credible.

You won't until you read through the facts yourself later when you aren't being challenged. One limitation of debate is that it has been shown to induce defensive retreat to confirmation bias and faith. That's not a personal attack, btw, just part of being human and we are all predisposed to it.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 11 points12 points  (19 children)

I will respond to the opening statement to /u/stumo on behalf of /r/futurology.

Does human history demonstrate a trend towards the collapse of civilization or the birth of a planetary civilization? It can never be argued that technology isn’t capable of miracles well beyond what our minds here and now can imagine, and that those changes can have powerfully positive effects on our societies. What can be argued is that further, and infinite, technological advancement must be able to flow from here to the future. To regard perpetual technological advancement as a natural law commits a logical sin, the assumption that previous behavior automatically guarantees repetition of that behavior regardless of changes in the conditions that caused that prior behavior. In some cases such an assumption commits a far worse sin, to make that assumption because it’s the outcome one really, really desires.

I will not argue that technological progress is a law guaranteed to happen akin to the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Nor will I argue that technological progress inherently and automatically is a net positive to humanity as a natural law either. I can however point to empirical, historical data to show that over the past centuries, technological progress has consistently, virtually universally, and with almost no exception tended to raise the standard of living, increase life-spans, to reduce crime, and almost any other societal and cultural benchmark you wish to use. This does not absolutely guarantee that this must continue, but I will argue that the likelihood that this trend continues is far more likely than a complete reversal of this progress, resulting in a global, catastrophic collapse of the entire worldwide civilization. /u/lughnasadh linked to The Gapminder Foundation. The raw data for this optimism can be freely seen here. https://www.gapminder.org/data/

Every past society that had a period of rapid technological advancement has certain features in common - a stable internal social order and significant growth of overall societal wealth. One can certainly argue that technological advancement increases both, and that’s true for the most part, but when both these features of society fail, technology soon falls after it.

I would argue technological progress is in large part what allows a stable societal order and increase of societal wealth to increase and become more stable.

This video from Hans Rosling, using data from GapMinder illustrates just how the industrial revolution lifted billions out of poverty. This trend is not unique to the United States or other rich nations. Over time, Every country on Earth has seen the benefits of what increased technology has allowed the human species to accomplish.

Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats - BBC Four

While human history is full of examples of civilizations rising and falling, our recent rise, recent being three centuries, is like no other in human history. Many, if not most, point to this as a result of an uninterrupted chain of technological advancement. It’s worth pointing out that this period has also been one of staggering utilization of fossil fuels, a huge energy cache that provides unprecedented net energy available to us. Advancements in technology have allowed us to harness that energy, but it’s difficult to argue that the Industrial Revolution would have occurred without that energy.

Three hundred years of use of massive, ultimately finite, net energy resources have resulted in a spectacular growth of wealth, infrastructure, and population. This has never occurred before, and, as most remaining fossil fuel resources are now well beyond the reach of a less technological society, unlikely to occur again if this society falls. My argument here today will explain why I think that our reliance on huge energy reserves without understanding the nature of that reliance is causing us to be undergoing collapse right now. As all future advancement stems from conditions right now, I further argue that unless conditions can be changed in the short term, those future advancements are unlikely to occur.

I would agree in most part. Without the oil which drove the Industrial Revolution, the progress we have seen (as I linked above) would not have been possible. I suspect environmental concerns, fossil fuels especially will be a central topic of this discussion so I will make my response here brief for later expansion. While Oil has allowed tremendous wealth generation and in turn has reduced poverty, increased health, etc. Continuing to rely on oil indefinitely is not a viable option. This is why alternative, safe sources of energy must, and are being leveraged today and will continue to increase, weening ourselves off of oil and will become the dominant form of energy in the future. I will point to specific examples of why I believe the world will not continue to rely on the energy reserves in the soil as the debate continues.

[–]stumo 16 points17 points  (17 children)

can however point to empirical, historical data to show that over the past centuries, technological progress has consistently, virtually universally, and with almost no exception tended to raise the standard of living, increase life-spans, to reduce crime, and almost any other societal and cultural benchmark you wish to use

I have absolutely no argument with that.

but I will argue that the likelihood that this trend continues is far more likely than a complete reversal of this progress, resulting in a global, catastrophic collapse of the entire worldwide civilization.

