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Wealth & Economics > Overpopulation or Fertility Bust?

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message 1: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan I remember through the 1970s and for awhile after that, overpopulation was the doom du jour.

Now, however, fertility has taken a dive. REF: https://ifstudies.org/blog/baby-bust-...

Thoughts?


message 2: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16088 comments Yes, the West is 'dying' and generally it seems more comfortable living results in smaller families. There are/will be overpopulation 'pockets', but on a global scale the tendencies are opposite. Hope it never happens, but disasters or wars may change things back to rise of fertility, where it's low..


message 3: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6184 comments Is lower population putting less stress on natural resources?


message 4: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Natural resource consumption is technology dependent. With better technology you can consume fewer resources to produce more valuable outputs.

Population is a factor.

Resource/material substitution is a factor.


message 5: by Graeme (last edited May 18, 2018 11:42PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Nik wrote: "Yes, the West is 'dying' and generally it seems more comfortable living results in smaller families. There are/will be overpopulation 'pockets', but on a global scale the tendencies are opposite. H..."

Dying is too strong a word. We are transforming from societies dominated by a large cohort of young people (classic pyramid) to societies where the median age is in the forties and there are a substantial number of old people. (Vertical rectangle)

Japan is the key indicator of the future. Stagnant economy. Stagnant, and/or reducing population. Increasing Technology. There is still activity there is still wealth - it's just different and our concepts of "economic growth," are becoming superseded by events.


message 6: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments Scout wrote: "Is lower population putting less stress on natural resources?"

No. Currently, resource usage is increasing, the reason being that there is a huge undeveloped population wanting to join the technological society. There are about a billion Chinese and another billion Indians wanting more. What will happen is that while technology will make things last longer, and recycling will increase, most resources will get seriously more expensive. The answer to this, in my view, is actually to design things so they have along life. The idea that a laptop has to be thrown away because the battery can't be replaced is not, in my opinion, conducive to better resource usage. Most things are no longer repaired because it is cheaper to buy a new one, but that must change.


message 7: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6184 comments When I've replaced a laptop, it's not because of a dead battery. It's because the new one has more capacity to do the things I need it to do. I still have my two previous laptops because I don't have a place to recycle them, and I don't know how to delete everything to make it safe.


message 8: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments Yes, computers are a pain. I have a collection going back to 1985, and I have kept them for no other reason than (a) we don't have a good waste system, and (b) they are the only means of reading what is on the early floppy disks.


message 9: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6184 comments So recycling computers isn't really being done, and the elements in them are sitting in people's houses instead of being recycled. Any solutions to this? What is your idea about repairing things? And how do you make a computer have a longer life?


message 10: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments The problem with these old computers is they simply do not have the power. The early ones did not even know the internet exists because then, it really didn't. They could be recycled to the extent the elements in them could be recovered, but so far it is not economic, at least here. I think repairing things is good, but they have to be designed with that in mind. Some of these laptops, etc are so designed you can't even replace the battery. They have to be designed with repairs and upgrades, etc, in mind.


message 11: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6184 comments Well, wouldn't that hit a company's bottom line? They make more money from selling you a new computer. What would motivate them to change?


message 12: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments Scout wrote: "Well, wouldn't that hit a company's bottom line? They make more money from selling you a new computer. What would motivate them to change?"

In my futuristic novel, the rule was you could not buy a new one unless the old one was unfixable, or unfit for purpose. As they got really old, they increased in value because someone could buy it and trade it in for a new one.


message 13: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments One additional point about overpopulation is that I have just seen a couple of scientific papers that indicate fungi (including moulds and rusts) are starting to get immune to our fungicides and the same is happening with pesticides. We may not have the same productivity in food if this gets significantly worse. Once evolution shows a way out for the pests, etc, they will take it, and our modern agriculture may have to resort to techniques more like those of the 19th century to deal with these problems.


message 14: by Rita (new)

Rita Chapman | 154 comments Over-population is the single biggest problem in the world today. From Africa to China to South America populations are increasing at an alarming rate. Agricultural land and animal habitat are being used for housing and a large portion of the world are starving. It's high time our foreign aid was linked to contraception requirements, as it was many years ago.


message 15: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Rita, the reason I created this thread is because of the collision of the established idea of "over-population," with the fact of declining fertility.

