Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

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sardia
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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby sardia » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:42 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
Ormurinn wrote:If so, how has the human race survived? Are there any other animals where 1/5th of the value-securing population cannot perform useful labour? How does a band of 100 hunter gatherers survive when 20 of them are incapable of securing their own food?

The non-producers died, and did not drain the resources of the community.

You could argue that modern medicine has actually increased the percentage of living disabled people by keeping people with serious injuries, birth defects, and mental health problems alive longer.

Or people who would have been lion food before, are now productive members of society.
You could also argue that the age of eugenics is over, and we don't need to worry about making a 100% perfect society. But that's almost godwinning this thread.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:52 pm UTC

sardia wrote:
Heisenberg wrote:
Ormurinn wrote:If so, how has the human race survived? Are there any other animals where 1/5th of the value-securing population cannot perform useful labour? How does a band of 100 hunter gatherers survive when 20 of them are incapable of securing their own food?

The non-producers died, and did not drain the resources of the community.

You could argue that modern medicine has actually increased the percentage of living disabled people by keeping people with serious injuries, birth defects, and mental health problems alive longer.

Or people who would have been lion food before, are now productive members of society.
You could also argue that the age of eugenics is over, and we don't need to worry about making a 100% perfect society. But that's almost godwinning this thread.


Eugenics got a dirty name because of people doing terrible things in it's name. We can acknowledge that selection is still at work in humanity without jumping to "let's sterilize the people we dislike". I don't think anyone is advocating we return to such ethically terrible methods...but it's not incorrect to acknowledge that modern medical care keeps more people alive, and some of the additional time people spend alive is very expensive/unproductive. Not all of it, of course.

Let's consider two examples.
#1. Person is in a coma. We keep them alive anyway, even when brain damage/death is an issue, in some cases. Unplugging people who are not really savable is an extreme example, but it's one where someone is technically alive, but not productive at all, and of course, it has costs. Of course, there are always obscure exceptions, and people have woken up who were thought to have essentially no chance...but such cases are pretty rare.

#2. Antibiotics. Generally, the saved person is returned to full health...but without this help they would be less productive or indeed, dead. This is on the other side of the efficiency spectrum, so there's kind of a lot in the middle...but as our medical options increase, it may not be possible for everyone to utilize the treatments with a low cost-efficiency. So, what then? How do we select who does not get the treatment that may make a difference, even if the odds are small? Do we give everyone the same shot at such rare treatments? If so, selection will still be at work. If we select via some other means, such as how much money someone has, selection is still at work, merely selecting on somewhat different traits.

Selection never really ends, all we can do is alter what is being selected for, and picking that is likely to be something hard for society to agree on.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby J Thomas » Mon Apr 08, 2013 11:26 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Selection never really ends, all we can do is alter what is being selected for, and picking that is likely to be something hard for society to agree on.


If we arrange that people mostly get all the same chances, then the selection will be against infertility.

If we select for wealth, we will be selecting for infertility. For one of the ways to get rich is to choose parents and grandparents who have only one child. The money they didn't spend on other children can go to you. Similarly aunts and uncles etc who lack other relatives to give it to.

You can't avoid selection, but you don't have to think about it. You can let it happen without conscious thought on your part. So for example, sometimes when a female chimpanzee goes into estrus most of the males mount her one after another, though sometimes a strong male tries to monopolize some of the females (with partial success). Chimpanzee semen is good at competing with other sperm. The males make a lot of it, and it includes various chemicals etc that tend to incapacitate other males' sperm. Some primates are mostly monogamous and their sperm is not so good at that. Human sperm is intermediate. A human male who has sex with females who are having sex with other males, will father more children if his sperm is particularly good at reaching the eggs in competition with others. I don't right off see anything to do about that.
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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Iulus Cofield » Mon Apr 08, 2013 11:52 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Let's consider two examples.
#1. Person is in a coma. We keep them alive anyway, even when brain damage/death is an issue, in some cases. Unplugging people who are not really savable is an extreme example, but it's one where someone is technically alive, but not productive at all, and of course, it has costs. Of course, there are always obscure exceptions, and people have woken up who were thought to have essentially no chance...but such cases are pretty rare.


That doesn't really affect evolution except very indirectly, no? A comatose person is almost certainly not going to procreate post coma and I'd be pretty skeptical that the average coma can be even loosely correlated to genetic factors. You might be able to prove that the behavior that makes people tend to, but not always, keep people in long-term comas alive has a genetic basis. But surely that kind of near-hopeless nursing behavior couldn't possibly be limited to only comatose patients, so before we can even begin to decide whether these maybe genes are good or bad for the human race, we have to determine the extent of this behavior.

Similarly, antibiotics might actually be terrible in the long term. Antibiotics prevent selection for genetic resistance to disease. We may be right now be in the process of making ourselves vulnerable to a new disease that could rival smallpox in the Americas.

And that's why eugenics is too beautiful an idea to ever be implemented. It might be possible that life is too complicated for us to understand it and even if it's not, we're still centuries away.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:22 am UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Let's consider two examples.
#1. Person is in a coma. We keep them alive anyway, even when brain damage/death is an issue, in some cases. Unplugging people who are not really savable is an extreme example, but it's one where someone is technically alive, but not productive at all, and of course, it has costs. Of course, there are always obscure exceptions, and people have woken up who were thought to have essentially no chance...but such cases are pretty rare.


