WE ARE OUT OF CONTROL
By Masse Bloomfield
The human race is out of control plunging pell-mell into an unknown future. A future that can be catastrophic or benign – either is possible. It is our choice. However, mankind does not have the beginnings of a future plan. I have a plan that allow us unlimited growth and security. I think I have the answers. Even though I write about a preordained future, we might do a little planning to ease into that preordained future.
I wrote a paper with the title, “Is Life Preordained?” a short time ago. There is almost nothing we can do to stop the impetus for reaching that preordained future. Nothing within human control. There are catastrophic events that can eliminate the human race like a huge asteroid strike. But if we humans continue as we have for thousands of years – we will reach our preordained future – a future society I call the Automated Society.
I have written two books – “Mankind in Transition” (1993) and “The Automated Society” (1995) in which I predict the Automated Society. As long as we are on the path we are on now, we will indeed reach a time when all production will be done by robots controlled by very sophisticated computers. The Automated Society is the thrust of mankind.
I base this kind of prediction on our evolutionary past. Our past includes a stable animal society which after a transition ended in a stable tribal society. The stable tribal society featured a social order with a chief, a medicine man and everyone else. The tribal technology was based on men hunting with spears and later bows and arrows. Gathering was done by women and needed containers. That was it for food production.
About 10,000 years ago, men were able to develop what I call a peasant society others have called it an agricultural society. The technology of the peasant society featured a man, a domesticated animal, farming tools, dedicated land and permanent housing. We have even called this period civilized. The social order consisted of four categories: food production category, a military category, a religious category and tradesmen and craftsmen. This social order is quite different than what the hunters and gatherers had – an order of magnitude more complex. The production category had the nobility, the overseers and the peasants/farmers. Ninety percent of the people in this society were peasants. The nobility had little to do but go to war trying to increase their land holdings. Land was the criterion of wealth and status during this time period. Farming with animals was the production technique that allowed for an enormous increase in human population.
The peasant society started to change about three hundred years ago with the introduction of the steam engine – the first machine made with moving metal parts. Agriculture changed dramatically with the introduction of the tractor. The peasants/farmers were forced off the land by the tractor. They moved to the cities where there was work for them as industrial workers. This enormous social change occurred with almost no bloodshed.
The current productivity of the industrial farm allows 97 percent of us to do something else beside providing food. Part of the 97 person has been dedicated to innovation, innovations that have led to the computer. This kind of innovation will lead to the automation of farm and factory. We are in an immense transition changing from a stable peasant/agricultural society through a transitional industrial period becoming a stable automated society.
The current social order is altogether different from that of the peasant society. We have all kinds of social categories never imagined by people five hundred years ago. We have a production category which has replaced the nobility, overseers and peasants. This production category is led by people either chosen by merit or by luck – but hardly by who father is as was the case for nobility. In addition to the production category, we have a legal category, a justice category, a school category, a university category, a government category, a sports category, an entertainment category, a medical category and many more. Our present social system is much more complex than the four categories of the peasant society.
The changes from animal to tribal and then to peasant and finally to the transitional industrial society can be understood as stable societies going through transitions becoming more complex stable societies. This kind of development has been identified as punctuated equilibrium for the evolution of biological entities. This translates to stable organisms, transitional unstable organisms becoming more complex stable organisms. You can see the same pattern in the cultural evolution of humans. Using punctuated equilibrium, we should end up in a stable, more complex social and technological society. It seems logical then to predict from punctuated equilibrium that we will develop into a stable automated society.
One of the hallmarks of the automated society will be our activities in space. While everything on earth will seem fairly well taken care of with an almost complete understanding of the physical world, mankind will still have a challenge from what I call “the endless frontier” – space. When the nearest star is four light years away and the closest galaxy is 25,000 light years away, I feel the challenge of space is endless.
Within the solar system, I believe in the next two hundred years, we will have developed the ability to build huge spacecraft, housing whatever surplus people there are on earth. But the promise of space has eluded us after the first men landed on the moon in 1969. Already forty years have past since the moon landings, and we are no closer to human colonization of space than we were then. I like O’Neill’s “The High Frontier; Human Colonies in Space” (1977) as the blueprint for where we could be in fifty years. But space is not a priority and even the International Space Station seems a failed attempt as a first step either to the moon or to a space colony. It will take a better version of our space needs before space can be an answer to human problems on earth such as satellite solar power stations or the use of asteroid or moon materials to assist in the developing new space vehicles. It is ad astra (to the stars), but we humans are still limited to the earth at this time, with a few individuals tasting the weightlessness of space. And not one of us is a space colonist.
