This 5 post series will addresses as to how “we are facing exponential threats from resource crunch and environmental degradation and that in response, we are inventing a new idea age”.
- This post, Exponential Threats, identifies the exponentially growing threats we are presently facing
- In Exponential Technology, we argue that our exponentially growing technology, our best ally, is not sufficient to tackle these threats. To do that, unprecedented level of human ingenuity should come into play.
- In Origin of Ideas, we discuss the source of human ingenuity, both inside an individual’s head and across the society.
- In Age of Creativity, we address as to why we have reasons to believe that we are entering an era of unprecedented global creativity.
- In the last post, we will address as to how you can prepare for the coming Idea Age
We (humans) are facing an imminent danger to the present way of life. Something must change. The popular belief is that change will drastically reverse the decades of advances that we have made in obtaining ourselves substantially better quality of living. Whereas, the popular hope is that we will come out on the other side much stronger than we are today.
Given that I am an ever-hopeful, I fall into the second camp and strongly ‘hope’ that some incredible breakthrough will come along (after all, what is the point in living, if one belongs to the ‘hopeless’ camp). The obvious candidate for the ‘breakthrough is coming’ camp is the exponential technology. That may not be the case.
All available evidences go to argue that over the coming decades, idea generation will be democratized, quality of average idea generated (or quality of idea generated by average Joe) will improve and give us new solutions that we didn’t even know were possible. This coming Idea Age will be very similar to various renaissance periods from the history, but much more potent. It is my hope that by the time we are finished with the idea age, we would have changed the human race both biologically and culturally.
More importantly, when idea generation is going to be democratized, a significant portion of human creative energy is going to be spent on improving human happiness. After all, in the centralized idea generation era that we currently live in, there is too much focus on economic value of the ideas.
Read on to understand more about the coming cultural and destiny shift, to learn what it would mean to you, and how you can prepare for it.
Growth vs Resources
We are stuck in an economy which is required to grow year on year, endlessly (image below).
For example, no one (at least, no value investor) will ever buy shares in a company that doesn’t promise year on year continuous growth. You wouldn’t want to take up a job that can’t give you continuous increase in revenue. For reasons that I am not getting into here, we can’t wish away the exponential growth cycle without substantial hardship.
The trouble with exponential growth is that our consumption of raw materials doubles once in a few years (image below).
If, for example, take Oil. The global consumption of oil grows at 7% per annum year on year. At that rate, the global consumption of oil doubles every 10 years (1.07^10 = 1.97). Every time when consumption doubles, the amount of oil consumed during the new 10 year period equals the amount of oil consumed during the entire period coming before that! That kind of consumption growth can’t be sustained indefinitely.
Way back in 1972, a bunch of European scientists have modeled the global population growth and resource utilization and put their results into a book titled The Limits of Growth and updated it in 2004. The book predicted that our civilization would face a collapse during the mid to later half of current century.
In 2012, New Scientist published a paper wherein the predictions of 1972, as laid out in the book, were compared with the actual date obtained till the first decade of 21st century, and using much better modelling techniques. The result was a chilling conformation that the reality is not much different from the predictions of doom made in 1972 (image below)!
While the original 1972 predictions have been hotly contested and called deficient, surprisingly very little criticism has been heard about the 2012 New Scientist paper.
In the meanwhile, NASA recently announced that it has come up with climate model that matches with climate changes remarkably well. Based on this highly reliable model, NASA predicts that if we continued ‘business as usual’, by end of the current century, the global temperature would raise by as much as 14°C in the arctics and by lesser degree in other parts of the world.
Of course, NASA also pointed out that if we respond to impending climate change aggressively, we might just be able to get away with minimal damages. But the political will and preparedness seem to be widely lacking.
Given the looming resource crunch and consequent economic collapse, aggravated by global warming that is at least partly irreversible, we will have no way but to significantly change our present way of living.
While we are facing exponential problems, we have one exponential solution at hand: Technology. In the sequel to this post, we will understand exponential technology and how can it help us to deal with our exponential problem.
REFERENCES: - This post is based on the presentation titled Idea Age is Here - You can find the next parts of this series at Idea Age is Here: Part-2, Exponential Technology and at Origin of Ideas