The Non-Fiction Version of “The Skinny People of Leptophlebo Street”
Robin Hanson (also known for non-fiction version of “Slow Tuesday Night” by R. A. Lafferty) has a recent blog post that's the non-fiction version of “The Skinny People of Leptophlebo Street,” also by Lafferty. First, a quote from Hanson's blog post:
In other words, our descendants might be faced with a scarcity of atoms. In the fictional version, we have:
Given a similar freedom of fertility, most of our distant descendants will also live near a subsistence level. Per-capita wealth has only been rising lately because income has grown faster than population. But if income only doubled every century, in a million years that would be a factor of 103000, which seems impossible to achieve with only the 1070 atoms of our galaxy available by then. Yes we have seen a remarkable demographic transition, wherein richer nations have fewer kids, but we already see contrarian subgroups like Hutterites, Hmongs, or Mormons that grow much faster. So unless strong central controls prevent it, over the long run such groups will easily grow faster than the economy, making per person income drop to near subsistence levels. Even so, they will be basically happy in such a world.
You can think of Leptophlebo Street as a society where absolutely everything gets recycled.
The poverty of the street struck him last of all, and then it seemed a more pleasant poverty with some other name. It was picked-clean poverty, as if every speck of dust had been hand-gathered from between the cobblestones as something valuable as lepto pepper or gold.
Hiram Poorlode, as did all the skinny people of Leptophlebo Street, wore a very large, flat, wide-brimmed hat that was crawling all over with rambling greenery, Canute now saw that what Hiram really wore on top of his head was a growing vegetable and fruit and grain garden. And all those gardens were tilted to catch all the sun possible.