The above graph is adapted from Limits to Growth, Revisited. It is not a hard and fast prediction, but rather the product of a model with 40 years of high correspondence with developments. We are, at present, at the top of the growth curves, many of which have already begun to plateau. Slopes of decline do not factor in such worst-case scenarios as widespread urban- or domestic nuclear facilities collapse consequent to economic collapse.

I've added the shading and 'crossover' circle' (coincident with 'peak everything') to indicate my best guess as to the high probablility zone for global, economic collapse, triggering the onset of TEOTWAWKI.

I fear a hard landing... no 'reboot' or 'transition' to a lower functioning economy. I urge high priority preparation now.

I've got a short glossary of terms at the bottom of this page... if you come across an unfamiliar term, please scroll down and check it out.

Information I'm including or pointing to doesn't mean I necessarily agree with it. Rather, I've found it to be stimulating and worthy of consideration. I'm sure you'll exercise your own judgement... we're nothing if not independent! 8)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Exponential Growth for Doomies

A whirlwind tour of growth versus limits


The problem is, exponential growth patterns don't give you an early warning sign.
Because the dangers really speed up at the end, when it's too late to do anything about it.
-- Dr. Kent Moors 
  

Exponential Growth for Doomies:       
      Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

We all think we're familiar with growth.

If we can earn $1000 a week, that's $4000 a month and $48,000 a year. Nice, neat and linear. Most of what we count in our everyday lives is like that.

But exponential growth aka geometric growth aka non-linear growth isn't as intuitive.Even if one is familiar with it, this kind of growth can ambush us.

If something is growing exponentially, each dollop added to the heap is proportional to (a fraction of) the heap that's already there. The bigger the heap, the bigger the dollop, the bigger the heap the bigger the dollop... a dash, a pinch, a dollop, a handfull, a bucket.....

We typically say the heap is growing at some percent rate per unit of time, say 5% annually (that is, 5% of the total heap size added to the heap every year).

Or we might say that it has such and such a doubling rate (the time it takes the heap to double in size), say every 14 years.

The Rule of 69 (or 70) allows a rough estimation of doubling time if we know the percent rate of growth per unit of time. Using 70 is more convenient than 69, but the math is easier.

Rule of 70 --> Doubling.Rate = 70 / (%Rate.of.Growth /Unit of Time)
[Divide 70 by percent rate per unit of time to yield the doubling rate in units of time.]
This looks worse than it is.

From the example above, If our percent rate of growth per unit of time is 5% per year, then 70/5 = 14, and so our heap will double in 14 years. If the rate of growth applied quarterly, say, it would double in 14 quarters.


Or, if an economy grows at 2.5% per year on average, then 70/2.5 = 30 years. That economy will double about every 30 years.

US GDP growth overlayed on yellow exponential curve

Now, the thing is, at a low rate of exponential growth, things might look nearly flat for a long, long time (like my father before me, time out of mind). Then things pick up to an exciting time of change for the better (that old woman saw the first automobile AND the first moonshot). Things pick up more, and things get a little scary (That kid born in 2000 is now looking at super bugs, cyber warfare and an ice-free arctic).

Each doubling time... tick, tick, tick... doubles the entire heap.

The rate of change may stay the same, but the increment of change - the dollop of change - gets bigger. And bigger. And BIGGER! As we go from the more horizontal portion of an exponential curve to the more vertical portion, any given stretch of time - a year; a decade; a lifetime - spans an astonishing increase. Each stretch encompasses an ever more fantastic volume of change.

In rough terms, the global economy - the world's heap of goods, services and assets - has been doubling every 25 years for the last two hundred (give or take).This means today's global economy is roughly 256 times that of 1800. Double the economy of 1990.

At every doubling, close to twice the resources are consumed. Twice the waste produced. Twice the 'footprint' is required, as it were. The next doubling is due about 20 years from today according to the IMF.

A 'next doubling' assumes nothing happens big enough to derail that juggernaut. It has mass. It has momentum. If it hits a wall or leaves the tracks it'll make one hell of a wreck.

