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The Olduvai Theory: Does it Really Mean the End of Humanity?

By Edited Dec 13, 2014 1 4


Do you read material about eschatology (the study of the coming apocalypse) often? If you do, you must have read an array of ghastly scenarios which are supposed to occur in the near future. Numerous scenarios include religious-related events which tend to be pretty disheartening. Even though the majority of eschatology is directly linked to religious apocalyptic events, there are some scientific based theories also.

Scientific doomsday events are more sough-after because of stringent research and theories backed by prominent scientists and researchers. One of these individuals in particular is Richard C. Duncan. In the late 1980s, Duncan strongly believed that petroleum would eventually deplete based on the world’s explosive population growth. Duncan later collaborated with a prominent geologist, Dr. Walter Youngquist. Eventually Duncan became the author of the “Olduvai theory”. Duncan felt that with his excessive knowledge (Duncan obtained a MS in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Systems Engineering in the early 1970s) and mathematical background this theory was both highly probable and inevitable. Later on, the origins of the Olduvai theory created an even stronger argument in favor of the peak oil theory.

Duncan's theory isn’t just about peak oil. It actually explains in great detail a scenario comparable to the Y2K (Year 2000) scare. The theory emphasizes a dramatic change in lifestyle which will force industrialized civilization as a whole to come to an abrupt halt. In other words, the year 2030 will be “reprogrammed” back to 1930. Hence, all vehicles will go back to horses and buggies, food will become scarce, and technological innovation will be stopped completely.


Proponents of this theory firmly support Duncan’s views especially because certain resources are finite and will ultimately deplete (coal, oil, and natural gas). Opponents of Duncan’s theory consistently created a valid counter-argument by criticizing his failure to mention nuclear energy and renewable energy sources. Moreover, Duncan was repeatedly criticized when he mentioned food shortages because he failed to acknowledge techniques such as vertical farming.  


Lastly, Duncan attempts to inundate the reader with repetitive doomsday scenarios of wide spread blackouts and inexorable epidemics which could proliferate rapidly. Once again, he fails to mention anything about new treatments, breakthrough vaccines, and massive investment which was injected into the medical sector over the past two decades.


Some will argue that the Olduvai theory is nothing but an augmented version of the peak oil theory. Surely, this theory contains some additional principles which attempts to persuade society into the direction of conjecturing this “doomsday scenario”. Fortunately, the chances of these events occurring are fairly slim. Duncan provides material which is equivocal and the theory's potential consequences seem to be greatly overemphasized.  




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Dec 13, 2014 2:55am
Civilization collapse has lead to lost technolog before (pyramides being an famous example) but with the explosion of information technology and ease of accessing knowledge for everyone, it is highly unlikely that the ability to do anything important will ever be lost again.
Dec 13, 2014 3:05am
I think there are nuggets of truth in many futuristic predictions - some have come true and some not. We need to maintain the free-flow of information around the world (between scientists and non-scientists). What concerns me most is if we lose the ability to educate the masses. We will reach critical turning points in civilization based on feedback systems we cannot control (such as global warming).
Dec 14, 2014 11:51am
Hi--I enjoyed your article but I give little, if any, credibility to the theory. I smiled at the thought of going back to horse and buggy days, however. Sounds quite appealing to me personally but it'll never...never happen. If anything, our future holds a cold, calloused high tech mentality and robotic personalities. If you ask me, the Age of Programming is in our unhappy futures but, of course, we'll be programmed not to know we're unhappy at all. Anyway, two thumbs for U, a rating and a new follower.
Dec 14, 2014 1:50pm
Thanks for the comments everybody. I appreciate the feedback.
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