7 trillion humans? The Scale and impact of population growth

overpopulated_earth17 trillion looks like a typo, but no, the maths shows that either by continuing the actual global population growth levels typical the 20th century, or achieving 2% per year or far less than what is currently happening in Nigeria, the maths produce this number in a relatively short time!

A key theme of this blog is that, while population growth is no longer the threat that it once was, economic policy has yet to adapt to the slowing in population growth.  While population growth has slowed since the 20th century, growth is not at 2% as some dangerous people advocate, and all the world is not like Nigeria, it is still worth understanding just how quickly things can escalate  and not take for granted the slowing population growth that is both happening, and needed, to avert crisis.

Does it feel crowded now?  Can you imagine Earth inhabited by not 7 billion (7,000,000,000) humans, as we have now, but 7 trillion (7,000,000,000). That would be one human for every 3.3 meters x 3 meters of habitable land on the planet (calculation below).  Around 10 square meters allocation per person to live, grow food all of one food and that is without allocating any wilderness for other living things or trying to allow space (corridors?) to move outside your own space.  This is a level we would reach if were able to continue peak 20th century population growth rates.

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The New Economics of Population Growth in a Finite world

historical_map_world_1800Summary: Most of us now live under ‘finite world economics’, where population growth results in a smaller share of wealth for each individual and the majority of the population, but increased revenues for Governments, nationwide businesses and multinationals who gain revenue from the entire population.  The rich win, the rest suffer.

The now finite World

When Christopher Columbus set sail for America, no one had a world map, doubt about a map the included America.  When Captain Cook ‘discovered’ Australia, as it approached the year 1800,  no civilization knew where all the land on Earth was located.  By 1900, humans knew where all the land was, but still had not explored all that land. Now (2017 at the time of writing), we basically know where all the land is and have even allocated ownership and mineral rights of all the land. Our world is now finite.

The post explores the ‘finite’ world concept, then discuss each of the two dynamics resulting in the widening of the gap between rich and poor. Continue reading

No new Surface ‘Pro 5’ after all?

Lots of others ‘crystal ball gaze’ into the future of Microsoft’s ‘Surface’ products. Here is another perspective. A lighter tone than the usual post, here is a look at both what Microsoft are likely to do, and what they should do. 🙂  Ok, it is largely crystal ball gazing, but so it seems is every other prediction on the ‘Surface Pro’, so here is a different perspective.

1) There may be no ‘Surface Pro 5’, as a name change really makes sense.

Since releasing the original ‘Surface’ and then ‘Surface Pro’, the ‘Surface product line’ has evolved to a point where the original names are in serious need of review. Which is the most ‘professional’ product of the current range? The ‘Surface Pro’, the ‘Surface Book’ or the ‘Surface Studio’?   The ‘Surface Pro’ was ‘Pro’ relative to the original ‘Surface’, and the two names made sense.  Now ‘Surface’ is a family and ‘Pro’ does not describe where the ‘Surface Pro’ fits in that family.  How about ‘Surface Tab Pro’ or ‘Surface Pad Pro’?  Microsoft can afford to pay people to come up with a better name, but a new name is needed.

2) Two new products, one Qualcomm based, one Intel Based!

“We need to be willing to lean in to uncertainty, take risks and move quickly when we make mistakes, recognising failure happens along the way to mastery,” Nadella wrote in a 2015 memo to Microsoft employees

So what will be the new ‘non pro’ device?  The philosophy of the ‘Surface’ products is to do things differently and take risks. Innovation. But as the most successful product in the Surface line-up, there is a limit to the risks that can be taken with the Surface Pro.  Which is why, beyond the logic for the name change, there will logically be a new Kaby Lake CPU based device to follow on from the Surface-Pro.

Contrary to other suggestions, the USB-3 port should stay, and instead the mini-display port should upgrade to Thunderbold-3.  Re-chargeable pen, improved battery life, incremental improvements.

