"Cooperating with the Future"

This is an interesting paper -- the full version is behind a paywall -- about how we as humans can motivate people to cooperate with future generations.

Abstract: Overexploitation of renewable resources today has a high cost on the welfare of future generations. Unlike in other public goods games, however, future generations cannot reciprocate actions made today. What mechanisms can maintain cooperation with the future? To answer this question, we devise a new experimental paradigm, the 'Intergenerational Goods Game'. A line-up of successive groups (generations) can each either extract a resource to exhaustion or leave something for the next group. Exhausting the resource maximizes the payoff for the present generation, but leaves all future generations empty-handed. Here we show that the resource is almost always destroyed if extraction decisions are made individually. This failure to cooperate with the future is driven primarily by a minority of individuals who extract far more than what is sustainable. In contrast, when extractions are democratically decided by vote, the resource is consistently sustained. Voting is effective for two reasons. First, it allows a majority of cooperators to restrain defectors. Second, it reassures conditional cooperators that their efforts are not futile. Voting, however, only promotes sustainability if it is binding for all involved. Our results have implications for policy interventions designed to sustain intergenerational public goods.

Here's a Q&A with and essay by the author. Article on the research.

EDITED TO ADD (12/10): A low-res version of the full article can be viewed here.

Posted on November 27, 2014 at 8:32 AM • 49 Comments

Comments

Clive RobinsonNovember 27, 2014 9:50 AM

A niggle with,

Exhausting the resource maximizes the payoff for the present generation, but leaves all future generations empty-handed.

Is not true, it does not leave future generations "empty handed" it leaves them with a mess to clear up in various forms such as polution and physical environmental issues caused by strip mining etc.

History shows us that if something is considered to be abundant, it is used quite wastefully (see economics 101 for why). If however it is treated as rare it's value is high and thus it gets used as efficiently as generaly possible, which in turn causes less of a "future mess" for our children and grandchildren etc to clear up.

And that is the point, for most of us we see our future only through our children they are our immortality. However for some they either have no interest in being remembered fondly, or at all in the future, and some want to be remembered for their imformy.

I don't think it's as simple as a Hawks -v- Doves scenario because that model as I've noted befor lacks a time element and assumes just the present moment.

AnuraNovember 27, 2014 11:21 AM

I'm in my early 30s, and I give myself a 50/50 chance of science being able to extend my life indefinitely. To me, it's not about future generations.

Now, today, the externalities of coal right now are high, with significantly increased incidence of asthma attacks downwind from coal plants, some of those leading to death. We pollute waters, we have evidence that pesticides supporting monoculture farming leads to increased cancer rates, pollution in cities also leads to increased asthma rates, we are killing off ocean life, which is a major food source. Even if you don't expext to be immortal, we are hurting our current generation, even those in our own country.

We (and this is from an American perspective) don't really have a way to do anything about it. Wealthy people can live somewhere like Malibu where they don't have to live downwind from coal, next to fracking fields, next to farms where pesticides are being sprayed. A place with sparse traffic, that means that doing things cheaply at the expense of millions of people ends up benefiting them significantly, and our system of government and society leaves significant power in the hands of the wealthy, from significant influence over politicians to significant influence over the media. We basically are hammered with propaganda saying that fixing the problems will hurt us all economically. Yet they ignore the fact that for the last decade and a half, we have had a depressed demand for labor resulting in depressed wages for the vast majority of Americans; this means we have the resources to solve the problem, but by increasing demand for labor it would be harmful to the wealthy by tilting the balance of power somewhat less in favor of business. There is literally incentive in this country for the wealthy to not invest or allow things like infrastructure spending because it will increase the bargaining power of labor. Embracing green energy on a large scale would improve the income of the vast majority of Americans, at the expense of the wealthy today just because it would increase demand for labor.

Corporate profits as a percent of GDP in the US has been higher for every year post-recession than in any previous year on record, yet I can't count how many times I've heard that environmental regulations are killing business and that's why our economy is bad. It's almost never questioned in the media that this is the case, only argued whether it is worth it to destroy our economy for the sake of the environment.

Impossibly StupidNovember 27, 2014 11:42 AM

I'd side with Clive, with the additional note that whatever cooperation can be had is still likely to be one-sided. Which is to say, a lot of excessive exploitation of resources in the present can be seen through the lens of "future cooperation" as the intent to provide for *my* personal next generations, with the bonus for them of compounded interest. Unless mechanisms are put in place to devalue hoarding, people are always going to have an incentive to go against the "vote", seeking inequity in this and all future generations. As a security issue, it cuts both ways: passing the ill-gotten wealth on to your children provides for their future, but it also makes them a target for everyone else who didn't abuse the system (and even for those who did; you can never be too rich!). So it's not enough that the masses vote, but that they vote for the *right* mechanisms so that they still don't end up having to sharpen up the guillotines every couple hundred years.

WaelNovember 27, 2014 12:47 PM

@Anura,

We (and this is from an American perspective) don't really have a way to do anything about it. Wealthy people can live somewhere like Malibu where they don't have to live downwind from coal, next to fracking fields, next to farms where pesticides are being sprayed.
It's worse than that. We are messing with the environment way too much. We are messing with genes of plants and animals too. GMO stuff eventually will hurt the future. Toxic waste, chemical pesticides, mining, changing river paths, artificial islands, space debries[1], Nuclear waste and screwups (Fukushima, Chernobile,...), deforestation, Fossil fuel pollution, noise and light pollution, ... The list of mess ups is too long and can't be good for the future. Rich and poor will pay a price.

[1] I recommend SkyGuide app from Applestore, not sure if the is an Android version. It's not free, but a cool app which can also track satellites and space junk in addition to Stars and galaxies, etc...

