Open Thread - 02-16-24 - Get Back

The Olduvai Theory of Industrial Civilization

The Olduvai Theory was proposed originally in 1989 by Richard C. Duncan and was originally called The pulse-transient theory of industrial civilization. In 1996 Duncan published a paper The Olduvai theory: falling towards a post-industrial stone-age era and the theory was subsequently renamed The Olduvai Theory. Olduvai Gorge is considered the cradle of mankind because of the oldest human skeletal remains being discovered there, although that is controversial.

The Olduvai Theory is based primarily on peak oil theory and postulates that mankind progressed outward and upwards from its birthplace in the Olduvai Gorge and reached the apex of civilization brought on by cheap energy, and with the advent of collapse brought on by peak oil, will be on the march back to the metaphorical Gorge and the hunter-gatherer way of life.

The Olduvai Theory of Industrial Civilization
olduvai.gif

1. Pre-Industrial Phase [c. 3,000,000 BC to 1765]

  • A = Tool making begins (c. 3,000,000 BC)
  • B = Fire use begins (c. 1,000,000 BC)
  • C = Neolithic Agricultural Revolution (c. 8,000 BC)
  • D = Watt's steam engine, 1765

Interval D-E is a transition period.

2. Industrial Phase [1930 to 2025, estimated]

  • E = Industrial Civilization is defined to begin in 1930 when the leading-edge value of energy-use per person reached 37% of its peak value.
  • F = Peak of Industrial Civilization, c. 1978: confirmed by historic data published by BP, IEA, USCB, UN, etc.
  • G = World average energy-use per person continues to fall, 1996
  • H = Industrial Civilization is defined to end when energy-use per person shrinks to 37% of its peak value, forecast to occur by 2025. Life-expectancy (X) is estimated to be less than 100 years.

Interval H-I is a transition period.

3. Post-Industrial Phase [c. 2100 and beyond]

  • J, K, and L = Recurring future attempts at industrialization fail.

Source & Image Attribution

The timeline is contentious, one can argue that the dates could be moved back or forward, but the premise of the theory is that the collapse is inevitable after the planet runs out of cheap accessible oil.

Please note the date of the transition period (H) and the start of the decline, 2025, as it's pertinent to my conclusion below.

Many times in the past here at c99 I've written about narratives and how our realities are formed by the various learning experiences that we've encountered from birth to the present. Parents, schools, books, movies, newspapers, television, the internet are just some of the input that form our perceptions of reality. We've been inundated with it since we were kids, although one would have to had their head in the ground to not notice how the narratives have shifted into overdrive the last three or four years.

For example, this article delves into how our concepts of the future may be influenced by dystopian film and literature. Intentional or not, we've been groomed for dystopia.

Are fictional dystopias blocking us from better futures?

Do grim sci-fi scenarios crush our hopes for real-world growth? Author Michael Harris looks elsewhere to unblock the road to a better future.

Key Takeaways:

  • Since the 1970s the prevailing vision of the future in popular culture has tended towards the dystopian.
  • Commentators of all stripes — from celebrated movie critics to novelists and today’s "effective accelerationists" — have addressed the lack of blue-sky thinking.
  • Michael Harris argues that dystopias are not a failing of their creators’ imaginations — and that fears about the future are rooted in the mechanisms of power and control.

Snip...

A lot of popular science fiction since the 1970s has depicted dark futures, to the point that they’ve become our default visions.

Snip...

If we are called on to not fear the future, it might be better to persuade us that we have a place in it, that it is ours to make. Show us a future we want to believe in.

Source

Conclusion

I find it uncanny that the date 2025 was marked as the beginning of the decline of civilization. That date sounds familiar, does it not?

My question is: As the year 2025 approaches and we find ourselves inundated with multiple crises, is this date a remarkable prediction by Richard Duncan or has present circumstances been manufactured around it? Is it organic or a result of forces using it as a guideline to set artificial societal realities to suit an agenda?

Disclaimer: I'm not so sure I agree with the premise of the Olduvai Theory. It leaves out the possibility that alternative or wholly new technologies may arise that would affect the march back to the Gorge, although it does propose points in the timeline (J, K, and L) that represent failed attempts to right the ship.

My point is to highlight the remarkable coincidence between the shown date of the start of the collapse (2025) and Agenda 2030, and how it relates to the narratives that pervade our modern world.

Has the Olduvai Theory become a basis for a narrative that suggests "fears about the future are rooted in the mechanisms of power and control" as argued by Michael Harris in the article above about dystopias?

