bacteria population as a model for humanity


Registered Member
I just had a very disturbing idea. The growth of bacteria in an organism can be simplified to a model composed of 4 stages: lag (slow growth as the bacteria gets used to surroundings and knocks down immediate defenses), log (ideal exponential growth, fast!), stationary (due to overcrowding + lack of resources, deaths=births, sort of a maximum), and finally, decline. What if the existance of man on the planet Earth follows this? Imagine, initally civilization starts out slow, as we discover fire, start agriculture, etc. Now we've reached optimal growth conditions, and the population of Earth is growing exponentially. There are concerns though, of depletion of various resources. What happens if we are like bacteria? How far _will_ humanity get before this happens? Where are we along the curve? Will we discover our planet is being destroyed, and find we must go to another (like bacteria leaving an organism)?

Just some happy thoughts for your sleep.
I can not prove it, but I think humans have been growing, dying off for the last 435 million years matching the 5 ELEs and intermediate ice ages. We may someday find civilization buried under the sea that is millions of years old.

If we move a little faster, may be we will get out of this little blue planet before the next big one hits....
I don't know how closely one could relate the life cycle of a bacteria population to a human one, but I don't think humanity's chances for survival in the long run are good.

Because of our animal nature, it seems (to me at least) unlikely for us to ever reestablish a true homeostatic equilibrium with our environment. As our population currently increases at a rate of 2 million people every 10 days, the need for more resources grows while the availability of others diminishes. Meanwhile, we continue to pollute our environment which may make it much more difficult to grow food in the future.

Even if we figure out how to colonize other worlds, there will always be exhaustible supplies of vital resources. We will only have bought ourselves more time—centuries or possibly even millennia, but the problem will not have been eradicated.

I think the only chance we have is to somehow convince everybody that they must not rape their resources at the expense of the environment. But we certainly aren’t making much progress with this cause. Environmental awareness is very serious, but the efforts of the noble few are hardly making a dent in the overall abuse our planet is taking.

Therefore, I doubt we will survive. Even if we don’t obliterate ourselves in some nuclear holocaust, I don’t see how we can accommodate all of the needy humans of the modern era. Maybe we’ll have to genetically remove our selfish survival instincts (okay, real theoretical here...) in order to create a race of altruistic selfless individuals collectively functioning as a unit (which would thereby make us something NOT human anymore) or maybe we’ll just evolve into something else…

I’m open to opposing views, though. I used to be very optimistic about our survival until I got to college and started taking some anthropology and environmental science/philosophy courses. But I would like to see the human race perpetuate itself forever!

Either way, I doubt any of us will be affected by any of this crap in our lifetimes. :)
Hi Seattleguy77

You have taken the first step in helping to save the humanity from itself. Welcome to sciforums. There is a way to create a homeostatic environment. Here are the ingredients needed.

1. You strongly believe and can articulate the cause to like minded people who in turn do the same.

2. Be pragmatic even though your ultimate goal is the homeostatic environment.

3. Use internet to spread the word

4. Strong marketing to start a support group like Sierra Club.

5. Let everybody pitch in a few dollars to run the organization as a point of information and research

6. Keep the greedy people out of the top layer of the organization. (Idiots somehow rise to the top in every organization, look at Enron)

You have my vote and a few fellow sciforums members.

Remember talk is cheap.
There has recently been found an acient city somewhere is South America. It was huge compared with the scale on Manhatten in New York. It collapsed under its own size as the area was all stone roads. The amount of percipitation caused flooding. The heat was absorbed and radiated bring up soaring tempratures. They left the city and the jungle reclaimed it.

It is an already established theory that humans act in a similar way to bacterium.
Any dominant animal with the right conditions will grow until the conditions change and the die off or become extinct.
You can go join the sierra club, stop everyone from chopping down trees, burning coal building damns. You put all these restrictions on industry guess what those bussinesses are going to different countries. China does whatever they want and there going to pollute while were over here in america where we cant get shit done because of this crap. My point is that we can do everything to stop pollution in america but its still going to happen. And if we put all these restrictions on our industry our prices go up and long story short were all speaking chinese.
Malthus gave a similar theory to this a few hundred years ago. He predicted a steady growth of food supply and an exponential growth of population. Once carrying capacity was exceeded, famine, war and disease would bring the population back down. Malthus' main flaw was the inability to forsee technological advancement as he lived many years before any techo-revolution.

Boserup, more recently, devised a theory in which she stated that "necessity is the mother of invention". I.e, as population begins to reach its carrying capacity, the high population is bound to give rise to intelligent people who can invent new means of efficient resource extraction etc. Boserups theory is more optimistic than Malthus' AND is more valid because of the time Boserups theory was published.
But efficiency improvements in farming small areas will reach a point of limiting returns, just as farming larger areas did in Malthus' time.

The logical premise still holds.
the trends of the human growth curve have certainly mimicked that of the r strategist nature of bacteria, but the key flaw is, as sage stated, technology is one factor that we have, which bacteria doesn now.

Though, its a double edged sword since technology is argueably the reason why we live longer, grow larger, pollute the environment, and push the limits of our planet to the brink. Either way, i dont think there will be a cataclismic event which wipes out a large majority of the human population, at least from natural means. Human growth trends, while somewhat resembling that of bacteria, are still those of K strategists. We are certainly a much more durable species per capita, and thus even if/when there is a dropoff or a plateau of the population curve (which the undoubtedly will be at some point), humanity will probably not experience the decline that a bacteria colony does, simply due to i) the ability to adapt using technology and our wits and ii) being less selective or specialized for an environment as a bacterium is.

Who knows?