Predictions of Environmental Doom

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by madanthonywayne, Apr 21, 2011.

  1. John99 Banned Banned

    LOL...that one? What part? There are plenty of telephone poles in China.:wallbang:
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  3. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Absolutely not.
    Having worked in and with large corporations for many years they have clearly embraced the decentralized office. If you don't need to come to the office then normally you don't have to. But you still need workers to physically make things and fix things etc, so there will always be a lot of workers who do have to go to a factory or office.

    Here's the list of the 30 fastest growing occupations, and 25 or so of them require the person to commute to their job.

    So, yeah, hang on to that Toyota stock, it will be worth a lot for a long time to come.

    Well according to the BLS, the Goods-producing sector, excluding agriculture had 21 million workers in it in 2008 and will have 21 million workers in it in 2018, so a lot of us still make tangible things.

    Our Service based business, most of which involve physical interaction with your customer was 116 million in 2008 and is expected to be 131 million in 2018. The information group makes up about 3 million of those, so most of these people are also not part of the "virtual commodities" market either.

    Just because we use fewer people to make a given thing doesn't mean the industrial world is obsolescent. Sure fewer people are needed to make a car today due to automation, but we make a heck of a lot more cars every year than we ever have done before, as well as Stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, appliances of every possible sort, TVs, phones, computers, game consoles, audio equipment, houses, boats, planes, ships etc etc.

    The wealth of the South was built on the industrial revolution as well. It was the mechanical Cotton Gin which made removing the seeds from the cotton efficient enough that you could finally gin what you could sow. (invented by Eli Whitney of interchangable parts fame) That combined with the new looms in England and the North that could consume as much cotton as the South could grow, pick and gin.

    But cotton farming itself was still done by hand labor because no one invented a mechanical means of picking cotton until about 80 years after the civil war.

    So no, they didn't miss any paradigm shift, they absolutely used the Cotton Gin to cash in on the industrial revolution.

    Cotton was King, even for relatively small farmers.

    Last edited: May 12, 2011
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  5. madanthonywayne Morning in America Registered Senior Member

    ironically, Eli Whitney saved slavery by inventing the cotton gin. Prior to his invention, the price of slaves had been dropping precipitously because there wasn't much for them to do. The cotton gin turned previously unproductive land into valuable cotton producing land which needed a lot of slaves to spite it.

    Despite being responsible for a revolution in cotton farming that basically clothed the world, Eli didn't make much money on the cotton gin because it was so easy to make knock offs of his design. He got involved in a bunch of lawsuits and ended up broke.

    He got his revenge by going on to popularize "the American System" of manufacturing which arguably helped the North win the civil war.
    Last edited: May 12, 2011
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    So? My observation about the implications of second derivatives holds at any scale, and in any geographical region. A negative second derivative is a necessary but far from sufficient condition for avoiding overshoot and bust. You can't point to a negative second derivative and claim it means a population will level off on its own, merely by continuing current trends.
    The jury is still out on China - even assuming they can make a full generation plateued, and keep their current policies in force indefinitely, they haven't got over the ecological hump yet and are still degrading their carrying capacity - as well as putting an increasing strain on everyone else's. Whether or not they caught it, or caught it in time, remains to be seen.

    India hasn't even begun. That looks like disaster rolling in - although the difference between disaster and status quo may be more difficult to spot, as time goes by.
    Sure. I pointed that out, above. In many cases of expertise, that's your old paradigm, making its standard predictions by extrapolating the current trends in the current context. In other cases they predict an end to the boom by other than status quo means. So?

    I definitely agree with the experts's prediction. A lot of people who predict certain disaster also agree - their mechanisms differ.

    The key phrase there was "short of disaster", which is related to "plateau on its own".
    I'm the one pointing out that we are not safe in assuming that the effects of the new wealth will match our already dubious hopes for the effects of the old wealth. You are the one pointing to old trends and extrapolating them to undemonstrated future effects.
    Most people can't do "information work" at a professional level. And the demand for such work has probably peaked. It's hard to imagine that there will ever again be as much need for such widespread employment in such endeavors as we saw in the high tech years of the industrial revolution - nowdays, a single person's work in that arena is reproducible and multiplyable and transportable at almost no cost.
  8. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    If current trends continue, then the population will, sooner or later acheive zero growth, end of story. That's what the second derivative means. It's not a question of "If" but "When".
  9. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    The earth can only sustain so much biomatter. But the possible methods of extending aforementioned period are unknowable. It may not happen in a hurry.

