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    • CommentTimeMar 27th 2012 edited
    I would like to note that my small contribution on overpopulation was meant to be in the context on "if in the future there is an overpopulation problem" not "there is one".
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeMar 27th 2012 edited
    A quick idea: Since this conversation is probably going to go in a ton of directions (the future is, after all, a big place, and only getting bigger), maybe we should incorporate a hash system, similar to Ask Whitechapel, to make all this easier to keep track of? Example:


    Expanding on the idea of giving tax incentives to people who do choose to forgo having children, I think similar (perhaps even greater) incentives should be offered to those who choose to adopt, and even to those who give children they know they cannot take care of up for adoption. Not adding to the problem is good - contributing to the solution is better. Not very many people will be willing to do this, but some might, if they can be convinced that their child can be raised better by someone of greater financial or mental stability.

    I make jokes all the time about how people should have to take an I.Q. test in order to reproduce, but that is basically a eugenics program, and that never ends well for anyone. However, the fact remains that, typically, lower-I.Q. parents will give birth to more children. I'd be willing to bet the reason for this is that, with more and more jobs closed off to low-I.Q. parents, in a society that rewards what you know far more than what you've done, these people see the best (maybe only) way to validate their existence and contribute something to the world is to have a kid, or maybe a bundle of kids, even if they are not otherwise inclined to be parents. This phenomenon, then, is a symptom of a deeper problem.

    Let's not tell people they shouldn't have kids, rather let's make a society where there's more to life than just having and raising kids. Giving as many people better education, and more opportunities to find self-worth other than being a parent, may help ensure that only people who really want kids and are really capable of raising them well will actually have them. I'd prefer 4 billion happy, intelligent, productive, progressive humans to 8 billion depressed, double-digit I.Q., over/underworked, nihilistic humans, but only if we get that number in the right way. A slow, steady decline of the population, eventually stabilizing into a sustainable growth pattern, would be much better than a generation-long full stop of all reproduction. It's the difference between tapping the brakes to slow down your car, and yanking the emergency brake.

    Again, quality of life over quantity of the living.
  1.  (10574.3)

    Just to play off the ideas about education, stability, children, low IQ scores and their relation to reproduction, and so on, the following video might be worth checking out:

    It is, if you can believe it, a peer reviewed rap show about how urban crime and urban reproduction rate are related by evolutionary biology to the ability of individuals to self actualize. That's a gross oversimplification, but it might point toward some possibilities for dealing with these problems not as a moral failing but an evolutionary strategy.

    If I can posit another future development, it would be #EducationReform, which is connected to the #ChildrenAreTheFuture idea. (I'm having way too much fun with this hashtag thing...) We're going to see a full scale collapse and rebuilding of the education system in American and other similarly lagging nations within half a century, I suspect, or at least a pretty serious reworking designed to avoid that collapse. One of those things is probably going to be a reform of sexual education, in particular.

    Hm, sex is a fairly low-impact entertainment option as well, actually, and as moral beliefs on sex are basically on a trend toward greater sexual freedom I suspect we'll see people naturally embracing sex as a means to pleasure and entertainment that consumes less than movies, video games, &c. (Although that's not taking porn into account and wow did this post get off track quickly.)


    For anyone interested, the water bottle skylight thing that I mentioned before is real. Check it out. I feel like there's some interesting potential here to spread some concrete solutions and technologies like this through the thread, without it taking over the thread entirely. Any objections, Oddbill?
    • CommentTimeMar 27th 2012
    I have no objections to any of this.
    • CommentTimeMar 27th 2012

    Yes, education is important in reducing unwanted pregnancies. Another issue is, of course, child mortality rates in developing countries as well as economical uncertainty. With both of these together, the result is often that people have a lot of children. However, when these are reduced, through Developing countries becoming Developed, numbers of children born tend also to be reduced. My grandmother had 17 brothers and sisters, 11 of which lived to see adulthood. My mother had four siblings, all of which became adults. I have one brother and no children myself thus far. My brother's second has just been born, and will in all likelihood be the last. Now, my family is definitely not underprivileged, but I think it's useful for illustration purposes.

    #BordersAreForChumps and #ThirdWorldHacks

    Hans Rosling, that perennial Data Jockey, had a Talk about controlling population growth by the poorer, developing countries gaining a higher standard of living.

