2 of 5
2
We’re doomed!
Posted: 30 October 2008 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  122
Joined  2008-06-20

I can’t really say that I disagree with you Chris, however, as Doug pointed out: “it’s a counsel of despair and so not of much real use to contemplate.”

I guess if we’re doomed to fail, there is nothing you or I could do to change it.

 Signature 

I’m not sayin’....
I’m just sayin’....

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  459
Joined  2007-06-19
Chris Crawford - 29 October 2008 03:06 PM

China has already overtaken the USA as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases—and China has no intention of retarding its growth by controlling CO2 emissions. India is in the same position. And the rest of the Third World is also going to be dramatically increasing its use of fossil fuels. So do you really think humanity will EVER reduce its CO2 emissions?

You are underestimating the benefical impact of global recesion on the environment wink

Seriously, we manage to survive in the past without having to adopt a colectivistic approach because the rise in productivity. We could feed the babyboomers because the improvements in agro and livestock production.

We certainly face a challenge: we need a hughe scientific and technical revolution in order to find safe, cheap and clean energy sources. We need scientific and technical innovations to survive, but I am still not willing to say that we won’t find the way.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 08:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1995
Joined  2008-09-18

Barto, my concern is not with our ability to find technical solutions to the problems we face, but our inability to find the social, cultural, or attitudinal changes necessary to cope with them. Deep down inside, we are Paleolithic hunter-gatherers fooling around with high technology, and we really don’t know what we’re doing. We’re faking it when we try to be civilized. We’ve done a pretty good job of faking it so far, but at some point we’re going to encounter a problem that our hunter-gatherer psychology just can’t cope with. Yes, culture lies on top of genetics, and culture does exert a profound influence on behavior—but what happens when even culture can’t change fast enough to cope with new problems?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14
Chris Crawford - 30 October 2008 08:57 AM

We’ve done a pretty good job of faking it so far, but at some point we’re going to encounter a problem that our hunter-gatherer psychology just can’t cope with. Yes, culture lies on top of genetics, and culture does exert a profound influence on behavior—but what happens when even culture can’t change fast enough to cope with new problems?

I’m beginning to think that global warming may be one such problem. It’s too easy to dismiss it as “fuzzy math”, and end up like the proverbial frog in the slowly heating pan of water.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4142
Joined  2008-08-14
Chris Crawford - 30 October 2008 08:57 AM

Barto, my concern is not with our ability to find technical solutions to the problems we face, but our inability to find the social, cultural, or attitudinal changes necessary to cope with them. Deep down inside, we are Paleolithic hunter-gatherers fooling around with high technology, and we really don’t know what we’re doing. We’re faking it when we try to be civilized. We’ve done a pretty good job of faking it so far, but at some point we’re going to encounter a problem that our hunter-gatherer psychology just can’t cope with. Yes, culture lies on top of genetics, and culture does exert a profound influence on behavior—but what happens when even culture can’t change fast enough to cope with new problems?

Thank-you.

 Signature 

Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Merrily Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4142
Joined  2008-08-14
Barto - 30 October 2008 08:04 AM
Chris Crawford - 29 October 2008 03:06 PM

China has already overtaken the USA as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases—and China has no intention of retarding its growth by controlling CO2 emissions. India is in the same position. And the rest of the Third World is also going to be dramatically increasing its use of fossil fuels. So do you really think humanity will EVER reduce its CO2 emissions?

You are underestimating the benefical impact of global recesion on the environment wink

Seriously, we manage to survive in the past without having to adopt a colectivistic approach because the rise in productivity. We could feed the babyboomers because the improvements in agro and livestock production.

We certainly face a challenge: we need a hughe scientific and technical revolution in order to find safe, cheap and clean energy sources. We need scientific and technical innovations to survive, but I am still not willing to say that we won’t find the way.

In the past,Barto,there were no chloroflourocarbons,no PCB’s(which are now outlawed in most places,but there legacy continues),no CO2 emmisions,no above and below ground nuclear tests,etc.etc.

 Signature 

Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Merrily Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  122
Joined  2008-06-20

In the past,Barto,there were no chloroflourocarbons,no PCB’s(which are now outlawed in most places,but there legacy continues),no CO2 emmisions,no above and below ground nuclear tests,etc.etc.

So are you advocating a return to simpler times (technologically speaking)? How do we start?

 Signature 

I’m not sayin’....
I’m just sayin’....

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  459
Joined  2007-06-19

VYAZMA, in the past there were slavery, bacteria without antibiotics, water which today would be considered non drinkable, starvation. While some of those problems still are here, we managed to narrow the areas of the globe where such things happens. Nowdays, we tend to considerer those things easier to fix than the problems we face because something similar to hindsight bias. In the selfish green Richard Leaky (or Richard Dawkins?) says that slavery seemed a unavoidable part of the economy two hundreds years ago, and we are here.


