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23Apr/150

The future of our civilization. Crisis. Part 1

Posted by Nate

In order not to tire readers with too many details and explanations I will be short. But whatever technologies I will mention in this article are existing technologies in different stages of maturity.

Disclaimer: predictions are difficult, especially about the future.

Below are my attempts to figure out where the existing trends and technologies will lead humanity.

Some experts predict gloom and doom while others are full of optimism. Who is right? Maybe both. It depends on how you look at life, civilization and progress. And what is “progress”?

Is the end of dinosaurs and rise of mammals progress? Not from the dinosaur's point of view! Is the beginning of the industrial revolution progress? Not for our planet.

So what is progress?

Is growth and consumption-based economy progress?

Is global climate change caused by humans progress?

Science, our understanding of the universe, our technological advancements are impressive.

But what about weapons of war? Nuclear and thermonuclear weapons of mass distraction? Is that progress?

So when I predict a major crisis of Western civilization, is this progress? I guess it depends on your point of view. So you be the judge.

The major crisis of our civilization.

  • Consumption and growth-based economy is nearing a crisis.

    Our economy in my opinion is unsustainable.

If the present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows- were-nearing-collapse

  • Hamster cage economic model.

    Here is the question: Productivity keeps increasing for a hundred years and yet we are busier than ever! Please think about it. Where did the results of our high productivity go if we have to work harder and produce more? Is it because we consume more and more stuff and services?

Following this logic what is the logical conclusion? The more we produce, the more we consume and we have to work even harder so we will be able to consume more to “grow our economy”.

  • The water crisis is the #1 global risk based on its impact to society (as a measure of devastation) and the # 8 global risk based on likelihood (likelihood of occurring within 10 years) as announced by the World Economic Forum, January 2015. http://water.org/water- crisis/water-facts/water/
  • Russia and China are gearing for global war for natural resources. And so is the US.

    The world is facing an unprecedented crisis of resource depletion—a crisis that goes beyond “peak oil” to encompass shortages of coal and uranium, copper and lithium, water and arable land.” The global pursuit of vital natural resources has long shaped human history, providing the impetus for campaigns of exploration and conquest across the millennia. http://www.globalforesightbooks.org/Book-of-the-Month/michael-t-klare-the-race-for-whats-left.html

- Effects of global warming.

Floods will affect the crops and destroy human habitats.

Droughts affect the food supply and will force human migrations.

Wars for natural resources, caused by human migration.

"..powerful evidence backing up the Pentagon and intelligence community’s assessments that climate change is likely to play the role of a “threat multiplier” in coming decades, pushing countries that are already vulnerable to upheaval over the edge and into open conflict.” http://mashable.com/2015/03/02/global-warming-syria-civil-war/

  • Mass extinction of life:

    Warming temperatures of water bodies, decertification and deforestation can all contribute to the irreversible impact on our natural habitat and thus threaten endangerment and even extinction of plant and animal life. http://listdose.com/top-10-effects-global-warming/

- Fragility of globalization.

"The presence of globalization can thus create a domino effect which means that if a country is affected , several other countries are bound to get affected too even if they might be on the other side of the globe." http://listdose.com/top-10-effects-global-warming/

- Population growth and a centralized economy model.

Waste and overhead due to centralized global infrastructure: huge expenses and losses to warehouse and deliver products to the stores.

- Industrial agriculture. Mono agriculture may cause global crops sickness.

Large, homogeneous crops enable parasites -- bacteria, viruses, fungi and insects --- to specialize on one specific host, increasing the chance they will mutate into a more pathogenic form. http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=6882

- Genetically engineered crops and it's side effects. Super weeds and super bugs.

The ecological, economic and agronomic disaster accompanying herbicide-tolerant transgenic crops is by now well known:

- over 10 million acres of super-weeds resistant to Monsanto’s weedkiller, RoundUp;

- farm machinery breaking on RoundUp-resistant pig-weed thick as a baseball bat; - - Monsanto paying farmers to spray their fields with competitors’ herbicides;

- a new generation of transgenic crops in the pipeline engineered to withstand older and more dangerous chemicals like 2,4-D. http://www.panna.org/blog/monsantos-superweeds-superbugs

- Fragility of the centralized infrastructure.

