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The Worst Possible Scenario – Humanity Stuck on This Damn Dirt Ball

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Humans evolved in a context of horrendous competition. The default state for the vast majority of humans in human history was brutish, violent, very short and miserable.  While Pleistocene humans lived fairly sedate lives (with skeletal evidence showing not much evidence of injury or starvation), as soon as populations started sharply increasing (at the ice melted at the end of the last ice age), there is evidence that human populations succumbed to ever increasing tribal violence.

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The more humans had to compete for scarce resources, the more humans were inclined to use force to get what they needed. That led to the development of states, governments, taxation and (and yes, I’d regard that as a form of violence) organized religions. Organizational power became a way to address scarcity, generally at someone else’s expense. While violence was mainly  directed outwards, to other tribes, it was also increasingly directed to the poor of the tribe.

The population growth we have seen in the last few centuries is, by any reasonable metric, insane. Nothing similar happened before on the planet and, even if humanity were to go extinct tomorrow, there would be a striking demarcation between the geological strata of Earth corresponding to before humanity and after humanity. In fact, the remains of human civilization would become the most visible fossil record on the planet. The amount of stuff that we are leaving behind doesn’t even compare to the KT boundary – humans are leaving an irreversible entropic imprint on the planet that will be visible to future (alien?) forensics for more than a billion years.

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Also read: Overpopulation Will Become Intensely Painful, Urgent Solutions Needed

Space Colonization or Dante’s Inferno

Suntower

NASA Suntower concept for Space-Based Solar Power.

This universe does not provide our species with any guarantee or consolation. We can argue the human predicament from a faith-based perspective, and claim that there might be a higher force “up there,” which more or less guarantees a good outcome. But there are many extinct civilizations. People in lost civilizations also had expectations and faith, but their faith was invariably squashed by harsh reality. The fact remains that lousy policies lead to collapse, and if the collapse is bad enough most people involved die.

In the past, nature may have capriciously dumped mass death randomly. These days we are actively setting the stage for mass extinctions all through our own industrial activity. And we all seem to realize that we are in for bad times, as it has become evident in the negative trend in our fictional tales. Right now Dystopian fiction is popular, arguably by crowd-sourcing decree.  At least a third of the movies I watched recently (and do excuse me if you see reason to accuse me of having a lousy taste) were about a collapsed Earth where invariably young and attractive teenagers symbolize whatever hope humanity has left.

The sad fact is that even in a worst case scenario not all humans will die.  It takes an incredibly implausible effort to kill all humans on the planet. In other words, the effort required to annihilate humans goes up exponentially and with diminishing returns. To kill the last hundred million humans becomes functionally (or economically) impossible.  That may sound like good news until you try to visualize in what kind of world humans might have to survive.  There are quite a few possible dreadful worlds that we can envision, I am sure we’ll be able to create some in a few decades. But even if we combine the most dismal projections of climate change, Fukushima-like nuclear accidents, resource depletion, global thermonuclear war, a combination of Ebola, SARS, and the black plague – we’ll see only half of humanity die.

It’s worth remembering that in a world where suddenly 90% of humans are dead, most military hardware will still be around a-plenty.  Imagine a world that’s ravaged by resource depletion, diseases, wars, nuclear wars, where only half a billion humans survive, and I’ll show you a planet that is uncannily similar to the current worst of the worst places on the planet – North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan. But even if turmoil and war do not succeed in reducing human populations permanently, even under the most gruesome conditions this planet might sustain an utterly impoverished population of billions of traumatized  human beings for centuries.

What is the point of human life? What is the point of living as a human being? My first answer would be happiness and comfort. I am personally less than enthusiastic about hard work, cruelty, suffering, affliction or fear. My personal preferences entail health, happiness, security, ambition, justice, hope, culture and freedom.

So the logical conclusion is that on this planet a whole lot of things can go wrong. The upside of things going is usually that things get better again after a while. But that is where the problem lies.

