Finite World: Finite vs Unlimited.


Finite: What does ‘Finite‘ actually mean?

The Key: Not Just Two Possibilities, but three.

Even in a mathematical context, there are three possibilities:

  1. Finite.
  2. Infinite.
  3. Undetermined.

Depending on context, infinite and undetermined can be equivalent, and in both cases, you not aware of any limit. Something only becomes ‘finite’ when you become aware there is a limit.

Dictionary Definition Of Finite: It depends on context.

While ‘finite’ and ‘infinite’ have mathematical definitions, dictionaries reveal that common usage extends beyond the mathematical definition. The dictionary definition of infinite includes “immeasurably or inconceivably great or extensive : INEXHAUSTIBLE” as well as “subject to no limitation”, and for finite we have “completely determinable in theory or in fact by counting, measurement, or thought” .

By example, as a human we can consider the number of times a person in the open can breathe as being infinite, even though the amount of oxygen in the air is finite so there is a theoretical limit, a person can breath ‘an inconceivably large number’ and still have no noticeable impact the level of oxygen.

The Working Definition of Finite for this context.

The meanings of finite and infinite depend on context, as outlined below, so to avoid ambiguity, in the context of these pages, ‘finite’ means:

Finite: ‘known to have a limit that could, in practice, conceivably be reached’.


So yes, words have different meanings depending on context, but it this context, unless explicitly prefixed such as ‘theoretically finite’, ‘finite’ will mean with a known and potentially constraining limit.

Given the principle there are three possibilities, they become:

  1. Finite: known to have a limit that could, in practice be reached.
  2. Infinite: it is known the that limit cannot in practice be reached.
  3. Undetermined: there may be a limit, but if so, the limit has never been reached.

I would suggest that human nature is to assume that when the limit cannot be determined, then it will not in practice be reached, which means infinite and undetermined are seen as equivalent. In this context, the opposite of finite because ‘unlimited’.

Unlimited: Unconstrained by any known limit.

Again, me.

Again, words have different meanings depending on context, but it this context ‘unlimited’ will without any known constraining limit.

Finite World: When the world of humanity progressed from ‘undetermined’ to ‘finite’.

To the first people on Earth, it must have seemed that no resource was finite, virtually nothing had any known limit. It is not that people believing things infinite, it is that numbers seemed unknowable, and undetermined seemed equivalent to without limits.

There were always new lands to be discovered, hunting animals did not noticeably impact their population, nor did gathering fruit and vegetables make an impact. Fishing did not noticeably impact fish populations.

Most things remained finite until around 1650 CE. At that time no individual even knew of all the continents on Earth making even the amount of land seem unlimited. Sustainable was not a concept people needed to contemplate, as it seemed every thing humans did was inherently sustainable.

Fast forward to the 21st century and there has been a population explosion dramatically increasing the number of humans, and an industrial revolution increasing the impact individuals have on the planet. Now, most people see ‘sustainable’ as essential, but in surprisingly many ways, there are still people who do not, deep down accept the Earth is finite, and sustainability is essential.

Finite World and Sustainability: It is all relative.

Nothing is sustainable without constraints. Every ‘sustainable’ practice is only sustainable within limits as to the number of people who can engage in the practice and the length of time it can continue. In practice, ‘sustainable’ means ‘more sustainable’ rather than absolutely sustainable. Even ‘sustainable’ farming has a limit to the scale and thus the number people it can feed, and on a planet with a finite life, cannot exist forever.

A question becomes, to be ‘sustainable’ how many people can be supported and for how long? As an extreme example, even breathing air has a limit to the population size before it become unsustainable. There is always a window.

Some people see perpetual population growth as sustainable, and within a sufficiently small window of time it is sustainable. Others see burning fossil fuels as sustainable for as long as 50 years, and in their eyes that is sustainable, while younger people, of people who care about younger people, may require a longer time to be sustainable.

Then there are others who an in denial. Prior to around 1650 CE, everything seems sustainable, and it worked for so long then the same attitude can work today.

