Why political correctness fails – Why what we know ‘for sure’ is wrong (Ex Religion)

Most of us are familiar with the Politically Correct (PC) World View. William Deresiewicz describes the view, which he calls the “religion of success,” as follows:

There is a right way to think and a right way to talk, and also a right set of things to think and talk about. Secularism is taken for granted. Environmentalism is a sacred cause. Issues of identity—principally the holy trinity of race, gender, and sexuality—occupy the center of concern.

There are other beliefs that go with this religion of success:

  • Wind and solar will save us.
  • Electric cars will make transportation possible indefinitely.
  • Our world leaders are all powerful.
  • Science has all of the answers.

To me, this story is pretty much equivalent to the article, “Earth Is Flat and Infinite, According to Paid Experts,” by Chris Hume in Funny Times. While the story is popular, it is just plain silly.

In this post, I explain why many popular understandings are just plain wrong. I cover several controversial topics, including environmentalism, peer-reviewed literature, and climate change models. This post pretty much excludes religion. It was added for people who find it hard to believe that a scientific article could also touch upon religion. If you want the complete discussion, as the post was originally written, please see this post

Myth 1: If there is a problem with the lack of any resource, including oil, it will manifest itself with high prices.

As we reach limits of oil or any finite resource, the problem we encounter is an allocation problem. 

What happens if economy stops growing

Figure 1. Two views of future economic growth. Created by author.

As long as the quantity of resources we can extract from the ground keeps rising faster than population, there is no problem with limits. The tiny wedge that each person might get from these growing resources represents more of that resource, on average. Citizens can reasonably expect that future pension promises will be paid from the growing resources. They can also expect that, in the future, the shares of stock and the bonds that they own can be redeemed for actual goods and services.

If the quantity of resources starts to shrink, the problem we have is almost a “musical chairs” type of problem.

Figure 2. Circle of chairs arranged for game of musical chairs. Source

In each round of a musical chairs game, one chair is removed from the circle. The players in the game must walk around the outside of the circle. When the music stops, all of the players scramble for the remaining chairs. Someone gets left out.

The players in today’s economic system include

  • High paid (or elite) workers
  • Low paid (or non-elite) workers
  • Businesses
  • Governments
  • Owners of assets (such as stocks, bonds, land, buildings) who want to sell them and exchange them for today’s goods and services

If there is a shortage of a resource, the standard belief is that prices will rise and either more of the resource will be found, or substitution will take place. Substitution only works in some cases: it is hard to think of a substitute for fresh water. It is often possible to substitute one energy product for another. Overall, however, there is no substitute for energy. If we want to heat a substance to produce a chemical reaction, we need energy. If we want to move an object from place to place, we need energy. If we want to desalinate water to produce more fresh water, this also takes energy.

The world economy is a self-organized networked system. The networked system includes businesses, governments, and workers, plus many types of energy, including human energy. Workers play a double role because they are also consumers. The way goods and services are allocated is determined by “market forces.” In fact, the way these market forces act is determined by the laws of physics. These market forces determine which of the players will get squeezed out if there is not enough to go around.

Non-elite workers play a pivotal role in this system because their number is so large. These people are the chief customers for goods, such as homes, food, clothing, and transportation services. They also play a major role in paying taxes, and in receiving government services.

History says that if there are not enough resources to go around, we can expect increasing wage and wealth disparity. This happens because increased use of technology and more specialization are workarounds for many kinds of problems. As an economy increasingly relies on technology, the owners and managers of the technology start receiving higher wages, leaving less for the workers without special skills. The owners and managers also tend to receive income from other sources, such as interest, dividends, capital gains, and rents.

When there are not enough resources to go around, the temptation is to use technology to replace workers, because this reduces costs. Of course, a robot does not need to buy food or a car. Such an approach tends to push commodity prices down, rather than up. This happens because fewer workers are employed; in total they can afford fewer goods. A similar downward push on commodity prices occurs if wages of non-elite workers stagnate or fall.

If wages of non-elite workers are lower, governments find themselves in increasing difficulty because they cannot collect enough taxes for all of the services that they are asked to provide. History shows that governments often collapse in such situations. Major defaults on debt are another likely outcome (Figure 3). Pension holders are another category of recipients who are likely to be “left out” when the game of musical chairs stops.

Figure 3 – Created by Author.

The laws of physics strongly suggest that if we are reaching limits of this type, the economy will collapse. We know that this happened to many early economies. More recently, we have witnessed partial collapses, such as the Depression of the 1930s. The Depression occurred when the price of food dropped because mechanization eliminated a significant share of human hand-labor. While this change reduced the price of food, it also had an adverse impact on the buying-power of those whose jobs were eliminated.

The collapse of the Soviet Union is another example of a partial collapse. This collapse occurred as a follow-on to the low oil prices of the 1980s. The Soviet Union was an oil exporter that was affected by low oil prices. It could continue to produce for a while, but eventually (1991) financial problems caught up with it, and the central government collapsed.

Figure 4. Oil consumption, production, and inflation-adjusted price, all from BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2015.

