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Earth Science

Reducing the Risk of Human Extinction 399

Posted by kdawson
from the doing-the-numbers dept.
wiredog sends in a study from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Center For Biosecurity, assessing risks of human extinction and the costs of preventing it. "In this century a number of events could extinguish humanity. The probability of these events may be very low, but the expected value of preventing them could be high, as it represents the value of all future human lives."
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Reducing the Risk of Human Extinction

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  • Why bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:39PM (#25762379) Journal

    If we all die off, nobody is going to be around to lament the fact that we're gone.

  • No problem! (Score:4, Funny)

    by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug AT geekazon DOT com> on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:40PM (#25762397) Homepage

    As long as we can round up a hardy crew of misfits and renegades and train them to be astronauts, we can handle anything!

    • What about middle managers, hairdressers, telephone sanitizers, etc.?
      • We need more, just look at what happened to the Golgafrinchans when they got rid of them.
      • Ship them off on the B-Ark. Although we then have to deal with the prospect of being wiped out by a virulent disease spread by dirty telephones...

  • With the rise of nanotech, grey goo has always been a popular vision of the end of the world. After recently reading Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep [amazon.com] , however, what I'm more scared of is the combination of nanotech and AI that would reduce human beings to mere drones of a hive mind. Is the human race still human if it's subjugated to the will of our future digital overlords?
    • by serutan (259622)

      I think of the liability litigation industry as a form of grey goo.

    • Re:Grey goo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@@@gmail...com> on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:58PM (#25762691)

      I'm more scared of is the combination of nanotech and AI that would reduce human beings to mere drones of a hive mind. Is the human race still human if it's subjugated to the will of our future digital overlords?

      More to the point, does it matter?

      Is there a point to clinging to what we are now, beyond the same sense of nogstalgia that we feel when we hear of some historical location being renovated/removed to make way for something better?

      I may not be a Transhumanist [wikipedia.org] but I'm also not entirely certain trying to keep us as we are today is all that beneficial. Or that the ultimate end of the journey will be made with our footsteps.

    • Re:Grey goo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gat0r30y (957941) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:59PM (#25762695) Homepage Journal

      human beings to mere drones of a hive mind.

      Would that really be much different from the way things are now? I'm not trying to be a dick, but in my view we tend to deny the fact that while we are individuals, the greater whole of humanity tends to behave quite like a hive. Look at a busy intersection for a while - we are social and quite hive-like.
      I would say that we are a pretty successful mostly hairless ape - but we most likely aren't gonna make it. Something might make it, but I doubt it will be us (it might be related, but I don't think we would recognize it). In any case - this planet belongs to the bacteria and it always will, I'm just thankful they have let us hang around for this long.

    • Re:Grey goo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:14PM (#25762925) Homepage
      Nanotech grey goo is doomed to impossibility. Why? Power. You can't extract energy from your environment by chewing up concrete and dirt and stuff. Notice how you don't see very many organisms eating dirt and rock? If you want real energy from the environment around you, you're stuck competing with bacteria, algae, fungi, plants, and what-not.

      Real nanotech dangers are like "a bunch of small particles get in the environment and it's like some hybrid of mercury and asbestos" (in terms of accumulation of mercury and the damaging properties of asbestos).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      They've (science fiction writers, newspaper reporters, even the people building them who should know better) been calling computers "thinking machines" and "electronic brains" since the existance of electronic computers.

      Computers still don't think and I don't forsee them thinking; not digital computers, in any case. Thought and feeling are chemical processes, not binary arithemetic with NAND and NOR gates.

      If we are controlled by computers, the computers will be controlled by men; the same rich, powerful, an

    • The average person watches something like four hours of television a day. Not to mention time spent, both at home and at work, in front of a computer. Throw in cell phones, iPods, PDAs, etc. and it begs the question: What's this about future digital overlords?
  • by Tetsujin (103070) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:41PM (#25762421) Homepage Journal

    The general plan is to perform mass-cloning of the populace, and then send out hordes of colonization fleets to find habitable planets elsewhere in the galaxy... If we hit any rough territory, we'll just sing at the problem until it goes away!

    • This plan should be fine as long as we don't have any incompetent, egotistical, anal-retentiveness cowards who are in charging replacing faulty drive-plates in the ship's engine system. I mean what could go wrong?
      • by compro01 (777531)

        That's easy enough to work around. Just use an engine that doesn't require drive-plates. ;)

      • by gnick (1211984)

        This plan should be fine as long as we don't have any incompetent, egotistical, anal-retentiveness cowards who are in charging replacing faulty drive-plates in the ship's engine system. I mean what could go wrong?

