Someday in the not too distant future, and probably in the lifetimes of children presently able to read this post, will come a time I am calling the Fooday. Special days need special names, and Fooday is reminiscent of Teilhard de Chardin‘s Omega Point and Ray Kurzweil‘s Singularity. These are combined with Thomas Malthus’ population limits. The Omega Point is the supreme point of complexity and consciousness for the entire Universe, and the less grandiose Singularity is the supreme point of technological complexity and consciousness. Kurzweil projects humanity to reach the Singularity some day in the year 2045. There is another day which doesn’t have a name yet, but it is based on Craig Venter’s projection of life at the speed of light throughout the Universe, presently in technical development. A name like Total Life would be appropriate.
All of these exemplary human beings are pointing the direction for humanity to exert its utmost power to proceed with creating intelligent life, and the progress at present is on track. For the last two hundred years humanity has progressed in its abilities more rapidly than the limiting factor of modern human famines that Thomas Malthus predicted. Malthus thought that humanity would grow in population to the carrying capacity of the Earth’s ability to create food. His ideas were based on the food creation technology available in the 1790s. At that time approximately ninety percent of humans were involved in food creation as farmers, fishers and hunters. The natural state was that when food was scarce locally the local people starved. In 1784 tens of millions of people in India starved and in 1845 there was a food shortfall in Ireland and millions of people starved. With world transportation becoming more effective there have been fewer great famines that did not include a huge political component, as opposed to food availability, such as the Ukraine famine during WWII or those in North Korea and Somalia more recently. But there have been 1,828 major recorded famines in China alone, and in the mid 1800s 45 million died.
Fooday is an amalgamation of these two basic trends facing humanity which Malthus wrote about, the collision of food production with decreasing availability of more land and unlimited predator-free human population growth. Malthus was primarily interested in the total availability of food-producing land and the growing number of people, and he was aware of technical improvements, but what he couldn’t have predicted was the phenomenal increase in the ability of a given area of land to produce more food. When he was promoting his book in 1800 the world population was below a billion people, and now in 2013 it is over seven billion. Our increase in population is based on technology far more than an increase in available land. Unfortunately our technology for producing more food is dependent on available single-use fossil fuel energy. Once the available oil and gas is gone and coal of inferior quality is the primary source of portable energy it may prove impossible to sustain our current energy-extravagant lifestyle and population. When humanity returns to hand tillage of the land the population will return to Malthusian levels plus some based on genetic engineering. In a hundred years when the oil and gas and good coal is gone humanity must turn to solar-derivative methods of energy production, but to make that portable for running farm equipment will take cheap solar collection and good cheap batteries. These might work out just fine, but they will be more expensive than current methods and will force a limitation of population. At some point a balance must be reached, and that point may be defined by humans, but if it isn’t nature will impose it by famine. The alternative seems to be machines displacing all human jobs, resulting in less need for humans, so they stop using sex for reproduction and instead limit it to entertainment and social cohesion as Homo sapiens’ cousins the bonobos do, and the population drops to where there is a balance with nature’s interests.
A sudden disruption of food may be caused by a war causing a failure at some point, any point, in the supply chain, all the way from failure of any kind at the oil wells, to the failure of the internet which permits the efficient distribution of everything that is available. There may be hundreds of critical points in the food creation and distribution system that are not even considered today because they function so smoothly, but if they failed the whole system would be degraded to a lower level of production. At present things are wonderful, and the proof is that there isn’t a food shortage famine, and the population continues to explode. Some claim the population explosion is ending, but world population is still expanding at nearly a hundred million humans per year, and that is clearly an explosion. The expansion per year alone would equal the whole population of the Earth in Classic Greek times.
In the long run it seems inevitable that there will come days with not enough food to go around, because everything can’t function perfectly all the time. Fooday is the name for the day that something happens that creates a desperate situation when people have a fully functioning advanced technical personal environment, perhaps beyond our most extravagant expectations of what technology can produce, but they don’t have any food. Perfection in everything imaginable, except they don’t have food. Imagine sitting at your computer with the best possible multidimensional screen and sound system, and the ability to instantly access anything whatsoever that has ever come to the internet, but you have zero access to food. That is Fooday, and I hope you never experience it.