Social Empathy and the End of the World
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In 1798, Malthus predicted that, like all natural populations, humanity's numbers would reach a level that it could not sustain, at which point it would contract. The First and Second Industrial Revolutions both provided ways for us to further inflate our numbers and stave off collapse. We have reached peak oil, the point in a natural resource curve where all the easily accessible quantities have been discovered and extracted. Further resource extraction comes at the cost of diminishing energy returns. When we no longer have enough oil we will not be able to sustain our current society, and there are a number of scenarios that might be possible. Jeremy Rifkin looks at the gradual development of Western Society through the lens of social empathic consciousness, which he argues surges forward when cultures develop more interdependent structures. The hidden problem with this mode of advancement is that increases in interdependent structural complexity come with an inherent increase in the entropy of the surrounding environment. Within this context, I will review several scenarios of global collapse, and technological and social bandages we can use to help diminish the entropic toll.