The vast majority of our affluence on this planet is based on non-renewable resources, in particular non-renewable petrochemical resources. Once these are consumed, they are gone. One way to avoid the problems posed by terminal consumption of non-renewable resources is to evolve out of outdated needs. That is what we did in the last two centuries. Humans have evolved many new technologies and organizational models to avoid depleting resources, but there has never been any reasonable or plausible guarantee along the way that we would have made it this far. In essence, that things are still working means pretty much we as a species have been lucky.

All seems to indicate that our luck is running out. Never before have we had it so well, but never before has the potential for mass death and untold suffering been so high.

The risk we face is not the total extinction of humanity. The risk we now face is that humanity falls back to the viciously primitive state that we find in the worst places of the planet. In such a hellish future, we might even be able to sustain vast population numbers under gruesome conditions (and, like it or not, humans breed more when they are miserable).

The world we want is the world of Star Trek, unbridled economic growth, and advancing medical and other technologies. The world I want is a world where problems are solved, and people become happier and happier. We are now actively risking making such positive scenario’s effectively impossible.

There is one way out of this trap, and that is to quickly develop new energy sources. It seems unlikely that we can sustain a modern society with only planetary renewable and sustainable sources of energy. I think we can’t. I think we can not have consumerism and democracy and personal freedom in a world that runs only on solar, hydro and wind power. We’ll need something else, and that something else can be probably found only off-planet.

We may have a window of only a few more decades to ensure total and irreversible energy availability, and all scenarios that include unconstrained growth involve developing resources in the inner solar system. The best case scenario involves Space Based Solar, but even at this time such a project is often regarded as sheer fantasy. Too big, too “expensive,” economically nonviable, it would threaten existing monopolies – or some other flimsy pretext.

At some point, the precious window of opportunity will be closed, and we’ll be unable to get ourselves off-planet. Technological ability will deteriorate, science will become neglected and we might fall back to a more primitive condition.

The metaphor of Dante’s Inferno would apply. The world would become an unbearable pit of senseless and pointless suffering, especially since survivors will be able to view how life used to be in 2014 on the surviving media devices. We’ll all remember what we have lost, and we will all be left fighting tooth and nail to hold on to a few precious remnants of our past glory.

The movie “Interstellar” depicts this tragedy in an easy, simplified way. Reality might be a lot more like the movie “The Road,” and such a future is not something I would wish on my worst enemies.

Images from Wikimedia Commons.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Khannea Suntzu describes herself as cosmist, cosmicist, upwinger, socialist-libertarian, hedonist and abolitionist. Khannea is transgendered, and currently lives in the Netherlands.




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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. jetgraphics

    January 14, 2015 at 10:58 am

    “Space based solar power” is only a solution for space based orbiting habitats. Pumping more energy into the biosphere is a disaster in the making. Inevitably, any increase in energy use involves friction and waste heat.

  2. Damien Chall

    January 25, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    you know we can make oil using algae now right?

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Op-Ed

Is Manipulation Behind Bitcoin Cash’s Absurd Rally?

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Although you wouldn’t know it by today’s prices, bitcoin cash (BCH) has topped the crypto market leader board this month. The digital currency more than doubled over the span of 18 days, and in doing so far outpaced the broader market. But a closer examination of the value drivers suggest manipulation could be partly responsible for the rally.

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As a reminder, the author has no vested interest in smearing BCH as I believe it to be one of the more advantageous coins on the market today. That said, the circumstances surrounding the most recent rally are peculiar to say the least.

What’s Up with Bitcoin.com?

A Hacked user informed me earlier this week that Bitcoin.com has been using the “BCH” ticker next to the word “bitcoin”. Normally, the ticker “BTC” is reserved for bitcoin, which is the original blockchain we all know about. Instead, the website quotes “BTC” next to the term “bitcoin core”.

In other words, BCH is quoted next to bitcoin and BTC is referred to as bitcoin core. See here for yourself:

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For most readers of Hacked, the distinction is easily discernible, but for new traders the difference isn’t easily gauged.

The first question I have is, how many people bought bitcoin (BCH) thinking they were receiving actual bitcoin (BTC)?

