Friday, September 30, 2016

Challenges for the emerging Type 1 Civilization

         Some scientists, philosophers, biologists have noted the relationship between "civilization" and energy consumption. The relation is complex and not linear (one to one). Scandinavian countries consume less energy than Americans or Canadians but have an overall standard of living at least as high.

           According to one (speculative) system of classification of civilizations by mode of energy consumption, modern societies are Type 0. Type 0 cultures are nascent technological cultures. They extract energy from non-renewable resources like fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal). They overpopulate, pollute and destroy the ecosystems they depend upon. They do, in effect, what 3 billion years of Darwinian evolution have programed them to do.

            If a technical culture manages to survive this difficult stage, it progresses to a Type 1 technical culture. In Type 1 cultures, energy is harvested from renewable resources and used intelligently (sparingly, very efficiently). Non-renewable resources are intensely recycled to prolong their availability. To compensate the inevitable slow depletion of non-renewables (through loss in processing and use), valuable renewables - the rare earth metals - will be extracted from robotic asteroid mining. Robotic space mining has the advantage of removing a very polluting form of mining / extraction operation from the earth's surface. (And no! We cannot pollute the asteroid belt: the solar wind sweeps all the junk out of the solar system). 
           To the degree possible, manufacturing processes will employ biology - "green machines" - which can be made totally renewable and self-sustaining in the long run: think of a forest or natural ocean ecosystem (before disruption by human activity).

            A Type 1 technical culture is always at risk of destroying itself through war, a fairly probable event given human nature and the Darwinian evolution which produced humanity. Another potential for collective suicide arises from technological screwups, Whizbang technological innovations with lethal unintended blowback. Genetic engineering and nanotechnology are probably ripe with potential booby traps.. 

            If it avoids these pitfalls, a Type 1 civilization should be (quasi-)"immortal". It should then progress to a Type 2 technical culture: terraforming and colonizing uninhabited terrestrial type planets in nearby solar systems.

                Getting there from here: challenges for the emerging (?) Type 1 civilization.

- We must assure that the controlled control their controllers: the police must serve the citizenry!

- Society must protect minorities from the violence of majorities. As a species we must learn, first to tolerate, then to celebrate Diversity in Unity / Unity in our human Diversity. (Edgar Morin: La Méthode)

- We must be creative in seizing local opportunities, finding local / regional solutions to local / regional problems. Only then can we realistically think of dealing with truly global issues (liking robotic exploration of Mars and the outer planets, searching for life on exoplanets, robotic asteroid mining. Even issues we normally think of as global - like overpopulation - require regional solutions, with local implementation.) 

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