Tag Archives: future business


From the Detroit Maker Faire: What’s Next for 3D Printing, and After That?

The Maker Faire at the Henry Ford (Museum*) in Dearborn, Michigan, a couple of weekends ago was, as usual, a complete blast, and not just because there was a gigantic “draggin’ truck” attending.

What would the neighbors say if you parked one of These in the driveway?

What would the neighbors say if you parked one of These in the driveway?

If you’ve never been to a maker faire, especially a big regional one like the one at the Henry Ford, you have missed a lot of fun, not to mention the sight of a huge group of people of all ages having more fun than you’ve ever seen before.

I was fortunate enough to have the chance to spend the afternoon with my friends of the Illuminatus Light Show demonstrating and explaining inexpensive laser light show equipment to people of all ages, which was a blast in itself, but the wild things going on everywhere inside and outside the museum were highly entertaining, too.  Robots of every size and description, crazy looking multi-rider bicycles, and amazing costumes and contraptions were everywhere, being demonstrated and with their inner workings exposed to all.  There were a lot of people learning how to solder and construct and program their ideas into a technological form.  That was all great, but there was also a LOT of a most striking current-and-future technology: 3D printing.3D Printing Continue reading

NOW I Understand the Danger in Genetically Modified Organisms!

For years I have watched the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMO), predominantly food items, with interest but not been sure where the problem was.  Recent news articles have given me some new thoughts on the matter and a real cause for concern, however.  Current genetic modifications, predominantly created and promoted by Monsanto, make food crops resistant to weed-killing chemicals so that more of those chemicals can be used without harming the crops.  The higher yield of those crops is offered as reason enough to use these genetically modified seeds.  The GM crops are generally tougher to kill and that, while it has benefits, presents the real problems. Continue reading

Organic Farming Will Replace Current Farming Methods as the Population Peaks

Food systems are going to be of primary importance as population peaks.  If, as the UN says, population will reach more than 9 billion in the 2040′s before beginning a steep decline, the causes of that decline are important to consider today.  A historical review of population reductions shows that neither war nor the natural disasters we’ve seen so far make a noticeable difference, but suggests that famine and possibly disease have the potential to make major reductions in the population.  Decades ago I expected that we might pollute our world so badly that average lifespans would fall, but there has been some progress on preserving the environment and it appears that energy and food shortages created by overpopulation are bigger concerns.  (Of course, the primary concern SHOULD be overpopulation itself, as these other problems are results of it.)  If organic food and farming methods are more costly than agribusiness’ methods now, why would they replace the hugely productive methods used to produce most food in the developed world today? Continue reading

Has the Population Growth Rate Passed the Economic Potential for Job Growth?

Are the chickens of the population explosion coming home to roost?  An Associated Press article today covered the employment situation in the United States, where the addition of 150,000 jobs in the last month barely matched the increase in the population.  It occurred to me that these new people in the population will themselves have children someday, and that in the near future we may see the population growth consistently exceeding the addition of jobs by higher and higher margins.  This suggests large and increasing numbers of people will be unemployed, and the middle class will be driven into poverty by the simple mathematics of the population explosion.  In addition, conservative attacks on unions and public schools means the middle class will be less well educated and increasingly powerless before corporations larger and more powerful than most countries. Continue reading

Corporate Power, Like the Population, Continues to Explode: Will Things Ever Improve?

Will the global economy improve for the average person?  Or are we sinking into an age in which workers are more and more powerless before their corporate employers and 99% of us live as serfs, forced into poverty and submission to our corporate overlords?  Almost everyone agrees that corporations have far too much influence on government, laws, and our lives today.  This situation has evolved slowly, but today corporations, aided by corporate-dominated government, are pushing harder than ever to take control of our lives and economies, purely for profit.  As a result, the direction of most economies is towards businesses increasing control of government and a decline in the power of the individual.  This suggests political and economic turmoil could increase as unscrupulous corporations skew economies for profit and people react and organize to oppose them, but that it is unlikely the situation will get better.  The big issues we all face, like the population explosion and dependence on fossil fuels, will continue to be mostly ignored, though some portions of the population understand and will fight back to keep their rights and protect society, with limited effect.  So where might we be in a few decades, and how likely is it that change could favor the people?

