We live in an accomplished world today. In the developed world you can recieve medical care second to none in known history. We can (with some drawbacks) fly anywhere, although the umbrella of security once enforced by the USA seems to be degrading fast. One can say that in the period that the International court of Justice and human rights enjoyed wide support we have seen the best we will achieve. From now on, due to climate change and peak fossil fuels, nature’s degradation etc. it is all going to be downhill.
Quite a depressing thought that Millenials might be the generation that grew up in the peak of what humanity had to offer. Quite arrogant also to pretend to be able to determine that. There are many who do. They argue we are to much people on this planet, we need to throttle back. They see resources running out, as do we, but why do they not see the clear dawn of something better than we can imagine today?
Technology is not at its peak, especially technology that can make the use of fossil fuels redundant. They flared up after the oil crisis and because of alarming analysis regarding the climate in the 70’s. The first large scale solar power plants where being build. Since then big oil and banks have steadily burried all kinds of technology, from low energy desalination to alkaline metal solar thermal power generation. You won’t know, but we do. Even today the breakthrough for shipping is the application of Lithium Ion batteries. Of course ships don’t need light batteries, but heavier Potassium Ion batteries have been burried or moved to research limbo.
So one reason to expect improvement (if we can beat fossil and banks) is because we have technology we are not using. If we use the technology a lot becomes possible, near zero cost desalination and irrigation for instance.
Another reason why we think we are not near the peak of human civilization is that there is so much more energy to harvest from renewable sources than we squeeze out of fossil fuels today. It is 2500 times as much each year. We can run 2500 world economies in terms of manipulation, logistics, internet, construction etc. etc. And we are only doing one (1) now, and a very inefficent one for that matter.
Another reason is that robotic systems are developing at an accelerated pace, due to advanced modelling, 3d printing, neodynium magnets etc. AI is a component of that, better understanding of engineering and materials is another. We are close to mass production of usefull robots, not toys, with inbuild safe behaviour and easy interfaces.
Other technologies like quantum computing and pharmaceutical labs on a chip are not even needed to improve the lives of billions. The main obstacle is that there is no goal to do so, there is reasoning from a ‘100% renewables’ perspective in 2050 maybe, because the fossil fuel industry and banks keep politics ‘well oiled’ and humanity impatient or distracted. The fossil industry and banks are not only the problem because they keep us from responding to climate change faster and stronger, they also push forwards, maybe even out of our lifetimes, the benefit of plentifull renewables.
We can see clearly that EVs are now much better than combustion cars, and we also know that GM killed its EV program 20 years ago. What if it hadn’t? Where would we be now. How much faster would LithiumIon batteries have dropped in price? What would that have meant for the world economy? Electric trucks? Not only less emissions, but also less running costs. More wealth per human manhour spend toiling (which may be a good performance indicator, even though its a subjective one).
If we are pessimistic about the future it is because we do not know what our options are. Once we do we can see we need to get this fossil industry under strict control or it will keep delaying improvements in our lives we need. We need energy to deal with climate change, we need energy to produce food and comfort for the elderly. Fossil fuels are like an annoying guest that never leaves, a bad family member that guilt trips you with all kinds of social issues to distract you from seeing them out the door.
Renewables are dropping in price so fast that some calculate the US could be on 90% solar and wind in 2035. But why not 200%? Also you have to make them with renewables, not with fossil fuel, to be absolutely sure.
The position should be : Good al this luxury and fine you want me to consume etc. But lets also maximize the growth of the renewable energy sector and use batteries, solar and wind at every turn. The more we do the less everything will cost, at least, if you keep fossil and banks out of cooking the numbers!