Demographic Destiny
December 14, 2015 3:48 AM   Subscribe

 
Nothing about transport or energy?
posted by flabdablet at 3:58 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


What is this? Zombie futurism?!? Because I heard it was dead!

Clifton Coles, assistant editor of the society's flagship magazine, The Futurist, pokes his head into his boss's office: "A Seattle radio station called, wants to know if you have some predictions for next year." Cornish, 76, strokes his nipples in a circular motion, stares off for a second, and says, "I can't think of anything in particular."
posted by fairmettle at 4:03 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


No news of where we're going to get 6 more Earth's of resources necessary to power this future?
posted by MikeWarot at 4:22 AM on December 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


To me the idea that, in 1915, the year 1950 might have been considered "right around the corner" is astonishing.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:26 AM on December 14, 2015 [28 favorites]


I eat meat, but I've recently been thinking a lot about the environmental impact because for whatever reason the (massive) individual animal cruelty of it doesn't motivate me. WSJ's projections for global meat demand over the next decade are pretty scary, in that light. The rest of the article is similarly frightening in light of COP21.

In general, the move to more energy-intensive food production seems to be a mistake. But meat eating is at the forefront of that: it's often worse to eat cows raised and slaughtered locally than to have a salad flown in from halfway around the world.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:54 AM on December 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Now, the fun thing to do now is find the prediction articles from thirty five years ago. These kinds of articles are good conversation pieces but are rarely accurate.
posted by KaizenSoze at 5:08 AM on December 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Best bet prediction (according to me):
Lab-grown meat. As soon as protein assemblage gets sophisticated enough everyone will be eating $1.99 filet mignon. The global cattle market will hopefully collapse, causing maize mono cropping to retract, rural land prices (a traditional wealth reservoir for farmers) to collapse. Millions of acres of pasturage will go fallow, which will hopefully encourage the population recovery of several now threatened wildlife species. Fewer cows on the planet=less CO2 emissions, less chemical fertilizer usage, less water usage.
posted by Chrischris at 5:14 AM on December 14, 2015 [20 favorites]


Yeah, lab-grown meat or some sort of algae-or soy-based alternative seems likely. Interesting how they don't mention climate change or self-driving cars, both of which will be huge. The "1915 to 1950" comparison is apt, but hopefully we don't get a pair of world wars anytime soon.
posted by Slinga at 5:18 AM on December 14, 2015


I can't wait to hear foodies try and tell me how terrible my, perfectly assembled for maximum taste, Filet McNon(TM) is in comparison to their chewy terrible cuts of meat from pollution ridden cows.
posted by mayonnaises at 5:21 AM on December 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Too lazy to go dig up the ZPG projections of massive food riots decimating the worlds cities in 2005, Malthus certainly had good scientific projections, the world ended from unchecked growth well prior to the turn of the millennium.

Walking through the local farm market I was again too lazy to try to calculate the acreage devoted to the millions of xmas trees harvested each year, 25 sq feet times 5-7 year crop cycle times, what twenty million trees? Not the best land for onions but it could be done and most of that land is likely above the worst water line in the worst warming estimates.

Ocean collapse is a vastly bigger worry.
posted by sammyo at 5:28 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Millions of acres of pasturage will go fallow,

You might see the reverse, with more acreage put under intensive singe crop agriculture, soy or whatever the raw ingredient of the lab meat will be. And people will keep grazing cattle on the dry uplands to supply the boutique market, since that land isn't good for producing anything else.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:29 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, lab-grown meat or some sort of algae-or soy-based alternative seems likely.

Deep down, I think we all know what the future will really bring, don't we?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:30 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


You might see the reverse, with more acreage put under intensive singe crop agriculture,

Just to go wide eyed techie optimistic, the dinos did not have robots (as far as we know, great scifi plot there, nudge nudge). The giant corn fields bigger than Lichtenstein are an economic entity. Given cheap labor smaller farms with cultivated crops will be more practical and more economically feasible.

Now if the robots take all the low paying jobs do we let the poor starve or institute a universal basic income? And if we do will that increase the birth rate (what else do the unworking have to do) and will we have a population growth in the double digit billions?
posted by sammyo at 5:44 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


perfectly assembled for maximum taste, Filet McNon(TM)

Given the choice, food providers seem much more likely to select for longevity/shelf life and then for appearance before they get to flavour.
posted by biffa at 5:47 AM on December 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


The real objective should be to get the population back down to, like, a billion people.
How to get there? Well, that's the fun part! Actually no, no it isn't. But I'd put even money on some pesticide causing infertility and then, you know, it's Children of Men and all that.
But at least we'll have fusion power and AI and jet packs so, you know, won't be all bad.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:55 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Now if the robots take all the low paying jobs do we let the poor starve or institute a universal basic income?

