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  1. #1
    Senior Member Robopop's Avatar
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    Default Peak Oil and Olduvai theory

    I've always liked to speculate on how our society and technology will be in 20 years, 50 years, 100 years. One VERY important factor that will determine our civilization's future will undoubtly be it's energy resources.As you know, the United States dependency on petroleum is staggering. There will come a point when the maximum rate of global oil extraction is reached and after this the rate of production will begin to steadly decline. This concept is known as peak oil and was created by M. King Hubbert. He used the models behind peak oil in 1956 to accurately predict that United States oil production would peak around 1970. He predicted global oil production would peak around the year 2000, now he was wrong about that prediction but many experts think(as of 2010) that global oil production might have already or will peak within the next decade. This has some very frightening implications for modern civilization, some predictions vary from optimistic to very pessimistic depending on the timing of peak oil.

    Another theory about the future of our civilization is the Olduvai theory and states that industrial civilization will have a lifetime of less than or equal to 100 years (1930-2030).The theory was first introduced by Richard C. Duncan in 1989 as the "transient-pulse theory of Industrial Civilization.The theory states that industrial civilization is the time approximately when energy production per capita rises from 37% of the peak value to when it falls to below 37% of its peak value, so basically industrial civilization is defined in between these two endpoints that have values of 37% peak value.This theory divides human history into three phases, the first is the pre-industrial phase that stretches over most of human history when simple tools and weak machines limited economic growth.The second industrial phase(the phase we're in now) encompasses modern civilization where machines temporarily lift all limits to growth.Now for the bad part, the final de-industrial follows where industrial economies decline to a period of equilibrium with renewable resources and the natural enivronment, so in layman's terms, we're heading back to the stone ages. He even divides the decline of the industrial phase into three sections:

    The Olduvai slope (1979-1999) - energy per capita at 0.33%/year

    The Olduvai slide (2000-2011 "right now") - begins ... with the escalating warfare in the Middle East... marks the all-time peak of global oil prodution

    The Olduvai CLIFF (2012-2030) - begins ... in 2012 when an epidemic of permanent blackouts spread worldwide, first there are waves of brownouts and temporary blackouts, then finally the electric power networks themselves EXPIRE.

    Now there have been some good criticism of the Olduvai theory and I don't know what to make of it one way or the other but it does loosely tie in with peak oil. What do you think will happen in the next 10 years? Will people act in panic and society starts to resemble Mad Max, or will alternative energy resources save our way of life. It has been a basic assumption that generations after us would be better off than we are now, that we would have neverending energy resources. I think that these "assumptions" is what is going to cost society dearly in long term future. Remember that we still have time lessen to effect of declining oil production.

  2. #2
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    The Surprise Party

    Quote Originally Posted by Robopop View Post
    I've always liked to speculate on how our society and technology will be in 20 years, 50 years, 100 years.
    So did I, and that is why I read science fiction.

    But science fiction failed to predict the personal computer. And failed to predict that the personal computer would be connected to the telephone system to give us the internet.

    This is such an enormous failure I can only conclude that we can't predict the future. And that simply we don't know.

    And there is a reason for this. We can predict linear growth intuitively, but exponential growth is counter-intuitive and can only be understood mathematically. And most are innumerate, including science fiction writers, so the future will come as a surprise.

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    resonance entropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    So did I, and that is why I read science fiction.

    But science fiction failed to predict the personal computer. And failed to predict that the personal computer would be connected to the telephone system to give us the internet.

    This is such an enormous failure I can only conclude that we can't predict the future. And that simply we don't know.

    Thats nothing really important, I am just a bit suspicious about people, who like to generate predictions of the future and sell it as something that will happen, cause that's ( given your computer example ) the most dumb thing to do.

    And there is a reason for this. We can predict linear growth intuitively, but exponential growth is counter-intuitive and can only be understood mathematically. And most are innumerate, including science fiction writers, so the future will come as a surprise.
    I see that a bit differently. Given that the invention of the future was a new idea, the prediction of the future would majorly depend on having new ideas combined with a vivid imagination about the future.

    That means a prediction would be like to generate an idea about the future, while a linear growth prediction would be anything else but having a new idea about the future.

    I myself like to speculate about new technologies and how they change life for the individual in the future. I dont like to speculate about societial systems or political systems, especially because most people always create something doom-mongering out of it. So that Olduvai thing prolly is nothing for me
    [URL]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEBvftJUwDw&t=0s[/URL]

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    Olduvai theory is interesting...in that those thoughts mirror my own. For some reason I get a thrill out of data mining to predict trends.

    Capitalism/Globalization is destined to implode upon itself. Fact of the matter is that there are NOT enough resources to sustain a higher standard of living for the post industrial economies, and bringing China and India and who ever else online.

    Our fiat currency systems demand greater deficits and economic expansion to keep the ponzi scheme afloat. My own timeline perceives about 2028 we'll collectively have that "oh, chit." moment. There will be an increase in resource wars, especially for water...where nations like the UK import much of it's water for manufacturing and other purposes. Lots of people will starve as the system implodes.

