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The next ten years: how desperate can we become?

The next ten years: how desperate can we become? thumbnail


With the year’s end, it is tradition to make predictions for the next year. In this case, I looked for something that would take a longer timespan as a target and I found something published in 2015. It can be used to learn how bad some predictions can be and how desperate we are becoming.

Do you remember the predictions of the 1950s? The time when scientists and science fiction authors alike engaged in describing to us how bright the future would be? There was no shortage of wonders that were presented to us at that time. Space travel, energy too cheap to meter, robotic home helpers, anti-gravity, a cure for cancer, increased human lifespan, and much more. It is disheartening to think of how little of all that fluff actually materialized. Overall, in terms of problem-solving, the performance of science during the past 50 years of so has been comparable to that of the Iraqi army in 2003 in terms of military effectiveness.

A taste of how desperate our situation has become can be gained by taking a look at an article published in 2015 by Peter Diamandis. A little more than a year after it appeared, it can be used to understand not only how bad a prediction can be, but also how desperate we have become.

The article by Diamandis falls flat from its very first line; when he says that “in accordance with Moore’s Law, we’ll see an acceleration in the rate of change.” But, as we know, Moore’s law was declared officially dead in 2016, and it was known to be terminally ill a few years earlier. So, Diamondis starts from an overoptimistic premise but, even so, it is surprising to see how unappealing are his predictions.

In the article, all the wonders predicted in the 1950s have disappeared and all what Diamandis can do is to line up a list of internet-related gadgetry whose usefulness can only be limited or debatable – or even defined as negative. Yes, in the future we’ll probably have more people connected to the Internet at faster speeds, but then what? Can more Internet connections lead us to “perfect knowledge”? (prediction n. 3). Diamondis was writing before the “fake news” story became a widely recognized issue, but it was there and it is remarkable how he could miss so badly quality for quality! Then, there is the “trillion-sensor economy” (prediction n. 2) that probably means what we call the “Internet of Things”. Not an impossible target but, as for many other things, are we really sure it is a good idea? What if the hyperconnected world goes to the blue screen of death? The other predictions are not much better, for instance about the overhyped “3D printing”.

It looks like we are becoming increasingly desperate. We expected from science solutions for the climate and the resource crisis. We expected knowledge, wisdom, health, and abundance. All we got were 140 characters and it seems we’ll have to be happy with that.

 Cassandra’s legacy by Ugo Bardi

22 Comments on "The next ten years: how desperate can we become?"

  1. shortonoil on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 5:51 pm 

    Come on Ugo? Science does not, and never has progressed linearly. It is a hotchpotch of lucky accidents and rare strokes of genius. It has no time table, and no schedule. It is absolutely unpredictable by definition. If it contributed a mere fraction of the benefits that is often given to it by some non science authors, religion would have gone out of business shortly after Aristotle proposed his introduction to it. This is called grasping at straws while eating a bunch of sour grapes. So you didn’t get your anti-gravity, cold fusion thing-a-me-jig in your life time. Feeling a little slighted: are we?

  2. Jon on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 6:35 pm 

    Moore’s law was always hype. Just a way to make a temporary phenomenon sound sciency. First it was 12 months, then 18. Then ‘around’ 24. Some law.

  3. Sissyfuss on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 6:39 pm 

    Science can surprise us at a moments notice and change our reality construct as fast as our minds efficacy can process. But if the big S doesn’t start coming through with cascading multiple solutions to the construct I am presently perceiving then Mooore’s Law will be correct in the sense that the accelerated rate rate of change will only be in concordance with our predicament.

  4. makati1 on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 7:51 pm 

    ‘… we are becoming increasingly desperate.”

    Those few words sum up ALL of the future.

    The internet will probably not even be around in 2025. Or, at least, not available to anyone but governments. That is, IF we avoid war.

  5. makati1 on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 7:58 pm 

    BTW: Happy New Year to ALL!

    It is a beautiful New Years Day here in Manila. The fireworks started about 9PM last might and lasted until 1AM, hitting the high point at Midnight. Literally millions of sky bursts, rockets, flares, explosions, etc. covering the whole ~100 square miles of the city. The smell of gunpowder is still hanging in the air here. My 9th New Years in the Ps and I still am amazed at the display.

    I look forward to an exciting 2017, and I doubt that I will be disappointed. Buckle Up!