I am personally predicting a mixture of starvation, work houses, prisons, war, executions and death in urban rioting. If by "universal basic income" you mean "1/4 lb nutriloaf after spending a twelve hour shift working as leased labor in the "artisan" soap vattery, just as you have done for the past ten years and as you will until you fall into an early grave", I'm sure there will be some kind of "universal income".

Actually, you know what the universal basic income will look like for those of us not in workhouses? I base this on actual experience with a friend who was on welfare. You'll get a "basic income", and 2/3 of it will be paid directly to your slumlord, 1/5 of it will be available to exchange for a limited selection of food products at a large vendor, and the remainder will be dealt out in Target gift cards and a bus pass. You will never have any actual "cash" that you can spend on whatever you like; you'll just be a pass-through so the state can dole out money to its various cronies.
posted by Frowner at 5:56 AM on December 14, 2015 [46 favorites]


Nothing about changing climate, and nothing about energy demand. Good to see those won't be problems in the future. Thanks for clearing that up WSJ!
posted by wormwood23 at 6:16 AM on December 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


I know it's the WSJ, but still, that piece is just dripping with a self-unaware, implicit conviction in the continuity of capitalism.
posted by yesster at 6:25 AM on December 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


Deep down, I think we all know what the future will really bring

I was hoping that would point to a picture of a mustachioed Sean Connery, bedecked in guns, boots, and loincloth.

If we are going to fail, let's fail big.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:32 AM on December 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


Of course capitalism will continue.

It is simply a restatement of how people collaborate and compete to produce and acquire goods and services free of coercion besides the enforcement of contracts.

No society is entirely free of coercion of course, but even the most repressive of Communist states provided beautiful case studies of capitalism at work in their informal economies, albeit with massive deadweight costs imposed by the risk of punishment and the inherently higher risk of fraud when their was no efficient recourse for contract enforcement.
posted by MattD at 6:35 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


But failing to observe the effects of self-driving cars IS bogus to the extreme.
posted by MattD at 6:35 AM on December 14, 2015


I don't think most lab meat is going to imitate specific cuts, growing a whole filet or roast will take much too long and require a lot more scaffolding and engineering than something like ground meat or komagire (thinly sliced meat scraps), which can grow on a two-dimensional medium. I see a lot of gyudon in our future.
posted by Small Dollar at 6:40 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


"The global cattle market will hopefully collapse, causing maize mono cropping to retract, rural land prices (a traditional wealth reservoir for farmers) to collapse. Millions of acres of pasturage will go fallow, which will hopefully encourage the population recovery of several now threatened wildlife species. "

I ... you do not understand the economics of corn. For starters, the cost of corn crop land isn't going to fall as it is literally the most fertile soil IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. It may earn less profit per acre without corn, but the land won't get less valuable. (Its getting valuable enough in Illinois and Iowa that McMansion suburbs are hesitating before eating farmland because the acreage is so expensive putting housing on it is a poor return if people aren't paying a premium for your exurban house. Cheaper to drain a swamp.) I also have a very hard time seeing the disaggregation of large farms without significant deliberate market incentives (I.e., not trends but govt programs), and we already are having a problem where we don't have enough farmers to managing existing farms; it tends to suggest more American farms coming under direct corporate control.

The USDA has an entire very large unit dedicated to nothing but "think of more things to do with corn," so even if its use as feed and fuel (ethanol) drops precipitously, there are literally dozens of nerds working on how else to use it. Meanwhile, demand for food corn (not feed corn) is rising worldwide but especially in Latin America, and demand for HFCS continues to grow worldwide because of its superiority to sugar in industrial processes and its frequent exemption from sugar-related trade barriers. The USDA predict demand for corn will not accelerate any longer (as it did as feed lots and ethanol came in), but will continue to grow at about the rate of population growth, as growing uses make up for falling uses. Even in a worst case scenario where markets for feed and fuel collapse tomorrow, economists predict only about 1/3 of corn acreage will be lost, and almost all of that will be corn-on-corn rotation going back to a healthier corn-on-soy rotation ... But land will not be taken out of agricultural production.

