This paper entitled Lotka’s wheel and the long arm of history: how does the distant past determine today’s global rate of energy consumption? is in the works by Timothy Garrett, Mathias Grasselli and Stephen Keen.
It seems to reveal a dynamic in which continued waves of growth (especially in technological projects seen as essential for “progress” will begin to starve the corpus of civilization through hyperinflation since the new projects will not be using truly surplus sources of energy, but sources that are essential for maintaining the foundations of civilization.
To me, this seems to be exactly the course our leaders have embarked upon, using energy stocks essential for the metabolic maintenance of civilization to build things like new super-cities, Mars colonies, 5G surveillance states, AI, robotics, etc.
Lotka’a Wheel (Burn more faster.)
“Alfred J. Lotka regarded the “life-struggle” as a competition for available energy. The role in this struggle of any physical system, subject to external constraints, is to maximize the flow of energy through it. Lotka proposed, “The influence of man, as the most successful species in the competitive struggle, seems to have been to accelerate the circulation of matter through the life cycle, both by `enlarging the wheel’, and by causing it to `spin faster’ … the physical quantity in question is of the dimensions of power”. “In every instance considered, natural selection will so operate as to increase the total mass of the organic system, to increase the rate of circulation of matter through the system, and to increase the total energy flux through the system, so long as there is presented an un-utilized residue of matter and available energy” (Lotka, 1922) (our italics).
“It is important to note, however, that zero real, inflation-adjusted production does not forbid nonzero, positive nominal production. If there is a large difference between the nominal and real GDP, it appears in economic accounts as high values of the GDP deflator or as hyperinflation. Interpreted physically, civilization dissipates energy along previously produced networks. Even as current production continues to grow these networks, there is concurrent fraying of those previously constructed that is sufficient to offset any productive gains Garrett (2014).
A metabolic steady state may only represent a temporary marker prior to more complete collapse, thermodynamic as well as economic, given the severe constraints hyperinflation would impose on modern society. Along the pathway of contraction, any external resources that become available to civilization would no longer be sufficient to count as an un-utilized residue available for further growth. Like a patient consumed by cancer, production would be more than offset by consumption – burning the furniture to heat the house, so to speak. Nominal production might remain, but it would be fueled more by internal than external resources. Eventually, civilization would attain a point of complete collapse, whereupon both civilization power and nominal production would equal zero.”
My interpretation is that if they starve the existing system with its eight-billion old-fashioned dissipative humans as they build their “future” using energy essential for the old civilization’s metabolism, they run the risk of collapsing the system entirely. Getting from here to there will involve slowly collapsing what they see as non-essential structures, including people, as their new structures appear.
Most likely they’ll never get the new system up and running before the collapse the old one.