back to article 'Scientists' seek to set world social, economic, tech policy at Rio+20

An international body claiming to represent the world's scientists has issued a set of demands ahead of the "Rio+20" summit this month. In essence the would-be spokesmen say that people should largely stop having babies, old folk should be put to work and most modern technology should be suppressed. The rich nations of the world …


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  1. Benjamin 4

    I've said this before and I'll say it again. You put all women on the patch or something else that they can't forget to take at age 13. You raise the pension age to 70 and increase pension contributions significantly. You offer free healthcare for things which aren't people's fault (type 1 diabetes etc), and charge large amounts for healthcare where it is people's fault (type 2 diabetes, obesity etc). You cut benefits to people who have been out of work due to a medical condition that they have caused.

    You make technology to have an expected life span of ten years (including phones, laptops and computers, if everyone has devices with the same capabilities developers won't write software needing more power so it will work, kind of, but the tradeoff is worth is).

    You put massive funding into nuclear fusion, hydrogen fuel cells and space travel. You stop all overseas aid. It will work. Granted everyone will moan, strike and generally complain (you need to stop climate change and fix the economy but I don't want it affecting me). It will work. Resource usage will drop exponentially.

    Let the down votes begin. "The truth hurts"!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      yeah but that's just taking all the fun out of life isn't it?

      and it's not like any of these things are going to be a major problem in my lifetime.

      and if i don't have any kids, it's not like i've got any descendants standard of living to be concerned about either. so feck it, screw the future, we're all gonna die with the sun goes cold anyway!

    2. Benjamin 4

      Oh yeah and while we're working on fusion ban solar / wind and build a load of fission reactors and gas plants (and get on with shale gas extraction).

      1. No, I will not fix your computer


        >>Oh yeah and while we're working on fusion ban solar / wind and build a load of fission reactors and gas plants (and get on with shale gas extraction).

        I suspect that everybody that up-voted you thought you were joking.

    3. moonface
      Big Brother

      The truth hurts

      Nice global authoritarian government you are trying to set up there. Here come the patch police raiding little girls bedrooms.

      Your 10 year technology idea is ridiculous. If I started dishing out computers with 2002 specs to my customers I would be lynched as they wouldn't be able to half the things they do now.

      Step away from the bureaucratic government office and let individuals and markets sort their own shit out! Hey in 10 years time we may have developed Technological singularity AI that will come up with a lot better solutions than yours.

      1. Benjamin 4

        Re: The truth hurts

        "Patch police raiding little girls bedrooms" Stop scare mongering. Even in China they don't break into girls bedrooms just to ensure that they are on birth control.

        2002 technology. Hmm Lets say 1 ghz, 256mb of ram and a 40gb hdd? For a lot of people that'd be alright. And don't forget that is the oldest stuff, so you'd filter it down. People who need it get modern tech and the old stuff is given to people who don't need it (people who only use the computer to check emails and browse the web a bit), say distributed once every six months. It suddenly becomes managable, especially if we got rid of some of the animations and stuff that soaks up cpu cycles for no reason.

        And as for authoritarian government is it really better than what we have now with big corporations ruling the roost? You seriously think this is a true democracy? As in people powered government?

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Re: The truth hurts

          @Benjamin 4: Your proposals are as ludicrous as those of these pseudo-scientists from the original article.

          Population growth is not a problem in developed countries, rather the opposite. Forced contraception or any forced medication will always create more problems then they are supposed to solve.

          The artificial limits on technological development will only mean that the rest of the world will overtake you in a few months time and you will rapidly slide to being a third world country, where you won't be even able to afford your forced contraception or high technology and your "clever" population control and consumption reduction measures will result in increased pollution and resource wastage.

          And authoritarian regimes are never economically competitive in the long term because they block innovation and distort markets.

        2. Bronek Kozicki

          Re: The truth hurts

          "Even in China they don't break into girls bedrooms just to ensure that they are on birth control." - no, they don't. Instead the state commits infanticide (hard to call forced abortions at 7th month of pregnancy something else) on a large scale.

          As for the rest of the proposal - we normally try to live our lives as ethically as possible within means available and assume that our governing bodies will make an attempt to, or at very least won't blatantly break with the ethical norms we are accustomed to. To do otherwise would put an end to democracy (see China).

          Science is here to help to provide sufficient energy, food etc. and it mostly works - at least it worked since middle ages. Demonstrably, in these parts of the world where science supported consumption, population growth is now very contained and the resources which are over-used could be often replaced with alternatives if not the Luddites (oil with nuclear energy, GM food etc.). These are the facts, but for Luddites, fear and ideology stand in the way of accepting them.

        3. Dr Stephen Jones


          "And as for authoritarian government is it really better than what we have now with big corporations ruling the roost? "

          I've heard this argument before. Where was it? I remember now:

          "Don't be stupid, be a smarty/Come and join the Nazi Party"

          - Mel Brooks, The Producers

          Don't fool yourself the big bad corporations go away. They just give themselves a coat of green paint and line up for the authoritarian's government's big contracts.