We Doomies think that, coming somewhere soon-ish along that curve, something's gotta give. We'll hit the limits our planet can support. And then the trend will break. Break bad.

How many more doublings have we got?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How Systems Collapse: Human Body Analogy




 
...Slowly, at first, then all at once.
-- Dmitry Orlov


How Systems Collapse: The Human Body Analogy

I would say that most persons who entertain the notion of Collapse picture some version of Slow Collapse. Aka Catabolic Collapse aka the Long Descent.

Those of us who foresee Fast Collapse appear to be a distinct minority.

I read on-line that many cannot imagine the complete failure of a system as vast and complex as the Global Industrial Economy, along with its embedded Global Civilization. It seems too big to fail. They will not let it collapse!

Here to help you imagine is the example of the Human Body, a vast (trillions of cells), highly evolved, Complex Adaptive System.

Our human body is as familiar to us as...  well... as the back of our own hand. That it ages, suffers illness and trauma, wears out important parts... none of this surprises us. That the body is mortal is dead certain.

Bodily systems typically decline over years in a process one might think of as Slow Collapse. Arteries harden. Muscle mass is lost. Bones weaken. The mind's reach shortens. Whether one is a Yogic Master or couch potato, age takes its toll. Decline may be faster or slower, but it is relentless. We may suffer deficits or enjoy partial recoveries, but from conception, entropy holds us in its dissipating grip.

Illness or trauma can degrade or damage particular limbs, organs or systems. Our immune, digestive, cardio-pulmonary, neurological systems – to name a few – can slow and stutter.

We are borne in stages toward our final crisis.

The eventual mechanism of our demise is uncertain, but the prognosis is not. Sooner or later, some break-down – large or small – will abruptly escalate to total system failure. Whether from a state of good health or struggling with diminished function, when the crisis comes, our system is tipped from being a massively intricate, integrated, living body, to a collection of dis-integrated cells dying in isolation.

For example, cardiac collapse begins with a small system failure (blood supply, electrical signal, valve failure, etc.). Once the 'pump' stops, blood is neither oxygenated nor distributed throughout the body. Cellular waste products are neither transported nor processed. Even with CPR, the system is going downhill fast. Organs, dependent on the heart's function, degrade or fail. Bodily elements, dependent on those organs degrade and fail.

Without prompt, correct, decisive intervention (and most often even with that advantage), the patient undergoes Fast Collapse.

TEOTWAKI.

There are many ways to come to terms with mortality. Seize the day. Eat, drink and be merry. Reach out in love to those around us. Far from paralyzing us, the prospect of our personal finitude can be a catalyst to live. And so might it be with global Collapse of Civilization. The fact of mortality itself needn't lead us to throw in the towel.

Point is, we're all too familiar with Fast Collapse in highly evolved, complex adaptive systems.

In terms of the human body, we understand the mechanisms of collapse far better than its workings. In terms of the industrial economy, we understand neither, for all our economic theory. What we do understand of systems is that they can be driven out of their range of stability, and become vulnerable to catastrophic collapse.

Fast Collapse is not simply some pessimistic, Doomerish nay say, per se, to be dismissed with the lifting of a skeptical brow. It's not Schadenfreude, delighting in Goetterdeamerung. It's not even a narrative, competing with others for prime time. Instead, it is an argument based on the doings and undoings of complex adaptive systems.

The prime mission of this blog is to lay out that systems theoretic argument in an accessible manner. To that end, I'll be presenting Systems Theory for Doomies in following posts, along with renditions of the major, systems based arguments supporting Fast Collapse.

And why?

Fast Collapse calls for very different preparation measures than does Slow Collapse. While no preparation guarantees success; no preparation might very well guarantee failure.

Go not gently into that good night!


Friday, December 16, 2016

Pascal's Wager, Adapted for Prepperation

Calvin's Wager
by Bill Watterson

Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then?
-- From Pensees by Blaise Pascal

To make a choice is to change the future.
-- Deepak Chopra


Pascal's Wager, Adapted for Prepperation

Blaise Pascal considered the question of how a rational person, in the absence of proof, should wager (bet) with respect to God's existence. It is an early example of decision theory.