albertNovember 27, 2014 1:10 PM

I have a Niggle with the whole article. The authors understand the sustainability problem, but to suggest that 'democracy' could have any effect on the situation is at best, disingenuous. It's an academic exercise, purely.
.
Democracy works when you have a free press, and an educational system based on facts, neither of which appears to be present anywhere on Earth today. The governments are controlled by the money interests, and not only big money, but all money. This is unsustainable in the long run, and cannot change without a massive change in the social order. Our rulers must take to heart the consequences of their actions. They know the truth, but their greed prevents thems from doing anything about it. There are solutions to all of our problems out there; they just need to be implemented.
.
Last nigh I watched a doc. on TV about feral pigs, which are a big problem in the southern states. It reminded me of the buffalo, which were decimated by the white man, almost to extinction. Here was an animal living in perfect balance within the ecosystem, able to sustain the native plains populations, and requiring no help from man. Contrast this to cattle, which cannot survive without serious and expensive husbandry. Feral pigs are a great example of nature telling us, "Here's a food source that's free for the taking, self-sustaining, and abundant". We keep ignoring logic, and nature keeps hitting us upside the head, and we still don't get it.
.
Regarding 'rich folk', someone mentioned that they can live where they want. True, for now, but gold can't be eaten (one symptom of gold poisoning is madness). Money cannot buy food, when there is no food; power, when there is no fuel to generate it; clean air, when there are no means to clean it; safe water..., protection from criminals..., etc. Walled compounds and armed guards are only temporary 'solutions'. The rich have the same fate as the poor, eventually.
.
The rich (and the seekers of riches) are like the drunk who spends his last dollar on cheap wine, it'll dull the edge for a little while, until the disease finally kills him.
.
Happy Thanksgiving!
.
I gotta go...

tzNovember 27, 2014 1:29 PM

The future generations don't vote, so what you call "democracy" ends up being oligarchs. You are hoping for a tyranny that will have something worse than the TSA and FBI enforcing use, and people wondering where things have gone.

Abortion is legal, but if the "potential future generations" could vote, I think they would not vote to allow 1/3 of them to be killed. And if you aren't sympathetic to actual death, depletion, starvation, whatever doesn't seem to be a big issue. We can just kill more of the "future generations" until there is balance with the available resources. We do that today when the member of the future generation is inconvenient.

Also it neither necessarily depletes nor wastes resources. Aluminum is recyclable, as is steel, plastic, and other things, but people throw them in the trash. How many electronic devices are repairable?

Finally, Chesterton called "Tradition" the democracy of the dead. Our ancestors found out what worked to keep society intact and overall happy and content (consider suicide rates). If we can look forward, which can only be speculation, toward future generations, ought we not also look into the past where both wisdom and folly occurred and build upon that instead of thinking we are really smarter or wiser? One of those points of tradition is concern for future generations. We have rejected and discarded traditional wisdom for publications and journals.

hoodathunkitNovember 27, 2014 1:34 PM

What the authors are promoting SOUNDS logical to the inexperienced and the gullible. In practice they are pushing a system that is more commonly known as "the tragedy of the commons".

AnuraNovember 27, 2014 1:40 PM

@Wael

I'm not so sure I'm concerned about GMO in and of itself, I'm concerned about what we are doing with it. Round-up resistant corn is being used so that we can spray significantly more chemicals on our farms. We have plants that produce pesticides, which goes against the whole (probably fallacious) idea that pesticides can be washed off. We have strains that renders all seeds infertile, which cross-pollinates non-GMO farms. Monoculture farming is something that was only made possible by widespread use of herbicides and pesticides, and actually results in more water consumption and less yield per acre.

I'm in California, and we are in a huge drought, with most of the water being consumed by farms. By using polyculture farming, you get more yield per acre, with less chemicals, less water, but it's more labor intensive and therefore more expensive. So the question becomes this: what's more important, our health and our environment or the price of food? Most Americans spend under $10,000 per year on food today. We could pay every single worker in the United States an extra $4,500 per year, and corporate profits as a percent of GDP would still be at their median level for the 1950s-2000s (average per decade).

The idea that GMOs can be used to improve nutritional value or the like I think is fine, but that's not really what it's actually being used for.

WaelNovember 27, 2014 3:04 PM

@Anura,

and I give myself a 50/50 chance of science being able to extend my life indefinitely.
That's a rather optimistic probability! Anything that has a beginning must have an end. The universe we live in will end. But if you are curious, an ex-colleague signed up to preserve his head after death with these bad boys. I think he paid $50k at the time. Preserving the whole body was about $100k. NIST had this to say about the subject.

jdgaltNovember 27, 2014 3:14 PM

Overexploitation of renewable resources today has a high cost on the welfare of future generations.

Uh, you mean NON-renewable resources, right?

Seriously: anyone who thinks this is a problem needs to read the works of Julian Simon.

BenNovember 27, 2014 4:45 PM

@clive

Exhausting the resource maximizes the payoff for the present generation, but leaves all future generations empty-handed.

Is not true, it does not leave future generations "empty handed" it leaves them with a mess to clear up in various forms such as polution and physical environmental issues caused by strip mining etc.


It also leaves future generations with whatever the end-product is of the capital investment paid for by using lower-cost energy. E.g., more STEM graduates than we would have if we were in an agrarian economy, who can hopefully invent their way out of the problem.

The past is another country - and transitively so is the future.

As a much richer country, with a much higher standard of living and much more surplus to invest in problem solving, the sensible thing is to leave them to it. Any problem we can solve, they can solve better. Any problem we can't solve, they might still!

The only exception would be an immediate threat, which Climate Change, with its 2 degrees Celsius per century timespan, is not.

There's no going back. We are already several times over the carrying capacity of the earth at 1800's technology let alone the stone age. There is no going back to the golden Eden of picking wild fruit in the jungle and dancing in the evening.

The only way is forward.

Bauke Jan DoumaNovember 27, 2014 5:51 PM

All this bears on and relates to --as if you didn't already know-- your book about the social contract.
The problem with the US in particular is that it has no history of labour and socialism (which is
related to) though it induces iun every citizen a life-motto of 'individualistic capitalism'.

thevoidNovember 27, 2014 6:01 PM

@anura

I'm not so sure I'm concerned about GMO in and of itself

you should be. as much as the term 'engineering' is used, what is done to
'modify' these organisms doesn't resemble it in the slightest. firstly,
they use retroviruses that infect/rewrite the dna, and worse than that,
the effects are essentially random. think computer virus. except most
computer viruses can successfully insert themselves into the system, and
potentially preserve funtionality. what is done with genetic 'engineering'
is to fire randomly into the dna and hope it sticks somewhere, and doesn't
break, which it does the vast majority of the time. so it's more like
writing randomly into some binary, until one of them actually functions.
but it's still a black box. you don't know what you did to make it work,
you don't know what is now broken, and much like with a computer you will
not know until some code is used and crashes. in the lab, they just pick
out the handful out of millions that (seem to) function.

what's more, and this was on smithsonian channel not long ago (i think it
may have been 'amazing plants' or somesuch) they did an experiment with
corn, wherein they took a vessel with a central core and 6 radiating
channels, filled with dirt. they put corn at the end of three of the tubes,
put nematodes in the center, and then infected one of the corn plants with
some insect that attacks it. after some time, 90% of the nematodes were
around the corn under attack, themselves attacking the attacker. the
experiment proved that corn can send out signals to essentially call for
help. they noted however that modern 'genetically modified' (they did not
use the term 'engineer', but that is what they were implying, as technically
breeding is 'genetic modification', but that didn't fit the context) corn
has lost this ability, which means you now need MORE peticides, since the
corn can't protect itself from what it always has...

we already have plenty of crops that have all the nutrition we need. though
monocultures are a problem, the irish could get all their nutrients from
a diet of mostly potatos and milk. squash can naturally grow very large
(think pumpkin growing competitions). this is something i have looked into,
and there are PLENTY of solutions to these problems, many of which have
been discovered thousands of years ago even eg 'terra preta' in the amazon.

as to drought, well introduce beavers! (another doco on pbs last week).