Continue reading

Conservation – An Important Part of Our Lives Now and in the Future

How will we live when fossil fuel reserves have almost run out?  Scientists and students of human history accept that human population will continue to explode until the energy sources fueling this incredible expansion start to run out.  It is clear that a collapse of civilization will occur, probably over a period of decades in the mid-to-late 21st century.  The change will be too rapid to cope with effectively, especially given skyrocketing energy costs and infrastructure breakdowns.  The magnitude of the disasters involved will vary depending on how soon we wise up as a species, improve our long-range planning, and get serious about mitigating the coming challenges. While substitute energy sources will be developed quickly, the sheer numbers of humans being born onto the planet, day by day, may exceed our ability to build and deploy the replacement hardware and infrastructure, and the inability of most people to afford it may be an additional problem.  

In the aftermath people will live quite differently from how we live today.  After a period of decline that might last several decades, or perhaps a century, what remains will stabilize and coalesce into a new human civilization with some significant differences from what we know today.  For instance, energy consumption per person will need to be a tenth or less of what people currently consume in North America.  Here are a few ideas that might describe how we will live then. Continue reading

Nanotechnology-Enhanced Food: Already Here But Untested and Unregulated

What if you found out a new undetectable and untested technology was in your food?  Unfortunately, that is exactly the situation we are now in.  According to an article from Food Safety News, food processors are already using nanoparticle additives in our food to accomplish a variety of goals, but the FDA does not require these additives to be listed as ingredients!  In short, you don’t know what you’re eating or what effects these nano-ingredients might have on your health, and neither does anyone else because there has been no testing to prove safety.  Worse yet, the FDA – the agency we depend on for food safety – does not require testing of nano-scale additives, even though they are known to have characteristics that could be defined as risky, including the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.  So what does that mean to us in the intermediate and long term? Continue reading

Old Ads Give Clues to the Rise of Corporate Power and Systematic Marginalization of Women

The corporate entity is without feeling or sense of responsibility. 

cause millions of babies malnutrition as long as you can increase profits
Profits over infant health

In the 20th century advertising became increasingly important, first in newspapers, magazines, and billboards and then on radio and TV.  Near the end of the century the internet allowed an explosion of new kinds of advertising, but the print ads from the middle of the century are most striking, and illustrate a big problem in our business system:  corporations have no incentive to do anything but maximize profits. 

Corporate Power Will Eclipse the Power of Governments (Even More Than Today)

Since the industrial revolution of the 19th century, corporations have evolved and steadily gained power and influence.  Corporate influence on government and media today has been enhanced and refined to the point where corporations have the power to control their appearance in the media as well as to secretly but powerfully influence elections and legislation.  The corporate media have painted a carefully contrived picture that directs attention away from fundamental problems and towards superficial problems that condition events in their favor, as one would expect.   As a result many people today have a view that serves corporate power: seeing “big government” as the problem and corporations as a source of jobs.  This has been used to support the position that corporations should be given all the freedom they need to build their businesses and, hopefully, increase employment.  This is especially visible today as population growth exceeds job growth and the middle and lower classes are seeing their political power, financial strength, and standard of living reduced.  If those ideas were correct, however, we  individuals might not be in the economic positions we’re in, but the corporate media are extremely powerful and have the wherewithal to control what the population knows, so the prospect for positive change is not good.  So where might we be in two or three decades?  Will the power of corporations continue to increase until governments become little more than proxies for multinational corporations? Will the lot of the average person continue to decline?  Continue reading

Styrofoam Cups and Soup Cans Illustrate Corporate Control Over What We Use

Someday That Styrofoam Cup Will Cost More Than What’s In It.  Sound remarkable?  It isn’t.  Styrofoam is made mostly from oil and its derivatives, and over the long term average oil prices will continue to rise.  Increasing cost of extraction will cause that.  Petroleum-derived chemicals are so much a part of our lives that many things we use daily will increase in cost to the point where we will be forced to find substitutes.  While this may seem like an environmentalist’s nightmare, it isn’t.  This has happened many times before, and is happening today.  Remember when all food cans were steel?  You will notice that some have converted to plastic over the past decade or two.  It is probably the rising cost of oil and plastic made from it that has prevented almost all cans from transitioning to plastic, suggesting that the transition may even be reversed in the future.  What is it that determines what products we can buy, though, and what are the implications for our current and future safety? Continue reading

The Simple Math: Ignoring the Population Explosion Will Not Make It Go Away

The global human population is piling up.  In the project management game (my current profession) we often observe a phenomenon that we call “snow plowing”.  Essentially this is the putting off of work, or putting off of dealing with problems, until the uncompleted work and unresolved problems pile higher and higher and drive risk and costs needlessly high, to the point that the project could be canceled or simply fail to meet its objectives.  It is easy to see, when you look at published population curves or see the sprawl of our suburbs and the decay in our infrastructure that we are rapidly plowing up a huge “drift” of problems and doing too little to mitigate them.   Perhaps it’s time for a little truth, even though it may come across as shock therapy.  My intent is not to shock, but to give a pause for thought that may affect future choices and actions.

