Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Collapse of Complex Societies by Dr. Joseph Tainter

Tainter's theory of collapse is very important.

The example of Roman expansion: conquest phases usually don't last long. An expanding empire runs out of profitable conquests. Afterwards, an imperial structure built on the income of conquest had to sustain itself on yearly solar energy production.

Tainter also talks about economists and their belief in the principle of infinite sustainability, which is relevant to our earlier discussion of EROEI. Essentially, economists believe that as resources become scarce and rise in price, the market signals will always result in innovation and new technological substitutes.

Tainter's "major future challenges", which will need to be solved nearly simultaneously:

  • funding retirements for the baby boom generation
  • increasing cost of health care
  • replacing old infrastructure
  • adapting to climate change [dubious]
  • developing new sources of energy
  • [possibly] escalating military costs
  • diminishing return on investment in innovation


James said...

diminishing return on investment in innovation

Apropos of this, I found this paper interesting:
A possible declining trend for worldwide innovation

CP said...

So... no singularity.

There is a general consensus that technology is advancing exponentially, and that this advance will continue into the distant future. The basic assumption behind this view is that either there is no limit to technological advance, or if there is a limit, then we are far from reaching it. The history of technological innovation from the end of the Dark Ages to the present time is examined, and evidence is provided that we are closer to a technological limit than many people realize.

whydibuy said...

Here they go again.
The constant apocalyptic predictions of the future by permabears.
Who was it around 1900 in the U.S. patent office who proclaimed that everything that could be invented has been invented?
Yeah, that gloom and doom prediction sure played out.....NOT.
Man, life down in credit bubble's bomb bunker must sure be contagiously depressing.