    4. Kugutsu

      Rather than 'putting women on the patch' why not advocate giving all boys the snip instead? Or perhaps instead of Orwellian control of the populace, maybe we could try giving kids the education and aspirations, so that they don't fill the world with babies... I am not an expert in demographics, but I would wager that there is a very strong correlation between more children and less education.

      As for raising the pension age, what would you have all these old folks doing? There is already a shortage of jobs for young people with energy and motivation (you cant tell me that the 10% of the population in the EU, for example,who are unemployed are all workshy welfare scroungers).

      Your proposals for healthcare are sensible, but fraught with difficulty in enforcing (what role does genetic predisposition play, for example, and who decides which medical conditions are self inflicted?)

      Slashing welfare I agree with you on, but again, there must be alternatives, ie jobs for people to do.

      Ironically your point about making tech have a longer lifespan, while I agree with it entirely, will in fact serve to reduce still further the number of jobs available - if people's hardware doesn't break or become useless, what incentive is there to consume and thus drive a market. Horribly flawed though this economic model is, that is how it is put together at the moment.

      I entirely agree with your final paragraph - massive funding into hard science and tech will drive further development and hopefully a way out of the current mess. Other than that, in the short term, we are stuck with it, short of someone taking drastic and very unpleasant action (if an animal population outgrows its habitat and resources, it crashes, and humans have in the past intervened before the crisis point with a cull...).

      1. Benjamin 4


        "Why not give all boys the snip" I suggested the patch since in 15 or 20 years time when we want to start having babies again it is easily reversible, and easy to apply, unlike the snip.

        Jobs will be created predominately within the hard science industries and support roles for them. This will capture the younger generations enthusiasm, allowing the older generations to continue in their current roles. This may not be perfect, but it will be a good start to finding jobs.

        1. Kugutsu

          Re: @Kuugutsu

          my suggestion was sarcastic. I do not advocate either intrusive surgery or intrusive compulsory medication as a means to controlling population. Rather, my suggestion was for increased education.

          As for more jobs being created in the tech industry, the problem is that the higher the tech, the fewer bodies you need doing stuff. Take SpaceX for example, a high tech company that has just successfully built and launched their own rocket AND orbital vehicle capable of reentry. To do all this, they employ less than 2000 people... To suggest that this nascent tech industry will provide employment for the vast segment of the population as you suggest is very naive. Quite apart from the fact that most people have no aptitude or interest in working in this sector. So we return to the point where the old, no-longer-able-to-retire are directly competing for jobs with the younger generations. What I can forsee happening instead is that 'training' and 'education' will be spun out longer and longer, delaying the age at which people enter work, to compensate for the later age at which they leave work. Unfortunately, however you look at it, youth brings energy and new ideas, and this will be squandered in favour of entrenched, inflexible older workers which will overall stifle innovation and make the situation worse.

          Disclaimer: I do not claim to have any kind of solutions. My take on the situation, as a resident of europe, is that we are pretty screwed as it stands, and that more development, rather than less, is the only way out...

          1. Tom 13

            @Kuugutsu Re: solutions

            Oh there is at least one solution. Just not one socialist Europe is willing to accept: your masses are wrong, and Maggie and Ronnie were right. But hey, it's not like we have a Roman history example or anything.

      2. Figgus


        I am not an expert in demographics, but I would wager that there is a very strong correlation between more children and less education.

        I think the correlation is actually between "fewer children" and "parents who prize education and raise their kids in an appropriate environment". Education itself is just another byproduct of that environment.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Put all the women on the patch"

      And you wonder why we get articles about problems with sexism in IT. I've said it before and I'll say it again: There are a lot of men in IT who think they are too smart to be sexist - usually these are the most sexist and often not that smart.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sigh...

        It's not a matter of sexism, but of common sense. No matter how tight a policy you run, you'll never be 100% successful. A handful of women can only produce a handful of descendents every 9 months or so, but a handful of men without their vasectomy and the only limits to how many they can get pregnant is their own stamina.

        Of course, you could apply the procedure to both genders to try and be 'fair', though it hardly seems fair to me to go to all the waste of performing another set of, more risky than the former, and completely unnecessary operations on the other half of the population just to try and pretend that everything is equal.

        It hardly seems sexist to me unless you think that acknowledging obvious, natural differences between males and females is 'sexist'.

    6. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      "increase pension contributions significantly"

      Sorry, doesn't work. I've put an average of 25% of my income into my pension scheme when I was working, with the result that I have no savings and no unemployment benefit because I have an "asset". Consequently, I either starve now, or liquidate my pension and starve later.

    7. W.O.Frobozz
      Thumb Down

      Spoken like a good little Malthusian.

    8. IronSteve

      ...sounds like the ramblings of a lunatic

    9. Graham Marsden

      Type 2 Diabetes is "people's fault"?

