Brave "New" World

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Servant_, May 14, 2012.

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  1. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Paradigm, schmaradigm! These buzzwords are not natural law. This information age of yours must piggyback on a consumer society which is based on cheap energy. We cannot sustain a society solely on trading bits and bytes.

    I've heard it all before, techno-grandiosity combined with a star-trek future where nothing costs any money. If you haven't noticed, we don't have the capital to give all our citizens health care, much less build anything giant in space.

    Energy. Trucks and international shipping doesn't run on nuclear power. Not that we have the nuclear plants anyway, or get them within the next 10-20 years.

    What are you smoking and can I get some? Electricity can't just be sent to other countries through the mail! There is no infrastructure to support your grandiose schemes, and little capital to start them.

    That is false. The Greeks were quite advanced, they even had mechanical computers. Then the Middle Ages happened. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is inevitable. And it all depended on energy. The days of cheap energy are coming to an end. Sure civilization will continue, but it will be smaller in scale, more local, less frenzied, and the possibility of political turmoil as people like you realize they have been promised a lie is very real.
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  3. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Probably we can do just as well with concentrating thermal solar systems here on the ground, at a tiny fraction of the costs and without the insane risks associated with such a scheme.

    That's not gonna happen - nuclear is highly unpopular these days, what with Fukushima and all. The stampede is in the other direction - towards coal (which is actually much worse from the green perspective, but hey).

    ?I guess you're addressing some hypothetical distant future wherein we've run out of natural gas and coal? But, that won't happen. We'll render the planet uninhabitable from greenhouse gas emissions long before we run out of coal and natural gas to burn for electricity.

    Except those countries don't have the technological infrastructure to build such things, nor do they have the fuel, or the means to mine and process it, nor do they have the electricity export infrastructure. Those countries can barely feed themselves, let alone build and operate large-scale, high-tech power generation facilities. You ever seen an aerial picture of North Korea at night? It's a big black expanse, because they don't have enough juice to run the lights at night.

    Or were you positing those states as becoming private playgrounds for some international cartel of nuclear power investors? Also hard to see, frankly.

    But I can think of a country or two with very lax environmental controls, a rabidly pro-industrialism government, and sufficient infrastructure and technology to actually do such a thing (still no fuel, though). Probably you can guess who I'm thinking of.

    This seems to underplay certain extended, trying circumstances. Like the Dark Ages, for example.
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  5. Gustav Banned Banned

    for the euros perhaps. the chinese seemed to have done well during the dark ages
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Why do you suppose a small number of people will continue to work 40-hour jobs while everyone else is unemployed? Since the mechanization of farming we do not see a small cadre of farmers continuing to work 100-hour weeks.

    People who are working need customers to buy their goods and services, or they won't be able to keep working. It benefits everyone to spread the work around instead of concentrating it on the shoulders of a handful of people who continue working to the standards of the previous paradigm--and have no customers.

    As I said, the jobs of the future will probably occupy us for ten hours a week, or less.
    So sorry about your life. Mine has been quite the opposite since I was born in 1943. The only people I've known whose lives approach the model you propose are those who have never taken charge of their own lives, starting with not bothering to study in school when they were children. As adults they proudly proclaim that they have "beaten the system" when in fact all they are doing is hiding out at the very bottom of it, where a prosperous and generous society keeps them from starving or freezing to death.
    On the contrary, once the stranglehold of the energy industry is broken and everyone who can telecommute from home is allowed to, many people will happily migrate to non-urban areas with considerable distance between themselves and their neighbors. The trend of population concentrating in cities (our species recently reached the tipping point at which more than half of us live in cities) will probably reverse.
    I see you've never heard of CAD/CAM. It is now practical to "manufacture" a single object without need for an assembly line.
    Where do you come up with this stuff? Look around you and you'll see that civilization is moving in the exact opposite direction. New information-intensive occupations are created every day, while the old ones are being taken over by software. Five thousand years after the invention of the technology of writing, literacy is finally on the verge of becoming universal because many people communicate in writing more than in speech. If you can call vowel-less 140-character sound bites "literacy."