Paraphrased (and stripped to bare bones), the argument runs like this:
If God does not exist, belief in Him costs one little.
If God does exist, disbelief costs one much.
Therefore,  it is rational to wager that He does exist, and act accordingly.

Let's restate that in terms of Collapse:
If Collapse is not coming, preparation costs one little.
If Collapse is coming, lack of preparation costs one much.
Therefore, it is rational to wager that Collapse is coming, and prepare accordingly.

Wanna bet?


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Fast or Slow Collapse: Why it Matters

The Days of Wind
by Qin YongJun


Slowly, at first, then all at once.
-- Dmitry Orlov on Fragility and Collapse


Fast or Slow Collapse: Why it Matters


Fast and slow are relative terms.

From the perspective of centuries and relative to its duration, the fall of the Roman Empire was relatively abrupt. From the perspective of individuals involved, however, many experienced little change in the course of their lifetimes. It was a Long Descent from the peak of its expansion, through crises and contractions to the Dark Age that followed.

When we contemplate the Collapse of the modern global economy with so much that it entails, many are persuaded that it will be a similar, Long Descent, declining catabolically in fits and spurts over generations, in keeping with most known historical precedent.

Fast Collapse types (myself included) are persuaded that descent will likely be abrupt on our time scale, crashing catastrophically from near peak to near zero in the course of days to months.

Why does this matter? Why isn't it a genteel debate whose outcome will become clear in time... the loser will stand the next round of beer? Why shouldn't we just wait and see?

My answer is that the two scenarios call for vastly different preparations, and on a very different deadline.

If the Long Descent lies ahead of us, our best bet is to establish locally resilient communities, capable of carrying forward in reduced circumstances. The learning curve is relatively gradual for dealing with the economic environment as it (d)evolves. For most, there will be world enough, and time.

But should Catastrophic Collapse be the case, we are more or less flung onto our own resources, struggling amid all others mired in a fully similar plight, minus any functional economy at all.

I present two analogies for slow and fast Collapse, respectively. They are imperfect but illustrate the different preparations which would be important.

Here's an analogy for Slow, Catabolic Collapse:
The TITANIC strikes an island and goes hard aground. The lower hull is flooded and many of the ships stores are ruined, but there is no immediate risk of sinking. The generators go down, and with it many of the ship's systems. But most crew and passenger decks are clear of water. Passengers, while dazed, turn to and begin to work with crew to aid the injured, ensure dry shelter for those impacted and ration supplies. They do best who have good relationships with others aboard - both socially and those with skills. Eventually, some power may be restored and longer term plans undertaken. And so on. But the island has limited resources... things will get worse before they get better.

And one for Fast, Catastrophic Collapse:
The TITANIC strikes an iceberg and sinks within hours. There are no lifeboats (preparations are the responsibility of individuals). Most flounder in the water with a very brief window of survival. Many are drowned by their panicked, desperate neighbors who attempt anything to live. Some had prepared for this emergency, as best the could. Of these, many don't make it; pulled down by the floundering masses. Some fail due to poor choices. A few, thanks to adequate preparation and good fortune survive the immediate disaster. And so on. But they are now adrift among many resources (analogy breaks down, here) but with little to no hope of assistance.

I'm not going to argue, here, for Fast Collapse, though that is my persistent conclusion. But once Collapse begins in earnest one's choices may be tightly constrained. In the face of Fast Collapse, a 'wait and see' approach is likely to become 'waited too long'.

I urge that deciding which scenario is ahead/immanent, and acting upon that decision is a matter of life and death for you and yours. To wait and see is to have made a decision.

A last observation, however... preparations for Slow Collapse do not address Fast concerns, but those for Fast Collapse perform valuable service in many likely Slow scenarios. Even if never called upon, these do no harm. They are like fire escapes which may never be used...

...But you're gonna want 'em once all hell breaks loose.





