Thu, Jun 21, 2012
I recently had the pleasure of seeing Stanford Population Studies professor, Paul Ehrlich, give a talk about the future of human civilization, and much of what he spoke of ties into your thoughts. His main concern is that the global energy consumption per capita is outrageously unsustainable. His prediction is that large scale human demise will occur around 2050, potentially due to many human factors, such as food supply shortage, toxic chemicals in water/food/air, war due to unsustainable capitalist enterprises, anthropological climate change, and many other synergistic intermediates.
As a scientist he stated that he, nor should any other scientist, *believe* in anything. Among other things, I specifically took this to mean that future technology is not set in stone. While technological evolution may solve all our problems in time, they aren't here yet and therefore are irrelevant in his scenario. I will paraphrase his solution to the problem: people need to stop going to the bar to get drunk and complain about the doom and gloom, and instead, get out there and do something about it. As with most things, it's easier said than done.
He spoke briefly about technological vs ethical evolution and how people's mindsets don't evolve as quickly as technology does. People get lost in generational woes and fail to maintain an open and evolving mind. This is a primary reason why we are having major trouble ridding our dependence on petroleum for example. When the current teens and 20-somethings are in leadership positions, then the social mindset will have evolved a little more; each generation brings something new. I once read a quote that went something like: "Progressive ideas of today are the conservative ideas of tomorrow." My notion was that Ehrlich didn't think this would happen in time to make a saving impact on humanity. But he did speak of a potential saving impact, but which would only occur due to a profound, global event, such as a global catastrophe or world war that immediately forced everyone to change. He referenced such events that have happened in the past, such as the rapid manufacturing switch from cars to jets when the USA entered WWII.
If humanity is to make the long haul, there is only one option. And to quote a favorite line from my favorite movie, "There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path."