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Te Cho

It really does seem the worse things get or the faster they get worse, the stronger the self-deception.

And things are seeming to get worse faster now...


Ignoring the submerged in salt water infrastructure alone renders this bad fiction.


Hey, the tourism industry could benefit mightily-just picture the marketing. "Come visit New York City: America's Venice-complete with hydrogen-fuel cell powered gondolas for the Grand Scenic Tour package."

The good ol' human entrepreneurial spirit shall not be deterred by the inconveniences of dramatic shifts of environmental circumstance-after all we're human beings; the smartest, cleverest and most adaptable critters ever to stride (or float) on the surface of this here planet and if we had a few "oopsies" along the way making things..well...a bit more difficult to endure we'll devise methods of making do-and making money-just like we have demonstrated time and time again.

@Bill, Perhaps this may be bad fiction but it sure sounds plausible as a literary example of the attitude people would take during the incipient stages of environmental collapse.

Brian Sheller

Any flatlander with younger children will gobble second and third helpings of this delusional, uplifting fantasy. They can read it and warmly imagine something other than the violent, competitive fate awaiting their already mentally enslaved progeny. This especially applies to younger parents who were looking squarely at the 90s while they indulged their primitive drive to reproduce.

Good for Mr. Robinson on making the sentimental monkeys dance then collecting their paper. Rich(er) is better, as it's been said.
Bloomberg Advert Articles definitely help in that effort.

But those individuals capable of mitigating the primal imperative to breed might be too caught up considering the likely violent inflection/downside of the human population explosion to indulge Robinson's ignorant hopeful fantasies.

Much more effort to climb the face than it is to jump off the cliff.

Robinson doesn't want to repeat himself? I've got bad news for an optimist.

Jeremy MG

"This especially applies to younger parents who were looking squarely at the 90s while they indulged their primitive drive to reproduce."

So you think it is the millenials, mired in debt and joblessness that are gobbling this stuff up? I would say they are buying into the religion of growth and progress less and less each year, as they are facing a more difficult reality than their parents.

But don't let me get in the way of your usual self-serving rants, you insufferable, uninteresting bastard.

Might get banned for that, but I can still enjoy reading!

Brian Sheller

Jeremy, 'growth' and 'progress' are fueled by the debt that's mired the millennials; the debt they keep signing their names against. Do you know what money is and how it comes to be?

It seems to me our generation will definitely encounter a more difficult reality, but they're certainly not facing it. Our peers, you included, are facing and gripping more tightly to the past than even the dying boomers.
When you get drunk and whine about needing hope, this is you longing for the past, for example.

We're the products of and entirely sustained by the energy dependent systems around us. If millennials, the living meatr of the population explosion, quit 'buying into' growth and progress, the troubles begin in earnest.

As for your repeated insults and remarkably poor manner, I can only offer the old saying,
'We'll know we're over our target by the flak we're getting.'

Mike Roberts

Gosh, Robinson has a great imagination. Sea level is 50 feet higher but life is pretty much going on as normal, only wetter?

Mike Cooper

I haven't read any Kim Stanley Robinson yet, and now, I don't think I'll bother.

Jeremy MG

"It seems to me our generation will definitely encounter a more difficult reality, but they're certainly not facing it. Our peers, you included, are facing and gripping more tightly to the past than even the dying boomers."

No, it's more of a "I'd like to eat and have healthcare and really don't want to work four jobs to do so". What past are they gripping onto exactly? The one where they were watching cartoons and playing Super Nintendo. I That's their past. These aren't unemployed, former factory workers in their mid-50's.

Unless they were born into privilege, I think they've kind of figured out things are going to be worse for them and their children than it was for their parents and grandparents. That's why the obligatory hope has shifted to universal basic income. It's now, "Shit. There aren't any jobs to go around. I'm going to have to pay out of pocket for healthcare and other basic services because the social safety net is being gutted. Surely they are going to throw us some kind of bone, right?"

"When you get drunk and whine about needing hope, this is you longing for the past, for example."

That's mostly tongue in cheek. Why would I come here looking for hope when there are countless other spots I can go to find some positive affirmation? Coming here for that would be like going to an AA meeting looking to have a few beers.

You're conflating hope with expectations. When I hear a gurgling sound in the basement, I'm expecting to see a pool of sewage spewing out from the floor drain. As I head down the steps, I REALLY hope I won't have to spend the next three hours ankle deep in shit trying to clean everything, but I'm expecting that to be the case.

That's kind of how I view the future.

You seem to be under this impression that I dislike and insult you because I can't handle your harsh truths. As I've said, I've seen plenty of unhappy endings. I've witnessed all the hope, happy thinking, and in some cases the outright desperate pleas to a higher power not change the dreadful, sad outcome. I don't want this future. I don't want to see the suffering and continued destruction. I'm well aware that this won't change the outcome.

