On Exponential growth
I’ve recently watched couple of videos on youtube – Chris Martensons “Crash Course” and another one focused on oil production in particular. These are very good education videos though you may lose your sleep for couple of nights as these are quite gloomy predictions. These films both talk about trouble exponential function starting from legend of chess invention and the modern day. One very helpful thing was an aproximate formula for doubling knowing percentage growth – you just take 70 and devide it by percentage growth and you get the dubbling time. So if something growths 2% per year it will double in approximately 35 years. If it is 7% per year it will double in 10 years (and so grow about 10 times in the same 35 years).
Based on these films I had couple of interesting thoughs:
Population Growth – The population growth is what most of economies depend on. I know Russia or Scandinavian countries having zero population growth or actually population decline see this as a serious issue. While if you really think about it at the long time scale – the population must stop growing sooner or later, assuming humanity will be still bound to the earth. Also the more people we have the less resources we have per person while at the same time everybody on the earth looks to continue improving standards of living (which typically means increasing resource usage). How do we expect that to happen ? Well I believe most people are so tied up with the current issues they have little plan thinking about future… in particular about thinking about future which can be very different from their past.
So why countries are concerned about population growth ? If you look at the GDP measure of the country two main ways to increase it is number of people in the country, which is relatively easy and then there is a productivity increase which is hard. Everyone knows GDP should grow for healthy economy and the population growth is important factor for it. We also need a population growth because if we do not we will have few children supporting a lot of old parents and so standards of living will decrease. This also means the longer people live after they retire (and stop producing) the lower the average standard of living will be.
How world would look if population would top growing or decline?
Religion Another thought I had is on religion – Religions typically encourage population growth via large families. Is there any religion which would put a limit on amount of children you should have ? I think it ranges from support of having large families to banning contraception all together. It is clear where this comes from – hundreds and thousands of years ago families needed to be large because children supported their families, because of high death rates etc. World also was a savage place and small communities would have hard time protenting themselves from quickly growing neightbours. The world has changed and the population is no more the ultimate measure of military power and you do not have to have may children for some of them to survive. How many religious leaders however changed their stand on this matter?
Resources With demands growing exponentioally while extraction capacity following the bell curve this is a hard problem to solve for the world in a whole. What does it mean for individual countries however ? The price of natural resources will continute to increase and countries which have a lot of resources will thrive financially and economically. I see Russia as having better growth prospects than US for example and well it is already dictating half the Europe as it is badly dependent on Russian Natural Gas for the energy. Will countries having litte (or having used up all resources) just pay whatever prices resource owners decide to charge or will they try to change the borders by force?
The countries pass their peak oil/gas/minerals productions like US or UK will likely start changes and hopefully resolve problems sooner.