Finite World

The basic Concepts:

  • finite room
  • finite environment
  • finite resources
  • finite population
  • why do we care?

Finite Room

For well over a millions years humans existed on a planet that appeared limitless to the humans.  As the human population grew, new people could always explore new places to live.  There was always a new places to explore.

But by the 18th century, there were reasonable maps of the earth, but still large areas of land unmapped and unexplored.  During the 20th century humans reached the point where they could map every point on the entire globe to detailed level.

But in the history of mankind, knowing the entire globe occurred only very very recently.

Today we not only know the entire globe of the Earth, we have basically reached the point where humans have an allocated usage for virtually all land on the globe of the Earth.  There are still wilderness areas, but a large proportion of people believe at least almost all of what is referred to as wilderness, should permanently remain as wilderness.  This means that to add more people, we now have to fit more into the existing space. Into the spaces we have already declared ‘in use’.

Effectively Finite Room or Really Finite?

Vast areas of land in Australia, Canada, Greenland, Siberia and even North Africa are effectively wasteland.  It could be argued that transforming the landscape in these locations could be transformed and perhaps then house an additional perhaps 50% of  worlds current population.  It could also be argued that the impact on the planet if we tried would be horrific, but in the end even if we did …at the population growth rates of the 20th century doubling global population every 30 years, it would in fact make very little difference.

Either way, we are, from a room perspective, at the point of housing additional population by fitting them into the same space.

In fact not only are we not even trying to transform these new areas, urbanisation seems to now result in fitting more and more people into even smaller spaces.

Finite Environment.

The earth is huge.  At first it can seem the idea that somethings as relatively small as even the largest living organism could change the Earth itself seems unlikely.  However, records confirm that collectively living things have actually completely reshaped the environment of billions of years.

Back when there are a few humans, whatever humans did was absorbed by the environment.  People could just leave their rubbish, and even homes, and the environment would absorb the impact.  Then we created pollution that at least on a local level, the environment was clearly damaged.  Now we have invented plastics and inhabit so much of the Earth, that we can clearly see we can have an impact at a global level. Consider ozone depletion and chlorofluorocarbons.  A large significant percentage of believe the actions of humans may now be having an impact on climate.

The term Anthropocene has been coined to describe the era during which mankind can have significant impact on the environment.

While plagues previously have impacted local environments, as have humans at least since the beginning of the industrial age, and other organisms have even had global impact, this the first time and organism can actually decide what global impact the organism has.

Finite Resources.

Humans are rapidly consuming the Earth’s Helium supply. There are several other mineral resources where it has now become tangible that the supply is finite.  This limit of supply is an entirely new concept.  There may be solutions, but to actually exhaust the worlds supply of anything, in the very foreseeable future, given how long we hope humanity can continue is quite astounding.

Finite Population.

The world is headed toward a peak human population.  The idea that the population may actually stop growing may sound incredible given the recent period of unprecedented population growth, but is neither without precent nor without considerable evidence that the trend is on track for that outcome.  Those concerned about population will still be concerned that the actual population level that will be reached by the time there is stability will still be at frightening levels,  but on the other side, there those that feel ending population growth will represent a disaster

Why does it matter?

Many countries are facing the first time in centuries that generations are growing up with the expectation they will have less real wealth than their parents.  Unless we desire that trend to continue, it is best to understand why.  The world is facing many challenges, environmental, biodiversity, distribution of wealth, terrorism, and simply the ability of humans to continue to be able to enjoy the natural environment.

Understanding, and managing, the impact of ‘finite earth’ is critical to any solution to these challenges.

 

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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.

Continue reading

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

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

Highlander Economics: Does it end with only one?

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from IMDB

Back in 1986, the movie Highlander was released. It was actually sufficiently successful to inspire four sequels, plus spin offs and even a reboot. Something in the original clearly stuck a chord, and the tagline and concept ‘in the end there can only be one’  could be part of this.  The plot centres around a small group of individuals, immortals, who become ever stronger by defeating ‘competitor’ immortals in mortal combat.  The immortals all seem have a share of power. Defeat another immortal and grow stronger as the victors gain the power of the vanquished, until only one immortal remains, and the one remaining will hold all the power.  So how closely does the ‘rules’ of the highlander actually match the ‘rules’ for competitor companies?

How accurate is the analogy? Continue reading

Free Trade: Why everybody has budget deficits

debtGovernments of developed countries all around the world are running budget deficits right now, and the reason follows from free trade.  I have posted before on how every ethical decision our society makes comes at an economic cost. In many cases, this economic cost is a government cost and require increasing taxes, but in today’s free trade world international competition now dictates low tax rates to be competitive. The result is inescapable deficits. Continue reading