      Try telling that to Billie-Jean King, winner of more tennis titles than I can remember, stil active and definitely not obese, yet she has Type 2 diabetes.

      Yep, the truth definitely hurts.

    10. No, I will not fix your computer

      Space travel?

      Your nice (non socially aware) society is all well and good, but it's astoundingly short-sighted, for example one reason why the west is so developed is that it has taken wealth (coffee/narcotics/diamond/gold/oil etc.) from other countries, we now have currencies that have no inherrent value, while we are at least partly responsible for world povety, we also like to keep them that way, a little bit of aid maintains the situation, it's a method of subjugation, there will be a world of pain if you take that away - not that I'm advocating the status quo.

      But for all your penny pinching, you call for space travel? seriously, now, I'm up for exploring what's out there, but the ISS can only just keep people alive with 18 hours of maintanance a day, and it doesn't even go anywhere (to speak of), even with theoretical engines that won't exist for decades we can't leave the solar system without planning for multi-generational travel, but imagine this magic world when we have put trillions into (say getting to Mars, and having habitats) what possible good is that compared to what the trillions could have gone into? OK, we might be able to start a small colony of 100 people on Mars, the Moon, Europa etc. using those trillions, but could they self sustain? mine? build anything more complex than a hammer? no! they will still be sucking up resources from the Earth.

      Of all the nonsense you have spouted, space travel is the most conradictory.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: Space travel?

        Yes, you will not fix my computer.

        "imagine this magic world when we have put trillions into (say getting to Mars, and having habitats) what possible good is that compared to what the trillions could have gone into?"

        And the money would have gone where exactly? You are not going to burn all those banknotes in your ion engine on the way to Mars, are you?

        And to say that you will have to bring the resources from Earth is just strange. Of course, no one will buy dirt from Earth to import it to Mars, you will just take the tools with you and use the local dirt.

        1. No, I will not fix your computer

          Re: Space travel?

          @Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          >>And to say that you will have to bring the resources from Earth is just strange. Of course, no one will buy dirt from Earth to import it to Mars, you will just take the tools with you and use the local dirt.

          lol.... dirt, yea I give you that, there'll be plenty of dirt, but when I say resources I mean the ones that aren't just laying around, metal processed enough to build something from, the ability to replace things that wear out just wouldn't be there, just think about the resources required just to make a hammer, the plastics (or wood?) for the handle, the raw ore just might be available laying around - although on earth we have to mine with great big machines, then the smelting process requires other resources, let alone huge amounts of energy not so easy to make (controllably) from nuclear energy, and then do all that without an atmosphere, or fully automated.

          The only way that we'll be able to start up a colony on another celestial body is to send a huge amount of (fully automated, unmanned) resource off planet, build (or process and mine) before we get there, and that's science fiction, no, lets think about controlling bet use of the planets resources before we start planning to ship them off world, besides, heavy lift (non LEO) is very inefficient and very expensive, we need to have a solution to that before space travel becomes vaguely practical.

          1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            Re: Space travel?

            "heavy lift (non LEO) is very inefficient and very expensive, we need to have a solution to that before space travel becomes vaguely practical"

            In this I agree with you but that problem is not insurmountable and the matter is not so much cost as political will (as the solution will by necessity be nuclear).

            "The only way that we'll be able to start up a colony on another celestial body is to send a huge amount of (fully automated, unmanned) resource off planet, build (or process and mine) before we get there, and that's science fiction..."

            The "tools" I meant included great big machines for mining... Sending tools could well be automated but no one needs the complication of the machines having to assemble and run themselves upon arrival. It will be simpler to just send a team of engineers for that once you know that the heavy stuff have arrived successfully.

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's Odd

      I though our parents/grandparents got rid of you lot in 1945.

    12. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And people like me...

      WILL fight people like you, the "Pseudoscience" Nazis, until you kill every single one of us, and you're going to have a real fun time trying there, asshole.

      Like any of you pseudo-academic fuckers would ever be able to that is. Try and impose it on someone like me. Ive been in combat, Ive been shot at, Ive been hit (in my armor that is), and Im personally not taking this kind of shit from any government, not yours nor my own, nor anyone else's. And I'm certainly not taking it from the morons at the UN or any of their bootlicking sub-organs. Just try it. Please. You would never be able to impose your will on heavily armed self-reliant individuals who have little to no regard for the currently existing governments, the UN, and the way things are in the world right now, much less a totalitarian dictatorship run by people who think they know what's good for us, like you.

      You're basically advocating active eugenics, if someone isnt "good enough" to have children they ought to be sterilized right? "Give them a patch" is code for fucking sterilization, and you'll meet resistance to that at the barrel of an automatic rifle from someone who wont tolerate it. Id personally blow away anyone trying to do that to my wife or daughter without hesitation and without any remorse whatsoever.

      If someone creates a problem for themselves, fuck whatever circumstances in their lives may have caused it, its still their fault right? Make em pay so much they cant afford anything else but medical treatment! Real humane there asshole.