    Essentially, what we need is a more democratised economy. A more truly global economy. One where a local business woman in Uganda can seek investment for her laundry business from an American investor. One where someone with a great idea for a niche product can go online and seek funding - not from one fat cat but from the actual people who are likely to buy it. Both of these are happening right now. They're happening despite the current economic system, however. I think what we might see happening is a further crash of our current economic system. I truly believe that by the end of this generation, we could see a borderless economy as well as a borderless society that transcends the artificial borders we put in places years ago.

    Already, we are seeing people engaging with problems on the other side of the world to a much larger extent than before. I remember the coverage of Iran's protests as something unprecedented. This happened thanks to the globalising, democratising power of the internet. Granted, in the end it didn't help them out as much as we could wish it would, but it made us aware. It made us care, and all without any manipulative KONY 2012 campaign, too. The more people get online, the more their problems become our concern. So again: Global economy. Borderless economy.
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2012

    Oh, I want to type more but I am too tired! But I want to inject a hashtag for big energy. As in, the future of it.

    And to do it completely backward, let me show you this shitty 40 second video that was the best quick summary of Buckminster Fuller's several decades old concept of a global energy grid:

    There is, of course, a bland and uninspiring website of people who are still interested in this concept, but are probably old or weird.

    The idea is to tie all of the continents' electrical grids together in one massive, multiply redundant, decentralized sort of internet of energy, to benefit from vast economies of scale, as well as planetary sized cyclical demand. The spike in demand should follow the sweep of night. If any significant power were to be generated from solar, the sunny side could power the dark side as long as all of it is connected.

    Where, at the time, the idea of a globally networked grid that existed as some kind of extranational, unnationalizable entity was maybe a little implausible, we have a very real precedent now.

    Something like this needs to be part of the next steps, I think. In order to do it, many #BordersAreForChumps problems will need to be worked out, and energy market manipulators will need to somehow be tamed. But if you are concerned about the infrastructure or resources necessary to lift to a more educated, technological standard of living large swaths of the planets population, something like this will have to happen.
  2.  (10574.7)

    “Development is the best contraceptive.” Agreed.

    [Edited because I can't seem to make the video both Magnalus and I have linked to not embed]

    I won't link the videos as they're large but I'd suggest watching from the 7 minute mark of Magnulus' link while keeping in mind that scientists have calculated that 2.2 billion is the optimum population for Earth to be stable [that article features the words "subsequent shrinkage, is required"] aaaaand, though we're likely to hit 9 billion, I'd just like to see everyone adopt for a generation.

    However, I admit that I can't stop people wanting to reproduce [though, you know, sperm banks exist so to skip a generation wouldn't exactly be a massive problem] and so I'll change my stance to say this: I think there is a population problem, whoever's in agreement, let's try to keep the population below 9 billion and eventually get it to about half that before the end of the 21st Century.

    Again, I should state:

      I love kids,

    I'm going to adopt as many as I can afford to and I wouldn't want a world without kids but 10-20 years without kids being born wouldn't mean no kids at all, it would just mean Primary School teachers have to do something else for 10-20 years. We wouldn't lose the knowledge as the teachers would still be alive and the books would still be there. Then, they could become teachers again. [This is an example that applies to all jobs.]

    I think that #BigEnergy & #BordersAreForChumps are so linked that if the two were accomplished together [perhaps due to a critical mass (preferably) or a crisis 9not so preferably)] in order to accomplish the goal of #BigEnergy, we'd have an international grid very quickly indeed.

    As big governments take a long time to agree on these things, I'd love to see an idea I had in 2006 come to pass: groups of an engineer, a doctor, an electrician, a geologist, a communication engineer, a producer/administrator, a communicator/linguist, and an executive who talks with communities and businesses travel from community to community setting up renewable energy in that area. Kind of a #TravellingRenewingCommunitiesTeam.

    [My original thoughts on a #TravellingRenewingCommunitiesTeam came from this - If I could go anywhere, do anything, I'd spend the first year seeing everything that I wont be able to see in 20 years time while finding & contacting specialists in: architecture, biodiversity, fungi, community banking, tech infrastructure, transport infrastructure, language & languages, immediate geographical renewable energy sourcing, irrigation & farming, plumbing, renewable water sourcing, soil testing & rejuvenation, education economies and local social-democracy implementation.

