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MIT Institute's Gloomy Prediction: 'Global Economic Collapse' By 2030 816

Posted by timothy
from the that's-nothing-we-can-beat-it-by-collapsing-faster dept.
suraj.sun writes "A new study from researchers at Jay W. Forrester's institute at MIT says that the world could suffer from 'global economic collapse' and 'precipitous population decline' if people continue to consume the world's resources at the current pace. The study's researchers created a computing model to forecast different scenarios based on the current models of population growth and global resource consumption, different levels of agricultural productivity, birth control and environmental protection efforts. Most of the computer scenarios found population and economic growth continuing at a steady rate until about 2030. But without 'drastic measures for environmental protection,' the scenarios predict the likelihood of a population and economic crash."
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MIT Institute's Gloomy Prediction: 'Global Economic Collapse' By 2030

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:09AM (#39584363)

    In other news, the sun is bright.

    • The thing is, the universe naturally moves toward equillibrium. Gas supplies dwindle, gas prices go up, people buy less gas, and equillibrium occurs.

      Gas costs make it too expensive to ship food across the world, we start growing food locally, an equillibrium occurs.

      Gas costs make it impossible to get to work for less than you make? You get a job closer to home, or telecommute, or any number of other things. No jobs close to home, you move closer to the jobs. An Equillibrium occurs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:10AM (#39584375)

    From the original source of garbage in garbage out.

    • by 21mhz (443080) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:22AM (#39584585) Journal

      It's amazing how few people understand that Club of Rome's predictions were never disproved in principle. Sure the timing was off, but it's impossible to predict the oil peak accurately given uncertainty of reserve data and technological progress. BTW, if you put your money on the latter, please know that it cannot outrun the laws of nature. The economic growth will have to stop (or, at least, become less than exponential, which is anathema just the same to most modern economists) before the humankind will boil itself with the amount of energy it will need to use to continue it. As things stand, we may not even be able to tech our way out of the oil crunch.

      • by JBMcB (73720) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:56AM (#39585159)

        "Sure the timing was off, but it's impossible to predict the oil peak accurately given uncertainty of reserve data and technological progress."

        So you are saying their prediction was right even though it was wrong?

        As energy use increases, energy will get more expensive, providing pressure to use less energy or find more efficient ways to use energy. It's a self-correcting system, as long as there are no market distortions like, say, massive oil subsidies, or ridiculous regulations preventing new energy generation methods from being adopted.

        • by FTWinston (1332785) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:04AM (#39585293) Homepage
          Or market distortions like people not being able to produce enough energy, due to demand outpacing technological progress. Sure, the system will still "self-correct," but in that scenario, self-correction can include drastic reduction in the number of people.
        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

          So you are saying their prediction was right even though it was wrong?

          As energy use increases, energy will get more expensive, providing pressure to use less energy or find more efficient ways to use energy. It's a self-correcting system, as long as there are no market distortions like, say, massive oil subsidies, or ridiculous regulations preventing new energy generation methods from being adopted.

          It's a self-correcting system

          This is the sort of happy talk that underlies so much simplistic thinking. You are 100 percent correct - the system will indeed "self correct". And a collapse is a self correction.

          A more extreme example is one that a co-worker once made to me. We were talking about toxic waste. He argued that ther was no reason to regulate or otherwise control it. His exact words were "Regulation of waste is a socialist money grab and a waste of money, because we will adapt to it, just like

        • by Xanny (2500844) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:31PM (#39594301)

          In terms of home power, nuclear power is insanely cheap. Specifically Thorium power. There is not much reason we could not power cars with miniature nuclear generators if we put enough research into it so that crashing into them doesn't leak radiation everywhere, but right now that is not feasible, so mobile power would still be an issue.

          The biggest reason it isn't used internationally is mainly because every government is scared of a meltdown even though any modern Nuclear engineer would build a reactor which has a non reactive default state, that even if catastrophic failure happens it can not melt down.

          Very few of those reactor designs have ever been put in practice (I don't know of any that have) because of the perpetual banning of new reactors in many parts of the world.

          The other reason is the massive up front costs, mainly because we have had this international armistice against it for two decades, nobody has the manfacturing tech to make these reactors in a rigorous patterned way.

          So it is a perpetual failure, but if we had sustainable nuclear power with the modern safe reactors, specifically Thorium power, energy costs would probably drop in the long run because a single reactor can last a hundred years and the fuel costs nothing compared to the costs of maintaining the plant or building it in the first place or staffing it properly. But modern designs would not require as much oversight if their failure state is to power down.

