Adult Content Warning

This community may contain adult content that is not suitable for minors. By closing this dialog box or continuing to navigate this site, you certify that you are 18 years of age and consent to view adult content.

Tuesday Sober Thread: Bangs and Whimpers

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by DrFrylock, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. DrFrylock

    DrFrylock
    Expand Collapse
    The White

    Reputation:
    23
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    1,572
    I forgot that Monday is for sober threads, but most of you are probably still hung over anyway.

    In a recent thread, I talked about the Drake equation and the Fermi paradox. One possible explanation for the Fermi paradox is that intelligent civilizations just burn out too damn fast and go from "detectable from other planets" to "obliterated" in the cosmic wink of an eye. We sent out the first faint radio signals that were even remotely detectable from space in the 1930s (cf. the movie version of Contact with Jodie Foster), and by 1945 we had developed weapons capable of annihilating our entire species. Thankfully we have been wise enough not to use them. We still, however, continue to use and abuse the environment at an astonishing rate, and while it is likely to outlast those of us alive today, I can't really speak for how many more generations it can sustain.

    I saw a Discovery Channel special the other day on the extreme future of the solar system, and in a billion years or so the Sun will expand enough to boil off the oceans and that will probably be the end of life on Earth, including even the extremophiles. So I guess that's an upper bound on the apocalypse.

    FOCUS: What's your best guess on how long humanity will last? Do we survive our technological adolescence and expand to the stars until entropy and heat death kill us all? Or do we vaporize ourselves in the next 50 years? Provide rationale for your answer.

    RULES: As with other sober threads, the no politics rule is suspended here, but the no-asshole rule remains in effect. Also, this is a SOBER THREAD, which means serious replies and discussion only. Non-serious posts will be summarily deleted and repeat offenders will be sent to the cornfield. I know that your roommate's beer farts are bad, but the odds of the end of humanity coming from his anus after a bar crawl are pretty low. Save the brilliant humor for the other threads.
     
  2. audreymonroe

    audreymonroe
    Expand Collapse
    The most powerful cervix... in the world...

    Reputation:
    539
    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2009
    Messages:
    2,858
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I'm sure that every generation since the beginning of time has had the feeling that the world is going to end before the end of their lifetime, but hot damn there are just so many reasons to fear it nowadays. I'm not one of those people who really think the world is ending in 2012 (or even before I die, when I'm being rational) but I can honestly see how people could get sucked into that particular theory. I mean, just look around. It's scary out there. There are a lot of nutjobs I wouldn't put past using one of those weapons, or lesser nutjobs that make decisions every day that affect millions but are only looking out for their personal immediate (financial) future.

    Do I think the world will be over before I reach old age? Unlikely. But I'm sure that something about "life as we know it" will change drastically in the next few decades. It just seems impossible for everything to be carrying on like it is now and not have that consequence.
     
  3. Juice

    Juice
    Expand Collapse
    Moderately Gender Fluid

    Reputation:
    1,011
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    9,914
    Location:
    Boston
    On the 2012 thing, I think most people would agree on it. The Mayans werent smart enough to sustain their own culture, so Im not going to invest a lot of thought into what they say about the end of the world.

    This is kind of what I believe as well. Its bizarre that we know fossil fuel is a finite resource but really havent taken larger steps to address it. Aside from the global warming debate, I also think that the lack of fossil fuels will cause global chaos unless we have a real alternative. However where I differ is I think the problems will really come about BEFORE we run out of them, when they are scarce. This will come in the form of resource wars between the most powerful nations (probably the US and China) in a scramble to take over whats left. If it leads to a nuclear exchange, we are done as a species; there could be some survivors, but society as we knew it for the rest of our lives would be gone. It would take humanity 1000 years to come back from that if ever.

    There are different estimates about how long fossil fuels will last, and some estimates have political agendas behind them. The rough estimates are about 50 - 60 years for oil, and about 60 - 70 years for gas. I think if anything realistic will be our downfall, this would be it.

    Another one that scares me is the "Gray Goo" scenario, but Ill let someone else tackle that one.
     
  4. Trakiel

    Trakiel
    Expand Collapse
    Call me Caitlyn. Got any cake?