  6. Anonymous on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 8:05 pm 

    Considering how most solutions-to-come are in many cases(not all), intended to fix the unintended(or intended even), consequences of the last set of wondrous breakthroughs we came up with, I wonder why people bother anymore. What kind of solutions are people still looking for? Cure for cancer?, tech to clean up the mess made by dirty energy projects?, like the uS tar-sands, fraking? Driverless cars? (Still cant figure just what problems those are expected to solve). GMO’s, the list goes on.

    Certain kinds of technology and engineering, can indeed improve the quality of life, or make it enjoyable even. But, the cult of infinite progress keeps promising breakthroughs that either never arrive, or when they do, are often environmental disasters or are used to further automate people out of a job. I expect the future will bring more of the same. New and improved (but not really either one).

  7. makati1 on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 8:14 pm 

    Chicago leads the way to America’s future…

    “The level of disrespect I see for police now, I’ve never seen it like this in 28 years,” he said. “The willingness of the bad guy to engage a police officer, I’ve never, it’s just different. … Before, they didn’t engage the police like they do now.”

  8. makati1 on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 8:21 pm 

    More signs of the Police State America…

    “So it’s not surprising that states have decided to begin charging people for charging them – that is, accusing them of something. There’s even more potential profit in this since a cop can arrest anyone at any time – just about.”

  9. joe on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 9:01 pm 

    Heres a prediction. Soon after Erdogan gets his presidency reforms put through by the rump parliament sitting right now, Turkey has another coup, Erdogan is shot dead and Turkey destabilises Europe when 3 mln refugees flood the collapsed EU. Somebody sells out Baghdadi and Assad steps aside to enjoy a nice retirement while Syria is torn to pieces by great powers. Israel wakes up too late to realise that Trump doesnt give shit about jews and Saudi wakes up to realise America doesn’t need or want their oil anymore. China wakes up to realise Trump is serious about trade tarrifs so finally get busy reforming their economy. Russia wakes up to realise that Trump hates Russia but he cant do squat about them cause hes got so many other problems.

  10. joe on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 9:07 pm 

    Oh, also, the name Obama wont get forgotten. Without the Presidency holding him back, Barak Obama will become a greater leader of minorites than even MLK was. Liberalism will end in the greatest protest movement in history. Americas first first gentlemen will probobly be Barak Obama.

  11. Truth Has A Liberal Bias on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 9:59 pm 

    @short speaking of grasping at straws and feeling slighted, how’s that Etp model working out for ya? I’ve been watching your comments over the years and you’re all over the fucking place. A recent thread called “Etp Q&A” was more like “ask a question get insulted by Futilitist” some fucking Q&A. It’s like talking to a bunch of brainwashed cult followers and Futilitist refers to online discussions about Etp report as ‘epic battles’. Why is it that only stupid fucks and suckers buy into this stupid model that you freely admit in the Q&A thread that you just wild ass guessed on?

    Here’s one of shorts comments from the past. Some model ya got there dumb ass. It seems to be saying whatever the fuck you feel like saying for quite some time now.

    “Following our graph, which we are 99% confident is accurate, oil prices by 2020 will be about $208/barrel, or $6.88/gal for transportation fuels. This is probably survivable, but by 2025 those prices will have advanced to $329/barrel and $10.90/gal.”

  12. JuanP on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 10:10 pm 

    Joe, If you were not being sarcastic then I expect you to be seriously disappointed in 2017. Your expectations are completely unrealistic. Obama couldn’t even lead his own ass out of the toilet. I wonder how you came up with that list. Can you explain the thinking that led you there? Where do you get your news from?

  13. makati1 on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 10:19 pm 

    JuanP, I suspect that Joe is delusional, not being sarcastic. But, interesting ideas.

  14. onlooker on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 11:42 pm 

    Happy New Year everyone. What do the next 10 years hold? I do not know I am not clairvoyant. I do know we have been on the wrong track for so so long. That is because of our own flaws and disposition. Nothing technology could ever solve. Our lack of peace and harmony within ourselves has led to lack of harmony with others and with Nature. Our mad dash for “progress” is but a reflection of a species that did NOT know where it wanted to go but was sure in a hurry to get there. In this coming year I hope we all take a look inside ourselves and find the better part of our human nature. Enuf said.

  15. Davy on Sun, 1st Jan 2017 6:25 am 

    Happy new year all. I see 2016 as a mix of results. The year saw dramatic increase in climate change events. Energy dynamics issues were more subdued. On the global economic front it was just more gradual decline. Our biggest event in 2016 was the political. Many things happened but the most significant is the budding of nationalism and in the sense of being a reactionary force from the masses. This was has been a surprise and wrong footed the establishment. The establishment is in retreat but not routed. Big battles will be ahead.

