Constraints on growth even in a world with cheap electricity

If polywell fusion is developed, in what ways will the world change for better or worse? Discuss.

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happyjack27
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Postby happyjack27 » Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:28 am

the primary constraint on growth with cheap electricity will be the same as it has always been:

ignorance.

As JFK once said: "Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education; the human brain is our most fundamental resource."

All things considered, I don't foresee a lot of growth, with our without cheap energy.
Last edited by happyjack27 on Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

ltgbrown
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Postby ltgbrown » Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:29 am

Will your iron ore stocks be enough to last Austria for 10,000 years?


No, but in 10,000 years, I think it almost certain that we (human beings) will be on more than one planet.
Famous last words, "Hey, watch this!"

KitemanSA
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Postby KitemanSA » Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:03 am

To paraphrase a friend:

Earth is the womb of mankind, but a fetus cannot live in the womb forever.

We, technical civilization, MUST be born unto the universe or we will kill ourselves and perhaps even our mother.

Torulf2
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Postby Torulf2 » Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:31 am

My prediction is the economic growth in future will end. This due to limited demand not limited resources.
With radical recycling the need for metals will be small.
With cheap energy its possible to get the small amount of metals from the sea or deep mining for looong time.
If most metals used are recycled. The amount of new metal in the metal becomes small and will not race the price much even if its expensive to get.
With cheap energy there also may be possible to make cerams from common silicates and organic materials from the air CO2 or organic waste. CNT may make plastic strong and replace Cu in many electric applications.
If we are going to space its will be more easy and the economic growth will continue.

chrismb
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Postby chrismb » Fri Mar 25, 2011 7:15 am

ltgbrown wrote:
Will your iron ore stocks be enough to last Austria for 10,000 years?


No, but in 10,000 years, I think it almost certain that we (human beings) will be on more than one planet.
It is a lovely idea, but is not facing down the reality. It is quite evident that those stocks would dwindle to uselessness at the current high rates of material consumption and current low rates of advances to interstellar exploration.

If the human race carries on blithely, ignoring the material supply problem because they feel they can rely on 'someone' in the future to invent an interstellar propulsion craft, then it has already written its end-chapter. Modern techno-man will cause his civilisation to die out in the same way as most before him - by complacency that everything will work out OK because we are so ascendant now and it is inconceivable that the Roman Empire could end.

chrismb
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Postby chrismb » Fri Mar 25, 2011 7:20 am

Torulf2 wrote:With radical recycling the need for metals will be small.
With cheap energy its possible to get the small amount of metals from the sea or deep mining for looong time.
Indeed. I was going to make this point to Charles also, but I wasn't sure what he was referring to as energy's down side.

I fully agree. We need to stop taking anything out of the ground that we can avoid, and we need to do it now. Energy provides the means to 'remove the entropy' we have fed into materials, turning them into products. Material prices are disproportionately cheap compared with their value over the life of mankind. We need 100% nuclear power right now, and we need to be using that energy to [at least aim to] suck every atom back out of the materials we build into our technological devices.

We cannot afford to carry on using up our base material resources in such a profligate and ignorant manner. They are not going to replenish themselves [any time in the next billion years].

Skipjack
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Postby Skipjack » Fri Mar 25, 2011 11:09 am

You are thinking hundreds to thousands of years, whereas I am thinking that techno-man will be all but wiped out at the next ice age in a few 10,000's years. Will your iron ore stocks be enough to last Austria for 10,000 years?


Uhm ok, lets get this clear. An ice age does not happen over night. It takes a looong time for it to come along. Enough time for us humans to react by e.g. using geo/climate engineering.
Plus, even an ice age would not simply whipe out the memory of the entire human knowledge. It is a ridiculous assumption!
Even a most dramatic impact of an asteroid would not achieve that, unless it is an extinction event. That would maybe be the exception, but even then, it seems likely that at least some humans with some knowledge and skills would survive in a way that would allow them to pass on the knowledge for a few generations.

Austrias iron reserves are of course small. As I said, we barely have any resources on our own, thanks to WW1 and the shameful peace of St. Germain. But anyway, we still have reserves that would allow us to continue on a lower level, even in the event hat ALL other resources dry out. Not for thousands of years of course. But for a few decades.
That is enough time to come up with something else.
If energy was almost free, there would be plenty of ways to do that. You could dig deeper, much deeper, you could mine asteroids and so on...
Free energy solves a lot of problems, especially with resource gathering.
Heck, as you know the core of our planet is mostly iron...

It is a lovely idea, but is not facing down the reality. It is quite evident that those stocks would dwindle to uselessness at the current high rates of material consumption and current low rates of advances to interstellar exploration.


