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Can Technology save human race from self annihilation?

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Moved to The Lounge (not sure if this is the best place but it isn't Science News)

 

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The human species is incapable of self annihilation without technology.

The current approach of using technology to ameliorate the harm caused by other technology seems a bit illogical.

 

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On 2/4/2020 at 2:05 AM, prakash2dubey said:

 

Increasing population, decreasing resources

 

IMO this is contradictory in the sense that the most valuable resource of all is human intelligence.  If intelligence declines significantly over time then the human race may be in trouble, but aren't IQs thought to be increasing?

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1 hour ago, Carrock said:

The human species is incapable of self annihilation without technology.

Bollocks. Mice and rats in the "Mouse Utopia Experiment" do not have technology but still their reproduction over what is available in the closed environment leads to extinction.

Imagine the same rate of reproduction on island. There have been such cases in human history when entire island civilizations disappeared. 

The survival of the current population is only possible thanks to technology, i.e. the production of fertilizers. Stopping the production of fertilizers and pesticides due to the collapse of the global economy would lead to the extinction of people unable to feed themselves.

Japan is the most vulnerable country among the most developed countries. They import 63%, and produce only 37% of the food they consume.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2019/08/20/editorials/japans-falling-food-self-sufficiency/

 

Edited by Sensei

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Humans fixing things with tools? I'd give that a big, opposable thumbs up.

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14 minutes ago, Sensei said:

Bullocks. Mice and rats in the "Mouse Utopia Experiment" do not have technology but still their reproduction over what is available in the closed environment leads to extinction.

psychopaths do tend to inflict "hell" on animals... and by way of the confines of their minds.

Quote

In the 1962 study, Calhoun described the behavior as follows:

Many [female rats] were unable to carry pregnancy to full term or to survive delivery of their litters if they did

- nature is far more clever then that which it has produced (and yet it's produce STILL claims to be it's owner...)

if there is annihaltion it will not be profound, it will be from stupidity.

 

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22 minutes ago, Sensei said:

Bullocks. Mice and rats in the "Mouse Utopia Experiment" do not have technology but still their reproduction over what is available in the closed environment leads to extinction.

Imagine the same rate of reproduction on island. There have been such cases in human history when entire island civilizations disappeared. 

Strange concept of extinction. Imprison animals or humans in an unsurvivable 'utopian' prison and they'll 'become extinct.'

By that definition,  I guess technology, or lack of it, will cause every human now alive to become extinct in a hundred years or so.

An  example of how all of humanity can become extinct without very high tech help would be good.

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On 2/4/2020 at 2:05 AM, prakash2dubey said:

Increasing population, decreasing resources

 

Increasing population and decreasing resources does not lead to annihilation, so technology is not needed to avoid being wiped out.

Populations of species wax and wane all the time. It is self regulating.

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On 2/15/2020 at 10:35 AM, Carrock said:

The human species is incapable of self annihilation without technology.

Population may grow unchecked, and resources eventually dwindle, even with the best technology, so the human species may not be "annihilated" but reduced to a few million cannibals in a post-industrial apocalypse.  A world of cannibal humans may survive us, but would you want to live there? 😲

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A few eclectic points:

Half the world's population lives within 50 miles of a sea shore. People in Manhattan live 50,000/sq mi and apparently like it that way. Some of us live 5/sq mi and think it's too crowded.

Can anyone name a natural resource we are in danger of depleting in the next, say 300 yrs? As the supply of a resource dwindles, it's price goes up, so demand goes down and the resource lasts even longer.

We now  produce more than enough food to feed our 7.5 B people. It's estimated we waste half of it. People today only starve due to local, politically impaired distribution systems. The agronomists tell us American farmers could increase yields by 25% if they all properly installed good drain tile systems.. Food's not a problem at this point.

In the "Survivalists" Forums, they often talk about the " when the SHTF" situations and how they can survive because they've taken all these precautions, put up stores and can produce much of their own food. I always point out that, before they get too full of themselves, the Amish have been living that way for centuries and are much better at it.  When the EOTWAWKI (End of the World As We Know It) does occur, all those  Third 'World, subsistence living types will live on as if nothing happened.

Mankind is safe. Industrialized society/ urban living  may come under some challenges.

edited to add: It's been the fad lately to talk about "sustainable agriculture." There's a reason The Fertile Crescent ain't so fertile anymore, nor is N.Africa capable any longer of being the bread basket of Rome, or why Daniel Boone & Davy Crockett kept moving west every few yrs: "organic farming" quickly plays out the land. The only sustainable ag is modern ag using inorganic N fixed by the Haber-Bosch Process. Using manure as a soil amendment only shifts fertility from the pasture to the row crops while progressively decreasing fertility of the pasture. It doesn't increase over-all fertility and is limited by the finite efficiency of natural soil microbes.

