Limits to Growth: Interstellar Edition

From North’s Moses’ Law and Moore’s Law: More!

Compound Growth

Men want compound economic growth. Compounding raises the question of time and environmental limits. […]

Exponential curves eventually end. The population base hits the limits of its environment. Nothing material grows forever in a finite universe. With a rate of 2% growth per annum, any population becomes gigantic in a few centuries. This means that mankind will reach environmental limits to biological growth long before cosmic time runs out — in fact, long before the third millennium after Christ runs out. […]

We live in a finite universe. We are presently restrained in our little corner of the universe by the speed of light. There are other limits, such as the cost of space travel. We are tied to this earth for the time being. This makes our environment highly constricting.

Let’s assume

  • that there are 10^24 stars (10 to the power of 24, or 1 followed by 24 zeros: a septillion)
  • each system can hold 1 trillion people comfortably.
    • Our world could pull this off fairly easily, assuming the volume of the oceans is technologically cultivated for food production.
  • That therefore, the total possible human population in the universe is 10^33 people (10 to the power of 33: a decillion)

So then, at 2% growth, how long would it take for humanity to reach a population of a decillion, from a base of 7.4 billion at 2016?

Using the Math Celebrity Calculator, it will take 2,663 years.

And, again at 2% how long would it take for humanity to reach a population of a trillion, from a base of 7.4 billion at 2016?

Again using the Math Celebrity Calculator, it would take 245 years.

The various zero growth movements argue that we are running out of resources – “snow” – and therefore we should do what we can to slow down the snowball before it absorbs all the snow in its path.

(Points to Jupiter)

At our current rate of technological advancement, that planet should be terraformable in two centuries or so.

The real problem is that we can only travel at the speed of light, and what we’re really going to need is instantaneous travel at zero energy cost to any point in the universe, if we are really going to rise to a human population of a decillion.

I am quite comfortable with the assumption that the Second Coming will occur far before we get to that point. Recall that the Dominion Mandate only directly applied to Earth, and that we are only commanded to fill this one planet. After it’s filled – and a trillion people is a reasonably decent first-approximation of “filling the world” the Mandate we have been issued is complete.

The thing about the raw power to terraform a world or go FTL is that it puts an enormous amount of power in a very small set of hands… and why should those hands wish to expand into the universe, when he can be dictator of Earth instead? Or maybe he’ll just use that power to kill as many as he can, merely to prove that he can?

After all, any secularist can prove that vicious, nihilistic mass-murdering atheists tyrants are far more remembered – and celebrated, even after their crimes become public knowledge, as Mao, Hitler and Stalin still have millions of fans – than any number of honourable, humble, and long-forgotten Christian workers, building up their corner of the world day by day: and isn’t historical memory the only immortality that matters?

Well, I guess that it depends on if you believe in power above righteousness – the Darwinian philosophy – or if you believe in righteousness above power, as Christ and Moses taught.

Infinite God, Indefinite Limits

God is infinite. Thus, mankind’s knowledge of God can never reach any limit. In this sense, there is no limit on man’s knowledge. There are limits on knowledge in every time period, but in a world of limitless time and an infinite God, mankind could never reach a limit to knowledge.

This does not mean that man’s knowledge can ever be infinite. Man cannot become God. There is a crucial distinction between God’s infinitude and covenant-keeping man’s dominion covenant, which involves an eternal increase in knowledge. This is the theological distinction between the Creator and the creature, between man’s subordinate eternal temporal extension and God’s original eternality. Mankind’s existence is always analogous to God’s existence. Man will experience eternity as a creature, not as Creator. God’s temporal infiniteness is of a greater order of magnitude than man’s. He got here first.

It is my renewed awareness that God is infinite, that convinced me that we live in a finite universe. Infinity is a non-communicable Divine attribute: thus the universe, however vast and unmeasureable by Man (now, and perhaps ever), is not infinite.

