Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Time to start hoarding!

Above: Scientists, ruining everything.
If you're anything like me, you enjoy civilization. We have the internet and Starbucks and we rarely have to track, catch and then disembowel our own food. Yup, civilization's pretty sweet. Too bad it's all poised to come crashing down around us at any moment. Who says? Scientists. That's who. A study funded by NASA's Goddard Space Center and carried out by a team of smart people led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei have invented a real-life version of psychohistory* and predicted that we are all in for a serious goddamn Seldon crisis.

Motesharrei and his team came up with a questionably acronymic model called HaNDy (Human and Nature Dynamics) which makes predictions based on factors like natural resources, wealth and social classes. The results were not encouraging.
Isn't that cute? It's like HaNDy is waving
goodbye to indoor plumbing and vaccinations.

When it comes time to choose the form of the
 destructor, everyone picture a basket of kittens.
According to HaNDy, we're doomed, but what specifically will doom us? A giant Marshmallow Man? Asteroid impact? Ape and/or robot uprising? Nope. None of the above. This apocalypse is going to come down to socio-economic stratification. That's right, those Occupy kids were on to something. No, not the white-guy dreads, that really needs to stop, but they did see the problem posed by 1% of the population owing all the stuff. Montesharrei and his team assert that cultures which allow all the wealth to become concentrated in the hands of an ever shrinking elite, are extra susceptible to external disasters.

Relax, this is just an example. Zombies
are, of course, preposterous, although we
may have to resort to eating each other. 
How come? Here: say there's an outbreak of zombie-ism. Gun manufacturers, drunk on unfettered capitalism, decide to raise shotgun prices by $80,000. Now only the super-rich can afford the double barrel protection you need to survive the hordes of flesh eating corpses. The 99% of humanity? Not so lucky. Sure, the elites survive a bit longer, but as the brain-eating drags on, there're fewer and fewer non-elites left to manufacture more boomsticks. The people who produce the wealth are not the ones benefiting from it, so when shit hits the fan they're the hardest hit, production declines which reduces the available resources and the whole thing spirals.

I think we all kind of sensed that tweens
would bring about the end of our civilization.
And now we have the math to back it up.  
But surely our advanced technology will save us from this grim, boomstick-less future, right? Nope. In fact, it's probably accelerating the process. I mean sure, if we all had replicators and limitless, free energy we'd probably be ok, but we don't. Instead we have things like cars and iPhones that run on finite resources which in addition to being bad for the planet in and of themselves, kind of require us to fuck up the environment just to get at them. To make matters worse, our snazzy 21st century technology makes us really good at this.

So are we boned? Probably. Although Montecharrei's team believes that we could pull out of this nosedive, it's going to take some work. We're going to have to start being more responsible with our planet's resources, that's a given, but we're also going to have to shift to a more egalitarian economic system where the wealth is evenly distributed among-what?
No really, it's the only way to avoid a
complete breakdown of...of...stop laughing!
Dibs on re-inventing the steam engine.
Yeah, unfortunately human history isn't exactly filled with examples of civilizations wising up, sharing the wealth and avoiding disaster. Instead it's been more of an endless cycle of ludicrous extravagance followed by calamitous decline. Anyway, if HaNDy is right we're only a few decades away from Thunderdome, so now might be a good time to start hoarding scientific texts, technical manuals, canned food and booze, you know, all the useful stuff to have around when civilization sinks into the new dark ages.

*+50 to your nerd role if you didn't need to click on that.

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