Domino effect. Just by hacking into a grid, one can create a catastrophic failure of the grid. Not just a power grid. Any grid.

Air traffic, computerized Walmart logistics, cell phone grids and so on.

Global financial system is vulnerable. The so called Cloud: “the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.”

- Cyber war is coming.

Another aspect of the decentralization issue is a cyber war. The most lethal weapon is not a bomb. It is a cyber attack on the country infrastructure. A country “smart” power grid can be disabled not with bombs, but much easier and cheaper - by hacking into a grid and disabling the power distribution in the country. That will end civilization as we know it.

We’re not prepared. If the nightmare scenario becomes suddenly real. If hackers shut down much of the electrical grid and the rest of the critical infrastructure goes with it. If we are plunged into chaos and suffer more physical destruction than 50 monster hurricanes and economic damage that dwarfs the Great Depression.” http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/21/u-s-not-ready-for-cyber-war-hostile-hackers- could-launch.html

9Jul/130

Fork in the Road

Posted by Nate

"A pyramid scheme is a non-sustainable business model that involves promising participants payment or services, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, rather than supplying any real investment or sale of products or services to the public."  "The flaw is that there is no end benefit. The money simply travels up the chain. Only the originator (sometimes called the "pharaoh") and a very few at the top levels of the pyramid make significant amounts of money. The amounts dwindle steeply down the pyramid slopes. Individuals at the bottom of the pyramid (those who subscribed to the plan, but were not able to recruit any followers themselves) end up with a deficit." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_scheme

Consumption and grows based economy is a dead end

Current economic model

The question I have been asking myself for a while now:  Is the current economic model sustainable?  Isn't it a pyramid scheme bound to collapse?

Are these 21st century phenomena - industrialization, huge multinational conglomerates, growth and consumption-based economies - just dinosaurs?  A dead end?  Bound for extinction?

One of the common symptoms of the problem is growing debt among the rich and developing countries.  Reasons for growing debt in the developed world is the economic model based on growing consumption and growing use of resources like raw materials, energy, water.  There are many unanswered questions.  Where do we go from here?  What do we have to do to survive?

One important aspect of the new trend in society is having a job, employment, a “career”.

The work force is shrinking because of our changing economy with automation and the shift from manufacturing to service and an information-based economy.  Is it a positive phenomenon in the long run?  Is there a trend to be self-employed?

Many hate their jobs

Cannot wait to get in here?

Should we reassess the importance of a life-long career?  Here is an interesting excerpt:  Someone asked me: why do people hate their jobs?   I answered: Note, not everyone hates their jobs. There are some "entre-ployees" out there that love their jobs.  But for the other 98% of the population, jobs are modern-day slavery.  We are paid just enough to live and not more.  You are punished if you ask for more.

We are often verbally abused on the job and we take it because we think it's normal that people would yell at us.  The government gets up to 50% of your paycheck and then 10-20% of that goes to kill people on other parts of the planet, including our own children.

We are deluded into thinking our job-friends are our real friends.  With our job-friends we talk about pens, genitals, and cubicles.  We stop having real friends.  There is a glass ceiling.  It doesn't matter if you are a woman or a minority or a white man.  The glass ceiling is that you aren't allowed to make more than your Master, even if he's an idiot.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-altucher/why-do-people-hate-their-jobs_b_3110748.html

Millennials are not looking for careers.

They are different

New generations are not that interested in building a career.  Millenials do not like to follow authority and have little respect for it.  They are not that interested in building a life-long career.  They would like to do meaningful work.

A 2012 Georgetown University survey found that nearly three-quarters of Millennials think the nation’s economic system unfairly favors the wealthy – and according to a Pew study from 2010, we generally prioritize family and marriage over career advancement.  We’re not interested in pursuing career success for its own sake: rather, we see work as just one component in a well-rounded life. http://blog.ringcentral.com/2013/06/how-millennials-work/

Another important aspect of the new trend in society is technology.

New technology is changing society, changing habits.  E-readers instead of books.  Miniaturization: smart phones instead of desktop computers and landline phones.

Technology in turn makes it easier for small businesses, for the self-employed to compete. The self-employed  cannot be laid off. Their schedule is flexible.  They have better control over their lives.

