The Goldilocks Zone vs. Unbounded growth

The concept of the Goldilocks Zone reminds us that most typically, there is a range of possibilities above and below which would not be viable. This is in contrast to the idea of unbounded growth, in which one or more key performance indicators is expected to continue to grow forever, without bounds. Think: up and to the right.

Commonly used as a metaphor, the Goldilocks Zone has its origins in planetary science. It defines a planet that is within the habitable zone of its star system, meaning not too hot and not too cold — with the ability to sustain liquid water. Without it, life on the only living planet we know — ours — would cease to exist. Therefore, one good place to look for potential life on other planets is the Goldilocks Zone, which has also come to be used as a reference meaning “the perfect conditions” for some ideal state or goal.

“Going viral” isn’t always desirable

We crave it in our social media feeds, but avoid it like the plague when it is the plague — viral contagion can both giveth and taketh away. In America we’ve recently been having both as of this writing.

Whereas the Goldilocks Zone presupposes limits at both ends, unbounded growth expects no limits to ever be encountered from the start. In a finite world inside a finite universe, it is simply unlikely to be true with much regularity.

You could say that Goldilocks Zones know a lot about establishing boundaries, while the infinite growth areas tend to extremism. Beyond the pandemic, cancer is another infamous candidate for illustrating the dangers of growth without bounds. Arguably, hypercapitalism belongs.

The Goldilocks Zone is a moderate

Goldilocks Zones are akin to the center of the Bell curve; the boundaries of the margin of error; the middle path. James Madison would have been a fan of the Goldilocks Zone — it would have smelled to him like his own concept of the moderating force of many factions preventing too much extremism from taking root in governance, and reminded him of the insights of the Marquis de Condorcet.

“Moderation in all things” was made famous by first the Greeks and later the Romans. It is a kind of ancient wisdom that turns out to have very old roots indeed — back even to the early days of the universe.

Turn Republican short-sightedness into financial upside: invest in solar

As members of the white male oligarchy fall all over themselves to mock the Green New Deal in their prostrate subservience to special interest lobbyists and Wall Street, there’s an opportunity hanging out in the wind (…but mostly in the sun) for Main Street.

People who claim that solar power isn’t scalable are living like it’s 1999, or 1984, or maybe 1924. Solar power has been shown to so far follow the edicts of Moore’s Law, which describes the doubling of the number of transistors on the same size chip every 18 months to 2 years — leading to predictable cost reductions over time for technologies that exhibit this kind of growth curve.

Meanwhile, the substrates upon which solar photovoltaic cells can be deployed are getting smaller — ridiculously smaller. Thinner than a strand of human hair. Of course those solar implementations are still insanely expensive, but give Moore’s Law and markets some time to work and at some point (and probably in this lifetime, for some of us) we’ll be in a world where PV cells are everywhere — almost literally. We will pass out of the age of fossil fuel scarcity and into an age of true energy abundance, in which power can be harvested from almost any given surface.

So, get yourself a nice little solar ETF and plow some money into it, or squirrel away little bits over time — whatever you can afford. Eventually you’re liable to be laughing all the way to the bank as the dinosaurs cry themselves to sleep at night before the feverish petroleum-soaked nightmares set in.