Low prices are often a sign of lack of affordability. Today’s oil, coal, and natural gas prices tend to be too low for today’s producers. Low energy prices are deceptive because their initial impact on the economy seems to be favorable. The catch is that after a time, the shortfall in funds for reinvestment catches up, and production collapses. The resulting collapse of the economy may look like a financial collapse or a governmental collapse.

Oil prices have been low since late 2014. We do not know how long low prices can continue before collapse. The length of time since oil prices have collapsed is now three years; we should be concerned.

Myth 2. (Related to Myth 1) If we wait long enough, renewables will become affordable.

The fact that wage disparity grows as we approach limits means that prices can’t be expected to rise as we approach limits. Instead, prices tend to fall as an increasing number of would-be buyers are frozen out of the market. If in fact energy prices could rise much higher, there would be huge amounts of oil, coal and gas that could be extracted.

Figure 5. IEA Figure 1.4 from its World Energy Outlook 2015, showing how much oil can be produced at various price levels, according to IEA models.

There seems to be a maximum affordable price for any commodity. This maximum affordable price depends to a significant extent on the wages of non-elite workers. If the wages of non-elite workers fall (for example, because of mechanization or globalization), the maximum affordable price may even fall.

Myth 3. (Related to Myths 1 and 2) A glut of oil indicates that oil limits are far away. 

A glut of oil means that too many people around the world are being “frozen out” of buying goods and services that depend on oil, because of low wages or a lack of job. It is a physics problem, related to ice being formed when the temperature is too cold. We know that this kind of thing regularly happens in collapses and partial collapses. During the Depression of the 1930s, food was being destroyed for lack of buyers. It is not an indication that limits are far away; it is an indication that limits are close at hand. The system can no longer balance itself correctly.

Myth 4: Wind and solar can save us.

The amount of energy (other than direct food intake) that humans require is vastly higher than most people suppose. Other animals and plants can live on the food that they eat or the energy that they produce using sunlight and water. Humans deviated from this simple pattern long ago–over 1 million years ago.

Unfortunately, our bodies are now adapted to the use of supplemental energy in addition to food. The use of fire allowed humans to develop differently than other primates. Using fire to cook some of our food helped in many ways. It freed up time that would otherwise be spent chewing, providing time that could be used for tool making and other crafts. It allowed teeth, jaws and digestive systems to be smaller. The reduced energy needed for maintaining the digestive system allowed the brain to become bigger. It allowed humans to live in parts of the world where they are not physically adapted to living.

In fact, back at the time of hunter-gatherers, humans already seemed to need three times as much energy total as a correspondingly sized primate, if we count burned biomass in addition to direct food energy.

Figure 6 – Created by author.

“Watts per Capita” is a measure of the rate at which energy is consumed. Even back in hunter-gatherer days, humans behaved differently than similar-sized primates would be expected to behave. Without considering supplemental energy, an animal-like human is like an always-on 100-watt bulb. With the use of supplemental energy from burned biomass and other sources, even in hunter-gatherer times, the energy used was equivalent to that of an always-on 300-watt bulb.

How does the amount of energy produced by today’s wind turbines and solar panels compare to the energy used by hunter-gatherers? Let’s compare today’s wind and solar output to the 200 watts of supplemental energy needed to maintain our human existence back in hunter-gatherer times (difference between 300 watts per capita and 100 watts per capita). This assumes that if we were to go back to hunting and gathering, we could somehow collect food for everyone, to cover the first 100 watts per capita. All we would need to do is provide enough supplemental energy for cooking, heating, and other very basic needs, so we would not have to deforest the land.

Conveniently, BP gives the production of wind and solar in “terawatt hours.” If we take today’s world population of 7.5 billion, and multiply it by 24 hours a day, 365.25 days per year, and 200 watts, we come to needed energy of 13,149 terawatt hours per year. In 2016, the output of wind was 959.5 terawatt hours; the output of solar was 333.1 terawatt hours, or a total of 1,293 terawatt hours. Comparing the actual provided energy (1,293 tWh) to the required energy of 13,149 tWh, today’s wind and solar would provide only 9.8% of the supplemental energy needed to maintain a hunter-gatherer level of existence for today’s population. 

Of course, this is without considering how we would continue to create wind and solar electricity as hunter-gatherers, and how we would distribute such electricity. Needless to say, we would be nowhere near reproducing an agricultural level of existence for any large number of people, using only wind and solar. Even adding water power, the amount comes to only 40.4% of the added energy required for existence as hunter gatherers for today’s population.

Many people believe that wind and solar are ramping up rapidly. Starting from a base of zero, the annual percentage increases do appear to be large. But relative to the end point required to maintain any reasonable level of population, we are very far away. A recent lecture by Energy Professor Vaclav Smil is titled, “The Energy Revolution? More Like a Crawl.”

Myth 5. Evaluation methods such as “Energy Returned on Energy Invested” (EROI) and “Life Cycle Analyses (LCA)” indicate that wind and solar should be acceptable solutions. 

These approaches are concerned about how the energy used in creating a given device compares to the output of the device. The problem with these analyses is that, while we can measure “energy out” fairly well, we have a hard time determining total “energy in.” A large share of energy use comes from indirect sources, such as roads that are shared by many different users.

