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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billh
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Postby billh » Sat Mar 26, 2011 7:15 pm

No one can say with any certainty that we will be able to continue growing our material culture without bound. However, it is by no means certain that we are near some maximum and face an inevitable decline. My own guess is that, if humanity survives long enough, we will find the current era to be on the steeply rising segment of an S curve.

I believe that those who are arguing for a decline are too narrow in their concept of a resource. Things become resources through human creativity. There is no fixed quantity of resources out there, except perhaps in the very theoretical sense that the observable universe is finite. Throughout history we have shifted from one material to another as economics and ingenuity have dictated. There is still plenty of flint. We didn't stop using it because we ran out. It's not inevitable that we will run out of anything. It is also not guaranteed that we will have a smooth transition from an oil economy to something else. But I'm not sure I'd bet against it.

93143
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Postby 93143 » Sat Mar 26, 2011 9:38 pm

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

And his point seems to be that free energy will raise the resource ceiling far and fast due to

a) energy-intensive recycling
b) space development

You can't first complain that abundant free energy won't solve a particular problem, and then ask that your opponents not assume the availability of abundant free energy when they propose solutions to that same problem.

chrismb
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Postby chrismb » Sat Mar 26, 2011 10:27 pm

93143 wrote:And his point seems to be that free energy will raise the resource ceiling far and fast due to
His point was that this thread was 'about free energy'. You could argue that 'everything' is about energy because nothing would happen without it!!

The thread was about the limits of material availability being the limiting factor of future development, rather than energy.

This reminds me of the joke where the guy asks the waiter for a 'coffee, with no milk', and the waiter says 'sorry, we don't have any milk'. The key feature of the guy's 'coffee, with no milk' is coffee, not milk!!

rjaypeters
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Postby rjaypeters » Tue Mar 29, 2011 5:36 pm

chrismb wrote:At the start of this revolution, you could literally get a bucket and go collect oil from surface pools of the stuff.

Now we are drilling for it, 2 miles below the surface of the sea.

Raw materials just aren't there any more like they were. And if you have no industrial infrastructure, then you can't extract and make use of these deep, very lean deposits. Which means if we loose our industrial infrastructure we just won't have the raw materials available to access those remote deposits and recover again to a technological species. We'll be locked into the stone age until the earth's plates refresh the whole of the earth's crust, and more fossilised biomass hydrocarbon deposits reform.
Which is why when humanity (or our immediate descendents) decide to leave the earth fallow for the next intelligent species, humanity will need to decide whether to mine the landfills for the elemental materials to replace the previously-easily-available stocks that made technological and industrial man possible or to use orbital matter brought down for the same purpose.

Leaving the landfills in place is ugly from esthetic and ecological perspectives, but will provide the next civilization a rich opportunity for archeology and provide a series of sometimes difficult-to-interpret lessons for our successors. For example, I have read the most durable artifact of civilization will be our ceramic toilets.
"Aqaba! By Land!" T. E. Lawrence

R. Peters

Skipjack
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Postby Skipjack » Tue Mar 29, 2011 7:10 pm

His point was that this thread was 'about free energy'. You could argue that 'everything' is about energy because nothing would happen without it!!

Again, you missrepresent my point. 93143 got it right.
I am sure you did too, but you chose to missrepresent it, because you do not have any real arguments to refute what I was saying.

seedload
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Postby seedload » Tue Mar 29, 2011 8:36 pm

Skipjack wrote:
His point was that this thread was 'about free energy'. You could argue that 'everything' is about energy because nothing would happen without it!!

Again, you missrepresent my point. 93143 got it right.
I am sure you did too, but you chose to missrepresent it, because you do not have any real arguments to refute what I was saying.


For the record, I think your point is pretty simple and almost impossible to misinterpret. Surely, no one could accuse you of going off topic. You were pretty dead on topic for sure.

Reminds me of an old Monty Python skit, "This isn't an argument, it's simple contradiction." "No it isn't"

chrismb
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Postby chrismb » Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:01 pm

seedload wrote:
Skipjack wrote:
His point was that this thread was 'about free energy'. You could argue that 'everything' is about energy because nothing would happen without it!!