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    Yuck! Goddess save me from the retrogression of civilization--which, BTW, is entirely "artificial."
    The sun produces more energy than we can ever use. The technology to capture it is unremarkable. The obstacles to building the necessary collectors are entirely political.
    Ever since the first pre-sapiens hominoid discovered how to knap flint and scrape the leftover meat off the bones left behind by the predators, several million years ago, we have constantly been inventing new technology--even without science. There's no reason to suspect that we'll stop.

    During most of my life our scariest problem was overpopulation, and no one realized that science and technology would solve that. The prosperity that industrial and post-industrial technology have spread throughout the world, even to the shrinking benighted regions where despots keep their people poor and ignorant, has turned out to be the most effective contraceptive. The world can support the predicted population peak of ten billion (the still-underpopulated Western Hemisphere can produce enough food to feed twice that many people and still restore our rainforests) before it finally begins to shrink.
    One-fourth of America's petroleum consumption goes directly into commuting, and the second-order effects such as nannies and fast food may make that one-third. When people are allowed to work at home, speed won't matter. Except for a handful of professions like psychiatry and diplomacy that will probably always require face-to-face communication, people will only travel for recreation or socializing. Speed won't matter.

    As for consumerism, you must not be reading your memos. Malls are closing down as people do more and more of their shopping on Amazon and E-bay.
    Nonetheless the history of civilization has been a series of paradigm shifts: a total restructuring of human life requiring us to relate to nature, each other, and ourselves in a new way. Agriculture, cities, bronze, iron, industry, electronics: each new paradigm shattered the previous one. By attempting to predict what life will be like in 200 years you invite the comparison to your counterpart in 1812 smugly insisting that he knew what our lives would be like today, even having seen the steam engine invented: a nation of illiterate farmers, augmented by a little mercantilism.
    There appears to be enough fossil fuel to keep the status quo for several more generations, even if harvesting it will make some messes. Capitalism will continue its post-industrial collapse, so the few remaining corporations will not have the critical mass that puts them in control of national governments. Then, while there's still time, alternative power sources will be developed, using the much more efficient technologies of the next century.
    You sound like Baron Max. We surely can! We will still be producing, schlepping, selling and buying food, housing, clothes, appliances and everything else, not to mention services. But the information sector will continue to grow.
    I didn't say that nothing would cost any money. I'm just predicting that per-capita income will make another quantum increase as it does after every paradigm shift, so all of these things will be affordable to the vast majority of people.

    But of course we have to take into account the virtualization of goods and services, as they become more information-intensive. Information is qualitatively different from all previous types of goods and services because once it is created it can be duplicated almost literally for free.

    This is, of course, one of the defining attributes of a paradigm shift.
    Of course we do! It's just not distributed in a pattern that lends itself to doing those things. Am I the only person here who didn't sleep through my economics classes?
    No, but even large vehicles can run on electricity. As for the gigantic ocean-going vehicles that couldn't carry large enough batteries, there's no reason that the transmission of power by microwaves that will be the infrastructure for the orbiting solar collectors cannot be just as easily deployed on ships to drive their huge electric engines. Heck, even trucks and trains could use it to get around the recharge problem.
    As I said, we've got at least a hundred-year supply of fossil fuel left, although it will be more expensive to access. We can spend that hundred years:
    • Building the orbiting solar collectors and the microwave receiver network.
    • Building more nuclear plants and letting our descendants deal with the nuclear waste issue.
    • Wringing our hands and insisting that the world is going to hell.
    It's a big project that will take a while. The infrastructure can be built by all those unemployed people in those countries. The capital will come from outside. Perhaps the capitalists of the developed world can invest in something tangible, instead of the derivatives whose market is so volatile that its perturbations can affect an entire national economy. As I keep saying, at some point they're going to have to resume investing in projects that employ people, or no one will be able to buy their goods and services.
    The Dark Ages were strictly a European phenomenon. The Middle East was booming. Arab scholars preserved the wisdom of our own ancients and moved it forward. There's a reason words like "algebra" start with the Arabic definite article. China had never tried to make the dramatic discoveries that were going on at the other end of Eurasia and their civilization plodded along at a slow but steady pace during that era.
    Except human nature. We've been transcending the external nature of the universe and our own internal nature for millions of years and we show no signs of stopping. There's a sort of Maslow's Hierarchy for our entire species. We keep rising to the next step, when no one even knows what's up there.

