Friday, April 03, 2015

The Betting Pool

Way back in 2008, BRT talked about the survivability rate of civilizations in a blurb titled Zero-Sum regarding, in that case, the issue of water, the one indispensable for life as we know it, a resource becoming ever more depleted and polluted as we move further into the 21st century.

In 2011, Something to Consider discussed the 21st century version of the Great Dying being perpetrated by us rubes as we speak.

Now, researchers are delving further into this vital issue vis a vis the now accepted notion of the Anthropocene, the epoch of man and how, in effect, we have become nature.

In their paper, which appears in the journal Anthropocene, Frank and co-author Woodruff Sullivan call for creation of a new research program to answer questions about humanity’s future in the broadest astronomical context. The authors explain: “The point is to see that our current situation may, in some sense, be natural or at least a natural and generic consequence of certain evolutionary pathways.”

To frame these questions, Frank and Sullivan begin with the famous Drake equation, a straightforward formula used to estimate the number of intelligent societies in the universe. In their treatment of the equation, the authors concentrate on the average lifetime of a Species with Energy-Intensive Technology (SWEIT). Frank and Sullivan calculate that even if the chances of forming such a “high tech” species are 1 in a 1,000 trillion, there will still have been 1,000 occurrences of a history like own on planets across the “local” region of the Cosmos.

“That’s enough to start thinking about statistics,” says Frank, “like what is the average lifetime of a species that starts harvesting energy efficiently and uses it to develop high technology.”

“If they use energy to produce work, they’re generating entropy. There’s no way around that, whether their human-looking Star Trek creatures with antenna on their foreheads, or they’re nothing more than single-cell organisms with collective mega-intelligence. And that entropy will almost certainly have strong feedback effects on their planet’s habitability, as we are already beginning to see here on Earth.”

Seen below is a chart showing the relationship of stability vs. instability as driven by population, energy and environmental degradation/GW (Planetary Forcing).

The betting pool for our civilization becoming sustainable from the BRT perspective, razor thin.
For some strange reason, this may apply to others just as well.

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