That doesn't really affect evolution except very indirectly, no? A comatose person is almost certainly not going to procreate post coma and I'd be pretty skeptical that the average coma can be even loosely correlated to genetic factors. You might be able to prove that the behavior that makes people tend to, but not always, keep people in long-term comas alive has a genetic basis. But surely that kind of near-hopeless nursing behavior couldn't possibly be limited to only comatose patients, so before we can even begin to decide whether these maybe genes are good or bad for the human race, we have to determine the extent of this behavior.


There's the opportunity cost. If we accept that we can't spend on the absolute best stuff all the time for everyone, it means something is being traded off. Whatever we're trading off is going to be what's being selected against. Weak post-surgery follow up care? Well, people who get infections after a surgery are going to have a rougher time of it. This could select against people bad at following post-op instructions...and it could also select against those who need surgery in the first place(at least, more strongly than you would expect to be the case).

Similarly, antibiotics might actually be terrible in the long term. Antibiotics prevent selection for genetic resistance to disease. We may be right now be in the process of making ourselves vulnerable to a new disease that could rival smallpox in the Americas.

And that's why eugenics is too beautiful an idea to ever be implemented. It might be possible that life is too complicated for us to understand it and even if it's not, we're still centuries away.


Preventing selection has not yet opened us up to super-plagues, so it would appear that antibiotics are mostly a positive thing, with a great cost-benefit ratio(though of course, they can be misused). Anything COULD happen, but in practice, not anything does, because realistically, helping people survive illnesses may well make them MORE resistant, because of how immune systems work(and such resistances can be passed down in at least some circumstances). Genetics are great, but they're not the only avenue through which selection works.

However, there tends to be limits to selection. Can't effectively select against everything at once. The fitter folks of the population and situation at hand survive, not idealized versions of them. Consider, is it better for the human race to be selecting for intelligence or for resistance to some obscure disease? Selection is blind, it doesn't care which path is taken...but intelligence is definitely a selectable trait. In some cases, populations of wild dogs appear to be selecting for intelligence, going so far as to use subway systems, etc just as humans do.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby J Thomas » Tue Apr 09, 2013 3:50 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Preventing selection has not yet opened us up to super-plagues, so it would appear that antibiotics are mostly a positive thing, with a great cost-benefit ratio(though of course, they can be misused). Anything COULD happen, but in practice, not anything does, because realistically, helping people survive illnesses may well make them MORE resistant, because of how immune systems work(and such resistances can be passed down in at least some circumstances). Genetics are great, but they're not the only avenue through which selection works.


The trouble with inheritance of acquired characters is that they tend not to be inherited. You can certainly pass down passive resistance from mother to child, which improves survival for a critical period. Probably there isn't much effect on the third generation, though. So it tends to have temporary effects.

However, there tends to be limits to selection. Can't effectively select against everything at once. The fitter folks of the population and situation at hand survive, not idealized versions of them. Consider, is it better for the human race to be selecting for intelligence or for resistance to some obscure disease?


Sometimes you can do both. Provided the obscure disease is actually selecting. If only a few people catch it, then it might be hard to select.

Simplifying drasticly, say there's a selected gene A that affects intelligence, and an unlinked selected gene B that affects survival etc from a disease, and they are unlinked. Suppose further that all of the effects go like this: having 1 copy of A results in increased survival about e^a, 2 copies of A increase survival e^2a, one copy of B has effect e^b, 2 copies of B increase survival e^2b, one of A and one of B have effect e^a+b, etc.

Then in a large population they won't have much effect on each other. A will increase at e^a, B will increase at e^b, and all's right with the world.

Sometimes you don't have to choose between selected genes. They both increase. Muller attributed that to sexuality, and called it "evolution in parallel in place of evolution in series".
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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Iulus Cofield » Tue Apr 09, 2013 3:52 am UTC

For the former, I think you're overestimating the selective pressure of those activities. Consider that none of those effect evolution at all if they occur after the person has had grandchildren and things like post-operative deaths are most common among the elderly and also that many things that require surgery can't be evolved out such aging and accidental injury. There are genetic factors that can accelerate the aging process relative to the rest of the population and things that can people more accident prone, but those have very broad effects beyond post operative mortality. When you conduct genetic engineering*, you can not isolate variables much as even cosmetic differences can become matters of life or death.

For the latter, you're not thinking on a long enough scale. Bacteria and viruses evolve quickly, but they also tend to not evolve too radically. Antibiotics right now, aside from their obvious benefits, are selecting for germs that are resistant to those antibiotics that we're using. You need to look at it from the human side. There's no selective pressure for genes that make us directly resistant to germs if everyone is using effective antibiotics and antivirals. That would mean currently existing traits for disease resistance are vestigial and will likely die out or evolve into a more useful function. Leprosy has been around for at least two millenia and probably twice that and now about 95% of people are naturally immune to it. A tiny percentage of the population is currently either immune or highly resistant to HIV. Give us 4,000 years and we'll probably be 95% immune to it too, if not faster due to the much higher infectivity and lethality of AIDS.

I'm not sure what you're getting at with non-genetic forms of selection. Yes, social factors are a major driver in human development, but that has hardly anything to do with eugenics except for how social factors push genetic selection. And while you can't select for everything at once, you don't have to select for only a couple things either. Species evolve in dozens or hundreds of ways simultaneously unless their population is very, very small or you're engaging in selective breeding for particular traits.