And I have to admit, 24 septillion stars is plenty – especially if you suspect that the entire population of saved humanity is unlikely to get past a trillion, and is more likely to be 100 billion or so. Note that I would be pleased to be proven to be unduly pessimistic: eternity is going to be very long, the universe already can be seen to be very vast, and the more godly friends there are in the New Creation, the better!

God is infinite in both history and eternity. This raises an interesting question: Is man’s knowledge in history inherently unbounded by anything except time? Put differently, is there any environmentally fixed limit to the increase of mankind’s knowledge through history? The biblical answer is: “Only eschatology.” As a species, we will run out of time before we run out of opportunities for increased knowledge. Only when mankind runs out of time will the growth of mankind’s knowledge cease in history. Men will then move into eternity, which is qualitatively different from today’s bounded time: in the curse-free New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 21:1) and in the grace-free lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15).

I’m heading out for the curse-free New Heavens and New Earth, and be ruled by the Good King, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.

Where are you heading to?

What’s your Final Destination?

This raises another question: Must the argument for the limits to physical growth apply in the realm of knowledge? No. The possibility of compound knowledge is implied by Psalm 119: “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts” (Ps. 119:97-100). The limits on our knowledge are primarily temporal. Given more time, we can increase our knowledge.

But aren’t there limits to mankind’s collective intelligence in history? Yes; man cannot become God. Man cannot achieve omniscience, but this is not the same as saying that there are permanent environmental limits on man’s knowledge in history, other than time itself. The division of intellectual labor continues to add to mankind’s knowledge.

As humans, we need the division of labour to better extend dominion across time. (And across space as well: on Earth certainly, and perhaps beyond Earth in the fullness of time.)

Sure, we could just all individually depend on God, and He is capable of personally handling all of our needs. But God has a particular plan for us, that covenant-keepers must support and uphold. The Children of God are organized by God into the Body of Christ, where we each have our allotted task, working together, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Interdependence on each other, and a fundamental dependence on the Father and the Son, guided by the Holy Spirit, is what is desired by the Blessed Trinity.

And, God purifying me, I will be in a position to give God what is rightfully His, in the name and by the saving grace of Jesus Christ, my Master and King, God and Saviour.

Moore’s Law

Then what about information? Is it also inherently unlimited? Yes.

[…]

Man is made in God’s image. Therefore, covenant-breaking man’s satiety can never be reached, for God is infinite, and covenant-breaking man wants to become like God.

Covenant-breaking man is a fool.

Man’s capacity for consuming additional scarce economic resources will never end. In contrast, his ability: to manage faithfully what he owns is always in question. Covenant-breaking man’s quest for omniscience and limitless wealth is demonic, for man can never become God.

Not even if the enemies of God organize themselves into a State, a Kingdom… or even a Caliphate.

A New World Order won’t cut it, either.

Nevertheless, the desire for more knowledge is legitimate, and in fact is mandated by God as a means of dominion (Gen. 1:26-27). More knowledge does not necessarily imply infinite knowledge. It implies only the exponential curve, which approaches infinity (God) as a limit, but never reaches it.

The Exponential Curve of Knowledge

The question is: “Knowledge for what purpose?” There are covenant-keeping purposes. The prospect of ever-growing knowledge is a wonderful one: better to explore the infinite God and His works. The desire for ever-expanding information is not inherently illegitimate, but the desire for more knowledge in order to replace God’s knowledge is demonic. The dividing issue, as always, is covenantal faithfulness.

There are positive covenantal sanctions in history. There are also negative sanctions. The exponential power of the computer chip seems to present a brave new world of compounding information. But information is not a legitimate substitute for biblical wisdom: the knowledge of God’s law.

We are saved by Christ, God’s grace… and not the Law.

That being said, we show our love for Christ by obeying His Law-word.

Dedicating our lives to the Glory of God does not earn us salvation. But, after accepting the gift of salvation by the hand of Jesus Christ, it is a reasonable way of showing our gratitude to God, Father and Son, as guided by the Holy Spirit.

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