      • by tmosley (996283) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:03AM (#39585253)
        Boy are you doing some crazy mental contortions to bypass the cognitive dissonance.

        Idiot Malthusians have predicted the imminent end of the world due to overpopulation for hundreds of years. Every time they go out on a limb and say the end will be by a given date, they are outed for the charlatans that they are.

        You have to understand that you can't just pick a hypothesis and refuse to refine it with the coming of new data. When you continue to make wrong prediction after wrong prediction, you have to consider the possibility that your hypothesis is FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED, and start from scratch. Let the DATA guide you, not your own dumb ideas that are based on nothing but your own destrudo.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Troyusrex (2446430)

          Idiot Malthusians have predicted the imminent end of the world due to overpopulation for hundreds of years. Every time they go out on a limb and say the end will be by a given date, they are outed for the charlatans that they are.

          It turns out the original study said "Everything will be great! Just like the previous 500 years technology will continue to do more with less and everyone in the world will be substantially better off. A true golden age is upon us". Then when no one cared they decided to change it to gloom and doom so they could garner a little press.

          • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @12:19PM (#39586483) Homepage

            From the AnnRand tea party point of view? yes.

            But they were right if you look at the true disparity in rich and poor. The poor in the rest of the world live in fricking dirt holes. The poorest in the USA live like the rich in many 3rd world countries.

            The gap between the worlds poor and rich is growing exponentially. right now the top 1% of the united states could buy real homes for 100% of the worlds poor and still be the top 1% rich. Yes it's that bad. And it will get worse. The rich have no problem with $6.00 a gallon gas. The poor have to decide is it worth paying 50% of their weekly income to pay for gas to get to work. Why? well the poor cant afford a nice shiny new Hybrid. they have to drive what they can afford to buy for $500-$2000 junker from 12 years ago. That means a 8-18mpg gas hog that is falling apart.

            They also cant live near work or take public transportation in many places because of rich assholes refusing to pay for trains and buses. Large cities have it like NYC and Chicago, but then the poor cant afford to live there unless they are in the slums where it's dangerous to live and, suprise, bus serivce has been cancelled. so they get to walk 2 miles to the nearest bus stop.

            It self perpetuates. The rich will not pay for things for the evil PARASITES to use. Walk to work you prole! a lot of things can be done to turn it all around. problem is it gives things to the poor, and that just can not be allowed to happen.

        • by 21mhz (443080) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:32AM (#39585683) Journal

          You have to understand that you can't just pick a hypothesis and refuse to refine it with the coming of new data. When you continue to make wrong prediction after wrong prediction, you have to consider the possibility that your hypothesis is FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED, and start from scratch. Let the DATA guide you, not your own dumb ideas that are based on nothing but your own destrudo.

          Recent data tell that the global oil production has been on a plateau since 2005, despite the rollercoasting prices. It's hard to tell without hindsight, but the peak of the oil-fueled civilization may be happening now. And there has never been a time in history when people had to change their primary fuel source on the global scale, when the previous best option was becoming scarce. But let this not upset your cozy, self-assured, technologically optimistic worldview.

          • by tmosley (996283) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @12:10PM (#39586313)
            So when I turn off my kitchen faucet, I would be right to say "peak water is here!"?

            No. Monetary manipulation is destroying the economy, which has lead to declining demand. Real costs of production in dollar terms are rising because the world is being flooded with dollars. Price oil in gold, and you will see what I mean. If oil really was becoming scarce, its real price would be rising. http://pricedingold.com/crude-oil/ [pricedingold.com]

            Further, think about what you are saying here. You are denying the fact of technological progress. This flies in the face of every decade of the past 400 years. You think technological progress has peaked too? You think everything JUST HAPPENS to be shutting down RIGHT NOW, when YOU are here to make crazy predictions? You think the world is REALLY ending THIS time, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands of other times people have predicted the end?

            Do you see the fundamental flaw in your thinking?
            • by 21mhz (443080)

              No. Monetary manipulation is destroying the economy, which has lead to declining demand. Real costs of production in dollar terms are rising because the world is being flooded with dollars. Price oil in gold, and you will see what I mean. If oil really was becoming scarce, its real price would be rising. http://pricedingold.com/crude-oil/ [pricedingold.com]

              I see what you've done there. Gold, as other commodities, has been priced through the roof lately, just like oil.

              Further, think about what you are saying here. You are denying the fact of technological progress. This flies in the face of every decade of the past 400 years. You think technological progress has peaked too?

