Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Malthusian Paradox

What is the paradox?

In the late 1700s, Thomas Malthus put forward a theory; with food production at best increasing at a linear rate, while population increases at an exponential rate, at some point there would simply be far too many people to feed. If we leave things uncontested this would be a certainty... and to avoid it, and therefore save people, the perceived solution is artificial population control.

This, then, is Malthus' paradox; in order to save lives, we have to end them. In theory, of course. In truth, there's really no proof of his claims, and 300 years later we still haven't reached a theoretical tipping point that, centuries ago, Malthus foresaw as inevitable. The reason is partly technological. As time has gone on, we've found ways to increase food production at rates he couldn't have foreseen. But how far can we, or should we, push this? Are there technologies we shouldn't employ?

Currently, if you head over to weareamber.com, you can sign up with AMBER, and take part in the search for Dr. Solomon Baxter, kidnapped by an evil bio-research corporation called TFT while giving a talk on genetically altered crops. You become part of a group working towards sets of assignments; clues come up and must be solved, awareness must be spread, and members are tasked with creating their own methods of communicating and working together. So far, it's a journey that's taken us through works of literature, famous board games, experimental art technology and server hacking.

What's not clear so far is how this fits in with the Malthusian paradox itself. Certainly, proponents of malthusianism itself would constitute genetically altered crops as a positive, increasing the food supply and pushing back the dangers of worldwide shortages. But by joining AMBER, your position stands directly opposite this; your role is that of an anti-establishment activist, standing opposed to dangerous genetic manipulation, and facing off against a big business in cahoots with the government to control the population. There's no question who the bad guy in this scenario is.

Time will tell where AMBER's path goes and where we follow, and how Thomas Malthus fits into the equation. In the meantime, if you'd like to see how this story goes on, head on over to the AMBER website and sign up.

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