Will We Win the Race?

January 25, 2015

The following is a post I wrote for a Coursera class on sustainability.

What information or evidence would tell us if we are above the planet’s carrying capacity and are we
in for a “hard landing”: a population collapse?

The notion that our earth has an intrinsic “carrying capacity” should be viewed within the framework of the sustainability
model presented in the first lecture. That is, it is not an exogenous factor of this model but a direct result of it.

For me the question is, are we above our currently achieved carrying capacity and can we increase our carrying capacity fast enough to accommodate future
population growth? One could argue that Malthus was observing a time when we had exceeded our current carrying capacity but the sudden and rapid development of the industrial revolution vastly changed the carrying capacity. Are we at a similar point in time now? Let’s consider each section of the sustainability impact equation: SI = P x C/P x I/C  (Sustainable Impact = Population x Consumption per Person x Impact per Consumption)


P: Are we in a J-Curve or S-Curve? It depends on which number you believe. Looking at the UN’s latest population projections, most scenarios show the population hitting an inflection point and moving toward an S curve. Other UN projections show a globally declining fertility rate. There is plenty of speculation as to the drivers of this, though there seems to be wide support for the notion that enhanced economic activity is at the core


I/C: I would suggest that we are seeing accelerating technology change and that change is not only proceeding geometrically, but at a higher order than population change. Moore’s law is contributing to this in that compute processing is doubling in power approximately every 18 months. We are just entering the back half of the chessboard with computing where we will see stunning capabilities from our systems, enabling us to model and solve complex systems such as
weather, genomics and quantum interactions. (see also Kurzweil on accelerating returns)

C/P: This to me seems to be the wild card. Unfortunately, looking at it on a global basis hides the income disparities and some of the impacts to P and I/C. If we accept that increased economic activity helps reduce the fertility rate, then we need to look at the median C/P rather than the mean and focus on improving the
performance of the bottom tiers. Specifically, this means policy changes to support these groups (e.g. reforming the governments within the poorest countries, enhanced aid and support from the richest, etc.) and continued social reforms to allow all citizens, male and female, to participate fully in the economy. We also need to recognize that large and rapid changes in I/C will dramatically change the nature of work, potentially dislocating substantial populations and requiring new approaches to income distribution.

To answer the question initially posed, it seems that the important pieces of information to know are:

  1. Are we in an S-Curve? It seems that we probably are.
  2. Can we decrease I/C faster than P increases? It would appear that this is possible.
  3. Will policies be put in place to ensure median C/P improves to support changes in P and I/C? I am very skeptical that human
    society will do this without significant global, political change.

It is a race and we face strong headwinds. Unfortunately, we humans are not great at making decisions and taking action until we are in a crisis. This time we may lose the race.


From the BlackBerry

June 20, 2010

Here is a test from the BB app which is really pretty nice. I could see doing some reasonable microblogging from this. I’m liking the keyboard and getting reasonably proficient on it for some reasonable posts.

So now I’ve connected my bluetooth keyboard with my BB and am typing in. This could definately be cool. I can imagine typing much longer blogs when I’m out and about. This could really be awesome.

iPod test

April 10, 2010

So I’m trying out posting from my touch to see if this is viable. Pretty painful to be honest. I find the iPod keyboard to be somewhat challenging. To be fair, I haven’t used it that much and haven’t fully grasped the autocomplete and correction features. But it still is tough. And this is supposed to be the best touch keyboard on the market?

Another Post

May 10, 2009

so this post is from my phone and it is definitely less fun typing than on the redfly. the problem is that you don’t have enough context to think fully.

could be interesting none the less.

Posted from moBlog – mobile blogging tool for Windows Mobile

Test from Redfly

May 10, 2009

This is a sample from the moBlog software running on my new Samsung Saga and typed on my Redfly. I’m looking to see if this can be an effective blogging environment and my feeling is yes.

Basically, blogging is lightweight editing and is handled easily by a smartphone. Problem is that you sometimes would like to type more than is convenient on a cramped little thumbboard. Enter the Redfly. Think of a convenient bt keyboard and screen connected to your smartphone. That is basically what it provides and it makes the world of difference with these portable devices.

Yes, you can just use a bt keyboard with your existing device, but the display is not as nice. And the keyboard is not going to be attached to the display so it is going to be awkward in a mobile setting (having used them for 10 years and tried in a number of configurations, I guess I’ve given up).

So, this could be the final, cool piece.

Let’s see if it works.


Posted from moBlog – mobile blogging tool for Windows Mobile

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March 25, 2006

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