The Potential Scale and Impact of population growth: 7 trillion humans?


7 trillion looks like a typo, but no, the maths shows that either by continuing the actual global population growth levels typical the 20th century, or achieving 2% per year (or far less than what is currently happening in Nigeria), the maths produce this number in a relatively short time!

Alternatively, consider that if we had peak 20th century population growth rates from 1650 until now, we would already have 1 trillion humans.

While population growth itself is currently not the threat that it once was, we are still overpopulated, as any suggestion that returning to the out of control population growth of the 1960s and 1970s would cause even more long term damage to a world with 8 billion people, than that growth did on a world with 4 billion people.

Continue reading “The Potential Scale and Impact of population growth: 7 trillion humans?”

Is our wealth distribution system really broken?

pot_goldA first reaction could be: “ok, the people who voted for Donald Trump clearly feel it is broken, but I am not sure they are that smart”, or “I am doing ok, and I think the system is fair. Yes people like that Elon Musk character have ‘X’ times more than me but he is also ‘X’ times more clever than me so he deserves it!”.

But the system feels sufficiently broken to those who voted for Trump, that they were desperate enough to vote for him, and there appears to be some similarity with the ‘Brexit’ vote in the UK.  Something has to change, even if it is just perception or we are going to keep having to live with these kinds of election results.

Also, either Elon Musk is really clever, in which case we should listen when he is proposing that we need to make changes to wealth distribution (soon, if not now),  or, he is not clever, in which case he does not deserve his wealth.  Either way, we need to consider changes.  Continue reading “Is our wealth distribution system really broken?”

Highlander Economics: Does it end with only one?

from IMDB

Back in 1986, the movie Highlander was released. It was actually sufficiently successful to inspire four sequels, plus spin offs and even a reboot. Something in the original clearly stuck a chord, and the tagline and concept ‘in the end there can only be one’  could be part of this.  The plot centres around a small group of individuals, immortals, who become ever stronger by defeating ‘competitor’ immortals in mortal combat.  The immortals all seem have a share of power. Defeat another immortal and grow stronger as the victors gain the power of the vanquished, until only one immortal remains, and the one remaining will hold all the power.  So how closely does the ‘rules’ of the highlander actually match the ‘rules’ for competitor companies?

How accurate is the analogy? Continue reading “Highlander Economics: Does it end with only one?”

Robots & Job Terminations

terminatorJob Terminators?

There is a virtual barrage of reports warning that robots and automation could displace 40% to  50% of the workforce in the next few decades.

During the almost 300 years of the growth age, new jobs have emerged to take the place of those replaced by automation.  Will this continue, or as many suggest, will it be different this time?

This post Reviews:

  • How have new jobs emerged in the past and will this continue?
  • Is it really different this time?
  • Will new jobs automatically emerge to replace those ‘terminated’ by automation.
  • What other alternatives are there?

Continue reading “Robots & Job Terminations”

Lessons from SciFi: Future Expansion

By Monomorphic at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Elvis using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, actor Morgan Freeman has declared he is determined to produce a movie based on the novel ‘Rendevous with Rama’ by Arthur C Clarke.  Great Sci-Fi writers like Clarke are renown for their insights in to the possible future and this novel is no exception.  After again reading this novel I realised the insights into possible future with regard to the human population is extremely thought provoking. Continue reading “Lessons from SciFi: Future Expansion”

Life in the colonies: The line between colony and individual is not as clear as we perceive.

Jellyfish, or Siphonophore Colony?
L. Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (, via

Are humans one single organism? Or in fact a colony, or society of cooperating organisms of many different types, which includes not only many different type of specialised human cells, but even cells that are not even human?

  • What is ‘A Single Living Organism’?
    • Bees vs Bee Hives, Slime Mould, Lichens, Jellyfish
  • Aliens in the mix:
  • Humans: A symbiosis of cells, or a cell of society?
  • Conclusion: It is all perspective.

What is ‘A Single Living Organism’?

What defines an organism?