    You people who are young enough to watch the Post-Industrial Revolution play out are in for some great times. As for me, I've been deliriously happy due to merely one aspect of it: recorded music. My ancestors were lucky if a traveling troupe came through their neck of the woods two or three times a year. The rest of the time they had to be satisfied with the pianist in the tavern on Saturday night and the church choir on Sunday morning--if they lived close enough to town to even go, considering that many people didn't have horses and wagons. I get to listen to professionally composed and performed music 24/7. As far as I'm concerned, the rest of life is just details.
    Our descendants will certainly live through some interesting times if:
    • We don't start building those orbiting solar collectors and
    • We don't build the nuclear plants that will get us through the next few centuries while our lame-brained governments fight among themselves instead of cooperating to build those collectors.
    Only in countries like the USA and Greece where everyone assumes they'll be rich because someone else will make it happen.
    Even with improved solar cell technology, we can't cover enough of the earth's surface to power the entire planet.
    Much of those costs will be labor so it balances out. Fuel to get the materials into high orbit, that's a different story. But the answer is to get serious about space elevators.
    What risks?
    People are both selfish and fickle. When their homes start to brown out they'll be screaming to put Chernobyl and Fukushima back on line, and build new ones. Of course they'll pay for dragging their feet because it takes a couple of decades for a nuclear powerplant to go from conception to operation.
    Yeah, the planet may get pretty dirty for a while. Oh well, the market will be wide open for some smart young kids with a new planetary-cleaning technology.
    It will happen eventually. Since the evolution of mushrooms, who have the enzyme to digest lignin, trees no longer lie around for millions of years slowly fossilizing into fuel.
    Well let's hope that you and I aren't the only people who understand that, so someone will start working on an alternative. In any case they'll reach a point of miserable equilibrium with greenhouse gases, at which the prospect of building new nuclear plants will start to look pretty nice.
    China will simply exercise the right it's been reserving to annex North Korea the way it annexed Tibet. End of problem.
    Just China. They take what they want and don't care how the locals feel about it.
    By then the Industrial Era will be over and the megacorporations that ruled the industrial nations will be in the history books. Some new type of entity will be created by government to replace the corporations, which they created to replace the aristocracy. They always need an intermediate layer of quasi-government to distract us with their shenanigans, so we don't notice the somewhat more opaque shenanigans of the government itself.
    As I pointed out, the Dark Ages were strictly a local phenomenon. The civilizations in the Middle East, India and China were not affected. And the civilizations in Central and South America were not even aware of it.
  8. NMSquirrel OCD ADHD THC IMO UR12 Valued Senior Member

    Good point..without jobs there would be no-one able to buy what is sold, a self defeating concept,
  9. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Funny stuff Fraggle. Yes I know what CAD CAM is, it's what I do for a living. But I don't have the same faith you do in technology or politics. Up to know, we had ever increasing inputs of easy to get energy. That is about to end, and due to the psychology of previous investment, we cannot fathom a future that isn't better than it is now. We are poised for a huge let down. All your hopes lie in things that do not exist and aren't likely to exist based on politics and lack of capital. Do you understand that? Your paradigm shift isn't happening, so I don't have much hope that any revolutionary trend will start any time soon. What is happening is downsizing.

