Is collapse of the global civilization before year 2100 likely?

Is collapse of the 21st century global civilization before year 2100 likely? The notion of collapse is broad: one indicator would be a significant fall of human population, say below 5 billion, although that would be a mild "collapse". If better indicator can be found, the indicator can be changed and the discussion restructured. "Is likely" is ambiguous; let us operationally define it as "with probability greater than 60%".

Unfortunately, the arguments will probably need to remain relatively general. However, some parties are making sufficiently general arguments for them to fit this format. Other arguments can be summarized, with further reading complementing them.

Search terms: doomsday prophecy, apocalypse.

Collapse of the 21st century global civilization before year 2100 is likely edit

Arguments for edit

  •   Argument for The world is stretching resource use in the areas of land, water, energy, mined resources, stability of ecosystems, CO2 emission levels and impact on global climatic change. Human population is sustained by industrial agriculture heavily dependent on fossil fuels and artificial fertilizers. If the raw sources that are direct or indirect input into agriculture become very scarce, there will be hunger and mass death. The risks are too many for none of them to occur. A proper taxonomical and numerical analysis containing specifics is for further reading. An effective intervention is unlikely since it would require huge reduction in use of inputs needed to sustain current human population size, which would require significant reduction of population size, impossible without premature death.
    •   Objection But then you get your result of reduced population either way, whether via voluntary reduction, or via adverse event.
      •   Objection Fair enough. We need a better definition of "collapse".
      •   Objection True. However, the above and the corresponding motion is still falsifiable: it can turn to be wrong if the world population reaches, say, 9 billion in 2100.
  •   Argument for A nuclear war is an independent risk.
    •   Objection No one in their right mind will launch a nuclear war. The nuclear weapons serve as deterrent, not for use.
      •   Objection They only serve as deterrent as long as their use is not entirely implausible.
      •   Objection That assumes that people in power have "right mind" and are not quasi-insane. Is the man who claims to engage in a "special military operation" entirely sane? Was Hitler entirely sane? Are religious leaders entirely sane? Is the North Korean dictator entirely sane?
      •   Objection There may be human or technical error rather than insanity. A system may falsely detect an attack and unless a wise human decides not to respond, there may be a problem.
      •   Objection Combined with the risk of runaway artificial intelligence, this risk could be exacerbated.
  •   Argument for The likelihood of effective prevention is made smaller by the fairly widespread false belief in the near-magical power of markets, technology and human ingenuity to overcome the finiteness of natural resources.
  •   Argument for Society has already been shown to be possible to disrupt in the COVID-19 pandemic. A larger unexpected disaster is a possibility at any time.
    •   Objection Covid-19 was hardly a disaster and actually goes to show that most businesses and public services will continue operating even with a majority of the workforce (needlessly) absent. More of a bad flu season with lots of big-pharma profiteering and FUD. I say needlessly because hardly anyone not eligible for AARP was at any substantial risk at all.

Arguments against edit

  •   Argument against The human mind is the greatest resource of them all. There are no natural resources. Things are turned into a resource by human use and ingenuity.
    •   Objection Clearly untrue: the Earth is a finite physical system, and the natural resources of land, water, climate, fossil fuels, raw mined materials, etc. are a real thing, a scarce thing to be allocated for use, and thus subject to economic theory. Natural resources are not the only resources and human ingenuity does play a role, but they are indispensable input, and when some of them are gone, they are gone, and no amount of ingenuity can change that. In abstract terms, form cannot create matter; form can only change itself and other forms, of forms, of forms, of matter. And form cannot create energy.
    •   Objection The concept of resource finds use in biology or economics of nature, not only in human economies. Thus, sunlight, water, soil, food and hunting areas are resources for living things, whether plants or animals. The brain of an animal is a scarce resource allocated to different information and representation needs. The energy in an animal stored in various substances is also allocated between needs. Even single-cell organisms solve resource allocation problems. The concept of resource is nearly as old as living things themselves.
  •   Argument against We are likely to achieve technological singularity by year 2050. With the use of artificial intelligence greater than human intelligence, problems that appear intractable now should be soluble. We can expect great technological progress leading to discovery of more "natural" resources.
    •   Objection That is very unlikely, a science fiction. The improvement of silicon computing capability is likely to hit hard physical limits even if we do not know when. The idea that the artificial intelligence, when applied to itself, will lead to some kind of spiral or explosion of intelligence is not obviously correct, and ignores physical limits of computation and cognition implemented in physics.
  •   Argument against The skeptics have repeatedly shown to be wrong in their doom-and-gloom predictions, starting from Malthus.
    •   Objection The argument is of the form: all specific predictions have been wrong, therefore, the resources are not finite. If one assumes that the Earth is a physical system, it is wrong.
      •   Objection That does not show collapse before 2100.
        •   Objection It does not. But it shows the form of the argument employed above to be wrong. It may turn out the resources will not run before 2100; without specific numerical analysis, it is impossible to know. But it is possible to know the resources are finite, irreplaceable and not part of the kind of closed material cycle that is found in biological nature including plant and animal bodies.
    •   Objection Malthus was not wrong. He did not predict doom. He said population is limited by food production. The Malthusian limit exists, albeit the modern Agricultural Revolution pushed it skyward. Today Earth is capable to feed 100-150 billion people.
  •   Argument against Societal collapse will happen in half a billion years when Sun gets too hot. The closest partial collapse will be in the next Glacial Age with climate undermining agriculture. The rest of existential problems for this Interglacial mankind will easily overcome.
    •   Objection This argument does not explain or justify how mankind will overcome any existential challenges, and is thus irrelevant.
    •   Objection Approximately speaking, the above assumes what is to be argued for with no argument or substantiation. There is no reference and almost no analysis.

See also edit

Further reading edit