PS.  This may be the place to mention that I often hear a cheap kind of psycho-analysis speculating on why people conclude whether fast, slow, or indeed any Collapse is probable.We all assess what facts we can, relate them, and attempt predictions to the best of our ability.

Those persuaded that Collapse is likely don't glory in it. Fast Collapse folks don't want to avoid a long, arduous Descent. Slow Collapse folks don't wish to avoid a traumatic, desperate Catastrophe.

I mean, isn't the Future hard enough to contemplate without second guessing motives?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Knowledge: A Review



The most visible technology we use daily is just the tip of a vast iceberg – not only in the sense that it's based on a great manufacturing and organizational network that supports production, but also because it represents the heritage of a long history of advances and developments. The iceberg extends unseen through both space and time.
-- From The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell


The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm
Review by Dave Zeiger

Anyone who thinks civilization is indestructible doesn't get out much.

The past is heaped in ruin. The future harbors the chance of natural and/or man-made cataclysm. Our present appears more than a little shaky.

Like our bodies, it's quite possible that something vital will one day give 'way. The system-as-a-whole clutches its collective chest and expires, gasping. Is crushed by falling rock. Or brought low by hurled, nuclear-tipped spear.

What then?

The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell goes a long way toward answering that question. He provides an over-view of means by which that our world might re-boot itself from little more than scratch. A tool-kit of core, synergetic technologies with which industrial society has been achieved. Yet it is not prescriptive; this Knowledge empowers the future but leaves it to find its own way.

Along the way, Dartnell provides a fascinating tour through the 'engine-room' of our industrial world. He illuminates its essential functions, interdependencies and history. Cataclysm or no, his book will have you looking with new eyes at the ubiquitous, taken-for-granted substances and artifacts permeating our lives. Should cataclysm befall us... well... it's a magnificently conceived gift to the future.

The Knowledge is a tour de force which should appeal, not just to Doomers such as myself, but to any who yet feel the Renaissance passion for the Knowledge of our own times. That lauded and once valued Jack-or-Jill-of-all trades-kind of Knowledge that deepens our appreciation for our world, and extends our reach within it.

Wonderful book, and I mean full of wonders! I return to its pages time and again, as seeds it has sown bloom within me.

The Knowledge initiates a magnificent and, I believe, vital project.

To my mind, it succeeds where many have failed to strike that narrow balance between too much and too little. It accepts its limitations and goes a long way toward persuading those who may be so moved, that a 'stitch in time' is a worthy goal.

Where it is, perhaps, improvable has more to do with presentation than content; the not trivial task of speaking effectively to persons not yet born, and who inhabit a world homo sapiens has never seen. For them, the great torch of technology – from fire to the Clovis point to the germ theory – handed from generation to generation may well have been dropped.

Lewis Dartnell has taken up the part of Prometheus, offering fire to the future.

Godspeed!


As with technology, The Knowledge is but the tip of an iceberg. Visit The-Knowledge.org to participate in re-booting the future.



Wednesday, February 24, 2016

An Aspect Ratio Component to Collapse?




http://pocketnow.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/jenga.jpg



The bigger they come, the harder they fall.
-- Proverb



An Aspect Ratio Component to Collapse?

Over the years, I've seen a number of buildings collapse.

Some take years, slowly kneeling - like a dying elephant - before collapsing gently in place. Others stand proud - losing a bit, here and there, to wind and weather - then, one day to the next, they collapse with a roar.

It dawns on me that aspect ratio is a pretty good predictor of which it will be. Buildings which are short for their footprint ease themselves to the ground. Those which are tall for their footprint go down fast and hard. Think the Pyramids vs the Twin Towers.

If this a property of systems in general, we might wonder what aspect ratio describes our global industrial civilization?

A subsistence  farmer might be described as low aspect. Aside from a few necessities - salt and iron are often all that's needed - all necessities are provided from the footprint. In contrast, a corporate farm cannot be worked without constant supply from the outside world (machinery, fuel, fertilizer, seed, a market, etc...), and a critical failure can bring operations to a halt. I'd consider that high aspect.