@albert re pigs

you definitely have a point that there is a food source ripe for the
exploitation, but the history there is more complex. the pig was originally
introduced by the spaniards. some pigs escaped their pen, and went feral
(in a single generation supposedly-- they started growing tusks again).
then they became a plague upon the natives, often destroying farms. besides
european diseases, nothing did more damage to the indians than feral hogs.


as i think everything of concern to me in the future has already been
mentioned. instead i'll add that many cultures worldwide used to have
some concept of what the american indians called 'what about the seventh
generation'-- that is, in any matter of importance, that is the question
that must always be asked, how it will affect them.

the natives also have another related concept: that our children do
not inherit the earth from us, but that WE BORROW THE EARTH FROM OUR
CHILDREN.

Dirk PraetNovember 27, 2014 6:07 PM

In contrast, when extractions are democratically decided by vote, the resource is consistently sustained.

The Koch Brothers beg to differ.

Patrick G.November 28, 2014 4:31 AM

Just as a detail, "Renewable resources" are normally defined as resources that can't be overused since they renew themselves fast enough to compensate for the losses due to use. If a resource can't do it's not considered "renewable" in the traditional sense anymore.

But it's just an academic discussion about definitions, the arguments the study make sound solid to me, the "sustainability failure" is real.
I agree there are some parallels with the partially disproved/misunderstood "Tragedy of the Commons" example, but the approach seems a bit more refined by adding democratic processes.

Interesting read. Thanks for linking.

ATNNovember 28, 2014 5:30 AM

Nobody here is talking about petrol/oil, the most obvious thing which has been created in millions of years and which will be (nearly) totally used in 100 years (half 20th century and half 21st century). Maybe someone will really need some in the 22nd century, but people refuse for instance wind farms large at sea because they may be able to see them and it is an *inconvenient* sight.

Another subject is fish extinction, nobody gives a shit because they can't see it, most fisherman do not care about regulations/laws/vote-results because they are unenforceable, you find fishing boats deep inside the *best* natural reserves on earth (natural park regulations made by small countries are not binding for big countries fishing fleet). After a fishing boat has destroyed the sea floor, it can go elsewhere - unlike the farmer who has to live off his land next year too...

Bad Friday...

WhatDidYouExpectNovember 28, 2014 6:30 AM

It is more likely the case that the future is being co-opted by those with greed for wealth and lust for power.

jbmartin6November 28, 2014 7:39 AM

"Voting, however, only promotes sustainability if it is binding for all involved" is the part where reality diverges from the effects found in this study.

PJNovember 28, 2014 12:08 PM

@jdgalt
@Ben

Thank you.

The study's alternative between selfish exploitation at the expense of others and altruistic sacrifice of at our own expense is a false choice.

albertNovember 28, 2014 2:14 PM

@thevoid

Spot on re: GMOs. IIRC, Monsanto failed in their attempts to make corn Roundup(tm) resistant. Finally, they found some Roundup(tm) resistant bacteria in the sludge pools around their manufacturing plant, and proceeded from there. Nature did what they couldn't do. How smart are these people? Dangerously stupid.
.
Re: Feral pigs. They have become a plague to farms and residents alike, not only devastating crops, but killing dogs, small farm animals, and native species. Large hogs (200-500 lbs) can easily kill children and small adults. They are more aggressive, having interbred with the larger eastern European wild boars (which were deliberately introduced here by game hunters). Killer bees, anyone? Population control efforts have failed. Pigs are as intelligent as dogs; ask any farm boy. The smarter the animal, the more difficult they are to control. They need to be monetized as a food source NOW.
.
The beaver doc. was fascinating. Another example of how Nature can take care of itself, absent the meddling of man. Beaver are actually being reintroduced to certain areas to restore riparian environments.
.
@Anura
>"...The idea that GMOs can be used to improve nutritional value or the >like I think is fine...".
Don't fall for that line. GMO companies aren't interested in nutrition, even if they had the slightest clue about it, which they don't. They certainly don't give a rat's ass about safety and long-term effects. Yields they may care about, but increasing yields only means increasing profits.
.
We know what needs to be done, but, more importantly, not done.
.
As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
.
I gotta go...


name,withheld.for.obvious.reasonsNovember 29, 2014 7:41 AM

This reminds me of the "science through modeling" where models and made and then a "consensus" is formed thus validating the model. Science is not a series of "pick a process of your choice" to achieve real/measurable/repeatable results. People confuse "science" and "clinical research" in practice and observation, they're not equivalent.

As with many areas of expertise within the scientific disciplines there are few FACTS. Empirical and clinical data is the mother's milk of research and funding, causation and foundational proofs are for "theorists" and not compatible with lab coat scientists. The fact that the world operates almost entirely (of the human cognition type) on 18th century Newtonian physics is more than just cred to Sir Issac...it is a sad reminder of how pitiful our efforts have been historically.

Galileo the the 16th century invents the telescope, not until the 20th century are we met with the discovery of galaxies. Over four hundred years to advance the first telescope from operational to understanding or learning of fundamental components of the universe. Epic fail. And, will still don't know if coffee is good, bad, or as I suggest--indifferent.

GMO's are so problematic, the causal chain(s) and their apparent and non-apparent affects (bacterium exposed to GMO organisms will experience nearly 10,000 mutations a year on) are long and complex. For a simple lesson Australia experienced a near epic ecological disaster with the a "simplex" event--the introduction of the rabbit. In GMO's, going from DNA strands/strains to organ and species level effects with the understanding ANY direct or indirect influence is nearly impossible. It's classic Heisenberg principle--observational states cannot be maintained independent of other operational influences. Consider the complexity of diagnosing causal links to cancers that aren't clinically/empirically "proven".