What constitutes a living organism is not so easy to define. Being able to reproduce, is usually seen as the defining trait of a living organism. Another definition would be the ability to exist independently. However many things we sometimes regard as individual living things do not meet either of these criteria.

Honey Bees vs Bee Hives.

Is a honey bee a living thing, or is the bee hive a living thing? Individual worker bees do not actually reproduce, only the hive reproduces.  Even in terms of intelligence, the bee hive in many ways displays an intelligence totally beyond the intelligence of an individual bee. Individual bees cannot continue to live without the hive. But we still think of the individual bee as the living organism, and do not tend to think of the hive as the organism, and individual bees as effectively just cells.  Perhaps this is because the bees can be physically separated from each other?

Slime Mould.

Another example is ‘slime mould‘.  Unlike bees or ants, individual slime mould do not appear specialised to perform different functions within their ‘hive’ or ‘nest’, but again they do not reproduce as individuals.  However they do (to quote Wikipedia) ‘assemble into a cluster that acts as one organism’, and this behaviour is required in reproduction with many slime mould helping others to reproduce, without having their own offspring. Similar in some ways to how all the cells of our body aid in the survival of offspring, but only sperm and egg cells are part of the offspring, yet the unlike the cells of a human body, we often consider each slime mould an individual.  Other types of slime mould even form a single membrane around such clusters giving the clear appearance of a single organism. When we view slime mould, we very often do perceive the ‘clusters’ as a single living organism, even though under other circumstances we see the cluster as a collection of individuals.


A lichen is not a single organism but a symbiosis among different organisms like fungus and a cyanobacterium or algae. Cyanobacteria are also referred to as blue-green algae despite the fact of being distinct from algae. The non-fungal part is known as photobiont that contains chlorophyll. Many lichen partners include one photobiont and one mycobiont which is not universal and there are lichens with more than one photobiont partner.

What is Lichen?

The organisms that are components of lichen cannot exist even exist without partner organisms as the symbiosis is obligatory.

Symbiosis can be obligatory, which means that one or more of the symbionts depend on each other for survival, or facultative (optional), when they can generally live independently.

Symbiosis: Wikepedia

Lichens are an example where what we normally see as one living creature, is a symbiosis where the main organism cannot live without another organism.

Portuguese man o’ war.

Blurring the line perhaps even more confusingly, are some jellyfish like sea creatures which even in science have varied definitions as to what constitutes the organism. Unlike bees, we are not in the habit of thinking of  a ‘Portuguese man of war‘ in the same manner as a hive of individual bees, but rather as a single organism.  In practice, they are ‘not a single multicellular organism, but a colonial organism made up of specialized minute individual organisms called zooids‘.


The point is the line between a collection of living units being individual organisms or collectively constituting a single organism is not clear.  In the same manner it is useful to consider light as waves and at other times as particles, I suggest it is sometimes useful to consider an entire ants nest as one organism and at other times to consider each ant as a separate organism.

Aliens in the Mix.

For the Portuguese man of war example of a colonial animal, as with lichens, not all the individual components of the organism have the same DNA or are even the same species.  The same with humans! Consider that within a human body there are ten times more non human cells than there are human cells.  Although not by number of cells, we are still mostly human. Our human cells are far more complex and significantly larger than those other cells, so by mass that ratio almost reverses.  Again, like the Portuguese man of war, it is symbiotic and we do need most of those other non-human cells to survive. Until recently, we still considered every non-human cell in our body as a disease, and did not understand the essential role of many bacteria to our very assistance.

Then consider something like Toxoplasma gondii. ‘Alien’ organisms estimated to exist within 30-50% of humans. These aliens are also thought to be able to alter behaviour of the host human being.
Consider next time you meet a friend, that you are meeting a colony of a multitude of organisms, many working together to keep functioning as unit, others with their own agenda.

Humans: A symbiosis of cells, or a cell of society?

Most cells in our bodies are not even human: Is each of us a symbiotic colony?

