Dennis Gabor (1973) - The Predicament of Mankind

Dennis Gabor (1973)

The Predicament of Mankind

Dennis Gabor (1973)

The Predicament of Mankind

Comment

Dennis Gabor only participated in one of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and only gave one talk. But the message of his talk is so important that one would like to hear it being repeated every year. As an electrical engineer with a strong physics interest from childhood, at the end of the 1950’s Gabor started to transform into a global societal engineer and published several books in the field. In 1968, the Club of Rome started as a kind of international think-tank for important global questions, and Gabor found himself as one of the maximum 100 members. The title of his talk at the Lindau meeting is actually taken from the first prospect of the Club of Rome and he later also became a co-author of more formal reports. In his talk, Gabor describes how computer simulations sponsored by the Club point at some of the serious problems facing civilization: overpopulation, over-consumption, depletion of natural resources and pollution. According to the simulations, if these problems were not met, there would be a world catastrophe around year 2050. Gabor then makes a strong plea for a new technology, which uses inexhaustible or self-renewing resources. He points out that the fuel and energy crisis of the 1970’s shows that the computer simulation catastrophe may come much earlier and gives a number of suggestions on how to avoid an immediate energy collapse. Even in this talk from 1973, global warming and the melting of the arctic snowcaps is considered a risk, but not a serious one. Because of the extreme awareness of global warming today, some of Gabor’s temporary solutions involving the increased use of coal may seem a bit dated. But his good will shines through brightly and at the end of the talk he declares that he has full confidence that the applied scientists and technologists will use their creative spirit to match the seriousness of the problem. Looking. e.g., at the present rate of increase of wind power stations, one can conclude that Gabor’s confidence at least partly was well founded!

Anders Bárány

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