Do you know "Limits to growth"? Over forty years ago scientists of the Club of Rome prepared a computer model, showing that our exponentially growing economy, based on nonrenewable resources, is on a collision course with reality, heading for a crash. They also showed, that our deliberate intervention in the system's dynamics can prevent the disaster.
One can write hundreds of articles and books, but still it will be just passive transfer of knowledge. If one could only sit behind the control panel of our civilization and steer it through history... It would help understand why in the 20th century our history happened this way, it would let us look into the future and understand how our various decisions will influence it. Then, if something would go wrong, we could draw conclusions and try again. And once again, until everything is fine...
Here comes "World at the Crossroads" – a highly playable Windows computer game simulating the rise of the industrial civilization, from 1900 to 2200. You can look at it as a model of The Limits to Growth, commissioned by the Club of Rome in 1972, accommodating also financial system and societal interactions – converted into a strategy game. The game helps understand systems dynamics and complex interactions between Earth and human civilization.
You can undertake decisions influencing your economy, society, agriculture, energy infrastructure and pollution controls. The aim is simple: make people happy. The better you meet their needs and avoid crises, the higher score you will have.
The game realistically simulates key trends taking place during the growth of the industrial civilization. Demographic, economic data, energy use and extraction, food production and pollution are based on historical data. Models implemented in the game are also based on real data and dependencies.
The game very realistically re-creates our choices and the history of our civilization in the XXth century, showing, that the strategy of exponential growth was a very logical choice and an efficient way to provide well-being to the people. Running the simulation further in time shows nevertheless, that sticking to this strategy for too long may lead to serious trouble, and if we want to preserve the achieved well-being and have a good and safe future, far reaching changes will be necessary. What’s more, the faster they take place, the easier the transition will be.
You can start the game in 1900. Note that playing Europe or US is much different from playing Africa or India. You can also play today’s world, trying to pull it out of a series of incoming crises. You can try to build a world without fossil fuels. How about renewable or nuclear energy? You can check, how work breakneck growth and rapid technology development. You can also play a scenario, where you have to build a powerful economy, enabling you to destroy a huge asteroid being on a collision course with Earth – is it possible to maintain growth for centuries? Even if you hate all of humanity and other life on Earth and wish to exterminate it forever, You will find a scenario fitting your views.
Decisions have their consequences, though in many cases they manifest themselves years after. You will make decisions, face consequences and learn the connections. Playing the game you will notice that very often the most convenient in short-term decisions are a seed of a future trouble, and the actions aimed at a better future are costly and inconvenient in the short term. In the real world politicians prefer solutions that give quick payback – otherwise their chances for re-election would be dim. The ability to steer the country to the future, makes the difference between a politician and the statesman. Will you be a real one? Will you create a healthy economy, provide people with food and energy and limit adverse environmental consequences of our actions?
You are in charge of the civilization. Good luck!