Civilizations require the mental power to discover and harness the natural laws.
Ongoing artificial exponential growth is the failure to convert into S-curves on time.
(If you don’t know what S-curves are and what they are used for, please search on the net for yourself.)
We can’t really know how hunter-gatherer groups lived like, as nearly all of them died out. The few remaining, in very remote and inaccessible areas of this world, would die out, as soon as we ‘civilized’ people found some resources worth exploiting there. They are not civilizations, not even a society in modern terms.
All the noteworthy historical civilizations we know of, have discovered some natural law(s) and used it to their technological advantage. Higher yields for crops, safer storage, better weapons, better building materials and construction, better accounting with money, improved animal husbandry, communication by writing, institutionalized law, etc. all lead to less impact of natural disasters, higher efficiency in food production, more time for leisure and consumption or for discovering new natural laws, inventing new applications for known laws.
Noteworthy civilizations can accumulate a large population in a specific area, dominate the land and its borders, drive out the barbarians (the uncivilized) and live on average a better life, in terms of consumption, than lesser civilizations or mere tribes.
There’s one basic requirement for these discoveries to be made. High cognitive abilities, above average pattern recognition, or something we approximate today as the IQ. But even if you happen to be a smart farmer or shepherd, you might spend your surpluses on leisure or over-consumption. Not everyone smart feels the need to discover or invent new things. This is a character trait, similar to industriousness, but more like curiosity. Like IQ, curiosity is largely inherited. You cannot train for it, but you can select for it. In fact, all civilizations usually select for smarter and more curious people, because they typically will acquire more wealth, can afford more surviving children, naturally outnumbering the duller people over time.
Europe at the top of the S-curve
Now this selection would have an exponential growth effect on civilized populations. And in fact it had, for at least 200 years. In Europe, in the years around 1975, we went from a slowing exponential growth into the top of an S-curve and since then into a decline, as the fertility rate dropped below 2.1 and is currently around 1.6. From the year 2000 onward, the net migration outperformed the natural population growth in Europe. The total population will probably remain stable until the baby boomers die out. Europe is predicted to lose around 2 Million people per year in 2050.
The European civilization is about to decline, becomes unable to dominate their land and borders, is unable (and apparently unwilling) to keep out the barbarians, and experiences already declining living standards. That means, in a historical perspective, a new civilization will emerge. But we can not predict how deep the dip of the new S-curve will be, and how long it may take to return to exponential growth.
The driver of our current progress
… is energy production. We went from work animal, via the steam engine, to electrification and automation in rapid succession. We extract primary energy (oil, gas, coal, uranium) from nature and convert it for efficient use in motors to drive, warmth to heat and turbines for electric energy production. “Efficient” means that we typically lose around 60% of the primary energy to unused heat. The extraction process gets more and more energy intensive, as we start to deplete the easily accessible primary energy sources. We spend energy on cleaning, refining and transportation of primary energy, and on the distribution of the usable energy.
You now have an idea, how horribly inefficient we convert primary energy into the energy we use for our machines. We also know about the physical limits of the optimization of energy efficiency with our current generators. But all we came up with are so called “energy efficient devices”, “fuel efficient motors”, electric cars with problematic batteries and all kinds of regulations to decrease energy demand. Some people think that we need to decrease the world population in order to decrease energy consumption under the guise of the completely irrelevant CO2 emissions. All that does is, possibly extend a little the industrial wave of wealth we are experiencing, or rather prolong the decline.
Obviously we need new discoveries in physics. Otherwise we will literally run out of energy in maybe 200 or so years. But we have enough nuclear energy available for any number of people on earth, for this time. Thorium reactors or nuclear fusion reactors are not needed tomorrow. There are at least 200 years research in front of us to solve any such issues. 200 years ago, we had no clue what atoms were. We know we can do that.
Without electrical energy we will fall back into the middle ages. This will take care of ‘overpopulation’ rather quickly.