3. The ‘Surface’ replacement, the bold step!

This is where the room to take risks exists.  The recently demonstrated ability to run full windows on a Qualcomm CPU opens the door for something new, lighter and with LTE connectivity.  Such a device would be the logical reason for display at MWC 2017.  Running full windows on such a CPU enables a phone, but this new device needs to be another leap, and something targeting both phone and tablet is the logical solution.  Phones today are ready for the next step, with so many people using hands free or earphones/headphones, do we really need a device designed to be held to our head anymore?

How the ‘basic income’ proposal could change society

The current wealth distribution system is an already a broken system about to face severe attack. As discussed in Robots & Job Terminators, the role of employment is set to change.

canada20flagflagbigfinlandOn engadget, the post How will you survive when the robots take your job? outlines the ‘basic income’ proposal, as put forward by many in the tech industry and being experimented with in Canada, Finland and the Netherlands. This articles provides a great starting point and conveys the basic idea and if unfamiliar with the idea it makes sense to read that article first. This post is about looking further, in terms of thoughts about what else should change if a ‘basic income’ is introduced and what would be needed to make such an idea work. What would such a measure cost, and what would be the impact on society of a total package, of a ‘basic income’ together with a logical set of policies to create a total package? Continue reading

Is our wealth distribution system really broken?

pot_goldA first reaction could be: “ok, the people who voted for Donald Trump clearly feel it is broken, but I am not sure they are that smart”, or “I am doing ok, and I think the system is fair. Yes people like that Elon Musk character have ‘X’ times more than me but he is also ‘X’ times more clever than me so he deserves it!”.

But the system feels sufficiently broken to those who voted for Trump, that they were desperate enough to vote for him, and there appears to be some similarity with the ‘Brexit’ vote in the UK.  Something has to change, even if it is just perception or we are going to keep having to live with these kinds of election results.

Also, either Elon Musk is really clever, in which case we should listen when he is proposing that we need to make changes to wealth distribution (soon, if not now),  or, he is not clever, in which case he does not deserve his wealth.  Either way, we need to consider changes.  Continue reading

Australian Record Trade Surplus: good news, or a warning on automation?

skitched20truckAs explained by ‘Alan Kohler’ of the ABC, the record trade surplus is largely due to “A huge rebound in iron ore, coal and gold exports delivers a record trade surplus of $3.5 billion in December, providing a big boost to national income.”, with no proportional increase in imports.

I suggest an analysis of the impact on the Australian economy is reason for people around the world to consider the impact of automation.

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Convenience Arguments: The dangers of quick adoption

search1How do you sway others to support your heartfelt convictions, beliefs and causes when they don’t feel the same way?  One tactic is the ‘convenience argument’.  An ‘Convenience Argument’ provides a logical, and usually economically rational, reason for supporting actions a person already wants for an entirely separate heartfelt believe.

Convenience Argument: (definition).  An argument we champion because it supports a conclusion or belief we for reasons separate to the logic of the ‘convenience argument’.  A new, and accessory, reason to convince others to embrace or support our beliefs.

Refugee example: A classic example is people who feel compassion for refugees, trying to convince others to help refugees because there are economic benefits, even though the person presenting the argument is motivated by compassion, not economics.

We sometimes rapidly search for these ‘convenience arguments’ and then champion them, because we believe it will encourage the outcome we seek, even if not for the motive we embrace.   The danger is that we search for these convenience arguments to justify beliefs, the same way we search for something like car keys.  We stop searching immediately we find something and can easily pick up and do not care very much about what we find, as long as it seem to fill our need. There is an old joke that goes like this:

Why is it that when I have lost something, I only ever find it in the last place I look?  Answer: Is it because once you find what you are after, you stop looking?

But stopping the search as soon as we find an ‘convenience argument’ that justifies the actions we want for our own reasons ,is fraught with danger. Continue reading