I was at the Brains events Immortalist Audit event on Saturday. It was a fun and interesting event. There was a question posed at the event. What happens if Radical life extensions happens ? What happens in 50-100 years ?
1. It will take some time for radical life extension to be developed for anyone
2. We can see how medical technology gets spread with how long it has taken inexpensive vaccines to be provided to everyone and how long it has taken for the AIDS drug cocktail to be developed and then become cheap enough for the developing world at about $100/year. AIDS drugs are being deployed to Africa at a cost of $100/year from now through 2025
Let us slightly simplify the radical life extension effect and assume that people pre-radical life extension can live 100 years. So with radical life extension 1% of the world population who would have died do not die from the point of worldwide deployment. So 50 years after radical life extension (people living to 150 or more instead of 100) then population would be 50% higher assuming that long lived people did not further delay having births. In 100 years, after radical life extension (people living to 200 years or more instead of 100) then population would be double assuming that long lived people did not further delay having births.
So instead of looking for 50-100% gain by killing all Grandma’s and Grandpa’s in a delayed version of Logan’s Run. (In Logan’s Run everyone is killed at the age of 30 in the movie and 21 in the science fiction novel). We can first look at boosting agricultural yield, achievable infrastructure construction and minor reorganization to support higher population.
It is also interesting how some people have a knee jerk reaction like the following. Well we must stop people in Africa and Asia from breeding to prevent an increase of 20% in world population. However, driving around in SUV with 10% ethanol from corn with an hour commute each way from their McMansion to their office is not considered.
I will explain how non-fancy technology can massively boost food production. Food production being the main concern that people have around population. I can get fancier and do better with on-Earth carrying capacity or of course go to space colonization and push it up by 1000 times. I am going to do it with old and simple tech to push the issue out a couple of hundred years in population growth.
Business as Usual progression of Agricultural Yield
Deploying what is already grown in outdoor test fields
Yuan Longping, China’s leading agricultural scientist, realized one of his 80th birthday wishes recently when his super grain brought yields of 13.9 tons of rice a hectare, setting a new world record for rice output. The rice breed, DH2525 (Y two superior No 2), produced a harvest of 13.9 tons a hectare during its trial planting in Longhui county in Hunan province.
Does the present breakthrough translate into a yield of 13.5 tons per hectare at commercial scale? Yuan did not think so, but 80% at more than 10.5 tons per hectare is realizable according to past experience.
The highest rice yield in the world is in Australia, on average about 9.9 tons per hectare (660 kg/mu), followed by 6.7 tons per hectare (445 kg/mu) in Japan. The yields of China’s super-rice have now reached 550 and 600 kg/ mu, respectively, at large scale, as the result of the first two phases of development. So spreading best practices boost worldwide yield by 50%-100%. What is done across an entire country (Australia) to other countries.
These plants were generated from regular plant breeding. They did not use genetic engineering. Plant breeding has existed for thousands of years. Assyrians did plant breeding before 870BC.
Milk production was raised by 50% over the last decade and by 5 times over the last several decades. Innovations like washing cows increased milk production. Milk production is still expected to increase by 30% this decade.
Slack in Protein production and ways to improve meat production
It takes about 8 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. World production of meat is about 260 million tons and beef production is about 55 million tons.
Chicken and fish are about 1.5-2.5 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of meat.
Greenhouses can boost yield by 6-12 times for regular greenhouses and 20-30 times for “advanced greenhouses”
It is believed the first practical greenhouse was built by French botanist, Jules Charles, in 1599 in Leiden, Holland. Ancient greenhouses might have existed in Pompeii.
A survey disclosed that construction costs to establish a complete economic unit [greenhouse], to include required equipment, varied from $5,500 by a Louisiana grower, to over $70,000 for a completely automated unit in Canada. Turn key construction costs by competent greenhouse construction contractors were substantially higher than construction costs by an owner/operator who supervised construction and used subcontractors. The average construction costs varied from $1.90 to over $30/ft2 ($20.90-$323/M2). These expenses did not include the cost of land. The average cost was $5 per square foot in the US or Canada.