    My personal life is rewarding, but I can see that it's not the same for most people. I live in a small bubble of sanity.
    Last edited: May 16, 2012
  10. Gravage Registered Senior Member

    Like I said I don't believe so, poor will still work for rich 15, 16 hours a day, and the modern feudalism will continue. This is how it is now, this is how it will always be.
    Last edited: May 21, 2012
  11. NMSquirrel OCD ADHD THC IMO UR12 Valued Senior Member

    hehe..i really do not think that the poor can afford to pay the rich..
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    No. That has only been true for about 200 years.
    But not abruptly. It will be spread over multiple generations. That always makes it easier for humanity to adapt to something.
    Fortunately we don't have to.
    Huh? It's all based on information technology, which has existed since the 1950s, and has existed in a more-or-less recognizable primitive version of its current form for at least 20 years.
    I just spent the weekend working at home in my bathrobe. My wife does all her shopping online. I have a dozen friends with whom I keep in close contact, but I haven't seen them in the flesh for decades. I just don't understand where you come up with these bizarre ideas. I don't know how old you are, but this Paradigm Shift has been going on since I was a kid, 40-50 years ago. Arguably the Electronic Age can be said to have started in 1833 with the first commercial telegraph. But it undeniably kicked into high gear after WWII with television. It changed our lives.
    Only in the USA! Don't be such a chauvinist: we barely account for five percent of the human race. Employment is booming in Brazil, China, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Mexico and many other big countries. From a global perspective these are boom times.

    This is akin to someone's (was it you?) comment about the Dark Ages being proof that civilization sometimes loses its momentum. There were civilizations on every continent except Australia at that time, and the only place where it was stumbling was Europe.
    This guy is utterly clueless. The problem with the democratization of commentary on the internet is that in order to be read you only have to be a good writer. You don't have to be smart or informed.
    The poor will undoubtedly continue to work for the rich, for the very good reason that it's difficult for the poor to start their own businesses. But nobody's going to be working 16 hour days. That's the pre-industrial work day. Almost nobody in the USA works that hard now. Only in the illegal sweatshops with their workforce of captive immigrants.

    Automation will continue to replace human labor, just as industrialization did in its time. Henry Ford shortened the work week to 40 hours, not because he was a sweet guy, but because the kind of work people do in industrial enterprises required alertness and you don't get that from people who work 60-hour weeks, much less the 100-hour weeks of the pre-industrial era.

    We're discovering the same thing now, as I documented in my one published work. Hi-tech companies (such as chemical engineering and software) that have shortened their work week to 32 hours have become more profitable because their defect rate has plummeted.

    Only the simplest physical labor can be done well by a person who is exhausted and sleepy. And more and more of that work is automated every year. People still do janitorial work, for example, but they have power tools that do the work in one-fourth of the time, and those tools require the operator to be rested and alert!

    The job-retitling fad of the 1960s and 70s that got janitors reclassified as "maintenance engineers" had nothing to do with self-esteem; it was an end-run around the Fair Labor Standards Act. But today, it's coming true!
  13. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    That's what I meant. Since the industrial revolution.

    But, we will see, won't we?
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The energy is out there in at least two accessible forms. When we become desperate enough we'll either take it the clean way, from the sun, or the dirty way, from nuclear fusion.

    The clean way requires more international cooperation; I don't think any one country could build the orbiting collectors, but what do I know. Maybe Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and George Soros will do it with private capital.
  15. Servant_ Registered Senior Member

    Energy of the future

    Just pulling a wire through earths atmosphere from an orbiting collector mass could create a considerable amount of power. Some say at at the center of the earth there is a natural nuclear reactor that can be tapped. Bose–Einstein condensates oh my!

    Don't let the world talk you into a box.
  16. Emil Valued Senior Member

    My job to be done by slaves, is immoral. So we created the robots to do our job.
    We will have more time for SciForums ... WEEE .....
  17. NMSquirrel OCD ADHD THC IMO UR12 Valued Senior Member

    according to some here, the mind can be predicted, and everything is logical..

    which means that robots could replace you here on sciforums also..
  18. Emil Valued Senior Member

    Even this discussion is possible due to technology
    You can to quit this technology, if that is your option.
    I say unfortunately, do not know your opinion, on earth are still tribes. So you can choose.

    Uncontacted tribe: extraordinary aerial footage
  19. Gravage Registered Senior Member

    And the result people are without jobs, meaning they have no money to survive, until they become homeless.