Cooperating with the future? Huh...I don't see that happening any time soon. Until intelligent life is discovered in the universe, probability near zero (statistically speaking), we--the collective--will not get our own fecal matter straight let alone that of the "future we's".


Sancho_PNovember 29, 2014 4:08 PM

Sorry I think this paper is a hoax, deceptive and disingenuous, at best.

- Resources are not at the core of the problem.
- “Democratic” voting can’t solve any problem, let alone one that doesn’t exist.
On the contrary, “democratic” voting is dangerous.

Mankind’s problem is inherent, at the same time it is the beginning and "The End":
The paradigm of growth.

(I’m not religious but check for Genesis 1:28, there’s the problem)

DaublinNovember 29, 2014 11:48 PM

In practice, renewable resources seem to get controlled fairly well these days. Most commonly, there's some kind of harvesting right that is auctioned off in limited amounts.

hoodathunkitNovember 30, 2014 12:13 AM

The article is fatally flawed from its beginning sentence, “Overexploitation of renewable resources today has a high cost on the welfare of future generations”, a prediction with no basis in the real world. The authors then go on to assume “pro-social voters”, claim that “Exhausting the resource maximizes the payoff” (a violation of economics basics), and make a whole series of statements totally divorced from the reality of resource use.

The author’s goals are exposed in closing with, “Many citizens are ready to sacrifice for the greater good. We just need institutions that help them do so.” [emphasis added] Apparently forgoing something needs a KGB agent to ‘help’.

If it wasn't so sad it would be hilarious that the exact same folks screeching over the horrors of NSA surveillance –for our own good— and the loss of individual privacy are now going on about how government (remember the folks spying on them?) needs to expand its reach –for our own good of course— in order to fix a non-existent problem of renewable resource use.

What part of “renew” is so hard to understand? How did they miss e.v.e.r.y.s.i.n.g.l.e point of the Simon–Ehrlich bet? As of today (34 years later) the 5 metals are up ~8%. Why do these people fail to grasp the most basic concepts of economics, and more ominously, the basics of and history of government reach?

There was no population bomb, no environmental cataclysm. No different than a dozen End-of-Time religions, the doomsday cult of environmental catastrophe or overpopulation has been discredited over and over and over. From Malthus to Ehrlich there are 200+ years of proof it is wrong –dead wrong— yet its adherents still fervently cling to the faith. As illustrated above, apparently some devotees now want government ‘assistance’ to inflict their beliefs on the unwashed masses.

Schneier posted a great litmus test.

WaelNovember 30, 2014 1:18 AM

@Anura,

The idea that GMOs can be used to improve nutritional value or the like I think is fine,
It's fine if conducted in a controlled environment. We humans are so arrogant: When we discover 0.1% of some science (which we're not sure our understanding is correct), we believe that we have figured it all out. GMO is an experiment in an open lab environment. Sometimes I wonder if that is the reason a lot of the bees have disappeared. Do you know how catastrophic the disappearance of bees would be?

FigureitoutNovember 30, 2014 1:30 AM

Wael
--Why the bees are disappearing is pesticides/insectsides (which are...poison) and absolutely massive one-crop farms. Bees are shipped in via massive commerical beekeepers (ie: they don't give a f*ck about their bees), usually a large amount die after they "do their job" b/c they only have one crop (they need a diverse diet of pollen from different crops, it'd be like eating just one thing all the time). We seriously may see a future where we humans may have to pollinate our crops full on and that's so extremely inefficient and wasteful of human time and nature (it's already done in China... https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/5193-Decline-of-bees-forces-China-s-apple-farmers-to-pollinate-by-hand .... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand-pollination )

Why do I know this..? My dad took up beekeeping (don't f*ckin' ask...lol). But bees are very fascinating and there's some truly mind blowing "intelligent behaviors" or just evolved things they do, it'll give you the chills.

FigureitoutNovember 30, 2014 1:43 AM

hoodathunkit
--Basic logic says that we will eventually run out of resources based on how we use them and dispose of them (ie: dispose them scattered other useless "garbage" that needs to decompose and get smushed and heated up to turn into something useful again). I don't mind the gov't making these arguments that we need to conserve, so long as people that can't afford to (drive behind the poor person and their car isn't maintained and spewing exhaust out you can't even breathe) are made whole or it's fair for them b/c they can't live close to their work as it's too expensive and there's no cheap mass-transit in practically 85% (pulling that stat out my ass) of America.

What pisses me off is rich people will tell others to stop consuming, and then they continue to consume. F*ck that, makes me want to consume more so they or their children get to see our doom like the rest of us. Also, you know the NSA massive data centers that need their own power plant just to operate? Yeah those are going to need to be shut down b/c of all the wasteful power their using to spy on people's porno habits and SEXINT.

AnuraNovember 30, 2014 2:14 AM

@Wael

Yeah, the question becomes "is it necessary?" In terms of feeding the world, the biggest problem is not a lack of food, it's a lack of infrastructure along with geopolitical issue. That doesn't necessarily invalidate what we are doing with GMOs, but it does show that the primary focus needs to be elsewhere if our concern is, indeed, feeding the world. Our concern, how ever, does not seem to be feeding the world; the focus of GMOs has been about cost cutting, which provides marginal increases in yield, and does not significantly improve our ability to feed the world.

@Figureitout

Interestingly, while household income for the bottom 80% of households in 2013 was only 17% higher, on average, than it was in 1970. Across all households, personal consumption has increased by over 90% on average. That means that most of our increase in consumption came from the top 20% or just plain from debt or possibly healthcare costs that aren't included as income.

(Personal consumption per household obtained by adjusting personal consumption in table 2.4.5 with price indexes in table 2.4.4 from here, dividing by the number of households from here. Household income for bottom 80% obtained from here - note that while this includes wage income, taxes, welfare, and social security, it does not include capital gains income and is therefore not a reliable indicator of income for the top 20%.)

WaelNovember 30, 2014 4:09 AM

@Figureitout,

But bees are very fascinating and there's some truly mind blowing "intelligent behaviors" or just evolved things...
Oh, I'm familiar with the intelligence of bees and ants (that communicate with sound; ie talk to each other)

thevoidNovember 30, 2014 7:03 AM

@andrew

How smart are these people? Dangerously stupid.

that's always been my finding in "science".

Re: Feral pigs. ... They need to be monetized as a food source NOW.

much as i am not normally one to say this, since they are a (VERY) invasive
species, they should probably be hunted to extinction here if possible.