But as your argument, you link to a indicator of how good we have it now rather than an examination of the conditions underlying technological advancement.

I would argue technological progress is in large part what allows a stable societal order and increase of societal wealth to increase and become more stable.

Which I state in the section you quote. You don't address the point I make where I state that if those conditions disappear is spite of the benefits of technical advancement, technology also disappears. For example, technology advancements in the Roman Empire were of great benefit to their society and overall wealth, yet when the economy of the Western Roman Empire failed, their technology quickly evaporated.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 4 points5 points  (16 children)

But as your argument, you link to a indicator of how good we have it now rather than an examination of the conditions underlying technological advancement.

The good we had was because of the technological advancement, yes. Ultimately that was driven by energy consumption, oil. I have responded to the energy section elsewhere.

Which I state in the section you quote. You don't address the point I make where I state that if those conditions disappear is spite of the benefits of technical advancement, technology also disappears. For example, technology advancements in the Roman Empire were of great benefit to their society and overall wealth, yet when the economy of the Western Roman Empire failed, their technology quickly evaporated.

Is your argument then that societal and economic collapse will happen independently and prior to technological collapse? I would not point to the Roman Empire collapse as evidence that a similar collapse will likely happen today. Nor that a Roman collapse was a world-wide collapse. Other countries in the world continued to prosper, China for instance and their technological progress continued. Isolated collapses of ancient cultures, who's underlying reasons for that collapse, may or may not still be applicable today, does not necessarily map onto today's modern societies do argue that a world-wide collapse in the 21st century is likely to occur.

I could argue Roman's collapse was due to their love of lead and putting it in everything, causing their rulers to go mad. I could point that Rome was not a democracy and thus were more susceptible to collapse if a single ruler were to make poor choices. Today's world I can argue is more robust and those 2 reasons I listed are no longer plausible. I would try and frame the discussion of what conditions exist today and are likely to occur in the future to cause such a collapse. If there are instances in the past where similar conditions existed that resulted in collapse, so be it, that would be relevant. I'm not so sure the collapse of the Roman Empire applies to this discussion however.

[–]stumo 11 points12 points  (15 children)

Is your argument then that societal and economic collapse will happen independently and prior to technological collapse?

I would argue that, yes, and further that we've been experiencing the opening stages of that since 2005.

Other countries in the world continued to prosper, China for instance

China's debt is now 250% of their GDP, and their growth rate has been steadily declining. Many, in fact, fear that China's economic collapse most likely of all national economies.

Isolated collapses of ancient cultures, who's underlying reasons for that collapse, may or may not still be applicable today, does not necessarily map onto today's modern societies do argue that a world-wide collapse in the 21st century is likely to occur.

As we've never had a world civilization before, looking for previous examples of their collapses isn't likely to find much. But we do know that other civilizations have collapsed because of growing limits on resource extraction, and that those civilizations were more-or-less isolated in the way that our world civilization is isolated.

They aren't perfect models, but few things are.

I could argue Roman's collapse was due to their love of lead and putting it in everything

A myth, actually. Lead's toxic effects were well-known to the Romans, and there are several edicts forbidding its use in drinking water pipes.

The most likely reason for the collapse of the Western Roman Empire's collapse is that they built their empire on a budget based on conquest, and when conquest ended due to geographic reasons, their sources of revenue dried up and the economy began to fail. They were never able to rebuild their empire based on lower revenue streams and so it collapsed.

We've build our civilization based on the expectation of a certain level of annual energy, and if that level of net energy falls (as it has been doing for years) we run into trouble simply maintaining it.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 1 point2 points  (14 children)

My specific response of China was regarding its continued progress despite the fall of the Roman Empire. I can concede any one country can collapse. Millions may starve due to a natural disaster, but total, world-wide collapse of the entire human species, resulting in billions dying, sending us back to the proverbial stone age (which is what the /r/collapse subreddit description envisions) I am arguing is exceedingly unlikely, though I admit is possible.

