You Are Not Likely to Starve
Unless you live under a corrupt and incompetent government in Africa or a cruel dictatorship in North Korea, you are unlikely to starve to death. An abundant global excess of food is produced every year, and massive quantities of food and other life-saving materials can be shipped virtually anywhere in the world within 24 to 48 hours notice. More on international 2004 tsunami relief
The modern “age of abundance” is made possible by a wide range of technologies and technology-based infrastructures. For example:
- electricity generation, transmission and distribution;
- gas production, transport and distribution;
- oil and oil products production, transport and distribution;
- water supply (drinking water, waste water/sewage, stemming of surface water (e.g. dikes and sluices));
- agriculture, food production and distribution;
- heating (e.g. natural gas, fuel oil, district heating);
- public health (hospitals, ambulances);
- transportation systems (fuel supply, railway network, airports, harbours, inland shipping);
- financial services (banking, clearing);
- security services (police, military).
The nations with the best-maintained infrastructures and highest levels of opportunity, trust, and rule of law, tend to offer greater prosperity and domestic peace — all IQs being equal, that is.
Switzerland is generally considered to be a land of prosperity and peacefulness. The Swiss did not create that reputation for their land by drinking beer all night and sleeping all day. The Swiss work hard to build and maintain high quality infrastructure, top educational opportunities, a firm rule of law, and to stay on top of advances in global science and technology.
The Swiss are ranked in the top 10 nations for their average population IQ of 101, according to this ranking, along with Sweden. Switzerland retains its high rank in this list, but Sweden drops out of the top 10 — perhaps due to its dysgenic immigration policies?
Meanwhile, in Detroit with an average IQ of 83, things are not looking so good. Nothing works in Detroit. In fact, Who needs an apocalypse when you’ve got Detroit?
The contrast between Zurich and Detroit could not be more stark. Remember, Detroit was once a prosperous and generally peaceful city, a booming centre of innovation and industry. Something happened to turn an abundant Detroit into a Detroit-in-collapse.
The same thing that happened to Detroit is beginning to happen to European cities and the cities of the broader Anglosphere. Prosperity and order are natural attractants for the disaffected of the unraveling third world. As the people of the third world come to Europe and the Anglosphere, they bring their problems with them.
And so we can see a global dysgenic trend in fertility, as high-fertility / low IQ third world people take over the birthing wards and schools of the low-fertility / higher IQ advanced world.
We seem to be presented with a choice between dysgenic decline and a more abundant and expansive world of plenty and harmony. We are not offered a “utopia” by any means, because we will have to work hard — like the Swiss — to build the dynamic future world of radical abundance that we seek.
Futuristic developments in science and technology are sprouting up in private, public, and university labs from North America to Europe to Oceania to East and South Asia. New trends in brain science, nanotechnology, computer science, robotics, nuclear energy, systems and synthetic biology, regenerative medicine, access to space & asteroid mining — and many other promising lines of research — offer an open-ended and abundant future to those human societies that are willing to do the work and the follow-up.
APM [Atomically Precise Manufacturing] could be one of several catalysts for the transition from the current… mode of production dictated by the exclusive priority of the endless accumulation of capital – towards a more [accessible] mode of production. A lot of chaos and threats to the legitimacy of nation-states ought to be expected as a political consequence. Nation-states, we must remember, are simply exclusive vessels designed to cope with scarcity by privileging citizens and rejecting outsiders. Such regimes would inevitably come to be seen as corrupt and arbitrary in a world of abundance, where borders need not exist and small communities are rendered sovereign by the new dignity supplied to them … __Eric Drexler: Radical Abundance (H+)
Peter Diamandis is another modern prophet of abundance-through-hard-work, who is involved in a number of projects meant to break through into a more abundant and expansive human world.
…progress in artificial intelligence, robotics, infinite computing, ubiquitous broadband networks, digital manufacturing, nanomaterials, synthetic biology, and many other exponentially growing technologies will enable us to make greater gains in the next two decades than we have in the previous two hundred years. We will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp.Breaking down human needs by category—water, food, energy, healthcare, education, freedom—Diamandis and Kotler introduce us to dozens (and dozens) of innovators and industry captains making tremendous strides in each area: Dean Kamen’s “Slingshot,” a technology which can transform polluted water, salt water or even raw sewage into incredibly high-quality drinking water for less than one cent a liter; the Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE which promises a low-cost, handheld medical device that allows anyone to diagnose themselves better than a board certified doctor; Dickson Despommier’s “vertical farms,” which replaces traditional agriculture with a system that uses 80 percent less land, 90 percent less water, 100 percent fewer pesticides and zero transportation costs – __Abundance (Diamandis)
Robert Bryce is yet another of the modern speakers-against-doom. He offers a wide range of ideas for how humans can escape the Malthusian trap.