              No, but there never has been a challenge like this: effect a radical technological change when a resource needed to do pretty much anything is becoming scarce. Actually, I'm wrong: there was this challenge for such advanced societies of their day as Maya or Easter Island Polynesians, and they lost.

      • by Alomex (148003)

        This is like saying that my prediction that the world was going to end today at 7am was never disproved in principle, it was just my timing that was off.

        Malthusians have been wrong for 200 years, and they will continue to be wrong for the next 200.

  • by AbrasiveCat (999190) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:11AM (#39584397)
    How do we keep the Internet running? Come on, this is about priories.
  • Again... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:11AM (#39584399)

    On the one hand, people have been predicting the imminent collapse of civilization for quite a while now with nothing to show for it. On the other hand, our high-tech society is basically a house of cards and it has to collapse sooner or later.

    Forrester's group, btw, are the same folks who produced the Club of Rome-funded "Limits to Growth" study in the early '70s, which also predicted serious trouble around 2030. You can choose to read this as consistency, good initial assumptions, or simply a pig-headed insistence on sticking to his original premises rather than admit error, as you wish.

    • Re:Again... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Hadlock (143607) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:21AM (#39584569) Homepage Journal

      Sure, but the Joint Forces Command (aka the US millitary) even said that we hit peak oil in 2010.
       
      No, really. Click this link and skip ahead to page 24
       
        http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2010/JOE_2010_o.pdf [jfcom.mil]

      • Re:Again... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Hadlock (143607) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:24AM (#39584625) Homepage Journal

        Err sorry, jumped the gun. It's been a while since I looked at the document. It's on page 29:
         
         

        By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD.

         
        P.S. "shortfall in supply" == skyrocketing prices as consumers compete with their dollars to fuel their farm tractors and war tanks

      • Re:Again... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by geogob (569250) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:42AM (#39584915)

        Completely unrelated to oil, but while skimming over the report, figure on page 30 struck me as odd. Anyone doing such an extrapolation without providing a thorough basis justifying is doing something questionable.

        On the graph showing grain demand, you see a fairly linear progression between 1960 and 1990 with a slight regression 1990 onwards. There seem to be a local increase in demand just before 2010, but it seems non significant considering earlier trend deviations. But suddenly, after 2010, the extrapolation shows a strong increase in the rate, contradicting a 20 year regression trend. Added to that local variations on the extrapolated data that can hardly be attributed to any model...

        I'll restrain myself to extrapolate the credibility of the whole report based on this single figure though.

        • by tomhath (637240)
          Probably assumed ethanol production will consume a lot of grain to replace expensive oil. Bad assumption if that's what it is.
    • Re:Again... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:52AM (#39586035)

      >>>"a population and economic crash."

      Which is why I think the EU and US should institute a 1-child-per-couple policy* to control population. Otherwise come 2050 Mother Nature will be downsizing our population through starvation and suffering. Better we do it ourselves.

      *
      *Maybe a 2 child/couple policy would meet less resistance.

      • Re:Again... (Score:5, Informative)

        by dasunt (249686) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @12:36PM (#39586853)

        Maybe a 2 child/couple policy would meet less resistance.

        Er, have you looked at the numbers? US fertility rate among native-born US citizens tends to be at below the replacement rate of 2.1. Immigration tends to drive US population growth rates.

        Europe is already below replacement rates in their fertility levels. 1.59.

        Numbers and sources can be found at Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

        If you want to downsize the US or EU's population, you could do it through preventing immigration, and the population would drop naturally. But there are some pretty severe downsides to closing off immigration, and it only pushes the problem to somewhere else.

        p

      • Re:Again... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Peter Trepan (572016) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @12:37PM (#39586861)
        A two child per couple policy is actually more sustainable than a one child per couple policy. Because of its one child policy, China is about to run into a crisis where the elderly generation expects to be supported by a younger generation half its size.
  • Computer Models (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZiggieTheGreat (934388) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:12AM (#39584409)
    Were they using SimCity, Civilization, or simply the Sims to predict what is glaringly obvious.

    i can imagine the Civilization model:

    World ends in 2030 when Bismarck conquers Spain!
  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:14AM (#39584431)

    Didn't they learn anything from the Prophets of Old? Now if this doesn't happen then the people who made this prophecy will be beheaded and their other work entirely discredited. Here let me fix this for them.

    I predict Global economics collapse by 2113

    Now in a century or so there will be crazies doing all sorts of nuts stuff based upon my ancient and wise prediction. Now just imagine if I made a calendar system and decided to stop at the year 2113 instead.

