At the present moment, humanity has a fabulous technological society up and running well. It requires large numbers of people and huge amounts of energy to make it work. The people must have food, which is stored solar energy, and the technology must have energy also which is ultimately stored solar energy. Most of the energy for our machines comes from coal or petroleum, with some from falling water, solar collectors and wind. The only non-solar power is from radioactive sources converted to electricity. All of these energy sources can, with processing, ultimately be used to create human food, but as coal and petroleum become scarce their prices will go higher and food prices will rise too. A google search says, “At the current rate of consumption, the current U. S. petroleum, natural gas, and coal reserves will last approximately for 4.88 years, 12.2 years, and 258 years, respectively.”
As our population grows the consumption will increase and the demand on the resources will increase also. I don’t know if those figures are accurate, but if they are there are cars built today that will outlast the fuel supply. My second car, a 1996 Geo Prizm with a hundred thousand miles, runs perfectly and gets terrific gas mileage. A search showed up similar Prizms with over two hundred thousand miles that people were still expecting to sell, which means that at my current usage my car will outlast the fuel supply. I’m not that pessimistic, but the point is that those fuel sources won’t last forever. With world population over seven billion and still growing, the hydrocarbon form of stored solar energy will not meet demands for much longer. It will hurt those who love world travel, but it will kill people who are now spending most of their income on food. The still-evolving food production industry based on CRISPR will possibly double the food being grown on a given plot of land with the water available, but even with that possibility, we are nearing a time when our resources will have trouble supplying sufficient food for everyone.
The goal with this post isn’t to paint a picture of failure, but one of motivation to do what we can to bring our human society into a state of sustainable equilibrium. That is why robots which use electricity for their power seem like a very helpful step forward for all humanity. The equipment needed to create food can be designed and built, even now, to operate wholly on electrical power that is generated by renewable forms of solar-sourced energy. Electrically powered farm equipment can be made even now but it isn’t being done because the petroleum-driven equipment is still cheaper.
What is being proposed here is that all the infrastructure be designed and built in some realistically operable way so it can be easily ramped up to full-scale production by simply building in quantity what is known to work. The technology is halfway there already, but the present equipment is still powered by petroleum and partially operated by humans. That is good enough for the moment.
Prethink and prebuild the basic sustainable infrastructure now, before our technological society is overwhelmed by the lack of cheap energy and food.