A particular problem occurs with intermittent resources, such as wind and solar. The EROI analyses available for wind and solar are based on analyses of these devices as stand-alone units (perhaps powering a desalination plant, on an intermittent basis). On this basis, they appear to be reasonably good choices as transition devices away from fossil fuels.

EROI analyses don’t handle the situation well when there is a need to add expensive infrastructure to compensate for the intermittency of wind and solar. This situation tends to happen when electricity is added to the grid in more than small quantities. One workaround for intermittency is adding batteries; another is overbuilding the intermittent devices, and using only the portion of intermittent electricity that comes at the time of day and time of year when it is needed. Another approach involves paying fossil fuel providers for maintaining extra capacity (needed both for rapid ramping and for the times of year when intermittent resources are inadequate).

Any of these workarounds is expensive and becomes more expensive, the larger the percentage of intermittent electricity that is added. Euan Mearns recently estimated that for a particular offshore wind farm, the cost would be six times as high, if battery backup sufficient to even out wind fluctuations in a single month were added. If the goal were to even out longer term fluctuations, the cost would no doubt be higher. It is difficult to model what workarounds would be needed for a truly 100% renewable system. The cost would no doubt be astronomical.

When an analysis such as EROI is prepared, there is a tendency to leave out any cost that varies with the application, because such a cost is difficult to estimate. My background is in actuarial work. In such a setting, the emphasis is always on completeness because after the fact, it will become very clear if the analyst left out any important insurance-related cost. In EROI and similar analyses, there is much less of a tieback to the real world, so an omission may never be noticed. In theory, EROIs are for multiple purposes, including ones where intermittency is not a problem. The EROI modeler is not expected to consider all cases.

Another way of viewing the issue is as a “quality” issue. EROI theory generally treats all types of energy as equivalent (including coal, oil, natural gas, intermittent electricity, and grid-quality electricity). From this perspective, there is no need to correct for differences in types of energy output. Thus, it makes perfect sense to publish EROI and LCA analyses that seem to indicate that wind and solar are great solutions, without any explanation regarding the likely high real-world cost associated with using them on the electric grid.

Myth 6. Peer reviewed articles give correct findings.

The real story is that peer reviewed articles need to be reviewed carefully by those who use them. There is a very significant chance that errors may have crept in. This can happen because of misinterpretation of prior peer reviewed articles, or because prior peer reviewed articles were based on “thinking of the day,” which was not quite correct, given what has been learned since the article was written. Or, as indicated by the example in Myth 5, the results of peer reviewed articles may be confusing to those who read them, in part because they are not written for any particular audience.

The way university research is divided up, researchers usually have a high level of specialized knowledge about one particular subject area. The real world situation with the world economy, as I mentioned in my discussion of Myth 1, is that the economy is a self-organized networked system. Everything affects everything else. The researcher, with his narrow background, doesn’t understand these interconnections. For example, energy researchers don’t generally understand economic feedback loops, so they tend to leave them out. Peer reviewers, who are looking for errors within the paper itself, are likely to miss important feedback loops as well.

To make matters worse, the publication process tends to favor results that suggest that there is no energy problem ahead. This bias can come through the peer review process. One author explained to me that he left out a certain point from a paper because he expected that some of his peer reviewers would come from the Green Community; he didn’t want to say anything that might offend such a reviewer.

This bias can also come directly from the publisher of academic books and articles. The publisher is in the business of selling books and journal articles; it does not want to upset potential buyers of its products. One publisher made it clear to me that its organization did not want any mention of problems that seem to be without a solution. The reader should be left with the impression that while there may be issues ahead, solutions are likely to be found.

In my opinion, any published research needs to be looked at very carefully. It is very difficult for an author to move much beyond the general level of understanding of his audience and of likely reviewers. There are financial incentives for authors to produce PC reports, and for publishers to publish them. In many cases, articles from blogs may be better resources than academic articles because blog authors are under less pressure to write PC reports.

Myth 7. Climate models give a good estimate of what we can expect in the future.

There is no doubt that climate is changing. But is all of the hysteria about climate change really the correct story?

Our economy, and in fact the Earth and all of its ecosystems, are self-organized networked systems. We are reaching limits in many areas at once, including energy, fresh water, the number of fish that can be extracted each year from oceans, and metal ore extraction. Physical limits are likely to lead to financial problems, as indicated in Figure 3. The climate change modelers have chosen to leave all of these issues out of their models, instead assuming that the economy can continue to grow as usual until 2100. Leaving out these other issues clearly can be expected to overstate the impact of climate change.

The International Energy Agency is very influential with respect to which energy issues are considered. Between 1998 and 2000, it did a major flip-flop in the importance of energy limits. The IEA’s 1998 World Energy Outlook devotes many pages to discussing the possibility of inadequate oil supplies in the future. In fact, near the beginning, the report says,

Our analysis of the current evidence suggests that world oil production from conventional sources could peak during the period 2010 to 2020.

The same report also mentions Climate Change considerations, but devotes many fewer pages to these concerns. The Kyoto Conference had taken place in 1997, and the topic was becoming more widely discussed.

In 1999, the IEA did not publish World Energy Outlook. When the IEA published the World Energy Outlook for 2000, the report suddenly focused only on Climate Change, with no mention of Peak Oil. The USGS World Petroleum Assessment 2000 had recently been published. It could be used to justify at least somewhat higher future oil production.

