Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Coming soon - the Giga-death world of the mutants


Note: the following is based on a speculative conversation with Michael A Woodley - and it was Michael who invented the tern Giga-death to describe the post-industrial world of collapsing population. This post continues from:


The Industrial Revolution had the effect of allowing many billions of people who would have died to stay alive - this meant that genetic mutations which would have been eliminated by death during childhood instead accumulated.

The Industrial Revolution has kept the mutants alive - including (very probably) you, and me, and billions more like us!


Indeed, for reasons which are somewhat uncertain, most people in most of the world chose not to have replacement numbers of children (the only exceptions being among the most devout members of highly traditional religions) and a combination of contraception and abortion mostly allowed them to achieve this choice.

Therefore, on the one hand mutations have been accumulating, generation upon generation, with (approx) one or two deleterious mutations being added to each lineage with each generation; on the other hand, people who exhibited traits caused by deleterious mutations - such as lowered intelligence and impaired long-termist conscientiousness, or higher impulsivity, aggression and criminality - were positively selected, were genetically favoured - simply because their pathologies meant they were either unable or unwilling to use fertility-regulating technologies.

In other words, accumulating mutations which damaged functionality actually amplify reproductive success under present conditions and for the past several generations.

Or, after the Industrial Revolution, humans have been bred for increased levels of genetic disease: we are now a mutant-enriched species.


Thus the proportion of mutants rose from two causes:

1. Incremental accumulation of spontaneous mutation, generation upon generation.

2. A positive feedback effects whereby damage from mutations (unless lethal or nearly so) would amplify reproductive success.

So there are more mutants in the population from accumulation, plus these mutants are more successful at reproducing and thereby spreading the mutations.


This trend is amplified further by recent and current patterns of mass population migration from areas with higher established mutations loads which have been further amplified by the effects of the industrial revolution, and various degrees of population replacement. 


At some point, the proportion of mutants - who are on average significantly damaged in functionality - will become so great that the Industrial Revolution will fall-apart, collapse; the 6-7 billion excess population will be unsupportable; there will be a Giga-death (i.e. billions of deaths) scale of mortality over some period - and eventually the world will again become agrarian.

However, countries such as Europe will not return to the medieval level of agriculture but to somewhere below the mediaeval level in terms of social complexity and productivity.

We could expect something more like the Dark Ages or the Ancient British (Iron Age) agriculture at best - or maybe even back to the productivity of Neolithic (New Stone Age) agriculture if metalworking is lost. 

In other words, productivity after the Industrial Revolution will be below the levels of productivity before the Industrial Revolution - because the post-Industrial world is full of damaged mutants.


This is important to recognize. A population of mutants whose intelligence has been dragged-down to a certain level will be much less functional than a population where selection has kept it in equilibrium at that level - the mutants will be carrying multiple pathologies in addition to their impaired intelligence. 


But arriving at this situation will take a while.

Before then there will be the Giga-death phase: the die-off of the billions of excess population which have been sustained by an Industrial society of frequent productivity innovation, but otherwise not.

So, there will be lots of mutants of many different types, living among a contracting, collapsing, population - as the billions in excess of the earth's agrarian carrying capacity begin to die-off.

This world of mass dying will provide a new kind of selective environment - some mutants may reproduce vary rapidly under these strange (and temporary) conditions by evolving to exploit unusual resources which are (temporarily) abundant in a Giga-death world..

And if the dying-off lasts a few generations, some weird mutant 'scavengers' may come to dominate in some places.

Interesting times...



Bruce B. said...

Well maybe the cognitive genome is willing against the maladaptive mutations you’re talking about.

George Goerlich said...

I hate to draw an analogy to the stock market, but it seems a "bubble" is usually burst by an event widely unanticipated, but in hindsight obvious. While the market only needs people to sell, this event seems more likely to begin with a combination of disease and lack of food. With the current food system having no real "extra capacity" it would only take a 1-month supply disruption to potentially cascade.

Interesting enough, Mormons are one of the few groups that traditionally teaches its members to store a year worth of food, though they've since shortened this to a 3-month supply.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB - Yes, I've left-out any divine influences; but there would need to be repentance first, or else we would be self-closed-off from divine influences (as at present).

I think the Industrial Revolution (and the great innovations which led to it), taken as a whole, was a great gift to Man - which we have failed to appreciate and squandered and grossly misused (World Wars I and II to go no further).

We have had wonderful gifts and possibilities, but (on the whole) have not even tried to use them for truth, beauty and virtue.

JP said...

If you fall below the industrial revolution, you will fall below the agricultural revolution too, because (a) modern agriculture has been industrialized, (b) nobody knows how to farm using pre-industrial methods, and (c) even if there were such farms, they would be overwhelmed by starving mobs.

The end result must be wandering bands of savage cannibals without industry or agriculture.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP " wandering bands of savage cannibals without industry or agriculture."

I think you meant to say wandering bands of *mutant* cannibals without industry or agriculture...

Bill said...

It sounds like you are describing a collapse scenario often attributed to resource limitation - in this case the limit of intelligence essentially.

Population die-off sounds like the curve from the old Limits to Growth publication.

stephen c said...

You might want to give some thought to another scenario, where the random top million (on a cognitive genetic scale) lucky humans out of 10 billion humans(those are pretty good cards to draw, but it is not surprising that where there are 10 billion people there will be a million with one in ten thousand genetic luck) collectively, in their deluded love of power, continue to its logical conclusion the already started pc enslavement of the other 10 billion (minus, of course, the million rulers) and we will not be back, in that generation anyway, to any previous period but we will be in a new period, as bad or worse than any others, where the
"Modern Age" (Evelyn Waugh's term from Sword of Honor, expressing his disgust at the 193x triumph of Stalin and Hitler together) reaches its perigee ....

Bruce Charlton said...

@Bill - Not really.

This scenario is one in which the proximate cause is cognitive rather than physical resources.

The cause of the Industrial Revolution and of the extra 6-7 billion people was the minds of a relatively small number of (mostly) European male geniuses - plus of course the societies who used their breakthroughs and the other societies that copied them.

Given a sufficient supply of geniuses of the right type, and of societies who respond to the right type of genius-work - the earth might be able to support extremely large numbers of people... however that is not the situation (as you are aware, 'dead European males are instead *blamed* for everything bad in the world!); hence the apparent likelihood of collapse.