    And of course there is the 'possibility' of planetary colonialisation. Though I suppose the relevance of this in Earth's future is debatable, unless the Moon comes under inclusion in Earth's statistical future (it is the same stuff).

    The possibilities of spread are unknowable. the limits of Earth's cradling abilities are unknowable.

    But of course there ARE limits; unless the Earth's effective mass can be increased without end (not possible).

    I guess my point is that there are factors that could cause another surge in population growth. New ways of producing a lot of food. Better management of the water cycle (desalination and irrigation). Not to mention increased precipitation of GW turning areas like Australia back into fertile farmlands. Colonisation of the Moon. Colonisation of Antartica, Greenland, northern Canada etc. etc.

    There is the 'possibility' of 'curve ball' variables entering the system of population growth. Factors we at present have no accounting for.

    Is it the population of Humankind under review? The population of the Earth? The earth AND its satellites natural or manmade? All objects in Earth's vicinity? All humans in the Solar System. All humans in the Milky Way?*

    The ability of humans to leave the Earth in meaningful numbers also has the possibility of throwing off the numbers, as the growth could be astronomic, but with millions leaving quickly it would be a kind of release valve.

    How long before we have to start running lotteries to see who gets to have kids?

    *Will we risk the very health of the galaxy itself with our ravenous tendencies? (Sorry. Forgive the conjecture. Got carried away a little at the end)

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    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  10. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    I'm not clear on this.

    If you WIN the lottery does that mean you get to have kids or you get to skip the hassle and expense of raising kids?
  11. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    In an overpopulated world, having kids will become a luxury. Losing the lottery means you avoid the expense.

    Though I suppose if only one couple in a thousand can have kids there will be a lot of extra child support available?

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  12. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    My personal opinion is that we're a long way - in some respects at least anyway from reaching any sort of 'critical mass', however avoiding any kind of crunch requires a paradigm shift.

    For example, somewhere around here (figuratively speaking) i have a plan for using technology that includes OTEC to produce electricity, fresh drinking water, and useable minerals - including liquid hydrocarbons (and yes, by that I mean crude oil). What I lack is the capital to pilot the project, and any kind of investor with the motivation to provide such capital.

    My personal opinion is that if we focused on the right technologies, which I don't think we currently are, then the earth has the capacity to support substantially more Humans than most people consider, without screwing the environment to do so.
  13. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    I'm inclined to agree with the sentiment...but I believe we'd argue endlessly about what those are
  14. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Actually, more correctly it's a combination of solar thermal and OTEC, but eh.
  15. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Naaah, I reckon it's pretty straight forward really.