Check these articles,

REF: Our World in Data .org: "The decline of the fertility rate is one of the most fundamental social changes that happened in human history. It is therefore especially surprising how very rapidly this transition can indeed happen."

and

REF: Stratfor: "So here we are now, with a global fertility rate of just 2.5 – roughly half of what it was 50 years ago. Today, 46% of the world's population lives in countries that are below the average global replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman."

The concept of the threat of overpopulation was popularized in the 1970s by Paul Ehrlich, and groups like the Club of Rome.

In my POV, this position has been superseded by the advent of a rapid and continuing decline in human fertility.

The world has moved on and the views established in the 1970s are no longer relevant.


message 16: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments Hi Graeme, your world data does show a dramatic decline in births but it is from an unacceptably high level. It currently cites 2.5 births per woman, and that is not low enough to produce a decline, and of course some countries are still overproducing.

WE may already be overpopulated for sustainability. Our food production relies heavily on oil energy and a number of chemicals, such as pesticides and fungicides, but the pests and fungi are starting to get immune to these. Yes, we may discover more, but the only delays the overall issue. If sea levels rise and take out prime agricultural land, food could well be a problem unless we can get our act together and cooperatively improve transport and distribution.

The background of the 1970s is wrong, but that does not make the conclusions inherently wrong. As Aristotle showed, you can reach a true conclusion from totally wrong information.


message 17: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan If we take the UN data as a reasonable starting point, they are up to date on the declining fertility.

REF UN Data: https://www.un.org/development/desa/p...


My position is that as societies move forward into economic development that the fertility levels will drop markedly, and I suspect above current expectations resulting in the lower levels of total population growth, which will ultimately peak, and then decline.


message 18: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Another factor impacting fertility is the recorded drop in sperm count across the developed world - cause still unknown.

REF: Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-he...


message 19: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6184 comments I agree with you Rita. You said: "Over-population is the single biggest problem in the world today. From Africa to China to South America populations are increasing at an alarming rate. Agricultural land and animal habitat are being used for housing and a large portion of the world are starving. It's high time our foreign aid was linked to contraception requirements, as it was many years ago."

Who has statistics to show that world population is declining? Show them if you find them. I agree with Rita that foreign aid should be linked to contraception requirements. The poorest countries have the largest populations. Why should that be encouraged?


message 20: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments Fertility is not the issue over population is.

https://ourworldindata.org/world-popu...

Add to the food production the significant decline in flora and fauna species due to expanding use by humans primarily loss of habitat. Sprinkle in the use of plastics and global warming and a bit less fertility would be a good idea. With a lower population we can have more food per head, not that the world's obese developed population needs more food but Asia and Africa do

Some more info on population density

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

Contraception reduces population growth. Better health care increases it alongside lower death rates you then get a double bubble. Just because a few western developed countries have low fertility does not mean their populations are not increasing. UK has 1.81 birth rate (2015) but its population has more than doubled since 1901. This is entirely due to reductions in death rates at every age group, thus increasing population growth. In the period 1991 to 2016 net migration added 4.5 million additional people via that route (birth rate has also increased as migrants have settled). The UK is probably already over 70 million.

The figures for virtually every country show increases.


message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments The death rate will eventually catch up, because everyone dies. Currently, better health care is extending life, and that lifts the population until births and deaths reach an equilibrium value, but after that, any birth rate < about 2.25 leads to a slow population decline.


message 22: by Graeme (last edited Jun 04, 2018 02:54PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Philip, Ian, my contention is that declining fertility and hence declining birth rates will become the dominant issue in the future.

Population growth trends will undershoot predictions, and then turn and decline, and aging of the population will continue to increase until a new equilibrium is reached where there are fewer people than currently expected, and on average, older people than expected.


message 23: by Terence (last edited Jun 04, 2018 03:05PM) (new)

Terence Park | 44 comments Graeme wrote: "I remember through the 1970s
however, fertility has taken a dive..."