More people are self-employed either because they lost jobs or by choice.  They are involved in services exchanges.  Plumbers and carpenters, computer servicemen and painters, etc., working together forming teams or just being hired between themselves.  People prefer to hire somebody they know and trust instead of working with a large company.

New ways to save money...resources are becoming more common. Exchanges are more popular:  zip cars, bike-sharing, equipment-sharing and so on.  Is there a trend toward becoming more of a tribal society?

Depletion of natural resources.  Paradoxically the growing middle class in Asian countries like China and India is a problem. People have means and are consuming more meat.  Increased meat production requires additional huge resources in farming and energy.

The centralized food production by industrial farms and a huge, complicated delivery system is wasteful, inefficient and unhealthy.  In the USA we burn 12 calories in transportation for every 1 calorie in food.

 

Industrial farming

Cruel and unnatural.

The problem is rapid and radical twentieth-century transformation of our food system from sustainably based, locally-focused production, to a fossil-fuel-addicted industrialized system.  Agriculture has changed more in the past two generations than it did in the previous 12,000 years.” http://www.sustainabletable.org/982/energy-use-climate-change

Also the current highly-specialized and interconnected economy is fragile, susceptible to crashes and is easily affected by unexpected cataclysmic events.

So what is the answer?  Amazingly, poor African villages show the way.

Some interesting facts:  In November, three young engineers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, with financial backing from Google, installed a small satellite dish powered by a solar panel, to hook up a handful of computers in the community center to the rest of the world.

In recent years the mobile phone has emerged as the main modern communications link for rural areas of Africa.  From 2002 to 2007, the number of Kenyans using cellphones grew almost tenfold to reach about a third of the population, many of whom did not have landlines, according to the International Telecommunication Union. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/02/technology/internet/02kenya.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

Tribal economic model

The future?

Electricity in remote African villages.  The VPS is a model, off-grid, micro-generation power station that harnesses energy from renewable sources such as solar, biomass, wind and mechanical power for providing electricity to small rural populations.

Micro-nuclear generators.  Toshiba has developed a new class of micro-size Nuclear Reactors that is designed to power individual apartment buildings or city blocks.  The new reactor, which is only 20 feet by 6 feet, could change everything for small remote communities, small businesses or even a group of neighbors who are fed up with the power companies and want more control over their energy needs.  http://www.nextenergynews.com/news1/next-energy-news-toshiba-micro-nuclear-12.17b.html

Micro-manufacturing.  Due to current technological advances, manufacturing in the near future may be possible in every house, thanks to the 3D printing on a molecular level. 

Science fiction has always envisioned a real-life molecular creation tool, a device that could create objects (like food) on a cellular level, and they appear.  By adding a special resin, carbon, light and water, University of Tokyo Scientists were able to create an object on a cellular level using a 3D printer-like device.” http://www.digitalafro.com/molecular-creation-device-like-star-trek-scientists-use-3d-printer-to-create-microscopic-objects/

So many household items will be made by a “replicator” (3D printers) making many parts of the “economy” obsolete.  Manufacturing, delivery, storage, stores, human resources will not be needed anymore.

I think that an economy based on local services, local manufacturing, small localized energy sources is much more efficient, flexible and stable.

And what about “jobs”?  Think about this:  a hundred years ago people worked long days and long weeks.  And many dreamed that, with the advance of technology, people would not have to work so much.  Do we work any less than we did a 100 years ago?  Not at all!  Why?  Who said we need to work 40 hr. weeks?  We are producing hundreds more products now.  The reason is a consumption-based economy that needs to grow to sustain itself.

A pyramid scheme...a scheme to make the rich richer by convincing us suckers that we need more and more stuff.

Consumption based economy

The "SYSTEM"

In conclusion I just wanted to add this thought by Neil deGrasse Tyson:  "During our brief stay on planet Earth, we owe ourselves and our descendants the opportunity to explore—in part because it's fun to do.  But there's a far nobler reason.  The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk regressing to the childish view that the universe figuratively and literally revolves around us.  In that bleak world, arms-bearing, resource-hungry people and nations would be prone to act on their “low contracted prejudices.”  And that would be the last gasp of human enlightenment—until the rise of a visionary new culture that could once again embrace the cosmic perspective."  http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/universe/201367/cosmic-perspective?page=3

18May/120

So Now What?

Posted by Nate

Global Economic Collapse Imminent:  MIT Researchers Predict Next Great Depression By 2030.

