Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Club of Rome & the coming global bargain

I've been invited to speak about how my work relates to negotiation. After a back-and-forth stride between a more mathematical, game-theoretical, presentation, and a look at practical issues that challenge us all, I've decided to introduce The Club of Rome, Limits to Growth, the coming global bargain, and what we've been doing these last years.

Imagine you are the owner of a large resort, with a beautiful lake. However, danger lurks in the horizon. Imagine you have a lillipad problem, with those growing at an exponential rate, doubling as each day passes.

When would you find out that it was a serious problem?

Consider three cases. If you found out whenever the lilipads reached 50% of the lake, you would have a single day to respond before they covered the entire lake. If you found at 25%, you would have only two days. If you found at 12.5%, three days. And if you found at 6.25%--c'mon, this is hypothetical, and you don't need to lie. Nobody would find it at 6,25%; but even if they did, that's only four days to respond!

This is the immense problem with exponential growth. We've been having exponential growth in numerous areas, such as population, economic activity, pollution, and so forth. How long do we have until a serious limit is reached? China's economy, for instance, has grown at over 12% this year alone. This means that they are, in practice, doubling their economic activity each 6 to 7 years. Thus, you might want to call the exponential explosion in industrial output circa 2000 as "China" (see slide 11 below). I mentioned also that China is moving cities around like FGV would make minor redecorations. Below is Ed Burtynsky's TED prize video, which I wish I had had time to show in my presentation. Sobering stuff.

Here are the slides.