World population has grown between 4 x and 5 x since the 1950s. I would characterise our impact on the Earth's biosphere as grotesque. There's a lot to debate, eg what can prevent our civilisation collapsing in on itself? There's the lifespan of fossil fuels – measured in decades – trouble will build long before we get to the last drop – fracking is just the beginning. Then there's bio-degradable plastic which doesn't actually bio-degrade. These and other issues are magnified by a population explosion (not birth rate) that won't peak for a few decades. What can prevent us turning the oceans into open sewers?
go back to 2012 and there was a gyre of plastic pollution in the centre of the Pacific about 2 x the size of France. When the oceanic systems break down we're in big trouble.
It doesn't worry me as most of these are knowns – we'll either kludge some kind of fix or die in out own filth – I just incorporate it as fiction :-)


message 24: by Lena (new)

Lena | 607 comments 67DCCC96-7EF7-4519-A74E-4D25C9C074DF.jpg


message 25: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan BTW: There is nothing wrong with the current data, I just think the projections forward underplay the developing problem around fertility for both males and females.


message 26: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments Hi Graeme, Terence, et al. There is a case that the decrease in fertility is due in part to solution, and in part to people leaving the decision to have children until later. However, the depletion of resources is real, and in this case, fracking has given the wrong message. The argument that oil will run out is obvious, but when was never clear. Peak oil was a sign, not that it was running out, but that we would have to learn to live with less, until fracking used a new resource. This gave the message there is an unlimited supply of new resources for everything, and there is not. But that doesn't mean we suddenly run out - it means it will get progressively harder to meet demand.

As an example, I have posted about cobalt. There is no current shortage of cobalt, but production cannot be expanded significantly with what we know now. If you want lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles for all, a massive expansion is required and it just isn't there.

Similarly, if we keep heating the planet, the sea levels will rise and wipe out a lot of prime agricultural land. We can get through this, easily enough if we make the effort, but when you have politicians that bend towards the "jam now" lot, we are in trouble.


message 27: by Graeme (last edited Jun 04, 2018 05:03PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Ian, wrt to any resource, as the available reserves (at the current price) become exhausted, the price goes up, and previously non-economic reserves will get mined and sold at the higher price.

This will continue until high prices squash demand, force material and technical substitution, or new resource recovery techniques open up new supply, etc.

A lot of these problems will be solved by scarcity forcing substitution.

Don't forget that all this is occurring in a broader framework of ongoing technical advancement that will produce changes that we are not able to effectively predict.


message 28: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments Hi Graeme, Yes, as supplies drop, prices rise, and previous non-economic reserves become economic. Trouble is, for some of these, there are no known lesser reserves. The easily mined phosphates run out when the Morocco deposits dry up. Cobalt is currently obtained from copper dross - there are no real cobalt deposits. There are plenty of elements, but the problem is, they are starting to get horribly dilute, which means a lot of energy and pollution to get at them. It is not going to be that easy, at last as far as the geophysical experts say.


message 29: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6184 comments Isn't this drain on natural resources exacerbated by rising population? I realize that there will be an adjustment period if births decrease, but shouldn't we be aiming at least for maintaining our population and not growing it? Resources would still be depleted, but at a slower rate, giving us more time to improvise and find solutions.


message 30: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments The more consumers, the greater the depletion.


message 31: by Terence (new)

Terence Park | 44 comments Hi Ian, Graeme and all.
Things I've (we've all) been aware of a long time but just blank out: on plastic pollution, chemically produced goods can and do last a very long time; an industrial chemist once put it so: a bottle of unopened pop, cast into the sea, will be there when the very last trumpet is blown. We can step outside the box and look at it as a system
1) if it lasts 1,000 years plus then we need to plan a way to reuse or recycle
2) we have to rethink clothes, disposable products of all kinds (including carrier bags)... anything that comes from the chemical industry - in particular this applies to supermarkets - they are box-shifters and their choices have industrial consequences for distribution.
3) we need to kick-start a clean up process. That's a lot of work on a global scale. Few realise that most non-Western nations don't have a properly developed infrastructure for handling rubbish; we take it for granted.
4) Help! I'm being sucked into a maelstrom of eco-responsibility!!
Other things: chemicals definitely generate spurts of growth, and feed more, but are embedded in the food chain... more and more these are held accountable for the rise in 'civilised diseases' in the West (my wife, after checking out something called The China Study, went vegan). That leads to Franken-DNA - farming has long
shaped crops (and animal)s to a point where they would no longer survive in the wild. We have long passed the point where a mistake in the cycle of management has severe implications in our larders and we're passing the point where a misjudgement in research could profoundly harm us and, once in the wild, deliver unknowable and uncontrollable effects on biodiversity. This calls to mind our experience of dealing with invasive species: Japanese Knotweed European rabbits (Australia, New Zealand) - sorry didn't mean to bang on about this,
Population wise the planet would do fine were we to just drift back to 500 million-ish. I don't, however, see it 'just drifting' there; there are sorts of mindsets and agencies set against that. It's a minefield... but brilliant material to inspire stories of gloom and doom.