    Reputation:
    242
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2009
    Messages:
    3,158
    Location:
    St. Paul, MN
    RE: Fossil fuels. The thing is, we'll never actually "run out" of fossil fuels. Obviously, there's a finite supply, but what will happen - and what's always happened in the past regarding such matters - is that as easily extracted sources are exhausted we'll be forced to move to more costly sources. As the cost of fossil fuels steadily increases, alternative fuels will be come more cost effective to develop and exploit, leading to a gradual shift from fossil fuels to the new fuels. (That's pretty much how we started using petroleum in the first place: As the whales where hunted to near extinction in the 19th century whale oil became more expensive, and eventually the cost of whale oil increased so much that it became economically practical to start extracting oil from the ground to use instead of whale oil.)

    Focus: Honestly I don't know. The human species is pretty damn resiliant; we've survived ice ages, pandemic diseases, volcanic eruptions of impact-event magnitude, and a host of other disasters all before the advent of modern medicine, science, and communication. On the other hand, evolution never stops, so if nothing else gets us it seems resonable to assume that our species will disappear when we evolve into something else.
     
  5. Guy Fawkes

    Guy Fawkes
    Expand Collapse
    Emotionally Jaded

    Reputation:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2009
    Messages:
    1,207
    Location:
    Nor'east USA
    My question is how long will this humanity last?

    I think mankind has been around much much longer than we think we have. Assuming this is the only rendition of Earth, the planet has been here 4.5 billion years.

    Fossil preservation is laughable on a worldwide scale and there are plenty of examples of preserved technology that throw a curve into the humanity equation.

    I bet we've nearly wiped ourselves out hundreds of times.

    My guess is on a super plague that wipes out 98% of the global because of our ridiculous population densities.
     
  6. JoeCanada

    JoeCanada
    Expand Collapse
    Emotionally Jaded

    Reputation:
    78
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2009
    Messages:
    1,371
    Location:
    Edmonton, AB


    Maybe Joe Rogan is just an idiot who does too many drugs, but I usually find his ideas pretty interesting. I think he hits the nail on the head in that video when he says our cultural/social evolution is not keeping up with out technological evolution at all. The main reason I'm afraid the world could feasibly end in the near (50 years) future is that I don't think we have the social maturity to handle all this crazy shit we have now.

    Overpopulation, devastating military technology, famine, the stability of the power grid, etc. etc. etc. From what I've learned, these are all serious, serious issues that we're not really addressing. It seems like we're firing on all cylinders just to figure out if gay people should be able to get married and how to keep airports safe. We're using all our resources to sustain an unsustainable system, and if/when that system really starts to crumble, the world will panic - and global panic, in the nuclear age, is pretty fucking terrifying.
     
    #6 JoeCanada, Sep 28, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2015
  7. MoreCowbell

    MoreCowbell
    Expand Collapse
    Emotionally Jaded

    Reputation:
    14
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    4,185

    I find this to just be foolishly naive about human ingenuity. Every time we have a crisis like this, humanity has adapted in unpredictable fashion. That's the reason that we haven't experienced Mathusian overcrowding so far. People have been preaching the end of humanity's ability to sustain itself...well, pretty much since the start of humanity. Thus far, they have a very poor track record.

    The overwhelming majority of major societal innovations have been fundamentally unpredictable beforehand. Few people would have been able to predict things such as the Industrial Revolution, the Green Revolution, the advent of modern information technology, etc. in specific terms well in advance.


    People who talk like the post above remind me of Charles H. Duell, U.S. Commissioner of Patents who famously said in 1899, "Everything that can be invented has been invented." Thereby ruling out electricity, the Internet, the Model-T, etc.

    Anyone who rules out our ability to be creative in ways presently unforeseeable is being impressively arrogant.
     
  8. Frebis

    Frebis
    Expand Collapse
    Emotionally Jaded

    Reputation:
    293
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    2,266
    This is simple, if I learned anything from SUnday school, humanity will last until Jesus comes back. Then all the good people go to heaven, and the sinners to hell.

    In reality- the only thing that will bring the world down is if an astroid/commet hits us, or an alien race with superior technology kills us. But the last time they were here, they just built some pyramids, so I think choice number one is more likely.
     
  9. Primer

    Primer
    Expand Collapse
    Emotionally Jaded

    Reputation:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2009
    Messages:
    933
    Location:
    Edmonton, AB - The frozen suck.
    Black death anyone? That's the great thing about being human, we either adapt to resist or adapt to cure.

