Civilizations – Part 2

File:StatfjordA(Jarvin1982).jpg

(…continued).

The amount of resources of any kind is limited. For a growing civilization, this can lead to a crisis. But being creative, a civilization is able to open up new resources. Examples from history include the invention of clothes, fire and housing enabling humans to settle in colder areas, the invention of bow and arrow, enabling the hunting of more game, the invention of agriculture, enabling humans to get more food from the same area, the inventions of weapons of war, enabling one civilization to use another one as a resource, the invention of coal-fired steam engines, the invention of artificial fertilizer, and so on.

Faster growing civilizations outcompeted or integrated more slowly growing ones. Within a civilization, faster growing subsystems (e.g. companies) would outgrow the more slowly growing ones. So creativity is leading to knowledge that allows tapping into new resources, enabling some civilizations or their subsystems to outgrow other ones. Values, attitudes, social institutions and structures and technological knowhow that lead to faster growth will be amplified by making the civilization carrying them grow faster. This process can be compared to biological evolution.

As a result, civilizations have a general trend not only to grow but to increase the speed of their growth and thus the speed of using up their resource base.

Growth is a form of instability, so civilizations are inherently unstable.

The problem with this is that a planet has only a limited amount of resources. There is an upper limit of growth. We are currently approaching that limit with our global civilization. What is going to happen?

(to be continued)

(The picture is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StatfjordA(Jarvin1982).jpg)

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10 comments

  1. Reblogged this on The Asifoscope and commented:

    The second part of an abstract view of civilization.

  2. Richard · · Reply

    Yes! Wonderful!

    Civilisations are inherently expansionistic. They simply can’t help themselves. Not unlike cancer.

    The real problems begin when a civilisation exceeds the carrying capacity of its landbase. It begins running short of resources. Where oh where will the needed resources come from? Anywhere they can be found. So trade between civilisations is spawned. And, of course, if trade relations break down there’s always wars of conquest.

    Civilisation is pure entropy. I just Love entropy!

    1. You are probably the only person who is finding this wonderful 😉
      But that is the problem with us “thinkers”. We get happy from understanding things, even if what we understand is terrible.
      The thinkers with their inventivness are the real source of the problems, not the takers. Without thinkers, the takers would still be alpha-males of a horde of apes and sit in the trees (or in the grass, in the case of Australopithecus).

      1. Richard · · Reply

        I’ve entered the resignation stage of mourning so I’ve become an impartial investigative journalist reporting on the collapse of human civilisation. ; D

        Really though, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve begun to see the coming collapse as an opportunity for the human species rather than a catastrophe.

        I’ll have to disagree regarding the thinkers. They and their inventiveness can be a problem but not the problem.

        And no, the takers never were nor could they ever be the alpha males. The takers are the 1%, the essential psychopaths who cannot function as part of a “normal” group. Even if such a taker were physically and emotionally equipped to dominate a tribe or forager/gatherer group, his psychopathy would make him unfit for “leadership” in a small non-hierarchic culture. Such beings can only function “successfully” in large populations where patriarchal hierarchies are the norm.

        I’m actually enjoying your presentation. So far you’re spot on and preaching to the quire. You’re addressing the big picture while discussing its components. Your not mistaking any of the components as the whole picture. That is to say, you understand that none of the individual “issues” created by civilisation are the problem and that “resolving” any one of those issues would not “fix” civilisation.

        I’m still hoping to reblog this in its entirety once all the parts have been presented.

        Anon

  3. ‘Growth is a form of instability’. Yes!
    And systems seek stasis…

    As much as I want to read on, I am glad for the small digestible pieces!!!

  4. That was ‘of instability’ of course.
    It’s android’s fault. Ahemmm.

    1. Well, the old programmer’s saying is “the problem is always in front of the screen”. Those boxes only do what you tell them 😉

  5. What is going to happen? I can only guess, we will sooner or later be involved a war of a scale and magnitude that has not been seen in the recent past

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