Also, while current capitalistic economies have absolutely depending on increased consumption, and thus driven the progress we've had, that also is not a natural law. Increased efficiency can and does allow one to produce more with less. Automation and AI are already allowing massive energy efficiencies and exponentially greater production. The challenge will be adjusting our economic, political and cultural systems to absorb and adjust to this new world. I am not arguing there will be no disruption due to this. Indeed, I can easily envision tens of millions unemployed as inequality soars. But such a world is not tenable, nor would I argue likely to result in global collapse. Democracies ultimately reflect the will of the people. Not perfectly, not immediately, but a politicians job is to get re-elected. Should a sufficient number of people become perpetually harmed by the massive increase of wealth-production Automation will bring forth, but are not beneficiaries of, this result in some action of politicians to address this inequality. If for no other reason than to get elected. Because Automation is surely able to produce more at a lower cost, a global society will be able to move to a different economic system.

Again, the transition to this world very well may not be peaceful and without any hurt. Some countries will adopt systems able to absorb and change to this new world better than others. Finland, India, and many other countries around the world are actively experimenting in basic income. Efforts to transition to this world are already happening. A total collapse will not happen if governments around the world evolve to the reality of this world. Even if they don't, the angry masses of people will force it to happen. This would not be pretty, but complete collapse seems unlikely when there has never been more wealth in the world as there is today. It is not as if there were 7 billion people today in abject poverty. If that were the reality today, I would be far more pessimistic and a collapse situation far more likely.

[–]stumo 9 points10 points  (11 children)

Millions may starve due to a natural disaster, but total, world-wide collapse of the entire human species, resulting in billions dying, sending us back to the proverbial stone age (which is what the /r/collapse subreddit description envisions) I am arguing is exceedingly unlikely, though I admit is possible.

Ah, sorry, completely misunderstood the intent of the China comment. Nevertheless, the reason China survived while Western Rome fell (you could have locked geographically close, the Eastern Roman Empire survived another thousand years :) ) it's because they were relatively insular from each other. That's no longer the case, the whole world is very tightly bound, especially economically. We saw this in the financial crisis of 2008 when failure in one nation triggered failure in another, then others. To a certain extent, we're still feeling the effects of that financial crisis globally even though its initial trigger was in just one nation.

I agree that it's possible for one nation to suffer a mind crisis without it spreading, but the extreme failure of several large economies would undoubtedly cause cascading failure globally. Recovery would be based on resource available to fix the problem and the underlying nature of the crisis, but we're all highly interconnected today. One of the positive benefits of our modern world :)

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 3 points4 points  (10 children)

I agree that it's possible for one nation to suffer a mind crisis without it spreading, but the extreme failure of several large economies would undoubtedly cause cascading failure globally. Recovery would be based on resource available to fix the problem and the underlying nature of the crisis, but we're all highly interconnected today. One of the positive benefits of our modern world :)

Indeed. So why do you believe a cascading failure that we can't recover from is more likely to occur than not, leading to a collapse? I can acknowledge this possibility, but as we have more wealth as a world than ever before, we have more ability than ever before to recover from such a catastrophe. Seems more likely, when push comes to shove, that the world would allocate the abundant wealth we do have towards a recovery, avoiding a total global meltdown, and sending us back to the stone age. It would be in everyone's best interest to do so.

[–]stumo 10 points11 points  (8 children)

So why do you believe a cascading failure that we can't recover from is more likely to occur than not, leading to a collapse?

Ah. No, I believe that a cascading failure hastens a potential collapse and makes it more difficult to arrest simply due to the complexity (just like a simple engine vs a highly complex one, one is easier to maintain and run and fix if it breaks).

I fear what may prevent our technological and industrial civilization from ever rising again is that if we fall too far, resources to get us going are far too difficult to obtain now. For example, there's so little easy-to-access high-energy coal left that we're removing entire mountaintops to get it. New sources of oil require huge expenditures of energy and advance technology to access. If civilization ever fell to the state of 1900, for example, it would likely never have sufficient ability to access the vast resources to rebuild a highly industrial civilization. Much worse, of course, if it fell to a 1600 level.