    I prefer to consider them to be naive but that's neither here nor there. I am constantly impressed by mankinds ability to innovate, I consider it one of the reasons we're number one on the planet. We've managed our way through thousands of world ending problems; disease, war, famine and oppression. It's not a new thing, the problems we're having, they will rise again. There will always be an energy crisis, there will always be someone trying to blow us up and there will always be someone starving to death. The end of oil won't be the end of the world, hell, we're already working on a backup plan; we'll manage to adapt to our conditions and move forward. It's likely that where we're going isn't going to be as pleasant as we hope but it's better than the alternative.

    I've always considered myself a cynical optimist in these situations (I know) and I do think that mankind will last long into the night. People don't like change and it's coming fast; it scares people and when someone is scared, they assume the worst.
     
  10. JoeCanada

    JoeCanada
    Expand Collapse
    Emotionally Jaded

    Reputation:
    78
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2009
    Messages:
    1,371
    Location:
    Edmonton, AB
    I don't know that much about history, so I'm curious what those of you who do think of this:

    In regards to the "we've faced all these problems before, we'll manage to overcome them like always" argument, I can't help but think it's different now after the technology boom of the last 50 years or so. People have always been evil, greedy, ruthless, and so on, but it seems to me that they are now able to manifest those qualities in ways that were previously unheard of.

    Nuclear weapons, for example, don't just seem like "the next step" in weaponry; if you look at the most powerful weapons in the last century (or millennium or whatever), would nukes not be at the highest point on a very exponential graph? It's not like we've been able to kill 10 people at a time, then 15, then 20, then 25... It's more like 10, then 100, then 1,000, then 500,000.

    History's "super villains" never brought the world to an end, but what if Hitler was coming into power now instead of 80 years ago? Would his destruction not rise exponentially along with technology?

    What's that saying? "I don't know what kind of weapons WW3 will be fought with, but WW4 will be fought with sticks and stones."
     
  11. Trakiel

    Trakiel
    Expand Collapse
    Call me Caitlyn. Got any cake?

    Reputation:
    242
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2009
    Messages:
    3,158
    Location:
    St. Paul, MN
    Even nukes wouldn't really be enough to wipe us out. The absolute worst case scenario is a nuclear winter that would induce an ice age, and humanity's already been through one of those. On the disease front, consider anthrax, which is one of the most lethal diseases in existence with a historical 92% untreated mortality rate (comparted to 40-60% for bubonic plague and ~35% for smallpox). Even if the entire world somehow became infected with anthrax and no treatment was available 8% of the current world population is still about 500 million people - so we'd be back to the same world population we had in the 1500's. Honestly, about the only thing that could wipe out humanity completely would be some sort of cosmic event that would render the earth uninhabitable.

    (Speaking of nukes, I don't know where on the spectrum of sad/funny/scary to assign the fact that we've had way more close calls due to incompetence and fuckups than actual malicious intent.)
     
  12. pincinelly

    pincinelly
    Expand Collapse
    Experienced Idiot

    Reputation:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    126
    Location:
    New Zealand
    I have to go with the "Humanity will survive" side of the debate.

    With regards to using up fossil fuels, aren't Hydrogen powered vehicles coming on to/already on the market? The technology may not be very good now, but it is going to get a lot better as petrol gets more expensive. Same goes for wind, solar, tidal and other alternative forms of energy. While they may not be very efficient at the moment, there is no reason to think that they wont be in the next 100+ years (or even the next 20-50 years).

    With this in mind, I don't really see there being a war between great powers over resources. However, it might be likely that larger states will attack smaller ones, in which case they wont have to use WMDs. I also think that nuclear weapons present a pretty strong deterrent in the event that two nuclear powers were to clash. We should be more worried about India vs. Pakistan or a rogue state like Iran or North Korea using a Nuke, because in those situations you have a terrorist or crazy dictator with their finger on the button.

    Pretty cool Top Gear episode that has the Hydrogen car in it (I think, I can't watch it since I'm at work but I've seen it before).

     
    #12 pincinelly, Sep 28, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2015
  13. bewildered

    bewildered
    Expand Collapse
    Deeply satisfied pooper

    Reputation:
    723
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Messages:
    8,252
    I think we humans will manage to overcome the variety of problems that we've created for ourselves: massive killing weapons, over population, limited fuels, etc. Sometime, and no one knows when, a super volcano is going to blow us all to kingdom come, and there is nothing we can do about it.