Personally I think we need to pour some money into the education of young farmers (which is what land grant universities are FOR!) or we're not going to like the outcome in 15 or 20 years when we run out of farmers competent to grow farms. And then I'd discourage corner-to-corner planting (let wildflowers grow in field corners and on margins) which typically makes for healthier crops and provides pretty good habitat and corridors for wildlife. Ban tilling and limit fertilizer inputs. Restrict future water use to encourage the development of crops suitable to a drier future. (Midwestern corn isn't watered; the rain takes care of it.)

If Midwestern crop land goes fallow, we are so far in the shit that you'll probably have already starved to death. That idea is just ... pretty unthinkable. Like, you may not understand how bad the world would have to be for that to happen; we'd be talking complete collapse of either the US government or the population such that nobody was able to farm it. And the consequences worldwide would be utterly dire; millions of people would starve. Even just a drought year that somewhat reduces yields already causes riots across South and Central America because food prices shoot up so much.

I can imagine futures where corn land grows not-corn, but I can't imagine one where the most photosynthetically productive land in the world, requiring no water inputs, is allowed to lie fallow, unless 75% of humans are already dead.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:40 AM on December 14, 2015 [38 favorites]


Ocean collapse is a vastly bigger worry.

This is two issues, right? Ocean acidification and overfishing.

Ocean acidification is terrifying. But it's a symptom, not a cause. It's a function of excess CO2 being released into the atmosphere, creating carbonic acid. Address climate change and you address ocean acidification. We're (amazingly) working on that through climate change agreements, as well as through new and more efficient sources of green energy, which is getting cheaper every day.

Overfishing is also a big problem. We're eating through the ocean and blowing up ecosystems and delicate webs of relationships in the process. I'm not sure we've got the political will to address it effectively yet, but it too, is a fixable problem. Here's Daniel Pauly, a fisheries scientist specializing in the human impact on global fisheries: "Strangely enough, these effects are all reversible, all the animals that have disappeared would reappear, all the animals that were small would grow, all the relationships that you can't see any more would re-establish themselves, and the system would re-emerge. So that's one thing to be optimistic about. The oceans, much more so than the land, are reversible..."

I'm not playing Pollyanna, and it's not that we don't have a big problem here, but I don't think the end is nigh quite yet. We just have to get to work.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:48 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


MattD: "Of course capitalism will continue.

It is simply a restatement of how people collaborate and compete to produce and acquire goods and services free of coercion besides the enforcement of contracts.

No society is entirely free of coercion of course, but even the most repressive of Communist states provided beautiful case studies of capitalism at work in their informal economies, albeit with massive deadweight costs imposed by the risk of punishment and the inherently higher risk of fraud when their was no efficient recourse for contract enforcement.
"

There's a difference between "people will make private bargains in pretty much any situation" and "the natural state of the economy is end stage capitalism." The former is clearly true, the latter remains to be proven.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:51 AM on December 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


It is simply a restatement of how people collaborate and compete to produce and acquire goods and services free of coercion besides the enforcement of contracts.

This isn't Capitalism; it's commerce, and, yes, commerce will continue for as long as there are humans. Capitalism as an economic/political theory only really got going with the Modern era and there is no particular reason to imagine that it will endure, as it requires an awful lot of government support. Capitalism creates its own crises, as they say, and the current form of global Capitalism seems fairly fragile, especially if changing political pressures undermine that support.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:52 AM on December 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


Strangely enough, these effects are all reversible, all the animals that have disappeared would reappear, all the animals that were small would grow, all the relationships that you can't see any more would re-establish themselves, and the system would re-emerge. So that's one thing to be optimistic about. The oceans, much more so than the land, are reversible..

I was under the impression that the collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery proved this false. The new populations of young cod behaved more erratically than the mature schools did. (my knowledge is probably out of date as I haven't paid much attention lately).
posted by srboisvert at 6:56 AM on December 14, 2015


If your concept of capitalism is "the exchange of goods and services" then yeah, I can see where you'd get the idea that capitalism is eternal but a) that is not a definition which is going to help you understand anything at all and b) you are a huge sucker for Cold War propaganda.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:01 AM on December 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


yeah, there's the "devil take the hindmost" capitalism of the pre-Progressive* 19th century (and what the GOP has become overtaken by now) and the mixed economy on the model of the Scandinavian "socialist" paradises.

