Thursday, April 23, 2009

thinking it through...

Watched a very interesting movie yesterday - The 11th Hour. watch it whenever you get the chance. Informative, eye-opening - and very, very scary.

It got me thinking - let's look at the future, logically.
The Earth's ecosystems are collapsing under the pressure of human civilization. We use too many resources, generate too much waste. We do this because our culture has a built-in greed; a desire to have more things. We don't treat clean air, genetic health, fresh water, and a future as things. So, we have our cars, houses, entertainment, possessions, and desires that come at their expense. It doesn't affect us - yet.

Take this to it's logical conclusion.
The first world -
Will we, as individuals, choose a slower, less versatile, and more expensive car because it's electric? Eat premium, organic foods? Probably. Will large corporations do the same?
The developing nations -
No. They aspire to the first world. Making all the same mistakes, but at a scale several hundred times greater because of the populations.

The Earth will continue to warm. Ice caps will melt, forests will vanish, weather systems will collapse.
Flooding. Famines. Natural disasters. Plagues.
Huge losses of life.
Markets for the first world literally die, or slide into such a wretched condition they are no longer viable. Companies collapse.
Food supplies - and natural resource supplies - dry up.
Economic systems collapse in the first world.
As resources get more scarce, large scale wars will erupt over those few remaining resources. The first world will inevitably win, because they have greater technology. The third world will continue to subsist in unwanted areas until they die.
But the Earth doesn't differentiate on economic parameters. Living conditions will worsen equally everywhere. Developed countries may use tech to stave off the worst of it for a while - but that's expensive. Resources will continue to shrink to the point that wars will come to the developed countries. And plagues. And failing health - sterility. Drastic population decline. Coupled with a collapse in Law & Order. Anarchy.

Regression to self-sustaining systems. When large-scale systems fail, in an anarchic system, it's very difficult to rebuild them. But self-sustaining systems - unless seeded and very, very well-prepared - don't really use very high-end tech, or don't need it. A large global one must be technologically developed. A self-contained community need not be.

But even after a complete collapse of large scale systems, the Earth won't heal so fast. A couple of centuries, possibly millenia. Will unused tech be remembered until then?

This is, of course, assuming that life-sustaining conditions can survive. If the average temperature rises to over 250 degrees C, there's not much tech can do, in a failed economic system.

Space habitats? Unlikely. On Earth? Maybe. Sealed communities. Generation ships in the desert. Working on history's second terraforming project, trying to undo the inadvertent first.

And yes - 90% of all existing life on Earth will die. I really don't see any way that can be averted.

The Drake Equation states - mathematically - that intelligent life will arise, again and again, in the universe. Observed evidence shows there isn't. So there's some factor missing - either intelligent life doesn't arise so easily, or dies very easily. And I guess we can see why.

And as they said - this is our finest hour. We know we can beat this, solve the ecological crisis, develop spacefaring ability, and go out there. And find thousands of dead or barbaric civilizations, who couldn't do what we did.
It can be our destiny to be Gods. And if we succeed - but that's another story.

Read this. It's awesome.
Rare Earth Hypothesis
The Drake Equation
The Fermi Paradox

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