Nothing in this blog can be believed. If you think that anything in this blog is true or factual, you'll need to verify it from another source. Do you understand? No? Then read it again, and repeat this process, until you understand that you cannot sue me for anything you read here. Also, having been sucked into taking part in the mass-murder of more than 3 million Vietnamese people on behalf of U.S. Big Business "interests", I'm as mad as a cut snake (and broke) so it might be a bit silly to try to sue me anyway...

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Have we screwed ourselves back into slavery?

Eating and going through the motions of procreation, it is said, is all the human brain is ultimately motivated by. Well, now that the 7 billionth human has been born, I can see a wee bit of a problem with where our primary urges will take us.

Supply and demand determines price, yes? What will an oversupply of humans do to wages?

Add to that the trends in the globalised economy of jobs going to where labour is cheapest, and I see the demise of collective (and individual) bargaining for wages and conditions for all but a tiny minority.

Is this the end of Western Civilisation with its well paid, mostly white, middle class? Will this class devolve into "white trash" working for a pittance?

Will the world descend into a new form of slavery overseen by a new form of feudalism where the "lords" are the CEOs and senior managers of the transnational megacorporations?

Am I too pessimistic?


Blogger AndrewM said...

I don't think it's a pessimistic scenario at all, I think it's highly likely, though it may take a few decades. Science fiction writers have been playing with this possibility for a very long time. I remember reading a short story on this topic more than 30 years ago, where the world was dominated by a dozen large corporations named e.g. General Motors, General Robotics, General Electric. And all people except the execs were lowly paid serfs.

An alternative scenario which is also likely, but even more miserable for us, is where production and services are completely handed off to robots. In that scenario there are no jobs at all, and everybody lives on welfare.

Some science fiction writers have speculated that such a society could be a utopia where everybody is well-fed, well-educated, adequately housed, happy and artistic. Bollocks! The only way that is going to happen is if practically all corporate wealth is given back to the citizens in the form of generous pensions. And the chances of that happening?

Of course, if this guy is right, we'll completely run out of energy long before any of that happens.

November 10, 2011 9:30 AM  
Blogger Vest said...

A huge quickly resolved non nuclear land and air based conflict across the Northern Asia region involving all Muslim. Sino and Russian countries in a winner take all( HA Ha)battle resulting in the complete decimation of all the contestants, would relieve the the pressure on over population and would provide heaps of jobs in the reconstruction industries, also it would give our tiny nation more clout in this world.
Imposing a world wide ban on the Lying Faith Industry and promoting Logic and Commonsense plus punishments to fit the crime would be a good start.

November 10, 2011 12:25 PM  
Blogger lemmiwinks said...

Too pessimistic? Probably :-)

There's a few other things happening, peak debt(?), peak oil(+ or - 10 years), phosphate depletion, fresh water supplies, overvalued housing and so on. So globalisation (surely on shaky ground at the moment anyway) is only one element in the mix.

The only way the party can keep going (I mean literally, forget about economics for a moment) is cheap energy, especially in the form of liquid transportation fuels. This has promise:

"...a large effort ($115M over 5 years) led by Prof. Nate Lewis of Caltech seeks to develop a solar-to-liquid process via artificial photosynthesis.


Prof. Lewis summarizes the daunting scale of the energy challenge we face, and points out that because no other renewables come close to solar in terms of total energy availability, together with the fact that liquid fuels are by far the most energy-dense means of storage (short of nuclear), some day we will have a way to convert sunlight to liquid fuels directly. I hope he’s right, because this would indeed be a game-changer. Will we get there in time?

The bottleneck is that we do not know of a catalyst that can mediate the reaction in a way that is simultaneously efficient, robust, and cheap (pick two, Prof. Lewis says, and we can do it today). Their approach is to try every combination of up to three elements out of a total of twenty “interesting” occupants of the periodic table. Tried in a wide variety of fractional combinations and annealing processes, the combinatorics are ridiculous. But they are developing a method to screen a few million combinations at once (cleverly using LCD monitor indexing technology to measure currents in the samples deposited in a pixelized matrix). The expectation is that in 5 years, all sensible combinations will have been exhausted and tested."

(Quote taken from Do the Math)

November 10, 2011 1:03 PM  
Blogger Vest said...

I was lost halfway through the prev comment.

November 10, 2011 2:23 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Vest, please keep your racist, white supremacist comments off this blog. They are not welcome here. There are plenty of bogan and redneck blogs you can visit where that kind of comment is more than welcome.
Here, we're trying desperately to keep the comments above the level of abject stupidity.

Andrew, I sometimes think that globalised free market capitalism is the fasted way to get the the masses to appreciate, through bitter experience, the beauty of socialism. It's just a pity that we'll all be starving by the time that happens. :-(

Lemmiwinks, I'm not sure that the energy issue is the only one which is whispering "the party's over".

November 10, 2011 2:53 PM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

@Gerry: looks like lemmiwinks and I are singing from the same hymn sheet, since we're both referencing Tom Murphy's Do The Math blog. Murphy's point is that the collapse resulting from peak oil will be catastrophic, will be very fast, and is imminent. And there is presently no technology that can be brought on line to replace fuel oil.

I believe you are correct when you say that it's not just The Energy Trap that's saying: "Party Over". It's just that everything else in play doesn't matter, because the energy problem will hit first and hardest.

November 10, 2011 4:08 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

AndrewM, so we're screwed and just arguing about which nail in the coffin is the major one?

Here's another question: When the global economy tanks, how will that affect accessability/availability of the internet? Will we still be blogging?

November 10, 2011 11:15 PM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

Gerry, in response to your first question, I think that is correct. However, if I'm wrong about peak oil, well, I gave a thoughtful response to your original post in my first comment.

And your second question is actually really complicated - I'm going to have to give it a lot more thought. Maybe you could pose the question as a new post?

November 11, 2011 8:42 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Andrew, I'll make that second question a new post soon, but today, we remember those who died in war.

November 11, 2011 11:09 AM  
Blogger lemmiwinks said...

Gerry, you might find this talk interesting:

Richard Wilkinson: How economic inequality harms societies | Video on

Slightly off topic, however I would argue that it's wholly relevant in the context of the discussion.

November 11, 2011 11:51 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Lemmiwinks, thanks for the link. It is indeed a great video. I'll make it a seperat blog post soon. It deserves it. After all, some readers of this blog don't read the comments.

November 11, 2011 3:29 PM  

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