*I say genetic engineering because I've been assuming that's what you meant when you said eugenics without compulsory sterilization, because you literally can not have artificial selection without either genetic engineering or selective breeding, the latter requiring that individuals without selected for traits don't breed.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Ormurinn » Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:28 am UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:*I say genetic engineering because I've been assuming that's what you meant when you said eugenics without compulsory sterilization, because you literally can not have artificial selection without either genetic engineering or selective breeding, the latter requiring that individuals without selected for traits don't breed.


Voluntary eugenics seems quite plausible. I don't see anything wrong with telling people with Huntingtons, for instance, that they should not have biological children and should consider sterilization.
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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby curtis95112 » Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:40 am UTC

Ormurinn wrote:Voluntary eugenics seems quite plausible. I don't see anything wrong with telling people with Huntingtons, for instance, that they should not have biological children and should consider sterilization.

I agree in principle, but I'm not sure how much of an effect it could have. Huntington's is an extreme case, nobody claims it's a good thing. But you'll find plenty of deaf people claiming that deafness is not a disability, to the point that some would surgically deafen their own (hearing) children.

Also, you'd be selecting for people stubbornly insisting on having children :P.
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Tyndmyr wrote:
Роберт wrote:Sure, but at least they hit the intended target that time.

Well, if you shoot enough people, you're bound to get the right one eventually.

Thats the best description of the USA ever.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby leady » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:24 am UTC

If I ruled the UK I would go out of my way to introduce IVF with embryo testing and selection on the NHS.

the first country to grow a pair and directly guide genetics like this will be supreme within a generation.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby EMTP » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:49 am UTC

pitareio wrote:
EMTP wrote:
We get most of this energy from fossil sources, of which we've got a limited stock that won't be renewed before a few millions years. Replacement of these sources of energy with renewable energies, while not impossible, would require a long time (many decades) and huge investments.


Neither you, your anyone else knows how much fossil fuel can be extracted from the environment. There are many alternatives to fossil fuels for energy generation.


On the scale of our current usage? Available right now, or easily available in the next few years? That would really be good news.


So now it has to be easy? That's moving the goalposts a little, don't you think?

Reminder : the USA get almost 85% of their energy from fossil sources (oil, gas, coal). Other countries use a little more or less, depending on how they developed hydro/nuclear/other renewables.


And no country has ever changed the energy mix it relies on? C'mon. Be better than this.

Services don't run on water and fresh air, they need offices, computers, transportation of goods and people... All of this require energy. Shops don't run if they don't have products to sell. Actually, if anything, heavily tertiarized countries consume more energy than others.

Human activities, as they exist today in developed countries, heavily rely on cheap and abundant energy. That's a fact.


You are confusing the terms "fact" and "meaningless cant." You somehow jump your argument from "economic activities require energy" (undisputed) to "without cheap energy society collapses." That's nonsense. It's silly.

Oil prices, to take one example, have varied from $12 a barrel to $200 a barrel over the last 20 years, with no evidence of an imminent collapse of civilization.

Deprive a country of its supply of fossil energy and it collapses. You can call me a nazi bolchevik if you wish.


That's really not fair; for all their faults, the Nazis weren't stupid.

I've yet to see a model of perpetual economic growth that doesn't imply ever increasing energy consumption and still works, but I'd love to see one, really.


You are confused. You want a model of permanent infinite growth, but you are judging that model based on what you think is "easily available in the next few years." The model, such as it is, is very simple: we increase efficiency (as measured by GDP/unit of energy consumed) as fast or faster than the rate of GDP growth. Eventually we transition completely to non-exhaustible source of energy like solar. Then we're set until the heat death of the universe.

I hope you'll abandon this dumb idea, but if not, please state, as a testable proposition, in what way "Human activities, as they exist today in developed countries, heavily rely on cheap and abundant energy." (Don't forget to define "cheap" and "abundant.")
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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Ormurinn » Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:28 am UTC

EMTP wrote:That's really not fair; for all their faults, the Nazis weren't stupid.


I'd dispute that. The Bolsheviks were certainly magnificent bastards. The Nazi party was the collectively incompetent brainchild of a jumped up Austrian corporal with a superiority complex.

They had some of the most intelligent people in the world working for them, and a whole lot of very clever members, but the leadership of the party really were just... stupid. cf. every time hitler personally involved himself in anything, from armed forces procurement to strategy.

It's a miracle they held out as long as they did.
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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby J Thomas » Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:51 pm UTC

EMTP wrote:
pitareio wrote:
EMTP wrote:
We get most of this energy from fossil sources, of which we've got a limited stock that won't be renewed before a few millions years. Replacement of these sources of energy with renewable energies, while not impossible, would require a long time (many decades) and huge investments.


Neither you, your anyone else knows how much fossil fuel can be extracted from the environment. There are many alternatives to fossil fuels for energy generation.


On the scale of our current usage? Available right now, or easily available in the next few years? That would really be good news.


So now it has to be easy? That's moving the goalposts a little, don't you think?


It needn't be too easy. But if it's too hard then it might not be worth doing.