Even more so in the case of cities. 

Cities are utterly dependent on the uninterrupted flow of goods, services, material and personnel from well outside its footprint. In some cases from a world away. Very high aspect in our half-urban world.

I'm just sayin'.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Tweeting the Future: Thoughts toward Launching a Meme

Book or tree of knowledge concept with an oak tree growing from
Seeding a Tree of Knowledge




Where once there was a void,
Now at least there are
Seeds of splendor,
Becalmed belief for another time.
 by Scott Hastie


Tweeting the Future: Thoughts toward Launching a Meme

Okay. So let's assume it's going down hard with a long, dark age ahead, on the order of centuries to millennia. Let's say we want to send a message to our descendants, if any. How might we send it, and what might we say?

Given that high tech media are not likely to survive, we're stuck with lower tech options:
  • Social trasmission (institutional, hermetic, tribal, ???)
  • Focused oral tradition (memorized) -- (songs, poems, stories, ???)
  • The written word (engravings, impressions, durable books, ???)
  • All of the above

In all cases, I consider it useful to think in terms of memes, ideas which are 'copied' in one or more media (including human mind and society). I'll speak of our message as a single meme, but it is more likely to be a set of memes.

A meme's success, per se, is determined by:
  • Fecundity (high rate of copies) – Tell all your friends! Tell them now! Get them to do the same!
  • Fidelity (accuracy with which it is copied) – Hi fidelity gets a message across, while low fidelity soon drifts from its intent (think the game of Rumor aka Telephone).
  • Longevity (how long the meme is able to generate copies) – We're still reading the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Code of Hammurabi.

So how might we maximize the odds? Do we send out the naked meme as a podcast and hope it takes? Do we manipulate the message for better transmission? Or even 'encapsulate' it in a vessel (a book, say), that itself contributes to transmission? Or hitch-hike on an already successful tradition? Do we establish a medium, such as a hermetic sect?

My thoughts are evolving along these lines:
  • The message should be fashioned concisely in 'scriptural', poetic language using simple, non-technical language. Prose? A poem? A song (the tune of Greensleeves is an ancient, musical meme)?
  • It should be inspirational, and at best, useful (possibly as a teaching tool or mnemonic) during transition, both currently and in the midst of a dark age.
  • It should be written in durable, portable book form, and also inscribed in stone and/or impressed in fired clay (or equivalent).
  • Publication, distribution, memorization, transmission and discussion should be encouraged from the outset.

Scriptures are a tried-and-true method for bringing a body of information through difficult times with good fidelity. They replicate through both written and focused oral traditions, and are abetted by diffuse oral traditions (e.g., schools of propagation, discussion and debate). The feeling of higher purpose associated with scripture improves fecundity and fidelity.

If it is beautifully and compellingly written, it is more likely to have high fecundity. Especially so if it is inspirational and/or useful to persons immersed in a dark age. These should be goals at the composition stage.

Concision is a virtue on all fronts... being shorter, it requires less mental and physical resources for copying (improved fecundity), and is less likely to incur copy errors (fidelity). If it is more often copied into smaller, relatively portable physical media, longevity is enhanced.

Physical media which are both durable and beautifully crafted increase longevity. Holy books which are beautifully bound and illuminated are valuable property simply as objects, protected and treasured regardless of belief in their contents. Many have survived for centuries.

So let's look at some content/format possibilities...

Richard Feynman proposed this single, ingenious sentence, which 'unfolds', under careful inquiry, to yield all of physics (with all other hard sciences implied):

...All things are made of atoms – little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little apart, but repelling on being squeezed into one another.”

This sentence is deliberately NOT fashioned in compliance with current, scientific consensus in which 'Quantum fields' have supplanted 'Atomic particles'. But not-yet scientists starting from this sentence, have a good shot at figuring out quantum fields on their own, in time. The goal is not up-to-the-minute accuracy, but to provide an accessible starting point to an inquiring mind.