Penn state has a greenhouse design for Africa that is 5.5 meters by 6 meters (over 300 square feet) and is one-fourth the cost of other greenhouses in Kenya. The Penn State greenhouse costs approximately $600, compared to a standard greenhouse, which goes for about $2,300.
“They can purchase it and pay it off within three growing seasons,” Eckard said. “It’s about empowering others. That’s why I’m involved.” With a greenhouse, a farmer can extend a growing season to three crop cycles and they can keep insects away from the crops.
The Netherlands has 10,000 hectares of greenhouses that produced over $5 billion per year worth of agricultural production.
Spain has over 50,000 hecatres of greenhouses in Almeria Inveranderos.
Agricultural land constitutes only a part of any country’s territory, which in addition also includes areas not suitable for agriculture, such as forests, mountains, and inland water bodies. Agricultural land covers 33% of the world’s land area, with arable land representing less than one-third of agricultural land (9.3% of the world’s land area.
Arable land (13,812,040 km²) – land under annual crops, such as cereals, cotton, other technical crops, potatoes, vegetables, and melons; also includes land left temporarily fallow.
Permanent Crops (1,484,087 km²) – Orchards and vineyards (e.g., fruit plantations).
About $65 million for greenhouses that cover a square kilometer for the average deployed systems.
The lower cost Pennstate system would be about $20 million to cover a square kilometer.
So let us say $65 trillion for 1 million square kilometers. This would be nearly double the agricultural yield. Over years it would be less than 2% of GDP. If volume production and economies of scale could lower the cost the more “advanced greenhouses” were scaled that can achieve 20-30 times the yield of regular land then either the yield could be increased or less land could be used. This is before considering vertical farming to apply skyscraper technology to boost the amount of land. Similar simple approaches can be used to boost water and energy levels. Also, efficiency to support people living in developed lifestyles can be easily doubled (living in luxury apartments in Manhattan, Hong Kong or Tokyo instead of in McMansions).
Greenhouse Advanced Technology Expert System (GATES) was created to perfect vegetable and fruit greenhouse production in high-sun and low-humidity areas. Adjacent to our facilities in Marfa, Texas this revolutionary greenhouse is a combination of unique and valuable intellectual property. The entire project is a multi-million dollar investment developed using new concepts in greenhouse design technology, climate control, and crop management. Utilizing new combinations of hardware, software, sensors, and control systems, GATES technology has defined industry standards in advanced food safety principles, production levels, and environmental stewardship values for greenhouse production.
* GATES 365 day production of high quality fruit providing 100% fulfillment of customer requirements.
* GATES contained environment excludes all outside pests while inside pests are controlled with IPM (Integrated Pest Management), making GATES production 100% insecticide free.
* GATES production levels are 60% higher than average greenhouse production.
* GATES yield 20-30 times more product per acre than conventional field production
* GATES technology achieves lowest price per pound in the industry today
* GATES uses 100% of water with no waste and recycles 100% of irrigation drainage to conserve water and fertilizer.
* GATES is designed to use waste heat to warm the greenhouses.
* GATES is designed to recover CO2 from boiler and power plant exhaust to utilize plant for increasing crop growth.
* GATES uses 3 types of evaporation to cool and humidify the greenhouse.
* GATES water efficient growing system for tomatoes requires 1/7th of water usage, compared to field grown tomatoes, further translating into an 86% savings in water usage.
* GATES has the most sophisticated plant monitoring available, including cameras, plant temperatures, water uptake, and growth rates. These measurements are all minute by minute in real time.
* GATES uses the plant measurements and software models to fine tune the greenhouse conditions
* GATES technology can be transferred to high density population centers, therefore, reducing ‘food miles’ and thus the overall carbon footprint.
* GATES can harvest solar power from excess sun radiation and convert to electricity.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.