Bitcoin.com describes itself as the “premier source for everything bitcoin.” Although the website doesn’t appear to offer a full-fledged trading platform, users can purchase bitcoin and bitcoin cash using the following link.

It is unclear how long the website has been referring to BCH as bitcoin. For those of us who’ve been following the market for some time, the way BTC and BCH are quoted is certainly strange.

Antpool

A large cryptocurrency mining group by the name of Antpool has also been accused of pumping BCH in recent weeks. The pool announced about six days ago that it is responsible for confirming more than 8% of all bitcoin cash transactions. In addition to confirming those, Antpool is also said to be burning BCH on a daily basis in order to reduce supply and boost prices.

Of course, crypto pumps do not require such elaborate setups to achieve their goals. Pump-and-dumps can be orchestrated rather easily through a chat group on social media. But Antpool does have a large and privileged position in the BCH ecosystem, which has raised suspicion over its recent actions.

Bitcoin Cash is Overbought, According to Tom Lee

Fundstrat’s Tom Lee recently weighed in on the bitcoin cash phenomenon, concluding that the cryptocurrency was overbought. In his view, investors should stick with bitcoin if they had a choice between Core and Cash.

In a segment on CNBC’s Fast Money, Lee said:

“I prefer not to pick winners and losers when we’re looking at cryptocurrencies like bitcoin/bitcoin Cash… Both have merits but if I was putting new money to work today… I would be a lot more interested in buying a lagger that could attract inflows rather than something that’s potentially overbought.”

Bitcoin cash added around $1,000 to its value between Apr. 6 and 23, with prices peaking near $1,600. The cryptocurrency corrected sharply lower on Wednesday and was still declining as of Thursday’s early-morning session. At the time of writing, BCH/USD was down 4.6% at $1,268.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 415 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Decentralization

JP Morgan’s Surprise Cryptocurrency Fees are a Reminder of Why Decentralization Is Sorely Needed

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JP Morgan Chase & Co has been hit with a class-action lawsuit by cryptocurrency traders over allegations of unannounced fees and higher interest rates on purchases of digital currencies. Though the allegations have not been proven, extra fees are a tactic routinely employed by traditional banking institutions. In the case of JP Morgan, this has karma written all over it given the way its chief executive has ridiculed digital assets by associating them with fraud.

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Class Action Lawsuit

Traders from across the United States are seeking statutory damages of $1 million for unannounced interest charges and fees on cryptocurrency transactions between January and February of this year. The named plaintiff in the lawsuit is Brady Tucker, an Idaho resident who paid a total of $163.91 in fees and surprise interest charges over a six-day stretch.

According to information obtained by Reuters, the lawsuit accuses the bank of violating the U.S. Truth in Lending Act, a piece of legislation that requires credit card issuers to inform customers in writing of any notable change in fees.

The lawsuit asserts that Tucker tried to resolve the dispute by calling Chase’s customer support service directly. His request was turned down, prompting him to seek legal help. According to Bloomberg, the case in question is Tucker v. Chase Bank USA NA, 18-cv-3155, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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The Growing Case for Decentralization

Depending on who you ask, the allegations against JP Morgan are akin to cryptocurrency fraud not unlike the kind Jamie Dimon talked about while ridiculing bitcoin. But the irony in Dimon’s comments extend far beyond Chase’s latest dealings.

As the actions of Chase bank and other financial institutions have clearly demonstrated over the years, those who control the size and growth rate of fiat money cannot be trusted to do the right thing. As Nassim Taleb argues in The Black Swan, banks have a tendency of losing as much money as they make in the long run due to shady business practices and high-risk ventures. Decisions like these are easy when you are Too Big to Fail.

Decentralization, like the kind advocated by blockchain startups and cryptocurrencies, allows users to trade directly with each other without having to go through a (predatory) middleman. Decentralized systems not only help participants avoid unnecessary fees, red tape and other forms of unwanted intervention, they are virtually impossible to shut down. In this vein, decentralized currencies give people a fighting chance in their battle against never-ending inflation. As we’ve argued before, this is not only a prudent fight, but a noble one as well.

