Thanos & Apples


Have you ever heard the term “exponential growth”?  Exponential growth is defined as growth whose rate becomes ever more rapid in proportion to the growing total number or size”.   An easy way to conceptualize this multiplying effect is through apples.

Let’s say I gave you an apple today, and told you that each new day I would give you an additional apple for each one you owned.  On day two, you would receive one new apple to go with the one you were already given. On day three, you would receive two new apples to go with the two you now owned.  On day four, you would be given four apples to go with the four apples you owned. By the end of the week you would end up with 64 apples!!!


If you’re a fan of apples, you have now become a wealthy and happy person.  

What if we looked at exponential growth in terms of human population.  Take a look at this chart

Are you beginning to see the problem?  Let’s say you’re still a person who loves apples, and the resources of our planet are finite (which they are).  This means the Earth can only support the growth of so many apples. If human population continues to grow at this accelerated rate while the supply of apples cannot, eventually some people must surrender their love of apples.

This conceptual, albeit very real dilemma facing Earth and its human population, is the heartbreaking issue that drives Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.  In the movie we learn that Thanos intends to wipe out half of the Universe’s population, and we are led to believe that this desire is based on his lust for death; however, the movie gives us a compelling backstory.  We eventually find out that his home planet, Titan, was once a flourishing society that grew beyond its means, and did nothing to turn the tide before it was too late. Thanos offered the logical, but difficult solution of arbitrarily wiping out half the population.  This price was deemed too high and the planet collapsed.

imagesWhen I was in grade school, my biology textbook explained ecological balance by using hawks and rabbits.  The population of hawks and rabbits naturally regulate one another. If the rabbit population sees significant growth, there is more food for the hawks.  This increase in nutrition allows the hawks to have more offspring, and in turn, causes an increase in the population of hawks. As the hawk population grows and feeds on the rabbits, the rabbit population drops.  The food source for the hawks then decreases causing them to have less offspring and creating a regulatory balance.

Now, if the hawks are completely removed from the equation, the only things left to regulate the rabbit population are scarcity of food and disease.

The beauty of the human race is that we have made incredible technological and medical advancements.  We can mass produce food and heal ailments of all kind. We have essential pushed beyond our natural limits.  But what happens when we reach the point of critical mass?

The warning of Thanos is “Do Not Wait!”  As humans, we have allowed our intelligence to drive us.  We are always thinking “What’s possible?”, and then we shoot for it.  We neglect to ask the question, “What is reasonable”, or “What is sustainable”, or “What benefits us all”?

My hope is that we wake up to the eventuality of what is before us, and we do so before it is too late.  That we are able to move beyond intelligence and into the area of wisdom. As we do so, may we look to create a sustainable and beautiful future; not a future that finds the human race trapped and in need of desperate decisions.

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