message 32: by Jared (new)

Jared Bernard | 10 comments This thread is fascinating to me because I have been reading about these topics for many years. I'm a biologist, having studied in many different ecosystems, and I recently wrote a novel that forecasts the future based entirely on current science and societal trends. Across the fields of ecology, environmental science, hydrology, and climatology there are various models, which are in part what were used to arrive at the 1.5-degree marker at the COP21 a couple years ago. My book combines all those models to predict what the world will likely be like in one or two centuries if society carries on business-as-usual. Essentially, there are several ways that we are impacting biodiversity and the abiotic factors that make the biosphere habitable, some of which Ian, Graeme, and Terrance mentioned. Researchers generally agree about the impact we have on our planet, but in the decaded after the book "The Population Bomb" was released some researchers felt the population issue wasn't the most important aspect of these trends. However, now the population crisis is again more recognized as being a major factor in how severe the various impacts we have are.


message 33: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments I have also written some futuristic novels where some of the problems have to be dealt with, but of course the story is more important, and the story is usually where someone tries to mess up the good guys.

Terence, you may be interested that one of my earliest ventures into industrial effort was, on request from a client, to invent a process for recycling plastics. What it would do was to take used plastics, separate them, decolourise them (more or less - there was always a faint beige) and produce a product almost as good as virgin plastics. This never took off, and the reasons were two-fold. First, it became obvious that the producers were starting to modify their polymers, which meant the process had to be continuously tweaked, which in turn meant that the processor had to maintain a high level of scientific expertise. The second reason was that NZ, being a small market, suddenly became a dumping ground by the majors. You could buy virgin plastic here about $300 a tonne less than anywhere else, which made such recycling very uneconomic. There was a process redesign, and the company did recycle for about twenty years, but overall, there is a limit to how many plastic buckets, black film, and fence posts your can sell. Quite simply, plastics recycling, while plausible, runs into difficulties when the majors simply do things that makes the whole exercise extremely difficult to make money. Remember, many of the plastics use starting materials that are essentially otherwise waste streams from the big refineries, so they can always undercut on price. Right now, our economic structures make it very difficult to make money recycling, other than some special situations that actually make a huge amount of waste.


message 34: by Terence (new)

Terence Park | 44 comments Ian wrote: "Right now, our economic structures make it very difficult to make money recycling"

I work with an industrial chemist giving me a slight insight into the the issue. As you pointed out, the problem begins with the use of by-products. At a high level this shouldn't present insurmountable challenges, with appropriate regulation - textiles etc from the chemical industry could still be in play, at lower quantities; but this would require a major volte-face by the big players. Dip into vested interests (tedious) and dip out.
How do you redesign a world society that implicitly endorses go forth an multiply (see the Toba Event and estimates of the bottleneck in human DNA that that caused). In many senses the only advances we've made beyond 'advanced, club wielding primate' are in tools; by comparison our planetary stewardship skills are vestigial. If we want to go to the stars, we've given ourselves some great challenges here on Earth - to which figuring out the planets and moons in our system is an added bonus. Putting on my Hat of Northern Wit it's too tempting to not point out we'd much rather enjoy and be happy by, say, squandering limited resources on the internal combustion engine :-)
Agreeing with others, the principle of of work it out or (just play devil's advocate) is best trialled in fiction.


message 35: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments Terence, it certainly is interesting writing fiction about it. I found I had to really think, but of course we can't really imagine the future. I rather think that anyone looking back at what what I have done a hundred years in the future will at the least be shaking his/her head a little at how we have behaved. In my case, I have tried to make things better, but politics and the establishment really does not permit much progress on anything other than the big boys making money


message 36: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan I have long held the view that we really only have one shot at creating an enduring high technology civilization.

The civilization we have right now, was built over the last two hundred years on the availability of cheap and easily accessible energy.

That's largely gone now, so if we blow it, and descend back to a pre-industrial technology level - that's it.

We'll never get back to where we are now.


message 37: by Terence (new)

Terence Park | 44 comments Graeme wrote: "I have long held the view that we really only have one shot ..."