        Even that would be OK if we made sure that coward had a partner to look over his shoulder. Of course, if that partner were to somehow get himself tossed into stasis for a ship infraction leaving the incompetent coward to do the job himself, who knows where it would lead? The only hope then would be self-insemination of the last surviving human or reassembly of the dead by nano-bots. And that would just be silly.

    • Better plan (Score:5, Funny)

      by MarkGriz (520778) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:39PM (#25763335)
      "Hello there ladies. Would any of you be interested in participating in my scientific experiment to reduce the risk of human extinction?"
      • by Tetsujin (103070) on Friday November 14, 2008 @03:17PM (#25763921) Homepage Journal

        "Hello there ladies. Would any of you be interested in participating in my scientific experiment to reduce the risk of human extinction?"

        Hah! That's great! I can just imagine how this would all go down... You'd tell the ladies how you're conducting a program to reduce the risk of human extinction and "preserve favorable genetic traits"... You'd, like, buy 'em a drink, take 'em back to the lab with you, then take a genetic sample, put it in the freezer and send 'em on their way...

      • [Strangelove's plan for post-nuclear war survival involves living underground with a 10:1 female-to-male ratio]
        General "Buck" Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?
        Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious...

  • by jacquesm (154384) <j@@@ww...com> on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:42PM (#25762441) Homepage

    might actually think that this is a wonderful concept.

    To quote George Carlin: "The earth will shrug us off like a bad case of fleas, a surface nuisance".

  • Hmmm.... Maybe some other species could make a better go of it! Now who do we hand the baton off to?

    • by FatAlb3rt (533682)

      We should prolly start teaching goats how to do all that cloning and stem cell stuff. Or dogs, they go apeshit when you come home - I'm sure they'd be eager to help.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geckipede (1261408)
      Depending on how you want to define complexity, it took between one and two billion years to go from complex multicellular life to an intelligent species. Even if we assume you need a fairly high power metabolism for it, there have certainly been plenty of candidates for technological intelligence over the last 300 million years, but only one species actually managed it. Given that we've got about 500 million years of useful life left in this planet, the chances of another civilisation rising on Earth befor
    • APES! We should give the planet to apes!
      Now we just need to figure out what to call the new planted. I suggest Ape World.
  • The high "expected value" is irrelevant. The only reason for trying to maximise the expected value is that under some circumstances it is a reasonable proxy the actual value - in particular, in cases where you repeatedly take the "bet" so that in the long term the law of averages (really the laws of large numbers) applies. That's not the case here.

  • by greenguy (162630) <[estebandido] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:46PM (#25762517) Homepage Journal

    We could all die!!! But we probably won't. At least not right away.

  • by apathy maybe (922212) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:48PM (#25762541) Homepage Journal

    I honestly don't give two figs if humanity goes extinct (I certainly won't after the event).

    Sure, if it happens while I'm alive, there maybe some un-avoidable pain and suffering for myself, but if it happens after I'm dead, well, I'll be dead.

    Dead people can't suffer.

    Anyway, extinction is a natural part of evolution, adapt or die motherfuckers, adapt and die. Yes, change from or to and is deliberate, because we are all going to die.

    ---

    Anyway, onto the actual scenarios. From the introduction:

    Projections of climate change and influenza pandemics, coupled with the damage caused by recent tsunamis, hurricanes, and terrorist attacks,

    None of these things is going to wipe out each and every human, nor even enough humans to make the population enviable. Unless climate change is really, really dramatic (in which case, there is nothing we can do about it anyway). And to talk about flu... Viruses have never killed more than 70% of a given population (number pulled from the air, probably less, Wikipedia says The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population. [wikipedia.org]). Oh, and terrorism. Scary shit that.

    Then we get onto astronomical events, comets, solar flares and stuff, and the paper goes on and on.

    Basically, we are all going to die, humanity is going to go extinct (if nothing else, the heat death of the universe will get us), and to think about the issue with any great thought is probably a waste of time.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:07PM (#25762813)

      You know, I always encounter this sentiment (or lack thereof), and I can only rationalize it as some sort of perverted self-loathing of the human race.

      Life is a suicide mission. You just keep going and going until you croak.

      But we do it anyway.

      We survive. We thrive. We are compelled to persevere, even when nature does everything in its power to destroy us.

      Why? Because we must.

      Because if we don't, then everything we have accomplished will be for nothing.