We still have growing problems on earth. Along with the enormous increase in the productivity of the farm, we have had a tremendous increase in population from about 500 million in 1650 to 6.7 billion in 2009. Erlich in 1968 wrote “The Population Bomb.” His predictions seem to be coming true.
Growing the population this fast gives us growing pains, which are beginning to gain the attention of all of us. We have an energy problem, a pollution problem and even traffic problems due to the fact there are so many of us. Although I do not see problems in production of goods and services. Productivity – the basis for human progress – just keeps on increasing with very little need for adjustment in our present social structure.
We grew a great deal of this productivity based on cheap petroleum and coal with its resulting emissions of pollution when turned into energy. Slowly the carbon dioxide problem is gaining more and more attention of our global leaders. We are beginning to recognize global warming can put a damper on our growth – something no CEO of a productive organization wants to see. We have expanded our entire world on the basis of growth. We are addicted to growth. Growth is a parameter of capitalism. Growth usually means more profits, the goal of every human capitalistic business.
We are an animal out of control – even with computers that can detail every facet of our activities. We need to attend to the pollution problems. 6.7 billion people produce a lot of pollution and not all of it gets processed.
The April 2009 issue of the Futurist magazine had two very similar articles which forecast potential technological events. M. J. Cetron in his article “Timeline for the Future” predicts “robots replace humans in the workforce completely 2035” and also”space factories for commercial production 2035.” W. E. Halal in his article “Emerging Technologies and the Global Crisis of Maturity” predicts “Smart Robots” about 2022. Both of these articles predict automation. Neither of them has any prediction of a different social structure or an increase or decease in population. Neither article cites “Limits to Growth.” But both authors predict automated production, which to me means that they predict The Automated Society. When humans get automated production, we will have achieved the Automated Society. However, neither authors uses the term automated society. I feel it will take at least a hundred years, if not two hundred years to fully automated production capability, this includes the automated food factory. There are hardly glimmers of a food factory, one of the essentials parts of the Automated Society.
Niether of these two authors in the Futurist write about a sociology to go along with the new technology. When humans changed from a peasant society to our present transitional industrial society, the sociology of the industrial society changed almost completely. The power structure changed from the leadership of a nobility of the peasant society, to civilian government leadership. Kings, the heads of the peasant society, have almost all disappeared. Now power is shared by government leaders, heads of large companies and heads of other institutions such as universities.
As we have progressed in time since 1700, the beginning of the transitional industrial society, everything is changing even as we watch it change. Citron and Halal understand the transition. What they have failed to do is give the change a true direction. I feel that what these articles do, is give us a potential laundry list of future technological event as they both leave out a sociology.
Neither author seems to have either read or believed in the book “Limits to Growth” written in 1972 by the Meadows. “Limits to Growth” predicts future growth in population and then a contraction. Since 1900, population has grown from about 1.5 billion to 6.7 billion in 2009. The Meadows predicted that by 2050, a combination of the effects of pollution and limited natural resources will produce a severe contraction of population lasting at least 50 years. The Meadows contraction begins in 2050 and by 2100, the 12 billion human population of 2050, will have been subjected to a 50 percent cut. They predict the human population will increase to 12 billion by 2050 and then back to 6 billion by 2100. I find it difficult to understand why the two Futurist authors did not bother to include the future predictions given in “Limits to Growth.” Perhaps they have rose colored glassed that see no limits to growth.
When sustainability should be one of our human goals, we have gone out of control, believing there are no limits to any human activity. This seems to me to be evident in the Catholic bishops antagonism to abortion and birth control. Their message to me says that the Catholic Church believes there is no limit to the number of human beings that can inhabit the earth. They are wrong, if we cannot change the technology of food production or reduce the pollution problem.
The promoters of sustainability in our time are not silent, but their voices are still a long way from changing the thrust of our clinging to the message of growth. Because we are in a transition, most of us are blinded to the implications of that growth. We are aware of global warming, of the pollution of our water supplies, of the ocean and of the atmosphere. We have started taking some steps at controlling the pollution of the land, the water and the air. For instance, sewage disposal plants make some effort at reducing the effects of that pollution.
Now for my solutions which I doubt will have any more effect than former Vice-President Gore has had in reducing global warming. The solutions I provide are ones that can take effect quickly. And in some instances can add to our attempts at sustainability.