References and Further Reading:
The Olduvai Theory: Energy, Population, and Industrial Civilization (PDF)

Richard Duncan speaks on Peak Oil and Olduvai Theory

Olduvai Theory

The Oil We Eat (PDF)

Get back to where you once belonged.
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Comments

one thing that's apparent to me, if the Olduvai Theory is valid, is how so very lucky that you and I were to be alive in that short one hundred year time period of peak human civilization. Out of the many peoples that have lived and died how fortunate the die were cast in our favor.

The common thread between the Olduvai Theory and today is energy, the lifeblood of civilization. Wars for many years have been about energy and resources and who's going to control it going into the future. This theory punctuates that reality.

It's been pretty wild riding this peak wave of culture and civilization. Serf's up!

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Peak civilization? Makes me think of antediluvian times.
Just a theory, mind you.
Somehow the dystopian themes of recent sci-fi novels
engage the imagination as to where we are going as a
civilization. Better than the press releases by silly politicians

Antediluvian Kings?

Thanks for the OT!

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@QMS
peak civilization, some may call it the low point. I guess it depends on one's perspective.

It's amazing how accurate many of the dystopian sci-fi novels have been. I wish we could say the same about the utopian novels.

Yeah, those "silly politicians", heading back to hunter-gatherer ways should cull some of them out.

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mimi, if you see this, I have sent you an email with a new password so you can log in. Please check your spam folder if you haven't seen it.

Creosote, I have sent replies to your email asking for help to log in, please check your spam folder for them.

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snoopydawg's picture

@JtC

He wrote a comment to Q Wednesday in the blues.

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Which AIPAC/MIC/pharma/bank bought politician are you going to vote for? Don’t be surprised when nothing changes.

@snoopydawg
her comments and she hasn't posted since 12/21/23. She contacted me last week saying she had gotten a new computer and couldn't log in. I replied to her using two separate email accounts and have yet to hear back from her.

It must have been someone else, snoops.

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snoopydawg's picture

@JtC

You’re right. It was crescentmoon who I was talking about. My bad. Now you see why I don’t like commenting in the am. My brain hasn’t gotten up to speed yet.

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Which AIPAC/MIC/pharma/bank bought politician are you going to vote for? Don’t be surprised when nothing changes.

we still could use a volunteer to take the Saturday open thread. If you're interested contact me or shout out here.

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I think it will be more like the Blokamp movie "Elysium". Musk will find going to Mars will be too daunting, why not build an orbiting "cruise ship", still close enough to mine the scraps of a collapsed society? All the perks and all the control by still owning just about everything no matter how destroyed. We just get to exist in deference to them. As long as we're useful.

A favorite of mine is the "5th Wave" series by Rick Yancy. It's a YA series. The spoiler alert is coming......

Aliens eons ago sent robotic ships to search out life, because life is rare and precious. When found, the ships attempt to protect this life. Coming upon Earth, and the destruction of habitat and extinction of whole species, decide human society is the sole culprit. The destruction of cities and large towns, reduction of population and the instilled fear of "others" will keep humanity from co-operating again on a scale that would give us the power to destroy life wholesale. So, why do we put everything on Earth into a meat
grinder?

I still feel what we call capitalism is the thread that runs through everything. It's gone from a useful "bitcoin" of the barter system to a tool of total control. It's used to control us, and through it we control ourselves. I mean, we're devouring the Earth to produce what? And why? We're half broken.. Americans separated by hyphens, repelled by our differences, stirred by anger, unable to do anything for the common good, because it only exists a a vague memory tainted by the need attach profit to every action. Just breaking even is deemed failure.

Mostly I think the dystopian trends started after the mass carnage of WW2, followed by the carnage of WW2. Nuclear weapons iced the cake. I think that's why all the "small" wars are acceptable. Hey, they ain't as bad as WW2, right? It's not hard to imagine what total destruction looks like. It's just what form it will take.

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@Snode
there's a little bit of truth in all of the dystopian novels and movies, some more than others. It's almost like, if the mind can go there it will be reality some day. If we're to this level of dystopia at this point in time, where will we be in 20 or 30 years from now? I'm afraid you're right, it will be about total control. But I can't dismiss the human spirit from rising up, it's happened countless times down through history.

Good point about capitalism, but don't forget capitalism rides on the back of cheap energy.

I truly wonder if all the talk about climate change isn't about running cover for peak oil. It's probably both though.

Thanks for the great comment.

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@JtC but what form? I think often about the opening scene of the film "Powaqqatsi" showing miners in (I think a diamond) or gem mine, digging by hand, hauling up bags of mud to be processed. Are they near slaves, or happy just to be able to exist? In the end we can all be cheap energy for someone elses benefit, no matter how technology declines.

Powaqqatsi is an interesting film, about people around the world making living, and making a life. Great Philip Glass score.

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@Snode
me of The Matrix where humans that are plugged in are used as batteries to provide the machines with energy.

