Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Sally visited Maura and me at Colorado Holistic University yesterday, “wearing” one of three specially-fabricated robots so she can have a physical presence. Her essence is still distributed among a classified number of servers throughout the world, awaiting the development of a single multi-purpose body that she can fully inhabit when global computer technology is no longer available to support her. 

The purpose of her visit was to brief us and get feedback about a significant update to the global strategy being considered for roll-out before the end of the year. The update would use fixed annual rates for population change and per-capita consumption instead of the linear decrease in total consumption that drives the present strategy, resulting in about half the death rate which was found to be unacceptably high.

“There is a higher probability of success doing it this way,” she told us, “because the targets are simpler. Progress is easier to verify and therefore control. We have also eliminated the most controversial aspect of the current strategy, maintaining zero births, although the birth rate will be very low.”

Maura and I stood facing the history department’s conference table where Sally sat and the screen behind her that showed a set of charts for the projected year 2040. Total consumption was higher than the present target, which was particularly problematic for Maura. “The whole point of driving down consumption to give ecosystems a better chance of recovery and offsetting the impacts,” she said rhetorically. “Are you sure enough of the death rate savings to justify taking the extra risk?”

“Yes,” Sally said bluntly.

 One of the charts suggested another motivation. “The new end-state is pushing up against the peak phase at the high end,” I said to Maura. “Is that even sustainable?”

“It depends on the cause,” Maura replied.

“The cause is the trajectory,” Sally answered the implied question. “Continuing the population and per-capita consumption rates past 2040 will maintain the distribution of people across the phases, but…”

“But?” Maura and I asked simultaneously.

Sally frowned realistically, no doubt for our benefit. “After 2050 there will not be enough resources to avoid collapse. Increasingly unable to meet its needs, humanity will cease to exist after 2080.”

I did a quick mental calculation based on the last hope chart. “That’s 14 years more than we have now. I’d say that’s a reasonable tradeoff.”

“What’s the overall impact on the strategy?” Maura asked Sally. Her expression revealed that she already knew the answer.

“It is considerably simplified and more aggressive in reducing direct consumption. Because implementation has already been more aggressive than planned due to the creativity provisions that Will inspired, there will be little change to existing preparations.” Sally unnecessarily gestured to the screen, where the charts were replaced with an image of a bound book about half the thickness of the global strategy. “A draft is ready if you would like to read it.”

We spent most of the day reviewing the draft with Sally. She collected our comments and changes into a new draft that could be merged with feedback from others who I assumed she was meeting with simultaneously using her other forms. 

The existence of the draft update was announced by WICO while we were on our way home. In the news clip played on all radio stations, Ambassador Lazlo described it as “the result of lessons learned over a very productive two months that will radically improve our chance of survival.” Maura lurched the car slightly as she drove, a clear sign that she disagreed with the assessment, and at that moment I thought I saw a small aircraft fly over us. “Over the next few days, details about the update will leak out,” Lazlo continued. “I urge everyone to ignore any such details and wait for the release of the final version.”

“They’re getting ahead of themselves,” Maura said, focusing on the road, “and you,” referring to this blog post.

I glimpsed the reflection of the aircraft, which was probably a drone, just as it disappeared behind a hill. “Somebody wants those details to get out anyway,” I speculated. “Given the time constraints, they’d be irresponsible not to, creativity provisions notwithstanding.”

“You’re not easily complimented, are you?” she asked, turned to me, and smiled. “That’s a good thing.”

“I don’t like being played,” I said, as an old concern began to nag at me again. 

ABOVE: Maura, Sally, and Will.

Reality Check

The new scenario is described in the Idea Explorer blog post C-low. The related summary of global variables in the year 2040 is shown below.

For reference, projections for the current scenario are as follows for 2040:

Note in particular the difference in Total Consumption between the two scenarios that Maura highlighted, about 0.1 Earth.
The business-as-usual scenario for the Green simulation representing our world is shown below, with detail for mid-year 2019 that applies to all simulations:

For fiction backstory, see Will Jackson's Personal Log (patrons only).

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