The Age of (Irrational) Exuberance

The concept of irrational exuberance came to me in the bathtub one morning as I was writing a speech.

Alan Greenspan, 2007[1]

Human population, organized into industrial societies and blind to the temporariness of carrying capacity supplements based on exhaustible resource dependence, responded by increasing more exuberantly than ever, even though this meant overshooting the number our planet could permanently support. Something akin to bankruptcy was the inevitable sequel.

William Catton, Overshoot, 1980[2]

The past four centuries of magnificent progress were made possible by two non-repeatable achievements: (a) discovery of a second hemisphere, and (b) development of ways to exploit the planet’s energy savings deposits, the fossil fuels. The resulting opportunities for economic and demographic exuberance convinced people that it was natural for the future to be better than the past. For a while that belief was a workable premise for our lives and institutions. But when the New World became more populated than the Old World had been, and when resource depletion became significant, the future had to be seen through different lenses.[4]

the world reentered an age of population pressure. Its characteristics had to resemble, in certain ways, the basic features of the Old World of pre-Columbian times. Except that now there were ever so many more human beings, all parts of the planet were in touch with each other, per capita impact on the biosphere had become enormously amplified by technology, depletion of many of the earth’s non-renewable resources was already far advanced — and the inhabitants of this post-exuberant world had acquired from the Age of Exuberance expectations of a perpetually expansive life.[5]

The idea that mankind could encounter hardships that simply will not go away was unthinkable in the Age of Exuberance. This idea must be faced in the post-exuberant world.[7]

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r3.0 is a pre-competitive & market-making non-profit delivering groundbreaking Blueprints, Transformation Journeys and Conferences for system value creation.

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