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Also, the $260 trillion GDP by 2060 would have to represent a slowdown in current world GDP growth. Besides the recession, and ignoring faulty data and possible padding, world GDP has grown at 3-4% for longer than the last 15 years. That puts us at about $160 trillion by 2035, $320 trillion by 2055, and somewhere around $400 trillion by 2060 if the current rates kept going.

We'd have to not just 'decouple' carbon use from GDP growth at that pace, we'd have to sever it. Pure fantasy. (Or, we could go to Mars!)

By the way: "We could start altering the environmental state of Mars and mess that up." What environmental state? It's a rock with no biosphere at all! Clueless.

Dave Cohen

Jim, I'll tell ya --

I don't know how Sharf's cluelessness could escape human notice, but it surely does. I've never been published in Scientific American or any other "respectable" publication.

By the way, I should have riffed on that Mars nonsense in this post. Thanks.

Today I'm thinking about myself, and I've got to ask, given this astonishing human cluelessness, where does that leave me?

Sharf is a high prestige human (i.e., Columbia University) and naturally those are the humans I typically go after. He's an allegedly "intelligent" human whose astrobiology book I recently thumbed through. If you want to read a couple hundred pages of babbling, that's the book for you.

So if the intelligent, high prestige humans are entirely clueless -- these are the ones who are successful in life, the ones who run things -- where does that leave the people (the realists) who can actually see what's going on?

I'll tell you where it leaves them -- it leaves them nowhere, out in the cold.


-- Dave

Mike Cooper

Guys, you're right - Mars doesn't rally have an 'environmental state' - but maybe that's the reason we should leave it alone anyway? It certainly once had flowing water, and there's a tiny chance it might still have some sort of microbial life (although personally I think it's not very likely at all) - but I'm sure if we get there (again, a tiny chance given the state of the world economy and politics etc., not withstanding the technical difficulties) we'll manage to f*ck it up too.

I really don't understand how any intelligent person can predict GDP growth to $260tn with a straight face, nevermind make predictions about economic activity in a 4.5C world.

As for Fermi's paradox - we'd have to hope (there's that word again) that the mistakes we're making are due to our mammalian / hominid condition and intelligence derived elsewhere would actually be a bit more intelligent, or at least, rational.

Alexander Ac

Hello Dave,

couldn't stop laughing through tears!

It is instructive how from a relatively correct description of the past, one can conclude absolute nonsense description of the future.

That reminds me a TV discussion with one astronomer, who claimed that we have potentially new technologies enabling us to extract resources from asteroids. Totally clueless. A professor with more than 100 scientific publications.

After the discussion, he even asked me: "Mr. Ac, is the global warming real? Is it "really" us?"

I felt similarly - like a guy left (almost) alone in the hot desert, left to my own "inevitable" destiny.

But that is my problem, of course!



Mike Roberts

Wow. We're in the 6th extinction event, even without help from climate change. $260 trillion? No way.

I'm amazed that apparently intelligent people think our future lies off this planet, as though not having figured out how to live sustainably on this planet doesn't disqualify us from trying to inhabit others. The other thing is the total impossiblity of humans leaving this solar system and remaining viable (any other planet within this solar system isn't in the habitable zone, even if anyone actually wanted to try to live on any of them). I used to be a space exploration fan but I realised, many years ago, that it was an impossibility and now also realise that it is a complete waste of time, money and resources.

By the way, isn't New Scientist a respectable publication? ;)

Dave Cohen

@Mike Roberts

Re: By the way, isn't New Scientist a respectable publication? ;)

That wasn't me.

-- Dave


So, Citi, because they have the ability to know the future, can say with certainty how much a phantom plan will impact a theoretical number 45 years in the future... fucking brilliant!

These people couldn't even predict libor without price-fixing it! And we're supposed to base decisions on their word?

As for Sharf, why is it that every time human beings run into any kind of realistic barrier to fantasy they inevitably decide that the answer must be a larger fantasy?