    "The poor will undoubtedly continue to work for the rich, for the very good reason that it's difficult for the poor to start their own businesses. But nobody's going to be working 16 hour days. That's the pre-industrial work day. Almost nobody in the USA works that hard"

    Wrong, if they have learned how to start their businesses and with enough money, they would, rich should be terminated as well as companies, because the way they are doing today is very similar to modern feudalism, they want power and control.
    You live in some utopistic world, so the poor are guilty because they don't know how to start the job?
    They would have, if someone has shown them.The main problem is if you eliminate the rich, the poor will get rich and behave equally arrogant as the previous rich people.
    The main fact here is that poor people only want normal life, they don't want businesses and making money on the damage of other people, like rich people always do.
  20. The Esotericist Getting the message to Garcia Valued Senior Member

    I read The Long Emergency, it was a great book.

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    Have you ever read these two?

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    This man is the foremost expert on the topic in America. Yet, western oil science makes some profound assumptions on the discovery and extraction of petrochemicals as we have seen recently from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig. When constructing and operating this rig and attempting to drill for abiotic oil below the so called "oil window," the Russians (who are the experts in the world on this type of drilling) had supposedly warned BP that trying to drill in this environment and those extreme depths and water pressures was inherently more dangerous because drilling for abiotic oil is much different in nature than drilling for tradition oil pockets.

    But this is neither here nor there. The point is, Kunstler's assumptions are founded on the same assumptions of a lot of trends forecasters. This is the assumption that current technologies and the state of the art in science will be what is true in the near, foreseeable, and far off future. This of course is true as a function of those societies that have the most government and corporate control. Those that have the most free enterprise unfettered by monopoly protected by government regulating bodies, and those with the least amount of government sequestering the most advanced technologies away from the civilian sectors, can usually solve societies problems with creativity, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. Otherwise? Oligarchs seek to control the populations and diminish the spirit of a free society for their own enrichment. I won't subscribe to Knustler's bleek vision of the future. He is like a modern day Malthus. If you look, there is plenty of refutation for the fallacy of the neo-malthusians, for exactly the same reasons that Malthus turned out to be wrong. If your vision of the future turns out to be correct, it will only be because the world's oligarchs are successful in their neo-feudelistic policies in controlling the world's creative potential through policies such as the carbon tax and the UN's Agenda 21.
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You must have slept through Econ 101. No one benefits by an increase in unemployment. Neither the unemployed workers nor their former employers.

    Sure, during the transition there can easily be a temporary bubble in one sector of the economy. The current private-equity fad illustrates that. For the past couple of decades an increasing share of America's wealth and income has accrued to capital (corporate profits, rents, dividends, interest, entrepeneur and proprietor income, etc.) and a decreasing share to labor (wages, fringe benefits, entitlements and other government programs). In fact financial institutions and other corporations have a much larger percentage of their assets in cash than ever before.

    But this also clearly illustrates the fallacy of this strategy. These selfish capitalists (and capitalism does not equate to selfishness in general, this is a special breed of capitalists who don't understand what they're doing) are basing their income on the inequality between nations. They're promoting tremendous growth in the economy of China, Malaysia and other formerly destitute countries by tremendously increasing employment over there. But as soon as their standard of living starts approaching the level in the West, they'll find it more difficult to sustain their astronomical profit margin by manufacturing goods thousands of miles away from their markets and having to pay shipping costs in an era of rising fuel prices.

    To summarize what I just said: This too shall pass. America's business leaders will be forced to reform their business practices and increase employment or there won't be anybody left to buy their products.
    Traditionally the poor have not had the knowledge, training and contacts to start businesses. Today many of them are well-educated and have business experience. All they need is the money.

    The standard of living in places like China has already risen so fast that it's increasingly difficult for American corporations to make fantastic profits there. So they're moving their factories to poorer countries. But eventually when even Angola and Uruguay have been industrialized and become middle-class countries, as Brazil and Mexico have become in this century, there won't be any more poor countries to exploit. At that time they'll have to repair their partnership with the American people. They'll start lending money to educated, experienced Americans who want to start their own businesses.