As far as 2050 goes, I'm more sanguine about Japan's prospect over the next 35 years than the US's.

People call the fact that Japan in 2050 is going to have the same population as 1970 a "problem", but it looks more like a solution to me. Granted, Japan was so economically dynamic in the 1970s thanks to their short, sharp baby boom (born 1947-50) moving into the workforce.

A declining population no longer needs "growth".

* Reading histories of 19th century California, it's clear that the Progressive Movement there was a middle-class coalition of business interests that reformed the state GOP, rather than the working-class force of the Populists or Socialists/Communists of the era. Hiram Johnson, "progressive" GOP governor of CA, was Roosevelt's VP in 1912 in that third-party run.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 7:03 AM on December 14, 2015


There's a difference between "people will make private bargains in pretty much any situation" and "the natural state of the economy is end stage capitalism." The former is clearly true, the latter remains to be proven.

This isn't Capitalism; it's commerce, and, yes, commerce will continue for as long as there are humans.

Let's define our terms to make this conversation more productive! We are talking about economic systems which are "systems of production and exchange of goods and services as well as allocation of resources in a society." Popular choices these days are:

Market Economy: "in which decisions regarding investment, production, and distribution are based on supply and demand, and prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system."

another popular choice (the one you see in basically every 1st world country) is:

Mixed Economy: "which refers to market economies with strong regulatory oversight and governmental provision of public goods, although some mixed economies also feature a number of state-run enterprises."

Neither of these are identical to Capitalism: "an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state."

An economic system that involves the free and voluntary exchange of goods and services, governed and protected by the rule of law, does not necessarily mean an economic system where the trade and industry of the country are controlled entirely by private owners.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:08 AM on December 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


No news of where we're going to get 6 more Earth's of resources necessary to power this future?

I'd also be interested in WSJ's take on where we're going to find new antibiotics to replace the ones many pathogens are rapidly becoming resistant to, because this seems like a real-time market failure. Big pharma doesn't see any significant profit in developing antibiotics because it's expensive and they have a limited profitability lifetime. Nothing to see here - it's just demographics at work.
posted by sneebler at 7:08 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now, the fun thing to do now is find the prediction articles from thirty five years ago. These kinds of articles are good conversation pieces but are rarely accurate

Somewhere in a box in the basement is my dog-eared copy of Wallechinsky/Wallace/Wallce's The Book of Predictions, which was this pulpy paperback from 1981 put out by the people that wrote the highly popular The People's Almanac and The Book of Lists.

The book had loads of future predictions from all kinds of characters: Celebrities, Scientists, Sci-Fi Authors, psychics, you name it. It was kind of a fun read...back in the 1980s. Might still be fun today if I can find my copy.

I've always been tempted to start a blog reviewing some of the more popular contributors in the book, but it looks like others have already done this.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:18 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


You might see the reverse, with more acreage put under intensive singe crop agriculture, soy or whatever the raw ingredient of the lab meat will be.

Soy (and maize) are already some of the main ingredients of meat, in that they are a large chunk of what the meat eats. And eating the soy directly is much more efficient than feeding it to a cow and then eating the cow.
posted by bracems at 7:36 AM on December 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I seem to recall a UN report left on my living room table that predicted 2050 being the earliest date for a massive population crash due to climate related deaths and inability of the world grain supply to support the population and the rest was so chilling I had to like, stop myself from downing the entire bourbon bottle on the side bar sooooo
posted by The Whelk at 8:17 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


An economic system that involves the free and voluntary exchange of goods and services, governed and protected by the rule of law, does not necessarily mean an economic system where the trade and industry of the country are controlled entirely by private owners.

If "non-private ownership" implies "public ownership," which implies "taxation of the public by a central government," then how does that preserve the "free and voluntary" part of a market economy? In an autocracy, the lack of freedom is obvious, but even in a republic (at least a US-style one), individuals have little to no influence over how much they are taxed, let alone what the taxes pay for. And if the government is some sort of true democracy or anarchy (the non-hierarchically organized kind, not the chaos and civil war kind), then "public ownership of an industry" is basically the same as "everyone owns equal stock in the industry," which is compatible with a capitalist economy.
posted by Rangi at 8:32 AM on December 14, 2015


eating the soy directly is much more efficient than feeding it to a cow and then eating the cow.

