Monday, December 23, 2019


In early 2014, people in the simulated worlds I call "Green" and "Hikeyay" began entering the Termination phase, and external impacts started to drive available resources down. Green is what I consider the best match to our real world, and Hikeyay is the world portrayed in my fictional Simulated News blog. Termination is marked statistically by high age and no life expectancy, ending in the Death phase a few years later. 

By early 2020, half of Green's population will be in the Termination phase, and people will be in the Death phase by 2026. I chose a different path for Hikeyay by essentially reversing the drivers of extinction: stopping population growth; reducing per-capita consumption; and using technology to eliminate both waste and the external impacts. The timing of Hikeyay's global strategy (especially the new version that was recently "approved") is determined by the simulations, which are based on correlations between variables and trends identified in the historical record, and is consistent with recommendations from people who have studied the range of possibilities in far greater depth than I have.

I have been attempting to add higher resolution to the simulations that could ideally guide actions by groups and individuals to reduce the number of people in the Termination phase (from whatever that number might actually be). The results are being presented in all my venues – especially this blog, the Simulated News blog, Twitter posts, and Patreon posts

For example, since my last post here I have identified two major groups within the global population whose constant merging may help to explain political preferences within the actual population: one of them embodies the past and the other embodies the future; and their relative population sizes tantalizingly correspond in percentage to those of U.S. conservatives and liberals. I have also derived population-level phases and how many people might be supported in each nation if the world has a healthy overall phase distribution determined by total consumption. 

Just recently, I had an insight into the interactions between people in different phases that prompted a new way of visualizing their relative amounts of population and consumption. It is based on the trading of resources from high to low phases that best matches historical data, and accounts for the counterintuitive observation that those people who consume the most have the highest ratio of natural resources to resources used for basic needs (are at the lowest phase). Essentially: the majority in settled territory is converting raw resources to processed resources, and trading them with "colonizers" who are exploring and preparing new territory and its resources that are becoming so scarce that they will become processors right after people begin entering the Death phase at the population peak (five years from now in simulated world Green).

Friday, September 13, 2019


A new simulation ("C-low") using my updated Timelines model holds annual population change equal to the historical raw death rate while reducing per-capita consumption so that by 2040 no one is in the decline or termination phases as shown in the following graphs. As before, external ecological impacts such as climate change are taken into account along with our affect on them until that point, after which the impacts will need to have been stopped to avoid disaster.

By comparison, the "Hikeyay" simulation used for the Simulated News blog includes a population rate based on estimated population loss due to age that is more than four times the historical death rate to achieve a lower maximum phase (5.4 vs. 6.0). The best we can do to reduce total consumption, using the current death rate and a final per-capita consumption that allows for basic survival only (simulation "C-min"), results in a maximum phase that is just a little larger than Hikeyay (5.6).

The model's improved evaluation of economic variables, now including the observation that money flows from high phase to low phase – which the previous observation of flow from small to large per-capita consumption very closely approximates – confirms that wealth inequality is still a problem regardless of what approach we take. Our present inequality (the ratio of maximum to minimum wealth per person) is still the highest: about nine times C-low and Hikeyay in 2040; and about eight-thousand times C-min in 2040.

I am inclined to claim that I misjudged the fraction of the population dying due to age in the Hikeyay simulation, and favor the C-low simulation instead. In that case, per-capita consumption would need to decrease by 3.75% per year until external impacts stop (resources stop becoming unavailable for consumption). If impacts continue past 2040, restarting population growth will become progressively harder, and basic needs will not be supportable after 2050, virtually ensuring the extinction we are trying to avoid.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Redefining Waste

Further testing of my Timelines model has revealed that what I've been calling "waste" should be redefined. Instead of representing resources that are unusable, it represents resources we are using that should not be used. Specifically: whatever we consume that is more than half the world's total resources is waste, which I project is currently 20% of all that we consume and 12% of all resources. As a consequence, "wants" are that we consume that is more than our needs and does not include waste.

By this definition, waste first appeared in 2004 and is projected be greater than what we consume for needs in 2027, four years after global population reaches its maximum and begins declining. Since it is equivalent to other resources (instead of being un-consumable as with the previous definition), it is treated likewise by the world's population in every respect. The only un-consumable resources are those removed from the total by "self-sustained impacts" that are projected to have begun by 2015.

ABOVE: Projected fractions world ecological resources in the "Green" simulation using the new definition of waste.

Difficulty reproducing global wealth statistics was the initial clue that "uninhabited regions" (data points with no people or other species) were problematic. The estimate of relevant resources couldn't be justified with the more refined approach that now includes a better estimate of the numbers of people who have common characteristics related to other global variables with many more data points. 

