The Future: Problems are Guaranteed; Doom Isn’t

We are living in an apocalyptic age. We have been living in the apocalyptic age for many decades — even centuries and more. Humans are strangely attracted to the apocalyptic mindset. Perhaps the doomer mentality is an intentional but subconscious talisman, meant to protect against genuine doom. But the doomer mentality may also be the sign of a person who has nothing particularly important to do. Wouldn’t it be better if we oriented ourselves toward solving problems, rather than forming echo choirs of whine-o’s?


One of the latest books to counter Malthusian doomerism is Robert Bryce’s book: Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper”.

In the face of today’s environmental and economic challenges, doomsayers preach that the only way to stave off disaster is for humans to reverse course: to de-industrialize, re-localize, ban the use of modern energy sources, and forswear prosperity. But in this provocative and optimistic rebuke to the catastrophists, Robert Bryce shows how innovation and the inexorable human desire to make things Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper is providing consumers with Cheaper and more abundant energy, Faster computing, Lighter vehicles, and myriad other goods.

…The push toward Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper is happening across multiple sectors. Bryce profiles innovative individuals and companies, from long-established ones like Ford and Intel to upstarts like Aquion Energy and Khan Academy. And he zeroes in on the energy industry, proving that the future belongs to the high power density sources that can provide the enormous quantities of energy the world demands.

… The catastrophists have been wrong since the days of Thomas Malthus. This is the time to embrace the innovators and businesses all over the world who are making things Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper. __ SFLDC Summary

Book Reviews of Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper:

Real Clear Energy
Wall Street Journal

Other worthwhile and optimistic books about the human future:

Indur M. Goklany has taken a look at the state of the world, and has come to the conclusion that, overall, things are improving.

**Key points from the book** * The rates at which hunger and malnutrition have been decreasing in India since 1950 and in China since 1961 are striking. By 2002 China’s food supply had gone up 80%, and India’s increased by 50%.

Overall, these types of increases in the food supply have reduced chronic undernourishment in developing countries from 37 to 17%, despite an overall 83% growth in their populations. * Economic freedom has increased in 102 of the 113 countries for which data is available for both 1990 and 2000. * Disability in the older population of such developed countries as the U.S., Canada, France, are in decline. In the U.S. for example, the disability rate dropped 1.3 % each year between 1982 and 1994 for persons aged 65 and over. * Between 1970 and the early 2000s, the global illiteracy rated dropped from 46 to 18 percent. * Much of the improvements in the United States for the air and water quality indicators preceded the enactment of stringent national environmental laws as the Clean Air Act of 1970, Clean Water Act of 1972, and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. * Between 1897-1902 and 1992-1994, the U.S. retail prices of flour, bacon and potatoes relative to per capita income, dropped by 92, 85, and 82 percent respectively. And, the real global price of food commodities has declined 75% since 1950. _WUWT

Matt Ridley’s recent book, The Rational Optimist, dares to contradict most of the modern “dooms du jour” of modern media, academia, faux environmentalism, and popular culture.

Matt Ridley clears up some confusion about natural resource depletion at Mothers Against Wind Turbines.

Julian Simon was the ultimate optimist, and his most famous book — Ultimate Resource II — is available to read free online.

Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist, was far too optimistic for the taste of faux environmentalists and the corrupt scientific : faux environmental industrial complex. Rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the popular and mythical dooms favoured by the media, academia, and politicians, Lomborg calmly and rationally looked at the real problems of the environment — and finds them soluble.

Stewart Brand is the grand old man of 60s environmentalism, whose basic wisdom and honesty have led him to reject the doomerism of the faux environmentalists and the modern media. Brand has not escaped the dogmas of faux environmentalism entirely — he lives in the San Francisco bay area — but he promotes nuclear energy and other scientific and technological solutions to the problems that do exist.

Full disclosure: Genuine dooms exist. The Earth has suffered through several extinction episodes where life was nearly wiped out — and perhaps events where life actually was wiped out and had to re-start from scratch.

But we need to focus on the real problems which need solutions, and do it in a systematic and dispassionate manner.

Doomers, with their constant full-volume blare of apocalypse, do not deserve to monopolize our time.

