Today, I read a blog entry by Jenna The Sheep Farmer from Cold Antler Farm. I started to write a comment, but I got lost in it. I realized it was slowly turning into a rant of my own. I thought I would paste it here instead of letting it get lost in the crowd over there. But before you start here, click on that link above and read her thoughts. She’s a pretty awesome person.
Howdy Jenna. I read your blog every day, but I rarely comment. It just seems to get lost here at the bottom. 49 comments in only a few hours. HC! I hope you read mine here, but I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t.
I to have a mixed relationship with technology. I’m a code monkey by trade, and my days are filled archaic symbols and huge lists of number. Rest assured that a computer at its heart can only save data, restore, and add. It’ll only do what it’s told. Of course, when the person telling it what to do is some kid in India or China making minimum wage, with barely a 8th grade education and a Java book, the consequences can be just are scary as the Cylons.
As a young person, I was always interested in Star Trek, TNG. And the part that I loved, was even with technology that could whisk people to the far side of the galaxy in the blink of an eye, or meet any material need with a cloud of glitter, people returned to a life of simple harmony. They read, painted, sculpted, farmed, built and explored. And regardless of the final outcome, that is the world we are heading toward.
The truth is, there is already more people on this planet that it can support, even if every square inch was greenhouse and solar panel. The energy that supports our current way of life is non-renewable and very quickly dwindling. Oil WILL one day stop. Maybe in a decade, maybe in a century, maybe even in a millenium. I’m not a geologist, so I’m not going to make a guess or argue the point. I will only say it is a limited resource that will sooner or latter be gone. What will replace it?
In the worse case, it will be nuclear fission plants. These plants have never been very economical, always depending on the waste of nuclear weapon production for fuel, and a material that is a million times more rare than oil. Can you imagine what will happen as the demand and prices skyrocket? Your power bill could have just increased a hundred fold! And again, this is a limited resource, one which will eventually be completely consumed. We only bought a couple of years in the end.
What about food? As I already said, we’ve outgrown our planet. What will happen as our “right” to health care expands? People live longer, die from the preventable far less, that many more mouths to feed. How are we going to feed them? Energy intensive artificial factory farms? Floating cities?
As far as I can see, the best solution is to develop space elevator technology. With a cheap solution to orbit, the problems start to have cheap solutions. We can start space born farms, even in orbit colonies. Ships built in orbit can be much larger than anything launched from the surface, making things like hydrogen mining on Jupiter, Metal mining of the asteroid belt, even long haul ships like that in Avatar a very real possibility. We can even solve the energy problem with either large photovoltaic solar arrays or biofuels from the orbital farms (as long as CO2 is captured and returned to the farms to both curb greenhouse gasses and insure a proper supply to the farms). This is an exciting future, and one which I believe is within our grasp. All the technology involved already exists. And of course, these will all be very dangerous jobs, and one which should ideally be done by robots.
We need technology. The only other solution is a apocalyptic solution to reset the globe, decimate the population, and unfortunately loose every good thing our society has gained in the past several thousand years. We will very quickly make manual labor of all kinds obsolete. It is coming. Deal.
The real question is what will happen in social-economic terms? Will we have the world of promise from Star Trek? One in which people without physical need focus their energy on all the best parts of culture: art, literature, exploration, science, medicine? Will these automated solutions become true worthless, and money simply disappear with its need?
Or will the true curse of our current society continue, Marketing. Will the fruits of our labor (both figuratively and literally) be freely shared with the entire population, or will it remain in the hands of a few select corporations or government officials? Will the flag of a unified earth be “Peace and Love” or “Buy more space cabbage?” Only time will tell.
As one last closing thought, the internet has changed our culture forever. I agree with Jenna. It’s much more often abused that used, like any tool can be. But its promise is so great. Wikipedia is quickly becoming the ultimate repository of all human knowledge, and for all it’s issues, we are better for it. Facebook is being haled as the hero of the Egyptian Revolution, and the rest of the middle east dictators are taking notice and shuddering. Email and text chat are connecting people like never before. There is hope here, a damn lot of it. Let’s hope in the end, we can make the best of it…
“Information is the currency of Democracy.” Thomas Jefferson.