Thursday, April 03, 2008

Why This Project Is Impossible And Undesirable

This essay is a refutation of my previous work. In it, I will try to explain why preserving technology through a major civilization collapse is futile, and, separately, why it is not necessarily desirable. I am not trying to destroy the hope that many people maintain for survival through a civilization collapse. If others feel it is worthwhile, I encourage them to continue working and studying in this area. I am merely trying to explain why I have stopped taking the project seriously.

First, in researching how to preserve certain technologies, it has become clear to me that these technologies depend not on a few easily reproducible foundation technologies, but on an entire complex market society, for their existence. Think, for instance, about what is required for producing antibiotics (see previous post). Then think about the equipment required to test the finished product for lethal impurities. Think about the number of people and resources necessary to produce that equipment. Now think about how much food and other resources those people must necessarily consume. That gives you an idea of the surplus food and primary goods that must be produced to keep that one technology up and running. Our current complex society and market economy produces a huge surplus, enough so that only a small percentage of the population need work in food production. However, this is highly unlikely in a post-collapse situation. We might ask the question: if it were so easy to produce this surplus after a collapse, why don't Djibouti and Burkina Faso produce their own antibiotics?

Second, the collapse is upon us, and it appears to be a slow one - one in which the standard of living will slowly decline over years, decades, even generations, until basic needs can't be met. Of course, I am talking about the United States here - basic needs already can't be met in a huge portion of the world, and it will only get worse as the United States and the West slip into economic depression and stop providing aid. According to United Nations classifications, over 900 million people live in slums, most living in the kind of insalubrious conditions we associate with the end of civilization. A slow collapse, with a huge population slowly but inexorably using up all existing resources until they are gone, unable to save resources for future generations, is the worst-case scenario from an Eschaton management perspective. Technological enclaves are not impossible, but the slow-collapse population pressure will force them to over-invest in security, and it will be unlikely that any such enclave could be large enough - and hence complex enough - to support the continuation of the most important technologies. To put it in more concrete terms, a large surplus of food could be used to support a scientific research laboratory and its staff - but if a huge population surrounding the laboratory is starving, the surplus is more likely to be diverted to present needs. (Even in a quick-collapse scenario, with few surviving humans, immediate resource pressure is still likely to subvert the goal of preserving technologies for future generations. This scenario is explored for modern audiences in Cormac McCarthy's irritatingly-written but important book, The Road.)

Third, I have always had concerns over whether the continuation of human society is desirable. There are some who take it as a given that it is important to continue humanity - indeed, that this is the most important thing. But those who take suffering seriously must be given pause by this assertion. Humans are the most conscious and complex of all animals, and as such, have the greatest capacity for suffering. Continuing human civilization - especially under collapse conditions - is continuing suffering. One view - that taken by John Leslie in his important book on the Doomsday argument, The End of the World - is that the joy experienced by some humans makes up for the suffering experienced by others. Another view - that taken by Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov - holds that suffering can never be redeemed, even by eternal happiness in Heaven:
It is not worth one little tear of even that one tormented child who beat her chest with her little fist and prayed to 'dear God' in a stinking outhouse with her unredeemed tears! Not worth it, because her tears remained unredeemed . . . But how, how will you redeem them? . . . And if the suffering of children goes to make up the sum of suffering needed to buy truth, then I assert beforehand that the whole of truth is not worth such a price. I do not, finally, want the mother to embrace the tormentor who let his dogs tear her son to pieces! . . . . they have put too high a price on harmony; we can't afford to pay so much for admission. And therefore I hasten to return my ticket. And it is my duty, if only as an honest man, to return it as far ahead of time as possible. Which is what I am doing. It's not that I don't accept God, Alyosha, I just most respectfully return him the ticket. (Pevear-Volokhonsky translation, p. 245)
Under this view, just as it is potentially an unredeemable offense against a child to give birth to that child, it is an offense against humanity to try to continue humanity.

If we take this idea seriously, perhaps the ideal end-of-the-world preparation is not to ensure survival, but to prevent suffering. By this view, the bug-out bag should not be filled with fish hooks and flashlights and freeze-dried food, but with three grams of a fast-acting barbiturate per person.


Blogger Curator said...

Yeah, this came out a little more depressing than I was intending, sorry. Feel free to disagree vehemently with this. If anything, it might cheer me up.