James Lovelock proposed a compendium in clear, unambiguous language, preserving all our knowledge, A Book for All Seasons. Obviously, this would be a BIG book.

Each has transmission liabilities.

Clearly, a tome is not concise, and loses all the advantages of concision. If we wished to transmit our modern knowledge base, memorization – or even understanding the whole – would be out of the question. Few of today's specialists can fully master more than even two fields of knowledge. What's more, the effort of composition and subsequent production would be immense, far beyond the reach of small fry.

A single sentence is more attractive, to me. It is ultra in most of the virtues; ultra-portable, transcribable, easily memorized even by the young. It's a little clunky, however. I suppose it could be written as a limerick?

All things are made out of bits
That whiz non-stop in a blitz.
Apart by a fraction,
They feel an attraction.
But push 'em together, they splits.

Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!

Here's a an attempt to mimic successful, albeit less mnemonic forms...


Thus spake St. Feynman
in the Age of Legend:

All things compose of tiny bits;
atoms dancing without cease

Faster when warmed
Slower when cooled
Heat is tempo

Near, they attract
thrust close, repel

To observe the dance
is to change the dance”

Hear ye the seed of all knowledge!
Sow, and ye shall reap.


There... some poetic license and a hint of quantum physics. An improvement on St. Liebowitz, but still not exactly catchy. Is there a poet in the house?

Wisdom is tougher nut to crack. Its more vague and koan-ish, so is harder to unfold?. Subject to contention, too. But even among religions, Feynman's approach applies. Here's Jesus of Nazareth's summary of Judaism (arranged from KJV)...

This is the first and great commandment:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind.
And the second is like unto it;

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

On these two commandments
hang all the law and the prophets.


Guatama Bhudda may win the brevity prize, summing his teachings with “Release all attachment.” 

Point is, the concept isn't new, and we have some authorities to consult.

The problem with too much brevity is that, as a vehicle, it has low inertia. Why would a slave in the seventh year of the Warlord Vog pass this on? For that matter, would Vog or his flunkies - who might wish at least to appear wise - pass it on?

It seems to me that, for all its genius, Feynman's sentence or its variants, would have near zero fecundity. The Bhudda's may make it as one meme within an already successful meme set, but that hardly needs our help.

Even among my fellow geek friends, it gains no traction. If they've heard of it they love the idea, but none have managed to learn it by heart. They're hard pressed to remember its important features, despite that they're conversant with the principles. To someone marooned in a dark age, it would be useless and inscrutable blither. If printed on a waterproof card, it would be of better use to patch the roof.

But I think the approach is a good one.

Every line, verse or stanza – each the seed of a whole line of inquiry – would ease the task of those who follow. Each would confer useful knowledge from the very first steps along the path. And with a longer poem or shorter book, there's room to improve the hints, and build one upon the next.

I believe there is a threshold of critical mass, where mere weight of words gain enough gravitas to capture imagination, appealling at any stage of knowledge. They could gain the allure of a gnostinomikon; a book of knowledge, backed by actual science, to shame the grimoires of the past. Every mage who approached would be started on a true path.

Think what a smattering of infection theory might have done for those in a time of cholera? A few, trustworthy and select words to the wise would be invaluable. Only to read that there are miniscule, living creatures which can carry disease by contact, inhalation or ingestion... it doesn't take a medical genius to get from there to patient isolation, or to check the water supply, or to wash hands and dressings.

The scientific method itself -- our greatest invention -- can be drawn in a few words, and guide through the worlds of knowledge. (“Our greatest invention” from Lewis Dartnell). Scientific method, math and logic, physics, mechanics, chemistry, evolution, ecosystemics, economics, politics. All these in seed form.

With such a book in their hands, the great minds which inhabit all times would be put onto the scent, passing at a run the cold, blind trails of ignorance...

...on their way to Renaissance.

***


PS. There's a dark possibility to such a project. It may be that we'd be passing them a poison pill. The jury is still out on whether ours is the best of times or the worst of times. Without hard won wisdom to accompany the power this meme would carry, it might be like passing a live grenade to a baby.