    A super volcano is one hypothesis that explains why the dino's suffered a massive extinction way back when, and it'll happen again some time. Apparently the super volcano in Yellowstone has shown some seismic activity over the past 10 years, and it's 20,000 years overdue for an eruption. Nothing we do to ourselves can match the magnitude of a super volcano's destruction.
     
  14. Crazy Wolf

    Crazy Wolf
    Expand Collapse
    Emotionally Jaded

    Reputation:
    11
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2009
    Messages:
    548
    I think, provided we don't eradicate ourselves with nuclear weapons and aren't hit by anything too big, that humanity will survive to the point where we can at the very least make it to Mars, if not set up things so that humans can make their way out of the solar system.

    So, what are the common things people point to as ways that we as a species will die out?
    Fossil Fuels? Although losing that energy-dense source of power, plastic, and fertilizer would be catastrophic, losing 5 billion people is not the same as losing 100% of humans. Provided we don't salt our farmlands, they'll still provide food, even if it's not enough to support our current population, it'll still support some. This isn't getting into the use of other energy sources, or tapping our absurd amounts of methane production, or any of the alternative sources that are being developed/improved.
    Disease? The best (as in, most successful) diseases are the least deadly ones. Killing your host is not a good way to ensure that your genes get passed on, and is generally only favored by the critters that have a symbiotic relationship with something that will eat the host (toxoplasmosis that infects rat brains, which needs cat stomachs for reproduction). Considering that humanity has eradicated* smallpox, I'd say anything else seen as a major threat to humanity could also be eliminated, if it was deemed important enough.
     
  15. A Hefalump

    A Hefalump
    Expand Collapse
    Should still be lurking

    Reputation:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2009
    Messages:
    2
    This is an interesting read on the subject... apparently we'll all be jumping around like super heros in 300 years:

    http://www.futuretimeline.net/
     
  16. Omegaham

    Omegaham
    Expand Collapse
    Emotionally Jaded

    Reputation:
    3
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    879
    Location:
    Oregon
    As I said in a rep, there was a guy back in the 70s and 80s named Julian Simon who commented extensively on this. His most thorough book on the subject was The Ultimate Resource 2, which went into great detail about everything from the "energy crisis" to overpopulation to landfill space. The central theme is that problems are inevitable, but in a free society that rewards ingenuity, we will adapt to those problems in ways that will make us better off than we were before the problem came along.

    For example, the car was developed because the horse was such a disgusting environmental disaster and people wanted something that didn't clog the streets with hundreds of thousands of tons of shit. As mentioned before, petroleum technology was developed because whaling was dying. Fish farms have begun to replace wild fisheries where they can. And so on.

    The greatest danger to humanity is a society where free thought is frowned upon. If we don't allow people to think outside the box, (I hate that expression, but it applies here) our future problems will become insurmountable.

    My predictions for the future are as follows:

    1. Obesity will be an even bigger problem in the future.
    2. Transportation will continue to get cheaper relative to our income (In today's dollars, gasoline in 1950 was more than 2 bucks a gallon, and cars got terrible gas mileage)
    3. The population will level off and then decline as everyone moves to a post-industrial society. The only countries with 8 kids per family are subsistence agriculture societies. As they develop, global fertility will decline as former farmers start saving up for college and braces and all the other shit that American dads have to pay for. Kids aren't cheap if half of them don't die before age 4.
    4. Schools will have to reconcile the fact that we are moving past industry and agriculture with the pressure to still instill conformity. Finding a place for the mindless cogs that doesn't involve working in a factory will be difficult. My guess is that 50 years from now most of those cogs will be paper-pushers mindlessly talking about regulations. The ones that aren't will be in the service industry. Farming and factory work will be done by an increasingly specialized workforce.
    5. We will take hundreds of years to actually colonize other planets due to extreme expense and the fact that it has no material gain. Why colonize Mars when Montana exists? Contrary to popular belief, Montana is warmer than Mars. And it's almost as empty.
    6. Despite limited supplies of fossil fuels, we will never experience even a hiccup in a supply of energy. The difference will be made up through advances in technology in biodiesel and ethanol production.
    7. Following from #6, there will always be dumbasses trying to get people to switch before the oil runs out. Not gonna happen. You have to wait for oil to get scarce enough for people to go, "Well, we can't do that anymore. Let's find something else and improve on it so we can get filthy rich."
     