Like, growing corn to get alcohol to add to gasoline -- independent auditors looked at the energy used to make the fertilizer, and the insecticides, the energy used by farm equipment, the energy used to make and distill the alcohol, etc, and they said we were using more energy to make gasohol than we got back. That would obviously be bad. So the government got a prestigious government lab to do those calculations, and making different assumptions they calculated that energy used was only 80% of energy produced. That is, basicly we'd burn 4 tons of alcohol this year to get 5 tons of alcohol next year. That might be worth doing. But what if they were a little bit off and it was 9 tons this year to get 10 tons next year? Is it worth it? Lots and lots of crop land used to get a little alcohol, when we could feed the world?

Reminder : the USA get almost 85% of their energy from fossil sources (oil, gas, coal). Other countries use a little more or less, depending on how they developed hydro/nuclear/other renewables.


And no country has ever changed the energy mix it relies on? C'mon. Be better than this.


It would be hard to change it fast. But we might have to.

Services don't run on water and fresh air, they need offices, computers, transportation of goods and people... All of this require energy. Shops don't run if they don't have products to sell. Actually, if anything, heavily tertiarized countries consume more energy than others.

Human activities, as they exist today in developed countries, heavily rely on cheap and abundant energy. That's a fact.


You are confusing the terms "fact" and "meaningless cant." You somehow jump your argument from "economic activities require energy" (undisputed) to "without cheap energy society collapses." That's nonsense. It's silly.


The way we do things now requires cheap energy. We could do them some other way. One obvious approach would be to revert to feudalism. Everybody tries desperately to become an employee (serf) of a corporation (barony). If you can get employed then you try desperately to brown-nose enough to stay employed. Of course you can't afford to commute from a suburb that lacks water, gas and electricity, so you move into company housing and eat at company cafeterias. If you annoy the CEO (baron) he can call security (knights) to escort you off the corporate campus. Over time you might get more stability. They can't fire you and you can't leave. They can do summary execution if you break their laws. They try to take the best care of you they can with available resources. Or rather than join a corporation you can try to fend for yourself.... And there's the old joke, a visiting scholar (consultant) asks a manager (priest) if he knows anything about the collapse of American civilization. "What? Civilization might collapse? Why do you think so?"

Oil prices, to take one example, have varied from $12 a barrel to $200 a barrel over the last 20 years, with no evidence of an imminent collapse of civilization.


A lot of that is inflation. And there's the joke about the man falling off a 100 story building, who thinks he's doing fine as he passes the 50th floor. It's hard to get accurate data about whether civilization is about to collapse. If it does collapse reasonably quickly then perhaps I will get to tell you I Told You So. Assuming we both still have internet connections. Otherwise, it's likely to be a one-time event. Hard to establish a baseline. No control group. Scientific data is hard to come by on that question.

I've yet to see a model of perpetual economic growth that doesn't imply ever increasing energy consumption and still works, but I'd love to see one, really.


You are confused. You want a model of permanent infinite growth, but you are judging that model based on what you think is "easily available in the next few years." The model, such as it is, is very simple: we increase efficiency (as measured by GDP/unit of energy consumed) as fast or faster than the rate of GDP growth. Eventually we transition completely to non-exhaustible source of energy like solar. Then we're set until the heat death of the universe.

I hope you'll abandon this dumb idea, but if not, please state, as a testable proposition, in what way "Human activities, as they exist today in developed countries, heavily rely on cheap and abundant energy." (Don't forget to define "cheap" and "abundant.")


I'll make a start at it, though it will partly support your position. In the USA, our diet depends on cheap corn which itself depends on cheap energy. We get cheap beef partly by feeding the cows cheap corn. We get incredibly cheap chicken and eggs by feeding the chickens cheap corn. Etc. If corn gets more expensive we may find ourselves paying $6/pound for beef, or even $8/pound for prize cuts. But this is easily solved, we can simply eat less meat.

Our suburbs are viable because we have cheap gasoline and cheap fuel oil and cheap natural gas and cheap coal for electricity. So we have these big poorly-insulated houses that leak heat both ways, and we use gasoline getting to anywhere while the UPS guy uses gasoline getting to us. As energy prices go up that gets less workable. But this is easily solved too -- write off the worthless suburban houses and move into hi-rises and other multi-family dwellings in cities. Also don't heat them much, people can wear more clothes in the winter and take more baths in summer. What they save can help pay for their expensive beans and rice.

Paper takes a whole lot of energy to make. As it gets more expensive, we will use less disposables of all sorts. Paper books will tend to get too expensive, but likely we will have cheap electronic readers. When you buy your beans you will bring a re-usable bag and the dispenser will put as much as you want into your bag. I don't know what we will do to replace expensive toilet paper, but I'm confident we will find some cheap alternative. Possibly involving water.

As private transportation gets out of reach, people who do brain work will increasingly telecommute. People whose work demands physical presence will tend to live close to the job and move to live close to the next job. A nomadic lifestyle necessarily involves limited possessions, but given limited living space that's not such a big issue.

Health care costs are around 18% of GDP and expected to rise. This is several times what we pay for the military!

http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/ann ... ec1_13.pdf
Now, in recent years energy cost as share of GDP has gone from a high of 13.7% in 1981 down to a low of 5.9% in 1999, to 9.9% in 2008. When energy gets more expensive but we use considerably less of it, the percent of GDP will fall. But when energy gets more expensive and we don't cut back enough, percent of GDP will rise. And the more it rises, the less we we can do other things like healthcare.

