Rolf Coppens
July 21st 2008


Note that this is not an anti-American statement.

Share your thoughts and join the technology debate!public: 1


Posted 27/07/2008 – 22:24

This is not a comment.
Don't read this comment.
Hey you are still reading it... So it must be a comment. Hence you've just made your post to be an anti-American statement by writing that it is not. And if it is anti-American, it must be about oil and war in Iraq. And if it is about oil and war in Iraq, then what does this graphic imply? More oil to the United States will bring more peace to the world? I doubt. Do I need to guess why this is on topic?
Let me tell you what I do like about this graphic: the fact that it is not circular. It illustrates that oil (or war and peace) are not endless but in constant need of refuel and that oil is not a renewable source of energy. However the 'gas'-icon could have been swapped by money, food or housing and it would have been a somewhat more global remark, not just anti-American.

Peter schmidt
Posted 21/07/2008 – 23:39

In his 1988 book "The Collapse of Complex Societies" Joseph Tainter presents the view that for given technological levels there are implicit declining returns to complexity, in which systems deplete their resource base beyond levels that are ultimately sustainable. Tainter argues that societies become more complex as they try to solve problems. Social complexity can include differentiated social and economic roles, reliance on symbolic and abstract communication, and the existence of a class of information producers and analysts who are not involved in primary resource production. Such complexity requires a substantial "energy" subsidy (meaning resources, or other forms of wealth). When a society confronts a "problem," such as a shortage of or difficulty in gaining access to energy, it tends to create new layers of bureaucracy, infrastructure, or social class to address the challenge.
As Roman agricultural output slowly declined and population increased, per-capita energy availability dropped. The Romans "solved" this problem by conquering their neighbours to appropriate their energy surpluses (metals, grain, slaves, etc). However, as the Empire grew, the cost of maintaining communications, garrisons, civil government, etc. grew with it. Eventually, this cost grew so great that any new challenges such as invasions and crop failures could not be solved by the acquisition of more territory. At that point, the empire fragmented into smaller units. Any parallels you might want to make are at your own risk.

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