In the end we can all be cheap energy for someone elses benefit, no matter how technology declines.

Thanks for the tip about Powaqqatsi, I'll check it out.

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snoopydawg's picture

@Snode

Well done and I agree with everything you said. The parasite class needs to be removed from power, but how to do it is beyond me. I think any chance we had to do it was long ago, but maybe if we rose up against NAFTA?

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Which AIPAC/MIC/pharma/bank bought politician are you going to vote for? Don’t be surprised when nothing changes.

@snoopydawg One thought I have been kicking around is what if a majority of citizens formed a "union" to negotiate on our behalf with the parties? Not a third party. The political parties suck up to their donors and collections of donors. Right now if a million people gave a dollar to a politician, that politician would think of each of us as giving a piddly buck, so what. If Zuckerbesosmusk gave them a million dollars they'd be falling all over themselves to please their donor. Why not us?

We could just start with the basics. Health care, education, wages, tax fairness and the environment as our negotiating position. I know it sounds dumb, but we have a bunch of laws covering and protecting unions and their structure. Our government bends over backwards representing business interests. Unions have been the only power fighting for their workers against corporate abuse. We need that for all citizens. Our politicians have shown they can be bought, why not be in the bidding?

I really like the idea of someone representing us, with a big check in hand, sitting down in a room with the r's and d's and saying "ok, this is what we want, what are you going to do for us?". We have to get to a point somehow where we're in this together. Democracy has turned into something that restricts our well being and harms us instead of helping and protecting us.

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snoopydawg's picture

.

Y’all might remember Navalny as the CIA backed puppet that ran against Putin and got 2% of the vote. Then Putin gave him some of the deadliest nerve agent Novicheck (?) that has a poor record of killing people recently.

Rachel Moscow pumped him up so today the shitlibs are very sad and angry that he died at a prison. The article I read said that he died suddenly and couldn’t be resuscitated and he possibly had blood clots.

But apparently the word has gone out that Putin killed him because he threatened his re-election even though he was sentenced for decades. Anywhoo

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snoopydawg's picture

@snoopydawg

Bad

I bet shitlibs haven’t seen this story.

Navalny goes on trial in Russia on charges of ‘rehabilitating Nazi ideology’

Russian opposition leader already serving nine years for fraud and contempt of court, but could be imprisoned for another 30 if found guilty

Navalny, who exposed official corruption and organized major anti-Kremlin protests, was arrested in January 2021 upon returning to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

He has been charged with financing extremist activity, publicly inciting extremist activities, and “rehabilitating the Nazi ideology,” among other offenses.

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@snoopydawg
in lieu of the debate about Ukraine War funding.

The world's a stage...

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snoopydawg's picture

@JtC

The world is a stage...

I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to see it. Seems every time a bad story breaks we get another one to distract us from it.

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Which AIPAC/MIC/pharma/bank bought politician are you going to vote for? Don’t be surprised when nothing changes.

@snoopydawg if the correction to the original story comes out too soon, they can't easily bury it on page 10, weeks or months later. Much better if people remember Putin killed some guy rather than he had heart failure. Nobody will believe it anyway, even if it's true. Except maybe Tucker Carlson.

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snoopydawg's picture

.

I looked at SF Gate to see if it wrote about this, but nada. I just wish that this old bat would retire. And takes Schumer with her.

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Which AIPAC/MIC/pharma/bank bought politician are you going to vote for? Don’t be surprised when nothing changes.

@snoopydawg
money to be made with insider trading for Nance to retire yet.

I wonder how many stocks these folks own in war materiels?

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snoopydawg's picture

@JtC

Remember after congress got briefed on the Rona epidemic lots of them sold and bought stocks which got them in trouble except after the story broke it just went away. Or they were found not guilty of breaking insider trading laws. Another example of the 2 justice systems in America.

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enhydra lutris's picture

Just a few things that came to mind. Post industrial phase is portrayed as decline to huntr-gatherer with no real basis. Industrial was not necessarily the apex of civilization, coal fired steam engines on the inward leg, with a petro transition to solar/wind/geothermal powered robot assisted production of goods and services isn't, per se, a dystopia.

Also, pegging the whole thing to levels of per capita energy consumption is silly. With a level standard of living, increased efficiency in producing and delivering goods and services would create a decline in per capita energy consumption. I also wonder about the measurement of the benchmark figures. Energy accounting on a full absorption basis would be something of a nightmare and I suspect it wasn't really done rigorously, if at all.

Why dystopia? Power seems to wind up in the hands of sociopaths, that's why. Not sure all of our strife has always been entirely about resources and energy, the choice to fight over exclusive control of shit rather than cooperatively harvest it could well be driven largely by simple sociopathy. Remember, the real purpose of torture isn't information, it is to torture people.

be well and have a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

@enhydra lutris
those arguments when I was researching the issue, that's why I added the disclaimer. I was trying to highlight the dates on the downside of the peak and how it lines up with our current shitshow.