So is a human a collection of cells which all should be considered as individual organisms? Or should all cells, both human DNA and the bacteria we require to survive be seen collectively as a single organism? As with photons and the alternate wave/particle perspectives, I suggest both views of the human body have merit.  Most people probably normally think of the human body as one single organism already, but may find considering the human body as a colony novel.  All the human cells in the body share the basically the same DNA, but so do the all the bees in a bee colony.  Cells within the same body take on different highly specialised roles, but again the same principle is seen with bees or ants if not to the same specialised extent. Some cells even demonstrate independence and keep growing after the ‘colony’ is dead.

The Individual As An Evolving Colony.

There have been circulating stories that the human body is totally replaced every 7/10/other number of years. The real picture is more complex, and the average age of the cells in our body is suggested to around 7-10 years but there are some cells believed to last our entire lifetime.  The average is lower by the fact that most cells last significantly less than 7-10 years.

In fact our cells live from only a few hours through to our whole lives.  Blood cells live from around 10 hours (white) about four months (red cells), through to over a year (lymphocytes). Stomach cells only live for about up to four days.  Skin cells live about two or three weeks. Bone cells can live twenty years and brain cells are thought to usually last for our entire life.

So the truth is we are a mix of all different ages. So the ‘colony’ we meet, when we meet a person at a later date has some of the same members, and many, many very new members.  However, like bees within a bee colony, new members tend to be little different from the previous ones.  Using the colony metaphor also has far more profound implications. If we consider the cells as individual living things with often far shorter life-cycles,  we realise that the DNA of the colony can evolve not only at the birth of the colony, but at the birth of any individual cell.  More than a billion times many more chances of taking place.  Of course such evolution may produce faulty cells which then multiply with a negative consequence that we call cancer, or other more subtle effects.  We can begin to have multiple variants of any given cell type, and one variant just may turn out to be a better adaptation.  This evolution of ‘the colony’ during ones lifetime can give rise to what seems like like Lamarck evolution, the inheritance of acquired traits, for the specific case where a trait is acquired genetically by mutation during ones lifetime. Rare, yes, but evolution through mutation is rare, but also essential.

Or Does Each Human Society Become The Organism?

Alternatively, from some frames of reference, it could be that as with bees, also with humans, it is valid to view the society as the living organism. As we have moved from the Palaeolithic and Neolithic stone age societies through to bronze and iron age, this is seen as human evolution, although in reality there has been little evolution of the individual humans. The society has definitely evolved. Our society at the time of writing in 2016 has evolved enormously within one human lifetime.

As humans, few of us can even now exist outside modern society. Like the bees of hive we take one of a variety of roles to play our role in the success of the colony. When humans from Europe encountered other societies of the ‘new world’, the Europeans even, arrogantly, ignorantly and highly regrettably, often felt the basically genetically identical individuals of these different societies to not even the same species. As all of us are the same species as the individuals who formed this abhorrent perspective, it demonstrates just how different effectively identical beings appear when part of a different society.

Just imagine, if society was to collapse overnight, could you survive as an individual?

In some ways, as humans, we ourselves are part of a living organism that is a society.


There is often no clear line between a colony of organisms being one complete living organism, or between each component of the colony being a living organism.  In fact their can be a benefit from considering multiple viewpoints.  There are times we are best to consider the life cycle of individual cells, we are ‘hardwired’ with ‘self awareness’ the leads us to almost always adopt the perspective of the colony of cells being the living thing, yet we also have a strong innate tribalism that sees some collective group of individuals as so important, that there are times individuals give their lives to defend the ‘tribe’.

I still suggest a beehive is the animal, not the bee 🙂

May your colony have a great day.

Industrial/Growth Age vs Information/Eco Age

Industrial/Growth Age Characteristics

(discussed in detail later in the post)

  1. automation replaces manual labour
  2. time to travel continually decreases
  3. automation and culture spreads around the globe
  4. population growth is unprecedented
  5. economic markets expand rapidly
  6. the Christian religion is the dominant religion of the revolution

Have I missed any? Most likely yes.