    Once contacted, I'd supplement my own information and resources with the information they'd given me & the contacts. With enough money, I'd be able to offer their best students or the best people in the field [including themselves if they were up to the challenge] a job as a part of a team that goes to deserted places; lost places that no one has the money, time or patience to bring back to life - worldwide, of course - and we'd bring them back to life.]
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2012
    Some fascinating ideas in this thread, wish I could add some more but every time I try to make a comment it ends up coming off more pessimistic than intended.

    There will be advances made, some of them will be amazing and life changing, but it is not by any means a forgone conclusion that 'progress' is an arrow pointing in the direction we want or hope for. Also Gibson's statement that the future is not evenly spread is an important consideration.

    Two things I do want to add a note of caution about are that political and social short-termism and self-interest of decision makers that make large-scale cross-border infrastrcture projects at best difficult to imagine, at worst hopelessly out of reach.

    The second is that I am a fairly cautious about overstating the democratising effect of the internet. Some of the same things were said in the mid C20th about television, after all.
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2012

    Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

    At least according to this lot, who, a little surprisingly, appeared as a "Today's Featured Article" on the Wikipedia homepage I get piped through to my corner of the world a couple of days ago. I'd heard and read about them before but their turning up on WP around the same time this thread was being blinked into existence set-off a quiet synchronicty alert. Plus it kinda reminded me of Nature's End by James W. Kunetka & Whitley Strieber.
    VHEMT (pronounced vehement) is a movement not an organization. It’s a movement advanced by people who care about life on planet Earth. We’re not just a bunch of misanthropes and anti-social, Malthusian misfits, taking morbid delight whenever disaster strikes humans. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Voluntary human extinction is the humanitarian alternative to human disasters.
    We don’t carry on about how the human race has shown itself to be a greedy, amoral parasite on the once-healthy face of this planet. That type of negativity offers no solution to the inexorable horrors which human activity is causing.
    Rather, The Movement presents an encouraging alternative to the callous exploitation and wholesale destruction of Earth’s ecology.
    As VHEMT Volunteers know, the hopeful alternative to the extinction of millions of species of plants and animals is the voluntary extinction of one species: Homo sapiens... us.
    Each time another one of us decides to not add another one of us to the burgeoning billions already squatting on this ravaged planet, another ray of hope shines through the gloom.
    When every human chooses to stop breeding, Earth’s biosphere will be allowed to return to its former glory, and all remaining creatures will be free to live, die, evolve (if they believe in evolution), and will perhaps pass away, as so many of Nature’s “experiments” have done throughout the eons.
    It’s going to take all of us going.
    I can't say I subscribe to their way of thinking (most of the time) but this is some people's take on a new and better future.
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2012
    You know another way to fix this problem that should happen but probably won't? Rather than telling people not to have kids?
    Why isn't space travel, colonizing Mars and all that, something that's going to happen? It needs to happen for our survival as a species if something goes terribly wrong on Earth. How can we fix this idea that space is a waste of money? I want this to happen. So do a lot of you, I think. So how can we as a group of people that believe in the future encourage another space race?
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2012
    I think the idea here is to reject a lot of our favourite SciFi subjects and try to think of new, perhaps seemingly more mundane, ideas for how humanity will change in the next 100 years or so. It's a nice way to tax your creative muscles a bit.
    • CommentAuthorArgos
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2012 edited

    I think part of the idea of this thread is that the nerdy, SciFi loving crowd tends to always answer these questions with really advanced space travel that, at least in the next couple generations, won't be possible, so let's talk about some solution that are more tangible for our generation and the next couple generations for a change, something that has to do with changes on Earth and not in space, just as a change of pace. While inhabiting another rock could be a possible solution at some point, it isn't now, so we're trying to discuss solutions that we can start seeing in out lives and our childrens', because until it does become possible to inhabit another rock, the problem will still be a problem, so we should address it within the limits of our current tools.

    Same goes for #sustainability, we could just find another rock at some point and use those resources, but until then, and who knows when that will be, we still have the problem of over-exerting what resources we currently have and potentially fucking ourselves over before we can find another rock to use, or fucking up earth to the point where it won't be able to recover while we're still on it.

    Just because we can fix the problem by going to space, doesn't mean we shouldn't tackle it from home, either. In fact, I think we might need to tackle it from home before we can fix it by going to space, because space isn't a guaranteed solution, at least not for many, many years. Who knows how long it will take to find and travel to another inhabitable planet, or to terraform mars.

    Though I do like your question about how we start getting people to care about another space race, because while the space travel itself might not be possible withing our lives, getting people to care about it is something we can start with. Currently I have no answers for that, unfortunately.
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2012
    Fair enough. I guess I was hoping the idea of getting people to care was mundane enough, but I'll try to not get off subject again.
    • CommentAuthorArgos
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2012 edited
    Oh no, I think that talking about getting people to care is a really cool topic to discuss, I was just saying why we weren't talking about actual space exploration itself. I think we just have to make sure we don't derail the discussion from, "How do we get people to care?" to "How do we actually terraform mars?" So maybe instead of #FindAnotherRock, we should go with #StartaSpaceRace (I realize that your original post asks the question of how can we get people to care, and not how to we go about exploring space, but at least for me the hashtag #FindAnotherRock was a bit confusing and made me think you were asking how we could go about finding another rock, until I went back and reread the post).
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2012 edited

    I was under the impression that this thread was about realistic things we expect to see in the future and I believe that space exploration is a part of that. While I don't believe a warp drive (or a navigation system so we can use it without crashing in to a planet or rock) will be invented in many generations if at all, and while I also don't believe that we'll be seeing much in the way of colonization anytime soon either, what, other than budget, is stopping us from at least exploring some of our neighbouring worlds? What, other than budget, is stopping us from planting another seed of "stuff we now know" in to the soil of the future with the knowledge that us AND future generations probably won't see the flower that seed later blooms? Sorry, but I think exploration is possible. Not in an unrealistic "let's whiz by Andromeda for lunch" way, but in a "Hey, let's put a team of astronauts on mars and get them to take pictures" way.

    As for getting people to care, I submit to you this video with no further comment:

    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2012
    I am all for #FindAnotherRock to some extent. There's a reason why I have such a fervent love of the Mars Trilogy. Well, there are many reasons. But the colonisation of Mars in and of itself is one of them. Within that trilogy, though, lies some of my difficulties with this concept: If we can just move to another planet, why fix our problems here? And you KNOW that is going to be a tradeoff of some sort. "No sweat, we'll just keep working on our colonisation/ terraforming capabilities and go to the other planets! Bonus!" Which will of course lead to faster, more efficient space travel, and before you know it, we're the locust-like aliens of Independence Day. Hop to a new planet, rake it empty of resources, hop to the next one. Sure, if we went this direction, we would much more quickly get a space elevator and efficient ion thrusters, etc etc etc, but is it worth the human/ moral cost?

    I'm putting a massively fine point on this, of course, but my point is that we can't just cut and run. That's not how we've got to where we are now. We survived by tackling problems, often in ways that created NEW problems, but the more problems we tackle, the more we know about tackling the new ones.

    Ergo #Sustainability. Just imagine how efficiently we could colonise other planets and use their resources if we manage to sort that out down here first? And as we go along, we can #StartASpaceRace as Argos says. More probes, new manned Moon missions, a manned mission to Mars. To explore opportunities and inspire a new generation to push us even further.

    Space is sexy. Fact. So #StarASpaceRace could actually go hand in hand with getting kids interested in science as a whole again. It might start with "I want to be an austronaut!!" (Do we hear this nearly as often any more?) but it'll end in a diverse set of goals and interests among our kids as they become adults.
    • CommentTimeMar 29th 2012
    #global energy grid.
    thanks to Oddbill for reminding me of this idea which I've always thought to be a sensible way to bring about cooperation between states.
    Sadly it seems that as energy grids have slowly become more connected they have provided the opportunity for huge power companies to make like pirates with some outrageous examples of shady business practices and shameless profiteering. The system is maintained on a basis of shareholder profits and thus the benefits take a long time to spread to the wider world.
    I am very interested in recent developments that would allow change to come from the bottom upwards, for instance I have been excited to read about self contained systems to extract power from sewage, something which has major implications for communities in the third world. Also cheap and easily constructed solar ovens which could be used for both cooking and purifying water could make a real difference to survival rates.