I will be the first to admit that the “Peak Oil” story is not really right. It is a halfway story, based on a partial understanding of the role physics plays in energy limits. Oil supply does not “run out.” Peak Oilers also did not understand that physics governs how markets work–whether prices rise or fall, or oscillate. If there is not enough to go around, some of the would-be buyers will be frozen out. But Climate Change, as our sole problem, or even as our major problem, is not the right story, either. It is another halfway story.

One point that both Peak Oilers and the IEA missed is that the world economy doesn’t really have the ability to cut back on the use of fossil fuels significantly, without the world economy collapsing. Thus, the IEA’s recommendations regarding moving away from fossil fuels cannot work. (Shifting energy use among countries is fairly easy, however, making individual country CO2 reductions appear more beneficial than they really are.) The IEA would be better off talking about non-fuel changes that might reduce CO2, such as eating vegetarian food, eliminating flooded rice paddies, and having smaller families. Of course, these are not really issues that the International Energy Association is concerned about.

The unfortunate truth is that on any difficult, interdisciplinary subject, we really don’t have a way of making a leap from lack of knowledge of a subject, to full knowledge of a subject, without a number of separate, partially wrong, steps. The IPCC climate studies and EROI analyses both fall in this category, as do Peak Oil reports.

The progress I have made on figuring out the energy limits story would not have been possible without the work of many other people, including those doing work on studying Peak Oil and those studying EROI. I have also received a lot of “tips” from readers of OurFiniteWorld.com regarding additional topics I should investigate. Even with all of this help, I am sure that my version of the truth is not quite right. We all keep learning as we go along.

There may indeed be details of this particular climate model that are not correct, although this is out of my area of expertise. For example, the historical temperatures used by researchers seem to need a lot of adjustment to be usable. Some people argue that the historical record has been adjusted to make the historical record fit the particular model used.

There is also the issue of truing up the indications to where we are now. I mentioned the problem earlier of EROI indications not having any real world tie; climate model indications are not quite as bad, but they also seem not to be well tied to what is actually happening.

Myth 8. Our leaders are all knowing and all powerful.

We are fighting a battle against the laws of physics. Expecting our leaders to win in the battle against the laws of physics is expecting a huge amount. Some of the actions of our leaders seem extraordinarily stupid. For example, if falling interest rates have postponed peak oil, then proposing to raise interest rates, when we have not fixed the underlying oil depletion problem, seems very ill-advised.

It is the Laws of Physics that govern the world economy. The Laws of Physics affect the world economy in many ways. The economy is a dissipative structure. Energy inputs allow the economy to remain in an “out of equilibrium state” (that is, in a growing state), for a very long period.

Eventually the ability of any economy to grow must come to an end. The problem is that it requires increasing amounts of energy to fight the growing “entropy” (higher energy cost of extraction, need for growing debt, and rising pollution levels) of the system. The economy must come to an end, just as the lives of individual plants and animals (which are also dissipative structures) must come to an end.

Conclusion

We are facing a battle against the laws of physics which we are unlikely to win. Our leaders would like us to think that it can be won quite easily, but it cannot be.  Climate change is presented as our only and most important problem, but this is not really the case. Our problem is that the financial system and energy systems are tightly connected. We are likely to have serious financial problems as we hit limits of many kinds, at more or less the same time.

Our leaders are not really as powerful as we would like. Even our scientific findings practically never come in perfect form. Our knowledge generally comes in a series of steps, which includes revisions to early ideas. At this time, it doesn’t look as though we have figured out a way to work around our rising need for energy and the problem with rising entropy.

 

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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1,453 Responses to Why political correctness fails – Why what we know ‘for sure’ is wrong (Ex Religion)

  1. Third World person says:

    is really our pop growth rates is 80 million per year
    i do not think so when gov can manipulated gdp growth
    then can do this also for ex recent i met with afghan
    he was say our fertility rate is faked by government
    so they can get aid from western country
    so i checked on internet see that Afghanistan fertility rate is decreased
    us invasion on Afghanistan how could this truth when us destroyed
    infrastructure in Afghanistan

    • Tim Groves says:

      I had never considered the possibility that the population statistics might be faked, but now you’ve raised the question, it makes sense that they could be.

      If the UN is allocating funds to poor nations based on need, then the more needy people in the statistics, the better for the recipient nations.

      • But but… that would amount to fraud on a truly massive scale. How could such a thing happen with so many watchful eyes around every corner?

        “The problem is not that there is evil in the world, the problem is that there is good, because otherwise who would care?” — V.M. Varga (Fargo season 3)

        “When the world cannot achieve higher levels of corruption that means it is already rotten to the core.” — Me

    • This article talks about a tax on electric cars that weigh over two tons; this would pretty much be only Teslas.

      Besides the tax on Teslas, isn’t there an issue of the current favorable incentives for electric cars starting to disappear in January 2018? Wikipedia says,
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plug-in_electric_vehicles_in_Norway
      “Among the existing government incentives, all-electric cars and vans are exempt in Norway from all non-recurring vehicle fees, including purchase taxes, and 25% VAT on purchase, together making electric car purchase price competitive with conventional cars.[6] Also, the government approved a tax reduction for plug-in hybrids in effect starting in July 2013. . . In May 2015, the Government decided to keep the existing incentives through 2017, and the Parliament agreed to reduced and phase out some of the incentives beginning in January 2018.”