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/215867/global-economic-collapse-imminent-mit-researchers-predict-next-great-depression-2030/#Ov0LZbxmshgaF2Ez.99

“The world is on track for disaster.”

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/215867/global-economic-collapse-imminent-mit-researchers-predict-next-great-depression-2030/#Ov0LZbxmshgaF2Ez.99

Mac Slavo

Researchers at one of the world’s leading think tanks have developed a computer model that predicts serious implications for our way of life as a result of our incessant need to consume resources like oil, food and fresh water. According to a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the breaking point will come no later than 2030, and when it does, we can expect a paradigm shift unlike any we have seen before in human history – one that will not only collapse the economies of the world, but will cause food and energy production to decrease so significantly that it will lead to the deaths of hundreds of millions of people in the process.

http://www.pakalertpress.com/2012/04/09/peak-civilization-mit-research-team-predicts-global-economic-collapse-and-precipitous-population-decline/

 

Consumption based economy

Everything is fine!

Via Smithsonian Magazine:  Recent research supports the conclusions of a controversial environmental study released 40 years ago:  the world is on track for disaster.  So says Australian physicist Graham Turner, who revisited perhaps the most groundbreaking academic work of the 1970s, The Limits to Growth.

Written by MIT researchers for an international think tank, the Club of Rome, the study used computers to model several possible future scenarios.  The business-as-usual scenario estimated that if human beings continued to consume more than nature was capable of providing, global economic collapse and precipitous population decline could occur by 2030.

http://www.pakalertpress.com/2012/04/09/peak-civilization-mit-research-team-predicts-global-economic-collapse-and-precipitous-population-decline/

Of course nobody can predict the future.  But it is a warning.  If humanity continues this mindless exploitation of our planet, if we continue our addiction to consumption, if we insist on the unsustainable path of economic growth, Western civilization will collapse.

I disagree with the idea in this documentary that by destroying the machines we will solve the problem.  It has been done before by the Luddites;  it didn't work.  I don't think that technology is the problem.  It is how we use the technology.  Technology might even help ameliorate some problems.  For example, the e-readers and e-books  save a lot of trees.  Smaller devices like the i-Pad and smart phones will save raw materials.  Also one universal device will replace laptops, desktops and TVs.  Thanks to the internet many of us can work from home. Humanity eventually will spread to other planets.

But technology cannot solve all the problems humanity is facing.  Due to technology advancements many will lose their jobs.  And then what? 

If people continue to use technological advancements in order to devise better ways to kill each other, we are doomed as a species.

I do believe that intelligent species capable of interstellar travel were able to advance spiritually to avoid self distraction and were able to use enormous power needed for star ships without killing themselves in the process. Assuming there are millions of habitable planets just in our galaxy, there are likely advanced civilization capable of interstellar travel.  The reason we had no contact is that advanced species prefer not to interfere with primitive species and allowed the natural selection do the work.  Did all intelligent species survive the crucial transitional period that we are just entering?  Probably not.  Natural selection at work.

According to the MIT findings and numerous others (including my opinion), we are rapidly approaching a major crisis for humanity.  And I doubt that it is preventable.  I hope I am wrong.  But so far,  I don't see any indications that governments are doing anything to prevent the crisis.

Will humanity survive this crisis?  Probably. But in much smaller numbers.

18Jun/110

Enjoy the Flight

Posted by Nate

Lately we are witnessing a disturbing trend around the world.  Western economies are in trouble.  Financial problems plague most of the “developed world”.  Unemployment is high.  Energy costs are rising.  These problems are not limited to Western societies.  There are global problems:  food and water shortages, disillusioned populations, social upheaval and deforestation.  In my opinion, the underlying roots of the problem are deeper and much more serious than we are led to believe.  The problem is our worldwide

Consumption based societ

More junk

Consumption-based Economy.

Problems that I see with our lifestyle

Food: mono-culture; chemicals; genetically-modified food

Raw materials:  open-ended consumption of non-renewable resources; waste - a substantial percentage of  products manufactured is simply useless junk, wastefully squandering energy and natural resources.

Unemployment Causes:  lack of skills; inferior education; expensive higher education; failing schools make for an unemployable workforce; constant productivity increases, decreasing the need for workers; corporations can do more with less to generate bigger profits; people buy less (general population has less money to spend); in its desire for greater profit, the corporations are dedicated to reduce overhead by laying off employees.