Cryptocurrencies that rely on decentralization offer society a unique value proposition unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. What’s more, their adoption is not contingent upon us leaving the realm of traditional finance – at least, not yet. That’s because cryptocurrency started off as an obscure and esoteric asset class but has since become a value store for investors. Tomorrow, it will become a viable medium of exchange accepted worldwide.

That said, we are still in the very early days of the crypto revolution and it may be a while still before we can conclusively prove people like Dimon wrong. But crypto backers and investors should take comfort in knowing that big banks rarely lead in disruption these days. They have the resources to play catch-up, which they are clearly doing with blockchain.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 415 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Altcoins

Will Dash Be the Bitcoin Killer?

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Well, it has finally happened.  We’ve gone a full week with crypto prices showing positive returns.  OMG, what a big surprise; ether is leading the pack, advancing nearly 15% at the time of this writing.  This is encouraging because it shows that perhaps finally value investors are stepping in and helping set a pricing bottom.  

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It hasn’t hurt a bit that stock and bond market investors have become seasick from all the volatility.  Suddenly, a tiny little weekly Litecoin move of +0.46% or even a 2.47% bitcoin cash gain, looks like pure serenity.  

 

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For a while now our focus has been on relative value and there is very little argument that, after the first quarter price collapse, a whole lot of risk has been taken out of bitcoin, ether, Ripple and thousands of others.

The question is where to go and what to go with from here.  The big crypto names are the safe way to go in the short run, but each has become mired in network limitations on scaling and the concomitant cost issues.  

Yes, transaction fees have dropped like a stone from their prohibitively high levels of December but then transaction volumes have fallen by half and more.  That is not the stuff an investor wants to see.

Both bitcoin and Ethereum hope to solve scaling issues with the Lightning Network and Raiden. But for now, if transaction volume were to suddenly rise, the same network limitations would be there.  So even though the big crypto names offer the safest short term options, does that mean we shouldn’t look further out to find value?

Will Dash Solve Bitcoin’s Problem?

Dash emerged last year as one of the most popular and most valuable altcoins. At the time it was considered a real competitor to bitcoin and the leading cryptocurrency of the future. The price of Dash increased from $11 to over $1,430. Dash had a capitalization of over $11 billion at its December peak. Since then it has tumbled more than 80%.  Is now the time to move into Dash? The timing could be very good but before making that decision, we should consider a few things.

Judgement Time

If a jury of its peers were to grade Dash on its performance in 2017, the majority would say it lived up to its billing.  Using Dash, users could send money instantly using the InstaSend feature that allowed for complete anonymity. At the peak, transaction costs were around $0.60, which were dwarfed by bitcoin’s high of $30. 

Since then, Dash fees have fallen to about $0.20, making them attractive for small sized transactions. All alone this represents a compelling feature of Dash.  Add to that the immediacy of InstaSend and you have the makings of a genuine challenge to Bitcoin.

Caveat Emptor

In appraising Dash’s performance it is useful to look at Metcalfe’s Law, which values social media assets based on a formula of network size.  For Dash, it’s network is processing a tiny fraction of bitcoin’s. The limitations of its network have very likely not yet been tested, so proclaiming Dash the speed king is a bit early. There is still a larger issue to consider.

In the case of Metcalfe’s Law we need to include merchants and other service providers that accept Dash as payment.  That is the big hump for them to overcome before overturning bitcoin. So far, after all, bitcoin is accepted by only about 10,000 or so merchants.  

Further progress by bitcoin is stymied by transaction costs that remain far too high.  Even so look at how many years it has taken bitcoin to attract merchants. Dash faces the same hurdles.

In other words, the trick for Dash is the find a way to gain mass acceptance quickly. That is when the huge $11 billion valuation of last December will begin to be justified. Look over your shoulder bitcoin – faster, lower cost competition is looking to eat your lunch. Dash could be one of those.

 Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 76 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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