Currently, most Americans get more health care than they can afford. 30% of them are on Medicaid and Medicare which they could not afford to pay themselves. 50% have insurance paid by employers which they could not afford to pay themselves. 17% are uninsured and skimp on treatment, and cannot afford to pay for medical emergencies. As energy costs rise, one way or another medical costs will fall. We can't afford it. Maybe we will find innovative cheap ways to provide service as good as the expensive service now. But the way to bet is that the number of uninsured will go way up, and the number of inadequately insured will go way up, and the number of people who do not get much treatment will also go way up.

None of this looks to me like civilization collapsing. OK, so people lose their equity in their houses and they wind up living in tiny apartments. So what? They give up their current diet and wind up eating lots of dried grains and dried beans. So what? They can't afford to heat their homes comfortably and they give up driving, and they lose most of their medical care. So what? That isn't the end of civilization, that's only a little worse than it used to be in the USSR and they were plenty civilized.
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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby morriswalters » Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:49 pm UTC

EMTP wrote:Oil prices, to take one example, have varied from $12 a barrel to $200 a barrel over the last 20 years, with no evidence of an imminent collapse of civilization.
I looked and couldn't see where you got 200 dollars a barrel. I see 132 or 147 depending on who you asked. The quicker the rise the greater the immediate economic damage. We've seen this three times since 1970. Interrupt supplies long enough and it could cripple the industrial economies.
EMTP wrote:I hope you'll abandon this dumb idea, but if not, please state, as a testable proposition, in what way "Human activities, as they exist today in developed countries, heavily rely on cheap and abundant energy." (Don't forget to define "cheap" and "abundant.")
Automotive production, raw materials production, heavy machinery production, and general transportation require it. Shipping costs would rise as fuel costs rose, for everything from semi's hauling cross country to container carriers hauling from continent to continent. Walmart is a stellar example of cheap energy at work. Even today what is transported where is dictated by energy costs. Cardboard is not cost effective to transport long distances, the volume to weight ratio is not economic, the higher the costs the more things hit that profile. Push up energy costs enough and cheap labor is outweighed by the shipping cost. You eat bananas year round, even though they are not grown here, and the same can be said for almost any fresh foodstuff that exists. UPS delivers parcels to your door coast to coast in one day, and can move the same parcel anywhere in the US for much less in three. And if you wish to pay the premium you can use a service called Same Day Air. The rise of Amazon comes from the fact that the business model they use is possible because of cheap and abundant energy which enable UPS and Fed Ex among others to deliver what Amazon can sell at a price that is trivial. Flying is already sensitive to energy costs at the current level, at what point does passenger or freight traffic come to a grinding halt because of fuel costs? And people think nothing of living an hour or more from where they work, New York and Tokyo exist as they are because of this. Let fuel become scarce and by that fact expensive and you have your example.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:46 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Push up energy costs enough and cheap labor is outweighed by the shipping cost. You eat bananas year round, even though they are not grown here, and the same can be said for almost any fresh foodstuff that exists.
So there would be more local agriculture and bananas and kiwis would be twice as expensive? Sounds like an improvement to me. Plus, most people don't even eat fresh food. They eat manufactured shit made out of corn, soy, and wheat, colored and flavored to look like food. Hot Pockets go up two cents? Stop the presses!
morriswalters wrote:The rise of Amazon comes from the fact that the business model they use is possible because of cheap and abundant energy which enable UPS and Fed Ex among others to deliver what Amazon can sell at a price that is trivial.
Amazon is largely unnecessary. Plus I think they're robust enough to make it through a fuel price increase with minor adjustments.
morriswalters wrote:Flying is already sensitive to energy costs at the current level, at what point does passenger or freight traffic come to a grinding halt because of fuel costs? And people think nothing of living an hour or more from where they work, New York and Tokyo exist as they are because of this. Let fuel become scarce and by that fact expensive and you have your example.
Cheap commercial air travel would be a casualty of sharp fuel price increases. But that wouldn't really change the way anyone lives. Rich people are still going to fly down to the Bahamas, but middle class people might decide to drive to the beach instead.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:07 pm UTC

Cheap transit is hugely important. See, in economics, there's something called Competitive Advantage. It is the foundation of modern society. In short, it is more efficient to specialize in doing one thing, and trade that with other specialists, than it is to be a generalist. This principle also applies to regions and even nations(in fact, that's how it came about).

It ain't efficient to grow bananas in minnesota compared to more temperate places. Possible? Probably, but ludicrously more difficult.

Now, all trade over distance relies on transit. The higher the cost of transit, the less you can take advantage of competitive advantages, and the less efficient ALL societies are.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby morriswalters » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:22 pm UTC

Well, okay. I suppose it was too much t expect for anyone to look at this clearly, without happy think. Think it out. Local food my a**. Sell that myth somewhere else. Local food is whatever that can grow where you are at. And in most places in the US that means for the growing season. How about them fresh greens in the winter. Most of the fresh vegetables, you know that healthy stuff, is grown elsewhere unless you live in Florida or Southern California. It's done by expensive and extensive irrigation, fed by expensive fertilizers made from petroleum, harvested and shipped to market by energy hungry machines so that you aren't too discomforted by not having your fresh peas and carrots. :cry:

Heisenberg wrote:Amazon is largely unnecessary. Plus I think they're robust enough to make it through a fuel price increase with minor adjustments.