30Jan/110

The way we look at things

Posted by Nate

At times, I feel that we approach life from the wrong direction.
A few examples:
Climate change

Climate is changing

1. Global warming, or perhaps global cooling, let's just call it climate change. Is this really occurring beyond a reasonable doubt? Before we do anything to reduce pollution, should we not wait for incontrovertible proof of its existence? But, why wait? What could be bad about cleaning up our planet? Must we have hard facts indicating that current energy resources will be depleted before practicing energy conservation? Just what could be the downside in developing green energy sources?

Usually the counterargument states that these efforts “will hurt the economy." It is my understanding that people create economies. Economies are created by people in order to make life better, in other words, in the pursuit of happiness.

Polluting the environment

Clean air

Does dirty air, water and a toxic laden environment make us happier let alone healthier? Does the chronic worry about toxins everywhere make us healthier and happier? It seems to me that the only entities which become happier and benefit from our current situations are multinational corporations.

2. Now about health care. First, people need to be educated on how to stay healthy. We all know that our country's people are not getting healthier; cancer will soon surpass heart diseases as the main cause of death, and rates of CVD (cardio vascular disease) are skyrocketing. Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions, especially in children. I see this as the unintended result of our Western economic model spiraling out of control. The economy appears to be feeding on itself for the sake of the economy. There is a movement in this country and in the rest of the world to encourage people to take personal control of their health by educating themselves about adopting a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle. Will we need affordable healthcare for all?

Absolutely! It is the only ethical choice.

Again, I think we are approaching the issue from the wrong side. The state of our current economy is itself very stressful, and what creates most of the stress? Money! In our country, a disproportionate amount of our people's income is spent on medical bills.

stress factor

Stressed out

So, people get sicker due to technology, the industrialization of their food supply and chemicals in our environment. Making it even worse, people are further stressed because of the money needed for “health care.” And this just makes them sicker. It seems obvious that it would be sensible, moral and prudent to remove these stress factors. As our economy grows, trying to solve problems, it appears to be creating new ones. In short, the current economic model is not sustainable.

So, what would be the right approach? Again, what is wrong with staying healthy? We need to educate ourselves, and use technology wisely, for our sake, not for the sake of the “economy”. Do the right thing and the economy should follow. After all, the economy is supposed to function for our benefit, not the other way around. There was a saying in the USSR "we create problems and successfully overcome them." Are we are following in their footsteps?

3. It seems to me that a significant portion of our planet’s resources is being wasted. Our economy is a consumption-based economy. We consume stuff; our economy produces more stuff to consume so we can generate income to enable us to purchase and consume more stuff. While admittedly not an economist, I can state that in the long run this continual spiral of production and consumption is unsustainable. It is just a giant Ponzi scheme. Our planet’s resources are limited. The planet’s population is growing exponentially. If we continue on a current path, we are heading toward a cliff.

Our planet’s capacity to feed its growing population is diminishing. In order to keep up with the demand, farms become technological factories overusing chemicals, utilizing genetic engineering and adopting mono-culture-based farming (corn, soy beans) . These practices create tremendous health problems for our population. Pharmaceutical companies come up with more and more drugs to deal with health issues. The use of these drugs then cause side effects creating the need for more drugs. The spiral continues.

All of the above issues are interconnected. We must understand how all these problems affect each other and how these interconnections exacerbate our problems. To keep up with growing demand, the industrial nations need more and more energy. More energy allows us to make stuff for us to consume; so we get sick; so pharmaceuticals make more drugs for us to deal with that sickness, and we just get sicker. In order to afford “healthcare” we need to consume more stuff to support the economy, and this way we just continue to poison our environment and create energy crises and an unhealthy planet

And all this is supposed to make our lives better? Because, remember, we created this economy for our benefit. So, maybe we should do things that will benefit us and “the economy” will follow. For example, our approach to healthcare and medical education should be changed from "cure" to prevention.

The Russian scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov stated, “At the end, the moral choice, is the most pragmatic choice.”

We must do the moral thing and the economy will adopt, follow and support ethical practices.

In my opinion, if we do not change our approach to the “economy” there will be no economy.

   

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