"The Dismal Theorem"- If the only ultimate check on the growth of population is misery, then the population will grow until it is miserable enough to stop its growth.Haiti, of course, is relatively self-contained and the situation may be salvageable through the efforts and wisdom of its own people, together with concerted external support. A nightmare is that Haiti's cycles of vulnerability, misery and destruction are a small prefiguring the global future for a civilisation that does not evolve to realise the moderately cheerful theorem.
"The Utterly Dismal Theorem" - This theorem states that any technical improvement can only relieve misery for a while, for so long as misery is the only check on population, the [technical] improvement will enable population to grow, and will soon enable more people to live in misery than before. The final result of [technical] improvements, therefore, is to increase the equilibrium population which is to increase the total sum of human misery.
"The moderately cheerful form of the Dismal Theorem" - Fortunately, it is not too difficult to restate the Dismal Theorem in a moderately cheerful form, which states that if something else, other than misery and starvation, can be found which will keep a prosperous population in check, the population does not have to grow until it is miserable and starves, and it can be stably prosperous.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Dismal, utterly dismal or moderately cheerful
As the extent of the devastation in Haiti was becoming clearer, I happened to be listening to Al Bartlett talking to Tim Harford and giving his own gloss on three theorems of Kenneth Boulding: