Saturday, February 7, 2009

Why Exponents (Growth) Matters or Excessive Growth Will Kill You Dead

This post is intended to help you understand the basics underlying the problems of eternal growth. It is a fundamental problem with our current situation because our leaders and our populace have convinced themselves that growth can be a permanent condition.

Unbridled, uncontrolled growth, as Diamond, Homer-Dixon, The Club of Rome, and others, have pointed out, cannot and will not go on forever. It never has and never will. To believe it can depends on believing that human beings are completely and utterly divorced from the natural system of this planet, and even the universe.

Cycles happen. In everything. Period. There is not a single highly complex civilization in history that has not collapsed. Not one. Think on that.

I have posted on these issues before, so will leave you with a simple flow of info that should bring this home to you. It is vital you understand this, for if you do not, you may not have sufficient motivation to make changes. Necessary, unavoidable changes. From energy to food to economics to weather and climate, it is all affected by the underlying issue of exponential, constant growth.

Please use time you might have used to read a book, watch a movie, or just sitting doing nothing to go over these materials. It will be time very well spent.

First, the reason for this post. Here is a video (h/t WRH) that makes exponents really easy to understand. You don't need to know any math or science. It's self-evident. It's essentially Al Bartlett's hour-long lecture condensed into five minutes.

Below that is Al Bartlett explaining the problem of exponential growth (also have linked to the right.) If you want to understand the math/consequences of exponential growth, spend time to immerse yourself. Are we dumber than yeast? (Hint: apparently so!)

Next is an interview with Thomas Homer-Dixon (h/t to Dryki @ TOD) explaining the relevance of this issue in terms of growth and collapse of complex systems.

Finally, is an excellent review/overview of Homer-Dixon's book, The Upside of Down. It will pull various elements of The Perfect Storm together for you.

So, first, Did You Know?

Stop for minute and think about what the above might mean for population, for energy consumption, for food production...

Next, now that you see how fast things have been growing, watch Al Bartlett explain why ignorance of exponents is a HUGE problem. (About 1 hour.)

General page with audio, video and transcript links: Are we dumber than yeast?

Video stream (RealPlayer): Are we dumber than yeast?

Audio stream: Are we dumber than yeast?

Audio download: Are we dumber than yeast?

Now listen to Thomas Homer-Dixon explain, via an interview on a C-Realm podcast, why these things are relevant now. He does this in terms of complexity of our current system. If you don't understand complexity and chaos clearly, don't worry. After watching/listening to these three media sources, you will have some idea.

Audio: Thomas homer Dixon on Complexity and Collapse: The Growth Imperative

Now, if you have time to read and/or listen to and/or watch only one of these, read this review/overview of Homer-Dixon's book by contributor Stoneleigh at The Oil Drum: Canada dot com:

The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization

Note: Stoneleigh and her partner, Ilargi, now have their own quite excellent economics-oriented website, The Automatic Earth (also linked to the right.)

Not to bum you out, but time is short. Action is needed.

Start now.



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Repost of post by DIYer

    Virtually all those trends are now bumping into limits of one sort or another and will not continue to 2050. Probably not much past 2010, the way things are going.

    And the thing about a computer > the human brain ... in some ways, the first computers back in the mid 20th century were smarter than humans. Their intelligence will likely never resemble that of humans, however. Maybe there will be one that passes the Turing test, but that's more a matter of database technology and collected trivia. Google may already be there.

  3. Indeed, thus the reason for the post. I should do a post on the Liebig Minimum and other basic concepts that are not well known to the lay person, but shape the discussion significantly.


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