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Population, Innovation, Resources

Brad Sallows

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A handful of times I've commented on the intersection of things like population, innovation/technology, and resources (including time and money).

Here (Reason.com) is a short discussion that touches on those issues.
 
How long can human population dynamics defy population ecology? I remain unconvinced of the argument.

Do we strive for an ever growing population that drives economic growth and innovation? At what point does it end? If 8 billion isnt enough is 8 trillion? How many people do you need to drive innovation? What proportion of the worlds primary production capability do we coopt for our own? How long is that sustainable?

In some ways the argument is moot as we have crafted a society that does not wish to replicate itself. Outside of sub Saharan Africa fertility rates are pretty much crashing world wide and most countries will be dealing with the opposite problem of having to generate economic growth with declining populations
 
There are always things that can go irretrievably wrong - a human-engineered catastrophe (eg. a bio-engineered virus), a natural catastrophe (natural pandemic, asteroid collision) - but generally what has been observed is that it's possible to break past apparent Malthusian barriers.

Can't find the exact quotation, but there's a saying that if humanity is to have a very long history, most of that history will have been as a spacefareing race. If ingenuity doesn't get us off the planet, the ride is sure to end.
 
If humankind wants to survive, the abilty to detect, track, divert or destroy objects in space is critical. 2nd to that is a colony on Mars and eventual spacefaring. that might allows us to survive for a million years. Once we are able to stay in space and are able to mine and process material there, then we will be able to expand again. Having to launch everything from the planet is way to inefficient to be able to truly become a space faring race.
 
I think there is a strong possibility that the labour market for a lot of jobs will basically seize to exist if AI works out how it is looking like it might work out. There is a strong chance the problem in 10 years won't be there isn't enough workers, rather there isn't enough jobs.

Obviously there are plenty of jobs that won't be effected, mainly the manpower based jobs, but for office jobs they shall basically have the downsizing that happened to industry with automation happen to them.

Where that leaves the economy is anyones guess, could lead to wars and revolutions as the main things to avoiding those is having food on the table and work to provide it. We won't need population to drive growth anymore, might be the beginning of a whole new reality.
 
Relax. Avian flu could become a problem for humans any time, and the potential job shortage issue will cease to be a worry.
 
If humankind wants to survive, the abilty to detect, track, divert or destroy objects in space is critical. 2nd to that is a colony on Mars and eventual spacefaring. that might allows us to survive for a million years. Once we are able to stay in space and are able to mine and process material there, then we will be able to expand again. Having to launch everything from the planet is way to inefficient to be able to truly become a space faring race.
If, big IF, we somehow did become a spacefaring race, we humans will change. Drastically. Our evolution is no mistake. We got here by a handful of apes making some poor decisions and then quickly adapted to survive a non-primate friendly environment.

Now take away gravity, the elements we are adapted to and our food sources, me thinks we would either die long slow deaths wandering the galaxy or quickly evolve into something very different.
 
I think we evolve into two different species, the ones on earth will follow the same evolutionary track, the ones in space/other planets will evolve differently. My guess is we are not alone. If we are being regularly visited by extraterrestrial, then that means that spaceflight with the right technology is relatively easy and inexpensive. Because the earth is kind of located in a bit of a galactic backwater. Once we start colonizing other planets in our solar system and do regular interplanetary travel. Then we might be contacted properly and treated a bit like a developing nation that needs lots of guidance.
 
Spacefaring is unlikely to cause us to evolve any more than seafaring did. A race of men from Atlantis didn't spring up. Prolonged lack of gravity is unhealthy; the effect is therefore self-correcting.
 