I'm an Amazon Prime member, I order dog food in 30 lb bags(give or take) cheaper than I can buy it locally, and have it delivered to my door by either Fed Ex or UPS. And it's it's free shipping and generally takes two days. Even if it was stored at the local Amazon distribution center, considering that it is picked up, sorted, and delivered in a brown truck to my door, must either mean energy is cheap, or that UPS uses magic trucks.

Heisenberg wrote:Cheap commercial air travel would be a casualty of sharp fuel price increases. But that wouldn't really change the way anyone lives. Rich people are still going to fly down to the Bahamas, but middle class people might decide to drive to the beach instead.
I could be trite and say that if fuel prices are too expensive to fly why would you think they could afford to drive to the beach. However more realistically the trickle down would be more severe than your vacation trip to the beach. Fewer flights means fewer planes ordered, fewer planes means layoffs and then trickle down throughout the associated industries. Plus fewer engineers and MBA's :cry: . Not to mention all those folks who count on cheap travel to support the thousands of beach side rentals that have been built and sold in the belief that energy prices will make extensive travel easy and cheap for the foreseeable future.

I don't say this will happen, but let prices spike and it could. This is old news, it has already happened in some respects. The oil shocks of the 70's and later. The airline business has been consolidating for some time and trying to find something that will keep them profitable. Industry in general is afraid enough to attempt to hedge on fuel price increases. How can anyone who lives in the modern world not understand this?

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby J Thomas » Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:33 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Cheap transit is hugely important. See, in economics, there's something called Competitive Advantage. It is the foundation of modern society. In short, it is more efficient to specialize in doing one thing, and trade that with other specialists, than it is to be a generalist. This principle also applies to regions and even nations(in fact, that's how it came about).


Comparative advantage?

It ain't efficient to grow bananas in minnesota compared to more temperate places. Possible? Probably, but ludicrously more difficult.

Now, all trade over distance relies on transit. The higher the cost of transit, the less you can take advantage of competitive advantages, and the less efficient ALL societies are.


Sure, but in practice it's devilish hard to be sure you're getting the advantages of comparative advantage. People make mistakes, where the theory predicts that they will not make any. And governments get involved. The bigger the system the more governments that can do stupid things to distort economies. If the chinese government does something stupid it might have drastic effects here. It's possible comparative advantage might in practice work better with smaller systems than with giant ones.

Also we can survive even if the global economy starts to break down. We don't have to buy a lot of cheap stuff from all over the world. We can survive with the cheap stuff we make ourselves. We don't have to have a great big population decline and massive loss of information, unless things go really wrong.

morriswalters wrote:Local food is whatever that can grow where you are at. And in most places in the US that means for the growing season. How about them fresh greens in the winter.


We can survive without that. It used to be people didn't have that at all and maybe the lifespan was shorter etc, but the population survived and grew.

The airline business has been consolidating for some time and trying to find something that will keep them profitable. Industry in general is afraid enough to attempt to hedge on fuel price increases. How can anyone who lives in the modern world not understand this?


I think people react to the doom-and-gloom and assume it just won't get that bad. And they're right! So, we have been concentrating our population in cities partly because it's cheaper to deliver social services and healthcare etc that way. If you live 30 miles from the nearest hospital then if you have a medical emergency an ambulance may have a 60 mile roundtrip before you get advanced care. But when people aren't going to get social services or medical care anyway, then we can afford to spread them out. We can build little rural dwellings and let people help out with the harvests, and the population will survive just fine. We'll have a lot of adjustments to make and we won't be rich like we are now, but it needn't be as bad as people imagine.
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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby morriswalters » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:22 am UTC

I don't know if it will or won't. If it were going to slide an uninformed guess would just be a gradual slide, not with a bang but a whimper. Or maybe not. Maybe a breakthrough will happen that will bring us fusion and unlimited power. But we appear to be biased to believing that because in the past everything went well, that it has to continue. There is no reason to believe that. And this is not some existential fear. People underestimate the fragility of civilization. It leads to a mindset that we have time enough to diddle ourselves. And we don't do anything when, just maybe, that is the poor strategy. I call that poor think when I see it, believing your plan is good and being surprised when it isn't. It's like that person who gets on disability when they don't need it. It's a poor strategy that risks a program that can help people who would otherwise end up somewhere ?dire?.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby sardia » Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:20 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:I don't know if it will or won't. If it were going to slide an uninformed guess would just be a gradual slide, not with a bang but a whimper. Or maybe not. Maybe a breakthrough will happen that will bring us fusion and unlimited power. But we appear to be biased to believing that because in the past everything went well, that it has to continue. There is no reason to believe that. And this is not some existential fear. People underestimate the fragility of civilization. It leads to a mindset that we have time enough to diddle ourselves. And we don't do anything when, just maybe, that is the poor strategy. I call that poor think when I see it, believing your plan is good and being surprised when it isn't. It's like that person who gets on disability when they don't need it. It's a poor strategy that risks a program that can help people who would otherwise end up somewhere ?dire?.