I can acknowledge this possibility, but as we have more wealth as a world than ever before, we have more ability than ever before to recover from such a catastrophe

Here's the thing though. We've built a society in the presence of huge amounts of cheap energy, and our society requires a constant annual expenditure of energy just to support itself. It's like having a monthly salary of $5,000 and getting a home with a $3,000 monthly mortgage. When that salary drops to $3,500, your actual net income has decreased to a fourth of what it was. While we have wealth, much of it is already spoken for, and spoken for future growth. These days, there doesn't seem to be a lot left over after that.

[–]lord_strykerAvionics Systems Engineer 2 points3 points  (7 children)

I fear what may prevent our technological and industrial civilization from ever rising again is that if we fall too far, resources to get us going are far too difficult to obtain now. For example, there's so little easy-to-access high-energy coal left that we're removing entire mountaintops to get it. New sources of oil require huge expenditures of energy and advance technology to access. If civilization ever fell to the state of 1900, for example, it would likely never have sufficient ability to access the vast resources to rebuild a highly industrial civilization. Much worse, of course, if it fell to a 1600 level.

That would be bad if it were to happen, I agree and accept that is a possibility. What I do not agree with, is that it is more likely to happen than not.

Here's the thing though. We've built a society in the presence of huge amounts of cheap energy, and our society requires a constant annual expenditure of energy just to support itself. It's like having a monthly salary of $5,000 and getting a home with a $3,000 monthly mortgage. When that salary drops to $3,500, your actual net income has decreased to a fourth of what it was. While we have wealth, much of it is already spoken for, and spoken for future growth. These days, there doesn't seem to be a lot left over after that.

And I'll go back to solar. Infinite energy of the Sun is approaching cost parity and trending to be cheaper than coal and oil. That is strong evidence we are moving away from those forms of energy. As coal and oil become more scarce, it will just further move towards investment in solar. This in turn will drive costs further down.

Solar City / Tesla has plans for residential rooftop solar to be cost competitive with existing, non-solar roofs. This is incredibly encouraging. Costs are dropping so fast, its deflationary. Its a good problem to have in a sense. People are putting off installing solar panels because it will be so much cheaper to do it the next year. Same with electric cars. GM has the Bolt, Tesla is coming out with the model 3. This allows the engine of the economy to run with no resources in a sense. Its raining down on us, infinitely. The 19th and 20th century source of energy and wealth ultimately (oil) will no longer be needed. Its being decentralized and democratized.

Seems far more likely we'll see an even greater boom of Wealth to all people than a further concentration to the already wealthy.

[–]stumo 11 points12 points  (6 children)

Infinite energy of the Sun is approaching cost parity and trending to be cheaper than coal and oil. That is strong evidence we are moving away from those forms of energy. As coal and oil become more scarce, it will just further move towards investment in solar. This in turn will drive costs further down.

Then I have to fall back on that this will take considerable time and wealth, as will sweeping changes of our infrastructure away from fossil fuels. It will take at minimum decades, while in the short term we're seeing very real signs of imminent economic crisis on a historic level. If you haven't seen it yet, I'd recommend taking a look at The Energy Trap for a discussion about the pitfalls of implementing energy change at a time of economic stagnation.

Solar City / Tesla has plans for residential rooftop solar to be cost competitive with existing, non-solar roofs. This is incredibly encouraging.

"Plans" is often the code word for "looking for investors". It may pan out, but even if so, what is the replacement rate on roofs, even just for places where solar is suitable (where I live is comically unsuitable). And while it potentially addresses the problem of personal transportation, batteries with storage density suitable for heavy long distance transport (trucks, ships) or for heavy industrial equipment simply aren't in the cards for many decades (advancement in battery storage technology is scarily regular). Add to that the requirements of grid storage due to intemittency and the low energy returns on solar, (8:1 vs 20:1 for wind and conventional oil) and it seems less and less of a primary energy solution.

