Why we have not lost the war


Frank has written a great article for Datenschleuder Nr. 89 (not yet available online) and had a much debated panel on 22C3 with Rop called “We lost the war”. [Windows only Video]

I just read the Datenschleuder article and it really captivated me. It gives such a convincing pessimistic outlook on the next decades that you might want to enjoy every day of your life while it’s still bearable. I am aware that Frank did write the article as a wake-up call, and that he is really not that pessimistic. But he seems to have a point. Now always when things seem to be extremely logical and convincing, an alarm bell in my head rings: The ideology alarm. And what Frank actually really does is not to write about his own beliefs, but the beliefs of a hypothetic “60 year old bureaucrat that has access to the key data, the privilege to be paid to thing ahead, and the task to prepare the policy for the next decades.” Again, it looks that such a person might exists, and that control, manipulation and oppression are the only available tools to stem the tide of shit coming towards us. I do not deny the shit from Frank’s list is coming: a lack of sufficiently paid labour in industrial countries, an oil/energy crisis, climate change, more natural disasters, immigration pressure, and new dangerous technology are real threats for the liberty and civil rights in our society.

However, there is a motto I share that is attributed to be typical American: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Now, Frank’s vision may serve well for the second part; I want to provide here the missing first part and point out some flaws in Frank’s reasoning.

1) Predicting things is difficult, especially when they concern the future.
We do not have Asimovs “Psychohistory”, and hopefully never will have. If I am sure about one thing, then it is that the future will be different from what Frank and his 60 year old bureaucrat are preparing for. It can be so much worse that Frank’s version of the future sounds like paradise: A thermonuclear war, a major cosmic incident like a one-km-class-meteor hit or a nearby supernova are possible at any time and would alter history in a way no one can really anticipate and plan for, including total extinction of mankind. But apart from such a scenario, what other surprises may be in stock for us in the next decades?

2) Peak Oil might not come as soon as we think. There is a chance that what we learned in school about how petroleum was formed is wrong, and that Thomas Gold’s theory of abiogenic origin of petroleum is true. In this case there would be a lot more oil in depths below 4km, lasting for a couple of hundred years. The crazy thing about this theory is that nobody would be interested right now to prove it true, neither the oil companies, who directly profit from scarcity of oil, nor environmentalist, who do not want to the development of alternative energy to be slowed down.

3) The world-wide economy might adapt much more easily to the scarcity of oil than we think. The potential for energy saving is enormous, and the radiation of the sun provides enough energy for millenniums of growth.

4) The population growth may come to a stop when more parts of the world become developed; even China has managed to reverse population growth. Our planet is able to sustain twelve billion people, but maybe the human population will stabilize well below this point.

5) There have been always natural disasters, but the world today is much better prepared to cope with them than it ever was.

6) The world is too complex for conspiracies to be successful. No organization is advanced enough to plan and control the outcome of events on a global scale; it is just beyond human capabilities. And it is not power that shapes the world, it is the plethora of good ideas created by inventive minds.

Finally, Liberty and Civil Rights will come into every part of the world. They did not exist for millenniums, but people have invented and established them against those few in power. Why? Because it is an economic advantage to have a free society, and a necessity in order to reach a high level of development. For a powerful modern economy you need a lot of creative people, capable researchers, artists, designers, lawyers, doctors, filmmakers, architects, engineers and hackers, and you can’t keep this people in cages. You need streets, cars, houses, computers, TVs and a lot of food for their mind: art, theatre, books, sport, TV, games and The Internet. Human beings are not going to be replaced anytime soon for many tasks. Humans have been shaped by billions of years of massive parallel evolution, and we will not have a machine in the foreseeable future that is a match for an average human in terms of intelligence, efficiency, versatility and adaptability, just to name a few categories.

You need free and happy people to create and maintain an advanced industrial society; in a decade or two, even China will become a free society. Capitalism has won over Communism not because it is based on greed, but because the Capitalistic societies were more free, and thus people in general could tap more of their potential than in Communist countries.

And this is the reason why in the end the good will prevail: the societies where people will tap most of their potential will dominate those where just a minority tries to oppress the masses for the profit of few. In the end, those who take the road of oppression will be looked upon as failures, which inflicted harm to themselves and to their society. An open society will have better engineers, more firepower, better investment bankers, faster planes, much more computing power, smarter kids, deadlier drones, greater movies, better music, thrilling girls, finer art and much more fun.

But before we get there, times might get a bit rough. So stay tuned to this blog to find out how I do prepare for the worst. 🙂

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