  • But without "drastic measures for environmental protection," the scenarios predict the likelihood of a population and economic crash.

    Such as a one child law? The lottery? Soylent green?
    What kind of drastic measures do they mean?
  • As 99.999% of the people that has power just focus on his own profit.

  • Insert title here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:18AM (#39584505) Journal

    The same frauds are making the same claims in the same ways for 50 years. They are physical scientists who don't understand economics, with new technology and substitutes leading to ever-increasing quality and length of life -- sans goverment intervention.

    Theodore Roosevelt decried the coming "timber crisis" because rotting railroad ties would soon consume all lumber production at current replacement rates. Then someone invented using creosote coatings.

    Yes, you can predict this will happen. That is Julian Simon's theory, used to make predictions which come true over and over and over again. Said computer models don't include millions of scientists and engineers in a free society working to satisfy mass wants for profits, which call into existence new tech all the time. This is just the latest in sub-sentient drooling idiocy, disproven again and again and again.

    • by FTWinston (1332785) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:42AM (#39585853) Homepage

      You may mock Roosevelt, but perhaps he was aware, as you seemingly aren't, of how many past civilisations have collapsed due to timber crises... Easter Island being one of the most dramatic. What if someone hadn't invented creosote coatings? Sure, technology provided a solution that time, and many other times in recent history, but there are plenty of other times it hasn't.

      Our modern global/western civilisation is big and impressive, I'll give it that. But if you take the historical perspective, the number of civilisations that have collapsed is quite a long list, and some of them were quite big and impressive, too.

      So yeah, we've got lots of scientists. You think we're the first civilisation to have lots of scientists? Sure, we're more advanced than our predecessors, but do you really think that our civilisation's size, or even technology like the internet makes us so different from all other civilisations to come before us, that we're immune to collapse? On the contrary, our current civilisation is so big that most efforts to make significant changes seem almost completely ineffectual. And that oil is going to run out.

      I've certainly not abandoned hope, but I'd like to think I've got beyond the mindset of thinking that people in history were so radically different from us. Technology may well provide a solution to all our problems, but it also might not. Isn't it wise to prepare, at least slightly, for that eventuality? Isn't believing otherwise just placing blind faith in a deus ex machina?

  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:19AM (#39584527)
    Forrester model uses difference equations to link economic sectors. The solution to difference equation is an exponential. An exponential goes to zero or infinity given enough time.

    This group was wrong in the 1970s. And is still wrong in the 2010s.
  • by concealment (2447304) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:20AM (#39584533) Homepage Journal

    Our societies are now based on rampant consumerism and the freedom of the individual to do whatever they want, so long as it's not illegal and they can pay for it. As a result, we have gone from a few hundred million to seven billion people within a century. If we value our natural world, we will find some way to check this growth sooner rather than later.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:21AM (#39584557)
    Is they assume that we will go on like business is usual. As soon as scarcity of a resource gets past a point we go and find alternatives. The Prius came popular at US gas went over $4.00 a gallon back in 2008. Then when prices went down the Prius wasn't popular and now it is getting popular again at $4.00. For US consumers $4.00 a gallon is a price enough to evoke change in behavior and look for alternatives.
    We tend not to deplete a resource if possible, but when it gets scarce enough we go for alternatives. If pork or cattle get to expensive we go with less resource needed chickens or turkeys.
    Usually the things that us humans kill off forever, are things that at least in our short term mindset see are things that are not directly useful for us. We don't see a drop in cattle. But we see a drop in wolves, as they are in competition with us for our cattle... So we kill the wolves, they are not really a direct resource for us so they killed. As well as lot of bugs and other animals. I am not saying this is a good thing we should work hard to preserve nature for it is better in the long term. But as human nature when scarcity happens we change our behavior, and we wont change our behavior until we feel the effect of scarcity.
    • by rmstar (114746) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:21AM (#39585515)

      Is they assume that we will go on like business is usual. As soon as scarcity of a resource gets past a point we go and find alternatives.

      Since your post was certified insightful, maybe you could help me with a question that I have: what should they have assumed instead if what they wanted to do is predict what would happen if we go on like this? Eh?

      We tend not to deplete a resource if possible, but when it gets scarce enough we go for alternatives. If pork or cattle get to expensive we go with less resource needed chickens or turkeys.

      The problem here is oil, not pork. There is at the moment no viable substitute for oil. People would like to believe that there is, but it is not true. The Prius, and all these other things are just a distraction. They only work in the current environment because they are the exception, and not the rule. It is simply not realistically possible to replace all internal combustion cars with battery-powered ones.

