Why we want infinite energy

Published: Apr 16, 2023 by Vlad George Ardelean

Here are some reasons why we think an endless source of energy would be a good thing.

To prevent any disaster

Current science tells us that even if our species survives and is able to make scientific progress after the climate changes, we will always have challenges in front of us, for example:

  • running out of fossil fuels completely
  • running out of sand, phosphorus, rare metals
  • global pandemics
  • asteroid collisions
  • supernovae explosions
  • in 500 million years, there will not be enough CO2 to sustain photosynthesis
  • in 5 billion years, the Sun will enlarge, and swallow Earth completely
  • if we colonize other stars by then, they will all eventually suffer a similar fate
  • red dwarves, the stars predicted to be the longest lasting ones will too, eventually, run out of fuel, and will not be able to sustain life
  • after enough time, all the matter in the universe will be sucked into black holes
  • even if we could deploy techniques such as black-hole farming, even the black holes themselves would not last forever

To be able to give everyone everything they need and want

A source of infinite energy gives us hope that we could avoid any such disasters, basically forever. Not only this, but probably we could do a lot of other cool things, if we had lots of energy, among which:

  • maintain the possibility of exponential growth forever (economics)
  • everyone can have their own planet, solar system, galaxy, or why not, universe
  • no need for conflicts ever -> everyone can have everything they want.
  • not enough room on the planet? We can create other planets, like Earth
  • not enough room in the solar system? We can create other solar systems
  • the end of the universe is too far away? With infinite energy, you could fly there in very little time (accelerating at 1g for enough time will lead to relativistic effects, whereby one would feel a lot less time has passed for traveling huge distances)

No, renewables and fusion are not good enough

Any energy source that’s not infinite, will eventually run out

However we look at it, any kind of civilization will need energy in some form. Any energy source that is not infinite, will run out, and the civilization using it will die out. We can’t use “they’ll just find another energy source”, because this is basically the same as saying “they’ll find an infinite amount of times another energy source”, and this is just the same as saying “they’ll find an infinite energy source”.

Others say that we should not concern ourselves too much about what will happen far into the future, but we don’t think this point of view represents what we actually want from our future. Accepting that the future brings death (for the individual, species, and all possible life in the universe) is just something we got accustomed to, and extrapolated from how life on Earth works.

Sure, humans have gotten really good at accepting what they see as inevitable outcomes. This is a good effort, because in case we get to these undesirable outcomes (death, heat death of the universe, etc.), we’ll at least be mentally prepared to handle them.

We think however that alongside mental preparation for undesired outcomes, we should also do our best to avoid them.

No, reducing energy usage to a minimum is not good enough

However slowly we consume energy, at some point it might run out. We might even get into the scenario where energy is not the bottleneck anymore. We can imagine a scenario where humans are living on a planet that still has a friendly star. That friendly star still has trillions of years of life in it. On the planet however, people run out of usable phosphorus, because they can’t find a way to recycle it properly.

An endless source of energy helps here too! With that, we can conceivably create any amount of material that we need, and we can just supplement what we can’t recycle.

If energy remains society’s bottleneck even if we reduce consumption to a minimum, we’re simply kicking the can down the road and passing the problem on to future generations. This can be interpreted slightly worse: we’re specifically choosing not to do the best we can, and we’re deliberately choosing to ignore a problem that might not be solvable so easily later.

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