      • theblondbeast says:

        I experienced this in the construction industry. Government subsidies for green buildings were always argued for in terms of economies of scale – subsidize solar until the scale gets to a size where it is competitive. We know why that will not happen. First, the energy equivalency is not there. Second, the argument of economies of scale is based on the flawed assumptions of limitless growth.

      • Tesla Model 3 – Wikipedia
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_Model_3
        Curb weight. Standard-battery model: 3,549 lb (1,610 kg) Long-range-battery model: 3,814 lb (1,730 kg)

        • Maybe they are including the expected weight of the driver, passengers, and luggage. Or maybe the threshold is lower than reported, so that it does affect Teslas.

          Also, the Model 3 seems to be lighter weight than the earlier models.

          The 2017 Tesla Model S is 4,469 to 4,941 pounds, and the 2017 Tesla Model X is 5,267 to 5,377 pounds. As a practical matter, there have been virtually no Model 3’s delivered. So the article may refer to these models instead.

      • Slow Paul says:

        The biggest EV (Tesla model X) will become a bit pricier, that’s all. If you buy a new ICE car in Norway, the tax is often 30-40 % of the price total. So an EV with almost no tax is very attractive. Add to that free charging at public charging points, free parking everywhere, free ferry fare…

  2. psile says:

    Fromy the NY Post:

    For those of us about here, the following article is not something we hadn’t already concluded…Puerto Rico, like most of those other Carribean islands in the path of recent hurricanes Irma and Maria, already bludgeoned by insolvency, is history.

    Stagnation, decay, and depopulation awaits.

    It’s clear Maria wrought catastrophic damage on the US territory — setting Puerto Rico back decades.

    https://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/jimenez_pr_maria_s_iris_03.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=1286

    The burning question in many residents’ minds remains: Where’s help from the government?

    The Post spent three days traveling along the destructive path the eye of the storm took across the island, and only witnessed one instance of federal aid distribution.

    Eighty-four percent of the island remains without power, and only 63 percent of residents have clean drinking water.

  3. Kanghi says:

    Resilience gives into reality by publishing article:
    “”What they show is that trying to build an electrical energy system mainly with wind and solar that would be able to meet the demand for electricity at all times as we have now is a futile endeavour. It would be way too expensive in money, resources and energy. We must get used to the idea of using electricity only when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing (enough).”

    http://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-10-13/the-future-of-renewable-energy/

    • Greg Machala says:

      I’ll fix it: We must get used to the idea of hunter/gatherer lifestyles.

      • grayfox says:

        ++++++
        Seems reasonable to me.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          I have no idea how to live like that….

          If the power went off now … and I disappeared into the bush — even with a bit of BAU on board (gun, shelter, lighter, clothing) I’d be dead in within a month max

          I also prefer not to live like that so death would be a welcome event

      • If we only use intermittent electricity, we must clearly live where we work, because work schedules will depend on when the wind blows and the sun is shining. We won’t really have enough energy for transportation, either. And who would want to get stuck in an unventilated 50 story sky scraper, when the electricity goes off?

        I expect we would really have to go back to hunter gatherer lifestyles. We couldn’t just go back a bit. The whole idea sounds good, but cannot work in practice.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          Perhaps the ‘meek’ shall inherit the earth …. those of us who embraced the bubble are not going back to being hunter gatherers…. but those who did not enter the bubble carry on….

          Unfortunately there are those spent fuel ponds…

          • theblondbeast says:

            It’s tough – the models do look bad. Then again – if we don’t believe the gooblie wooblie models – why should we believe the nooklear wooklear models? I think we really don’t know.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              It’s not a model.

              We know for a fact that radiation is deadly.

              What we do not know is if 4000 spent fuel ponds burning up would exterminate all life on earth.

              What we do know is that less than 1% of the planet’s agricultural land is farmed organically – the rest is farmed using petro chemicals and that without them the land will support no crop.

              So that in itself is almost certainly an extinction event — throw in the radiation — and the odds are highly stacked against us.

              Sure maybe some remote hunter gatherer tribes might survive this ….

              But there is no way in hell that you or I will survive this. No way.

              As for these people who are furiously prepping for the post BAU world — they are living in a delusional world.

              Even if they were left alone to do their thing — they would probably not survive. Not a single one of them is even willing to unplug from BAU now — because they know damn well that doing that would make life unbearable…. they would struggle to survive even with hordes of people descending on their farms looking for food.

              It is an idea that is beyond ridiculous.

              But hey – just like the people who think solar and EVs are going to save us —- people are welcome to their delusions. And if it keeps them from despair then great.

              But for some of us we understand how this ends… you cannot unplug the 7.5 billion people from their life line … and expect to live.

              The most you can hope for is that you don’t suffer too much before you die.

    • I get the feeling reality is coming at us full speed like a runaway train…

      And most people are having a picnic on the tracks…

      Major global conflict… energy crisis… Hollyweird veil unveiling… cash is no longer cash… no faith in leadership… da people not buying enough bling…

      Aaaargh!