Im not excited about space travel or space colonies. We have another billion plus years on this planet before the sun burns off all the atmosphere and 5 billion plus before the sun begins its expansion phase. Every 20 something million years there is an extinction event on this planet at least partially linked to asteroid impact. Mars and Venus are shithole planets as a former President would say and space itself is not much better with constant radiation exposure and the need to come up with a gravity solution not too mention that it is really cold. Alpha Centari is 4 light years away with no evidence that anything of value is waiting for us and once there no way to communicate that knowledge to those on earth who would long since be gone even if you had travelled at the speed of light. Any population that left earth would have to be prepared to spend the rest of their existence on their own and would undoubtedly continue on their own distinct evolutionary pathway. That population that left would have to be relatively large not just to maintain a reasonable gene pool but to maintain the level of skill and knowledge to sustain itself thus compunded the problem
 
I think there is a strong possibility that the labour market for a lot of jobs will basically seize to exist if AI works out how it is looking like it might work out. There is a strong chance the problem in 10 years won't be there isn't enough workers, rather there isn't enough jobs.

Obviously there are plenty of jobs that won't be effected, mainly the manpower based jobs, but for office jobs they shall basically have the downsizing that happened to industry with automation happen to them.

Where that leaves the economy is anyones guess, could lead to wars and revolutions as the main things to avoiding those is having food on the table and work to provide it. We won't need population to drive growth anymore, might be the beginning of a whole new reality.
As someone who has seen significant job shifts in the last 20 years in my profession (Forestry) I can understand 100% what the concern is. When I started folks were hired to:
- literally hand color maps -> GIS based systems able to adjust scale/transparency/filter​
- timber cruise -> LIDAR based systems that are measuring entire forests to the tree with greater accuracy than humans​
- walk block boundaries for signs of streams -> LIDAR derived mapping of not only channel locations but also saturated soils​
- lumber graders in sawmills -> optical eyes able to consistently grade lumber​
- head rig operator in sawmill choosing cuts -> 3d scan profile, with optimal alignment to head rig, optimized for value or production​
- Air Photo interpreter -> satellite or image ortho data capture, multi-spectral based, and semi automated analysis​
- Satellite imagery of black and white 10m pixel resolution was top notch -> free, online, coverage every 2-3 days of full color/spectral band imagery at same resolution. Private vendors now offer as small as 15 cm pixel resolution imagery on the open market....​
- Manual addition of volumes/weights/measures -> automated reports generated via barcode or simple minimal entry​
There's more but what people sometimes lose sight of is that AI is based off of knowledge...and some of the changes are driving more requests for more knowledge. So while I see more automated reporting (positive to people manually adding up columns of numbers) the temptation is to start looking for what else could be asked...and quickly drains into a toilet bowl of sewer issues and micro management. While AI can accelerate basic metric reporting and/or information flow it can not provide context to the numbers and it still does replace someone who is actually doing a task - especially variable and inconsistent tasks - and each task creates an exponential increase in data variables to consider.

I often think of the information lag in the last 100 years - from newspapers and telegrams -> newspapers and radio -> newspapers and TV -> live TV broadcasts -> internet snippet on webpages -> smart devices updating news constantly. What is not acknowledged is that there is also a capacity for most people to absorb information at once and filtering the information overload is almost as important to allow effective use of information as is providing the information itself. We've all submitted large reports/write ups that expanded constantly to include more information "just in case" only to be asked in summery - guilty or not?
 
As someone who has seen significant job shifts in the last 20 years in my profession (Forestry) I can understand 100% what the concern is. When I started folks were hired to:
- literally hand color maps -> GIS based systems able to adjust scale/transparency/filter​
- timber cruise -> LIDAR based systems that are measuring entire forests to the tree with greater accuracy than humans​
- walk block boundaries for signs of streams -> LIDAR derived mapping of not only channel locations but also saturated soils​
- lumber graders in sawmills -> optical eyes able to consistently grade lumber​
- head rig operator in sawmill choosing cuts -> 3d scan profile, with optimal alignment to head rig, optimized for value or production​
- Air Photo interpreter -> satellite or image ortho data capture, multi-spectral based, and semi automated analysis​
- Satellite imagery of black and white 10m pixel resolution was top notch -> free, online, coverage every 2-3 days of full color/spectral band imagery at same resolution. Private vendors now offer as small as 15 cm pixel resolution imagery on the open market....​
- Manual addition of volumes/weights/measures -> automated reports generated via barcode or simple minimal entry​
There's more but what people sometimes lose sight of is that AI is based off of knowledge...and some of the changes are driving more requests for more knowledge. So while I see more automated reporting (positive to people manually adding up columns of numbers) the temptation is to start looking for what else could be asked...and quickly drains into a toilet bowl of sewer issues and micro management. While AI can accelerate basic metric reporting and/or information flow it can not provide context to the numbers and it still does replace someone who is actually doing a task - especially variable and inconsistent tasks - and each task creates an exponential increase in data variables to consider.