Yes, for a single issue problem. Ecologically optimizing the benefit of the entire system and a certain particular organism, adding meat to the system may be more beneficial than reorienting that omnivore to be a herbivore. Certainly if the aesthetics of that particular organism are given any importance.
posted by sammyo at 8:40 AM on December 14, 2015


Just to go wide eyed techie optimistic, the dinos did not have robots (as far as we know, great scifi plot there, nudge nudge)

They never gave themselves time to build robots.
posted by flabdablet at 8:45 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


If "non-private ownership" implies "public ownership," which implies "taxation of the public by a central government," then how does that preserve the "free and voluntary" part of a market economy?

Trade is free and voluntary. That doesn't change just because the rule of law that protects and facilitates free and voluntary trade is a public good requiring public funding.

Taxation is the price tag on civilization, and the laws that define the tax code are every bit as central to the success of commerce as the laws that define private property rights.
posted by flabdablet at 8:55 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The one thing I don't see brought up often in these discussions very often is the work being done to 're-engineer' livestock to reduce their environmental impact, and we'll be seeing a lot more of it long before we all start having to look forward to Tuesdays for all that sweet Soylent Green or switching to vat-grown meat. The methane emissions are only part of the issue, but it's a significant factor none the less.

For example, there seems to be significant progress made with research on reducing the methane emissions from cattle. This paper finds that by using an additive to cattle feed, they were able to reduce their emissions by 30% in dairy cattle, for example, without any negative effects to the cows or the milk produced (a small study, but promising, but this is just one). As research progresses further, between optimizing the gut bacteria in the digestive systems of livestock and improving the feed itself to produce less unwanted byproducts, it seems very probable that overall emissions will be reduced even further. The added benefit to this is that these methods (additives/gut bacteria control) avoid direct genetic modification of the livestock themselves, and allow that technology to be given much more time to mature, rather than having it come into use before it's ready.

It's not just wanting to "be green" that's the sole driver of these efforts, either. Given the increasing pressure on livestock producers to reduce their environmental impact and the eventual regulations and market trends ("low emission beef" marketed similar to how "organic/free range/etc" are) that will follow in the coming decades, every 'Big Agriculture' corporation knows that whoever figures out and patents the best additives and processes necessary to meet those requirements will have a lock on the market and a goldmine on their hands. So on the upside, the environment benefits, and one the downside, every livestock farmer will have one more level of enforced dependence on the big agricorps.
posted by chambers at 8:59 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


low emission beef

I just had a horrible mental picture of endless acres of huge sheds full of corn-fed cows in battery cages, with all their rumens catheterized to collect the methane and pipe it into the natural gas grid.
posted by flabdablet at 9:04 AM on December 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


The only use of sites telling us what life will be like in a fixed number of years is so they can then go back to see how far or close to what had been predicted.
posted by Postroad at 9:27 AM on December 14, 2015


eating the soy directly is much more efficient than feeding it to a cow and then eating the cow.

Has anyone calculated the future methane (and other) emissions for an entire planet's population (via flatulence only, not counting solid waste) whose primary food source is soy-based?

If the UN estimate of 11 Billion by 2100, and taking the composition of gasses in human flatulence (1997 study) as a starting point, and assuming a soy based diet would generally increase internal methane, CO2, and hydrogen sulfide production somewhat (citation needed), I wonder how that would compare to developing a more efficient, 'optimized for low emission' livestock population?

I'm not trying to shoot down the idea of soy in general (though I admit I do not find the idea of an all-vegan planet appealing), I'm honestly curious about whether "cutting out the middle man" (well, cow, in this case) completely would be as effective as it might appear, at least when considering just the effects of flatulent emissions.
posted by chambers at 9:40 AM on December 14, 2015


> The only use of sites telling us what life will be like in a fixed number of years is so they can then go back to see how far or close to what had been predicted.

Their purpose is political activism, either to assure people that everything is going to be okay and you should carry on trusting in the status quo, or the opposite.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:47 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Trade is free and voluntary. That doesn't change just because the rule of law that protects and facilitates free and voluntary trade is a public good requiring public funding.

This isn't your point, of course, but it's interesting to see the phrase "trade is free and voluntary" in a thread at least partially about synthetic meat. Here in the early 21st century trade is free and voluntary in exactly the same way that cows are spherical and frictionless.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:50 AM on December 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I just had a horrible mental picture of endless acres of huge sheds full of corn-fed cows in battery cages, with all their rumens catheterized to collect the methane and pipe it into the natural gas grid.