    I see it as not an if, but when.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Feops's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sLiPpY View Post
    Capitalism/Globalization is destined to implode upon itself. Fact of the matter is that there are NOT enough resources to sustain a higher standard of living for the post industrial economies, and bringing China and India and who ever else online.

    Our fiat currency systems demand greater deficits and economic expansion to keep the ponzi scheme afloat. My own timeline perceives about 2028 we'll collectively have that "oh, chit." moment. There will be an increase in resource wars, especially for water...where nations like the UK import much of it's water for manufacturing and other purposes. Lots of people will starve as the system implodes.

    I see it as not an if, but when.
    Implosion is a dramatic term that implies everything will just collapse one day. I'd argue that the system is substantially more adaptable than doomsayers give it credit for. Plus, standard of living isn't simply anchored to having more stuff. As resources become constrained their relative worth will increase and there will reach an equilibrium, as well as substantial incentive to improve efficiencies, recycle, find alternatives, etc.

    Currency in all forms is an illusion - a yardstick used to measure wealth. Gold only had value beyond its industrial usage because we decided it. Fiat currencies just highlight this moreso.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Feops View Post
    Implosion is a dramatic term that implies everything will just collapse one day. I'd argue that the system is substantially more adaptable than doomsayers give it credit for. Plus, standard of living isn't simply anchored to having more stuff. As resources become constrained their relative worth will increase and there will reach an equilibrium, as well as substantial incentive to improve efficiencies, recycle, find alternatives, etc.

    Currency in all forms is an illusion - a yardstick used to measure wealth. Gold only had value beyond its industrial usage because we decided it. Fiat currencies just highlight this moreso.
    It won't happen in a day, that's for sure... After all it took a whole decade to use up 1/3 of the earth's non-renewable resources. We're currently using at a level of 2.7 hecters per year of renewable resources, where 2.1 would be sustainable for six billion people.

    If some terrorist gets pissed off and blows up an oil main in Saudi... That alone could interupt the domestic food supply in the US. Think of it like this. Oil prices skyrocket. Independant truckers were dropping like flies and unable to repair their rigs at 4 dollars per gallon in diesel. Imagine what would happen with the sudden increase of 8 to 12? It's not that price structures couldn't change, it's just that they would not move fast enough to keep a lot of those folks in business.

    And one US gov, would be unlikely to open the oil reserve in want of preserving it's own ability to project power domestically and internationally.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Robopop's Avatar
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    The critics of the olduvai theory point out that Duncan did not factor in advances in technology and societal changes(conservation). I would think that our current infrastructure would need to change rather quickly for the quality of life to be substained. I also have great expectations for nanotechnology and nuclear fusion, but those technologies are maybe a few decades from now. From what I know, exponential growth applies to information technology, so as long as Moore's law applies,we might be able to find new ways of getting our energy.But pretty soon transistors will reach their limits at the atomic level, the timescales vary when this will happen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robopop View Post
    The critics of the olduvai theory point out that Duncan did not factor in advances in technology and societal changes(conservation). I would think that our infrastructure would need to change rather quickly for the quality of life to be substained. I also have great expectations for nanotechnology and nuclear fusion, but those technologies are maybe a few decades from now. From what I know, exponential growth applies to information technology, so as long as Moore's law applies,we might be able to find new ways of getting our energy.But pretty soon transistors will reach their limits at the atomic level, the timescales vary when this will happen.
    I think it's good to critique any theory forwarded. Just as I believe it would be unwise to ignore information that points to a need to take steps.

    I don't believe that Corporations will save us with new technology. I don't believe that Government will either. They'll all stand around and say, "Well, who could have known?" "No one ever thought this was possible before?"

    9/11 and the collapse of the CDS ponzi schemes on Wall Street are prime examples.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Feops View Post
    I'd argue that the system is substantially more adaptable than doomsayers give it credit for.
    I'd argue that it's already done the hardest part of adapting. Eventually the population will accept Nuclear Fission as a replacement, if a suitable alternative hasn't already been found by then. It's so much safer now than it's ever been. Electrical transportation is getting quite good now, as well.

    All that's left is actually building the plants, which has a few issues, most notably political ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by sLiPpY View Post
    After all it took a whole decade to use up 1/3 of the earth's non-renewable resources.
    Do you mean oil that's been proven to exist?

    Because last I checked, we've barely tapped the Earth's resources.

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    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    Do you mean oil that's been proven to exist?

    Because last I checked, we've barely tapped the Earth's resources.
    I don't mean proven oil reserves, which I think OPEC nations tend to inflate. For very practical political and economic reasons...

    What I'm speaking of for one example are precious metals. We'll take a catalytic converter on a car for example. Havesting or recycling precious metals have become very important in that the supply is peaking and barely meets demand.

    RECOVERY OF PLATINUM GROUP METALS FROM MINING TAILS - Production or Refining of Metals, Pretreatment of Raw Materials - Patent WO/2003/056043

    That link is a lot more detailed in describing the need/impact.

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