I’d like to ask you a question: when’s the last time you heard great news about the world? I don’t mean your favorite sports team winning or a heart-warming story on television, I mean the kind of news that brightens your worldview and makes you hopeful for the coming days. For most of us, I bet it’s been a while.
That’s because our time is filled with reasons to be cynical toward our future, as even a brief reality check demonstrates. As a species, humanity has existed for 200,000 years. It took us that entire length of time to reach two billion people, which we hit around 1930. We reached 7 billion in 2011, and we’re on track to hit 9 billion by 2040. That’s a 500% jump in the last 1/2000th of our history.
Our rise as a civilization has been powered by natural resources, so as our population has exploded our rate of resource consumption has exploded in kind. Today, we are consuming so many resources on such a large scale that it’s weakened our planet’s ability to support our way of life. Plant and animal species are rapidly dying off to the extent that scientists believe we’ve caused Earth’s sixth great extinction event, and they expect most biodiversity will be gone within the next 200-300 years. Global fish stocks are depleted upwards of 80%. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, we’ve cut down more than half of the world’s forests. And worldwide drought is increasing to the scale at which billions of people risk running out of water.
Then there’s oil, the resource that makes our advanced civilization possible. By 2035, we’re expecting to add another 800 million cars to the road, contributing to an annually accelerating increase in global oil demand. Oil production from conventional reserves has almost certainly peaked, forcing ever-greater reliance on unconventional oil sources like shale. While abundant in the short-term, unconventional oil is more expensive to extract – well into the trillions of dollars to meet global demand by itself. Once unconventional oil becomes our primary source of fuel, its price is likely to rise to an extent that it becomes unaffordable to much of the global economy. And while electric cars show great promise, it’s difficult to imagine how several billion of them will rapidly appear on global roads to wean us off oil.
As water and oil are vital to producing critical goods – food first and foremost – these circumstances risk grinding our way of life to a halt. History shows repeatedly that resource scarcity causes social unrest and economic depression, both of which cause conflict. Much of the world is already at arms today, and stability within regions vital to the global economy is eroding. Multiple countries are buckling under the weight of refugees numbering in the hundreds of thousands to single millions, and nearly 12 million more are displaced every year. As 85% of humanity's population lives in the driest half of the planet, in the coming decades the number of refugees fleeing unlivable conditions stand to easily exceed the hundred million mark.
Presently, the global refugee crisis is defined by political dilemmas that question whether to accept migrants on humanitarian grounds or not. But it’s not physically possible for most nations to absorb migrant populations of this size, regardless of political will. Thus in the face of this worsening problem, nations chosen for mass refuge will ultimately face increasing internal pressure to close borders and deny asylum to the millions at their gates – at gunpoint, if necessary. Much of the internal political turmoil we see today reflects this reality.
Mindful of that, I’d like to ask you another question: if someone you loved were dying of hunger or thirst, how far would you go to save them? More specifically: what would you not do?
What do we suppose happens if that answer were to be multiplied by a quarter billion people?
As the humanitarian impacts of this problem take hold, it will amplify an atmosphere of social unrest that flares long-simmering hostilities, eventually leading to armed conflict both within and between countries. By virtue of an expanding population and rapidly depleting resources, this will be conflict suffered across much of the world.
Conflict to this degree makes it effectively impossible to maintain global security, leading to the ever-increasing possibility of a worldwide social and economic tailspin. With 15,000 nuclear weapons in the hands of nine countries, this is a problem of tremendous magnitude that risks spiraling out of control at the cost of a world dragged into darkness – if not reduced to ashes.
If that wasn’t bad enough, our government today is actively unwilling to solve this problem because it’s legally bribed by special interests. These interests profit greatly from resource scarcity and social dysfunction; thus they direct their purchased pawns to promote their agendas over our society’s best interests.
The result? Half of Congress says climate change is a myth. The price of a university degree can cost more than a house. Our healthcare costs are twice those of most other western countries. Our infrastructure is decaying and our bridges are collapsing. The federal government spent $41 trillion in the past decade and racked up $19.5 trillion in debt, yet 95% of the wealth created since the 2008 financial crisis went to the top 1% of society. All of it wrapped up in manufactured political division and media disinformation that’s bitterly pit us against each other.
This is a grim reality, and we all know it. Yet what’s the point of talking about a problem if we don’t do something about it? But what can we do? How can we proceed in the face of these issues, and how can we address the social division and jaded worldviews that prevent us from getting behind any action to begin with?
Let’s talk solutions
I asked you before: when was the last time you heard great news about the world? What if we made that right now? For while it’s true the problems of our time may be many and their causes are complicated – rest assured they are not invincible. For the first time in history, we now have the means to beat them if we work wisely and together. And that is what A Future Worth Having is dedicated to proving.
If you’re a little skeptical, I don’t blame you. We’ve all been pitched stories that tell us how to solve problems, yet they fall short because their sale was made on rhetoric over substance and talk is cheap. Accordingly, this writing doesn’t sell a story that tells us how to solve our afflictions. Rather, it uses a transparent and open-source model to show how, based on the mindset of addressing causes over consequences. And of our problems, nearly all stem from just one cause, ultimately: resource scarcity and the economic damage caused as a result.
Beneath our social system, the buildings we work in, the roads we drive on and the supermarkets we buy food from, there is a massively complex and resource- intensive system that makes our lives possible. Civilization requires immense amounts of resources to function, resources that all have to come from somewhere. Without resources and the economies they power, society can’t operate, and if it can’t operate, social unrest increases and the risk of conflict expands until there’s a breaking point, which often results in either war or internal collapse.
At the heart of everything that’s wrong with our world lies this eternal dilemma of scarce resources, and how we react to that problem has shaped the world as we know it today. Since civilization became civilization, we’ve tiptoed around these limitations, searching in the dark for the right social experiment or the right ideology to manage this problem. But today, we no longer need to manage it. Instead, we can use technology to make this problem irrelevant.
If you can’t find the needle, burn the haystack
Technology has been making the world a better place for thousands of years, but we’ve recently crossed barriers that allow us to do things we once thought impossible. Of our recent advances, a select few technologies have made it possible to generate energy on a massive scale, far and away beyond what we’re doing today.
Deployed together in a framework, these technologies can lower the price of energy to an extent in which it becomes feasible, for the first time in our history, to synthetically produce critical resources on an indefinite scale. By indefinite, I mean that no matter how many resources one consumes, the framework will always produce more, faster than the rate of consumption – a feature by design.
A Future Worth Having outlines how this framework can deliver that goal, and provides blueprints that illustrate how it can be used thereafter to solve the pressing problems of our time.
This framework is environmentally friendly.
This framework is affordable.
This framework is sustainably powered.
This framework is built with technologies that exist today.
And, this framework can be deployed anywhere in the world to functionally end resource scarcity and its resulting consequences – and end them with finality.
If we can unchain ourselves from this eternal problem of resource scarcity, it frees up immense resources we currently devote to putting out its fires. Those become resources that we can instead invest in social advancement. This doesn’t cost us more; it costs us less. Not just in terms of money, but also in terms of concentration. If our society isn’t constantly made to surf this tidal wave of social maladies, we can devote greater attention to improving our lives and our civilization as a whole.
The smartest and most dedicated people on the planet have devoted their lives to making the technologies behind this framework a reality. By strategically positioning them together, we can build a new paradigm that, like the industrial revolution and the renaissance before it, frees us from the afflictions and restrictions of what we can now make the past.
With these technologies and the framework they power, we can change the world.
And we can build it better, stronger and brighter than before.