What if we are wrong? REALLY wrong?

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Bertrand Russell wrote this:

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

Now, in the Peak Everything world, we think we are pretty smart.   We see the decline in fossil fuel availability, ocean biomass, EROEI, the rise in CO2 levels, pollution, population, debt levels, and general strangeness in our societies, and think “Yeah, we are in for a rough ride.”   Again, check the folks to the right in the blog roll to read how we are going to hell in a handbasket, in excruciating detail.

But what if we are wrong?  One of the things I’ve always asked those folks is, “who is your best critic, who is someone you respect, but has opposite worldviews?”  Now, a few of the folks I’ve posed this question to (Greer, McPherson) have come back with folks who share the worldview that we are in trouble, but none of them has come out with the poster child for the antithesis of the Peak Everything world of Ray Kurzweil, or those in the upper left hand portion of the Collapsnik chart.

Now, this error in judgement could be wishful thinking that “alien space bats” might come along and rescue us, but there may be a small probability (or even large), that heck, we might all be living in a simulation, so all bets are off, regarding our uncertain and wacky future.  What to do in this simulation, then?  Act as if it doesn’t exist, and hope for the best (a reversed Pascal’s Wager)?   Given the UFO issue, discussed previously, perhaps many, many strange things are afoot.  After all, as JMG has commented, when the news of the world gets as weird as an Onion story, you wonder how those folks can keep up.  A plague wipes out a good chunk of humanity, and somehow (yes, lots of handwaving here) this out-of-control ecosystem softlands, and the plague smartens up the survivors by a few IQ points, or we get some sort of AI that does figure out how to get us out of this mess and put us on a path to sustainability.   A few scenarios might actually happen, and stranger things have happened in the world.

Again, we prepare for what we think is going to happen, but the future is one big fat unknown.   Perhaps my point here is yeah, we have a good idea of things of how things could go, but also, we could be wrong.

This week’s questions:

  • Is it a waste of time to even think this way?
  • Are there any “softlanding” scenarios that don’t involve alien space bats?
  • How do you act towards folks who think so differently?   Are you a bit smug about your Peak Everything worldview?
  • When else in your life have you been completely and utterly wrong, after thinking you were completely and utterly right?





5 thoughts on “What if we are wrong? REALLY wrong?

  1. Ben

    I’ve thought about this from time to time. It seems to obvious at the macro scale that the industrial world is unraveling, yet I go to my back yard to garden and hear crickets.
    As for a soft landing scenario, I think it would require a number of things to go right, and to happen in the right order.
    To start with, humanity would have to put the breaks on population growth, starting right now. If we could push fertility rates down to 0.7-1.1 children per women, and consumers in the industrial world stopped consuming 10-20 times the resources of the average person in the ‘developing world’ that could buy us some time/ The alternative would be a pandemic wiping out 70% of the world population (and hitting the young especially hard.
    Second, for that scenario to work for the better, then the descendants (or survivors) would need to safely decommission the worlds nuclear reactor fleet AND get a handle on removing as many toxic plastics and other chemicals from the worlds ecosystem.
    Third, all this would have to happen before the world reached a tipping point for pushing climate change out of control.
    Fourth, after the hard work of bioremediation was done and the population below one billion by 2100 or so, the remaining humans would have to live in communities that valued life over consumption, and all the cultural change that entails.
    If those things happened smoothly, then yes, we could have a relatively soft landing.

    1. peakfuture Post author


      Thanks for a well thought and reasoned reply.

      Yes, those are about the things I’d think would have to happen. A pandemic would be one thing that might work, but it *would* be horrific. A soft landing of any type would be hard.

      1. Ben

        To touch on one of your other questions, I would guess a peak future world view has made me a bit smug.
        I sometimes find I am completely and utterly wrong when it comes to what I should say in a job interview.
        As for the soft landing scenario, my guess is that the chances of such a scenario happening are vanishingly small, and I don’t think the plague route even really qualifies as a ‘soft’ landing. I think things could fall into place just right for a less soft version of this scenario to happen. What do you think?

      2. peakfuture Post author

        You are correct, even the plague thing couldn’t be considered ‘soft’ by any stretch.

        The worldview that we have is sobering, for sure. I don’t know if ‘smug’ is the exact word; perhaps ‘sadly awake’…

  2. Ben

    Yeah maybe smug is not the right word, but I definitely think, from time to time, these people are gonna be so shocked when the Rube Goldberg device that is industrial civilization falls apart.
    The shocked looks will be funny until they turn ugly…


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