@Figureitout

What pisses me off is rich people will tell others to stop consuming, and then they continue to consume.

like al gore, who had the second highest electricity bill for a private
residence in tennessee, with NO energy saving bulbs, back while he was
accusing everybody who didn't of destroying the planet?

Also, you know the NSA massive data centers that need their own power plant just to operate? Yeah

not to mention all the water it requires for coolant, which is being
considered a major environmental problem.


@Wael

It's fine if conducted in a controlled environment. We humans are so arrogant: When we discover 0.1% of some science (which we're not sure our understanding is correct), we believe that we have figured it all out.

this is a problem that humanity is too arrogant to admit! i can rarely ever
get people to admit that they are not gods, that humans are not somehow all
knowing, all powerful...

GMO is an experiment in an open lab environment. Sometimes I wonder if that is the reason a lot of the bees have disappeared. Do you know how catastrophic the disappearance of bees would be?

people won't listen, they've been told that 'science' can solve all of their
problems, so sometimes they won't even care that there is a problem. i've
actually had people tell me that it doesn't matter, because 'science' will
find a way. there's no problems in the world, because any problem can be
solved by 'science'.

an interesting example of this is the doomsday seed vault (suspiciously
supported by monsanto...). pick up a book on botany, and it should tell
you how stupid that is. if you loose the life-matrix, there is no restoring
it. orchids for example, require living fungus to nurture their seeds, and
those fungus need orchids to feed them, they are completely symbiotic. note
how small vanilla beans are, they are typical 'microspermae', typical
orchids, have no nutrient value at all, merely genetic material. they need
the fungus to feed them, which it does by penetrating the seed, and pumping
nutrients into it. mature orchids feed these fungi. orchids make up one of
the largest groups of plants, something like 40% of all plants.

85% percent of plants REQUIRE symbiotic fungus. they simply cannot survive
without them. so where is the doomsday fungus vault?

actually, i am amazed at how few 'scientists' seem to read science books...


@Anura

In terms of feeding the world, the biggest problem is not a lack of food, it's a lack of infrastructure along with geopolitical issue.

if we utilized the land right, i think we could feed the whole world, and
NOT destroy the environment. ancient peoples found many techniques more
productive than modern ones. although i haven't found any sources on it yet,
supposedly the aztecs used to get 7 yields a year by growing directly on the
water (a form of hydroponics). one technique i have verified is one i first
read about in a book on advanced (human) ancient civilizations. there was a
paper published on it called 'Prehistoric Landscape Management in the Andean
Highlands' which shouldn't be too hard to find to those interested. the gist
of it is that some archaeologists, some locals, and the bolivian government
did an experiment in farming based on what the archaeologists had found, with
some pretty amazing results (for people AND wildlife.) barely farmable land
can be made fertile. better than the current policy of taking fertile land
and raping it.

fact is though, there is no will to do this. it doesn't profit the right
people.

FigureitoutNovember 30, 2014 4:56 PM

thevoid RE: farming
--I've proposed on here before, micro farms all over suburbs around the house; but I believe in individual property rights and people doing what they want on their property, so I couldn't bring myself to force this on people. I also can't afford to really push the idea, but there was a "hippy-like" group that was doing my idea, just going around on a bus and making micro gardens for people for free. There's tons of land that could be put to work, it doesn't require pesticides/insecticides (I need to get off the seeds that coat them in poison so animals don't dig them up and eat them).

This provides diverse pollen source for bees (I've noticed just a visual increase in bees coming back compared to when I started), is very cheap/easy to maintain depending on the size, and can even look pretty. But it'd be even better to stagger your planting to give a continuous source of pollen. My little twist was growing corn and a viney plant like cucumbers to get two crops growing in same place (the cucumbers even snake up the corn plants, as if to hug their friend, or strangle lol). There was a hackaday post where someone took this "bio-hacking" to a whole 'nother level and grafted a bunch of branches from trees to a single tree, it was gorgeous.

http://hackaday.com/2014/07/28/the-tree-of-40-fruit/

Some localities actually have code violations however where people can't even put a garden in their own property, some people think it's "ugly"...

I foresee a future when we can't afford to water/mow a mostly otherwise useless plant (grass), other than by letting it grow you make hay for other animals and construction sites. Probably the air will be too cancerous by then.

WaelNovember 30, 2014 10:33 PM

@thevoid,

people won't listen, they've been told that 'science' can solve all of their problems...
There is nothing wrong with science per se, it's how we acquire it and recklessly (GMO) apply it that's causing some concern!

Clive RobinsonDecember 1, 2014 1:54 AM

@ Figureitout, Wael,

I don't like the idea of GM for many reasons but "call me unscientific" if you will but my two gut fealing reactions against it are,

1, Wheat intolerance.
2, Pedigree dogs.

Wheat is perhaps mankinds oldest GM experiment going back over four thousand years. Even today some 1-2% of the population are intolerant to it to the point of "life threatening" and upto another 5% of the population have the catchall "IBS" that they find improves if they eliminate wheat and other modern grains from their diet. Whilst the few traditional grains that still exist appear to have way way less intolerance issues (and better flavour and broad nutritional value).

Pedigree dogs show two nasty human traits, the first is mankinds "self belief he knows better" than nature, the second is the "closed stud book" issue, that in humans gives us the traditional "village idiot" at best and horific deformaties and worse.

The "Kennel Society" decided many years ago on the eugenics principle what were "proper breeds" of dog and implemented a closed stud book to ensure the "blood line purity".

However many of these breeds have genetic weaknesses that get further "inbreed" with each successive generation. And in some breeds such as the German Shepherd and Rhodesian Ridge Back, key points of the breed are the genetic weakness (Scored hips and Spinabifida). The result is some dog breeders actually euthanize healthy pups and keep only those with the genetic disorder, "as that is where the money is".

Combined these two main points tell you without thinking any further why GM is likely to be a disaster mankind does not need.

But you then need to consider how it is to be implemented over the wishes of ordinary people... what the US is upto with International Trade Agreements is just one clear indicator of this policy. At US Corp insistance --the elected representitives compleatly side lined and very deliberately kept in the dark-- there is a clause about dispute resolution in all US trade agrements. This is a backdoor way for US Corps to force other nations to do things the way the Corps want not as the people of those nations want.

This will be used to force GM down nations throats quite literally and as has been seen in a number of less developed countries the chances are the countries will be used to do the testing thought to dangerous to do in the US. The result will be a new form of slave culture where the indigenous plants with good immunity to diseases and pests will be wiped out and only GM seed available with it's "tiedin" constraints to not just the seed but fertilizers and pesticides that will cause further environmental issues, including poisoned water supplies and dead soil incapable of supporting natural crops in any kind of biodiversity required to keep the sustainable natural balance...