Experimenting with different ways of allocating consumed resources over the world population including that "waste" resulted in two fundamental observations about both economics and consumption when the statistics were reproduced which are obvious in retrospect. First, the exchange of resources and money (that represents both resources and the value of exchange) predominantly flows from people who consume less to people who consume more. Second, the resources consumed for more than needs are distributed in proportion to the ratio of available resources to resources consumed for needs – the reciprocal of the people-to-nature ratio that I discovered is a basic driver of many of the variables I've been tracking.

Although the new definition of waste and allocation of consumption significantly change the projections of related global variables within the population, they have no effect on projections of the entire population over time and support general behaviors found with the earlier version. For example, consuming wants in addition to needs is still associated with a switch from an egalitarian to unequal distribution of wealth, but the details of that switch are different; and the upcoming changes more resemble a cascading failure than a "switch" to a new regime, driven as they are by the crashing of the world's population due to overconsumption (an aspect of which being increased waste).

ABOVE: Distributions of global variables associated with major changes in per-capita wealth projected by the "Green" simulation for dates shown below the Phase axis. Displayed are Phase = lifecycle phase, L = life expectancy, h = happiness, Fert = fertility, Cum P = cumulative population, R = total consumption, Cap = capacity, and C = per-capita consumption. The years projected for when part of the population begins to enter a new phase are shown as Epochs.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Brief History of Simulated Wealth

About sixteen hundred years ago, people on average began consuming more than what nature had allocated to meet their basic needs. At that point, personal wealth switched from depending on access to people to depending on access to resources. This enabled wealth to flow to fewer people who could trade and consume more resources. Extraction of resources increased environmental degradation which made fewer resources available for trade (the difference being "waste"). Perhaps as soon as 2025 there will be more waste than what people consume for basic needs, and more people will die than are being born. With fewer resources and fewer people, wealth will become more evenly distributed until everyone is dead. 

That scenario is based on a simulation of civilization, with a likely future where people do not work to reduce waste that is increasing faster than they are creating it (such as greenhouse gases that by amplifying climate extremes and chaos are making more of the world uninhabitable). In an alternative future projected by the fictional denizens of the simulated world "Hikeyay" featured in my Simulated News blog, total consumption is humanely forced down until 2040 so natural ecosystems can assist fighting climate change, resulting in wealth being cut to 1/6 of its starting value this year and wealth inequality dropping by more than half while waste is totally removed. Waste could come back with a vengeance if its external sources aren't disabled, but the means of stopping it cannot be done with wealth compensation if additional consumption is to be avoided.

The inherent dependency of wealth on per-capita consumption and transactions (proportional to the square of population) is also true of economic activity (embodied in gross domestic product) both as an observation and as a fundamental aspect of any economy. If everyone is consuming the same amount, such as meeting their basic needs, people's economic activity and wealth (the amount of resources being exclusively used) will vary with differences in population between groups. If people are consuming different amounts of resources (such as when consumption exceeds basic needs), then those who have the most resources (as wealth) will be at the focus of the most activity.

Performing functions such as removing waste would undoubtedly require some consumption of resources to create, deploy, and maintain any technologies involved. Offsetting existing consumption is one way to avoid this problem, which governments traditionally accomplish by collecting taxes and ensconcing wealth as capital "owned" by its citizens that cannot be traded by them. Other species (as our species once did) perform many such functions as part of meeting their basic needs, and as "resources" meeting the basic needs of others, therefore making that work and its results essentially free. Using other species in this way is ideal if we are to limit our consumption, while using institutions such as government is justifiable only until existing consumption can no longer be offset, such as when taxes keep citizens from meeting their basic needs. 

In the admittedly unlikely future of Hikeyay, people will work together to improve the scope and health of natural ecosystems while reducing their personal consumption and population to what can be maintained with the amount of available resources projected for 2040 by a coordinating institution that collects and processes observations from around the world. In the worst case, externally increasing waste is unstoppable and people end up barely meeting their basic needs until diminishing resources crash the population. In the best case, a stable population consumes the same amount per person as the world did around 1920. This is what I see as the best case for us too.

BELOW: L = life expectancy, h = happiness, Fert = fertility, Cum P = cumulative population, World P = world population, R = total consumption, Cap = capacity, C = per-capita consumption. Year of plot indicates associated phase with dark triangle below x-axis.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Focus on the Future

The fictional "world like ours" portrayed in the Simulated News blog is about to execute a global strategy for confronting a threat of imminent global extinction that was confirmed nearly seven months ago. Definitions of the threat and the strategy have evolved along with my progress in simulating the future and evaluation of options for making it better than the alternative that we are living.