      It may sound altruistic, but I do care about the future of the human race. Because if no one else did before us, we would never live today.

      We didn't crawl out of a pond so you could throw it all away.

    • by Gat0r30y (957941) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:24PM (#25763089) Homepage Journal

      Basically, we are all going to die, humanity is going to go extinct (if nothing else, the heat death of the universe will get us), and to think about the issue with any great thought is probably a waste of time.

      Thankfully this is perfectly in line with my new investment strategy - Hookers, Blow, Jack Daniels and the Craps Table.

  • Old news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:49PM (#25762559)
    Slashdot readers already know the best disaster recovery policy is to have multiple off-site backups. A human being is just a strand of DNA's mechanism for replicating itself; that DNA needs to figure out how to store copies of itself in enough places so that it is impossible to wipe out all the copies in any possible disaster. In short, we need to stop keeping all our eggs in this one little basket called "Earth".
    • Reminds me of a Phil Dick story in which people send copies of themselves on hazardous space missions. The original person sits safely at home on Earth, while the disposable duplicate with all the same skills and experience goes off and risks life and limb. Wish I could remember the title.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I don't know the Dick story, but Sean Williams and Shane Dix wrote their Orphans of Earth trilogy about a similar concept.
    • Spreading out into space will have an even greater effect [than Columbus's voyage to the New World]. It will completely change the future of the human race -- and maybe determine whether we have any future at all.

      -- Stephen Hawking [xprize.org]

  • by Coraon (1080675) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:51PM (#25762583)
    Things like a zombie apocalypse or raptors being resurrected and running amok. We need plans for dealing with those issues too.
  • Overshoot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lobiusmoop (305328) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:52PM (#25762607) Homepage

    Given that the world population shot up by a factor of 4 in the last 100 years, mainly due to fossil fuel usage which won't last even another 100 years, I think some kind of near-term die-off is inevitable. However, I'd suggest that the lower the human population, the less stress as a whole the population is under as more per-capita resource with less competition is available, so complete extinction would become less and less likely as the population drops.

    • Except many of the scenarios described involve situations that aren't dependent on the world population, such as freak asteroids and self replicating nano-goo.
    • so complete extinction would become less and less likely as the population drops.

      Carried to an absurd extreme, this suggests that we are least likely to go extinct if there is only one human living.

      Note also that this principle would tend to suggest that all the animals on the Endangered Species List are LEAST likely to go extinct, because their populations are lowest. Which, in turn, suggests that the cockroach is in more danger of extinction than even humans, much less the endangered animals.

      Given a qu

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        >Given a quick look at reality, I suggest that you rethink your theory a bit.

        Instead of a linear function, picture a bell curve.

        You were the one to take the idea to a ridiculous extreme, but the OP has a pretty good point.
        If the cause of population drop is resource starvation, there are probably local equilibrium ranges that can be reached on the way down.

  • Maybe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrugCheese (266151) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:58PM (#25762685)

    Just maybe, some alien race might discover that eating a human prolongs their life, or cures some previously incurable disease...

    You'd think we'd be exploring space like crazy with the resources (not money) that we have ... but i guess since there are no indigenous people there to exploit ...

    But the longer humanity is confined to this single celestial body we're literally keeping all our eggs in one basket.

  • is the species

    humanity itself is its own greatest enemy

    in all other species, the idea is optimization of genes expressed for maximum survival. it's a feedback loop that has worked very well for billions of years

    however, in humanity, with our brains and our language and our civilization, our biological survival has become of secondary importance to the survival of our memes. we sacrifice for larger ideas. suicide bombers will sacrifice that which genetic imperative considers the ultimate sin: extinguishing of life before reproduction. but from a meme's point of view, if it reinforces an idea's survival, its a good thing. memes are kind of like genes in that they look for maximum expression, but unlike genes in that they don't care if we actually survive

    therefore, you could have a meme propogate in civilization that embraces our own extinction. nihilism is an example of a meme which embraces the meaningless of life and pointlessness of survival, for example. just look at the tags on the slashdot summary: "letthemdienews". there are a lot of people out there for whom cynicism and learned helplessness has led to not caring and even actively embrace our extinction

    humanity as a biological entity, a growth, if you will, has done remarkably well. 7 billion is a good number in terms of judging success for the large mammals that we are. our brains and our tool use has allowed us to survive in the tundra and in the desert. we've done really good as animals so far

    but our memes, a recent development in civilization that has not stood the test of time and has no direct genetic allegory, has no real stake in the survival of the biological organism which creates them with our language