    We have three 'basic' needs from which everything else flows - Food, Drinking water, and an external source of energy (electricity, at the moment).
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Sure, because it's a big country. But imagine how many more trees they would have had to cut down and how much worse the visual pollution would be in their cities if, once the population became affluent enough for a telephone to no longer be a luxury, everyone had a land line.
    Tell that to the federal government, arguably the nation's largest employer if you count contractors--who may be uncountable since, last I heard, no one keeps centralized statistics on them! Their managers continue to evaluate performance 100% on how many hours their employees spend in the office rather than on how much they produce, for obvious reasons that I won't elaborate through this corporate server. They, and the legions of private-sector managers who regard them as role models, have taught two generations of American workers how to look busy, which is even easier nowadays with a computer screen on every desk.
    • Home health aids. Much of this will be automated, such as observation, feeding and medication. Even physical movement, such as to the bathroom or exercise, will yield to robotics.
    • Customer service representatives. What happened? Did India forget to pay its electric bill?
    • Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food. Still thinking inside the box, I see. Restaurant patrons may value personal service and be willing to pay for it, although their kitchens and maintenance will be increasingly automated. But fast food is an assembly line, and all assembly lines are eventually automated. Moreover, as people spend more time at home and less time driving, the market for fast food will decrease.
    • Retail salespersons. We're sexagenarians and do much of our shopping online. Most of the rest is in stores like Costco and Target, where there are virtually no "salespersons." Even my supermarket has full-silicon checkout lines where you scan and weigh your own groceries.
    • Office clerks, general. They're joking. The biggest complaint from managers about the workstation revolution is that they no longer have secretaries, file clerks, receptionists and typists. It's been said that workstations don't always improve productivity, a statement you can validate by watching an executive spend half an hour trying to center the heading on a report.
    • Accountants and auditors. These guys have proven to not be as reliable, efficient, skillful and honest as we assumed. Even the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, a direct presidentail appointee, was too busy filling out forms and going to unproductive meetings, to direct his bank examiners to look a little more carefully at the bizarre, counterintuitive phenomenon of subprime mortgages. Besides, they too can work more efficiently with automated tools and online resources.
    • Construction laborers. How much new office space will be needed once the telecommuting revolution actually starts to happen? And how much new residential space will be needed when the population begins to stabilize? Not to mention, even "blue collar" jobs have become more productive with the help of automation.
    • Landscaping and groundskeeping workers. Homeowners won't be hiring as many gardeners when they spend more time enjoying their gardens and less time driving to work. And this type of "manual labor" has also been made less labor-intensive by modern technology. You see a lot more machinery and a lot fewer people on gardening and landscaping gigs.
    • Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks. Say hello to your new AI.
    • Executive secretaries and administrative assistants. The CEO of my company types his own correspondence, updates his own spreadsheets, and even makes his own coffee!
    • Management analysts. Again, a job made more productive by software.
    • Computer software engineers, applications. Now these people are getting into my own field of expertise and their ignorance is laughable. The functionality automated by the average software project is about twenty times greater than it was when I started in this business and the quality, sophistication and user-friendliness are immeasurably greater, yet the average project team is much smaller thanks to 4GLs, relational databases, structured programming and the demise of batch processing. Besides, if there is any economic sector in which telecommuting is 100% appropriate, it's IT!
    • Receptionists and information clerks. Rapidly being replaced by a screen in the lobby.
    • First-line supervisors/managers of office and administrative support workers. Once again, a preposterous assertion in one of my own fields of expertise displays the poor quality of the scholarship that went into this table. Another of the biggest criticisms of the workstation revolution is that it has made the position of first-line supervisor obsolete. Everyone does his own timekeeping, schedules his own meetings, coordinates his own workflow, and reports directly to a manager. As a result, the crusty but wise old nag (of either gender) who in the past housebroke us and trained us in the ways of supervision is gone. People are now promoted directly into management without having any of the knowledge, skills or experience that the job requires. I find it amusing that people who insist that computers are not changing the world for the better manage to overlook the many very real ways in which they have caused serious problems along the way.
    • Waiters and waitresses. I don't understand why this wasn't included with "food preparation and service workers." As I noted there, many people now "eat out" because they don't have time to cook. The telecommuting revolution will make a big dent in that industry.
    In summary, many of the assertions on this list are patently false. And overall, the compilers have caught the world in a state of transition, when the Electronic Revolution is nowhere near its ultimate full impact. Come back in fifty years and count the number of humans who are making hamburgers, analyzing accounting records, caring for the elderly, answering questions, building houses, etc., using the archaic labor-intensive techniques of the Industrial Era.
    And will continue to do so, but not indefinitely. The Industrial Revolution was well underway in 1890, but even then the majority of Americans were still trapped in the food production and distribution industry. A hundred years later more Americans schlep, sell and serve food than actually grow it, and even their jobs are being steadily automated. Unfortunately often in ways that make us cringe, such as "factory farms."
    As production and marketing become more automated, it stands to reason that service will eclipse those occupations. Nonetheless, the production, manipulation, analysis and distribution of information will be the dominant industry. This will be one of the major factors in the redefinition of economics, as more people produce what they use--Toffler coined the word prosumers. This covers everyone from the homeowner who does his own remodeling using today's nearly idiot-proof tools, to the teenager putting together his own iTunes playlist for his next party (he doesn't even need to transcribe his vinyl to cassettes in real time, as we had to), to the vacationer who plans his own itinerary and books all of his own flights, hotels and tours, to the registered charity whose clerks manage their own ad campaigns and finances without professional help.
    Of course. Just because we use fewer people to make food doesn't mean that the Neolithic Revolution is over either. But just as agriculture, despite still being a major component of the human race's GDP, is no longer our largest employer, the same will happen to manufacturing.
    Much of that production is driven by consumption. Not only are there more people every year who were born with none of those things, but their parents are more prosperous so they can buy them those things. This is why the Baby Boom drove both our culture and our economy for a couple of generations. Everything from hula hoops to rock and roll to motorcycles to universities to liposuction to baby carriages built like little Volvos to relief from ED and menopause and, ultimately, to nursing homes, was built to satisfy the insatiable demands of that explosive market.