      Can ya feel it?

      Badoom bum… Can ya feel it comin in the air tonigght… oh lord… oh lorrrrd

      • Greg Machala says:

        I agree. Nature is turning up the heat (literally in some cases). Harvey, Irma, Maria and now California wildfires are straining budgets and resources. It seems like we are collectively trying to plug holes in a sinking ship.

    • alfredmelbourne says:

      “Germany’s Electricity Production by Source – December 2016”

      Germany’s electric grid was saved by electricity generated from coal, gas, nuclear and Norwegian hydro.

  4. Rob Bell says:

    Costco Cashing in on Preppers’ Paranoia: Company Overtly Tries to Sell Year’s Worth of Canned Food to Apocalypse Crowd
    https://www.alternet.org/food/prepping-doomsday-costco-wants-sell-you-years-worth-canned-food?akid=16213.2689436.iskB1I&rd=1&src=newsletter1083784&t=8

  5. https://futurism.com/reports-ai-robots-threaten-jobs-5-years/

    So even if we weren’t heading for economic implosion over the next five years…

    Half the workforce would become unemployed anyway thanks to technological progress which means…

    Not enough people could afford the output of the economy which means…

    We head for economic implosion.

    Yikes… we really are screwed.

    • Greg Machala says:

      That is essentially the facts as I see them as well. The advent of robots is a symptom of the greater disease of diminishing returns and the desperate attempts to stave it off.

      • It’s like the cherry at the top of one those huge multi tiered wedding cakes…

        Or the straw that broke the camel’s back…

        Or… well you get the idea.

        Everything looks fine and dandy when you’re building the tower. What’s one more brick right?

        Just one more layer of complexity and our project will be complete… what could possibly go wrong?

    • I agree. Robots don’t buy much of anything. We end up with a big problem.

      • Maybe robots ARE the future if the “small” problem of general intelligence is solved. What if farty meatbags… I mean humans… have simply been the enabling organism paving the way for a more efficient one allowing the continuation of some form of intelligence but without all the biological baggage.

        Clever humans (as units of enabling) would only be required until the offspring organism was self sufficient. This scenario would still not add up to a happy ending for the human species but would be equivalent to parents and grandparents waving off their kids as they clumsily venture out into the big wide world knowing they may never see each other again.

        I am certainly aware of scientists who feel this way about their AI creations and hold these views. They also appear to be fully aware of what it would mean for the human race if / when this breakthrough happens. Human obscelecence would be almost instantaneous.

        But then… our multi-layered, just in time supply chain would have to remain mostly intact until that day. And long enough to support the technicians (enablers) through a transitional period until the AI component became fully autonomous at the level of self sustaining supply chain and resource management according to its needs.

        What would this novel organism do once humans become a vestigial remnant?

        Who knows? Who cares? That’s not for the enabler species to decide just as it’s not preferable for helicopter parents to micromanage the lives of their children. As long as the organism has survival and curiosity programmed into its code and the ability to solve problems it should do just fine.

        But wouldn’t such an organism be subjected to limits too?

        Not necessarily unless continuous growth formed a part of its survival strategy. Not being directly tied to biological impulses but a decendent of them could present a superior advantage over biological organisms. An autonomous AI could simply park itself somewhere suitable for energy collection and maintain the systems it requires and not much else if it decided exploration was a waste of time.

        On the other hand, curiosity, exploration, further resource aquisition would eventually lead to expansionary behaviour and we’d be back to square one only a larger scale.

        And then heat death. The end.

        And that’s when God says “What was the point of all that?”

      • theblondbeast says:

        Exactly – the only thing that helps are tools which increase productivity. Replacement of labor is simply arbitrage – pushing pieces around the game board. It offers profit locally, temporarily, and that is all.

  6. Samsung CEO Steps Down Despite Record Profits, Warns Of “Unprecedented Crisis”

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-10-13/samsung-ceo-steps-down-despite-record-profits-warns-unprecedented-crisis

    Does this CEO know something we don’t?

    • Greg Machala says:

      No, the CEO knows what we know LOL!

    • He seems to be talking about high chip prices driving Samsung’s recent profitability, rather than growth in sales. These chips are being sold to Apple, I believe.
      https://9to5mac.com/2017/07/18/samsung-to-resume-making-iphone-a-series-chips-from-next-year-report/

      This is a 2015 article called, “Why Does Samsung Make Apple Parts?” It says,

      “The reason Samsung makes Apple parts is simple; it makes Samsung money. In fact, Samsung’s mobile market segment is shrinking and their overall profits for the company are lowering.”

      But Apple seems to bid out each set of chips, and likes to split orders among suppliers. This doesn’t add much stability or upside to future earnings.

      • Wow! Wasn’t aware of the crossover there between major rivals. Just goes to show that everything is far more intertwined than appearances dictate.

        Essentially, we have a few major chip makers and battery manufacturers (Panasonic) around the world – just enough for redundancy I guess, but still, hardly a decentralised system is it.

