Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Even NASA thinks civilization is doomed

Speaking of irony, NASA recently funded a study showing that global industrial civilization is on a path to irreversible collapse.

It turns out that there are two critical co-occurring precursors to the collapse of past civilizations, both of which are in full swing right now:
1. resources being stretched beyond carrying capacity
2. increasing inequality in resource distribution, with a powerful elite controlling an increasingly large chunk of the pie

And, no, technology won’t be able to fix things:

“The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:

Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.

Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from ‘increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput,’ despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.”

The study has been heralded “a wakeup call,” which suggests that it’s not a done deal, that there might still be (or ever have been) some magic policy changes or some social-political restructuring that could reverse the inevitable.

Wakeup call? I think we’re dealing with more of a “you slept through your alarm and now you missed dinner and the party is over” situation.


  1. Been waiting at least twenty years! The sooner the machine disintegrates, the better, in my view.