If you are a chemist, you know very well how catalysts can work small miracles: you had been trying for some time to have a reaction occur, without success, then you add a little pinch of something and – suddenly – things go “bang.” In no time, the reaction is complete. Of course, as a chemist you know that catalysts don’t really work miracles: all they can do is to accelerate reaction that would occur anyway.
Presently although the EROI decline is quite clear the Net Energy is still well above 90%. The society feels pretty safe. The problem is that we are walking along a cliff and it is increasingly urgent to make an energy transition, before finally ending up in the abyss.
The Ancient Romans never understood what hit them. Nor did later historians: there exist literally hundreds of theories on what caused the fall of the Roman Empire.
See that thing up there? It is an autonomous security robot, something that’s becoming fashionable nowadays. Obviously, for every problem, there has to be a technological solution. So, what could go wrong with the idea that the problem of homeless people can be solved by means of security robots? After all, they are not weaponized…. I mean, not yet.
So, is mineral depletion an existential threat to human civilization? Or is it just a marginal problem that can be fixed by some technological improvements? This is truly a fundamental question for the future of humankind. An answer is provided by the latest report to the Club of Rome that was published in 2017, “The Seneca Effect.”
We should recognize our limits, too. Follow change, don’t try to stop it. Nature is changing all things we see and out of their substance it will make new things in order that the world will be ever new. This is the way Nature works.
I approach the subject of the physics of energy and the economy with some trepidation. An economy seems to be a dissipative system, but what does this really mean?
A Seneca shaped production curve would considerably reduce the amount of fossil carbon that can be burned in the future.
The collapse of the North Atlantic cod fishery industry gives us a good example of the abrupt collapse in the production of resources – even resources which are theoretically renewable.
It is a well known tenet of people working in system dynamics that there exist plenty of cases of solutions worsening the problem.
The idea of an impending collapse of our civilization is already bad enough in itself, but it has this little extra-twist that collapse may be given more speed by what I called the "Seneca Cliff,"