You've made it pretty clear that the you view the future as some sort of punishment for mankind's carelessness towards the natural world. You have stated you are trying to "get in the right frame of mind" in order to enjoy further suffering and destruction. Cast the sinners in to the fire, right?

That's why I dislike and insult you. You deserve it, IMO.

This has been a very selfish post. I apologize to the readers. I've allowed my self to be cross-examined by some self-righteous, Rodger Elliot-weirdo.

Brian Sheller

The actual motivation to insult me is a the result of unconscious process that presents its product to and ultimately rules your conscious mind, a product that 'you' then indulge and let fly from your fingers.

Our interactions, driven by your animal behavior, are a flatland case study if there ever was one. There are actually billions.

You insult and project on to me because you're generally afraid and defensive, your post-hoc rationalization of the matter notwithstanding. If this wasn't true, you'd be minding your business and choosing to simply ignore and post parallel to me as the others and I do.

Your animal drives and unconscious decision making preclude that outcome, it seems.

There's no use in talking to you further, as much as I enjoy giving you a hard time. I've seen you launch these senseless tirades against others on the site, so feel free to take your tears to the next guy.

Jeremy MG

OK. Thanks.


If I were stranded on a desert island, I'd much rather be with a person who doesn't know everything and understands this, than a person who thinks they understand everything, and doesn't. That's all I'll say about that.

I haven't read any Robinson, either, although I am a big sci-fi fan - have been since I was a kid, and still am now. I'm currently binge watching 'Star Trek Enterprise', although I can't help but chuckle at the silliness of it all nowadays.

It's a marked characteristic of successful sci-fi writers that they're techno-utopians as well. For one thing, that's going to sell a lot better to the public, but it's also psychologically easier to write about hope than despair. Even Cormac McCarthy's book 'The Road' is essentially about hope, especially at the end.

But, I'll also say this - we here tend to put a lot of weight on the worst outcomes, while techno-utopians put a lot of weight on the best outcomes. The future might be one, the other, or more probably, some combination of both.


Come on guys - look on the bright side.

They'll simply rename New York - NEW VENICE :-))

Be positive, always be positive!


"Benjamin Strauss, vice president for sea level and climate impacts at Climate Central...is more optimistic that the city will prevent flooding than is Robinson. “The geography of the area allows the building of a barrier,” Strauss says. “My guess is that we will build a wall and sit tight” before the water reaches Times Square."

Even the guy at Climate Central is unrealistically delusional. At 410ppm we're already committed to over 80 feet of sea level rise (eventually, maybe not by 2140 of course), right? I'm sorry but you don't build a wall and sit tight against 80 feet of sea level rise in Manhattan.

Oh well, he (and we) will be dead by then so it doesn't really matter much.


OK, neither of these comments address the main points, but I have read several Kim Stanley Robinson books and have lived in New York.

First, "science fiction" has never had much to do with science. The genre is about putting people in fantastic settings in order to make the usual comments about how humans interact. Science fiction is a subset of fantasy that uses technological gizmos. It wound up getting more credit than it deserves because one author, Jules Verne, used tech that in some cases actually wound up happening (and Verne's best book, "Around the World in Eighty Days" is not a science fiction book, except that Verne wrote it).

Robinson's most famous series of books involve the terraforming of Mars, which is actually impossible because the planet lacks a magnetic field. Interplanetary travel, a common scifi trope, is impossible due to the physics around the speed of light. Robinson's other books feature things such as a campaign rally at the North Pole, an underground party at the Vostok base in Antartica, and so on. He likes fantastic settings that are really impossible if you think too hard about it.

A good part of New York City is built on really high ground pushed there by the glaciers, so its less vulnerable to sea level rise than you would think given the place is built on a bunch of islands. Its less vulnerable than London, which did build a big wall to keep out the sea. A combination of a Thames-style barrier, abandoning the lower lying parts, and moving things more uptown will probably do the trick. If not, you will you just see the city abandoned, lots of cities have been abandoned in history when ecological changes made them just uneconomical. You won't get people traveling between cities on boats, though.

Dave Cohen

The 4th Flatland essay has been sent by e-mail to my 4 reviewers.

It will be published next week.

-- Dave

David Laskaris

@ Dave: Pins & needles!!


Jim, I was genuinely surprised about your last sentence...

"But, I'll also say this - we here tend to put a lot of weight on the worst outcomes, while techno-utopians put a lot of weight on the best outcomes. The future might be one, the other, or more probably, some combination of both."

I'd be interested to know what sort of things you'd consider as "techno-uptopian best outcomes" and why you think they'd probably happen?