[–]55985 5 points6 points  (1 child)

That is one of the best treatments of futurology I think I have ever read. This is how we get to the future. We see both sides. We keep our hopes in check as well as our fears. We advocate for change every chance we get. Don't waste time trying to preserve the past. Look forward. Be happy. Get on board.

[–]wretchedthings 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I agree a lot , I generally am a very pessimistic, all hope is lost existential person , but everything I read in futurology makes me feel so hopeful and so positively ready for the future instead of fearing it

This is possibly the most inspiring piece I've read here yet.

[–]Stewart_Games 8 points9 points  (2 children)

I'm jumping in on this a bit late, so if my point has already been made then apologies - I simply haven't had the time to read through all the great comments. I feel that in any debate evolving whether or not society might collapse, we should look to the mouse experiment conducted by John Calhoun in the 1960s for NIMH (yes, this experiment did in fact inspire Ms. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh). In the experiment, he designed an ideal mouse habitat, suitable for up to nearly 4,000 mice to live in. These mice were provided with all the food, clean water, warm temperature, and general hygiene that mice require to thrive. Calhoun started with 4 mated pairs of mice, and being mice they doubled their population every 55 days or so. By day 315, population growth began to slow, with the rate of doubling dropping to every 145 days, and by day 600 the last surviving birth occured, with a population reaching only 2,200. The last days of mice heaven were not pretty. Here's how wikipedia describes it: "Among the aberrations in behavior were the following: expulsion of young before weaning was complete, wounding of young, increase in homosexual behavior, inability of dominant males to maintain the defense of their territory and females, aggressive behavior of females, passivity of non-dominant males with increased attacks on each other which were not defended against.[2] After day 600, the social breakdown continued and the population declined toward extinction. During this period females ceased to reproduce. Their male counterparts withdrew completely, never engaging in courtship or fighting. They ate, drank, slept, and groomed themselves – all solitary pursuits. Sleek, healthy coats and an absence of scars characterized these males. They were dubbed "the beautiful ones." Breeding never resumed and behavior patterns were permanently changed."

Are we not currently seeing these exact behaviors occur within our own population? The so-called "beautiful ones", focused exclusively on their own grooming, are really no different from the cult of celebrity we now find ourselves increasingly obsessed with. We focus on taking selfies and not having conversations, few millenials desire or wish to have children, and random acts of violence in the form of school shootings and terror attacks are growing more and more frequent. I would even go so far as to say that the current up and coming generation won't even be capable of proper human communication amongst themselves - they will fear physical contact, refuse to converse with strangers, and prefer conversing over the internet to groups that they are comfortable with rather than engaging with humanity as a whole. We may not be at the physical limit, but we are already developing a "behavior sink", in which society breaks down due to population pressures.

The only way to escape this trap was also observed by Calhoun. This was in his rat studies; unlike mice rats only tolerate very small tribal clades over larger, more complex social structures, and as such they tended to kill and eat rats from the rival groups. This kept the population low and prevented the culture death that destroyed the mouse civilization. For humans, the equivalent would be to engage in war, or some other means of competition, in order to prevent ourselves from over-breeding. I would argue that our "best possible future" is one of ultra-capitalism and intermittent and severe warfare to limit our population growth. It is not in cooperation that we will thrive, but in competition and struggle. A new space race, new scramble for resources, is how we gurantee ourselves a future that lasts, even if it is not the perfect utopia some wish for.

[–]akaleeroy 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Yes. Either way, new cultural views on death are badly needed.

The ancient inhabitants of my land would celebrate it with large banquets, overjoyed for the fella's escape from this world.

Another ancient civilizational-safety practice was to devote a thick chunk of productivity to the crafting of precious relics, only to have them swiftly deposited at the bottom of the local lake, in honor of the gods. Think about this next time you hear your fellow yeast..erm I mean fellow man complaining about your easy-going sitar-playing nature while he's eagerly transforming surplus energy and resources into shit that has to be maintained (like houses, cars, children).