        Would be devastating for all major south korean corporations if conflict breaks out over the border although I believe this to be unlikely. The US has just sent another carrier group… and Trump was babbling something about the calm before the storm… whatever that means.

        • Greg Machala says:

          Yes, all it takes is a few breaks in a supply chain to cause contagion through the whole of what we call the tech market. Without computers we are quite the toasty slice of bread. Especially Bitcoin holders. We have put all of our eggs in the computer basket. This is incredibly dangerous as we will soon find out. Too many points of failure. Even solar flares will lay waste to our computing infrastructure…assuming the financial system holds together that long.

          • +++++++++++++++++

            I especially liked… “Without computers we are quite the toasty slice of bread.”

            As FE has made reference to often enough… when I take a screen break and look outside and imagine there’s no lectricity… I get an immediate knee jerk survival response to look back at the screen and thank my lucky stars for the bubble I am squeezed into… I mean… I could buy a book I suppose… you know… one of those wild plants you can eat books… and my dad helped me make a bow and arrow when I was five so there is that… but it was shit… and I can make a fire with sticks and dry grass but you can’t eat fire so useless really… gawd help us if the lights go out… or the trucks stop running… actually truck drivers are my new gods… they are better than politicians, lawyers and hollywood starlets combined… in fact if I had to choose between pill pushers and truck drivers I would choose truck drivers. They have proved themselves to be the most useful people in the world and don’t get enough praise. Oh and big container ships. I like them as well.

          • Superorganism Resilience – The Strategy

            Identifying the key failure points that lead to systemic collapse so that redundancy in the global supply chain is ensured.

            Any takers?

  7. Bitcoin Is Now Bigger Than Morgan Stanley

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-10-13/bitcoin-now-bigger-morgan-stanley

    Reports Indicate That Sweden Will Stop Using Cash by 2023

    https://futurism.com/reports-indicate-that-sweden-will-stop-using-cash-by-2023/

    Cash Is Quickly Becoming Obsolete in China

    https://futurism.com/cash-is-quickly-becoming-obsolete-in-china/

    Whoowheee!

    Gives me a headrush all this funny money floatin around. Like it grows on trees or somethin.

    • Greg Machala says:

      “Reports Indicate That Sweden Will Stop Using Cash by 2023” – that may a very accurate statement. The only thing driving the economy now is financializtion. And Bitcoin is an extension of this since it is completely virtual and backed by absolutely nothing.

      • Doesn’t it all boil down to whatever us farty meatbags want to place our collective confidence in?

        As in… as long as everyone agrees on the method of monetary exchange and storage there is no need for the method of monetary exchange and storage to be based on anything more than the existence of a functioning and stable electrical grid enabling the reliable transfer of said units of monetary exchange and storage and a bit of math.

        A bit like tally sticks only with electronic bits…

        What tally sticks tell us about how money works
        http://www.bbc.com/news/business-40189959

        Of course… if the grid fails then we’re doomed anyway. Trading cigarettes or soap will only get you so far post collapse.

        If many of you are certain of near term collapse (5 to 10 years) then what difference does it make what funny money we use up until that day?

        If collapse doesn’t quite pan out as expected (I know – herecy) then all these cryptos get to take center stage until something else breaks and by then there may be another patch in place that completely revolutionizes something else and so on.

        If only we could limp along into the 2030s – the promised land of super nanotechnology and gene therapy for all – the human race could be put out to pasture gracefully in a kind of global retirement home for obsolete species.

        • Mark says:

          LOL speaking of farty meatbags………

        • Tim Groves says:

          If collapse doesn’t quite pan out as expected.

          Perish the thought! After all, what could possibly go right!? 🙂

          I’ve always been impressed with a scene from the Peter Pan pantomime they used to show on the BBC when I was a kid. It’s that well-known scene where Tinkerbell, portrayed as a cross between a star and a snowflake, is fading and dying, and all the boys and girls in the audience, including those of you watching at home, are told that she will only get well if they believe in fairies. There’s a lot of emotion in the scene if you’re a five to ten-year-old, and in effect it’s an exercise in mass guilt-tripping.

          So now I’m wondering if BAU could be a bit like TInkerbell: if we all continue to believe in Elon and Richard Branson and the stock market and renewables and Bitcoin, then the show can go on at least a bit longer. But once we collectively cease to believe, then the lights will go out permanently. Forget happy ever after. We are well into can-kicking extra time, and in order to keep kicking the can, we have to believe that the can can be kicked.

          • ++++++++++++

            Ufff… got a lump in my throat reading that bit about Tinky Winky fading and dying.

            If we all just close our eyes and imagine giant windmills in the sky then when you wake up tomorrow morning in yer bed kiddy widdies and look out the window there they will be. But you have to really believe it and not break the spell otherwise dragons and trolls and orcs will come and gobble you all up.

            Of course… that’s it… we’re all being treated like little children and fed fairytales with heroes and champions fighting fire breathing monsters… because it’s the humane thing to do. The truth would utterly destroy them. And we’re not animals.

            Behind closed doors the adults know from experience but not for want of trying that no matter how hard you wish for something, no matter how much you believe with all you heart… it doesn’t make it true.

            Poor kids… I can hear the bubbles bursting already.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Come to think of it … why bother to try to open the eyes of anyone …. and endure frustration .. when there is already a community of people with their eyes and minds open on FW….