    When the death rate equals the birth rate, and begins to exceed it, there won't be as much manufacturing.
    Sure, they picked and chose the Industrial Era technologies that suited them. But they built very few factories and their railroad network was a joke.
    The Industrial Revolution was about far more than mechanized farming. The printing press was the catalyst for public education and universal literacy. Workers whose productivity was multiplied by technology had larger incomes and "discretionary income" came into existence as well as leisure time and recreational travel. Educated people who could read the wealth of printed material available began to agitate for democracy, and they had the means to relocate if they didn't like the place where they were born. This is why throughout the South teaching Afro-Americans to read and write was at least discouraged and at worst a capital crime.
    Even before the Civil War, German immigrants performed controlled tests and proved that free farmhands being paid fair wages produce more product per dollar than slaves. The aristocrats in the South simply did not want to live in a democracy where their underlings had no reason to call them "sir" and "ma'am" and cater to their every whim. This continued long after the end of the Civil War.
    Well sure. Every Paradigm Shift is a mixed blessing. I'm sure many of the people in Neolithic agricultural villages yearned for the good old days when they were sleeping under the stars, going on exciting hunts, and working a 20-hour week. The Bronze Age made life easier with its incredible selection of precise tools, yet some of those tools were the first "weapons of mass destruction" (metal blades, spearpoints and armor) which made war as we know it possible. In fact the fuller picture that these mixed blessings create tends to suggest that the effects of new wealth do indeed greatly parallel the effects of the old wealth.

    Nonetheless, democracy has been a steadily evolving motif since the Neolithic Era, and the power of electronics has already accelerated the spread of democracy (or at least a kinder version of a competing system such as the strangely successful hybridization of Confucianism with communism in China), so there's no reason to doubt that our species will continue to learn how to override instinctive behavior with reasoned and learned behavior, keeping civilization on its 12,000-year, nearly monotonic progression toward a single, harmonious world community.

    BTW, the definition of "wealth" itself may very well change in a post-industrial society. It will certainly include more abstractions and fewer physical possessions than it does even today.
    That's because they haven't been trained for it, formally or by immersion.
    You're joking. It's ready to explode. Look at all the data warehouses that haven't been built yet, and then multiply that by any arbitrary factor to cover the ones that we haven't even thought of.
    There may not be as much programming as we know it today, because programming has become easier. But data collection can, theoretically, continue indefinitely, especially when you count metadata. And don't forget the prosumers, people who build their own databases and processes for exploiting them strictly within the bounds of their own lives. My wife and have a quotation database that we have been accumulating since the 1980s when it was on paper, gleaned from TV shows, movies, other sources, and our own gems of wisdom. We use it in our own writing, but moreover we use the gems in it to help guide our lives. This is somewhere around 1,000 entries and does not greatly overlap any of the online resources.

    Look at the compendium of wisdom on SciForums. No one is buying or selling this stuff, but it still enriches our lives. It is a form of "wealth" that is owned communally.
    This was dismissed fifty years ago, when it seemed that the human population would continue to double with every generation. If we could somehow move half of humanity to Mars, thirty years later both planets would be packed tight and we'd be looking for two new ones.
    Population growth is not slowing because of lack of space. It's slowing because as societies become more prosperous their members are no longer driven to procreate at their maximum rate. Remember, at some level the procreation instinct was programmed to ensure survival of the species. As excess population growth threatens that survival, that instinctive behavior is being overridden by reasoned and learned behavior. This has been the history of our species, the only animal with a large enough forebrain to be able to override its instincts on such a large scale.
    Huh??? Throughout the Western world, the birthrate has already dropped below replacement level. The only thing that's propping up our social security PonziSchemes is immigration.
    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  17. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    On this we will have to differ.
    Having worked in corporate America for many decades, looking busy gets you nowhere, producing is required, and where you are when you produce is not the issue. I've worked from home for 15 years now, and all the companies I've worked for have a substantial number of remote employees. The fact is if you want to be a remote employee (and lots do) then you HAVE to produce since there is no one to notice how busy you look. Still the majority of jobs can not be done from home and that is not likely to change anytime soon.

