Jump to content

How will we survive when the population hits 10 Billion?


Recommended Posts

I feel like he's setting up hyperbolic straw men rather than considering that the future is already a combination of these things. In particular I really hate the "we're basically just single celled protozoa and that fundamental nature will doom us all."


He asks if we're using our shared knowledge to setup for future prosperity, and says the answer is a clear no, when I think there are some pretty good examples to the contrary. Vaccines are a pretty good one. The existence of solar power and GMOs and desalination would argue that we are creating the technology that can sustain the future, even if we haven't deployed it sufficiently yet.


Desalination is getting quite cheap and practical (we have one of the biggest facilities in the world here in San Diego). The funny thing is that here in CA, he's right, we actually have all the water we need, it's just that we do a bad job of managing it, so we built desal plants because it was politically easier than wrestling water away from almond farmers.


Wind and solar power, both centralized and distributed, are already the clear future of power. I still favor nuclear power, but it's not the only possible future.  


He complains that scientists haven't convinced people that GMOs are safe, but a huge percentage of crops already are modified (at least in the US). If it's the only economically feasible future, I imagine that it'll sort itself out. If GMOs aren't the only reasonable way to grow sufficient food, then its a moot point anyways.


That's my personal biggest takeaway, is that yes, we've known of these problems for a long time, and yes, we've been bad at solving them. That doesn't mean we can't. It mostly means that we haven't had sufficient motivation to deal with it. CA has had crazy droughts for years, but it's never affected my ability to get a drink or take a shower or wash my car. Yeah, Cape Town is a great example for how bad things might have to get before we take action, but ultimately we do have the tools to take action when properly motivated.


If a world population of 10 billion is inevitable, we have the resources and technologies to deal with it today, we just have to make sure we put them to better use.


The bigger worry is the disproportionate impact of rapid population growth. The US and Europe are growing at very sustainable rates. If population growth has dramatic effects, it's primarily going to affect India and Africa.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I very much like @TwinIon's reaction, but I'll add some thoughts.


First, he starts with the notion that "natural selection" usually keeps populations in check, but sometimes organisms reach beyond natural selection and over grow. This is just the wrong way to look at evolution. Personifying evolution isn't always a great sin, but I do think this sends the wrong message. Evolution and natural selection are not agencies nor processes that are structured to keep ecologies at some equilibrium. In fact, certain traits and populations becoming massively successful at the expense of others is the common outcome of natural selection. When he frames "outbreaks" as reaching beyond natural selection, he's biasing people to think in terms of some equilibrium of life being some naturally preferable state that we should all prefer. It's not, and there's no reason we should prefer it.


Next he decides to label humanity into two tribes: "wizards" and "prophets" each with their own set of dogma. I'm already annoyed because assigning people to tribes, unless self proclaimed established organizations, is often damaging and misleading. I have no idea who these people with such rigid shared dogma are, so him making arguments on these vague mysterious groups behalf just seems like a way to form a straw man and sound superior.


He analogizes a human outbreak as no different than protozoa outbreak. He disregards the "we're special" counter argument as "lame." Calling it lame is not a criticism and thinking we're not special or different in any meaningful way from protozoa is a profoundly stupid level of humility. Yes, we *are* special compared to single cell organisms. We're even special compared the rest of the animal kingdom. And one of the ways we're special is precisely along the rather relevant dimension for combating "outbreaks" and overpopulation. That is, we are more uniquely equipped to plan ahead of our immediate circumstances than any other species on earth, and you only need to look at the history of civilization to see that.


Does the fact that we're special mean there's no risk we'll fuck ourselves up? No, it doesn't. But to deny that we are special compared to single cell organisms and more uniquely equipped to navigate futures for the species is simply absurd. Indeed if he really believed that we were not more uniquely equipped, why the hell is he bothering to give this talk at all? The only reason to give it is if he thinks we *can* navigate it and that we are actually different than single celled organisms in important ways.



We then come to his "solution" which is for these two groups to "accept" each other's premises. No! Don't just accept another groups premises. Do science and sort out the truth. For proposed policies, identify the actual outcomes and their costs and benefits, and work on better policies whenever possible. Don't accept other premises purely to comprise. Accept them when they're right. 





One other minor nitpick. When speaking for the prophets he says "Name one mega city, other than Tokyo, ..." If Tokyo counts as a successful mega city then why are you disregarding it? "Name me one thing with these properties other than the ones that have them" is a really silly way to ask a question. Maybe the argument he wants to put forward is it's hard to do, so only have a handful isn't good enough? In that case, make that argument. But unless your proponents were advocating their approach was easy, I'm not sure that makes a meaningful point.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, RedSoxFan9 said:

ted talks are garbage 

I feel like there are way more ted talks now and a lot of them are like “hey what if we do THIS outside the box thinking thing!” When I would watch ted talks a long time ago the topics seemed a lot more interesting. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 hours ago, johnny said:

I feel like there are way more ted talks now and a lot of them are like “hey what if we do THIS outside the box thinking thing!” When I would watch ted talks a long time ago the topics seemed a lot more interesting. 


Yeah I'm pretty sure they've gotten worse since they learned that people basically wanted to watch click bait.


Tedx talks, which are more local, tend to be a bit better.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...