    Aspects of globalism are being rejected. This is a grass roots movement that resulted in Brexit and Trump. It has also been a force from Putin who used anti-Russian western policies to consolidate his vision of Russia in a political judo that is frankly brilliant. What many do not realize is globalism is here to stay as the dominant force in human affairs. Our fate is tied to it. There is no turning back from it without a rebalance with macro consumption and global population trends. The reason for this is no other arrangement can produce the goods necessary to support so many people. We are beyond thresholds of sustainability so this spells possible doom for growth. We can adapt globalism away from its most productive and destructive. The dangers of this paradigm shift is beyond a threshold of stability there may be collapse event. We don’t know where those thresholds are and we are already in a collapse process represented by a low level demand destruction from malinvestment and stagflationary repressive economics. This process will involve less affluence meaning pain and suffering are assured. This new arrangement will likely take shape in 2017. It may be until the following year that we see the economic effects of its destructive change.

    In 2017 we may see Russian and American détente. How far this will go is a mystery because we do not know how far Trump can coopt the American deep state that is hell bent on diminishing Russia as a world power. Putin has achieved victories and rearranged global realities enough that Russia is assured its place as a major world power. Putin has been a force in creating a multi-polar globalism and the nail in the coffin of American Hegemony. Trump may try to tap into this powerful new reality to focus on his nationalistic agenda and his other nemesis China. This will lower military dangers but increase economic ones because the effects of a Chinese and American cold war could be brutal economically. Where the Russian cold war threatened MAD NUK war the Chinese variety threatens a MAD end to globalism economically. It is likely the destructive effects will be blunted by economic crisis and the understanding of mutual dependence. Tit for Tat trade wars will result in a spiral of global economic disruption on all sides. A certain amount of disruption is baked into the cake. Trump has said his two economic policies are Buy American and Hire Americans. This is a pretty clear statement of a nationalistic intent. It will involve a reorientation of trade policy with imports being discouraged and exports being supported. With the US being the world’s largest debtor but also one of the largest consumer of world exports this will have profound economic results but it may take a full year to realize them. If we thought there was a dollar problem in 2016 just wait until 2017. Currencies may go into dangerous reorientation in 2017.

    2017 may be a prelude to a war of change. The organization and logistics of this economic war will form in 2017 for the great battles that will erupt in 2018. In the meantime economic decay will continue with stagflation. Confidence may remain from unrealistic expectations of Trumpian growth allowing a shaky status quo through 2017. Peak oil dynamics of depletion and demand destruction will not sleep a moment. The many POD realities almost assure we will never see healthy growth again. High oil prices may happen and if they do beyond let’s say $60-$70’s we can expect economic disruption. Low prices are equally likely because of dangerously disruptive economic policy ahead. We are already going to see interest rate pressures and adding increased energy costs to this mix will be assuredly destructive.

    I see climate change as a scary new force in our New Year reality. What new extreme event will happen this year? Will we have droughts and floods affect global food production? Will we have climate events that become economic events in an already dangerously exposed global system? Yet, with this unpredictable climate change we could just as easily have a surreal tranquility like the eye of a hurricane. This will further confuse an already confused global people.

    Will we see a big renewable energy push along with EV’s. Here I see some possibility with solar costs so low and a grass roots movement towards lower carbon. Wind is becoming a strong market force for grid level sources of power. I am of the opinion this renewable revolution will be short lived because of economic forces of change that will likely squash its potential. Yet, renewables have achieve an economies of scale of sorts guaranteeing a significant contribution to any future global energy mix. The problem for techno optimist is renewables will likely not be the force at the scale of change to be an energy transition. 2017 will demonstrate this without a renewable energy breakout.

    These are just some of my thoughts for what they are worth. I see this years as the prelude to profound change. We are like Columbus on a great journey on a vast ocean of change and this year will be the year where land is no longer visible. We are in uncharted waters and these waters are hostile. This could be a boring year in some ways with more of the same. It is likely this boring more of the same year will have the potential to be punctuated by extreme events. Good luck.

  16. Davy on Sun, 1st Jan 2017 6:49 am 

    Chew on this Obama lovers. Not that I agree with everything said in this article but Obama was clearly not a success as claimed by his many followers. His popularity represent denial and delusion of a large segment of the American public. His vision of change was more of the same corruption he inherited from Bush. The other side of this polarized nation equation will be the eventual experience of a Trumpian failure so don’t be completely crushed.