Chris, the topic is "with free energy". With free energy, provided it is useable for space propulsion, we can easily, easily improve our space traveling. We wont need interstellar either. For now, we would barely need interplanetary. Maybe in a few thousand years, we would need interstellar, but that is a problem for future generations to solve. I always say that we should plan for millenia ahead, but some developments require the development of other things first. Lets begin with finding an energy source for our interstellar space ships. Once we have that, we can think about a propulsion system to power with that energy source...
Right now the energy source is the most important thing, as it solves other problems as well.

Modern techno-man will cause his civilisation to die out in the same way as most before him - by complacency that everything will work out OK because we are so ascendant now and it is inconceivable that the Roman Empire could end.

That is a ridiculous assumption. Yes, western civilization might come to an end. Most likely it will be taken over by others that have higher fertility rates. A slow process, but as it seems, unavoidable. However, whoever will take over from us, will use most of our knowledge and keep building on that. Just like the "barbarians" that took over Rome. Yes a lot was lost in the early middle ages, but not everything and those were very different times, with little knowledge.
It is inconceivable to me that when millions of people know how to build a simple gasoline engine, this knowledge could be lost. Since just as many people know how to make alcohol that could act as a fuel, it seems impossible to me that this knowledge could just disappear.
Steam engines are even simpler. Heck even I would be able to build a simple one.

KitemanSA
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Postby KitemanSA » Fri Mar 25, 2011 11:41 am

With sufficient energy, there are no pollutants, only resources. 8)
Hmmm.
With sufficient energy, there are no pollutants except energy. :P
:D

Giorgio
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Postby Giorgio » Fri Mar 25, 2011 1:15 pm

Skipjack wrote:
Modern techno-man will cause his civilisation to die out in the same way as most before him - by complacency that everything will work out OK because we are so ascendant now and it is inconceivable that the Roman Empire could end.

That is a ridiculous assumption. Yes, western civilization might come to an end. Most likely it will be taken over by others that have higher fertility rates. A slow process, but as it seems, unavoidable. However, whoever will take over from us, will use most of our knowledge and keep building on that. Just like the "barbarians" that took over Rome. Yes a lot was lost in the early middle ages, but not everything and those were very different times, with little knowledge.
It is inconceivable to me that when millions of people know how to build a simple gasoline engine, this knowledge could be lost. Since just as many people know how to make alcohol that could act as a fuel, it seems impossible to me that this knowledge could just disappear.
Steam engines are even simpler. Heck even I would be able to build a simple one.


I agree with your logic. The same comparison can be made even earlier than documented history.
After all we didn't loose knowledge of fire or of farming once acquired, so the assumption of not loosing the basic of our actual modern age (even if the age ends abruptly) is pretty solid.

chrismb
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Postby chrismb » Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:25 pm

It is a lovely idea, but is not facing down the reality. It is quite evident that those stocks would dwindle to uselessness at the current high rates of material consumption and current low rates of advances to interstellar exploration.


Chris, the topic is "with free energy". With free energy, provided it is useable for space propulsion, we can easily, easily improve our space traveling. We wont need interstellar either. For now, we would barely need interplanetary. Maybe in a few thousand years, we would need interstellar, but that is a problem for future generations to solve.

...
Modern techno-man will cause his civilisation to die out in the same way as most before him - by complacency that everything will work out OK because we are so ascendant now and it is inconceivable that the Roman Empire could end.

That is a ridiculous assumption.
This is bizarre. Yours is a fantasists agenda.

You are saying that I am overdoing suggesting people are complacent, whilst you nonchalantly declare that interstellar travel will be easy because we'll have free energy soon.

That is just total madness.

There seems to be an assumption that the old cliche 'ah! mankind is so inventive, he'll just invent his way out of any problem' is actually true in all circumstances.

Really!?

This all started in the renaissance when man realised that the ground was littered with lumps of all manner of materials that did fantastical things. It was as if a puzzle had been laid out before him so that he could invent things to get to work deducing the basics of 'science'.

But I think you're missing the fundamental understanding; there was only ever a finite amount of stuff with which we could ever have built up an industrial infrastructure and with which we could invent new things. You are saying that useful materials that we can access will never run dry.

It is shocking. Charles lays out a very clear and, I am confident, accurate picture of what is happening to our resources, and the total and complete extent of your rebuttal is to merely say 'someone will figure out what to do next'.

..and you think I'm wrong to suggest techno-mankind has got complacent!!!!???!!!

D Tibbets
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Postby D Tibbets » Fri Mar 25, 2011 4:01 pm

I'm not following this philosophical argument much . But to say there is no regression is wrong, to say that technology is dependent on one monolithic state/period/ society is also wrong. History has many examples. Rome was a peak, so was the Greeks before them, China was a mostly separate peak, Yes, they declined, but they were replaced by others. The Renaissance is a European biased view. It was at least in part started by the Arabs as much as anything, spread through Italy and the rest of Europe as they finally emerged from the closed feudal society and the Black Death. Also, don't downplay the technologies of non metal dominated societies. The Polynesians , Mayans, etc had their own impresive technologies and solutions to their needs.