      I do not think it is impossible to solve the problems humanity is facing. I just think humanity will not do it.

  • by sribe (304414) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:28AM (#39584703)

    Most of the computer scenarios found population and economic growth continuing at a steady rate until about 2030.

    Well then, they're bullshit. Every single country in the world that has ever industrialized has experienced steep declines in population growth as its citizens become wealthier and more educated. This trend is already very noticeable in the up-and-coming Asian and BRIC countries. There is no reason, none whatsoever, to assume that the trend will not apply (gradually) to every other country as they find their way to productive governments and growth--in fact, really, only Africa and the Middle East are left at this point, and thing there are starting to change.

    There can be only one reason to base models on such a startlingly unlikely assumption...

    • by TheSync (5291)

      Every single country in the world that has ever industrialized has experienced steep declines in population growth as its citizens become wealthier and more educated. This trend is already very noticeable in the up-and-coming Asian and BRIC countries.

      Indeed, but it is unclear when this will happen to populous African countries such as Nigeria and Tanzania. [economist.com] Nigeria could rise from 150 million today to 425 million by 2050, Tanzania could rise from 50 million today to 300 million by 2050, pushed by fertility

  • Good news (Score:3, Funny)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:31AM (#39584731)

    Some times you just need to start over. I'm well stocked with solver coins, shotgun shells, peanut butter, and tampons. I'll be able to trade for whatever I need in the collapse.

  • Simple math (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RichMan (8097) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:32AM (#39584743)

    Land Area of the Earth: 148,940,000 km^2
    Population of the Earth 7,000,000,000

    Land Area Per Person: 0.02127 km2 -> 21270m^2
    So approx 200m x 100m (americans read yds per person)
    But then there are mountains, desert, barren lands, asphalt to take into account.

    Lets say 100m x 100m per person (roughly 2 football fields). That is the source of your food, your clothes, ....
    This is ignoring all other life as that is likely part of the food chain that feeds us.
    And that land is used year after year, getting less fertile, limited resources disappearing, getting smaller and smaller as more people appear.

  • by macwhizkid (864124) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:32AM (#39584745)

    So, the data started to decouple from predictions, circa year 2000. It seems rather convenient to say that 1970-2000 matches the model, and then simply ignore 2000-onward.

    And could we maybe narrow down that prediction a bit, too? Anything between economic collapse (zero) and "unlimited economic growth" is pretty open-ended. (And what the fuck does the term "unlimited economic growth" actually mean, anyway? Money growing on trees?)

    Reading predictions of economic doom always brings to mind a quote from "The West Wing" about how economists and futurologists almost always fail to account for technological progress:

    BARTLET: You ever read Paul Erlich's book?

    TOBY: "The Population Bomb"?

    BARTLET: Yeah. He wrote it in 1968. Erlich said it was a fantasy that India would ever feed itself. Then Norman Borlaug comes along. See the problem was wheat is top-heavy. It was falling over on itself and it took up too much space. The dwarf wheat... it was an agricultural revolution that was credited with saving one billion lives.

  • by nten (709128) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:38AM (#39584845)

    As soon as I read this I stopped reading.

    "However, the study said "unlimited economic growth" is still possible if world governments enact policies and invest in green technologies that help limit the expansion of our ecological footprint."

    Firstly, "unlimited economic growth" isn't possible unless we get off this rock (difficult), and even that just opens the timescale up quite a bit. Here is a great (if depressing) discussion prompted by the same book mentioned in the article. http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/can-economic-growth-last/ [ucsd.edu]

    Second, the statement turns what seemed an interesting research conclusion into "the sky is falling, but give us enough money and you'll all be fine." It could be that this wording is different than what is in the actual report, but I can't find a link to it.

    A focus on increasing the efficiency with which we use our resources is important, but this sounds like an unrealistic promise in order to obtain funding. This close to the wall we should be focused on how to make a transition to the steady state economy more orderly and less disruptive so that we can keep chugging towards the next breakthrough technology that will get us back into growth for a while, and perhaps eventually off earth so that we can delay the inevitable even more. Allocating large amounts of resources to finding that next breakthrough only gets us relatively little time if it succeeds, and it neglects the risk that if we fail we could have a sudden transition to steady state which would cause a great deal more suffering than is necessary.

  • by Tenebrousedge (1226584) <tenebrousedge&gmail,com> on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:12AM (#39585389)

    How to Survive the Coming Apocalypse?