 

 

 

Edited by guidoLamoto

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On 2/15/2020 at 5:59 PM, Airbrush said:

If technology cannot help us save us from ourselves, then we are in big trouble......

39 minutes ago, Airbrush said:

Population may grow unchecked, and resources eventually dwindle, even with the best technology, so the human species may not be "annihilated" but reduced to a few million cannibals in a post-industrial apocalypse.  A world of cannibal humans may survive us, but would you want to live there? 😲

You seem to be saying technology should be used to save us, and it won't save us.... Cannibal humans couldn't be a problem for long.

Trump has adopted the 'more is better' approach in some ways, such as encouraging the use of fossil fuels while building barriers to protect his golf courses from rising sea level.

From https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-12-22/trump-resort-in-ireland-will-build-seawalls-to-protect-against-climate-change

Quote

In the first application, Trump cited "global warming and its effects," including rising sea levels and water erosion, as reasons for the wall, Politico reported, despite his statements calling global warming and climate change "a total hoax." Global warming was not listed as a reason in this application.

And a not very high tech fix to make nuclear weapons much safer to use....

From https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/29/us-submarine-trident-nuclear-warhead-patrols-atlantic-ocean

Quote

The US has deployed its first low-yield [five kiloton]Trident nuclear warhead on a submarine that is currently patrolling the Atlantic Ocean

“We have had conversations with people inside, and they’ve been pretty clear that this has happened,” Kristensen said. “They see a need to talk about it to some extent, because if people don’t know it’s out there, then how can it deter?”......

“Certainly the low-yield collateral effect that would come from this weapon would be very beneficial to a military officer who was going to advise to the president whether we should cross the nuclear threshold.”

Perhaps they learned from 'Doctor Strangelove' that secret deterrence was unwise.

Potential targets might also learn from 'Doctor Strangelove' and decide to add cobalt jackets to their nuclear weapons and create fail-deadly devices.

Things have got more complex since 'Doctor Srangelove' and it would be unfortunate if that military officer attacked a country with fail deadly devices because the president thought they were bluffing.

No doubt reviving Reagan's star wars initiative would again make the world safer....

1 hour ago, guidoLamoto said:

.......

In the "Survivalists" Forums, they often talk about the " when the SHTF" situations and how they can survive because they've taken all these precautions, put up stores and can produce much of their own food. I always point out that, before they get too full of themselves, the Amish have been living that way for centuries and are much better at it.  When the EOTWAWKI (End of the World As We Know It) does occur, all those  Third 'World, subsistence living types will live on as if nothing happened.

Mankind is safe. Industrialized society/ urban living  may come under some challenges.

Exactly.

1 hour ago, guidoLamoto said:

 "organic farming" quickly plays out the land.

Never heard of crop rotation?

Worked fine in Britain from the last ice age until artificial fertilisers were invented.

Britain ran out of West long before America did.

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7 hours ago, Carrock said:

 

Never heard of crop rotation?

Worked fine in Britain from the last ice age until artificial fertilisers were invented.

Do the math: Pre-WW II farming was essentially "organic"--  the best yields were 50bu/ac for corn. Today, corn belt farmers get 200bu/ac-- ain't enough cow dung and Rhizobium to produce that. US population before WW II ~130M; today it's 330M....We've been swimming hard against the current all these yrs and can't stop now or we'll get swept away. To go organic on a large scale would result in a large change in the carrying capacity necessitating a commensurate die-off. ...Any volunteers?

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51 minutes ago, guidoLamoto said:
2 hours ago, Carrock said:

Never heard of crop rotation?

Worked fine in Britain from the last ice age until artificial fertilisers were invented.

Britain ran out of West long before America did.

Do the math: Pre-WW II farming was essentially "organic"--  the best yields were 50bu/ac for corn. Today, corn belt farmers get 200bu/ac-- ain't enough cow dung and Rhizobium to produce that. US population before WW II ~130M; today it's 330M....We've been swimming hard against the current all these yrs and can't stop now or we'll get swept away. To go organic on a large scale would result in a large change in the carrying capacity necessitating a commensurate die-off. ...Any volunteers?

Total irrelevance. I didn't suggest going organic. You should read my posts rather than guessing.

I did look at your earlier posts. All your refs to premodern ag were unsustainable e.g.

Quote

why Daniel Boone & Davy Crockett kept moving west every few yrs: "organic farming" quickly plays out the land.

 

Quote

The only sustainable ag is modern ag using inorganic N fixed by the Haber-Bosch Process.