[–]Stewart_Games 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Maybe an alternative to the grimdark future I just described would be to take a page from the Polynesian's book. Whenever one island got too crowded and resources began to get low, the tradition was for about 30% of the population to volunteer to go set out to sea. They would build large, ocean-going outriggers and leave the island behind with minimal supplies. If they managed to find a new island with fresh water, they'd colonize it, otherwise they expected to die at sea, sacrificing their own lives so that their home island can continue to survive. Returning to the home island was taboo; if they did so they were immediately slaughtered and disgraced. We could do something similar with space ships - send a good portion of every generation out on a solar sailer. The problem is that the behavior sink has already begun, and actually getting our technology to the point where this would be possible to do might not happen fast enough.

[–]toktomi 9 points10 points  (12 children)

Is every major system of Earth's biosphere in serious decline?

Are the graphs of debt, population, and species extinction going vertically asymptotic?

Does a growth-based global economy begin to die the moment that it ceases to grow and did the supply of energy to that global economy peak in 2005?

Are the major central banks around the globe madly printing money out of thin air, a last ditch life support effort for the global economy?

But are there a few minor positive indicators of overall industrial human societal health which are exceptions to the rule?

This is a no-brainer folks. The KEY indicators are all negative. A positive crumb here and there does not a healthy biosphere and human society make. Futurology as it is used here is the stuff of dreams while collapse is the stuff of evidence.

or so I see it,

~toktomi~

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (11 children)

The supply of energy is essentially unlimited, oil may (and I emphasize may) have peaked by nuclear, solar, and wind are just getting started.

[–]Whereigohereiam 1 point2 points  (10 children)

The supply of energy is essentially unlimited, oil may (and I emphasize may) have peaked by nuclear, solar, and wind are just getting started. This. This is the root of the magical thinking that prevents people from understanding why our civilization is in deep trouble.

[–]OliverSparrow 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Collapse or global unity: why does it have to be either of those unlikely alternatives? It seems to me to be extremely unlikely that if we met a representative cross section of humanity from 2117 we would either be equipped - intellectually or with physical plumbing - to recognise them as human, and even less likely that they will all be closely similar to each other. Wild-type humans may exist for cranks, or as shells into which awareness is down loaded for vacations, visits, work far from base.

The premise that humans remain as limited as they are now, and so need extensions of current political institutions, is predicated chiefly on historical notions of the self, the "I". If each version of "I" is distinct, splendid and remarkable, then one future is evident. If each copy of "I" turns out do be as similar as tomatoes from the same bush, minuscule variations on a common theme, then there is another. If what was "I" ten years ago is now dead, and the "I" of childhood utterly extinct, then that tells us more. If that "I" is shared in great measure with the animals that we eat and which eat each other, then there are lessons to be drawn.

The future is not cuddly. The future is not human-centred, at least using old fashioned notions of human worth. The future will be as coarse, harsh and demanding as the past has been, but in a world of nine billions that perhaps needs just two billion to climb most mountains of attainment, and perhaps able to support just a bit more than that.

[–]JonnieGreene 2 points3 points  (0 children)

The ball is in our court as far as climate change is concerned. I am a part of an organization called The Climate Mobilization. Our mission is to advocate the mobilization of all aspects of American society to address and combat the threat of climate change. We believe that climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet and that its effects can only be mitigated by dedicating a great deal of resources to combating the problem.

We draw our mobilization inspiration from the American WWII effort. When America entered the war nearly the entire American workforce shifted its industrial direction towards the war effort. Manufacturers of cars began manufacturing tanks and farmers began selling food in bulk to government to support the troops. We believe that a similar shift of perspective will be need to curb the effects of climate change.

However, the threat of climate change seems less real to many Americans than the threat of fascism. This is most likely due to a rise in anti-intellectualism as well as misinformation spread by the mainstream media. Nonetheless, it is the responsibility of those who care to advocate a full on Climate Mobilization.

[–]retapeoj 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Optimistic person here - I think we're about to experience an incredible evolution of our species driven by the mass adoption of renewable energy development which will enable a tremendous reduction in ongoing energy costs and eventually the ability for society to invest in people, creativity and exploration.

[–]factczech 1 point2 points  (2 children)

A question for lughnasadh:

You state that "If it bleads it leads." Why do you think humans evolved to pay attention to such things? Could it be useful somehow?

