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I think his four years is too fast but I also don't think we can totally destroy the planet (aside from nuclear destruction). We know too much and have too much technology. Some (small?) fragment of civilization will survive while the earth recovers. For example, methane has a half life of seven years so it will take some time.

The more immediate threat seems to be around food and water. The Ogallala Aquifer is drying up quickly and we will have a new Dust Bowl.[https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/08/vanishin...] Considering how much food for the US and the world comes from here there is going to be massive starvation. It just seems like this planet can only infinitely support around 4B people. We have too many now but population is slowly starting to tilt back.

We also need to understand that constant growth is toxic. Both for our planet in population and as a driver for business and profits. I think this planet will be quite different as automation continues to accelerate and as we start using all of our resources in a sustainable and non-destructive way. I am very curious to see how this plays out over my lifetime.




> We know too much and have too much technology.

That's a risk that massively adds to fragility. As seen in every civilisation crash across the entirety of history.

Some small fragments surviving when every village had a blacksmith, everyone farms a little land, keeps a pig and cow, and makes clothing etc means each isolated fragment can rebuild a recognisable world and plenty have the knowledge. Bronze requiring tin and copper that typically came from regions thousands of miles apart added a fragility.

When my medicine, food, clothes etc come over thousands of miles and/or depend on complex multi-stage specialist supply chains and knowledge means that any isolated fragments won't have the first clue how to restart. Educating yourself when wikipedia is down, there's no power, comms or international supply chains and some local plant, machine or process just failed... You get the idea.

Not so very different to the many regions occupied by the Romans that found that for centuries after they had lovely advanced buildings and services they could not recreate. So they could use what was still standing, but watch them deteriorate.

"This time it's different" is an arrogance seen across the ages too. We're not crash or dark age proof. Not at all. Society is now so complex that it might take a relatively small spanner in the works to break it.

You're right about growth. Humanity will recognise it. Eventually.


Oh, we can't destroy the planet, but we can make life for humans much more painful and/or impossible. (Along with lots of other species, but humans are the ones I care about most).


Humans could be fine. We've got the capability to turn energy into food in a purely artificial environment. (Google vertical farming). The price of food would go up significantly and society never does well when that happens, but our economy is big enough to feed 7-10 billion people that way if it actually had the will to do so.

Rats will probably also do well; they're pretty urban adapted.

Any other species? Questionable.


I wouldn't place bets on how "big" our "economy" is going to be once the serious destabilization starts happening. Sadly, at the moment humans are showing themselves more interested in viciously attacking each other to protect "what's theirs", rather than banding together to save us all. The standards being set by our current US government for how to help people in trouble globally are... terrifying. I'm not optimistic about what it's going to look like when the shit hits the fan. But yeah, that means our task now has to be trying to build cooperative and egalitarian power and attitude, it'll be too late when shit starts really turning upside down.


Agreed. There were lots of caveats in my statement. It seems that lots of people would rather have widespread food riots than pay 10 cents more for a gallon of gas.


With all due respect, I strongly doubt anybody would be seriously impacted by that aquifer outside of North America.

This said, anything that turns Americans angrier is a security risk for the rest of the world.


The US contributes almost 15% of the global wheat exports and 60% of US soybeans go to China. I'm not saying it will end the world but I can't see how it won't have an impact.


One of those stats is not like the other, but regardless, 15% is the sort of impact that rises prices, increasing the search for alternatives, rather than leading to “mass starvation”.




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