Using manure as a soil amendment only shifts fertility from the pasture to the row crops while progressively decreasing fertility of the pasture. It doesn't increase over-all fertility and is limited by the finite efficiency of natural soil microbes.'

Destroy the land's fertility then move on. That is not even intended to be sustainable farming. Maintaining the pasture's nitrate content etc by crop rotation or otherwise would have somewhat reduced the short term yield.

If you meant

'not using inorganic N fixed by the Haber-Bosch Process produces a lower yield' you should have said that, not claimed that sustainable farming was impossible before Haber-Bosch

 

4 hours ago, guidoLamoto said:

Can anyone name a natural resource we are in danger of depleting in the next, say 300 yrs? As the supply of a resource dwindles, it's price goes up, so demand goes down and the resource lasts even longer.

How about the Atlantic northwest cod fishery?

Quote

In the summer of 1992, when the Northern Cod biomass fell to 1% of earlier levels,[3] the Canadian Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, John Crosbie, declared a moratorium on the Northern Cod fishery, which for the preceding 500 years had largely shaped the lives and communities of Canada's eastern coast.

Cod was still cheap enough to continue fishing at 1%.

Despite occasional subsequent (over)fishing there are signs cod is at last recovering. e.g.

Quote

In 2010 a study by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization found that stocks in the Grand Banks near Newfoundland and Labrador had recovered by 69% since 2007, though that number only equated to 10% of the original stock.

 

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4 hours ago, Carrock said:

Total irrelevance. I didn't suggest going organic. You should read my posts rather than guessing.

I did look at your earlier posts. All your refs to premodern ag were unsustainable e.g.

 

Destroy the land's fertility then move on. That is not even intended to be sustainable farming. Maintaining the pasture's nitrate content etc by crop rotation or otherwise would have somewhat reduced the short term yield.

If you meant

'not using inorganic N fixed by the Haber-Bosch Process produces a lower yield' you should have said that, not claimed that sustainable farming was impossible before Haber-Bosch

 

How about the Atlantic northwest cod fishery?

Cod was still cheap enough to continue fishing at 1%.

Despite occasional subsequent (over)fishing there are signs cod is at last recovering. e.g.

 

You must be riding out this blizzard like me, with a lot of time on your hands.

Apparently many members here are academics who insist on rigorously accurate posts  and like to argue details & rhetoric rather than principles.

I apologize. I should have asked if anyone could name a non-renewable resource that is in danger of depletion in the next 300 yrs. You're absolutely right about our fisheries.  We already did  a number on our bison, but that was intentional. It wouldn't  do to have 60 million migrating, large beasts trampling our crops, not to mention feeding our rivals, every year.

In regards sustainable ag, I guess  I should have explicitly stated that we can't use organic, renewable N sources and continue our high yields. Lower yields would translate to lower carrying capacity, and that in turn, would lead to a die-off until population numbers  matched resource availability. You gotta spell it out for some people.

Between the biased editorial policy and this sort of picayunish, petty crap, I don't think I'll be back here. Thanks for the ride.  It's been a slice.

 

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10 hours ago, guidoLamoto said:

Apparently many members here are academics who insist on rigorously accurate posts  and like to argue details & rhetoric rather than principles.

And to some, a rigorous approach to the details is a big part of the basic principles. Methodology is important.

We aren't trying to be inclusive of every viewpoint. It's a science discussion forum. We're trying to avoid the kind of wild west guesswork that pollutes so many other discussion forums, and at the other end of the spectrum we try not to be as rigid as the largest science forum. You have TONS of choices if you don't like having your feet held to the fire. Most people here feels it makes them better scientists, but not all like being challenged.

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16 hours ago, guidoLamoto said:

In regards sustainable ag, I guess  I should have explicitly stated that we can't use organic, renewable N sources and continue our high yields. Lower yields would translate to lower carrying capacity, and that in turn, would lead to a die-off until population numbers  matched resource availability. You gotta spell it out for some people.

That is not as clear. There is a yield gap between what is called organic agriculture and conventional farming (estimated ca. 20% on the high end) but studies looking into crop rotation indicate that the difference can be <10% (Ponisio et al. Proc. Roy. Soc. B 2015). 

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If a pandemic sweeps the world killing off a large percentage of the world's population, or an exchange of nuclear weapons, or an asteroid or super volcano, it will kill off critical knowledge needed by society, that shock could send the surviving people into harsh conditions.  Factories will shut down, power outages, no water pressure, no social services, because the know-how for repairs and operation will be missing.  Most things could no longer be mass-produced in factories.  Food production will shut down, except for small subsistence farms.  It looks like Stephen Hawking could be right.

Edited by Airbrush

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