    The businesses of the Information Age are much smaller and easier to finance than steel mills and railroads, so this scenario is quite practical. So you and I aren't really disagreeing. The time will come when most of the giant corporations are obsolete. Work and profits will be distributed more evenly among the populace than they were during the Industrial Era. There will be more "intrapreneurs" as Toffler calls them: people who run very small information-intensive operations that primarily serve their own needs and those of a very small community, making a small profit in the bargain that is more than enough to live on in an age when people can live on cheaper rural property and spend very little on transportation, and food production is almost completely automated.
    As I said, you and I don't really disagree. Perhaps you see this happening only by revolution or a trend toward authoritarian government; I think you're wrong and it will simply happen naturally. We're already seeing large corporations die off while others scavenge their rotting corpses. The private-equity firms are perhaps the most visible manifestation of this trend.
    I didn't accuse them of being guilty of anything. Obviously to a certain extent some poor people are poor because of choices they made, such as blowing off school and thinking they could live in their parents' basement forever. But most poor people are poor largely because of bad luck--which includes being born into a poor family that can't give its children the opportunities the rest of us had.
    There will always be powerful people among us, but they don't always have to be arrogant. The democratization of humanity, which began in earnest in the 18th century, is an inexorable trend. Today more than half of the human race lives in countries whose governments are accountable to their constituents, and that fraction increases visibly with every passing decade. When governments are accountable, then so are the aristocrats--whether they're known as "nobility," "priesthood," "politburo," or "capitalists." Admittedly the accountability may be a slow process so the injustices you suffer will be corrected in your children's lifetime. But they will be corrected and most generations will have better lives than those who came before them.

    Your remarks about the plight of the poor in America must be tempered with recognition of the explosive expansion of the government's safety net. The education, transportation, health care, protection, food-stamp, etc. services that the municipal, state and federal governments provide to every American (and arguably more to the poor) are equivalent to very roughly $20K in annual income. This is greater than the per-capita GDP of some countries!
    That "always" is not true. Up until around 1980, American business leaders shared their wealth with their workers. As the postwar economy boomed, wages actually rose slightly faster than corporate profits, including executive salary and other income.

    It's only been since 1981 (do I have to remind anyone who became President in that year?) that corporate moguls have abandoned their responsibility to the people who generate their profits.

    Today in Europe, the average corporate executive's income is about ten times that of his average employee. In the USA the factor is one hundred.

    There's nothing natural or inevitable about this. Europe is, in fact, booming. One of the ways they do this is by not propping up inefficient corporations like General Motors. They let them go bankrupt so that some new, more efficient enterprise can take its place with sharp young leaders who use hot new ideas. In Europe they can do this because the government quickly and efficiently retrains the employees of the old company so they learn how to do the new kinds of jobs. In America we give them unemployment benefits for a year and then we let them starve. Even their medical insurance expires!

    Other countries prove to us every day that the things that are going wrong in America are not inevitable or universal. We're just going through a bad patch.
  22. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    You must realize either way is decades from practicality? That's why my scenario will ultimately prevail.
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    We can take a nuclear plant from proposal to operation in about twenty years. It's widely predicted that $8-per-gallon gasoline will cause Americans to finally wake up to the problem. At that point there will still be more than enough petroleum left to get us through twenty years, even if the price keeps rising. Our dinosaur-era managers who can't figure out how to manage people they can't see will have retired by then. They'll be replaced by you younger people who have been using the internet since you were born and can't imagine why people should have to be physically in the same place in order to work together. Telecommuting will cut our country's petroleum consumption by 25-35%.

    The orbiting solar collecters, well yeah. Considering that the U.S. government all by itself can't make a decision, it's unlikely that during this era all the world's governments would be able to cooperate to launch a project of that scope. In any case that's probably a hundred-year project.

    To be practical we'd probably have to build the space elevator first. I don't think anyone had dreamt of that 45 years ago when I first encountered the idea. Maybe it will make the project cheaper and faster.
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