That's pretty grim, but thankfully highly improbable (at least for the rumen catheters), but that image makes me think that's what the Matrix would have been like if David Cronenberg wrote it. On a lighter note, I know a few farmers who collect the methane from the manure of their cattle in giant "digester tanks" to create biogas, which is nice. However, I think I've heard that the boom in natural gas wells in the last decade has had the effect of slowing the rate of development of the technology, since it has changed the gas market a great deal.

I suspect that while there will always be some barn-confined cattle, in 30-50 years we may see the long barn as a centralized feeding/milking center evolve into a more decentralized, automated system using groups of haywagon-sized, semi-autonomous feeding/milking/health tracking robots that roam the fields serving perhaps 20 cows at a time, allowing both a mostly free-range experience for the cows, and increasing overall production by combining grass and feed mixtures personalized to produce the greatest return from each cow.

Right now cows have the same schedule for feeding/milking times and usually only one feed mixture they all have to use. Tracking the health and customizing feed mixtures and milking times to the individual cow's needs makes for healthier, happier cows and increased production. Separating the herd into groups with different feeding times and having both scheduled and 'self serve' milking times, it has the potential to maximize production and efficiency, as well as offering a better life for the cow. The benefits of individualized tracking procedures of maximizing feed intake and optimizing production was championed in the late 40s-early 50s with poultry (cf. 1948's The Chicken of Tomorrow short film, in either Normal or MST3k versions)
posted by chambers at 10:22 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Being born in 1955 I beginning to think this was the last great time to be born. I may have 20 more years of fairly productive, interesting life left. I will get SS and a small retirement after 65. And still be likely to do some kind of tech piecework well into my 70's. I will read a lot and watch our young go crazy...
posted by judson at 10:28 AM on December 14, 2015


Insects will be the main protein source. ....If we're smart.
posted by Liquidwolf at 10:47 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nonsense, krill patties are where it's at.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:51 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ecologically optimizing the benefit of the entire system and a certain particular organism, adding meat to the system may be more beneficial than reorienting that omnivore to be a herbivore.

Yeah I'm not saying 'outlaw all meat.' As the original comment I replied to mentioned there is tons of marginally arable land that's much better suited to grazing livestock than to row crops. But under the current system huge amounts of land that could be producing human food directly are instead used to produce feed for animals. Which is a problem with South American deforestation, global warming, ocean dead zones, and all that jazz. A world where animals didn't subsist on maize and soy would have a lot less meat on the table, but it wouldn't have to be a vegan one.
posted by bracems at 11:01 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, chrischris, you've got it backwards. The US doesn't grow corn because it needs to feed too many cows, the cows eat it because the US grows too much corn.

I'm all for cutting down on factory farming and corn subsidies: smaller, sustainable farms requiring fewer inputs are the way to go. That is the legislation we should be supporting. Fields left to go fallow are a sign that shit has gone so far off the fucking rails that we might as well be starring in The Road.
posted by lydhre at 11:16 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is simply a restatement of how people collaborate and compete to produce and acquire goods and services free of coercion besides the enforcement of contracts.

And in every society we know of, once some people get richer than others, they use their wealth to buy every form of coercion they can think of (including laws) to tilt that trade of goods and services in their favor. Their main trick is buying or (more often) confiscating land and other resources and charging poor people rent to use them, so they can just take a cut of everyone else's work without having to do any themselves to give in exchange.
posted by straight at 11:35 AM on December 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


