Peet Brits

Hmm, but that doesn't make any sense…

Posts Tagged ‘finite resources’

The real reason why robots will not rule the earth

Posted by Peet Brits on December 12, 2010

This post has nothing to do with robots and Sci-fi. If that is all you care about, then wait for the next post.

Here is the real reason why robots will not rule the earth: Machines require electricity, which requires oil, and in our lifetime we will see the end (or steady decline) of oil consumption.

You don’t believe me? Here’s the proof. This presentation by Dr. Albert A. Bartlett explains the simple yet not so well known implications of the exponential function, and below I will highlight some of the points he made. For example, a mere 7% growth will result in a doubling every ten years.

“But we will discover new resources.” Really? Do you understand how much we will need to discover to maintain exponential growth? It will just make a little bump on the downward curve.

The classical example to explain this concept is from the wheat and chessboard problem. A king wanted to reward a mathematician for an invention, and the wise man asked for a very simple reward: on the first square of a chessboard he would receive one grain of wheat, two on the second, four on the third, and so forth, doubling the amount each time. That doesn’t sound like much, right? Well, the result would be about 400-times the 1990 worldwide harvest of wheat! That is more wheat than from the entire history of earth!

Even more shocking than the total amount is the idea that every square contains more wheat than the total of all the cells that came before it. The implication of this is that, if it takes one hour to fill a bottle with the steady growth of a doubling function, then the bottle would be no more than halfway full at ONE minute before the end. THIS is the real impact of the exponential function: It bursts out so unexpectedly that we never see it coming.

Apply this idea to oil consumption (or any of the earth’s finite resources) in combination with a steady population growth, then it is not hard to imagine how unsustainable it really is. The video suggests that even if we discover a second earth it would not be enough to sustain continual exponential growth. We have bred a culture that expects growth, yet all growth destroys the environment, smart growth just does it in good taste.

This and many other problems boil down to the earth’s over-population. A great example of the over-population problem is that of Asimov’s bathroom metaphor, but I suggest you stop listening to me and watch the video to get the full impact.

This is just a small taste of what the YouTube video has to offer. Listen and be amazed!

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