Information/Eco Age Characteristics

(again, discussed in detail later)

  1. a new wave of intelligent automation replaces even manual and even some skilled labour
  2. virtual travel becomes an alternative to physical travel
  3. the globe is already linked, and propagation of new ideas is virtual
  4. population growth will very likely stall
  5. economic markets may be largely static
  6. conflict is being channelled into religion

Industrial/Growth Age Discussion.


Automation started to be able to replace manual labour, and the ‘Ludites’ and others panicked as to what would happen to the displaced labour.  However, the automation helped create new wealth, and this new wealth created people able to spend on new products that never even existed previously, and that created new employment opportunities.

But it wasn’t just the automation that fuelled the economic growth.


Shipping became faster and rail emerged to speed travel over land.  Improved transport enabled trade at greater distances, and more profitably to existing markets. Then cars and trucks arrived adding to the low cost transport options and final air travel. During the industrial age markets for many products moved from local to global in range.

Spread of Culture and Technology.

Significant empires of the British, French Spanish and German empires covered much of the globe. The emerging USA was founded on European culture.  European based ideas dominated the globe. This European influence was magnified by the new industrial capability which also had an origin first in Europe and then from both Europe and North America (itself largely and extension of Europe).  This allowed new trade in the technology of industrialisation as well as the products of that industrialisation.


The global population grew during the industrial age from around .5 billion to almost 7 billion.  That is a factor of 14x.  During the 20th century alone population grew from 1.5 billion to 6 billion, a four fold increase.

Economic Markets.

From an economic perspective, the population actually grew even faster.  Rural semi subsistence farming in many countries at the start of the industrial age, meant that those people had little participation in the market for many goods and services. By the year 2000 these people had also largely entered the market picture, and the economic participation of women had also grown significantly.


The industrial age was largely driven by European culture and thus European religion which was dominated by Christianity.  But in parallel with this spread of religion, was a trend of a decline on average of the importance of religion in peoples lives.

Information/Eco Age Discussion.

Unlike the industrial age, we have only predictions and observations of the launch of the age in place of a full history.  This means much of this is based on the launch of the age rather than the conclusion.


A new wave of intelligent automation seems inevitably positioned to take place. Intelligent machines or ‘robots’ are making advances in even such skilled areas as surgery. Clearly, the stage is set for another revolution in how work is done.


The new emerging wave is virtual transport.  From 3d printing and virtual reality to the so well established internet a new wave of change is present.  Automated vehicles are in niches such as mining already but seem certain to become mainstream and again revolutionise actual shipping.  3D printing can even avoid shipping altogether.  Video conferences can reduce the frequency of travel for meetings.

Spread of Culture and Technology.

The previous empires are gone.  New ’empires’ of influence are the USA with a commanding presence on the internet and software through Google, Apple Microsoft and the likes of Facebook,  China through manufacturing and even countries such as South Korea through Samsung.  The mix of influences now means a cultural mixing pot.


The population growth of the previous (20th) century is not predicted to be matched ever again using the boldest of the ‘high’ projections, while humans exist on this earth.  Matching 20th century growth would result in a global population of around 24billion, and the most extreme estimates are below half of that level. In fact during the information/eco age I suggest population may even start to decline globally.  Note that birth rates in developed countries are already at levels that should produce a decline.

Economic Markets.

There is still growth of markets possible from and economic perspective as their are still countries well below developed levels.  The ratio of these countries to developed countries is lower than during the industrial/growth age.  Combined with substantially lower population growth, this means that lower nationwide economic growth is the reality.  Without the same population growth, economic growth per capita can still be strong, but the current economic system is not keyed to this an indicator.


We currently have a state of flux.  The most intensely disenfranchised are being lured to extremist religion and terrorism. What will happen is a very complex picture.



Lead, Crime and Justice

A quick internet search with the keywords ‘lead crime’ in the search bar will reveal many articles such as this which all propose that lead pollution in the air caused a dramatic increase in violent crime. Any victim of violent crime in affected locations has a right to feel disturbed by this, but what about perpetrators of violent crime? Continue reading “Lead, Crime and Justice”

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: