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Old 08-11-2011, 12:29 PM   #41
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The argument that there are limits requires only that some material essential for growth is available in finite, rather than infinite, quantities. It does not require that demand increases more rapidly than efficiency, only that growth uses up a non-renewable resource at some rate, or uses a renewable resource more rapidly than it is able to regenerate.
There is no safer bet than that there cannot be everlasting exponential growth on a finite planet. One day this verity will smack us in the face, and there will be chaos and likely world war.

Ha
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Old 08-11-2011, 12:39 PM   #42
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There is no safer bet than that there cannot be everlasting exponential growth on a finite planet. One day this verity will smack us in the face, and there will be chaos and likely world war.

Ha
We should have a poll...
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Old 08-11-2011, 12:40 PM   #43
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We should have a poll...
Really, these things are clearly best understood by majority opinion, which as we know is always correct.

Ha
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Old 08-11-2011, 01:09 PM   #44
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There is no safer bet than that there cannot be everlasting exponential growth on a finite planet. One day this verity will smack us in the face, and there will be chaos and likely world war.
+1
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Old 08-11-2011, 01:50 PM   #45
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There is no safer bet than that there cannot be everlasting exponential growth on a finite planet. One day this verity will smack us in the face, and there will be chaos and likely world war.

Ha
Either war or extraterritorial expansion and habitation beyond planet earth.

Jeremy Grantham has written his last two quarterly newsletters on the challenge humanity faces as population continues to grow while resources do not. The can be seen here and here (free registration required).
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Old 08-11-2011, 02:07 PM   #46
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True, but it is possible that we are nearing the end of population growth on this planet.

The population growth of the developed countries is near zero when you take out immigration. As India and Africa and the rest of the developing world get wealthier and more educated, I expect that they will experience the same leveling off of population growth.

We may reach our near peak population as a planet within 100 years, and it may not involve anything all that Malthusian.

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There is no safer bet than that there cannot be everlasting exponential growth on a finite planet. One day this verity will smack us in the face, and there will be chaos and likely world war.

Ha
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Old 08-11-2011, 02:27 PM   #47
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True, but it is possible that we are nearing the end of population growth on this planet.

The population growth of the developed countries is near zero when you take out immigration. As India and Africa and the rest of the developing world get wealthier and more educated, I expect that they will experience the same leveling off of population growth.

We may reach our near peak population as a planet within 100 years, and it may not involve anything all that Malthusian.
+1
That has been my observation. There are few things that have historically reduced human population: disease, genocide, starvation, ice ages, multi-generational prosperity. The last one is preferable.
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Old 08-11-2011, 02:36 PM   #48
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True, but it is possible that we are nearing the end of population growth on this planet.

The population growth of the developed countries is near zero when you take out immigration. As India and Africa and the rest of the developing world get wealthier and more educated, I expect that they will experience the same leveling off of population growth.

We may reach our near peak population as a planet within 100 years, and it may not involve anything all that Malthusian.
This may be true (or not), but it is only an article of faith that increased resource pressure must depend on population growth. Economic growth alone is all it takes. For example, the worldwide oil supply rate is likely at some zone of criticality. This will tend to create recurring economic slowdowns, based on oil price pressure. This will tend to make politico-economic stability that might tend to lower population growth rates in third world countries (not China, but Africa and the Near East).

It would take a Panglossian degree of optimism to look at Africa and the Near East and expect long term peaceful development and falling birth rates.

Ha
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Old 08-11-2011, 02:56 PM   #49
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I agree that the rise of the undeveloped world is likely to put some upward pressure on commodity prices. It may cause disasterous problems, or we may be able to increase production, shift to other resources, and improve efficiency enough to deal with it, much the way we have for the last 200+ years.

My main point is that we don't have to grow to infinity.

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This may be true (or not), but it is only an article of faith that increased resource pressure must depend on population growth. Economic growth alone is all it takes. For example, the worldwide oil supply rate is likely at some zone of criticality. This will tend to create recurring economic slowdowns, based on oil price pressure. This will tend to make politico-economic stability that might tend to lower population growth rates in third world countries (not China, but Africa and the Near East).

It would take a Panglossian degree of optimism to look at Africa and the Near East and expect long term peaceful development and falling birth rates.

Ha
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Old 08-12-2011, 01:34 AM   #50
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If you have two gallons of gas, you need one gallon in the first year to run your device, but each year you double its efficiency, how many years will it be until you run out of gas?
Unless the device is under 50% efficient to start with, its efficiency can't be doubled even once, and once efficiency exceeds 50% it can't be doubled at all. Since it is mathematically impossible to double the efficiency every year indefinitely, eventually the increase in efficiency will slow, and the gasoline will be used up. I can't say exactly how long this would take, because that depends on how efficient the device is at the beginning of the process. But there is no way the device can give an infinite output from a finite input of gasoline.
Yes, but there was nothing in my example that implied an infinite output.
Your example is ambiguous. You didn't say how long the doubling of efficiency continues. If there is always another year, and the efficiency of the device doubles every year, then an infinite output is exactly what you are implying. Doubling the efficiency means cutting the fuel consumption in half for the same output; if every year you use half of the remaining gasoline, you will never run out. The result is an infinite output from a two gallon input. If the doubling of efficiency does not continue indefinitely (and I've already pointed out that it is impossible for it to do so), then eventually all of the gasoline will be used up.

And in the case of oil anyway, I think that long before it is absolutely used up, it will be effectively used up—that is, locating, extracting and refining the next barrel of oil will use more energy than the oil yields when utilized.
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Old 08-12-2011, 09:15 AM   #51
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Really, these things are clearly best understood by majority opinion, which as we know is always correct.

Ha
I was thinking a poll about when it would happen, similar to the recent debt-ceiling vote, or calling market top/bottom. Of course, we may or may not be around to see who the winner is...
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Old 08-12-2011, 09:17 AM   #52
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My main point is that we don't have to grow to infinity.
Even if we stop at current projections of, say, ten billion, the pressure on resources, particularly if China and India end up with SUVs and McMansions, will remain for some time.
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Old 08-12-2011, 09:35 AM   #53
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You joke, but that's what upper management has to do to stay competitive. It's easier to reduce headcount/increase productivity than to reduce hourly wage rates. It's not as if it's a moral choice, it's a matter of survival for many industries. The choice is to save some but fewer good jobs vs losing them all. Sorry, not something I can joke about after many years forced to make those decisions, and all the sleepless nights that go with it. Flame away...
No flames, but it isn't any easier being on the other end of that decision...
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Old 08-12-2011, 11:19 AM   #54
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If there is always another year, and the efficiency of the device doubles every year, then an infinite output is exactly what you are implying.
The device does the same work every year, just as the sun continues to shine down on us. There's no infinity.

Anyhow, the point is that exponential growth is only a problem if our means to deal with it does not also grow exponentially. And if it concerns information and computation, the means probably does grow exponentially.
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Old 08-12-2011, 12:25 PM   #55
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When I started this thread I had no idea it would range so far afield but I am thoroughly enjoying it. Have at it!
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Old 08-12-2011, 01:54 PM   #56
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Moore's law will eventually break down, but as the efficiencies of computer controlled devices niche their way into the economic Darwinist marketplace, I see no foreseeable end to growth, except as an exercise in a fantasy future. For instance, in the future oil may come from vegetables rather than up from the ground, but it will be oil, none the less. Oil from the ground will be as quaint as buggy whips.

Solar power is the original source of all our energy. If we used that source more cost effectively. Free energy is raining down. We just need to figure out how to harvest it. If we don't figure out that challenge, the doom and gloom Malthus believers will be right.
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Old 08-12-2011, 02:18 PM   #57
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When I started this thread I had no idea it would range so far afield but I am thoroughly enjoying it. Have at it!
I when pessimism strikes think about the latest cable tv history of Easter Island offerings.

Spaceship Earth?

heh heh heh - Let us theory on.
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Old 08-12-2011, 02:28 PM   #58
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However, I predict in the not to distant future all of this typing and searching will be instead performed by our neural implanted computers. We will only have to think of a response, the computers will add additional depth and content to our response. Our response will be delivered to other person electronically. Where his neural implant computer will fact check and summarize the response and prioritize its delivery directly to your brain.
Except for the neural implant this is already being done. This was the whole idea behind IBM Watson. IBM - Watson

Watson would automatically search the internet for answers to questions based on key words. It then compares each of the websites, scans for commonality and comes up with an answer. It was so successful it even was able to beat people in Jeopardy.

I am working on implementation in my area utilizing Watson features. It is really cool, but kind of Terminator like...
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Old 08-12-2011, 05:51 PM   #59
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Gas example simplified: You have two gallons of gas. Every year you use half of it. When will you run out?

Same as: if, with each step, you travel halfway to the wall, when will you reach it?

Answer: never
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Old 08-12-2011, 05:57 PM   #60
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I read a theory of oil somewhere that argued that it doesn't really come from decomposing Triassic veggies but is generated spontaneously from the rocks in the mantle. Not quite endless supply but close enough for internal combustion needs.
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