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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXI–Diminishing Returns On Investments In Complexity

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXI

December 4, 2022 (original posting date)

Chitchen Itza, Mexico. (1986) Photo by author.

Diminishing Returns On Investments In Complexity

Another very brief contemplation prompted by The Honest Sorcerer’s latest writing regarding our energy predicament.

What you have described so well is perhaps the conundrum faced by every complex society throughout history: diminishing returns on investments in complexity.

This phenomenon appears to apply to almost everything in the human realm but most importantly resource extraction and use as you suggest.

We do tend to put into action the easier and cheaper solutions to our perceived problems with those, in turn, adding to our complexity and creating even more problems that need even more attention (i.e., energy and other resources).

I have argued before and continue to believe that the ‘best’ use of our remaining energy resources would be to encourage local communities to become self-sufficient (especially in terms of potable water procurement, food production, and regional shelter needs) but perhaps even more importantly decommission those complexities that pose significant risk to present and future species.

As I wrote some time ago: “Three of the more problematic [complexities] include: nuclear power plants and their waste products; chemical production and storage facilities; and, biosafety labs and their dangerous pathogens. The products and waste of these complex creations are not going to be ‘contained’ when the energy to do so is no longer available. And loss of this containment will create some hazardous conditions for human existence in their immediate surroundings at the very least — in fact, multiple nuclear facility meltdowns could potentially put the entire planet at risk for all species.”)

I believe ‘simplification’ is coming but am highly doubtful it will be through much if any ‘coordinated’ effort by our ruling caste. As many who have studied our predicament have argued, it will be Nature that imposes the ‘solution’ to this conundrum that is humanity and we will have little to say about it.

As walking, talking apes that tend to deny reality and believe in ‘magic’, we will continue to weave comforting narratives that our human ingenuity and concomitant technological prowess can save us from ourselves.

Imagination, however, is not reality and while we can think up all sorts of possibilities the starkness of physical laws and biological principles stand firmly in the path ahead preventing our magic from having any real impact — except, perhaps, to exacerbate our predicament.

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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