      Why dont we just fire up the gas chambers right now huh? Its a real fucking slippery slope. And Im sure you'd have no problem with any of it WHEN (not if) it gets there if people like you have their way.

      You and your buddies at the worthless UN, even more worthless IPCC, and this downright frightening IAP can all suck-start an M4A1 on full auto. Please do your part! "Reduce the surplus population!" as Dickens would say.

      We'd be much better off with proper science and proper scientists who aren't trying to throw us back to the 16th Century when we're on the verge of so much progress.

    13. mrdelurk

      Science exists to invent ways to create more prosperity

      Anything that says "you must give up this and that to hand it to the anointed" is not science. It's religion, masquerading as science.

  2. g e

    You also need

    Don't pay people if they're striking, tax unions higher.

    That should sort most of that aspect out ;o)

    Oh and importantly... remove all obvious safety labels like 'caution: sharp!' on new kitchen knives, 'May contain nuts' on bags of nuts. Let's eliminate people too stupid to work that shit out for themselves.

    1. That Steve Guy

      Re: You also need

      You also need to try to tell poor countries in Africa not to produce so many sprogs when they cannot afford condoms to stop HIV. The rest of humanity needs to stop medicating for a longer life, stop all research into treating fatal diseases and conditions, scrap human rights and world peace and install more leaders like Assad.

      What are these scientists smoking? Humans are genetically programmed to breed and survive. Population growth is inevitable unless we have some disaster, war, disease or famine that reduces it drastically.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: You also need

      You don't actually have to tax unions higher. There are two less intrusive fixes:

      1) Legally force unions to separate their bargaining expenses from their advocacy expenses.

      2) Allow people to freely leave unions as well as joining them.

      And if you have a shop where the employer uses the union contract regardless of whether or not you are in the union, the people who have left the union are only required to pay the union for those expenses directly attributed to bargaining.

      Of course, you do have to be prepared for the riots the unions will cause when you do this. Just look at Wisconsin where those were the real issues the unions had with Walkers reforms.

  3. John Arthur

    Been here before

    I seem to remember the Club of Rome around 45 years ago said much the same thing. In fact I think we should all be dead by now judging by their forecasts back then. I doubt that much will change in the next 45 except that this idea will get regurgitated in around 2057.

    1. fizz

      Re: Been here before

      Nope, they predicted the collpase for the second middle of this century.

      In fact, according to recent verifications, we're following their most pessimistic forecasts ina remarkably precise way.

      Reducing our lifestyles is not a choice for us, it will be only a choice if we will do it the easy way or the hard way.

      Oh, and hoping in tech advance to keep out nuts out of the fire indefinitely is an illusion for the math and physics uneducated: do some math and consider implications of exponential growth. It's not a matter of being "green" or "treehugging" or anything, it's a matter of facing reality.

  4. John Brookes

    So basically....

    ....we should all convert and become Amish? No thanks - not keen on curtain beards....

    Seriously, the whole "have fewer babies and you'll be better off" thing devalues anything else they say. Such a lack of awareness of the difference between correlation and causation utterly discredits their claim to be scientists.

    1. Benjamin 4

      Re: So basically....

      If we accept that humans will want products and that these products require energy created by burning fossil fuels to make, and even if we disagree that co2 causes global warming we can't disagree that we want to reduce pollution, therefore all roads lead to roam and therefore reducing population is a good thing.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: So basically....

        The energy does not have to be created by burning fossil fuels.

        The higher the technology you are using the lower specific use of resources it needs to achieve the same thing.

        To develop ever higher technologies you need people (young ones, as new ideas in science are mostly generated before the age of 40), who are the main asset of any country. If you reduce population in developed countries they will not be able to afford to stay developed.

        In underdeveloped and developing countries the population growth is much higher than in developed ones. By turning the latter into the former you will achieve exactly the opposite of what you seem to want.

  5. K

    Agreed - Benjamin 4

    Its about time everybody in the west acknowledges the earth only has finite resources and we have a decision to make - either we all cut back so the whole world can have their "piece of the pie", or we admit we rather like our cosy position and stop creating competition for ourselves i.e. by subsidising places like africa and south east Asia with charity and let them sort their problems on their own!

    When 2-3 billion demand a western style economy and lifestyle, What do people think will happen? The price of that nice VW Golf is going to double or even triple - We'll all be forced into "economy" micro cars, I'm not saying a bad thing, it just depends on what a nations population finds acceptable!

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: Agreed - Benjamin 4

      So if we decide to 'cut back' we can still drive VW Golfs? But if we don't, then the fuzzy wuzzys will price us out of them and into Smart cars and such like?

      Have you considered bombing the fuzzy wuzzys to stop them from getting rich? This will save the planet too.

      1. K

        RE: Anonymous Coward 101

        Anonymous Coward 101, you're an imbecile, who mentioned bombing? Its idiots like you who turn an intelligent debate into a play group spat! On top of that, you've have completely missed the point.