Chris, I understand that we have modified our environment much faster than our brains and bodies could adapt. We have a brain adaptated to very small environment but we have the resources to make planetary-scale damage.

As I see, we have two ways to deals with problems: the first is the behavioural. Taking the climate change example, a behavioural solution would be change our habits: wave goodbye to the cars as the main transporation method, cut emisions at the expenses of economic growth, and so on.

The second way is the scietific/technology way. i.e. developing the new technology which allows us to keep our habits (or adopt even more confortable ones) using less resources.

I think that if we face something which forced us to take the first solution in the mid term, maybe we wouldn’t manage to survive. But we still have the other way. I’d say that our scientific and technical development had allowed us to avoid the need to adopt cultural and social changes. It can still happen.

Doug, I think that our approach to global warming would be that we should do the same things with or without global warming. I mean, to avoid global warming we need to develop new energy sources. The same thing should be done anyway.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 10:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  122
Joined  2008-06-20
Barto - 30 October 2008 10:19 AM

As I see, we have two ways to deals with problems: the first is the behavioural…. The second way is the scietific/technology way….

I think the best approach is to combine the two.

 Signature 

I’m not sayin’....
I’m just sayin’....

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 10:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  459
Joined  2007-06-19

Shawn, I agree, of course. But I tend to think that the behavioural way is far more complex because a widespread rational thinking is needed. I think a fusion reactor is far more likely than that, sadly.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 11:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  122
Joined  2008-06-20

Stupid Humans!

smile

 Signature 

I’m not sayin’....
I’m just sayin’....

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 12:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1995
Joined  2008-09-18

Barto, it’s true that the technical fix approach has served us well in the past. But let’s consider it from a “Second Thermo” point of view. Every new technology, like every new genetic mutation, can be used for good or for ill. But in general there are a lot more ways for a technology to do ill than for it to do good. With proper use, of course, any technology can be used solely for good purposes. But we can never rule out improper use of a technology. Fertilizer helps feed billions—but it can also be used by terrorists to make big bombs. Cell phones are changing the world in wonderful ways—but they also serve as triggers for IEDs. The problem here is that our technologies are growing in power (the ability to change the world), which means that misuse of them can have even greater negative impacts. The spectacular abuses of technology (terrorists building nuclear weapons) are frightening, but I am more concerned with the mundane and widespread abuses. Global warming, for example, which is the result of billions of people using technology in relatively benign ways. Cumulatively, there’s a nasty side effect that could wreak enormous damage. What if we discover some really weird side effect of an ubiquitous and apparently benign technology? What if we discover twenty years from now that the Internet has grown so large that it’s changing the earth’s orbit? (I know, it’s an absurd example, but it illustrates the concept I’m driving at.)

I definitely don’t want to come across as a Luddite here—I believe that technology is our best solution to many of our problems. But I fear that humanity is simply not capable of handling ever more powerful technologies with wisdom. Look at our failure to control nuclear proliferation. Back in the 1960s we all knew that proliferation was a very bad thing, and we set up the NPT to prevent it, but we’ve been bending the rules, whittling away at the restrictions, and looking the other way for 40 years now, and the NPT is in tatters. North Korea already has nukes and Iran is going to get them. What happens then? How long will it take before we start seeing them detonated? Do you really think that humanity can keep nuclear missiles in their silos forever? It only takes one mistake to have catastrophic results for humanity.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5508
Joined  2006-10-22

Technology is often suggested as the solution to our problems, however, it’s merely a set of tools, and they can be used both positively and negatively.  I think that primitive social behavior such as religions, jingoistic nationalism, and short term self-interest will assure that the problems will continue and become more severe.  Global warming will cause major changes in the climate patterns.  Present farm lands will cease to produce, formerly arid or cold areas will be fertile, but it takes years to transfer from the old to the new.  Meanwhile, much of the lower elevation land will be inundated, driving large numbers of people to new areas.  However, most systems have a way of correcting themselves.

I believe many will starve, and countries with large populations but poor geography will attack those which are now more attractive.  This will divert resources from responding to the problems so there will be widespread famine and probably disease.  It won’t take too long for the population to be reduced by a factor of between twenty and two hundred.  Once this happens, the remaining survivors will be able to start rebuilding a civilization.  They’ll have the advantage of much technology as a resource, and if they happen to be bright enough they may avoid the errors we’ve made.  After enough generations to rebuild to a multi-billion world population, they’ll manage to get themselves into a different problem and it will all be repeated.

Occam

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 04:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  7641
Joined  2008-04-11

I am concerned about those unintelligent ‘intelligent design’ proponents who don’t understand the connection between science and technology. They drive their ultra modern autos, insist on the science driven, most cutting edge treatment in the hospital, (to adjunct their homeopathy and chiropractor)but don’t want their children to take science courses, or learn about evolution—which is at its core. I am frightened for the future of evidence based sciences in our country. In the future, we will have a VERY highly stratified have and have not system of those who accept science and those who do not.