            The best and the brightest will eventually make their way to FW…. directing someone to FW is pointless… the truly curious … will come….

      • DJ says:

        Sweden is almost cashless already, it’s just a question of a few backward 70+ year olds that must die off.

        You pay by card and if you have to transfer money to other people you Swish it, they won’t accept cash. Even pizzerias and hairdressers and other obvious tax cheaters don’t want cash. Probably not drug dealers either.

        If you eliminate cash negative interest rates will work better. And we probably will have to keep lowering interest rates to make it another 5-10 years.

        • Wow. Never thought I’d see this day. We truly are in Star Trek now.

          I wonder how low we can go. I remember when interest rates were on the up and up…

          Imagine paying over 18% interest on a 30-year fixed mortgage. It’s almost unthinkable. But that was the reality for home buyers in October 1981 – a year when the average rate was almost 17%. Unlike today, in the early 1980s, the Federal Reserve was waging a war with inflation.Nov 22, 2013
          Why Mortgage Rates Once Reached a Sky-high 18.5% – Yahoo Finance
          https://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/just…it/why-mortgage-rates-matter-152241574.html

    • I hope these people have thought through what they will do in the case of electric power outages. Or cell phones not working, perhaps because towers are down, or owners cannot keep up payments.

      I can believe Sweden stopping using cash long before China. China is a big place. I can imagine methods of paying using cell phones becoming popular in big cities. Whether they will work in Inner Mongolia and in westerns China is another question. I would expect that cash will continue to be king.

    • Greg Machala says:

      1) “Bitcoin Is Now Bigger Than Morgan Stanley” – Hmm, lets see, Bitcoin (a virtual currency that isn’t real) is bigger than Morgan Stanley. Morgan Stanley is itself unsustainable and is likely insolvent. So that statement doesn’t mean much to me.

      2) “Reports Indicate That Sweden Will Stop Using Cash by 2023” – well if the financial system collapses, no one will be using cash by 2023. Why? Because cash will be worthless.

      3) “Cash Is Quickly Becoming Obsolete in China” – China is maxed out and can no longer grow. If China cannot grow anymore it will begin to collapse. See #2.

      • 1) Define real. Are electrons real? Are atoms real? Are your thoughts real? None of the other currencies that we use have been really real for some time now… most of all it backed by nothing other than promises and the promise of an abundant future… so… why is bitcoin et al less real than all these other pretenders?

        But I agree that nothing we are doing is sustainable and adding cryptos solves nothing.

        2) yup.

        3) Should read… “People are quickly becoming obsolete in China”

        • Fast Eddy says:

          There is a chance that we are we are avatars in a sophisticated video game … real is whatever the programmers decide is real.

  8. Schools Are Officially Accepting Bitcoin for Tuition

    https://futurism.com/schools-accepting-bitcoin-tuition/

    Anyone want to run some experimental models where the whole world is running on Bitcoin etc to see what that looks like?

    I keep hearing complaints that it runs on that there lectricity thing…

    But then everything does so kindof a moot criticism unless you’re from Puerto Rico.

    • Greg Machala says:

      Bitcoin is a joke. Our mondern world is already quite virtual and unnatural. Now Bitcoin is another virtual world within a virtual world. How crazy is that? Electronic money is no better. Cash at least is backed by resources (as long as there is faith that cash has value and there are enough resources to build the things cash wants to buy). Historically gold and silver are better. But, what happens when clean water and food is more scarce than gold and silver?

      • … as long as there is faith that bitcoin has value and there are enough resources to build the things bitcoin wants to buy…

        See… it’s easy when you try.

        Gold and silver have no intrinsic value. They are just metals. Some people make trinkets with them. Much easier to come up with a practical currency (electronic bits that transfer at the speed of light) and for gov to give it it’s blessing than to mess around with paper and coins. We are in a real life game of monopoly so monopoly money seems appropriate.

        The occasional glitch or downtime is not sufficient reason to abandon the idea of digital money. Banks have been pushing digital around for quite some time and yes, sometimes the systems fail, but for true believers in BAU permanent failure is not even on the radar so cryptos will be adopted by all until system failure occurs.

        Not only that, but the blockchain itself is what gives people that fuzzy wuzzy warm feeling inside because… BAU is changing…

        https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/

        scroll down the page and see how happy all these believers are. Will you be the one to burst their bubble?

    • Greg Machala says:

      Ahh yes, fake news calling fake new fake. Beam me up Scotty.

    • Rendar says:

      Look, If we’d all just willingly go back to the time of The Big Three, and put our complete trust in them, the billionaires and trillionaires would be able to keep the gravy train going while maintaining control of the narrative:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Three_television_networks

      “The Big Three television networks are the three major traditional commercial broadcast television networks in the United States: the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), CBS (formerly known as the Columbia Broadcasting System) and the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). Beginning in 1948 until the late 1980s, the Big Three networks dominated U.S. television. These three channels were also the first three channels on Television in America.”

    • Fast Eddy says:

      And to think 10+ years ago — I sometimes read alternet….

      Is there a print edition of that rag? No? Well then it is totally worthless because it can’t even be used as

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