        We have 2 choices

        1) The west accepts it needs to cut back, by reducing consumption and continuing to subsidise those countries which pose competition for the resources.

        2) The west realises that the competition endangers its way of life and makes moves to protect it i.e. stop subsidising those countries and encouraging them to achieve the "western" prosperity and life style.

        These are decisions that need to be made by the everybody as a collective, not left to just politicians who will only protect their own short term interests!

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Re: RE: Anonymous Coward 101

          Who do you mean by "we"? Because I'm sure the we as in "people" or "country" or "human civilisation" have many more and better choices than the 2 that you listed.

  6. Paddy

    Wot! No reaching for the stars?


  7. Ben 50

    But of course Lewis, you know best.


  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Benjamin 4

    "Let the down votes begin. "The truth hurts"!"

    How does it feel to be a genocidal totalitarian apologist?

    1. K
      Thumb Down

      Re: @Benjamin 4

      Joy, another imbecile, drawn to intelligent debate like a month to a bright light - Rather than just slating a persons thoughts, Why not also express your own ideas? Or, are you incapable of intelligent thought?

      1. Tom 13

        Re: are you incapable of intelligent thought?

        I think he does display intelligence. He clearly understands the parable about casting pearls before swine.

      2. Zombie Womble

        Re: @Benjamin 4

        "another imbecile, drawn to intelligent debate like a month to a bright light" "incapable of intelligent thought?" Way to go with your intelligent arguments.

        It's always the dogmatic radicals that start throwing insults at people who put forward valid arguments challenging their extremism.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hold it right there

    Pol Pot implemented all these IAP demands over thirty years ago

    1. FrankAlphaXII

      Re: hold it right there

      He sure did, and the homicidal Khmer Rouge killed 2.2 Million people. Just about a third of the population of Cambodia. For absolutely nothing.

      And these fascists would like to kill billions. Read between the lines here, use a little bit of common sense, something sorely lacking in the Scientific Community it seems.

      Kind of makes you stop and think now doesn't it?

  10. Tim Worstal

    What's so damn bloody annoying

    is that these loons pretend to be scientists.

    Just for the sake or argument, let's accept their set up. Resource use, population growth, CO2 emissions: they're all a problem. A problem we must do something about.

    OK. So, we've got to change people's behaviour. And think about resource allocation etc.

    Hmm, so, do we have a science that looks at these things? Allocation of scare resources? The way humans respond to incentives? D'ye know, I think we do. Called economics.

    So, do our scientists call upon the scientists who are the experts in the particular field they wish to be expert in? Do they hell, they just wurble without knowledge.

    That's what's so damn depressing about this and similar stories. Even if they're right they're still not looking in the right places for solutions.

    1. fizz

      Re: What's so damn bloody annoying

      A pity that so many economists tend to work under assumptions that do not take into account the real world, i.e. actual people psychology, enthropy, thermodinamics etc. etc.

      A fun read:

      1. turnip handler
        Thumb Up

        Re: What's so damn bloody annoying

        "A fun read:"

        Definitly a good read, for me the highlight was: "It's hard to beat a Hostess Ding Dong for dessert."

      2. Tim Worstal

        Re: What's so damn bloody annoying

        Indeed, it is a fun read.

        But given that the phycisist doesn't understand what economic growth is not a particularly enlightening one.

        Economic growth is an increase in the value added in that economy, as defined by the value that consumers place upon final production.

        It has absolutely nothing, at all, ever, to do with any physical limits.

        That there are physical limits on certain types of growth, sure. We can't have seventy googleplex cars because there's just not enough of the planet to make that many from. But that's an entirely different thing from claiming that there is a physical limit to the amount of value that can be added to the resources that we do have available.

        1. scatter

          Re: What's so damn bloody annoying

          Except that value added is surely associated with an energy input so physical limits do come into play.

          Unless you're proposing that you can get growth without any energy input at all? I'd be interested to know how that is possible.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: What's so damn bloody annoying

            Of course you can get growth without any additional energy input. If all the people who are unemployed worked from home carving pieces of wood (cut down by other unemployed people using axes) into useful objects (wooden spoons, baseball bats, chair legs, etc.) they've increased the GDP of their country without any energy input.

            A silly example, to be sure, but scientific advancement makes an economy more productive with the same or less amount of energy all the time. Consider the effect of using a computer to plan shipping to reduce the miles travelled/fuel used, or reduce the wait times between stops, or even do stuff like avoiding long waits for left turns (UPS actually implemented this) Or if you already have some task like this which requires massive computer power, you get a new computer that uses 10% of the electricity to perform the same task.

