Wednesday, February 26

The Sheeple Look Up

I’m going to say right up front that this post is based on a piece I heard on NPR this past Monday.  Now, I could wait until a transcript comes out to verify what I remember about the story, but in lieu of presenting you that level of journalistic professionalism I will resort to flying by the seat of my pants and going on pure memory.  Another caveat is that I have a horrible memory for conversations and dialogues.  I remember geographic spaces better than anyone, but I shy away from arguments about who said what.

Anyway, the premise of the story was that Facebook recently bought WhatsApp for a cool $19 billion and WhatsApp had a staggering 55 employees.  The question asked was: if we have a shortage of jobs, and 55 people can operate a business worth $19 billion (versus 145,000 jobs that Kodak boasted at one time in ancient history) then what’s going to happen to jobs in the future as technology replaces more and more workers?

One of the ding-a-lings actually had the audacity to say that in the future we’re going to actually have more wealth to go around and people (in a general sense) won’t have to work as much.  His point was that everyonewould be rich.  I don’t know where he thinks we’re going to get all of our food and energy from, and which rich nations are going to relinquish their disproportionate shares of wealth willingly.*

But then as the piece went on and none of those involved in the discussion seemed to be hitting the rightrelevant topics I had a wonderful but horrific premonition: society will collapse, but technology and the energy infrastructure will remain.  As long as there are a few smart cookies that can band together and put together a mini-energy grid, then a society of technophiles could be able to rise from the ashes and quite possibly thrive in a post-apocalyptic utopia.



My daydreams kept being muddled by ripples of the original impetus—the NPR story—and the diatribe that spouted from my car stereo speakers just added more and more fuel to the smoldering fire of my discouragement.  These smart guys were arguing sci-fi concepts that don’t jive with real-world physics. 

There’s no way that the entire planet can live like Americans.  We don’t have the Terran carrying-capacity.  There’s no way that the Developed world will ever share wealth without what it considers fair compensation.  And the Developing world will never afford that rate because the system is stacked in such a way that it can’t. 

The fact is: world population continues to grow.

The fact is: wealth continues to be concentrated in places where it already exists.

The fact is: modern wealth is based on a fossil fuel economy.

The fact is: fossil fuels, while not necessarily finite in the broader sense, will decline in availability compounding the problem of population growth.

I’m in a strange camp in that I believe the endowment of oil, natural gas, coal, and other non-renewables are the result of the Noahic flood.  All of the sediment that would have been put down on top of the recently dead organic material can easily explain fossil fuel deposits.  Combine that with scientific evidence that it doesn’t take millions of years for nature to create new pockets of fossil fuels and you have another conundrum.

While fossil fuels can be created in shorter periods of time than had long ago been concluded, it still takes a tremendous amount of energy (in the form of gravitationally generated pressure) to make it.  Ultimately fossil fuels are simply nature’s batteries.  Humanity cannot cost-effectively make fossil fuel equivalents.  Cannot.  We have to put more energy into any process to “create” energy than we can get out of it.  Thermodynamics.  A simple understanding of thermodynamics will reveal all you need to know about why humanity is headed for an energy cliff.

People we have now + more people = more energy demand.

Energy supply – energy usage = less energy available.

Less energy available ≠ future energy demand.

What this means is simply that we need to do two things: 1) stop making more people than we can feed, clothe, warm, and entertain, and 2) find ways to use energy sources that are truly renewable.  What that boils down to (LOVE THE PUNS!) is that we have to look to the sun. Right at it.  Burn your retinas to a crisp.  It’s the sun, stupid.  Instead of “Friends of Coal” we need “Friends of Sol.”

Wind is a product of solar warming.  It counts.  Hydro-electric energy is a product of solar energy (evaporation) and gravity (precipitation and flow).  Geothermal energy is somewhat a product of solar energy as well.  We need to get away from nature’s batteries and move to nature’s energy sources.

And we need to stop putting such a huge demand on the earth’s built infrastructure by reducing the overall increase in population.  We could still fulfill the divine mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” by focusing on smaller families in Third World countries, and on families in the Developed world being no more than five (total) in size.  I'm not an expert on this, but there are viable strategies out there.

My view is probably not popular, but despite my inadequacies in articulating it, there is a lot of rational basis for it (I've gone back and added some links).  I apologize for my lack of citation, but only justify it because my knowledge base spans so many different writings and other media sources and is mainly an amalgamation of them all that I find it hard to pin down specific sources.  And I’m a bit lazy.  This is my blog and no one’s paying me for the quality of research employed.  In fact, I need to go and give my research team a few good lashes to get them in gear.
 

*The thing that really scares me about the notion that we already have the technology to feed the entire world is that I believe the technology being referred to is what is employed by the likes of Monsanto and it’s (few) contemporaries.  I don’t think they mean “technology” in the sense that robots will pick the organic vegetables growing in your garden in the future, but that vast monocultures which are “designed” for better yield and which demand huge fossil fuel inputs will reduce the need for human energy to harvest and will “create more wealth” to spread around.

In a related vein, I’ve been reading The Sheep Look Up by John BrunnerWow!  It was first published in 1972 but it really paints a vibrant picture that looks like our own washed out version of reality.  While things aren’t as dire as Brunner portrays (but only by degrees as it is definitely the same flavor of slow catastrophe we’re experiencing), it still seems like a prophetic imagining of our modern world. 

If you're confused about my politics...don't be.  I don't align myself with the Right or the Left.  I believe in God but I also believe in common sense.  That means I can't abide the Right-wing agenda to co-op my religious beliefs in order to rob the masses of their life-energy.  In like manner, I don't buy into what is a very distinct liberal agenda to mandate that everyone's views should align with the Left.  Freedom is the freedom to choose what to believe.


"Most had come by bus, and a few among these had brought folding cycles that fitted in a bus's baggage compartment, but the majority were on foot." ~The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner

"STOP, YOU'RE KILLING ME!" (message etched on cars by protestors in The Sheep Look Up)

"...these people believed their way of life was the best in the world and were prepared to export it at the point of a gun." ~The Sheep Look Up

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