WaelDecember 1, 2014 2:52 AM

@Clive Robinson,

I don't like the idea of GM for many reasons but "call me unscientific" if you will...
Not unsientific at all.

This will be used to force GM down nations throats quite literally [...] required to keep the sustainable natural balance...
Slightly inaccurate. Change the "will be used" to "is currently used", and it'll be more precise. What they fail to understand is that we live on the same earth and the "virtual" geographic boundaries do not constitute a shield the ill-effects of GMO cannot penetrate, ethics aside...

thevoidDecember 1, 2014 3:54 AM

@Wael

There is nothing wrong with science per se, it's how we acquire it and recklessly (GMO) apply it that's causing some concern!

i agree! that's the reason for the quotes. i probably sound odd to some
because i always criticize 'science', (i don't always make the distinction
obvious when speaking), but the fact is i love science, which is why i hate
'science'.

thevoidDecember 1, 2014 7:20 AM

@Figureitout

--I've proposed on here before, micro farms all over suburbs around the house; but I believe in individual property rights and people doing what they want on their property, so I couldn't bring myself to force this on people. I also can't afford to really push the idea, but there was a "hippy-like" group that was doing my idea, just going around on a bus and making micro gardens for people for free. There's tons of land that could be put to work, it doesn't require pesticides/insecticides (I need to get off the seeds that coat them in poison so animals don't dig them up and eat them).

rooftops are also a very underutilized space. in fact, there are some
companies that actually offer 'green roofs', where they create a garden that
works as great insulation (as a replacement for the more typical tar/rubber).
they mostly use drought resistent plants to reduce maintanence, but there's
no reason someone more involved couldn't utilize it for food.

and there's alot that can be done without involving forcing anyone (which
is pretty much always counterproductive). just wait until food prices go up
more, growing food will be (and already is) becoming more attractive to
many people.

This provides diverse pollen source for bees (I've noticed just a visual increase in bees coming back compared to when I started), is very cheap/easy to maintain depending on the size, and can even look pretty. But it'd be even better to stagger your planting to give a continuous source of pollen.

diverse pollen make for some good honey too.

My little twist was growing corn and a viney plant like cucumbers to get two crops growing in same place (the cucumbers even snake up the corn plants, as if to hug their friend, or strangle lol).

i think the american indians beat you to that! they grew corn, beans, and
squash all together on mounds. they called them the 'three sisters.' the
three of them complement each other.

a side note, all bean plants have symbiotic bacteria that fix nitrogen into
the soil. this is a major part of the agricultural revolution, since they
found that instead of leaving a field fallow for a year, you could grow a
bean plant (alfalfa) which could be used to feed livestock, and the soil
will be naturally fertilized, so the next year you can plant something else.
jefferson called it 'green manure'. in the case of the '3 sisters' the bean
plant helps to fertilize the corn and squash.

as to cucumbers, i know the japanese have a program where some schools were
growing cucumbers up a trellis on the side of the building. the cucumbers
would grow up and basically form a green wall, which actually reduced the
temperature in the school by something like 20 degrees.

in the wild, i have seen plants that do cooperate, and thrive together, where
apart they don't do so well. some plants will actually collapse under their
own weight, unless some vine supports them.

Some localities actually have code violations however where people can't even put a garden in their own property, some people think it's "ugly"...

ugly, huh? i think that is indicative of mental illness.. (i'm half joking,
but also half serious.)

I foresee a future when we can't afford to water/mow a mostly otherwise useless plant (grass), other than by letting it grow you make hay for other animals and construction sites. Probably the air will be too cancerous by then.

but those mowed lawns aren't ugly? hmm..

one thing you may find on most lawns though is clover-- another bean plant.

Sancho_PDecember 1, 2014 4:59 PM

Micro farms, rooftops, tons of un- or underutilized space …

… Wait a moment, let me ask why would we need them?
The same goes for GM, even for what’s called “renewable energy” (a misleading oxymoron btw).

But my question was already stupid and reveals our tragedy:
We are not important at all, no one, no thing, nothing cares about us.
We had the chance to be part of the game for some time, but our “intelligence” was by far not enough to reach the end of this century.
- Mind you, I’m not talking about extinction of mankind, but about a cruel end of western civilization, the lifestyle we were used to.

We can poison and then clean our drinking water, burn fossile resources to rise coastal towns above rising sea level, employ technical tricks to shift energy from here to there -
but it will neither bring peace (understanding, collaboration) nor stop refugees.
And it won't save the bees.

FigureitoutDecember 2, 2014 1:05 AM

thevoid
--Yeah I was thinking roofs are ideal to be covered in solar panels (in an ideal world where they last 10+ years and w/o using too much other resources to make them). A sausage plant (of all things, I know lol) near one my family put in a big solar panel array for some reason (probably some tax credits I bet), still there. But for urban areas there's little other space so they could be for garden; my vision there is like the Mayans w/ the sloped steps in a mountain side holding crops, there's like a spiral-like structure holding crops, that itself is spiraling to try and get max sunlight to all plants. Rotation and waves are a basis of life, the earth spins, it rotates around sun, which is rotating around a galaxy. I think rotational structures of plants may work well (maybe they are on platters that spin too). Water that doesn't get fully absorbed at top "trickles down" (that term's been ruined...) so no waste of water. It'd have to be some sort of retractable structure for harvest. This isn't "novel" whatsoever nor hard, just needs to be done and maintained, not to mention I'm not sure how many bugs exist up in fairly high sky scrapers.

Another idea is retractable "inverted umbrellas" made of metal (thin aluminum, like cans; maybe reinforced or shielded from wind). This would take power likely unless again we become so desperate for water and power that humans turn the crankshaft when it starts to rain to collect rainwater and use for nearby crops in urban areas.

diverse pollen make for some good honey too.
--A coworker swears by it that since his wife starting eating some everyday her allergy-symptoms subsided, only this specific local honey too.

i think the american indians beat you to that!
--Ha, well I wasn't aiming for a symbiotic relationship, was aiming for most food possible "naturally" in least space growing crops on each other. But yeah we owe a lot to early humans growing crops over years and getting better genes and more food. Once cucumbers and also watermelons get going you can just keep snaking their vines every which way (yes I did play w/ this and made free-hanging watermelons/cucumbers grow off fencing). So yes, even in urban areas, all you need is a potted base and you can just keep stringing along the vine so long as leaves get straight shot of sunlight (and probably watered/fertilized a bit).