            There are the types of major advancements that can massively increase productive ability, such as the Hall process for extracting aluminum, or the ability to make productive use of something which formerly had no use (i.e. uranium, various rare earths) or make better productive use of something we already had but used less efficiently (i.e. iron replaced by steel, using sunlight for electricity instead of just heat and light)

            All these predictions about the future are totally tossed on their ear, at least as far as energy use, global warming and pollution/clean water go when we finally figure out fusion. The luddites are afraid this will happen before they can scaremonger people into going back to the 18th century.

            1. scatter

              Re: What's so damn bloody annoying

              Oh sure we can increase GDP more efficiently but there are thermodynamic limits to the gains which can be made from efficiency (although we've barely made a start on that path). The example of your worker making wooden objects needs to buy tools, light his or her workspace, get the finished objects to market etc etc. Those will have non-zero energy inputs.

              So the only conclusion that I can draw is that energy growth is inextricably linked to GDP growth (however you define it) and therefore indefinite GDP growth is impossible because we'll eventually cook ourselves with waste heat as Tom Murphy points out. That applies to fusion power as well by the way.

    2. Circadian

      Re: What's so damn bloody annoying

      There's a slight problem with your view on economists - they are not scientists. When you have a bunch of economists who completely screw up the world with their voodoo "science" and then just keep on using their pet theories (that have singularly failed to work) rather than try to fix them, you really cannot call them scientists. Until neo-classical economists admit that their pet theory has fundamental flaws and start using scientific method to fix them,we should certainly not be giving economists any control of anything. (A good place to start would be Steve Keen's book "Debunking Economics".)

      1. Tim Worstal

        Re: What's so damn bloody annoying

        "Until neo-classical economists admit that their pet theory has fundamental flaws "

        Given that neo-classical isn't a theory rather it's a toolbox with which to construct them I'm not quite sure what you're after.

        Which of the basic assumptions would you like to get rid of for example? And given that the only really basic assumption in neo-classicism is that of marginality and that is obviously true and correct I'm at a loss really.

  11. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "old folk should be put to work"

    Yeah, and where are the jobs?

  12. Bluenose

    Instead of looking at the worst case actually read what was said

    We need to change our consumption levels in the West: not an unreasonable demand. For starters lets just reduce the volume of food we buy that we don't eat (there's few million tonnes of consumption saved), lets stop producing things we don't need (like who really needs a tamagotchi or a furby). Simple steps like these will reduce consumption and in doing so reduce demand and thus prices.

    As for resources of course they diminish. Technology replaces the use of but not the actual resource. For example electricity has been around for 100 years and yet whales who once provided the oil for lamps are still an endangered species due to over hunting. If we fail to improve our usage of resources then they will disappear even if we find something to replace them with. And you are betting the house that we can always find the technology to replace our usage before the resource runs out (good run so far but one day we will fail).

    Finally, it may have escaped some but pension ages are increasing and the value of pensions decreasing (both state and private pensions) as people are living to long, the means of providing pensions has become inefficient (volatility in bond markets for example). The result is that if you want to survive then you will need to work longer just to make up the cash you need to buy food etc.

    The report and suggested changes are not extreme if viewed from a realistic perspective of the world and only idiots ignore the real world

  13. Dr Stephen Jones


    Prices go up when demand falls, you clot.

    And the longer people work and pay into a contributory pension scheme, the higher their final pensions are, and the lower the burden on the state will be.

    These howlers show the level of your education is pretty basic - or you're just very thick.

    As several commentards have pointed out already your ideas are old (Club of Rome) and have been proved wrong many times before that. We would all be dead by now. Resource consumption per capita declines as technology improves.

    You say only idiots ignore the real world but you've done a pretty good job yourself. Get a clue.

    1. Jerome Fryer

      Re: @Bluenose

      If nobody wants to buy your product how much is it worth? Nothing.

      If your pension got put into garbage Ponzi schemes such as CDOs how much is it worth now? Nothing.

      "Get a clue", yourself. Start with the fact that the world is a complex place and doesn't necessarily adhere to any form of political dogma or associated nonsense economic theory.

  14. Loyal Commenter

    "Again, history doesn't bear this out. As technology advances, usually building on new scientific discoveries, the amount of resources expands - often enormously. For instance, with 18th century science and technology, the resources available to humanity were at a certain level which was already vastly more than was the case when humanity lived as hunter-gatherers.

    "Now, with agricultural productivity increased to heights that even the "scientific" farmers of 1800 could never have dreamed of, with many new sources of energy and vastly more puissant means of transport and communication, the resouces available to humanity have expanded many times over, all over again.

    Whilst you make some valid points in the article, I have to take exception to this economics* led pice of groupthink. Resources do not, on the whole, increase; they remain constant, or deplete. Solar output remains roughly constant (with a very slow increase as the sun burns more hydrogen and moves onto heavier elements, but that is a long way in the future). Global rainfall may increase with global warming, but also becomes less predictable due to the energies involved in atmospheric heat transport - think more storms, etc., however, in general, resources become depleted with time.