 Signature 

Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

Profile
 
 
Posted: 30 October 2008 06:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4622
Joined  2007-10-05

We had a similar discussion this time last year. What I posted then seems relevant to this thread:

The biggest problem we are going to face in expanding to other planets, and even sustaining our current population, is energy. Our planet spent 500 million years storing sunlight as oil and natural gas, and we’ve burned through half the known reserves in a little over 100 years. And that was the easy half. What we have left is remote, hard to extract, and of lower quality than what we have used so far. Our window of opportunity to expand beyond this planet is closing rapidly, and it will take concerted international cooperation to make it happen. Given the current state of world affairs, resource wars later this century are much more likely than international cooperation to send a privileged few off planet.

Could something similar have happened on other planets? Possible. It is also possible other intelligent species built sustainable societies early, realizing that replacing their resources is the only path to long-term survival. Unless they have energy sources we cannot imagine they would be limited to colonizing their local solar system(s).

We also face the problem of global warming disrupting the world economy and turning our attention away from space exploration and toward saving what we can of our civilization. If we avoid resource wars as oil depletion forces us into a lower-power, sustainable society, we may decide staying alive on this planet is the only choice we have. If global warming reaches a tipping point and accelerates we may find our species too busy trying to survive to worry about space travel. With billions of people starving, coastlines receding, and weather extremes increasing, feeding people and avoiding (or surviving) wars will be far more urgent than building space colonies.

Building an off-planet biosphere will take tremendous amounts of energy. Does anyone here really believe people will give up their suburban lifestyles, complete with plasma televisions and affordable air conditioning, so a few hundred or few thousand people out of billions can move into an orbiting biosphere? Moving people to Mars and building sustainable biospheres there will take even more energy and money out of our economy. Are we going to quit feeding starving people in third-world countries so a few people can live on Mars? I doubt it.

How much more energy would it take to build a spacecraft capable of taking generations of people to another solar system? Assuming, of course, we could even identify a viable solar system from Earth. Given our current understanding of physics it would take us hundreds of years to send a probe to another solar system so it could look around and send a message back regarding the feasibility of colonizing a planet around another star. How many such probes would we need to send before we found a suitable planet?

I’m not at all surprised we haven’t seen evidence of an alien civilization. There are many, many ways for a civilization to fail, even one as supposedly advanced as ours. Even a successful civilization is highly unlikely to expand beyond its own solar system. The distances are too vast and the return on investment too low.

There may other advanced civilizations in our galaxy, but they have not contacted us. That means one of two things: Either we are the most advanced civilization in this galaxy, or the distances and energy investments interstellar travel requires are too great to overcome.

Consider how fragile is our civilization.

We have finite resources, and we’ve already burned through half the easiest to exploit and most energy intense of them (oil). When we run out of oil (whether that is 50 years or 500 years from now is irrelevant in the long-term) we’ll have to make do with lower energy sources to power society. How many people can our civilization support without oil? Certainly not six-billion-plus.

Whether human-induced or natural, global warming is real and the results will be catastrophic to our civilization. People in poor countries (Darfur, for one) are already suffering greatly due to global warming. Meanwhile, we continue pumping poisons into our atmosphere, and blithely ignoring the consequences. How many civilizations in our galaxy have poisoned themselves to the point they cannot reach the stars?

All the paleontological records we have on this planet show a violent history. From dinosaurs to humans, the best killers survive to pass on their genetic material. This suggests evolution favors aggressive species. I realize, of course, we have only one planet as an example, but the only evidence we can see points toward advanced species having a disturbing tendency to kill. This does not bode well for long-term survival of any species that discovers relativity and quantum physics, then develops nuclear weapons to protect themselves from aggressors. How many species in our galaxy have blown themselves to extinction through warfare?

The universe is out to kill us. There have been at least five mass extinction events on Earth (Source). From what we know of solar system formation these events should occur everywhere. How many advanced, or potentially advanced, civilizations have been wiped out by marauding comets and meteorites in our galaxy?

Our ancestors almost went extinct, recently. Only 70,000 years ago we were down to fewer than 3,000 homo sapiens on this planet. One bad winter could have wiped us out. How many intelligent species in our galaxy suffered that bad winter?

So, does all this mean we are doomed? Of course it does. The only question is “When”? It could be 20 years from now or 20 million years from now, but sooner or later our species will die out. We are not as special as we think we are, because when you get right down to it the universe doesn’t care one way or the other.

[ Edited: 30 October 2008 06:48 PM by DarronS ]
 Signature 

“In the beginning, God created the universe. This has made many people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”
Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Profile
 
 
   
2 of 5
2