Technology Revisited

There's a great post by coby of A Few Things Ill Considered on The Energy Grid about the origins of our current mess. The basic problem is essentially politics, by which he means organizations of people. As groups of people, we haven't looked forward enough.

Which, while a simple and poignant way to put it, isn't anything new. The really interesting ground is where he goes next - why can't technology save us?

And it's true, humanity has always shown an ability to leap the natural hurdles that usually constrain growth. And that's a good thing - I don't think any of us, other than a very small minority, want the human race to go extinct, so if we can buck nature's rule that all species die off then hey, go us.

But at the same time, we may be hastened extinction - or, at least, a catastrophic loss of quality of life - just because we are so unconstrained.

And that's the key, the way coby puts it. The analogy he chooses is building a new bridge to alleviate congestion, and how that doesn't work - more capacity between A and B leads more people to drive, build houses at point A, work at point B, take A and B instead of going around to point C to dodge traffic, etc.

So isn't it the same thing with energy usage? Even if we discover futuristic technology - or just finally get around to making Fusion work - will it actually help us in the long(ish) run?

His answer is no, and I'd tend to agree. Unless regulated by some sort of negative pressure - governmental regulations or societal pressures - we'd just take the energy and grow until even that energy isn't enough. In fact, from the right way around, a limitless source of energy is actually far more frightening than an energy collapse - who knows if we'd be able to stop our expansion.

So what's the point?

The point is that we need to learn to regulate ourselves - and that maybe we all need to do some deep soul searching to decide if that's even possible.

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