    What does improve with technology, is our ability to efficiently extract and use resources. Our ability to improve efficiency is not, however, infinite, as economic theory would have us think. There are thermodynamic limits on the efficiencies of engines, and hard limits on the volume of fossil fuels under the ground - finding new resources doesn't mean the amount of resource has increased, it just means the amount if greater than we thought. There are physical limits to how efficiently plants can photosynthesise, and how much of their output can be made into usable food or fuel. Yes, we may not have reached those limits yet, but since the agricultural revolution, gains are incremental.

    *Economics is often called the dismal science. This is incorrect; it is not a science at all. Economic theories are not scientific ones, and we would all do well to remember this.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Finite resources

      "What does improve with technology, is our ability to efficiently extract and use resources. Our ability to improve efficiency is not, however, infinite, as economic theory would have us think."

      Agree. That's why we must eventually start exploring resources available outside this particular planet.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ,,,is a bit like Freudian psychology. It can explain anything with hindsight but has the predictive power of standing on one leg sniffing a hedgehog's armpit.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      "hard limits on the volume of fossil fuels under the ground"

      This is obviously true (unless the abiotic oil nuts were actually proven right) But this, along with the limits on the efficiency of engines and so on don't matter once we get fusion working. Unless you believe that's in insoluable problem. I suppose the constant predictions of "in 20 years" for the last 40 or so made by overly optimistic scientists seeking funding don't help people's perception of the likelihood, but while it isn't any day now by any means there has been a lot of progress over the years that's brought us a lot closer. Its just a really problem to make a controlled star in miniature, unfortunately.

      The world should be devoting more of its resources in terms of money and the best and brightest towards finally cracking this, since it's the fix for so many problems facing us. Fossil fuels become irrelevant. With essentially unlimited electricity generated via fusion reactors, you can synthesize fuel from scratch less expensively than pumping it out of the ground. You no longer need to waste arable land growing fuel as we've been doing lately. But you could if you wanted, since we'd no longer need arable land to grow food. Or even sunlight for that matter, we could grow food anywhere we could generate power, even underground or in basements (unless the cops think you're growing pot and bust down your doors) You solve the nuclear power dilemma by making it irrelevant and unnecessary.

      I'm sure the luddites would start worrying about global warming due to the waste heat of all the fusion power we were generating in this brave new world, but at least for this (as opposed to CO2 induced AGW) the math is quite simple, so you can calculate energy generated = heat generated and compare that to the heat being input to the Earth from the sun every day. Unless (or perhaps until, the luddites would fear, and possibly correctly in this case) Earth became like Asimov's Trantor or Star Wars' Coruscant the additional heat input would be such a small fraction you'd see it expressed via scientific notation rather than a percentage figure.

  15. strum
    Thumb Down

    Lewis Page is a troll

    And a third-rate one at that.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    S.Claus Labs Inc. press release

    As paid-up scientists, our solution would be to use progress to implement useful technology, not modern bling.

    The full plan is too big for an email, but does not include nuclear fusion (will be dirty, like fission), hydrogen fuel cells (more explosive than lithium) or preteen hormone patches (perverted). It includes certain implementations of public transport, low-power appliances and energy-efficient architecture. For the complete report, please send a self-addressed envelope to our labs at the north pole.

  18. James 36


    when talking about the future please remember the following

    1) the past is a record of what happened and can be used as a guide to the future

    2) The only way you will know you are right is when the future is the past

    3) making statements about the future is classed as opinion not fact

    honestly you lot should check your language, most of what you are saying is your own personal opinion and not fact so stop presenting it as such and calm down

    I suggest we all go outside and have a drink

  19. Faye Berdache

    There is another way.

    There are vast tracts of desert and frozen wilderness that could be developed (anyone remember the "Greening of the Deserts" proposition) to provide sustainable ecosystems using bio-domes. What we need to ask is "who is stopping us doing this". The technology exists, if the current space exploration plans are to be believed, and it would be much easier and cheaper to implement than trying to ship all the raw materials across vast distances of space. The difficulties are much reduced being limited only by a supply of water (desalination anyone!) and available energy (Solar anyone!). Every other obstacle can be overcome with sufficient application of MONEY.

    So what does this alternative give us? First it provides employment (those biodomes won't build and maintain themselves), then more housing for all those elderly people who don't need to be in the heart of London or other large metropolis, more food and more investment in technology. Win, win, win.

    Sadly it will require huge investment in very long term developments, with little or no profit to be seen (sounds like a cue for a government grant), in areas of the planet that no one wants to live in. There has to be incentive to make this work and at the moment (and for the forseable future) there is no incentive to do this.

  20. Johnny Canuck

    My Utopia

    includes forcing old people to work till they drop, forced sterilization and 20th century technology!

    Hooray for the future!

  21. econmagic


    Yes, it is true, most environmentalists and left leaning people have some overly idealistic ideas that actually discredit their cause, which is sad.

    Truth is that we need a more sustainable global economy for moral and practical reasons.