    No, the assertions are not patently false. Just because you think you're smarter than the people who do this type of analysis for a living doesn't make your assertions valid.

    Let's just take one example:

    Well the projections between today and 2030 is that we will add about 50 million more people to the US, so YES, there will obviously be a LOT of construction jobs over the next 20 years.

    Or another example:

    Waiters and waitresses aren't in the first catagory because their job descriptions don't include preparing food. But all catagories of Food and beverage serving and related workers was 7.7 million jobs in 2008. A HUGE number of jobs, and one that isn't declining (and over twice as large as your Information workers group).

    Indeed, the market segment that they are in Leisure and hospitality, went from 11.3 million in 1998 to 13.5 million in 2008, and though you keep knocking fast food, and though I myself rarely eat it, it is showing no signs of decline nor do restauraunts in general. Still fast food represents only 2.7 out of those 7.7 million jobs, and fast food is already highly automated so it's unlikely we will see any decline in the number of these jobs.

    The fact is the number of meals eaten outside the home as a percent of meals has done nothing but rise and I don't think this is likely to change because a slightly larger percent of our workers telecommute.

    Highly unlikely. Almost all of the things you brought up were in play over the period from 1998 to 2008, and yet we can see the growth that occurred in these job markets in spite of your assertions that they shouldn't be growing. And so, for instance, even though online shopping did grow by a huge amount over that time frame, still the number of retail workers grew from 14 million to 15 million.

    In contrast, information workers actually declined a bit from ~3.2 million to 3.0 million. That's Real world, Real numbers.

    Yes and ALL of these are so well known that clearly they were NOT missed by the people doing the analysis on the jobs growth.

    Yet you seem to think that ANY of the things you brought up is new news.
    It's not.

    But that's not projected to happen for 50 or so years and it still is not likely to matter to the US because of our net immigration and because products only last so long, so when in 50 years from now there are over 100 million more people living in the US there will be even more manufacturing than there is today.

    Makes sense.

    So? They were mainly an agricultural states, their need for the industrial revolution was based on improving agricultural practices. They didn't have the breakwater that the North did to support the factories, and the railroads were sufficient to move the cotton and tobacco, so again, they did what suited their needs.

    And the South was working with the North to figure out a way to transition out of Slavery when the war began. Of course slavery was going to go, the war was never needed for that to happen. The difference is without the war the transition would have been done via a humane process, the "40 acres and a mule" concept being the most likely with the vast areas of available land being allocated. After the war though, none of that happened and "Congratulations, you're free" was the extent of the nation's generosity.

    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  18. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Well except for population momentum.
  19. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

  20. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Moderator Note:
    Three off topic posts deleted, one for trolling, two 'feeding the troll'.

    If you want to preach, do it in the religion subforum, this is the earthscience subforum, and I have a very limited tolerance for preaching.
  21. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    I have always thought about geothermal, which I believe has been harnessed in different ways already.

    Your idea sounds interesting. How much effort have you put into it? Have you drawn up financial proposals, done simulations etc. etc. ?
  22. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Without going into too much details, this is my problem. Brilliant mind, big, original ideas, no clue where to start.
  23. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    Universities are a good place to develop these types of ideas.

    I would imagine that if you could get it all down in detail. Get a computer simulation (not necessarily in amazing detail to start) running. Or at least some decent images. Do some general number crunching etc. (would have to show you have got the energy to push this). Then approach some professors and see what kind of response you get.

    If they were interested they would help you take this further I am sure. This would give you the ability to get your outline done in much more detail. You will need many heads to get this to a point where anyone will take it seriously.

    Then approach some big guns. If you really think your idea has commercial legs then go for it.

    It is either that or go straight to the commercial sector. But I personally would try to get the idea as complete as possible before I did that.

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