Peak Oil as end of civilization is a hot meme. Its spread illustrates how ideas propagate though our society.
“Why I hope the search for extraterrestrial life finds nothing“, Tim Bostrom, Technology Review (May/June 2008) — This is a long and subtle analysis of the Fermi Paradox. One section of the essay discusses end-time scenarios:
The other possibility is that the Great Filter is still ahead of us. This would mean that some great improbability prevents almost all civilizations at our current stage of technological development from progressing to the point where they engage in large-scale space colonization. For example, it might be that any sufficiently advanced civilization discovers some technology–perhaps some very powerful weapons technology–that causes its extinction.
In “Fermi’s Paradox and the End of Cheap Oil“, Tim O’Reilly focuses on this section, connecting it to a trendy doomster movie:
I’ve been thinking of Fermi’s Paradox since I saw the documentary film A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash, with its dire predictions of the wars and disruptions that could occur on the downward slope of the Hubbert curve. While I remain an optimist about the power of human ingenuity to surmount enormous challenges, I have enough sense of history to know that catastrophes do happen, that societies fail to make the right choices, and that civilizations fail.
… Bostrom speculates about everything from nuclear war to gray goo to germ warfare to asteroid strikes as the locus of possible Great Filters. While diminished access to readily available natural resources after a crash of civilization is, like all of these other scenarios, merely food for thought, it seems to be a thought worth sharing.
Now we have a simple story, which hits the mainstream mainstream media via Andrew Leonard’s short and snappy How the World Works column: “Peak Oil explains the lack of UFOs“, Salon (6 May 2008) — Closing:
In other words, we haven’t encountered alien space-faring civilizations because all such alien races that developed the technological capacity for space-flight smacked head on into peak oil and then reverted back to barbarism, or some other form of pre-Industrial Revolution social arrangement.
I like it — a nice tidy unified theory that connects the price of gasoline to the absence of evidence for alien life.
It is a fun idea, in synch with today’s fashionable doomster chic. And worth careful consideration, just as much as any of the thousands or millions of possible explanations for the Fermi paradox.
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For more information about Peak Oil
- When will global oil production peak? Here is the answer! (1 November 2008)
- The most dangerous form of Peak Oil (8 April 2008)
- The world changed last week, with no headlines to mark the news (25 April 2008)
- Peak Oil Doomsters debunked, end of civilization called off (8 May 2008)
Here is an archive of my articles about Peak Oil.
Here are other resources about Peak Oil.