    • by Peaker (72084)

      You keep the meme of kuro5hin alive... :-)

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday November 14, 2008 @03:27PM (#25764073) Journal
      Just wanted to point out that there are a few small holes in what you're saying:

      in all other species, the idea is optimization of genes expressed for maximum survival. it's a feedback loop that has worked very well for billions of years

      In all other species, the idea is don't die before you procreate. That's it. Maximum survival has nothing to do with it -- maximum reproductive viability of your offspring is where it's at. For some species, this means living a long time and caring for your family members (apes, elephants, etc). For others, this means having lots of offspring and maximizing the chance of procreation of some of the offspring (praying mantises, where one or two young will devour the rest of the hatchlings as they emege). For some, this means a shotgun approach -- having a ton of offspring, since this maximizes the chance some will survive to procreate.

      but our memes, a recent development in civilization that has not stood the test of time and has no direct genetic allegory, has no real stake in the survival of the biological organism which creates them with our language

      I disagree. Look at the Birds of Paradise in New Guinea. Their ridiculous mating dances and plumage are just like our memes... especially the mating dances. And the parallel is far wider in scope... due to lack of predators and plenty of food, their plumage and dances have evolved due to preferential mate selection. Predator evasion and food gathering are low on the list in a land of plenty. This is an allegory to the human race, IMO. In re: suicide bombers, I also disagree. Sacrificing oneslef so that those most genetically like you survive and procreate? That occurs in lots of cooperative species.

      And as for "memes" being new to civilisation, I think there's some hubris involved in your opinion. Memes are as old as civilisation itself, they are what civilisation is based upon.

      One other thing... overpopulation results in competition for scarce resources. Whether or not that competition is expressed as competition for food, water, oil, or whatever, overpopulation results in conflict. Conflict that results in casualties helps solve the overpopulation problem. From a tribal standpoint, it makes sense to wage war on the other, so that your relatives' genes can be passed on. Look at central Africa...

  • by hey! (33014) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:06PM (#25762801) Homepage Journal

    Over the next billion years or so. Zero.

    There is no doubt that 99.99% of the population could be wiped out by a cataclysm. That's probably worth ... considering. But killing 99.99% of the world's population leaves over 600,000 individuals alive. Individuals of a species so adaptable that it can thrive everywhere from the deserts of the Kalihari to the coast of Greenland.

    Humanity is a weed species. In fact, we're the weed species. We thrive relative to other species on disruption. Rats and cockroaches are just hangers on. They are Kato to our OJ, hitching a ride on our exploitation of new niches opened by environmental cataclysm. Every kind of cataclysm that could possibly be prepared for wiould only in a very short time convert the world into a storehouse of underutilized resources for the survivors. Those survivors might not have much fun, at least in the short term, but people are amazingly adaptable. Hell should hold not terrors for humanity, because it won't take anything like an eternity for anything to seem normal to people.

    The only way to cause human extinction is to manage to kill everyone at one go. Things like a the Sun going unexpectedly nova, or some kind of unforseen astronomical radiation burst that sterilizes everything. Stuff you couldn't possibly prepare for.

    Of the things you can prepare for, things like plague, the reason to prepare for them isn't the survival of the species. It's the survival of society. We have it pretty good, after all, and it wouldn't take much in those cases to take out a significant amount of insurance for our way of life.

    • Yeah, and the Romans thought the Empire would last a thousand years. Greater than 99.99% of all species have gone extinct, most of them lasting no more than a few million years, some far less than that. No species is so tough to live through their food getting wiped out or dropping below the minimum population to maintain genetic diversity.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by El Torico (732160)
        Yeah, and the Romans thought the Empire would last a thousand years.

        It did; the Eastern Roman Empire a.k.a. the Byzantine Empire didn't come to an end until 1453 when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire.

      • Yeah, and the Romans thought the Empire would last a thousand years.

        If one includes the Eastern Roman Empire (arguably more Greek than Roman), then they were quite correct - the Empire lasted until at least 1204, rather longer than 1000 years.

      • by hey! (33014) on Friday November 14, 2008 @03:00PM (#25763685) Homepage Journal

        Leaving aside the points others have made about the example you give, it really proves my point.

        The collapse of the Roman empire in the West did not entail the extinction of H. sapiens in Europe. People adapt to changing circumstances. The contiguity of population also means that the cultural collapse of Rome was never complete, even if the political collapse was total. We must not confuse the collapse of civilization with extinction. When they mesoamerican city states like Copan fell and dissolved into the jungle, the people didn't disappear, they just changed their way of life.