Again, you missrepresent my point. 93143 got it right.
I am sure you did too, but you chose to missrepresent it, because you do not have any real arguments to refute what I was saying.


For the record, I think your point is pretty simple and almost impossible to misinterpret. Surely, no one could accuse you of going off topic. You were pretty dead on topic for sure.

Reminds me of an old Monty Python skit, "This isn't an argument, it's simple contradiction." "No it isn't"
I do not believe that [I do not see how] anyone presented with the first post of this thread would conclude this thread is about 'free energy', as per the claim I was refuting. But I do not care to participate in any pedantery, if you all read, and wanted to read, something else into it. I'll let Charles correct me if I was wrong to suggest his post wasn't about 'free energy', and otherwise y'all can carry on talking about whatever you think the thread is about.

Skipjack
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Postby Skipjack » Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:07 pm

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.

Uhm, so you are saying that individuals today do NOT want more property, stuff, items, whatshallmacall it, than people did in the past?
So how many TVs does an average family have now? How many computers? How many phones? How many cars? How big are the average houses now compared to previous generations? How much more energy is an individual using now compared to the past?
I would say that all that has been increasing per individual and it will continue to do so. Even if peak population growth is reached, demand will not peak. In contrary people will still strive to have more stuff than the next guy. That is human nature. And if everybody has 5 cars, there will be people that want 20 cars (and there already are people that have a car for every day of the year). And if everyone has a yacht, then they will have a bigger one AND a private submarine. Demand will increase indefinitely, because people can want indefinitely much.
I am sure that for the people living 500 years ago, it was inconceivable how someone could want to have a whole house to themselves. Even very rich people did not have that. Nowadays it is very common and that is just one thing.
Anyway, no matter how much people have, they will always want more. This is why we humans are so successful. We are greedy and aspiring and most of all competitive. We want to be better than the other guy or at least appear to be better and part of that is having more.

Skipjack
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Postby Skipjack » Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:22 pm

I do not believe that [I do not see how] anyone presented with the first post of this thread would conclude this thread is about 'free energy', as per the claim I was refuting.

Ok, it was not about free energy, but very cheap energy and I could have sworn it used to say "free" somewhere.
Anyway... then lets say "very cheap energy" and lets please stop splitting hairs about wordings.
And the points that were made by some were that even with cheap, or even with free energy, there would be limits to growth because of a decline in resources. I say that this is hard to conceive because the resources did not simply vanish. We did not shoot them into the sun, or something. They are still there. You can recycle a lot and with cheap energy recycling many things becomes profitable, especially if there was a looming lack of natural resources as some predicted.
I also think that with cheaper energy, exploiting other resources, that were previously unprofitable becomes profitable. You can then dig deeper, move more landmass and search more grounds. We have only scratched a tiny bit of the surface of this planet. With cheap energy sources and energy sources that are suitable, you can open the solar system as well. Start with the moon, asteroids, etc. Lots of potential sources of raw materials, minerals etc.
Who knows what else we can find out there? But I think that, especially if the populations peaks, there is no need for much of that. You can just recycle a lot of the things that already exist.

Torulf2
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Postby Torulf2 » Wed Mar 30, 2011 12:21 am

People only have 24h( -sleeping and work) on day to consume.
This setting limits of the demand.

Skipjack
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Postby Skipjack » Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:58 am

People only have 24h( -sleeping and work) on day to consume.
This setting limits of the demand.

Yeah, I can sleep in a bigger house just fine.
I can also drive a bigger, faster, nicer car instead of the one I have just fine without loosing any time of my days. I would probably gain time from that. And as I said, there are people that do have a different car for every day of the year...
I dont see why that should not be the same for everybody, if people have the money...
Heck, have you had a look at the superyachts lately? I am sure many people would love to have one like that. Of course today only the very rich can afford it. Private jet? Why not? Private helicopter? Why not?
As I said, as long as people can imagine something new and better, or simply more of the same, there will be economic growth. Some demands are artificially made too. Nobody "needs" an iPad, but millions want one. Any 10 dollar cell phone today is infinitely better than any cell phone was 10 years ago. Yet people want even better ones.
As someone else said, private storage is a rather new, rising business in the US. Even though people have bigger houses than ever, they still dont have enough room for all their stuff... Because they have more stuff than ever before.