RE: ugly plants
--Yeah they think that (and I keep my comments to myself like "Well your face is such an eyesore, but I deal w/ it"), and a worthless grass lawn (that has sprinklers too using water and draining water pressure of water towers) that needs to be mowed every week (gas consumption and pollution) is needed for their "white picket fence American Dream". Well, it's a dream, time to wake up to unsustainable activities. I personally won't keep my head in the ground for yet another castastrophe in the making no one solves and just lets it grow until people die or drastic sudden changes from collapse. People (not in an urban area, but still you can do some things) can choose for themselves to put in at most a weekend of work for big results for environment (and minimal maintaining once planted).

Oh and for water, again a "no duh" solution. Water filtered from home gutters. Depending on how high the gutter is you could use that height to your advantage to pump it towards garden or just put in a barrel (simple filter before). Another cool physics phenomenon is if you have water in an elevated barrel, a simple one-push pump will have flowing water from gravity. Or just use milk jugs to scoop water for using basically no power.

Whoever is willing to put up w/ all the bureaucratic bullsh*t and rules to advertise this more on a bigger scale, or if you can afford to, props to you. Next year I'm taking weight measurements of crops and calculating total space used to get a basic metric of food per foot/meter. It could add up to a lot of new food to tamper down food prices maybe and potentially even feed people still starving fresh produce. The choice is the people's still, who have land to grow stuff.

Sancho_P
--I think what you're trying to say is getting lost in translation (you've mentioned your Spanish background, which I would've never guess SANCHO :p). Why we need them isn't very hard to process, we won't have resources to waste as we'll need them for transportation/computing/space travel/heating/cooling/etc. Food that is grown right by your house doesn't use transportation, it doesn't have to use water from aquifer.

Whatever you're trying to say, sounds like you're having a bad day. You can go "pack it in" and cry in a corner some more about helplessness, I'll at least put forth some practical/doable ideas and implement a couple. This is food security. We need food to live, since you asked, that isn't poisoned. I'm sure you want to see another American stepping up to bat on a global problem.

Sancho_PDecember 2, 2014 6:36 PM

@Figureitout

No, sorry, I’m afraid that’s not a translation error.

We technicians tend to enthusiastically solve problems we are presented with but often we are not shown the whole picture.
Rem: Probably we don’t want to see it … E.g. personally I’ve made a fortune by literally killing thousands of “simple” jobs worldwide - such jobs that the unpretentious people need to make their living because they are not shareholders of the killer company.

Technical solutions solve technical problems.

However, environmental problems are caused, not solved, by technics.
Technical solutions often obscure the real problem, they mitigate the effect and buy some time in happiness, just to make the problem worse for the future.

Micro farms, rooftops, ... “Why we need them isn't very hard to process, we won't have resources to waste as we'll need them for transportation/computing/space travel/heating/cooling/etc.” [emphasis added]

Err, I thought you don’t want to waste resources?
Technical solutions require resources your kids will never have again,
- but that’s their problem, right?
And probably the problem of about 6 billions now living in underdeveloped countries, dreaming of a bus / train / own car / water / accommodation / hospital / TV / computer / self-esteem / job / social security / … ?

“Food that is grown right by your house doesn't use transportation, it doesn't have to use water from aquifer.”

Where I live there is plenty of agricultural soil, you can see abandoned terraces all over the place where they grew all kind of veggies and fruits you can imagine. The land is steep, though. When you see someone working it’s someone in their seventies, only in their small house garden (nearly all youngsters moved down to costal towns, nowadays waiting for their “SNAP” - but that’s a bit different here). Produce imported from all over the world is so cheap you have to buy it to feed your pigs, chicken and goats, you can’t grow it yourself.

- Which water would you use, I’m asking because here water is an issue as most reservoirs are damaged / not maintained and climate has changed dramatically during the last 40 years, we are running dry?

And have you been to Mexico City, New York, Delhi or Moscow to see where to effectively put micro farms and solar panels?
- Would it help them?
Did you meet people there who could run it (including solar systems)?

“… sounds like you're having a bad day.”

Um, I was hiking in the nearby mountains, chatting with my friend, a falcon, high up in the sky, while having late lunch (he got his fare “share” when I left).
I’m healthy, have probably 30+ years to live, do not have to work for money,
- seriously, I can’t remember my last bad day (personally).

“I'm sure you want to see another American stepping up to bat on a global problem.”

Dunno? I’ve seen some already, not very impressed …
Just make sure not to hit your own kids, be it in the U.S or ME ;-)

FigureitoutDecember 3, 2014 1:35 AM

Sancho_P
I'm afraid that's not a translation error
--In which case, I'm sorry then it's a reading comprehension error on your part. My proposal is not technical, not forceful, and it requires nearly everyone in suburbia (in just America for now) to have a tiny garden on their property *by their free will* that will average around 10X10' area. I've grown impressive quantities of peppers in little 3'X4"X3" pots, so even a window-sill could grow produce. My "technical" solution digging a hole in ground, laying seeds in, covering up ~inch, then water/fertilize.

I don't know what you're going on about wasting resources. Do you consider breathing a waste? There's still a symbiotic relationship w/ our waste, somewhat. Mass suicide isn't in our interest as we don't know if that person contains the next great idea *and implements it*.

My urban expansions on rotational plant structures were merely thoughts, I've only flown thru NYC, never walked the streets. So much freedom taken away and so crowded by mean people it doesn't really matter to me. That's a prison people are forced to live in out of my control...Hell no not going to Mexico City or Delhi; and don't have a reason for Moscow. I'd probably be breaking 100+ laws or way more trying to implement it (any structure over 200 ft needs a red blinky light for planes and now the drones, I'm not stringing red LED's on my plants). So they're on their own and must rely on outside sources for basic nutrition, puts yourself in a compromising position. Let me tell you, just working at a grocery where you're near the end of the supply chain, it can get pretty f*cking gross what your food goes thru...

Mind you I'm not solving the world's problems here, never will, nor do I want to as people will villify anyone who tries. I'm merely slowing down the extinction of humanity and trying to "attack" a coming disaster securing food for people. You don't even need to eat what you grow right away, can it. It's good for a year or 2; build up emergency supplies.

Smaller cities like where I'm near, my ideas can be done and done well. I used to do landscaping for a large drug company in the area, for ~$2.4 mil. per year you can get quite a bit of maintenance on plants.