        With respect to the 99.99% of all species going extinct, that is not a counter argument to my assertion that humans are uniquely adaptable. In point of fact, we aren't necessarily the dominant species on the planet. Ranked by biomass there is more krill on the planet than humanity. There is more termites, both as individuals and by weight. Humans, however, have colonized the greatest variety of geography.

        Name another species that is humanity's equal in adaptability and fecundity, and you carry your argument. Otherwise, the 99.99% figure is irrelevant. Humans are far more adaptable than 99.99% or even 99.999% of species that ever lived.

    • Zero? I actually don't like to think about this, but I'm afraid the probability might be 100%. Shy?

      We don't have this technology yet. But suppose bioengineering continues to the point that we reduce creating new organisms down to a programming language -- in other words, the barrier to entry to engineer an organism comes down to the point that any reasonably intelligent engineering type could create an organism with computer-like control.

      What this means is that it only takes one insane person to create a di

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by corbettw (214229)

        Yeah, but even if you managed to do all of that, Madagascar would still close its ports and leave a remnant of humanity. So basically, there's no way to kill off the entire species.

    • by tgd (2822)

      You clearly didn't read the paper. The things you were talking about were covered in there.

      They are the ones we *need* to plan for, because there is a difference between an extinction level event and something that kills anything less than 100% -- it even points out that North America was originally colonized by likely less than 100 people. We also know there was a pinch point in human history about that small in the past, as well.

      But we *can* do things to avoid most of the possible extinction level events.

    • Push that up to five nines and you start entering questions of viability. 60,000 individuals spread around the planet might not be able to sustain themselves, especially if they compete for resources with giant North American deer and the new venomous cockroaches of SouthEast Asia.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hey! (33014)

        You raise an worthwhile point, but I would say that it is highly likely that 60,000 survivors could repopulate the planet.

        True, if we assume they are evenly spread across the planet surface, many, perhaps most of them would perish before finding another human being. But that's a very, very stringent condition, isn't it? It seems almost certain that in such a scenario, people will tend survive in geographic clumps. Places the plague never reached, or where the post comet strike climate changes were survi

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by demi (17616) *

      The actual evidence we have is that, as a rule, for organisms on Earth, extinction is the norm rather than an exceptional event. The history of life on Earth is one of repeated mass extinctions, and continuous extinctions otherwise.

      The idea that humans are "special", that in some way the rules of life on Earth do not apply to them, is attractive, and it probably has some merit. But in order to counter the actual evidence of Earth's history, all you really have is a sort of narrative about what humans are li

  • by boyfaceddog (788041) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:07PM (#25762817) Journal

    All the statistitions and the fear mongers on 'B' ark, please.

  • Extinction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:08PM (#25762831)
    Humanity will likely kill itself off because they can't agree who gets to shower first in the morning. We've fought wars over one city taking a girl from another city (Troy, and nobody cared that she wanted to leave), we fight over liquid dinosaur guts, over patches of barren desert. We've even fought over things that are completely intangible -- fascism versus communism versus capitalism versus god only knows what else. And we're constantly creating ways to kill ever greater numbers of people. During WWII, the Germans were stuffing people into giant incinerators, when they weren't busy leveling entire cities with fire bombs (and vice versa), and the war ended because the Americans came up with a better way to kill people -- a nuclear bomb. Well, what's going to come after the nuclear bomb? Trust me when I say, there are scientists right now in a laboratory somewhere thinking to themselves -- will my children ever forgive me? Not that any of this is really necessary; the survivors will quite happily keep throwing rocks at each other in the post-apocalypse. Our only hope of salvation will be figuring out why humanity abjectly fails to evolve better methods of conflict resolution and then putting us on the path to doing so. It doesn't help that men who stomp around tearing up grass and biting the heads of their enemies off somehow leads to reproductive success. I'm told it's because they're attractive when they do that. -_-
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:09PM (#25762839) Homepage

    OK. Let's assume that everything that's been worked on for 50 years and still doesn't work isn't going to work. This includes fusion and space travel.

    Industrial civilization is only about 200 years old. It's convenient to start at 1808, the first year somebody bought a train ticket. That was when the industrial revolution started affecting large numbers of people. Does industrial civilization have another 200 years left?

