by Ken Larsen
O'Neill space colony (artist view)
Our old cultural memes threaten our destruction. We do need a new culture.
I have a PhD in Zoology. Anyone who studies the subject very much will realize we humans have inherited a very nasty gene/meme. When a population bumps up against the edge of the carrying capacity of its environmental resources, the three usual forms of population control are disease, famine and violence. Remember the PBS story of the chimpanzees who split their colony into two? A few years later, members of the two colonies were having violent confrontations over territory, including some killings, between cousins. For thousands of years, humans have practiced this kind of inbred violence when cultures competed for resources. That last sentence explains 95% of the wars throughout human history, including the devastation the European society caused on the natives of America, and this whole mess we're in today.
From a purely objective, scientific point of view, that method has been beneficial, as our species has learned to use its resources more and more efficiently. There is no way 250 million humans could occupy this land today with the economy and technology of those who lived here before Columbus. America defeated Germany mostly because her production methods were more effective. We have improved our skills and our biological success over the generations, through Darwinian mechanics.
Now, we are at a new point. Our old genetic code and our old cultural memes are no longer useful. In fact, they threaten our destruction. We have become a single world-wide economy and culture. Like any big city, we have our street gangs who fight over things like territory and culture.
But, we are all together. It was American technology that brought down the Trade Towers. Everyone's ideas are now available to everyone. And, we have the technical ability to eliminate our civilization, maybe our species.
Someone once said the natural man is an enemy to God. Now, I say, our natural tendencies are our worst enemies. We need to see that. We all need to see that. Then, we need to communicate and find a fourth, peaceful way to keep our numbers within the carrying capacity of our planet. Oil, for example, is seen by many as a serious limit to our future. Fighting over it is the old way. We must find a new way, or we may all perish.
Mutual respect, tolerance and completely letting go of past offenses are essential to our success. If we succeed, future generations will enjoy a level of freedom and prosperity of which we haven't even dreamt. If we fail, the next World War might very well be fought by intelligent cockroaches.
I believe the Earth is capable of sustaining 100 times as many humans as at present, all enjoying the prosperity of an upper-class American, all enjoying a healthy natural environment, with all its biological diversity and beauty. That's how much faith I have in human creativity and energy availability, if we can just learn to cooperate and tolerate. That's right. 600 billion humans living in a garden of luxury and happiness. As long as our technical growth outstips our population growth, there need be no end. Perhaps our great-great-great grandchilren will honeymoon on the Moon, and then decide to stay there.
Come on folks. Dream with me about the possibilities. Reach beyond the sky. And then let's all do everything we can think of, peacefully, to make it happen.
Other articles by Ken, on the TdF' forum:
After our reply,
some additional thoughts were expressed by Ken
Many times, I have stated that the Earth is not dying. She is in labor, producing a new and marvelous child, if we are worthy. Yes, we must reach for the stars. Think of all the energy flowing past our planet every second, well within the reach of our technology. Imagine millions of giant parabolic mirrors, maybe dozens of miles across, focusing the sun's energy on millions of generators, each capable of doubling the energy now utilized by man, with little or no environmental damage. This energy could then be sent via microwaves to receiving stations on Earth, on the Moon, and various other settlements in orbit around each. Yes, there is plenty of space, plenty of energy, and we don't need to cut down one more tree! The elements in the dirt, excavated for a building, such as aluminum and silicon dioxide, could provide all the building materials needed. And then, there are the astroids to mine for needed materials. Imagine rings around the Earth, like the rings of Saturn, one side transforming sunshine into useful energy, the other side inhabited by hundreds of billions of happy humans.
Just one more thought. Perhaps, there is a critical number of intelligent minds, connected by the Internet, kinda like the critical mass for an atomic explosion. Except this critical mass would cause the emergence of a sentient, thinking, consciousness, of which each of us is like a single neuron. I suspect we are already enough, if we could just cooperate and communicate. Perhaps, with sufficient imagination and tolerance, we can experience the emergence of a true God, with the intelligence and compassion to lead us all to prosperity, freedom and happiness in the extreme.
I agree with you that our time is short. I also believe it is sufficient, if we can learn in time to stop diverting our resources to killing each other over culture. The political solution is contained in the second paragraph of the American Declaration of Independence (1). Too bad America has abandoned it. Maybe, through the Internet, the People of the World can demand the governments abide by it.
Happy Easter, the Pagan Goddess of fertility. May She bless our dreams with fruition.
An editorial note (and reply to the Ken's message)
Thanks very very much to Ken for having enough vision and love for humanity to write this number: 600 billion humans! I agree with all what he wrote about the need of a new Ethics and a new Methaphysics and, particularly, that we humans can/must keep on growing, must of all. This implies that he thinks the numeric growth is relevant for our progress and evolution as a species.
Such a thought is not so common, indeed.
Reading this message I was very happy to now that other people, around the planet, think that humanity cannot afford to decrease, or it will be its end. Our success, as a species, was the combination of three vectors: numeric growth, cultural growth, technologic growth. A lot of people - including scientists, giving proof of extreme lack of scientific mind - maintained (at the Rio De Janeiro, Cairo, Kyoto conferences) that we can stop or even reverse the demographic vector without affecting the resultant vector. That is crazy: take away one of the three vectors and the resulting vector will simply collapse!
Please note that even the most enlightned supporters of the space expansion believe that the demographic steady state is something (i) possible (ii) opportune and desirable. When I say 'the most enlightned' I include visionary geniuses like Isaac Asimov and Krafft A. Ehricke as well! Myself, I add a very much more relevant rational to the KAE's Extraterrestrial Imperative: we cannot keep on growing furthermore in a closed environment, and we cannot stop growing up. Thus we need to open the system, first of all in our mind. First of all it is a matter to gain another Methaphysics, including the Solar System, its resources and energy, and to start thinking ourselves in a cosmic ecology, no more only in a terrestrial one.
600 billion people will find what Ken called carrying resources only in the Solar System. And we have not such a long time available, to make the meaningful steps to the stars. Recently I started a discussion with some friends, around the methaphor of the Pregnancy of Lady Earth.
We are the fetus of Mother Earth, and have the task to help her childbirth.
This methaphor has some correspondances in the reality: if we (Earthling Society) will become 8 or 10 billion without giving birth to a baby Solar Society, Lady Earth will run into an abortion, and so our civilization, if not our species. We (the small initiator group, including Steve Wolfe, David Buth and some others) are discovering each week other people that had this same vision, and is enthusiast to group together and try to spread it through the planet!
Some relevant articles and forums, touching the topics discussed by Ken:
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