I often think of the information lag in the last 100 years - from newspapers and telegrams -> newspapers and radio -> newspapers and TV -> live TV broadcasts -> internet snippet on webpages -> smart devices updating news constantly. What is not acknowledged is that there is also a capacity for most people to absorb information at once and filtering the information overload is almost as important to allow effective use of information as is providing the information itself. We've all submitted large reports/write ups that expanded constantly to include more information "just in case" only to be asked in summery - guilty or not?
I could see my industry, the railroad, trying to cut personnel further. I think the position of Mainline Conductor will disappear within a decade and Freight Trains will go to a one person crew with only an Engineer onboard. Conductors won't actually be on the train any more but will be assigned a territory where they will drive to the train by vehicle should they be needed.

I don't see Switchmen or Yard Crews disappearing until it becomes cheaper for robots to conduct switching which I don't think will happen for a long time.

Likewise, I don't think Locomotive Engineers will be replaced for decades. We already have what's called FTO and the train can, in theory, drive itself but even the worst Locomotive Engineer is better than FTO.

The problem the computer faces is that it is unable to feel the slack come in to the train and reacts poorly to sudden changes in tension in the joints of the cars. Driving a train is a constant struggle to keep tension between the cars and humans are just simply better at it due to our sense of touch.
 
The problem the computer faces is that it is unable to feel the slack come in to the train and reacts poorly to sudden changes in tension in the joints of the cars. Driving a train is a constant struggle to keep tension between the cars and humans are just simply better at it due to our sense of touch.
That must be a bitch when going up and down hills, especially if you have fully loaded cars (grain and oil) and empty or near empty container cars.
 
That must be a bitch when going up and down hills, especially if you have fully loaded cars (grain and oil) and empty or near empty container cars.
What about when they put sensors measuring the pressure between each of the cars and can set actual thresholds as opposed to the operator "feeling" the changes?
 
The job loses because of AI are overblown. Yes writers will be over affected....that is why you are seeing so much about it.

You can go back to the 20 teens Silicon Valley promise self driving cars by mid 2020's. They are no where insight or ready for primetime. It is turning out to be much much harder than first thought. (Wow who could have thought that?) They can't even get a truck platooning app to work. And the motivation for that is huge because of the driver cost function. Truck driver is largest single employment category of employment in North America. They are not losing their jobs anytime soon.
 
Conductors won't actually be on the train any more but will be assigned a territory where they will drive to the train by vehicle should they be needed.
Drive? You mean hop aboard the Advance Air Mobility (ie. UAV taxi) shuttle… 😉
 
The job loses because of AI are overblown. Yes writers will be over affected....that is why you are seeing so much about it.

You can go back to the 20 teens Silicon Valley promise self driving cars by mid 2020's. They are no where insight or ready for primetime. It is turning out to be much much harder than first thought. (Wow who could have thought that?) They can't even get a truck platooning app to work. And the motivation for that is huge because of the driver cost function. Truck driver is largest single employment category of employment in North America. They are not losing their jobs anytime soon.
Listened to some DJ talk about "RadioGPT" They sounded worried and I don't blame them as radio station operators are really cheap bastards who will be happy to be rid of radio personalities RadioGPT
 
Listened to some DJ talk about "RadioGPT" They sounded worried and I don't blame them as radio station operators are really cheap bastards who will be happy to be rid of radio personalities RadioGPT
People listen to radio?

New cars won't even have AM in the radios going forward
 
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