Most people who are expert on our overshoot predicament and the behaviors that enabled it believe two things:
- The Maximum Power Principle (MPP) governs our behavior.
- We have no free will.
These beliefs lead to the following conclusions:
- Our overshoot predicament was inevitable.
- There is nothing that can be done to improve the outcome.
A recent comment by Apneaman here is a good example of this belief.
Overpopulation is baked in and so is the remedy (die-back).
I don’t see breeding less as a choice. Survival & reproduction are what life does. Evolution & the MPP are non negotiable.
I don’t think it’s possible to study how life works and not come to the conclusion that we are governed by the MPP and have no free will. I accept these as facts.
I also know that we are the only species with sufficient intelligence to understand the reality of our overshoot predicament, its implications, and to calculate the best course of action.
Most paths are blocked by powerful constraints:
- We can’t grow out of our predicament (finite planet)
- New technology won’t help (energy depletion)
The best path given the constraints is voluntary rapid population reduction because every overshoot related problem we face improves with fewer people, and because reducing the population will minimize suffering.
So the key question becomes, is it possible to voluntarily reduce the population without violating the MPP?
I’m not an expert on the MPP, and so acknowledge risk of being proven wrong here, but I’m thinking there is some evidence that we could voluntarily reduce the population and not violate the MPP.
It seems there are conditions where max power requires fewer children. For example, families choose to have fewer children when some combination of the following conditions exist:
- no dependence on children for survival in old age (low risk power will go to zero too soon)
- not dependent on children for labor (power maximized with fossil energy)
- success (max power) requires expensive education & income is sufficient to educate few children
- childcare expenses are high (too many children risks all failing with suboptimal total power)
- mothers are educated with careers (too many children reduces mother’s power)
This evidence hints that the MPP could be leveraged by awareness of our overshoot predicament to drive down population. One possible scenario follows.
While it’s true that population control is an unpopular topic and is rarely discussed, it’s also true that a political party seeking election has never clearly told the voters that the economy will soon collapse due to resource depletion and environmental damage, and that new born children will have a low probability of survival until we reduce the population.
That party could offer policies suitable for maximizing power in a collapsing economy. For example, a birth lottery where applicants are randomly awarded a permit to have a a child and those children will be heavily supported by the state assuring max power for the lucky family. Childless couples will also maximize their power because they won’t waste resources on children that die. Couples who have a child without a permit will be subject to expensive fines thus reducing their power.
It’s worth a try. If they’re not elected we’ll be no worse off, and we might even be better off since some couples will go childless after listening to the debate.
We need a principled small party that has a low probability of being elected anyway, like for example the Green Party, to step up.
This scenario unfortunately depends on party members breaking through their genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities and accepting our overshoot predicament and its implications.
Thus we’ve come full circle to a prerequisite for a broader understanding Varki’s MORT, which is why I talk about it so much.
MORT awareness is not happening, and it probably never will happen, because denial of denial is the strongest form of denial.
But I’ll probably keep talking about MORT, hoping that some people join me in spreading the word, because there is no alternative except darkness.