Fair comment


message 38: by Terence (new)

Terence Park | 44 comments Ian wrote: "we can't really imagine the future"
Or we can but usually get it wrong. LOL
Seriously, we are the authors of our own doom. We can zip back in time to Plato who got it that the administration of man's affairs invariably went off the rails. The problem lies in the voice of the mob - think of us as not as individuals but herds of humanity, following whim and making irrational demands that government must make sense of. A stable society survives by rationing what is spent on flights of fancy - someone always pays. Plato's fix was the philosopher king The Republic. Note that Plato had little time for poets, playwrights and rhapsodes (if you're into that kind of thing Aristotle's Poetics gives fixes on common literary mistakes of the time). Technological change ushers in the age of augurs, of all flavours: economic, social even good old SF writers, charting the future. The social spendthrifts are the ones to watch, they'll spend, spend, spend with an exaggerated opinion of the benefits they can bring and no notion of prudence.
The writing side of this is down to personal predilection. I've a business background and I’ve seen my fair share of downs (as well as ups). Take the trouble to understand what drives events and you've got a mechanism; to slot into a tasty doom-laden, dystopic apocalypse. For well regarded tellings, look no further than the prisms of J.G. Ballard, John Wyndham and HG Wells (The War of the Worlds (a masterful account of societal breakdown).
It’s easy to get bogged down in realism and drift into why am I writing this? territory. Where does it go? Has anything been said? The great virtue of Golden Age SF was a can-do approach to problems. Never lose that - so my take is leave a sliver of hope - maybe mankind is on the way to fixing the mess he made, maybe he will get to the stars. Maybe navel gazing serves some useful purpose (just joking).


message 39: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16088 comments Decline in fertility make cloning and alternative reproduction technologies quite attractive.
As of the future - if the decline continues, fertile dudes might be in high demand 100 years from now with fertility replacing looks and wits alike -:)


message 40: by Jared (new)

Jared Bernard | 10 comments Graeme, I think I agree with your assessment. In my opinion, we are approaching what I think of as "peak-technology" and "peak-consumerism," similar to peak-oil (which we are also passing right now). I'm basing this on consumer rates and rapidly depleting reserves of resources required for virtually any form of technology. I'm also accounting for affluence trends and remaining natural resources, influenced of course by the population crisis. I therefore expect that instead of a high-tech future as is portrayed in most sci-fi, the future will be almost tech-less, as Graeme suggested. You see some of this in dystopian fiction such as zombie or apocalyptic work, but without any fuel or oil (remember peak-oil). This is how I forecast the future in my novel Killing Juggernaut. In this fiction, there is nobody to blame, no bad guy or smoking gun like in Hollywood. Instead we are all culpable. It follows three main characters as they fight to survive the collapsing environment and civilization.


message 41: by Jared (new)

Jared Bernard | 10 comments By the way, primary reasons behind any declines in population growth rate are biological. I mentioned that I'm a biologist. I have read about persistent organic pollutants and plastic pollutants, etc. These are definitely important to both human and environmental health, but they are not likely responsible for the decline in population growth rate that we see in some places around the world such as some first world nations. Instead, you can look to population biology to see how growth rate curve models project precisely the patterns we see for humans. Using these population growth curves, we will expect the population growth rate to drop as natural resources are exhausted. By these models, the human population is expected to have stationary growth by the end of the century. Not to shamelessly promote myself too much, but I go into much more detail on thus in my novel Killing Juggernaut. I show how there will be a downward trajectory in our population after that.


message 42: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments I still disagree on the fertility line. The reduction in fertility is almost entirely due to the use of contraception including abortion in the developed world. This has meant not only fewer children born during peak fertility but males and females delaying the decision to have children which also reduces the likelihood of them succeeding.

In an apocalypse contraception options will also disappear, therefore birthrates are likely to increase alongside death rates due to lack of medical care. I take as evidence the number of babies showing up in refugee camps from Syria. The embattled populations have continued to reproduce despite the circumstances.

There is some evidence that the contraceptive pill is declining male fertility due to the water system but this may be due to later reproductive action correlation not necessarily causation.

For the rapidly growing populations in the developing world there also has to be a significant cultural (and religious) change from as many children as possible (no contraception availability) so that a few survive to 2-3 is enough. Although the preponderance of male children in China is having other affects.