    We're running out of oil. The optimistic position is that peak oil is 20 years away. The pessimistic position is that peak oil was two years ago. Few think there's 50 years of oil left. There's really nothing on the energy horizon big enough to replace oil. All the alternatives are considerably more expensive, and have a lower return on energy invested vs. energy out.

    We're running out of some other minerals. There are substitutes, and recycling, but using a substitute is usually more energy intensive.

    It's quite possible that industrial civilization will just run down. This has already happened in a number of Third World countries. A few countries, such as Argentina, have already gone from rich to poor. The usual pattern is devolution into rich central cities surrounded by an ocean of poverty. Mexico City and Rio are classic examples.

    That may be the future.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      People have been claiming peak oil since the 1920s. We've had several oil crises since then, each one followed by a glut. The life expectancy of oil has only grown, and faster than our consumption. The truth is, we really don't know how much more oil there is, and those who claim peak oil don't read history.
      • Earth is a finite size so surely we run out of everything eventually? Or at least, we get to the situation where accessing valuable resources costs so much that the vast majority of humanity has to do without them?

        Maybe we get lucky and all have limitless wealth and live in great big houses with personal rockets and acres of lush gardens once we've discovered pocket nuclear power stations or whatever but alas I worry it's more like a lesser developed country global model ahead - a few very wealthy people li

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by recharged95 (782975)
      "There's really nothing on the energy horizon big enough to replace oil."

      .

      True, assuming there's nothing else in space.

      Think bigger, think space. Plenty of energy there (solar/magnetic/heat), and other planets/moon too. Move the bulk of energy consuming processes to space and you'll likely see an efficiency increase and energy consumption decrease. And you can always ship energy back to Earth easily at that point.

      .

      Space is the final frontier.

    • by dachshund (300733)

      We're running out of oil. The optimistic position is that peak oil is 20 years away. The pessimistic position is that peak oil was two years ago. Few think there's 50 years of oil left. There's really nothing on the energy horizon big enough to replace oil. All the alternatives are considerably more expensive, and have a lower return on energy invested vs. energy out ... It's quite possible that industrial civilization will just run down.

      There's more than enough available energy to avoid the doomsday scena

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SnarfQuest (469614)

      The optimistic position is that peak oil is 20 years away. The pessimistic position is that peak oil was two years ago. Few think there's 50 years of oil left.

      That's not so bad then. In the 70's we only had less than 10 years of oil left. Now we have 50 years worth. We've gaind 40 years worth of oil in the last 30 years!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jason Levine (196982)

      There's really nothing on the energy horizon big enough to replace oil.

      No one technology, maybe, but perhaps the future is multiple technologies working together. You could have Solar plants in the south-western US, wind turbines in the plains states, some geo-thermal plants, nuclear, clean-coal, etc. You might even toss some oil powered facilities in the mix also. All of those plants would convert their respective fuel sources to electricity which would be shared across a giant electrical grid. Need to

  • it's all very simple, if we just follow Leto's golden path.

  • Not worth the cost.
    Not worth the trouble.
    Not worth the worry.
    Planet's better off without 'em.

  • I thought this [wikipedia.org] was interesting.

  • #1 Find a new fuel instead of oil and fossil fuels.

    #2 Get rid of hatred and bigotry and racism.

    #3 Invest in Fringe Science to create future technology and not let some asshole scientists holding up progress with flawed theories that they cherrypicked data or did fraud like Piltdown man that prevent us from having rapid progress in improving our technology for cleaning up the environment (Terraforming) space travel (Earth will be crowded we need to make a few colonies)

    #4 Creating floating cities and under wa

  • the expected value of preventing them could be high, as it represents the value of all future human lives.

    Cuts right to the chase, don't it? The value of all future human lives, indeed. Expressed as what, wish units? The projected value of all future human lives is precisely nil. Or the universe of possible value. Or both at the same time. Far more productive to spend the money on remedial large number training and statistics/reality differentiation.
  • Where is the "andnothingofvaluewaslost" tag now?

  • simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon&gamerslastwill,com> on Friday November 14, 2008 @04:33PM (#25764919) Homepage Journal

    religion must end. We are on the brink of being able to prevent our own extinction by any means. Religious zealots are preventing mankind from progressing forward.

  • by sorak (246725) on Friday November 14, 2008 @06:19PM (#25766219)

    If we die off, then some other species will rise to the top, and learn from our mistakes. You'll see Walmarts and K-Marts and law firms run by super intelligent orangutans in snazzy new uniforms...

    It's called the free market people. The sooner we learn to accept it, the sooner we can give way to our new furry overlords.

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