How did we get here and repeat
As I stated, all the discoveries which supported civilizations can be used for leisure and consumption or for the investment in new discoveries and new inventions. The selection for smarter and more curious people supports both directions. Select for duller people, and back to the middle ages you go. On the off chance a gender studies prof will discover anything relevant in the hard sciences, I apologize in advance, but the vast majority will agree, that ain’t gonna happen. Not that we absolutely have to go back to witch burning, but we have to reconsider it seriously, with some limits.
The S-curve of the European population shows us, that something came to its natural end and renewal is not in the cards. I like to think of a future circumpolar civilization, which again, dips deep into the greco-roman wisdom, the christian wisdom and shares a judeo-chinese appreciation of high intelligence and learning. The dumpster fire of Kum Bay Ya Singers and and frozen Pizza eaters will burn out, because it has to. The world of ‘Idiocracy’ can only exist in a movie, not in reality.
Some people defined the method how Europe became smarter than the rest of the world as “soft eugenics”. ‘Soft’ in this regard means, that you don’t actually kill a lot of people, burn lots of witches or set up giant gulags. It means that people with low cognitive abilities are out-bred by smarter people. It means that highly aggressive people, in word and/or deed, will be effectively removed. Unless someone invents a much superior way, that’s it. Socialism doesn’t do the trick, it does just the opposite.
AI will (not) solve our problems
Especially our techies would like to unload the burden of rational thinking on an artificial intelligence system, which even your dumbest contemporary could use and live without endangering himself and others. Unfortunately we already know how this would end. The world’s current AI is called “old white men”. The result of our efforts to educate and help the dullards in this world is unapologetic hatred. Women spout “kill all men” and don’t think it categorizes as hate speech. Some black activists say that “kill whitey” is the only way to solve their problems. And as an AI would be programmed predominantly by Whites, north-Asians and Indians, it’s going to be burnt down – a black fire department and police force standing at the sideline during the celebrations of “Hey man, it’s just violence against objects, not against people month.”.
We also already know what happens, if we outsource thinking. In the “ancient” world I grew up, there were no pocket calculators or computers. We learned how to use a caliper ruler, could do basic math operations in the head or on a paper. You might still learn that in school today, but if you own a smartphone you never practically use it, beyond that one school test. Your brain will forget how to do it. If you used an AI system to make decisions for you, you would become unable to verify the decisions or turn back to working it out by yourself. You will become more stupid.
Just look at how most people react, if their human AIs, the virologist, the sociology prof, the climatologist spout out unverifiable nonsense that goes against common sense. People follow the doctrine of the perceived highest entity, like true believers. It’s unimaginable that any AI would not be misused ALL THE TIME.
Embrace the S-curve
Every head of product developments knows this and still has to fight for it. As soon as the profit for a product goes down, you have to start thinking about the follow up product. When the sales start stagnating, you have to get the new product into production. Every product runs through this S-curve, and your job is to attach a new S-curve to the old one.
If you look at a given civilization as a huge cultural product, the need for a follow up product arises as well. This works much better with consumer products, because, if the lull between old and new product becomes too long, the company will not exist anymore. The lull between the mighty Roman Empire which ended in 476AD to the emergence of the Holy Roman Empire in 962AD was nearly 500 years of the ‘dark ages’, when multiple plague pandemics ravaged the European population. If these dark ages, according to popular belief, were a time of ignorance, barbarism and superstition, you could say we are on the way to a new dark age now.
The so called ‘West’ has to develop a new cultural product that leads to a new civilization, which in turn starts growing exponentially. In fact, we should have started already around 50 years ago. But what did the hippie “revolutionaries” of the 60’s bring us, but reheated communism, snowflakes and the desire to ride economic waves like a surfer in Hawaii, but becoming unable to continue in still waters.
The European civilization is still the very best in this world, no one came even close. And if it was a new product to be developed, you’d take all the good things of the old product, all the ‘lessons learned’ i.e. which errors not to repeat, and design the hell out of it. You can say “OK Boomer” and I reply with “Do YOUR fucking job, snowflake, and don’t fuck it up. I’m busy riding the last wave.”.
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