Meanwhile even if fertility is declining we may get to 11 Billion before there is a net reduction. With improvements in healthcare and food production those 11 billion will consume and try to get to first world levels of consumerism (look at China and the middle class in India). I'm not sure the planet can cope with 5-6 Billion first world consumers given the state with 2-3. Just the impact of plastic waste and CO2 emissions are bad enough. The rarity of resources is not just confined to elements but also fresh water. You need a lot of water to be a first world consumer.


message 43: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16088 comments Jared wrote: "Not to shamelessly promote myself too much,.."

Of course, not


message 44: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16088 comments For all I know, demographics are uneven and have opposite tendencies in different locations. Knowing Ukraine, this looks about right to me: https://qz.com/1187819/country-rankin...
As there are countries discouraging birth, there are those paying parents sizable bonuses for every newborn (Ukraine, Russia come to mind).


message 45: by Terence (new)

Terence Park | 44 comments "see the Toba Event and estimates of the bottleneck in human DNA that that caused"

With hindsight I could have spelled out the implications of Toba. This occurred some 75,000 years back, just at the time anthropologists posit a population bottleneck in humanity. They estimate the DNA no more than 10,000 breeding pairs of that time are what we are descended from. Toba is classified as an 8 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volcani...
and it spewed 2,000 km³ of ignimbrite (ground hugging and superheated) and 800 km³ of ash which fell in South Asia forming a 6" layer. Pollen analysis suggests prolonged deforestation in South Asia - Toba is in Indonesia. Ice core samples from Greenland and from Antarctica show an acidity spike; backward looking charts of sea level show it dropping consistently from that point in time until 20,000 years back - this being the maximum point in the last ice age.
There's a Toba level event every 50,000 years - Toba is one of the largest in the last 20 million years.
* * *
Nice story stuff which I appropriated for A Guide to First Contact.
(warning: will take more than one sitting to consume!)
A Guide to First Contact by T.P. Archie


message 46: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Two things to remember in all this.

[1] Every single past prediction of human doom has been 100% wrong.

[2] Predicting doom is a perennial favorite of our civilization and has been happening for a very long time. Humans love stories of doom, with a sliver of hope.


message 47: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Jared wrote: "Graeme, I think I agree with your assessment. In my opinion, we are approaching what I think of as "peak-technology" and "peak-consumerism," similar to peak-oil (which we are also passing right now..."

Hi Jared, I take the view that computer models of any phenomenon are typically scenarios at best.

In an engineering environment, we use models to explore the impacts of changes, however we are dealing with tightly constrained parameters and very well understood physics.

The thing about human population studies and projections over the rest of the 21st century is the inability to model technical and social/cultural innovation and the impacts of that on human society.

I.e. there are useful models and then there are scenario generators that will fail to have 'skill,' in modeling the future as important parameters are not included in the model.

My personal view is that if we really could get a glimpse of the Earth in 2100, we would all be utterly surprised. As surprised as a prognosticator at the end of the Victorian era would be by us.


message 48: by Philip (last edited Jun 06, 2018 10:47AM) (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments I hope you are all correct. I look at trend analysis with actual data. Yes its a predictive model but based on trends of last five hundred years or last 100. I don't like the forecast on trend. For fertility to prevent continuing population rise or, human culture or some other external we have to fly in the face of the trend. What event triggers the change of behaviour? That's what I'm struggling to see. Will humans develop new power sources - probably. Will humans be more generous in distributing resources - probably not. Will human ability to survive be tested - probably. Will human invention resolve some of the issues - I sure hope so.




message 49: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11806 comments Graeme wrote: "Two things to remember in all this.

[1] Every single past prediction of human doom has been 100% wrong.

[2] Predicting doom is a perennial favorite of our civilization and has been happening for..."


Hi Graeme, I would add the thought that every prediction of human utopia has also been proven to be wrong, and basically every prediction of the longer term future ends up wrong, although some allege Nostradamus got a bit right. But overall, we are a lot of crappy soothsayers.


message 50: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Ian wrote: "Hi Graeme, I would add the thought that every prediction of human utopia has also been proven to be wrong, and basically every prediction of the longer term future ends up wrong, although some allege Nostradamus got a bit right. But overall, we are a lot of crappy soothsayers...."

Neither Utopia or Dystopia.

Predicting the past is a lot easier than predicting the future.


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