Category Archives: transportation

Autonomous Vehicles on the Roads in the Next Decade? Wait Just a Minute!


Automakers, legislators, and others are excited about putting autonomous vehicles (AV’s) on the road as quickly as possible, and they cite many benefits.  They’re pushing hard and investing a lot of money, but there are simple reasons why self-driving cars will not rule the road any time soon, no matter how beneficial they might be.  For starters, some people will prefer to drive themselves or ride with a human driver.  Inevitably some people will feel insecure riding in an AV and will refuse to ride in one, let alone buy one.  While the numbers of those rejecting AV’s for such reasons may be small, they will sustain a demand for self-controlled vehicles to remain on the roads longer, presenting serious problems for AV operators.  But that’s just the beginning – there are other major problems with AV’s that are not often mentioned in the media. Continue reading

As Population Peaks There is One Certainty: Things Will Be Messy and Complicated


We humans are clearly overrunning the planet, but few understand or will face what is happening.  As population hits an all-time peak later this century, life on the planet will get much tougher and there will be no simple answers to the problems that will arise or simply increase in severity.  While it is hard to see ahead with any detail, past experience says there will never be a single crisis that challenges humanity like overpopulation does (barring an asteroid impact, a global volcanic surprise, or the sun doing something unexpected).  This is because human nature drives us to want to live better and have more children.  Can we successfully change ourselves to have less offspring and live more sustainably?  Continue reading

Will Our Dependence on the Internet Enable the Population Explosion, and the Crash?


The adoption of digital communications technology keeps accelerating, but brings risk. The crash phase of the global population explosion may not start with food shortages, global pandemic, or world war, but with a widespread shutdown of the internet.  The disruption to our shipping, energy, and food systems would be catastrophic.  But isn’t the internet too resilient from its diversity, complexity, and vast extent to be at risk of a global shutdown?  How might this come about? Continue reading

The Future of Cyber Warfare Is Here – What’s Next?


Programming computers is a skill that can be learned, and a lot can be learned about it with very little investment in hardware and software.  That enables people from almost every society on earth, including dangerous psychopaths, to build programming skills and use computers as they choose. Civilization is so dependent on the internet here in 2015 that I expect we have passed the point where a major, multi-day failure of the internet wouldn’t be accompanied by at least some people starving.  That puts a lot of power at the fingertips of internet users, but a great deal more in the hands of those who can write software.  People never stop learning, and some of them, rogue programmers, are sociopaths with bad intent for the rest of us.  So what bad deeds are they carrying out that we don’t know about yet? Can  we know? Continue reading

Mixed News and Misconceptions Regarding Our Future


Awareness of humanity’s biggest problems is rising.  While there appears to finally be a slow groundswell of popular understanding and alarm about what humans are doing to the planet (which is quite late but very good), there is still a lot of mishandling (and often misrepresentation) of the news. This results in persistent widespread misconceptions about our position and probable future on the planet.  So what kinds of things are we “not getting”? Continue reading

We Have Good Reasons to Build Like the Ancients


What we build today may have to sustain us for a century.  The population explosion is expected to peak in the 2040’s, just 30 years away, and we can’t expect that time to be easy.  Not only will out-of-control growth exceed the capacity of much of our infrastructure, but when the trend turns around with a declining population will come a declining tax base, and there may truly be no money for infrastructure repairs and improvement.  For this reason, when we pursue an infrastructure update project today we should build it to serve us with minimum maintenance for a century, not just a few years.   I can’t help but think of the Roman roads, some of which are still in use 2000 years after they were built.  Can we think in those terms?  Are we smart enough as a species to anticipate the future and prepare for scenarios that are likely but still decades away?  Or are we closer to lemmings, insects, and bacteria than we think, such that we won’t be able to avoid growing explosively until our infrastructure fails and our numbers are reduced by mass starvation?  It is up to us, but serious action is needed now, and I’m not sure we’ve set an encouraging track record so far.  This is a badly needed bit of consciousness raising, but we need to be talking seriously about what will happen in the next century, for our children and grandchildren if not for ourselves.

As always,  your comments are welcome.  Thanks for reading – Tim

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