On the water, yeah that's why I said "inverted umbrellas that pop up during rain, "rain sensing" technology already exists, not sure exactly what it is, maybe some form of humidity detector. It hasn't got like that yet here so I suppose you're f*cked then, or can import water like Las Vegas or California. Yet another weakness that can be exploited by war or a company/gov't.

I was hiking in the nearby mountains, chatting with my friend, a falcon, high up in the sky
--Sounds like you borrowed Wael's percolator bong or something...smoking that purple or red hairs "maui wowie" or "sour diesel" or "northern lights" lol...I do still have to work for money and I'm most definitely not retired. This is the main difference we have, you don't need to give a f*ck, while I do. Now you get to chill w/ the falcons while we clean up all the catastrophes you left us, thanks.

Dunno? I’ve seen some already, not very impressed…
--Suppose if we took up the European way of being hopelessly depressed and just saying screw it all would be much better? And I'm not stepping foot in ME, that sandy sh*thole. And if they come over trying to kill me they better succeed before they reveal themselves to be murderers as I'll find them when they're vulnerable and get revenge as usual.

thevoidDecember 4, 2014 7:09 AM

@Sancho

indeed. some american indian chief once said:

only when the last fish has been caught,
when the last tree has been cut down,
and the last river has been poisoned,
will the white man realize he can't eat money.

and it seems we are almost at that point.

maybe we should add:

and when the last bee has died out

thevoidDecember 4, 2014 8:13 AM

not tomention I'm not sure how many bugs exist up in fairly high sky scrapers.

well, some insects can live high up in the canopies of the redwood forests, so they can at least reach the tops of the lower skyscrapers.

as to water, there are a number of ways to save water. beavers for instance create conditions that prevent drought. many problems we are having now are because in many places beavers were hunted to extinction.

was aiming for most food possible "naturally" in least space growing crops on each other.

that is one of the benefits of the indian's method. the corn grows up, the squash grows out (not sure what the beans do). i was thinking about this though, and while there are some plants that may support a cucumber, corn probably is not it. corn in fact grows special above-ground roots later in the season to add support for the heavy fruit.

But yeah we owe a lot to early humans growing crops over years and getting better genes and more food.

in fact the best food plants already exist. i always bring up squashes, because they can get so large naturally.

Once cucumbers and also watermelons get going you can just keep snaking their vines every which way (yes I did play w/ this and made free-hanging watermelons/cucumbers grow off fencing).

i've done this myself with cucumbers and chain-link. it's also basically what was done in japan to build that 'green wall'. they had planters at the base, and then the structure for the cucumbers to grow on. (giving both insulation and food).

Another cool physics phenomenon is if you have water in an elevated barrel, a simple one-push pump will have flowing water from gravity.

if i'm reading you right (i may not be) the romans used this fact. in cases where they couldn't build the typical bridge aqueduct, they built a resevoir on on end, and a U shaped channel down and then back up the valley, thus allowing them to make water flow up.

Whoever is willing to put up w/ all the bureaucratic bullsh*t and rules to advertise this more on a bigger scale, or if you can afford to, props to you.

ha not me for sure. i intend to implement this stuff though. the ancients many times figured this stuff out, and only arrogance blinds modern man to that fact. if people see it working however, they may try.

i mentioned a paper before, you would definitely like it:

"prehistoric landscape management in the andean highlands: raised field agriculture and its environmental impact." by clark l. erickson.

from the abstract:

the paper focuses on raised fields, large earthen platforms which prevent waterl ogging and flooding, increase soil fertility, conserve moisture, insure nutrient production and recycling, and improve crop microclimates.

amazing shit really. sometimes the ancients figured this out just by PAYING ATTENTION.

It could add up to a lot of new food to tamper down food prices maybe and potentially even feed people still starving fresh produce.

this is one of my goals as well.

This is the main difference we have, you don't need to give a f*ck, while I do. Now you get to chill w/ the falcons while we clean up all the catastrophes you left us, thanks.

i'm not sure that was sancho's meaning. sometimes things don't translate so well into text, people sometimes rely on inflections and gestures, and the same words seem different without them. plus cultural nuances.

i definitely understand your sentiment though, as people have actually asked me why i care. well, I HAVE TO. and it does bother me especially when it comes from the older generations who, quite frankly, fucked us, and then show contempt for any concern.

as some american indians used to say: 'our children do not inherit the earth from us, we borrow the earth from our children'.

it's best to remember that there were some that tried, and fought the good fight, but we were all sold a bill of goods. what has actually been left for the children but a fucking mess?

i think of that sometimes when our governments want to enslave us in some way 'for the children'. since when do they give a fuck about the children?

Sancho_PDecember 4, 2014 5:42 PM

@Figureitout, thevoid

Our mindset is too different, we can’t sort that out here in Bruce’s blog.

Yes, we can” (and therefore we do, although we do not know the consequences) was probably the last word those (here cited) Native Americans heard before they were shot,
and we are still running down the street into the same direction, enthusiastically, frenetically, aggressively, with progress in all dimensions (population, comfort, waste, …), and
picking up speed day by day, not realizing the street is a cul-de-sac.

You may save / improve whatever you want, demand will grow faster. Waste will remain.

No, I’m not calling for “mass suicide”, lol, but I’m calling for a little awareness that it won’t go forever. We can’t stop it, but nature will.

If you have time to read, try Alan Weisman’s “Countdown”, it is heartbreaking, especially for those who have visited some places and met people and culture he describes.
A short review is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/books/review/countdown-by-alan-weisman.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
(well, the robot bear is clearly one of our “enthusiastic & insane” ideas)

AlexDecember 5, 2014 4:14 PM

Hindsight is 20/20. The real issue is unintended consequences.

Look back at medical practices of the early 1900s (or 1850s) and compare them to today. Some of the things they used to do seem absolutely absurd to us today but seemed quite reasonable in their time. In the 1850s we had the beginnings of the coal economy. In the 1950s nuclear became all the rage. In the 1970s we had people worried about global cooling, now it's global warming. Again, all of these ideas seemed perfectly reasonable at the time.

Even myself, back some 20 years ago was heavily into automation technology which we designed to make our lives easier. The problem is that it worked too well and paved the way to completely automate the industry. Our operation went from >150 employees down to 25. Now they probably have 5 people or fewer running the place, and it's most likely being run from some other city, remotely.

Re: the environment, it's difficult to predict what will happen in the future, but we have plenty of evidence what worked and what failed over the past 5,000+ years of written human history. It's probably best if we copy what worked and try to refine that rather than go against mother nature.

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of IBM Resilient.