Our real-world trajectory is bleak, as any open-minded perusal of recent scientific research on climate and ecology will attest. Timelines for action to limit mass death of people and members of other species are converging on the period that my simulations have identified, along with a similar scale of effort. 

Humanity's extinction, which results from all of my simulations if action isn't taken, is generally considered an extreme worst-case scenario by mainstream science, and taken as an article of faith by a growing minority that is focused on what I call "self-sustained feedbacks" (such as the melting of permafrost and polar ice, and the decimation of species at the base of ocean and land food chains). Global catastrophe involving sizable fractions of the world population by the middle of this century is a likely alternative outcome, which can at best (with current capabilities, as I understand the literature) be delayed until the end of this century. 

The apparent dependency on available ecological resources of population (among other variables) modeled by my simulations has yet to be proven as more than a strong correlation. Demographic transition is the generally accepted explanation for the observed changes, involving reduced fertility in response to better economic conditions that are notably a reward – if not the goal – of dominating our natural environment. Both explanations logically ascribe a peak in population to a peak in economic activity (which I model as a function of a group's population and total consumption – essentially the trades of resources). A decline in economic activity would naturally accompany a reduction in resources that can be traded; and people (traders) dying from harmful environmental conditions, reduced resources, or both. Population loss is effectively inevitable; the main uncertainty lies in how soon and how much.

Probability is not destiny. As individuals and as groups we can take actions that will alter the trajectories of our lives toward something better, however we choose to define that. Alteration does not ensure success, but it changes the probability. I personally define success as, at a bare minimum, extending the survival of our species – and the species it depends on – for as long as possible; beyond that, "better" includes minimizing pain and suffering for as many people as possible, and extending to the affects of our actions on other non-human lives. My writing and research related to this topic are part of a set of personal actions intended to increase the probability of success.

In the imaginary world that I call "Hikeyay," representing one of several simulations resulting from my research and the subject of the Simulated News blog, the overwhelming majority of the global population has chosen to reduce their personal consumption and let the population decline naturally by not replacing those who die from old age until it is almost too late to maintain a constant level. Activities are focused on putting the drivers of extinction in reverse: creating habitat, controlling invasive species, cleaning up pollution, and eliminating over-harvesting of "resources" that largely include members of other species. Gaps in capability will be filled by the development and deployment of technology, especially relating to pollution and self-sustained impacts. 

Hikeyay's global strategy is based on success as I define it, taken to an extreme that is unlikely in our world but dictated by the logic of the model on which it is based. The inhabitants readily admit (as my proxies) that the intended end-state is a very unlikely, even with their civilization's extraordinary level of commitment. The effort will, in the worst case, buy time that they wouldn't otherwise have to live, and do so according to their values. I believe their example is worthy of emulation to the extent possible in this world.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Simulated World

Last week I started a new blog, Simulated News, as a thought experiment to explore how a world like ours might implement the lessons of my Timeline model's simulations. The blog is formatted as a set of news articles relating to the development of a global strategy to deal with the threat of imminent extinction as it might occur in real time. 

There are lots of similarities and some marked differences between the simulated world and ours. Relevant ones are described in a "Reality Check" section in each post, along with some of my rationale for making choices about how events unfold. The greatest difference, besides adherence to my simulation of global variables, is the overall buy-in of national leaders to the crisis as I've chosen to define it: as a consequence of our accelerating the extinction of other species. Although climate change plays a critical role, it is not the overall focus. Another big difference is that all countries are bound by law and desire to devote all necessary resources to address the threat as existential and immediate.

In some respects, this effort resembles what I did in my Universe X micro-fiction, but it is limited to one "alternative universe" rather than snippets from multiple ones. It is not a narrative like my other fiction, with a movie-like progression of action; though I am inventing characters, settings, and events much like I have done before, but tied to the structure of a simulation even more than my novel Lights Out.

The simulation includes an updated feature, tied to and informed by the new theoretical consumption model. Sustained global warming is a possibility that could force extinction regardless of what people do in the short time they have to act, and I now have some projected effects that can be explored in detail. Unlike many people in our real world, the leaders of the simulated world are willing to accept the nature of that added threat and act accordingly.

Real-world issues are mentioned and will be discussed, such as how people might limit population and consumption to the point of allowing them to shrink without causing them to collapse prematurely. I see that discussion as being one of the potential benefits of the exercise, within the context of a fictional world where feelings and facts can be respectfully and safely exposed and examined. The model's insights into population dynamics, coupled with study of history and my own opinions, will inform some of the answers I suggest, but they are only a starting point for discussions of these issues which I expect real people will increasingly face every day in one way or another.