First a few assumptions.   Given that human population was less than one billion until 1804, and then didn’t pass two billion until 1927 (chart), it is safe to assume that, without the technological development that enabled our runaway population growth, a sustainable human population might actually be in the neighborhood of two to three billion.  But humans are nothing if not adaptable and creative.  It is possible we’ll be able to sustain ourselves with three or four billion if we invent a new source of energy to replace fossil fuels.  Sadly, we are already near 7 billion and predicted to exceed 9 billion by 2040, leaving us a long way down to find a sustainable situation again.  Keep in mind that these reductions must also counter the birth rate at that time.

Year: 2045
Population: 9 billion
Sustainable population: 3 billion
Difference:  6 billion
Years to sustainability (by 2095): 50   (this might be less)
Reduction in population per year (average): 120,000,000 = 6 billion ⁄ 50 years
Reduction in population per day (average): 328,767 = 120 million⁄ 365 days/yr

Natural disasters haven’t come close to these numbers of deaths in the past.  Of the natural events causing loss of human life in the past (list), only a few exceeded 100,000 in a single day.  This suggests the reduction will involve human factors such as infrastructure failures, with resulting famine.  Supply lines for most of us are already global, and both food and resources often travel through convoluted routes with a variety of risks.  If populations in parts of the world are under pressure, they might block or otherwise hinder the supply routes, cutting off critical resources to the other parts of the world.  In the past famine has often been accompanied by plague, and while our microbiological risks have increased due to overuse of antibiotics and our amazing transportation infrastructure, they could increase much more in the future.

Simple economics: fossil fuels will become unaffordable to most people within the 21st century.  As population rises and we consume our energy resources at a faster and faster rate, there will be a point where further expansion is uneconomical and refineries will change over to produce products with higher value than regular gasoline, where they can still achieve a decent profit margin.  This will further shorten supply and accelerate price increases.  Oil is being exhausted most quickly, with somewhat longer futures for natural gas and coal, even though the former has environmental problems with its extraction process, only now being recognized, and the latter is a dirty fuel that is less affordable when the sulfur and other undesirable pollutants are removed.  The problem with losing use of these fuels is not just transportation, but agriculture and manufacturing.  Fertilizers and plastics (and most products involving chemicals) depend on large quantities of petroleum.  Can you imagine the things you buy daily being packaged in, and often made solely from, wood, paper, or other renewable materials?  When I see plastic I immediately wonder how much oil it took to make it, and what I would be using if there were no plastics.

A lot of people will have to die early before we’ll have a sustainable world again.  While natural and human-caused disasters happen all the time, few (list)  have ever killed enough humans to make a noticeable dent in the global population.  The extreme steepness and height of the population curve suggests that, in the absence of determined actions to lower birthrates worldwide, those disasters will be much more prevalent and much worse in the next few decades.   I hate to think about the size of disaster, and the number of dead it would take to make a significant reduction in world population but, given the number by which the population will need to be reduced, disasters will be far worse than we have seen in the past.  Unpleasant as it is, we need to face the facts, change our direction, and begin working furiously in an all-out effort to curb population growth and invent ways to avoid the inevitable disasters.

This information needs to be faced directly by our political, economic, and social leaders.  It’s obvious that we are still in a runaway condition as far as population is concerned, and it is creating ever larger problems involving supplies of energy and food, immigration, political conflicts, and economic instability.  I have explored in other entries (here, here, here, here)  reasons why people can’t bring themselves to speak of this topic, why news media, government, corporate, and political organizations refuse to accept, let alone address, the inevitable problems of the coming century.  If we are to reduce and control the severity of these massive population reductions, and possibly save the lives of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, we need to act today.  For starters, this huge problem needs to be discussed publicly.  Facts need to be brought to light and calm, clear-headed efforts to mitigate the coming disasters need to start today.  Governments that balk at funding family planning efforts, for example, need to give such endeavors top priority.

