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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Do you think the future will look more like our past where we will get back to nature in order to stop the problems we're causing the environment or

Do you think we'll keep building everything even bigger and have cities that look like star wars with no nature in sight or

A mix where we will continue to have more and more technology but technology that will build upon and work with nature as opposed to going against it like so much of what we've built and created does now

I'm just curious since I see a trend that all the "growth" we've had in building bigger and more things seems like it's ending. And we're now thinking more about the environment as opposed to growth for the sake of it. So I'm curious as to whether we'll keep growing and destroying or "regress" in a way by going back to a more natural way of living. Or perhaps mixing the two. But then that would involve a major change in our current technology.

If we're able to change all our technology to be eco-friendly then that I believe would be the next renaissance in our history.
 

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Rare earths necessary for human physiology are the biggest limitation to population growth and many of the ones required can only be found on earth. Assuming there are ways to compensate for such things it's been estimated the earth might be able to support 100 billion people if they all lived in enclosed cities and were only allowed out perhaps once a year. These would likely be cities complete with parks and even pseudo wilderness areas and in Japan skyscrapers with such things are already being planned. Instead of the more traditional Star Wars vision with people flying around outside, buildings would likely be connected with tunnels and bridges. Not as cinematic as Star Wars, but more practical. Such cities might even extend further underground then they do up in the sky, but with every wall serving as a video screen you could have the illusion of being above ground.
 

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The cat is already out of the bag, so to speak. We are already dependant on technology, so we can't revert to a previous age without a large reduction in population.

Building bigger is not a problem, so long as such buildings can last a long time. The real problem is unsustainable practices and our throwaway consumer culture. I think in the future, all products will be designed with the complete life-cycle in mind, so that there is almost no waste and products are optimised to last a long time.

Manufacturing cars out of steel with pretty new bodies for example is an extreme example of wasteful practices. We could build lightweight composite cars with brushless electric motors which easily replaceable parts that will last for 50+ years without major maintenance, besides recycling the battery every 150,000 kms. Currently the cost we spend on servicing vehicles is quite high and can exceed the battery recycling cost of electric vehicles.

Transitioning to electric vehicles means we could transfer to truly sustainable electricity generation - such technologies are available right now. Technologies such as solar thermal can provide baseline power at night and are predicted to cost between 3.5-6c/KWh by the end of this decade. http://www.nrel.gov/csp/pdfs/35060.pdf
What does this mean? It means the long-term cost of solar thermal electricity generation is cheaper than coal.

What we need then is not a denial of technology, but simply a greater awareness of the impact that our choices (and technology) have on the rest of the world. Our unsustainable choices are already costing us more in the long run, but so long as we are disconnected from these outcomes, we will continue to make poor quality, short term oriented decisions.

Assuming there are ways to compensate for such things it's been estimated the earth might be able to support 100 billion people if they all lived in enclosed cities and were only allowed out perhaps once a year.
I'm curious, do you have any details on this estimate?
 

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I'm curious, do you have any details on this estimate?
The limitations of the available rare earths are real and the UN among others have done studies on it suggesting perhaps 14 billion or so is the best we can do if people are willing to accept a certain amount of malnutrition as commonplace. The 100 billion estimate is closer to pure speculation based on back of the envelope calculations. Asimov once did one based on estimating what was possible if everyone grew food on their rooftops and the average building was 8 stories tall. At any rate, without limitations on population growth with a few thousand years the mass of humanity would outweigh the earth itself! There was even one estimate showing exponential growth would outpace the speed of light.
 

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I often wonder about this myself. I think the most logical thing is for a mixture of both. Like aquaponics for example. Most of the best inventions have been inspired by nature, and more and more people are realising it's wiser to work with nature than to go against it.
If we have any chance of survival we will have to learn to respect it. I imagine rows of houses with glass aquarium tubes connecting them, and all sorts of fruits and vegetables growing everywhere. The technology is there for it to all be computerised, feeding, checking ph and all that. That's my dream anyway.

I'd like it if earth could look like lord of the rings, but with technology. We could paint the wires green to blend in. Or discover an invisible spider web that contucts electricity. Why are there so many shitty boring buildings around? Why don't inspired archetects get to design whole cities? Imagine if Gaudy got to design the whole of Barcelona. Imagine what a holiday that would be! We need to get rid of these unimaginative archetects designing ugly grey buildings. I hope they die off like the albatross.



But the reality of the situation is, the world is just not ready to work together. We all want more and more and are only out for ourselves. So we'll keep consuming and inventions that will enable things to last longer will be shot down by money makers. Fucking planned obsolescence.

Until we all get on the same page and work together, then we have no hope. Technology is helping with this though. People are coming together from all over the globe and working on different projects out of sheer passion. The more of those people come together and get their ideas out there, working, the better it will be for all of us. Because when people do things out of passion, it's generally for the greater good. But when people do things for money, it generally isn't.

I really hope we don't cover the whole world in concrete and cages. That would be so bad for everyones mental health.
 
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The problem with wisdom is one can never really be too sure what's wise until after it's been done. You originally mentioned building things bigger as a bad thing, but if your goal is to create the most amount of area for other creatures to live in, tall dense building is the way to go.

If the goal is to minimize pollution, more dense manufacturing is the way to go because it's easier to control point sources than the more ubiquitous stuff.

If the goal is to minimize energy consumption, again, density: Less dispersed supply channels

So, ironically, the best way to help the planet is to make the places we live look less natural.
 

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Exponential growth never continues indefinitely in biological systems. A logistic model is way more appropriate. Growth looks exponential near the bottom, but as you start approaching physical limits of your environment, growth becomes linear, then slows, and eventually reaches an asymptote. There are always limits, although a paradigm shift can push the limits further and allow growth to continue a little more.

We would probably have to colonize another planet within the next 200-300 years to avoid overcrowding Earth. Although birth rates are slowing tremendously already. Most developed nations have negative or close to stagnant growth. As the developing world industrializes, birth control will be widespread and families will opt to have only 0-2 children as in North America, drastically reducing population growth. So we might actually cap our own growth just by being reluctant to raise kids.
 

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So, ironically, the best way to help the planet is to make the places we live look less natural.
Dense doesn't have to mean streets lined with concrete and steel....

@wuliheron - that is interesting, my back of the envelope calculations also place ultimate limits around 100 billion based on various resources (energy density, land use etc.)

Do you have a link for the UN study? I'd like to see something more rigorous than what I can come up with.
 

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Dense doesn't have to mean streets lined with concrete and steel.....
Actually, if you want to capture all the pollution bits from people living in close quarters and denser industry,it very well might. Materials that allow for drainage also allow access to the water table.

A nonimpactful humanity is a contained humanity.
 

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Maybe we should all live in plastic bubbles then? Or upload our souls onto a computer? :wink:
That's kinda where it going to lead. I still think our best bet as a species is to get ready to get off the planet, and we're going to be living in bubbbles on pretty much any planet we find. Our aesthetics are probably more adjustable than our biological needs.
 

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Space technology= large and really high tech,

Terrestrial technology= blends in with environment and works with it.(part of nature, but hightech-ness within it)
 
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