Don't confuse optimism with laziness. It's not like innovation is slowing, if anything, the rate that technology develops is increasing. There's a reason scientists are saying we're heading towards the singularity.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby morriswalters » Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:35 am UTC

sardia wrote:
morriswalters wrote:I don't know if it will or won't. If it were going to slide an uninformed guess would just be a gradual slide, not with a bang but a whimper. Or maybe not. Maybe a breakthrough will happen that will bring us fusion and unlimited power. But we appear to be biased to believing that because in the past everything went well, that it has to continue. There is no reason to believe that. And this is not some existential fear. People underestimate the fragility of civilization. It leads to a mindset that we have time enough to diddle ourselves. And we don't do anything when, just maybe, that is the poor strategy. I call that poor think when I see it, believing your plan is good and being surprised when it isn't. It's like that person who gets on disability when they don't need it. It's a poor strategy that risks a program that can help people who would otherwise end up somewhere ?dire?.

Don't confuse optimism with laziness. It's not like innovation is slowing, if anything, the rate that technology develops is increasing. There's a reason scientists are saying we're heading towards the singularity.
That depends on what metric you are using, certainly there is a lot of something going on. And what scientists. Kurzwiel? People like him predicted that fusion would happen within 20 years, in 1975. We are still waiting. And I don't believe that people are lazy. They run around like ants. But don't confuse activity with progress. Take China and the developing world out of the picture and the vaunted economy grinds to a halt. And add them to the energy budget at the level we are at and suddenly energy resources become scarce. And contrary to popular opinion there is no indication that we can ramp up production or reactors safely. The weak link always has been us and our ability to manage them safely, not a technology issue. So the progress that we are discussing come from expansion and cheap energy. We have taken a gamble that we can adapt to a changing climate while we continue to use fossil fuels. And the coal we are not burning currently is still being mined, its just being exported.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Diadem » Wed Apr 10, 2013 11:45 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:People like him predicted that fusion would happen within 20 years, in 1975. We are still waiting.

Fusion would have happened around the 2000s if funding hadn't been dramatically slashed in the 80s. If someone makes a projection based on current funding, and you then dramatically cut their funding, you can't blame them for their estimates being off. For the last few decades, fusion hasn't been "X years away" it has been "y billion away". Right now y = 80 if you define "having fusion" as "having 2-3 working prototype power plants that output electricity to the net".
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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby morriswalters » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:45 pm UTC

I would define it as any device which produces more power than it consumes on an ongoing basis, be it inertial confinement or magnetic confinement. In other words one that could light a flashlight while powering itself or say a year or two. And this is the same song that is always sung by every project, if only we had more funding.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby sardia » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:01 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I would define it as any device which produces more power than it consumes on an ongoing basis, be it inertial confinement or magnetic confinement. In other words one that could light a flashlight while powering itself or say a year or two. And this is the same song that is always sung by every project, if only we had more funding.

That's because funding matters. Ever wonder why we have such an expansive road system or why everything has corn syrup in it? Because they get 80 billion dollars a year, each.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Heisenberg » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:09 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:How about them fresh greens in the winter. Most of the fresh vegetables, you know that healthy stuff, is grown elsewhere unless you live in Florida or Southern California.
Yeah, because oil is cheap. But I can go to the farmer's market all through winter and buy fresh tomatoes and greens from the hydroponics guy. His prices are slightly higher than the cardboard tomatoes from Florida. If oil went up, hydroponics guy's prices would be slightly lower than Florida's and they'd stock his crops in the grocery store. Just because we get tomatoes from Florida doesn't mean that's the only place they grow. Actually, Florida is arguably the worst place in the country to grow tomatoes.
morriswalters wrote:I'm an Amazon Prime member, I order dog food in 30 lb bags(give or take) cheaper than I can buy it locally, and have it delivered to my door by either Fed Ex or UPS.
And if Amazon went under, would you stop feeding your dog? Of course not, you'd go down to the corner store and spend an extra dollar.
morriswalters wrote:Fewer flights means fewer planes ordered, fewer planes means layoffs and then trickle down throughout the associated industries. Plus fewer engineers and MBA's :cry: .
And fewer flights means increased rail travel, which means rail companies hire all those engineers to design and build electric trains now.

I don't disagree that increased fuel prices would mean things would be different. I just don't think things would be noticeably worse.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby morriswalters » Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:24 pm UTC

Why are we doing this? Get a history book. Look at the diet when everything was grown locally. This is why canning was so big. And I can't believe that you suggest getting food from a hydroponics guy. Farming like that is very energy intensive, even more so than factory farming, which in and of itself soaks up fossil fuels like a sponge. The fact that either exists at all is a testament to cheap energy.

I certainly hope Amazon doesn't go out of business, the dog food I order is not available locally. But that misses the point. Look how many of the institutions that you don't even think about depend on cheap shipping, up to and including the big box stores which exist locally. You think in digital terms but the world is an analog place. Anything you can hold in your hand comes from somewhere else. It's not that Amazon exists, it's that it can exist.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Heisenberg » Wed Apr 10, 2013 6:35 pm UTC

A diet where everything is grown locally sounds delicious. And your big doomsday scenario is... canned vegetables? And yes, big box stores will be affected. But if you think Wal-Mart is going to stop selling sweatshop t-shirts, you're wrong. The sweatshops will just move a little closer. Like, the Carribean instead of Southeast Asia.