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. That same desire is fostering unprecedented prosperity, greater liberty, and yes, better environmental protection. __Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper (Robert Bryce)
George Gilder is a prophet of the bandwidth revolution, and a herald of a new age of abundant information — the type of information abundance that will catalyse a more abundant future in many ways.
To grasp the new era, you must imagine that bandwidth will be free and watts scarce. If the law of thrift in the current paradigm is waste watts and transistors, the law of thrift in the new paradigm will be waste bandwidth and save watts. In the new era, engineers will exploit the abundance of bandwidth and push the frontiers of low-power technology to compensate for the limitations of computer and network architectures. The [George] Gilder Paradigm (Wired)
These thinkers, and many more, offer tangible paths of development in diametric opposition to the doomerism of Malthusian thinking. Their ideas run in parallel to those of Buckminster Fuller, who coined the term “ephemeralization:”
… the ability of technological advancement to do “more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing”. __ Wikipedia Ephemeralization
Both trends — the trend to dysgenic (PDF) doom and the trend to radical abundance — are in play simultaneously. And rather than resolving themselves into a homogeneous world that is either “all abundance” or “all doom,” it is more likely that we will see a marbled world of both prosperity and impoverished anarchy. Similar to what one sees now, except with far greater contrast, and deadlier borders.
Those individuals, communities, and societies that value and foster resilience and high levels of broad competence, are more likely to be in position to take advantage of the expansive opportunities of the new technologies.
It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood.
http://www.juliansimon.com/writings/Ultimate_Resource/ … Free online ebook explaining the importance of human ingenuity to the future.
Emotional resilience is crucial for all children, but especially for broadly skilled and competent Dangerous Children.
Here is a Nextbigfuture look at one possible “abundant” future . . . Next Big Future is an enormously useful and optimistic science and technology blog that helps readers stay up to date on significant developments in sci/tech. But where there is strong optimism, there must also be a degree of hard-nosed realism for the sake of balance.
Al Fin China analysts are much more pessimistic about the long-term future of China than are the writers at Nextbigfuture.com . We are also more pessimistic about the ability of most third world nations to maintain any complex infrastructure built for them by China or any other outside nation or agency.
But the future rarely turns out the way we expect, and even more rarely does it turn out the way we had hoped. So it is best to consider a number of alternative projections and scenarios for the future, when we are making our plans.
Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. And learn at least one new way to be dangerous each and every day.
Please note the addition of The Arts Mechanical to the blogroll. The recent blog entry “Stepping Farther Out” is a good example of the informed optimism which we at the Al Fin Institutes attempt to project. In that article, JC Carlton examines author Jerry Pournelle’s response to the fashionable doom-mongers.
There are just too many disaster scenarios. A Great Depression, War. The triumph of anti-technological ideology. The continued ruin of our educational system—in California, with 30 State Universities, there is not one in which bonehead English is not the largest single class, and the retreat from excellence (called democratization and equality of opportunity) races onward. Any of these, or all of them at once, could throw away an opportunity that may never again come to mankind.
So what can we do?
For one thing, we can organize at least as well as the opposition. Science fiction readers may have mixed emotions about “ecology” movements, consumerism, Zero-Growth, and the like, but I think we have not lost our sense of wonder, nor abandoned our hopes. We have not given up the vision of man’s vast future among the stars. We have not traded the future of man for a few luxuries in our time.
Unfortunately, we have no voice, or rather, we have a myriad of voices, none very effective. __ Pournelle … A Step Farther Out
A number of modern billionaire futurists are beginning to take some risks to expand the horizons of humanity’s future. But most of these billionaires are too timid and politically correct in the face of the modern bubble mentality of skankstream groupthink.
No matter. If the breakthroughs they are financing prove out, the bubble milieu created by government, media, academia, and popular culture, will begin to collapse. As more free-thinking humans begin to grasp the possibilities and choose to step out of the echo-choir skankstream, our incipient drone world Idiocracy will begin to evaporate.
More: Nuclear energy offers the most power for the longest time. But there is still a lot of hydrocarbon energy to be used while we are devising better approaches to nuclear.