    We need to get more out of less, in order to be able to grow. Did everyone enjoy the past half decade of oil prices 4-500% higher than just over a decade ago, despite the anemic growth we have seen?

    How about food prices that have increased by 150% since 2000? We cannot grow, if every time economic activity picks up a little, natural resources start skyrocketing in price, and Obama is really not to blame for that, despite the boloney that is being fed to the masses. The rise in commodity prices beggan way before 2009.

    The market currently encourages us to move towards a more disposable economy, and that is no way to improve people's lives, given a basic economic fact, which is that resources are finite.

    Sadly, we are too far from achieving such a future for the "global village"

    Here is what we need:

    (I think such a mechanism would be highly beneficial to the battered western economy)

    Here is why we are unable to achieve it:

  22. our combined` effect

    please see what we can do now at Rio + 20 as people..

    Hello folks,

    i share what i wrote with various media that have not addressed Rio + 20.

    excuse me if i missed your reporting of this conference above, but we would appreciate support;

    as in good grassroots ideals/solutions being enacted + we share our proposal that we rushed to get posted, so final edit needs cleaning up by students/community involved as we get supported for

    project osic.

    i submit a link for our 170 page curriculum supplement/forum in the working, that can be plugged in now. to have students come out of schoolroom + into community giving hands on for those in need for all to self-develop as all then come to cloth/table + make a `plan to restore ecological sustainable working communities, where locals that work the elements come together equally to do a land/fresh water flow to sea use review. where we take bad science + co_evolve bad development as we filter thru a local tapering transition;

    supporting all to rethink, look at facts collected/networked/reflected from simple folks living natural lives in harmony as they are fueled by addressing their hands on needs with what sustains them as they live local.

    it is these patches` of solutions that we link with pockets` without understanding to show that globally we cannot allow bad science or bad development or bad government, to interfer in our ability to understand our misuse/abuse, rid baggage + develop our local communities, so all self-express without leaving a footprint, leaving no one left behind.

    please review + share that right now we have solutions created upon by good science integrated with indigenous `ways that work + we support others as well that support many in their struggles, see their agendas;

    also i give you an example if have not seen others view;

    thank you for supporting the many solutions we offer to the world + willing to work with all so we most efficiently utilize this important forum + allow a democratic perspective to rule, meaning help all to become aware of the reality of what can be + then let those unaware be supported to understand, now locally bring all to the cloth/table + together we network via like ecosystem/subject + make good science from bad as we co_evolve with many already self-sutaining so the verbiage is understood as common sense.

    i have briefly been part of all dialogues at Rio via internet + todays voting showed me many scarry proposals that are created due to people in layers with baggage/misunderstandings yet want to help, meanwhile their shallow judgement with the false green movement leaves negative effects. where our tapering transition proposal would work these opportunities as we aid them to get clear, rethink so they choose to make wrongs right + come back into local /global community as a responsible participant.

    all this is a lot to assimilate for one struggling, so it takes all of us globally to reach out with support mechanisms as we offer in

    project osic,

    so local students can self-develop along with the community members as together we walk 1 step at a time, showing reflection of what already is, by good scientists, good indigenous stewards, so no one has to reinvent the wheel.

    rather asap we can efficiently end the war mode economy, + resources can be redirected into those left behind.

    i was going to publish this pdf for

    project osic,

    but due to timing for Rio + 20, we are posting on forum freely, + by today i'm suppose to get confirmation of our 501.c3 status for non-profit + will open for donations if get. which has been long over due due to IRS non-profits errors.

    good day, kara j lincoln

    thank you for what you can do.

  23. Sirius Lee

    Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

    Going along to this jamboree again next month. Presumably they will have a stand explaining their support for this perspective and, as the article's author suggests, to explain why the Royal Society should continue to be funded.

    It will be interesting to solicit the opinions of Dr David Deutche *FRS* who, judging from the content of his book Beyond Infinity, disagrees profoundly with the position the the Royal Society.

  24. Sirius Lee

    Desperately disappointing

    What's desperately disappointing about the subject of this article is that its a profoundly European perspective. Anti-science exists everywhere but, in my experience, only in Europe is it so prominent. Sure, in the US there are supporters of anthropocentric causes of climate change that make some noise there but science is seen as a liberating force. Same in China, India, etc.

    Why this is disappointing to me is that unless my kids want to grow up in an environment over which they have no control they will have to move abroad. That is, move to live in an environment where this nonsense is ignored at all levels and where they are able to have a productive life while Europe withers and dies.

  25. mhenriday

    'Lewis Page' seeks to set world social, economic, tech policy at El Reg

    The more babies (ban condoms, the pill, and IUDs !) and the more «techology» (like aircraft carriers, drones, etc, etc) the merrier, the Earth's resources are unlimited - and even if they're not, they should go to the military. What an unforgivable oversight that Mr Page and AO are not represented on the IAP, the status of which would then be immediately rectified from «relatively obscure» to «household word»....

    Where does the Reg find these people ?...


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