Amazon will continue to exist when fuel prices rise. They may have to raise prices during the short period in which shipping companies shift to cheaper fuel / higher efficiency, but they'll keep going.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby morriswalters » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:11 pm UTC

You take the tin cans I was referring to the home canning process.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:32 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:It ain't efficient to grow bananas in minnesota compared to more temperate places. Possible? Probably, but ludicrously more difficult.

Now, all trade over distance relies on transit. The higher the cost of transit, the less you can take advantage of competitive advantages, and the less efficient ALL societies are.


Sure, but in practice it's devilish hard to be sure you're getting the advantages of comparative advantage. People make mistakes, where the theory predicts that they will not make any. And governments get involved. The bigger the system the more governments that can do stupid things to distort economies. If the chinese government does something stupid it might have drastic effects here. It's possible comparative advantage might in practice work better with smaller systems than with giant ones.


Comparative advantage, that's the one, yes.

The theory does not postulate that people will make no mistakes, examples used to demonstrate the theory are simply done without mistakes because it clutters the demonstration needlessly.

And yeah, sure, governments can distort the economy, and those distortions are unhelpful...but they're not required by the theory, and can, at least in theory, be minimized.

Also we can survive even if the global economy starts to break down. We don't have to buy a lot of cheap stuff from all over the world. We can survive with the cheap stuff we make ourselves. We don't have to have a great big population decline and massive loss of information, unless things go really wrong.


No, but we do suffer a massive lost of efficiency, which means we get less stuff total. Regardless of if that is less health care, or less R&D, or less...anything, really, it's still a loss. Probably a very significant one.

morriswalters wrote:Local food is whatever that can grow where you are at. And in most places in the US that means for the growing season. How about them fresh greens in the winter.


We can survive without that. It used to be people didn't have that at all and maybe the lifespan was shorter etc, but the population survived and grew.


The green revolution and preceding advances are almost all derived from transportation and gasoline. Fertilizers, for instance, are heavily fossil fuel dependent. Once upon a time, a third of our society was engaged in growing enough food to keep us alive. Now, it's about a third of a percent. That efficiency is what frees up people to build a society filled with technology and all the advances we enjoy today....to say nothing of the massive lifespan boost.

I think people react to the doom-and-gloom and assume it just won't get that bad. And they're right! So, we have been concentrating our population in cities partly because it's cheaper to deliver social services and healthcare etc that way. If you live 30 miles from the nearest hospital then if you have a medical emergency an ambulance may have a 60 mile roundtrip before you get advanced care. But when people aren't going to get social services or medical care anyway, then we can afford to spread them out. We can build little rural dwellings and let people help out with the harvests, and the population will survive just fine. We'll have a lot of adjustments to make and we won't be rich like we are now, but it needn't be as bad as people imagine.


Yes and no. Many things are indeed cheaper in the city, but concentrating people in close proximity also brings problems. Crime is higher in cities. That fire that burns down your house? More likely to spread to your neighbors in a city(huge problem in cities in earlier times). Basically all of your people problems are magnified when people are close together. If John the crazy hermit blows himself up tinkering with a match and a bottle of gasoline in the country, well...that sucks for John, but probably isn't a big deal for everyone else. If crazy John lives in an apartment building, well, now you've got issues. No doubt something similar could be said about a number of disease issues.

These sorts of issues are one reason why taxes are so frequently higher in cities. More services are demanded to deal with these issues, and thus, money has to come from somewhere. Now, having a pool of specialized people allows for easier trade, and in a healthy city, despite the taxes, incomes rise by enough that you're still better off there than in the country....but unhealthy cities are also possible...detroit springs to mind.

Currently, we're still highly dependant on fossil fuels to maintain any given cities lifestyle. Especially in dense inner city areas, it may not be even possible to grow enough food for everyone living there. Literally not enough space. Even if it is...those people don't have those skills. Just because subsistence farming was a common skill a hundred years ago doesn't mean it is today. A transition back to that lifestyle is something many people are utterly unprepared for.

We need energy to maintain our lifestyle, and we need a lot of it. And we also need it to be at least sort of close to what we're paying for it now. And it does seem probable that fossil fuels are not infinite. Even if there are natural production sources of them, those probably have a finite output rate, so an increasing energy demand as the developing world, well, develops, is going to be an issue. It doesn't HAVE to lead to social collapse, but it's something we need to consider.

Also, I regard the singularity as untestable nonsense. In fact, even things like the overall rate of innovation are...incredibly subjective. It's really hard to gauge the worth of an innovation even with many years of hindsight.

As for tomatos and why they're grown in florida, it's the same reason that tons of stuff are grown in CA. Four growing seasons a year, and lots of insolation. Before that, you know why the Big Mac didn't have tomatos in it? Because tomatos didn't exist everywhere year round back then.

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Re: Nearly 5% of the US population is on disability

Postby sardia » Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:33 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:A diet where everything is grown locally sounds delicious. And your big doomsday scenario is... canned vegetables? And yes, big box stores will be affected. But if you think Wal-Mart is going to stop selling sweatshop t-shirts, you're wrong. The sweatshops will just move a little closer. Like, the Carribean instead of Southeast Asia.

Amazon will continue to exist when fuel prices rise. They may have to raise prices during the short period in which shipping companies shift to cheaper fuel / higher efficiency, but they'll keep going.

As a side note, growing everything locally and you'll get slapped hard by compartive advantage losses. It's usually more efficient to grow/make stuff where it is most efficient to produce, and then ship them to where it's most wanted.


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