In 1980, no one I knew could imagine that the Soviet Union could disintegrate. Even those who were not impressed by the cold war propaganda and knew the union was a huge Potemkin village, still imagined the inertia of statehood would carry it through.
In 1980, we had seen Three Mile Island happen but not Chernobyl, and the political establishment across the board saw protesters against nuclear power and for alternative power sources as delusional and brain-washed commie-hippie sillies.
In 1980, academics, at least within the STEM disciplines, and many artists, were aware that a computer-driven revolution was ahead. And they predicted globalism and multi-cultural complexities, as well as the extreme inequality we are experiencing now.
In 1980, some historians and social scientists were predicting the almost Platon's state-like rate of technocracy we have today, but they did not predict the reactions from left and right to that condition.
Strangely, in spite of the oil crisis and the Iranian revolution, no one in 1980 imagined that a multitude of failed states in the Middle East would pose a greater threat to human development across the globe than the cold war. Actually, that is just crazy.
In 1980, the idea that most of Latin America would be sound and relatively safe democracies in 2015 would have seemed absurd. As would the idea that South Korea and Vietnam are rapidly developing powers today.
In 1980, everyone imagined that the main reason social democracies like those in Scandinavia, Germany, and France were succesfull was the Marshall Plan. No one examined why Finland was succesful without the aid, and the UK was failing at the time in spite of being the largest recipient.
In 1980, eating real food, made from local products was something poor people did, or really, really strange food-nerds. Or French people. The suggestion that it might be a problem that farming was becoming an industry was a hippie-commie position that even most of the hippie-commies didn't get.
In 1980, having a cappuccino was wild. Outside of Italy, it was something the avantgarde was doing. In somewhere like Soho or SOHO. Which weren't gentrified.
Which reminds me: in 1980, inner cities across the globe were scary and fascinating places, with crime and drugs and prostitution. And dirt-cheap flea-infested apartments with sketchy plumbing. The idea that western cities would one day become overpriced centres of luxury and consumption is maybe the one that would have been most alien to 1980's people.
And with that, the idea that the upper classes would bike or even walk would have been absurd in 1980 (and here it is that I need to remind a lot of people who identify as middle class that if they are living in a condo and biking 6 blocks to work in a big western city, they are most probably among the 10 %. Sorry about that).
In 1980, no one would have predicted how crime-rates would fall dramatically, or how traffic safety would improve. And this is a tricky one. Because in 1970, they would have imagined crime-rates to fall, and traffic to become safer. But in 1980, a Conservative mindset was winning forth, and the concept of destiny was replacing that of social engineering.
There is a lot more. Enough to make me extremely suspicious of all the suggestions in the WSJ feature.
posted by mumimor at 11:40 AM on December 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


To me the idea that, in 1915, the year 1950 might have been considered "right around the corner" is astonishing.

I think a comparison of prior predictions and success rates should be required before anyone goes about making high-faluting claims to foresee the future. Yes, 2050 seems a lot closer now in 2015 than it did in 1995, but that's because it is, but we still suck at forecasting the future.

Looking back to 1995, the modern world is changed in ways it would be hard to predict. Internet cafe's where you can get online for a quarter were bold experiments in connecting people, and now there are kids who have smart phones, with a world of information (and music, videos, books) at their fingertips, all the time. Hell, we have come so far with the internet we have an internet of shit and computers are so cheap you can get a free one with a magazine.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:42 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


IN 1980, people were excited about the new Star Wars movie.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:42 PM on December 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


According to the social security administation actuary table 44 y. o. and over men and 48 y. o. and over women will be gone in 2050.
posted by bukvich at 5:39 PM on December 14, 2015


The Wi-Fi signals will be encrypted and no personal data will be collected, city officials say. If all goes according to plan, the LinkNYC network will be entirely paid for by advertising revenue and the sale of aggregated, anonymous data about how people use it. Mr. Doctoroff says the project is expected to generate $500 million in revenues for the city during its first 12 years of operation.

Great! More Ads for the upcoming 12 year future and more data mining. Can I just encrypt my life and be done?
posted by Benway at 6:23 PM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Factory meat will probably just be a stepping stone to factory vegan that looks, feels, and tastes enough like meat to satisfy most people and costs less real or factory meat.
posted by pracowity at 4:27 AM on December 15, 2015


The one thing I don't see brought up often in these discussions very often is the work being done to 're-engineer' livestock to reduce their environmental impact

It's just that it's hard to separate peoples' naive faith in technology solutions from the cycle of re-engineering! investment hype. You have some clear and specific things to say about raising cattle, but for most people mixed in with these ideas is the message that we can hope - and invest in! - various straws that will somehow save us from drowning in the mess of consequences we've been avoiding for centuries. The main driver is the belief that economic growth is responsible for human success across the board, and we can just continue to grow around any puny obstacles like meat shortages and GHG emissions from agriculture. Instead we're building a system that's the opposite of resilient: dependent on increasingly expensive energy supplies, and vast manufacturing systems that not only impose unpleasant consequences on everyone around them, but too often rely on the promise of technological developments that are, at best, unproven.
posted by sneebler at 7:43 AM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


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