2017/04/26

Scientists abandoning their training in policymaking

In 1970 I attended the First National Congress on Population and Environment, with mostly scientifically-trained people. I was impressed by how the scientists abandoned their scientific training when they went into policy analysis, and resorted to intuitive leaps that they then tried to justify with seemingly scientific reasoning. I was coming from a background in computer systems, so was skeptical of this kind of unsystematic thinking. So was Jay Forrester, of MIT, who wrote “The Counterintuitive behavior of Social Systwms”. http://constitution.org/ps/cbss.pdf I subsequently tried to leaven the more extreme analyses with doses of systems analysis.

I became involved with the Limits to Growth computer modeling effort that forecast a peak in growth followed by decline and collapse as resource limits were reached. The result was an article,  "The Disturbing Implications of World Dynamics", The Futurist, Mar 1971. Review of the book and discussion of its methodology and the Limits to Growth computer  model. I concluded that the LtG model made some incorrect assumptions about the alternatives we had: that resources were limited to those available to surface extraction. Leaving aside the alternative of mining asteroids, there was also the alternative of extreme conservation in compact "starship cities" on or beneath the surface of the Earth. 
That led to my article "Three Futures for Earth", http://pynthan.com/vri/3f4e_002.htm in which I laid out a more comprehensive analysis of the full range of alternatives available to us. That analysis remains valid, although if I were to rewrite it today, I would forecast that the cities would house few if any human beings, their role being replaced by machines. They would not be places out of Star Trek. The crew would be replaced by Data or its equivalent. That would leave humans to live in the wilderness, as wild animals perhaps with a 19th century technology. 
I have written a novel in which this scenario is presented, Wayward World

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