(the title is an obscure reference to the lars van trier film, which I liked, but you may ignore otherwise…)
okay, so moving along with our fractal future meanderings:
Since we haven’t really altered our four first premises, we’ll proceed with them. Once again, in each instance, we will briefly articulate a clear best case/worst case, so as to combine them iteratively farther along. The hows and whys change from scenario to scenario, so we won’t go into that too much here.
First variable: Population
Best case- the slow increase of education and economic opportunities for the poor, along with rising living standards and medicine, continue to contribute to an overall negative trend in birthrate. Population tops out around 10 billion in the middle of the century and starts to decline gradually as we reel in our reproductive habits. By 2100 we’re back down to 8 billion and on our way to 6 or lower in the next century.
Worst case- global anxiety and uncertainty continues to undermine living standards to the point where people do not reign in reproduction, and in fact speed it up. Population continues to grow exponentially, until we hit 12 billion by mid century, putting outrageous pressure on our resource base. By 2100 the global standard of living per person is somewhere around that of a present day Chinese peasant farmer, and there aint much room left.
Second variable: Climate
Best case- things stay pretty stable overall. We in fact are overdue for a cooling period and our current hot spell is a blip. Global warming hysteria is replaced by global cooling hysteria ( as it was in the 70’s ), and we start expelling co2 flagrantly all over again, in hopes of stopping us all from freezing to death, supposedly.
Worst case- ‘the day after tomorrow’ scenario. Turns out it’s not co2 that’s the problem, it’s methane, which is a lot harder to track and control than co2, and has a much greater impact on global warming. The temperature shift tips the balance of fresh water in the oceans, and causes a global catastrophe as the atlantic conveyor stops bringing warm air to northern europe, plunging it into an ice age. Super-storms proliferate wildly, and the gulf of mexico turns into a permanent hurricane disaster area, fit only for refugees and madmen. All coastal areas go swimming.
Third variable: Energy
Best case- Whether by zero-point, nuclear fusion, steorn perpetual motion machines, or nano engineered solar, energy becomes so cheap that charging for it makes no sense. Everyone has all the electricity they need, and most other resource related problems fall into line behind this. Standards of living rise astronomically, and the world buys a coke.
Worst case- the olduvai cliff. through a combination of peak oil and gas, diminishing returns on technology and thermodynamic constraints, per-capita energy use continues to decline, until rolling blackouts become the norm, leading to permanent blackouts by the late 21st century. Some pockets of energy use remain, but they too are subject to the same diminishing returns on a fractal scale. Shit happens, grow some soybeans.
Fourth variable: Technology
Best case- A positive singularity. Explosive growth in computing power, biotech and nanotech render us superintelligent, telepathic and functionally immortal. We restore the earth to an edenic state, (because we can) and spend our time either exploring virtual words, or venturing into the universe at large.
Worst case- A negative singularity. Same as above, just minus any compassion, love, or human values. A planet full of godlike immortal psychopaths, and genocidal AI’s who want to turn baseline humans into fertiliser. Alternately, a bioengineered global pandemic kills everyone, or the grey goo scenario converts the earth into food for rogue nanomachines. A scenario where technology simply sputters out falls under the olduvai cliff, above.
…so in our next installment, we start to spin these together and see what comes out.