April 03, 2008 8:05 PM  
Blogger nil said...

what you wrote feels like the first moments of waking up at 5am in the middle of a long east coast winter mixed with the smell of wet sheep and blood.

the crunch (2) - bukowski

too much
too little
or too late

too fat
too thin
or too bad

laughter or
or immaculate


armies running through the streets of pain
waving wine bottles
bayonetting and fucking everyone

or an old guy in a cheap quiet room
with a photograph of marilyn monroe.

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
a clock's hands.

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the blinking neon
in vegas, in baltimore, in munich.

people are tired
strafed by life
mutilated either by love or no

we don't need new governments
new revolutions
we don't need new men
new women
we don't need new ways
we just need to care.

people are not good to each other
one on one.
people are just not good to each other.

we are afraid
we think that hatred signifies
that punishment is

what we need is less false education
what we need are fewer rules
fewer police
and more good teachers.

we forget the terror of one person
aching in one room
cut off
watering a plant alone
without a telephone that would never

people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other

and the beads swing and the clouds obscure
and dogs piss upon rose bushes
the killer beheads the child like taking a bite
out of an ice cream cone
while the ocean comes in and goes out
in and out
in the thrall of a senseless moon.

and people are not good to each other.

April 07, 2008 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Matthew said...


I'm sorry that you are so disheartened. I've read this post and all the posts on your antinatalism blog. I think you are looking at everything from a certain perspective that makes everything look dark and bleak and hopeless and pointless right now. But it doesn't have to look and feel that way.

Send me an email if you want to talk. mdcromer at gmail dot com

May 28, 2008 5:24 PM  
Blogger kaicevy said...

Technological enclaves are not impossible, but the slow-collapse population pressure will force them to over-invest in security, and it will be unlikely that any such enclave could be large enough - and hence complex enough - to support the continuation of the most important technologies

July 22, 2008 4:45 PM  
Anonymous jos boersema said...

Hi, found your site by accident browsing Internet. There is imho only one thing worth saving for the future (anytime): morality, the rest is irrelevant. Technology will grow back at some point, doesn't matter.

Perhaps a more interesting question, one that I set myself to anyway, is how to make the current world better so that it wouldn't collapse. This turned into my very extensive program, which can deal with a complete and utter devastation of the world of presumably almost any kind. It is located here, and like I said it is very extensive: It's all free and such, not for money etc.

This way the collapse of society can become the motivator for people to seek a better way at the last possible moment. I believe if they found my proposal and did it, that would fix things a lot (if not completely). This has primarily to do with destroying corruptiond and crime, and the slow creep of elitism from wealth theft (a process that takes centuries.) So you come to things like the national laws, how the democracy functions, how the economy functions. This is currently done wrong which is probably the primary reason why society is going to collapse (in my opinion before 2020, but who knows, in a semi-controlled way by the world ruling capitalist cliques, who want to use the event for their own evil design.)

Because most people are themselves not serious, I guess they don't take serious other people either, and that will perhaps cost them their life then. Not unlike the story with Noah and the ark even. The warnings are ignored, demands for reasonable rectification unheeded, and then it is too late and many of them die. I guess they like it that way, then.

July 10, 2010 8:28 AM  
Anonymous aldo said...

Thanks for sharing the info. Very Useful, this advice will come in handy.

June 12, 2011 3:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Long post... I didn't read it all and actually felt vehemenently opposed to the basic premise of it after reading "what is required for producing antibiotics"

Antibiotics stem from some 19th century politics that won over on science/microbiological research done by Antoine Bechamp; his work was plagiarized and warped by Louis Pasteur who supposedly even confessed on his deathbed that Bechamp was right all along.

There are simple and actually GOOD alternatives to antibiotics, but can't really be called "alternatives" since they get the job done whereas antibiotics [anti-life] don't.

You will, of course, have to step outside of the mainstream.
Are you prepared to do so?

Mainstream knowledge makes civilization reboot seem unlikely and as the post suggests, perhaps even undesirable. But much [if not most] of mainstream knowledge is about assumptions and politics.
We must understand TODAY in order to rebuild TOMORROW.
If you, for instance, don't know something of the history of science, you may be missing essential understanding, as in the example of Bechamp vs Pasteur.

Should i go on?

June 25, 2011 11:42 PM  
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July 21, 2012 4:58 AM  
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December 03, 2012 10:03 AM  

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