I agree with your last paragraph as well but I'd add the psychopathic personality too. Psychopaths and sociopaths have a way of working themselves to the top, as well evidenced by our current crop of deviants.

Thanks for stopping in.

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@kelly
I was wondering how the early hominids knew when It's About Time was on. I don't know if you are old enough to remember that show, but I do.

Good song, thanks for that. I gotta say though as a blues harp player that harmonica made my ears hurt.

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@JtC I visited The Gorge in Tanzania.
Not sure why there is controversy about certain discoveries.
So, there is a fossilized footprint that showed arched feet, thus upright walking. It is the oldest humanoid footprint ever found. It took my breath away to see it. One of the most fascinating museums I ever visited.
Assuming no other similar, but older, footprint is discovered, we can all be Tanzanians.
Hell, some historians theorize the peak of civilization was the hunter-gatherer period. A return to that just may not be so bad.

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"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." ---- William Casey, CIA Director, 1981

@on the cusp
accused of being a cave man before. So there's that.

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@on the cusp
I have the good fortune this morning to be sipping some fine Tanzania coffee. Smile

If you haven’t already read it, you might enjoy Fossil Men. A single facet of a metatarsal bone rocks the preeminent Lucy ‘origin of the species’. The book is remarkably provocative with regard to both the challenge to accepted science and the raucousness of the political and academic tableau that the story unfolds within. It’s one of my recent favorite reads.

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Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all."
- John Maynard Keynes

@ovals49 I am jealous! We have a World Market 45 miles away, and they have coffee, as well as other foods and beverages, from all over.
The best is Blue Mountain from Jamaica, but that can spoil you so that you won't enjoy any other. It is ridiculously expensive.
I settle for 100% Columbian.
Thanks for the book suggestion. It is a fascinating subject!

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3 users have voted.

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." ---- William Casey, CIA Director, 1981

@on the cusp
The great thing is getting used to great coffee, but the major drawback is not being able to find comparable quality anywhere. Coffee snob is what it has turned me into. Wink

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Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all."
- John Maynard Keynes

@ovals49 and absolutely will happen!
I have never attempted to roast and grind coffee. Kudos, ovals49!
Kenyan coffee was good, Costa Rican coffee was good.
Still, that Blue Mountain is manna from Heaven. $65-$68 per lb. currently.
I walked away from it and settled for cheaper, like heroin addicts switched to fentanyl for their cheap fix! Lol!

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"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." ---- William Casey, CIA Director, 1981

I love Raul. We are all lucky that he is still singing, still has that remarkable voice!

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"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." ---- William Casey, CIA Director, 1981

mimi's picture

Thank you JTC.

Took me a while to remember how to write a comment. But now it is a real meaningful one. Wow, after reading JtCs thesis about something strange, I feel just as dumb, if not dumber than previously.

Who cares?

Danke für die Blumen

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@mimi
no one here cares, strange, dumb or whatever.

Willkommen zuhause.

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mimi glad you’re still with us

too bad about johns amp
ya’d of thought they’d have
that shit worked out
no wonder they split

I wouldn’t worry overmuch
about a nuke war or climate change
we’re pushing 13k yrs on a 12k cycle
with a micro-nova sun at the
same time the magnetic poles are shifting

gonna be a Wild ride check out
suspicious observers w/ ben davidson
all science all provable data
some speculation hang on

duck it no goggle

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Ya got to be a Spirit, cain't be no Ghost. . .

Explain Bldg #7. . . still waiting. . .

If you’ve ever wondered whether you would have complied in 1930’s Germany,
Now you know. . .
sign at protest march

The speed of “natural” evolution has been slow and steady, the exception being we humans. While that may seem to be a “good” thing for humans, the benefits look to be quite transient, relative to the geological record of life on the planet. The reason for our short success is that we have outrun the “speed of evolution”, leaving the entire ecosphere OUT OF BALANCE.

Some posit that human exceptionalism is “God given” and intentional. If so it appears that it will be a short lived “gift”, harkening to the original sin of eating from the tree of knowledge described in Genesis.

Me, I think it was an alien intervention, seeding an ‘unauthorized’ DNA ‘software update’ of the human genome and that the impatient Archangel responsible has already been appropriately disciplined. The original harmonious evolutionary plan will be returned to the planet within a couple of million years or so. The WHO is already beginning on working our the details……

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Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all."
- John Maynard Keynes

Have decided the best way to maintain energy per capita levels after peak oil is to reduce capita.
The PNAC's agenda to develop genome specific bioweapons fits right into that.

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