    I'm rather surprised their predictions are not for an earlier date. I have been keeping in the back of my mind the idea of joining a permaculture farm in some tropical locale (I'm in Costa Rica, so it wouldn't be too much of a change), hopefully one with solar power, but I would hate to say goodbye in any permanent sense to the global internet and the benefits of a developed manufacturing society. So, if the world does come to an end, what electronics would be possible to construct? Hand wire-wrapped 8-bit processors? [slashdot.org] What could be done for a screen? Is it possible to manufacture DIY LEDs? What data storage might be possible? Archival "100 year" CDs exist, but what about an archival 100-year CD reader? Is an "Encyclopedia Galactica" [wikipedia.org] possible?

    Lastly, is it overly cynical to believe that these goals are more possible than the change necessary to avert this catastrophe?

    P.S. It strikes me that there are few things humanity is worse at than predicting the future. However, in a world where the economy can barely survive normal human activities, but which is subject to a multitude of natural disasters, I imagine that the only question concerning a collapse of human society is when we may expect it.

  • forget it (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tom (822) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:25AM (#39585583) Homepage Journal

    20 year predictions are generally little more than glorified guessing.

    Think back 20 years. That's 1992. That means no Facebook, no Google, no Slashdot either. You'd run Windows 3.1 or if you are amongst the geekiest of the geeks, Linux 0.1 or so. But you had to roll it on your own because there are no distributions (Slackware started in '93).

    Yugoslavia had just started breaking apart. The war in Afghanistan just ended. I'm talking about the soviet invasion.

    That's for context. Now on the long-term "visions". We had the Earth Summit [wikipedia.org], so climate change was already on the agenda.

    Economically, there was no Euro. The economical collapse of Russia was yet to come, as was the economic crisis of the Asian nations. Had you asked people what the future would bring, they would have likely extrapolated from Black Wednesday [wikipedia.org] the way we would extrapolate from the current financial crisis. Chinas rise to power was just beginning and most people, including experts, wouldn't have predicted it, because it was in late 1992 that the government turned towards even a bit of capitalism.

    In healthcare, we didn't yet have bird-flu and pandemics, AIDS was the scare of the day. We also didn't have LASIK, stem cells or any of the other recent advantages. Antibiotics were considered undefeatable by many.

    And so on and so forth. There's a lot of big events that a prediction made in 1992 would've missed completely. Yes, we can extrapolate population growth somewhat, but we can't account for inventions in agriculture, for example.

  • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @12:05PM (#39586233) Journal
    Because they try and pick apart details of the prediction. The devil's in the details, don't get caught in the details.

    What everybody seems to be missing is the simple fact that unsustainable lifestyles are unsustainable, and increasing consumption of finite reserves is unsustainable. It really doesn't matter if it's in 2030, or if the model precisely matches reality (it is only a model after all) the fact that remains is that if you continue on an unsustainable course you will not be able to sustain it!

    Those who don't understand history are doomed to repeat it. Every civilization has collapsed because of some form of unsustainability and then been reduced to a simpler more sustainable way of living. We either design and engineer this 'collapse' into a simpler way of living or we'll have to accept the period of anarchy that will ensue.

    Don't worry, the second foundation will take care of it! (that's a joke!)

  • by paulpach (798828) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @12:32PM (#39586757)

    Economics, that is why.

    Lets take one resource we heavily depend on: Oil. Suppose we deplete a significant amount of oil wells, what will happen? well laws of supply and demand kick in: as supply becomes shorter, the price of oil goes up. As the price of oil goes up, it will be used progressively less and less since alternatives become more and more attractive in comparison. The whole point of a prices in markets is that there the amount of buyers match the amount of suppliers. Through pricing, the market has a way to ration ALL resources efficiently. This effectively means that we WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF OIL, that we will simply use less of it as it becomes more scarce, but there will always be some available for those willing to pay the price. In fact, we use oil today not because it is the only way to power our cars, but only because it is the cheapest (most efficient).

    Another thing they ignore is advances in technology. Take fracking for example, we can extract oil and natural gas from places we never could before. As technology improves, so does our ability to get more and more resources. All these models completely ignore the fact that we will come up with better and more efficient ways to get more resources.

    The only thing that can and does stop this natural and efficient rationing of resources are governments.

    They put a caviat and say: "if we continue consuming resources at the current pace". Completely overlooking the fact that markets would not allow the current pace to continue when scarcity increases. That is like saying: "If I continue climbing up this mountain at the current pace, I will get to space in a month"

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