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08/12/2010

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Jason

I always feel a little wiser (and melancholic) from your posts. As I was reading I wondered about a "genius" high school best friend of mine now "Superstar" Stanford Silicon Valley PhD, retired at 35 after some "inventive programing" sold for millions. For him, overpopulation, peak oil, liberalism/government interference are all negligible pests with respect to technological progress. In the last 30 years technology has given rise to a "required optimism" that is blind to failure. You wouldn't dare suggest to these Superstars that the future is bleak, and I think the ideas they have enable the business side/economists to believe that we can surmount any resource challenge. The greatest example of this, I think, is Ray Kurzweil and the idea of "Engineered Negligible Senescence" - yes we can even conquer death (a select few of the Superstars that is).

Mitch

Without some magical expansion of nano-tech to the point where we could re-arrange atomic structures as we see fit, resource limits apply. Technology has actually driven up resource depletion and Jevon's paradox is certainly alive and well as the logic of efficiency has lead to more consumption in this finite world.

The trappings of technology have just led humans to envision themselves more god-like and become worshipers at the alter of secularism/nationalism-statism. It's funny that liberals often demean simple minded Nationalism of many republicans, yet most worship their god--the state and their own narcissism. Beyond some major breakthroughs in medicine the rest is basically just bells and whistles--that have many consequences that diminish quality of life for the masses--as fewer and fewer people use technology/law/state to more effectively subjugate the many. Less freedom is the forward momentum of civilization, and of course the ability to kill from a distance and using modern day peasants to do the dirty work of the monied/elite interests.

It's funny that those that worship the state and technology are starting to get upset that they can't prop up the system effectively--yet want more complexity and more levers of power for the powerful. Plutocracy neo-feudalism is sure fun eh?

Edward  Boyle

Unfortunately the Inside the Box Thinking extends itself to the Steady State Thinking of PO and Alternative Energy Technocrats. This is just Progress by another name but it denies basic human nature to destroy his/her own work in a fit of creative destruction/boredom regularly. So there is no permanent Salvation from civilization in an alternate reality of Enlightened individuals. The children of the perfect technocrats will rebel and detroy just as the boomers did to the GI generation. History is a cyclical rise, plateau and decline of human ideas and follies (aka civilizations).

When did our civilization really start? Renaissance Italy perhaps ca 1400. Roman meditterranean was a civilization and perhaps Medieval Europe up till Bubonic plagues another (500s-1300s). So there we have Ancient, middle and modern ca. 800-1000 years I give each. We have a 200 year downslide coming now I would guess, giving us 1400-2200 for our technical humanist civilization. What comes next is the big question. Our descendants will build up a new concept out of the ashes but that will opnly be clear in ca. 400 years I presume and this will be called Dark Ages of ignorance.

Downsider

I'd bet a lot of Americans still think we'll be zipping around in flying cars in 2050, downloading tchotchkes through our cranial implants.

We'll probably be lucky if we've even got paved roads to run the occasional bus on.

I think we're all going to find out something basic about our technology, and it's going to be disheartening.

Namely: technology's not energy.

And all the impressive machinery we're running now, and probably ever will run, requires energy-dense, easily deliverable fuel to create and to power — especially for mass consumption, the only kind we know. And the absolute most potent, most convenient, and most abundant source that has ever existed in 4 billion years of earth history is being drawn down helter-skelter every second, every day. 750,000 barrels an hour, 24 hours a day, right here in the late U.S. of A, so fat people can crawl to the mall in gridlock traffic and fly to the casinos.

Yet we're still dreaming of space tourism and robot bodies and nano- immmortality and what have you.

Fantasy is probably going to be the last thing we run out of in America.
The way things stand now, we're probably going to need it, too.

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