[–]lughnasadh∞ transit umbra, lux permanet ☥[S] 7 points8 points  (1 child)

The argument I've heard for this, is that evolution has designed us with a heightened sense to focus on danger & drama and ignore the mundane.

Very useful for 100,000 of years when predators could attack at any moment; less useful now when it's an adrenaline button we can't stop pressing.

[–]iCeeYouCee 5 points6 points  (0 children)

This! We never read in the news "Breaking: Golden Gate Bridge safely carries millions across San Francisco Bay."

We always pay attention to the bad stuff happening, the negative stuff happening because, like /u/lughnasadh said, it's in our genes to pay attention to the unusual. If you spot two eyes in the darkness, you're going to become defensive. Unless it's some major technological, social, or governmental advancement, we don't hear positive news unless we actively seek it out. It seems like the world is in constant decay, when in fact, we created a vaccine for Ebola and millions of people's living standards are rising everyday.

While I do believe our current model of presumed infinite growth is unsustainable, I'm optimistic enough that we'll adjust to become a democratic socialist society. What consequences there will be for people when the upheaval happens, I don't know.

[–]stumo 0 points1 point  (4 children)

I've been so intent on discussion that I failed to notice the spiffy debate graphic on the sidebar. Wow, is that ever nice. Okay, you guys win.

I joke, of course, but wow...

[–]lughnasadh∞ transit umbra, lux permanet ☥[S] 3 points4 points  (2 children)

Glad you like it, here's the source

I'm a big fan and admirer of Taoist thought. Yin & Yang and their eternal duality seems a very good metaphor for our debate.

[–]stumo 7 points8 points  (1 child)

Yeah, the Taoists were froods who really knew where their towels were at.

[–]_Hopped_Daisy, Daisy 2 points3 points  (7 children)

With the advent of WMDs, we cannot afford a nuclear armed society to collapse.

Take Russia for example: they've invaded and annexed part of Ukraine. In a pre-nuclear world Europe or the USA would not have stood for this, and retaliated against Russia - possibly seeking to collapse the country. However, because Russia has nuclear weapons capable of attacking anywhere on the face of the planet, nothing of substance was done.

For better or worse, humanity is more tightly bound than ever. We will either conquer the stars or it will be the end of the line for all of us.

[–]boytjie 2 points3 points  (6 children)

we cannot afford a nuclear armed society to collapse.

I can visualise a collapse scenario, but I don’t think it will go nuclear. A reassuring note regarding nuclear options come from War Games (the Pentagon gamed many scenarios). War Games (despite their name) are deadly serious. They are modelled by the Pentagon (all militaries play them) as a simulation of the posture to be adopted by a country in the face of a real-world crisis. The results would go into a dossier in Pentagon archives. They are kept up to date to account for changing world events. They are not shoot-em-up video games. In a typical setup the opposing sides face off all overseen by a God-like ‘control’ who dictates weather, terrain and different situations (this was primarily during the Cold War). Control would force the players into impossible situations trying to force the nuclear option. Human players seldom went nuclear. To overcome this, control had to use computers to invoke nuclear options. Then the ‘game’ could continue.

I don’t know how true this is, but in Israel’s 6 day war the nation was caught by surprise and scrambled to defend itself. At one point the nation was staring defeat in the face (consequences of defeat of Israel by Arabs would be severe). The prime minister of the time was asked permission by Israeli generals to deploy the nuclear option. Permission was refused even though the country was staring at defeat with drastic consequences. In the event it wasn’t needed.

[–]_Hopped_Daisy, Daisy 1 point2 points  (5 children)

It's not the rapid collapse which concerns me (War Games scenarios), but rather the slow decline and gradually increasing instability of a nuclear armed nation/group. If this nation were to gradually be starved of resources they could see nothing being left to be lost by going nuclear (North Korea seems the most likely candidate currently).

However, cooler heads could prevail. The real doomsday scenario would be if there were world-wide resource scarcity. Then every nation would be on edge and less likely to remain calm should one nation go nuclear.