I know, because that's what humans do and, in Flatland, they're not even aware they're doing it.

Tell you what... what do we think is more likely over the long term, our mass escape to other planets or the decline of our numbers on this planet? Let's see. So, will the population be over/under 3 billion people when we finally have a meaningful presence on Mars? Me, I'll take the under because I don't think there is any chance of humans getting off this rock in any meaningful numbers. Like rats leaving a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean, there's nowhere to go, and their situation has not materially improved.

Jay Moses

there may be an alternative answer to fermi's paradox. perhaps there are or have been other comparably intelligent life forms somewhere in the universe. they may have reached a degree of complexity similar to our own and then proceeded to destroy themselves much as homo sap seems inclined to do. based on the experience of the only known case of a big brain species, the conclusion may not be that much of a stretch.

Mike Roberts

Oh, I always thought that article, about how long currently useful resources would last, was yours. Thanks for the heads up, Dave, and sorry you haven't been published in a reputable magazine. Yet. That would be one helluvan article.

Dave Cohen

@Mike Roberts

The problem is that book contracts or magazine writing gigs go to people like Caleb Sharf. As I said the other day in a comment, Flatland is a closed (self-contained) world.

'nuf said.

-- Dave


you know, I visit this site as often as I can and I don't comment much for the simple fact that I'm not really sure what else to say. I mean I suppose I could regurgitate the information and analysis, but what's the point....I get it!

But anyways, I felt like I needed to get some things off my chest this time.

I'm going to speak from a personal point of view, so this may not help anybody in any way. A lot of these thoughts came from @Brian's comment: "As for Sharf, why is it that every time human beings run into any kind of realistic barrier to fantasy they inevitably decide that the answer must be a larger fantasy?"

This resonates with me personally. This is one of the reactions of some of the people I have close relationships with will default to and it blows my mind. Others will at least simply deny, or use the "it's all so far off into the future though.....isn't it?" excuse. Needless to say I don't bring anything gloomy up in conversations any more--I've learned my lesson.

I've had friends and family tell me how we're on the verge of finding another earth to inhabit in another solar system; How the hell do we get there?...then comes the silent blank stare and then the "I'm sure we'll figure it out eventually" answer....okay. Then the ones who don't do any reading or research into anything, these are the ones who just simply deny: "There's no way that what you say can be true.", "We'll figure something out.", "It just seems that way, that's not really how it is.", or my favorite "Wow, really?" (as they clearly shrug off what I just told them).

Yet, the most nerve racking and frustrating reply I've gotten came from my best friend who currently has two children (three and one years old). After explaining how bad things already are and how much worse things are likely to get his answer to me was "Yeah, but when you say these things are you talking about 50 years from now?" What does it matter if it's 50 years or 5 years, you have two small children who still have to grow!

So thats my rant and I apologize ahead of time for its meaninglessness, but it just constantly feels like I'm living in Flatland Central.

p.s--this rant doesn't include the ridiculous claims I've gotten of a robot revolution!!!


But is her acknowledgement really going to result in anything positive?

I have two young children as well. I can't think of any benefit knowing about decline in terms of raising children. It just gives me this sense of despair. I guess the only good thing is I'm still rather young. Maybe they won't have to face this alone. Maybe I won't be spared of the struggles of the future. Maybe they'll be better adjusted to it than I.


This post is hilarious!

I never bother to read this sort of stuff because I know this is what I'll find. Thanks for doing the dirty work.


Wow, there are just so many things to say about this delusional nonsense from Scharf. Interesting how he refers to the ongoing sixth mass extinction, but then discusses the prospects of human extinction in terms of "asteroid impacts or supervolcanoes, or sheer overcrowding", eliding other more salient extinction risks for humanity.

But the larger point is the retreat of humanity into quasi-religious comforting delusions in the face of an existential threat. The gulf between intelligence and wisdom has rarely been so well demonstrated.

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