By energy expended in the day-to-day operation of the new systems, I'm talking about BTUs being burned in producing parts, constantly inspecting and replacing parts with short lifespans. At some point, you are not creating enough "net gain" in energy from the total energy produced minus energy expended to claim a major victory in resolving your energy problem. This means the energy we produce in the future will come at a much higher cost. That cost will slow economic growth and remove much of the plentiful bounty we have come to expect and have enjoyed during what I call man's "golden age" or roughly the last 200 years.
Carry no illusions the days of cheap energy are behind us and not only has the low-hanging fruit been picked it has been eaten. Sadly, if we look back we will see much of this energy was allowed to go to waste. America has adopted the same attitude towards its buildings. In our fast-changing world, we have made everything disposable. A remove and replace mentality tends not to maximize gains or resources and creates a huge amount of waste. Often there is no way to reclaim much of this and even recycling is inefficient. This acceptable lifestyle and way of doing business has extended down to the point where most consumer goods have become non-repairable. With fast growth, we often see a lack of quality. I contend this is about to catch up with modern society.
As I ponder our fate is it possible the collective human race is also governed by the "Peter principle" and if so, how will humanity escape this trap? The Peter Principle is based on the notion that employees will get promoted as long as they are competent, but at some point will fail to get promoted beyond a certain job because it has become too challenging for them. Employees rise to their level of incompetence and stay there. I'm not saying that we can stop going forward or that we should erect barriers to our progress, but it would be wise to give issues more thought. We should ask at what point have we gone as far as we can go before we have sowed the seeds for a less than compelling future?
Footnote; As always comments are welcome and encouraged. This article goes hand in hand with another article that focuses on planning and sustainability. You can find that article below. http://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2014/04/planning-sustainable-future-for-mankind.html.