My first idea for solving global warming is artificial global cooling. I think we could control the temperature of the atmosphere by producing artificial clouds. This idea is based on the data accumulated by Professor David Travis. He found that when all the airplanes were grounded after 9/11, the atmospheric temperature rose. This means to me that the contrails generated by commercial aircraft at seven miles, blocked a portion of the sun’s radiation. I am saying we need to experiment with artificial contrails to see their effect. I believe that an airplane spraying water at seven miles will create ice clouds that will block a part of the sun’s radiation, thereby reducing the temperature of the atmosphere, reversing the effects of global warming. But we seem to lack the desire to even attempt this experiment.
The next solution I propose, is to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants. We can solve this problem by growing algae in the plant’s flue gas. I believe this is possible by using algae that attach themselves to the walls of their containers. I do not see this is as a very difficult problem, but there are few scientists working of the problem.
If we are able to grow algae in electric power plant flue gas which can eliminate ninety percent of the carbon dioxide in the gas, we could reduce about thirty percent of all the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. Not a bad shot at controlling atmospheric pollution.
Then we could use similar algae to clean up sewage pollution. This does not need any experimentation. It is already state-of-the-art technology. But few operators of sewage disposal plants or animal feed lots have thought about a clean up with algae.
The algae produced by both the carbon dioxide and the sewage conversion, can be used either for the production of biofuels and/or for food for animals and even food for humans.
Algae can be the answer to our future food problem. If we think of garbage and sewage conversion with algae as either animal food or human food, we can think of no limits to human population growth. By recycling food and water, it may we could look at eating and eliminating as a closed system for our digestive system. You can look at this system as if it were part of a space ship going on a journey of several years where it is necessary to recycle all waste. Algae can be the solution to both an earth problem and a future space problem. But at the present, I see very little in the way of people working on the problem.
My approach to the food factory contained in my book “The Automated Society,” has had another author thinking about high rise farming. Professor Dickson Despommier of Columbia University, has come up with a skyscraper farm. From what I read, the professor used the skyscraper only for food production, not as part of a recycling system. But people are thinking about the problem.
So by recycling with algae designed for eliminating carbon dioxide and sewage pollution, we go a long way toward solving global warming. Since these solutions are not in place, what we humans face, is an out-of-control environment. There are practically no voices yelling about population control. There is very little action to stabilize human numbers. The Chinese with their one-child per family program have only slowed Chinese population growth not stopped it. The rest of the world, like the Catholic Church, believes there are no limits to growth.
Without a change in the way we handle pollution and recycling natural resources as well as human reproduction, there are definite limits to growth. Unless we institute and obtain successful results from the solutions I have outlined, there is a catastrophe waiting ro us. The “Limits to Growth” predictions of human population – growing to 12 billion and contracting to 6 billion – will occur.
We have the power, but not the desire, to start to lower the temperature of the atmosphere. We have the tools needed to reduce or perhaps eliminate solid and liquid organic waste. We may have the solutions. We seem to lack the will or the money to demonstrate the efficacy of my proposed solutions.
We are headed for a potential catastrophe. We have no space program in place that can ameliorate the situation. We are letting the dogma of first century religions determine the road to catastrophe.
When twenty-first century science may have solutions to population growth like contraceptives, some of our major religions see contraceptives as evil and run away population growth as beneficial. My expectations are based on the belief that organized religions are far more effective at producing population growth than in reducing human produced pollution.
Our present problems can hardly be considered to be more than a hundred years old if that old. We have had perhaps twenty to thirty years to think about our pollution problems including the human population problem. Solving these problems against a backdrop of fervent global warming deniers and anti-contraception evangelicals, there is little chance for effective controls over human behavior.
And when articles like those written by Cetron and Halal provide laundry lists of possible technological advances without including the very necessary pollution reduction needs, even our futurists seem to have little in the way of pollution solutions. We humans do have intelligence, but I fear it will take true human produced catastrophe before we wake up to a polluted world of our own making.
When I hope for a human colony on the moon, I get the International Space Station. When I have solutions for carbon dioxide control for power plants, I see only the construction of more power plants. When I call for algae control of sewage, I seem only more pollution of our water ways and water resources.
We need a wake up call. I am pessimistic when it comes to changing people’s minds. And regretfully, this paper despite its intent, will not be the message to produce the needed actions