    And how about this for something that will make a huge difference overnight, would be easily achievable and, I think would improve life in general for all- end the war on drugs.
    • CommentTimeMar 29th 2012 edited

    The thing about human space travel - there just isn't a good reason for it. I get every reason you will all cite! Exploration! The unbounded spirit of adventure! Species survival (don't keep all your eggs in one basket)! Ancillary technological innovation that bootstraps the species! I know, I know! I want all of that to matter too!

    But it doesn't.

    The fact is, small, lightweight, overengineered robots do it better. They just do. It's like extending our sensory organs out into the solar system. We don't have to take the meat. We can just extend the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and fingers without sending the whole meat. Sending the meat is expensive, and always, _always_ will end in death. Any extended stay anywhere we could plausibly reach is a recipe for certain cancer. Really, just think about any plausible "colonization" scenario. It means people living the rest of their lives in spaces the equivalent of commercial airliners and absorbing enormous amounts of solar radiation among company of a few dozen, at best, other individuals. Never again seeing a blue sky. Never again feeling wind. Never again smelling grass, or the sea, or cinnamon, or petting a dog. Never. Just steel cylinders, arbitrary experiments, tightly controlled schedules, and dying young from untreatable cancers. That is what life offworld means, in reality. There is no place we know of, anywhere, that offers a better deal.

    Terraforming is an endeavor so expensive and unlikely that I feel very confident in betting it will never, ever happen. And I love those Kim Stanley Robinson Mars books as well. I so want it to happen.

    But it won't.

    We can get basically all the benefit and none of the detriment of exploration by sending machines instead of us. Only rich thrillseekers will go into orbit for the next 100 years. maybe the Moon will become the 22nd Century's Everest, littered with colorfully weatherproofed corpses. But there is no _future_ there.

    I think the future is _here_.


    @Ben Gwalchmai - I have no idea why you spoilered the end of your post, because it was teriffic!

    You used a phrase, "local social-democracy", that I like a lot. One thing I think that has been definitively illustrated by the recent Arab Spring is that self-determination, although still certainly the ideal to which all human society needs to aspire for justice to prevail, needs to arise organically out of the local culture. It cannot be taught. It absolutely cannot be imposed. it has to bubble up out of the desires of the people in a specific place at a specific time in their own specific way. It may not be completely recognizable to other democratic people elsewhere. It may have more or less of religion, science, cuture or bias threaded through it. That is totally ok. It just has to happen on it's own, in it's own context. Nobody can rush it. The best strategy is to live fulfilling lives in public, and don't meddle. Everyone has eyes in the 21st Century. The 20th Century might be described as a hundred years of making sure that everyone in the world has an opportunity to actually see each other. Now they certainly have that opportunity. All that remains is to live as best we can, love indiscriminately, and let people come to their inevitable conclusions.

    "Local social-democracy" will then happen, just as certainly as nudging a round stone over a ledge will cause it to roll downhill. It is a natural inclination. It is so, so close!
  3.  (10574.19)
    @Oddbill - glad you liked it. I think you're right about letting democracy happen, it can't be enforced.

    Maybe a #TravellingRenewingCommunitiesTeam would only go to places within its cultural-political realm then: say going to run down cities like Detroit and giving everyone who wants it the knowledge on how to grow your own food and, more specifically, what food types suit that area's soil.

    [ETA: It would also need a better name but I'm too hungover to think of one.]
    • CommentTimeMar 29th 2012

    I think that this is pretty much THE issue to get nailed because, if we can, it should help reduce the impact of just about every other problem we're currently facing.

    While I think that government and corporate involvement would be necessary to create the big chunks of transnational infrastructure needed to make a truly global grid, I love @Nelzbub's idea of individuals feeding energy into that grid from the bottom up. It'd be great if we could make use of potentially billions of tiny trickles of locally generated, sustainable energy. It wouldn't mitigate the need for big, dedicated energy generation systems, but it could help. I know that here in the UK, homeowners sometimes have the option of selling energy generated by solar panels, mini turbines etc back into the grid. I understand results have been mixed on that front, but maybe there's potential there ...