Two of my favorite threads are Andrew Smith's Ultimate and Anti-Ultimate Theories. One posits that the world has ended, the other that someone wants to fool our losties into thinking that it has. This thread explores the related possibility that Hanso and the DeGroots feared that planetary catastrophe was imminent. First, a bit of background.
If you did high-school debate in the U.S., you're probably already familiar with the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus.
Malthus was the father of a simple theory of resource scarcity with terrifying implications. His claim was that populations, if unchecked, tend to grow exponentially (i.e., 1, 2, 4, 8, 16) while agricultural production tends toward arithmetic growth (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) over time. Population increases faster than the food supply, until famine, war, disease, etc. ends the fun.
Malthus influenced thinkers as diverse as Darwin, Marx, and Keynes. His characterization of agricultural productivity took a hit during the "green revolution" of the 1960s when the food supply exploded thanks to technological progress. But by the 1970s, neo-Malthusians were again preaching resource scarcity and prophesying imminent disaster.
Among the most prominent of these doomsayers was Paul Ehrlich, who predicted that a "population bomb" would cause catastrophic ecological collapse within decades unless radical changes were made. Ehrlich, who recommended that countries be embargoed if they refused to adopt mandatory birth control measures, famously warned:
The operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions. The pain may be intense. But the disease is so far advanced that only with radical surgery does the patient have a chance for survival.
Note the similarity between Ehrlich's comment and the latin line from the Blast Door (i.e, aegrescit medendo) that translates to "the remedy is worse than the disease." Ehrlich's critics would say that assessment fits his "cure" too.
The 1970s were also a time when nuclear power, once a symbol of military supremacy and clean energy, became synonymous with fear and destruction. Carl Sagan famously pondered if the Drake equation (predicting many advanced alien civilizations) and Fermi paradox (noting their absence) meant that technologically-advanced species tended toward self-annihilation.
The Dharma Initiative
Against this backdrop, Hanso partnered with the DeGroots to construct the Dharma Initiative, a scientific community devoted to studying the possibility of planetary catastrophe. Test subjects were secured in underground bunkers, and observed as they performed various tasks on faith. The plan may have been to include the best among them in a Platonic community of the future.
The print log Eko and Locke discovered in Pearl Hatch suggests a preoccupation with catastrophe. Some say that the print-log numbers imply a time range of close to 5,000 years. Clearly the countdown hasn't been running that long but the period itself may be significant. Many believe that global catastrophes tend to occur cyclically about every 5,000 years.
So what happened to Dharma? It's possible they, like Malthus and Ehrlich, got it wrong using static analysis to predict an inherently chaotic result like humanity's fate. The rate of population growth worldwide has actually slowed dramaticaly, while food production has increased exponentially. The cold war ended, minimizing the threat of mutual assured destruction.
The Next Generation
Nevertheless, since 9/11 there seems to be renewed interest in catastrophic predictions. Some fear environmental collapse, e.g., by global warming. Others warn of conflicts over finite energy resources like oil. Then there's the "doomsday curve," attorney and pornographer Greg Piccionelli's musical chart
of the exponential growth in technology's destructive potential.
Such dire warnings often accompany conspiracy theories involving private groups of VIPs like the Club of Rome. The Club publishes the Limits of Growth, an influential text on overpopulation and resource scarcity that first came out in the '70s. Interesting how Jack and his father were visited by a rich Italian and his daughter before coming to the Island.
And that has me wondering: what if Hanso (or someone) believes global crisis is again imminent? Perhaps he tried to reassemble surviving Dharma members such as Locke and Jack's daddies, who are like the original Flash and Green Lantern in Walt's comic. Maybe they proved too weak or unwilling, so he turned to the next generation, forcing Jack and Locke to become Faster Friends...
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