    “Obama’s Failed Presidency”

  17. Dredd on Sun, 1st Jan 2017 7:13 am 

    Do you remember the predictions of the 1950s? The time when scientists and science fiction authors alike engaged in describing to us how bright the future would be? There was no shortage of wonders that were presented to us at that time. Space travel, energy too cheap to meter, robotic home helpers, anti-gravity, a cure for cancer, increased human lifespan, and much more. It is disheartening to think of how little of all that fluff actually materialized.” – Ugo Bardi

    Good points.

    Cluelessness is traditional:

    ON THE night of October 22, 1929, one of America’s most widely known economists addressed a great banquet of credit men. Not only were Wall Street prices not too high, he told his delighted hearers, but we were really only on the threshold of the greatest boom in the nation’s history. The prophecy evoked a burst of applause. Next morning, a few minutes after the great bell announced the opening of trading on the Stock Exchange, the storm broke. The greatest economic depression in our history was formally ushered in — though it had been in progress for some time. From this point on, as the country slowly roused itself to a consciousness of the far-spreading crisis, leaders in politics and business repeated with invincible optimism that it was all just a wholesome corrective. After several years a waggish commentator published a little volume called Oh, Yeah! It was a sardonic recording of the persistent and unconquerable stream of promises of quickly returning health. There you will find recorded the statements of statesmen, financiers, university professors, leading economists, and editors assuring the people that it was all a blessing in disguise, a corrective phenomenon, that the broad highway to renewed prosperity lay just ahead. All of which proved quite conclusively that these men did not know what they were talking about because they had no understanding of the economic system under which they lived. Then came the collapse of 1933 on the grand scale — and a resumption of the bright prophecies of happy days.

    (Myth Addiction Is Establishment’s LSD – 3).

  18. Cloggie on Sun, 1st Jan 2017 7:22 am 


    – doubled US debt with $9T
    – Created misery in Ukraine, Syria & Libya
    – No results in pushing back fossil fuel
    – People on food stamps increased from 33 to 45 million
    – Pushed potential ally Russia even further into the arms of China
    – Reduced US & western role in Middle East
    – promoted BLM thugs
    – More PC in academia (icon “prof” Click) and the rest of society
    – JFK put a man on the moon, Obama put a man in Ladies Room (gender baloney)
    – Severe civil unrest in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere

    Verdict Obama presidency: complete failure. Trump was right: Obama was the worst president, which Obama implicitly admitted, but was wrong in suggesting that Trump wouldn’t be president:

    Yet another failure of Obama: no foresight.

  19. Dredd on Sun, 1st Jan 2017 7:23 am 

    makati1 said (on Sat, 31st Dec 2016 8:14 pm): “Chicago leads the way to America’s future”

    Yes, in more ways than one (Awe Topsy – 3).

  20. joe on Sun, 1st Jan 2017 7:43 am 

    Maybe I was being a little sarcastic, but I dont think Obama will shrink away either. I only hope they get Baghdadi but that wont end ISIS. As for Michelle Obama who knows, if Trump can win…..
    In my memory things havent been this uncertain since Berlin wall fell, though then things were way more scary, but then people were very naive about what was going to follow, they were way more hopeful. The Great Recession not only destroyed millenials dreams, its ripping apart the core faith people had in capitalism. Even now ten years nearly after the sub prime bubble burst, the worlds oldest bank, monte dei paschi is being nationalised because a referendum defeat in italy by a populist party whoes rise was because of 2007. Things are looking worse, real reform never happened, all they did was double the bubble and pumped up the debt, the next bust will be far worse than 2007.

  21. makati1 on Mon, 2nd Jan 2017 7:06 am 

    Slip sliding into the 2rd world…

    “Washington, DC — In the last days of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to dramatically increase allowable public exposure to radioactivity to levels thousands of times above the maximum limits of the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to documents the agency surrendered in a federal lawsuit brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These radical rollbacks cover the “intermediate period” following a radiation release and could last for up to several years. This plan is in its final stage of approval.”

    Lead is now legal. Radioactivity is now legal. What’s next?

  22. Mark on Mon, 2nd Jan 2017 9:18 am 

    The laws of nature are difficult to over-ride, especially the declining net energy availability. Hence no Jetson flying cars, anti gravity,etc.

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