From my pov (and I'm genuinely trying to be balanced here) I can't think of 1 thing (of actual worth to our species) thats getting better? Autonomous vehicles, Amazon Drone deliveries, Captain Musk and his USS SpaceX going boldly where... you get my drift? I dont see any of this crap as a good/yet alone best outcome.

How's the air, water, food, biodiversity and climate going these days? You know, stuff that actually matters to the survival of our species...

Us "doomers" should get down on ourselves for seeing & speaking the truth... hoping for a better future is one thing, believing technology will save us is another.

It's quite simple really - forests preceed & deserts follow civilisation!


@Idiocracy: yeah, I wasn't happy with the wording there, but I let it be. For one thing, it's not really possible that we all live in a Utopia at the same time as a wasteland - and a combination of the two doesn't make sense.

However, I'm not of the opinion that we're going to have some sudden, civilization-ending catastrophe any time soon (say, the next 15 years), and more of the opinion that we'll see a series of emergencies followed by responses over a longer period of time, with each step getting bleaker as it goes downward.

I am very confident of humans rushing to build more and more technology as 'solutions' to all this as it happens. Taking NYC as an example, the rowboats thing is just silly, but I'd rather expect the subway system in lower Manhattan to be replaced by an elevated platform at some point. I do expect we'll make strides in solar and EV deployment, and I even think we're going to land some people on Mars (colonization is far less likely, though).

At the same time, I think we'll have a series of environmental flash points. I don't think the two things are mutually exclusive, especially because human nature will always prevent us from just 'giving up'. We're always going to think there's a way out, and we're going to try and find it.

There was an awful Matt Damon film a while back called Elysium. The film is silly, and it has the subtext that the only way to fight technological superiority is, you guessed, technology, but it portrays a very wealthy minority that has isolated themselves in a techno-utopia, while the vast majority of humans live in absolute squalor. I don't think the elite will be sunbathing on a space station as in that film, but I do think the basic concept there of an elite separating themselves physically and technologically from the majority isn't an impossibility for our future, especially in regards to the elite having exclusive access to revolutionary medical techniques.

In these ways, it's possible for a technological wonderland to exist as well as a degrading biosphere.

How you or I value technology isn't as important as how most humans value it. An iPad is like magic to many people. Recent news:

As for a true techno-utopian's best outcome - say, interstellar travel and a fully peaceful and materially content Earth 150 years from now (as in 'Star Trek Enterprise') - ha ha, no, I don't think that's likely.

Dave Cohen

I really like The Expanse, currently in its second season on the SyFy channel. Very high production values -- the series is visually stunning, and you really believe everybody is in outer space.

Humans have colonized the solar system, so the technology is really nifty, but humans are also just as political and fucked up as we see today. The solar system is divided up into 3 factions, Earth, Mars and "the belt" -- those who live & work in the outer solar system. Earth and Mars are always shitting on the belters, Earth and Mars are always at each other's throats.

Aliens enter the picture and all hell breaks lose. Love it.

-- Dave


I agree that our great globalised Civilisation isn't going away in a hurry. As I usually note when discussing collapse (everybody wants a date) - Civilisation WILL keep going... until it can't!

I also agree that we'll build more/higher tech 'solutions' and embark on great new adventures in outer-space. But as you note, all whilst everything (of real importance) gets worse by the day. And why does it get worse... because of our stupid techno-uptopian dreams. Contrary to popular belief, (and as you noted throughout your comment) humanity's future does not lie amongst the stars!

But (purely hypothetically) if by some techno-sorcery we did master interstellar travel (not to mention find ways to keep our minds/bodies functioning healthily in space) what are we going to do with it other than totally fuck up the rest of the cosmos? Seriously!

Indeed it's not just possible for a technological wonderland to exist as well as a degrading biosphere - it's an essential component - they go hand in hand/cause & effect.

Elysium was silly... but it was no coincidence that it was set in South Africa. No doubt you've seen the gated/walled in mansion complexes, right next door to slums. All around the world the Elite/Ultra-wealthy/Bourgeois are walling off the dirty proles/peasants/poor & destitute/etc...


The future you describe is already here.

But don't get me wrong, I'm human too and was long a fan of SciFi (Picard is better then Kirk!), less so now that I'm awake to the reality of things. My favorite is Aliens... despite the weakness of recent installments. I dunno... its just something about a Corporation & Business/Military-men being ripped new aholes by a free and wild animal whilst they try desperately, yet in vein, to domesticate/commoditise it. :-)

Thanks for the chat Jim!

Jacob Horner

Sorry to intrude, but yeah...I love The Expanse. Bummer about Miller, though...if, indeed, he's...? Whoops, that a spoiler?


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