  17. stlcardinals1982

    stlcardinals1982
    Expand Collapse
    Village Idiot

    Reputation:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2009
    Messages:
    10
    Interesting, and timely, topic. I just finished reading a book by David Orr called "The Nature of Design" which addressed all of these concerns and issues. Basically, he acknowledges the dependency on fossil fuel and the degradation of our planet's resources and says that the only way to develop past this would require a radical change in society. Other authors on the subject include tying in environmental issues within religious dogmas (by making connections with our faiths, we can achieve a deeper feeling towards the planet) but David Orr comes at it with a realistic, although lofty, approach.

    He proposes to start the changes in society at the lowest level. Developing communities that are sustainable within the city to limit transportation (living and working within the area instead of urban sprawl). He also proposed developing farming communities around the city area to supply the city (the current long transportation times for food supplies means there are chemicals added to them to preserve them). There are also strategies to expand education (for example, designing science buildings that don't produce any energy waste to create a better tie between science and the environment) as well as realigning taxes (lowering income taxes, but charging a pollution tax to corporations). The end result would be a society that develops into a series of self-sustaining communities that would ultimately limit big corporations from abusing fossil fuels. Which would make alternative technology develop quicker to avoid having to pay outrageous taxes. I tried to summarize the book the best I could but missed a lot of otehr stuff...either way, regardless of his ideas, a lot of them have a lot of sense and I actually think that this way of thinking may be able to have a good impact if utilized.
     
  18. Omegaham

    Omegaham
    Expand Collapse
    Emotionally Jaded

    Reputation:
    3
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    879
    Location:
    Oregon
    The thing is, our planet is actually doing a lot better than people seem to think. For example, the world is more forested than it was 100 years ago, despite a massive increase in population. Why is that? Simple - the default method of getting food 100 years ago was through subsistence agriculture. This required much more land because it wasn't as efficient. Back home, my backyard happens to have a bunch of rock walls made a hundred years ago to divide off fields. These days, it's all woods, because it just isn't profitable to grow anything except apples in Massachusetts.

    The same thing is happening with forests nation and even worldwide. Developing countries like China generally treat the environment like shit. After they develop, they then use the technology and prosperity they've gained to make their environment better. That's why countries like Brazil started off by clear-cutting the Amazon, developed, and are now protecting it and using the land responsibly.
    A lack of technology requires lots of land for anything. More technology means less land can be used to do more shit. But in order to get that technology, you need to develop first. And that means putting human needs in front of the environment. America, England, and Germany did it. Who are we to tell China and India that they can't do the exact same thing? In fifty years, they'll be doing the same thing as us, and they too will have kooky modern-day druids telling Niger that they shouldn't exploit their oil resources.

    Back in the good old days, companies would clear-cut forests because there's no point in conservation if the resource is so abundant. However, once the population grew so high that land became expensive, foresters realized that it was a lot more profitable to be responsible with their resources, because when land is thousands of dollars per acre it's expensive to buy more of it. To make even more money, they built trails and started letting hunters and hikers in. There were no regulations required; environmental stewardship ended up coming from entirely selfish motives.

    The ultimate goal of environmentalism is to find a way to make human interests coincide with a flourishing environment. A lot of people seem to think that in order to do that, we need to come up with all sorts of crazy regulations and smash factories and all that. That won't work, and even if it does, the result will be a massive loss in prosperity that will kill a lot of people and cause a lack of ingenuity. You can't legislate environmental pressure to come up with something new. Innovation has to come from genuine need and opportunity, not Uncle Sam saying that everyone needs to go solar.

    A better idea is to come up with ways to make money off of keeping an ecosystem going. For example, much of the rainforest destruction was caused by farmers cutting down trees, planting crops, and then moving on when the land got eroded by the rainfall. A suggestion was made to plant rubber trees among the corn. The rubber trees kept the soil from eroding, making viable farmland. And the farmers could then sell the rubber, too. Stuff like that is what makes the environment better. Not regulations that impose pollution taxes or strategies to bind religion to the environment.