Labels of articles from the original Al Fin blog: , ,

Other than the references to Robert Bryce’s new book Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper, most of the above comes from a posting on the original Al Fin blog.

The greatest threat to the human future comes from the ongoing dysgenic Idiocracy. (also see Bruce Charlton and Richard Lynn) If the average human IQ drops so low that there are not enough high-IQ individuals to solve problems, innovate solutions, and keep things running, the human future — at least for the masses — gets more grim over time, rather than less grim as in the past few centuries of revolutionary invention and innovation.

The Al Fin Dangerous Child Method of Child Raising and Education, bridges the gap between optimism and pessimism. The Dangerous Child is prepared to move into a promising future, to make it even more promising. But if the future goes dark and dysgenic, the Dangerous Child is prepared to build networks of resilient and dangerous communities ( R&D Communities). Networks of R&D communities will be prepared to advance the human future, even in the presence of wide-spread decline across most nations and regions.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Be ready for anything.

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6 Responses to The Future: Problems are Guaranteed; Doom Isn’t

  1. Pingback: Bury the Lede for June (because no one would ever take allegations of micronukes seriously) | vulture of critique

  2. mindweapon says:

    I haven’t seen any of those optimistic critiques address the real problems, such as the truth about shale oil and shale gas (it’s a Ponzi scheme), the depletion of the Oglalla aquifer which is used to water much of the Midwest corn with irrigation, the losing battle with superweeds being waged by Monsanto and it’s herbicides, and the fact that we aren’t going around getting 200 mpg in our cars. we seem to be hitting a wall at around 50 mpg.

    The optimists just say, “Oh look at all this nifty stuff” but they don’t address the facts of the doomers. Because they cannot.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Prepping for possible catastrophes is just good planning. But that is different from ruminating on nothing but doom.
      The human condition is pretty grim, and always has been. The “optimists” perform a useful function by pointing out the many fallacies in the Malthusian/dieoff.orgy/climate doom/etc. movement. This is not cornucopianism or utopianism. Why? Because the continuing solving of the inevitable long chain of problems relies upon a continuing development of human ingenuity. Without the human ingenuity — as was stated in the article — the edifice comes crumbling down. There is nothing inevitable about an abundant human future, just as there is nothing inevitable about the near-to-intermediate term doom of the human species. Humans die and come to doom, as individuals. The human race doesn’t need to do so for some time yet.

      Of the many perceived causes of doom, it is important to focus on those that are actually important to the main point, and not to exaggerate nor deny genuine solutions, problem by problem.

      Problems are inevitable, and should be used as learning experiences. If we use problems as an obsessive focus on oblivion, the mind slowly loses its problem-solving abilities, and becomes brittle.

      Problems are real and inevitable, and must be faced. From a problem-solving perspective. “Woe is me” is not a problem-solving perspective, not that that is your particular POV. Bloggers do not have to solve the problems they point out to their readers. But in their own minds they should try to develop viable solutions, or they do themselves and their future readers a disservice.

  3. Stephen says:

    This book looks interesting. I will probably buy it the next time I am at a book store. I see that Robert Bryce wrote about shale back in 2011 for National Review: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/271890/shale-and-its-discontents-robert-bryce

    • alfin2101 says:

      Thanks for the link. People have been nay-saying shale oil & gas for the better part of 10 years now, and overall US shale production keeps going up while costs per well go down and production per well goes up. For a long time, Russians have been sponsoring anti-shale propaganda because they clearly saw — but denied — that North American shale production might eventually threaten Russian domination of global energy markets. But that is exactly what has happened and continues happening. The best estimate is for decades more of comparable production to what we have now, if not higher.

      Russia is desperate for higher oil & gas prices on the global market, and has long ties to leftist environmental propaganda outlets in North America and Europe, since well back into the KGB days. Doomers often tend to listen to anything that substantiates their personal biases, regardless of the source.

  4. Craig says:

    As I read through this article I keep thinking about Julian Simon – and boom – there he was. Thanks for that. It is Simon who helps me time and again to shake off my innate pessimism. I wast to be positive about the future, but the daily barrage of doom laced with the guilt of PCism often gets the best of me. Great article!

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