What can you and I do?  Mobilization against overpopulation and its effects is needed on a global scale.   Effort needs to be expended in a manner similar to that experienced by some countries during World War II, with businesses forgoing profits, government-regulated rationing, and huge investments being made in science and technology, except that this needs to be global in scale.  Since corporations are not sensitive to such long-term and seemingly remote problems, governments will need to focus the effort and force the corporate world to behave appropriately.  This will only happen if we demand it at every turn.  It is up to us to change the perspective of politicians and business leaders, to take no quarter in our pursuit of the measures needed to address the huge problem we have made for ourselves and all life on the planet.  Painful as it is, the trouble inherent in publicizing the truth and demanding it be addressed is nothing compared with the trouble we will have in three or five decades when hundreds of thousands of people are dying every day, somewhere in the world, and we are all suffering extreme hardship.

On a personal level, I expect that every bit of conservation I pursue might buy my grandchildren an extra second to devise creative solutions to mitigate the problems of overpopulation.  If I and everyone does enough in this regard, the time gained could be a big factor in reducing the inevitable suffering.

Write or speak with your representatives and explain the truths, over and over.  The simple numbers are compelling and frightening, and maybe some properly placed fear will get people and institutions to face and address the realities.  The contrast between today and where we will likely be in a half century is compelling.  Tell this simple story to your representatives and demand action.  Make it clear you will vote for the candidate who shows the best understanding and most vigorous actions against overpopulation and the resulting problems which are already upon us.  Do everything you can to get the message across:  we need action against overpopulation and we need it yesterday.

As always, I welcome your comments.   — Tim

The Terminator is Here Now – And It’s the Corporation

There is increasing talk recently about the emergence of “the terminator”, also known as the “singularity”, which is the point when computers become smarter than humans and develop self-awareness.  Of course, at least until the machines can prevent it, this kind of terminator can be unplugged or disconnected from the internet to stop it from running amok.  There is another kind of terminator already in place, however, using humans as its computing elements and existing in a business-cultural context: the corporation. Continue reading

Globalization’s Downside: Increased Risk of Sudden and Unavoidable Shortages

It isn’t just fuel supply lines that have become stretched long and thin due to globalization and the corporate drive for cost reduction.  Other products are affected, too, as their manufacturing is concentrated in fewer and larger facilities.   The iPad factory explosion in China May 20, 2011. threatens to reduce Apple’s sales of the product as well as any other products that incorporate the popular tablet computer.  So how did we get to this state of affairs? Continue reading

Changing Our Thinking About Growth – the 9 Billion Ton Hamster

How long can the human race plow ahead like this, procreating like crazy and generally mismanaging our planet and population?  It is nonsensical how often the word “growth” is uttered in the media, as if growth could solve our economic problems.  Can’t the average human being, looking around at what we have created, perceive that the human species is overrunning our environment, damaging our environment, and stretching the systems and supply lines by which we survive ever closer to a breaking point from which we will not easily recover?  I happened upon an interesting page containing discussion on economics and growth.  The videos included are thought provoking.

Part of our self-deception must come from the media, which trumpets the view of effortless wealth constantly in fictional presentations as well as faulty interpretations of the news.  Today the far-right wing in the United States is using this faulty logic to divide the country politically and motivate some voters to back policies that promise them smaller government and less regulation, but actually deliver them to corporate marketers whose power transcends that of most governments and is solely focused on short term profits achieved by any means necessary.

Our concentration on the symptoms is keeping us from addressing the real problem.  The corporate news media are easily the biggest factor in this.  News reporting constantly focuses on the symptoms of our runaway population growth, such as the financial collapse, pollution and loss of species, and natural disasters that wouldn’t be so bad except that we have packed the land with people and squeezed ever larger numbers into ever smaller and more risky places.  The longer we avoid recognizing the real problem – that we have become far too “successful” as a species – the bigger the disasters and the longer the recovery we can expect.  We are the 9 billion ton hamster, or soon will be.  Are we smart enough to slow, stop, and turn around this runaway situation before the disasters are affecting us all simultaneously world wide?

More soon — thanks for reading.  Your comments are appreciated  — Tim

For Humanity “Muddling Through” is Likely to Prevail

While many disastrous scenarios are discussed, future events, both good and bad, tend to be less extreme than predicted.  While energy and food shortages, climate change, and ecological disasters are predicted on good evidence, humans always focus on what is measured, reported, and made “top of mind”.  The very fact that people will focus on and deal with those issues mitigates their severity.  While sustainability and the population explosion haven’t been made big topics in the news, more and more people are becoming aware of their importance, and of the need for conservation as well as energy source innovation.  How might the next fifty years play out, given our huge, looming problems? Continue reading