And, alcohol is just too ...darn... umm.. useful to forget. And as fire is needed to concentrate it, it is also unlikely to be forgotten!

Dan Tibbets
To error is human... and I'm very human.

Skipjack
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Postby Skipjack » Fri Mar 25, 2011 4:47 pm

You are saying that I am overdoing suggesting people are complacent, whilst you nonchalantly declare that interstellar travel will be easy because we'll have free energy soon.

I did not say that interstellar travel will be easy. I said that space travel will be easy with the right energy source. I was however, as you might be able to guess from the sentence that followed (if you only tried that is) referring to interplanetary travel at first. And even that wont be necessary.
Anyway, space travel without the right energy source will always be very limted. So you need that first. It is the basis for that. I think you will agree with me on that one.
Also, I never said "that we will have free energy soon". I said that "if"(!) you have free energy... then things will be much easier and interplanetary travel, which would free enough resources for millenia would become possible.
You dont even have to go that far though. If you free energy, recycling becomes much more practical. Many recycling methods use a lot of energy and are therefore not done.

But I think you're missing the fundamental understanding; there was only ever a finite amount of stuff with which we could ever have built up an industrial infrastructure and with which we could invent new things. You are saying that useful materials that we can access will never run dry.

First of all, the stuff did not really disappear, did it? It is still there, just in a different form. Given enough free energy, you can easily bring it back from whatever or whereever it is. We did not dissolve these things into the air when we used them. The only exceptions may(!) be carbohydrates that were burned, but given enoug free energy you can even bring those back and there are many ways to do that (bio fuels, e.g.).
Anyway, all that I said was based on the assumption that we have free and abundand sources of energy, which is the topic of the thread, if you look please(!).
So if we can not get the energy situation under control, then we indeed have a problem, though it would still not be stone age, as you put it. As Dan and other pointed out to you, alcohol and certain simple mechanical principles wont simply disappear from human knowledge, not with almost every human knowing them at least to some extent.
You however somehow tie knowledge to the availability of resources. I cant see, how they are connected. Please enlighten me!

kurt9
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Postby kurt9 » Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:00 pm

Torulf2 wrote:My prediction is the economic growth in future will end. This due to limited demand not limited resources.
With radical recycling the need for metals will be small.
With cheap energy its possible to get the small amount of metals from the sea or deep mining for looong time.
If most metals used are recycled. The amount of new metal in the metal becomes small and will not race the price much even if its expensive to get.
With cheap energy there also may be possible to make cerams from common silicates and organic materials from the air CO2 or organic waste. CNT may make plastic strong and replace Cu in many electric applications.
If we are going to space its will be more easy and the economic growth will continue.


Yep. This is called "peak-demand" or "peak-human" theory. Not only is all of the above correct, but that the global population is nearing its peak. As countries develop, along with female literacy and empowerment, birthrates decline. China's youth population peaked last year and their working age population peaks a few years from now. The rest of the developing world is 15-30 years behind China with regards to the demographic transition. The world in 2040-2050 is going to be a lot like Japan and Europe today. Call it peak humans.

Cheap fusion power (and better catalysts) will make for cheaper recycling of metals, ceramics, and plastic. As peak humans and peak demand is reached, recycled materials will become a larger percentage of the supply. Peak everything is really demand-side, not supply-side driven.

Space development will come about ONLY when it becomes cheap enough that it is self-financing by the people who choose to do it. Freeman Dyson wrote about this in the L-5 News over 30 years ago in his paper "Pilgrims, Saints, and Spacemen". I think the development of radical life extension will spur space settlement.

chrismb
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Postby chrismb » Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:20 pm

Skipjack wrote:all that I said was based on the assumption that we have free and abundand sources of energy, which is the topic of the thread, if you look please(!).


That wasn't the topic of the thread!!!

The topic was that free energy will have little impact because we're likely to bump into resource issues first!

...which is a point I happen to agree with, but, personally, I am still focused on fusion experiments because I have no control over how complacent people, like yourself, are with raw materials. So I might as well try to stick to one of the things we will definitely need in the future. Seeing as folks like you expect new inventions to come along to live up to your complacency, then I suppose someone should try. Are you really leaving the fate of humanity up to hobbyists like me?

If you are arguing about something else to the topic of this thread, which you seem to be saying, then I'll leave you to it....

Skipjack
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Postby Skipjack » Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:41 pm

Would you please refrain from purposely missinterpreting me!!!!

The topic was that free energy will have little impact because we're likely to bump into resource issues first!

Yeah and what did I say?
I talked about free energy. So where is the problem?
You have got some serious issues, man!


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