RE: ECON: Population growth is good

Tony Belding (
Tue, 05 May 1998 20:00:07 -0600

On 05-May-98, Dan Fabulich wrote:

>That we are nowhere near the point where we are about to drain all energy
>supplies in the entire universe seems clear to me. We are not even ready
>to clear out the EARTH. That someday in the distant future we WILL clear
>out the earth is not a valid argument; by that day, we may well be OFF of
>the earth and colonizing other planets. (You've heard about people who
>want to mine the asteroids?)

Unless somebody invents FTL travel, which I must consider unlikely based on
current scientific knowledge, each economic system will be effectively limited
to a single solar system. You can't have an interstellar economic system any
more than you can have an interstellar government. So, the real concern is
not over-running the resources of the universe, but rather over-running the
resources of individual star systems.

Obviously we're a long way from doing that. However, it *could* happen.
Eventually it *will* happen, unless some other factor comes into play.

>So if/when we actually do find impregnable resource limits, I'll hear your
>point. Until then, we've got a long way to go.

No resource limit is "impregnable" if you assume there will be miracle
technologies that can repeal the laws of physics. I prefer not to make
that assumption.

Hm. That reminds me of Groo the Wanderer....

Chakaal: "As long as the lizard-men are inside their citadel, they
are impregnable!"

Groo: "They cannot have children?"

>It is CERTAINLY outside the field of economics. :) However, on a more
>philosophical point, what ELSE would we be motivated by?

The pursuit of greatness, perhaps. To me, this is one thing that separates
people from animals. As animal-rights activists are quick to point out,
animals can suffer just like humans, and animals can also be happy. But, they
can't achieve greatness.

The Pharaoh Khufu created the Great Pyramid at Giza. Presumably it made him
happy to create pyramids. Now Khufu is long dead, and he is therefore no
longer happy, but his pyramid is STILL GREAT. He changed the world.

That's why I am interested in Project Star Net. It's the greatest thing that
I can think of, so I would like to contribute in whatever way I can to making
it happen.

>Are you trying to tell me what life is going to be like post-singularity?

Post-singularity? I'm not familiar with that term. The only singularity I
know about is a black hole.

>I sure won't. I'm of the camp that believes that while some concept of
>economics may exist post-singularity, we have no rational way of figuring
>out what we'll want, need, or think past that point.

I see no obstacle to making such predictions. (Keeping in mind that I'm not
sure exactly what you mean by "post-singularity".) There will be a lot of
chaos and upheaval in our near future, but that will all shake out eventually
and reach a stable condition. This is one of those odd cases where
forecasting the distant future is much easier than forecasting the near

>Is this even remotely the case? I don't know. However, I think you must
>agree with me that wherever that resource limit lies, it's nowhere close to
>where we are. So as far as we can tell, we're creating resources.

That is true. Did I mention my idea for renovating the MOON? I wanted to
strip off the whole top layer and convert it into utility fog. Turn the whole
thing into a virtual environment. I'm sure the eco-freaks would turn blue if
they heard such an idea. But what a wonderful resources it would be! You
could create something similar to the Well World, with the virtual space
partitioned off into "hexes" with each a different environment, each with
something different to offer its visitors (or residents) -- and the whole
thing permanently parked here next to the Earth for easy access. How

>Non-problem, yes. However, as I think is self-evident, it is morally right
>to create a new person if they will be happy, and if the happiness of
>others does not decrease.

I don't think that is self-evident at all. Anyhow, I like ELBOW ROOM. I
would be happy to live in a star system with a few million other people, or
maybe even LESS. But maybe I'm just weird because I live in a rural area of
Texas where the population has been *shrinking* for years, and I still feel
crowded sometimes.

><tsk tsk> Malthus was wrong, and later recanted his own theory.

Malthus was wrong about details and timing, but his basic principle was rock
solid, like the firmness of the earth. Human beings are replicators and will
eventually over-run any fixed resource.

>We are nowhere near any imaginable energy limit, and do not seem likely to
>hit upon it very soon.

Maybe energy won't be the problem. Maybe it will be waste heat. Maybe it
will be the supply of raw matter. Maybe it will be living space. Whatever
limit there may be, an exponentially growing population will eventually find

So, anything that's not going to happen "very soon" is something we shouldn't
concern ourselves with? But "very soon" is a relative term. Just a while
back, somebody on this list referred to a span of several million years as an
"eyeblink", if I recall right.

   Tony Belding