Gonna be a party pooper here!
I'm a big fan of Sci Fi and technology, I've worked in IT for 20 years and there's nothing I'd rather do (except maybe work in the space program or AI or something)...
But over the last 6 months, from the reading and study I've been doing, I'm not so certain that mankind will colonise other planets any time soon. It was never particularly likely in my lifetime anyway but I'd hoped to see mans first landing on mars, and perhaps we might make it that far but recently I'm doubtful.
Economy and Energy
I'm not sure how many people have read about Peak Oil but we're hitting it now. It's not about running out of oil, it's about an economic system that needs "growth" to get out of debt which is at a higher level now than in the great depression. "3% growth per year" I don't need to tell a bunch of programmers that this is an exponential function, each year 3% is larger than the previous leading to a upwardly curving graph. So if Oil is slowing down (not running out), 3% growth becomes very difficult
The standard economics model makes twe claims that basically have doomed us. 1) that we have unlimited energy 2) Debt doesn't matter as it's balanced but by someone else being in credit. But...
1) We don't have unlimited energy, we are still dependant on fossil fuels and we have no planned next energy! Wood->Whale Oil & coal->Crude Oli ... ? Nuclear power is not an answer resource wise and renewables are not exactly a liquid you can put in a freighter ship. Hydrogen takes electricity to produce too and where does that come from? But then, is the human race doing that much about this problem? how high will the price of gas go before we work out that it's only going to get worse? New sources of fossil fuel (Canada Tar sands, US Natural Gas) are not only worse for the environment but they take more energy to extract than Oil, the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) is a lot lower (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_ret ... y_invested
). It's not just oil though, 90% of the oceans fish are caught and it takes the world 1.5 years to produce the fish we eat in 1 year. Most farmable land is in use and resused only because of petrolem products in fertilisers (seeing a pattern here?)
2) Debt matters, we see it in Europe, we see it in the US, we see it in Japan and China. The people who predicted the GFC and subprime all had debt accounted for in their economic models, the people that didn't (The Fed - do they ever get it right?) didn't and didn't see it coming. You many be hearing in the news of late words like "QE, Quantitative Easing", "Easing from a Central bank", "Adding liquidity to the market" etc. These are the governments and central banks of the world printing money! They 'buy' assets with money created out of thin air in order to push more liquidity into the markets and the stock markets get a bit of a sugar rush. Everytime they do this, the effect is lower, inflation rises a little and the value of the currency it's done in drops. If you have followed the currency markets of the last few years since the sub prime GFC crash you'll see them trending down.
How can we know if currencies are going down if they are all relative to eachother? The price of Gold! (and other commodities) Gold is up about 600% over the last 10 years and continues to rise. The money that people are buying it with is getting cheaper and cheaper and real assests (other than those in bubble states like real estate sometimes is) get more expensive.
How does all this connect?
Politicians with their short term elections borrow money to pay for promises they can't afford driving up debt. I was a bit of an Obama fan when he first ran for president (I'm not an American), I figured that the social services he wanted were the sorts of things that are the grease on the wheels of society, the cost of keeping rich and poor from getting too far away and leading to violence. But, regardless of what you want to do, you need to be aware of what you can afford to do! Obama, when he was a senator always opposed the raising of the debt ceiling, and is now raising it himself now that he is the president. He still wants to *grow* the economy to pay the debts and the republicans who want to replace him want to do the same thing! If you can't grow the economy (because even reducing the USD further for trade competition can't keep up with ever other country reducing their currency) then you end up having to print money to keep things running. Inflation can pay debts! it is basically a tax or theft of people savings which go to higher prices which exist because the govt prints money debasing the currency. Resources (like Oil, fish, food) are limited, an exponentially growing ecomomy that exists to pay debts is ultimately unsustainable, everyone knows this but ... but what?
They assume technology will save us. But will it? Technology can't create energy, only convert it from some other resource, oil, gas, sunlight, wind. Every change in energy in the past has taken decades for the worlds infrastructure to price in and upgrade and still we don't have a plan on what's next. Are we moving towards cars that you can plug in? That can charge off the grid so solar power plants can charge them? Not nearly quickly enough. How quickly will supermarkets run out of food if no trucks can resupply? days! Just-in-time infrastructure is not going to like a world running out of power and even if we try to "cope" by cutting back, does that create the sort of economic growth that pays the largest debts in human history?
In my (and quite a few other peoples) opionion, mankind is about to face it's gratest challenge in the next 10-20 years resource wise, and economically in the next 5 years. We don't need disaster movies, alien invasions and Mayan profecies, we have a big bang event right in front of our face and we are already seeing it unravel in the worlds financial systems
Personally, I'm hoping that the financial system collapses sooner rather than later and I'm hoping some trigger we already can see (like a greek default causing global bank insolvancies due to derivitives like CDS). Why do I want this? Because I think the world is nearly ready to buckle under the resource pressure and if we just print money and keep the farce of wall street mind sets alive till all the resources run out and then we collapse... how will we recover as a race?
If the global financial system fails first I am hopeful that this takes the pressure off our resources and removes the requirement for exponential growth and that we come to understand that more sustainable living is the only way to move forward till realistic energy solutions (things like fusion, solar and wind power) are ready to play a bigger part in our society.
I've worked in the largest and wealthiest banks in the world and recently I have managed to get myself out of the finance industry (which is a pay cut of course) and all it stands for. The Occupy people might not realise it but they have a good point, they are just too disorganised and lacking in a message to be effective.
I'd love to think about great and bright futures too, but I honestly think that there is a very large problem ahead of us that needs to be addressed before we can see the light at the end of this tunnel.
Thats how I see the future, its worrying enough that I spend lots of time and money researcing more but I can't see mankind making any big steps to the stars till we get past this. It worries me more than the Fukushima reactor meltdown a few hundred clicks away.
I'm happy to post references and source information if needed. I think its about time the human race woke up and smelled the coffee and acted on this, it's clear the politicians and financial powers that be are not helping the situation! If nothing else, then learn how to protect yourself and your family from what's coming.