D Tibbets
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Postby D Tibbets » Wed Mar 30, 2011 4:31 pm

Energy use, resourse use rates do increase, but as stated within limits. The graph would be S shaped. In the late 1970's I had a college course on "The Energy Crises". Based on the assumption that energy use in the US would continue escalating at the the then rate. Predictions was that oil would be gone within ~ 20 years, and coal would now have only a few years left. Yhis ignored saturation though. As mentioned there is only so much money you can spend to satisfy your needs and desires. Using the fringe (like Jay Leno) is completely insignificant to the overall usage rates.
Then you have to consider better efficiencies, recycling, etc' that mitigste resource usage. On the other side, while the upper crust may be at saturation, the people on the bottom are often climbing up the resource consumption ladder, but at some point this also will reach saturation.
Finally, even if energy is removed as a limiting resource, there are many other limiting elements that contribute to limits on per capita growth, such as: food, silicon, other elements, fresh water, population growth, toxin and pollution, climate change (if you are on that bandwagon), the cost of competition (I really want that, but I'll not kill that guy (or risk being killed by that guy) to get it), etc.

In other words, if you wish unlimited growth you have to have unlimited supplies of all needed materials- not just energy, and you need to avoud the accumulation of toxins. If energy is the limiting resourse and that limit is resolved, then there may be growth till another limiting resource impedes growth past a new plateau.

There are actually two curves to consider, first the per capita usage rates, and secondly the population growth ( # of people at any given usage rate). The US and other industrialized nations are near per capita usage saturation and have low population growth. The current growth in energy demand is driven mostly by emerging nations raising their per capita demands plus their increasing populations.

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

seedload
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Postby seedload » Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:32 pm

chrismb wrote:I do not believe that [I do not see how] anyone presented with the first post of this thread would conclude this thread is about 'free energy', as per the claim I was refuting. But I do not care to participate in any pedantery...


Drawing such a strong and argumentative distinction between 'free' energy and 'cheap' energy is pretty pedantic, IMHO.

BTW, "pedantery" should be "pedantry" (minus the 'e'). Oh crud, there I go, being pedantic. Sorry....

Roger
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Postby Roger » Wed Mar 30, 2011 8:47 pm

Torulf2 wrote:People only have 24h( -sleeping and work) on day to consume.
This setting limits of the demand.


Productivity. As humans increase productivity, the ability to consume increases.

Steam engines, or coal being a work multiplier, helped start the industrial revolution. But when you consider the impact of oil as a work multiplier, increased productivity led more education led to tech advances, led to more productivity.

4 things lead to economic growth, energy, resources, productivity, growing population.

The days of API 45+ oil seeping to the surface are long gone.
US Hematite mining has been replaced by taconite mining.
The US population is certainly not growing as it did prior to 1960
Productivity continues to increase in high tech areas.

3 out of 4 are currently working against widespread economic growth in the US, and varying degrees the world.

As mentioned early Fusion will give us the solar system, and the resources out there. Education will lead to tech advances, leading to productivity advances.

For the first 100 or so years of working in the solar system, we'll have 3 out of 4 working for increased economic growth. Once/if FTL happens, then colonizing earth like worlds allows a population explosion.

I read lots of sci fi, can ya tell?
I like the p-B11 resonance peak at 50 KV acceleration. In2 years we'll know.

KitemanSA
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Postby KitemanSA » Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:23 pm

seedload wrote:Drawing such a strong and argumentative distinction between 'free' energy and 'cheap' energy is pretty pedantic, IMHO.
Is it that you are unable to understand what CMB has been saying or are you just arguing for the fun of it? I do that at times.
CMB's point was that the issue at hand is that the original post was not about "ENERGY" at all, per-se, but about OTHER RESOURCES being a limit despite an abundance of energy. So, "free" or "cheap" is not germain. Energy, OTHER resources, the issue. Ok? :D


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