Assuming we reach the middle of this century without destroying civilization in nano wars, bio wars, nuclear wars, or something else, and assuming that global climate chaos has not reduced us to a nasty, brutish remnant of what we are today, then how and where will we choose to live? In floating ocean cities, in space, undersea, or on land in towering mega-structures?
I’ve been writing about geoengineering since 2005, and have even published a short book on the subject (Hacking the Earth), looking primarily at the ethics and politics of the issue. The political aspects are, in my view, the most important, yet they’ve received little attention.
Because I’m not reflexively opposed to geoengineering research, and because I increasingly suspect that some level of albedo-management geoengineering will be necessary simply due to climate disruption happening faster than previously expected, some people tend to assume that I’m a geoengineering advocate. I’m not—but as I’ve noted before, I do believe that it would be less disastrous than climate-driven depopulation. Nonetheless, geoengineering is all-but-certain to have undesirable consequences, both politically (see next post) and environmentally.
How much can we learn from science fiction authors? From their novels and short stories, sometimes a lot and sometimes a little, depending mostly on how deeply they think and how well they write. But what about from their non-fiction works?
Apocalyptic thinking is frequently found in certain future scenarios, especially when those scenarios are created by people concerned with military conflict, climate change, artificial intelligence, disease outbreaks, or other scary possibilities.
Social Ecology is a philosophy which states that environmental, social, and economic problems all have the same root: namely, the way people treat each other. By this same logic, if we can establish new structures and norms by which to operate, we can alleviate many of these problems.
[Warning: Contains spoilers for the Battlestar Galactica episode The Oath] It can be easy when experiencing an engaging story to be wrapped up in a world where problems seem much bigger, much more exciting, and more a matter of life and death than real life. The fast-paced action seems to involve much more important issues than our trivial day to day problems. But that impression is a mistake, because even though the major problems we face aren’t as immediate, we all face problems just as big and important, and it is our responsibility to take action that affects them.
The article The radiative forcing potential of different climate geoengineering options is now out and available for download and discussion. As expected, it offers one of the first useful comparisons of different geoengineering techniques.
As we prepare for the emergence of the next generation of apocalyptic weapons, it needs to be acknowledged that the world’s democracies are set to face their gravest challenge yet as viable and ongoing political options.
The IEET, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and the Lifeboat Foundation hosted a meeting on Global Catastrophic Risks on Friday, November 14 in Mountain View, California. Jeriaska generously videotaped and transcribed the talk given by IEET executive director J. Hughes in favor of strengthening transnational governance to mitigate risks.Video and audio of the talk are also available, as are the slides.
Shortages are not in short supply these days, here in the USA: we have a shortage of credit, a shortage of jobs, a shortage of budget revenue, and a shortage of good will from around the world. But one thing not in shortage is advice for the incoming President.
I was pinged recently by the UK outfit Forum for the Future, a foresight team specializing in sustainable futures. They wanted to know what I thought would be the key issues the world would be confronting in 2030. “Climate” is the first thing that popped to mind, unsurprisingly, and we talked for a bit about what that might look like. (I also argued for molecular nanotechnology as a likely disruptive element to the world of 2030, and I’ll examine what that might mean down the road.)
Some say that once exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing (MM) is achieved, our worries about global warming and climate change will be over. A relatively simple solution like tiny balloons fitted with adjustable mirrors could give us all the control we need to moderate warming and create preferred climate conditions.
In today's catastrophic risks and resilience seminar, perhaps the most disturbing presentation was by J. Storrs (Josh) Hall, who gave a talk on “The Weather Machine: Nano-enabled Climate Control for the Earth.”
Do the current economic slowdown, the dwindling of fossil fuels, and the looming disasters of climate change mean we should aspire to a new steady state economic model, instead of the growth-based economics of the past? Or do emerging technologies like nanotechnology offer a third alternative, a growing and sustainable economy?
By definition, distant (long-term) problems are those that show their real impact at some point in the not-near future; arbitrarily, we can say five or more years, but many of them won’t have significant effects for decades. Our habit, and the institutions we’ve built, tend to look at long-term problems as more-or-less identical: Something big will happen later. For the most part, we simply wait until the long-term becomes the near-term before we act.
As I see it there are three main categories of risk: bio, nano, and AI/robotics. These man-made risks make up the vast majority of the threat magnitude over the coming century and deserve most of the attention.
with co-authors Anders Sandberg and Jason G. Matheny
In the early morning of September 10, the Large Hadron Collider will be tested for the first time amid concern that the device could create a blackhole that will destroy the Earth. If you’re reading this afterwards, the Earth survived. Still, the event provides an opportunity to reflect on the possibility of human extinction. Since 1947, the Bulletin has maintained the Doomsday Clock, which “conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction—the figurative midnight—and monitors the means humankind could use to obliterate itself.” The Clock may have been the first effort to educate the general public about the real possibility of human extinction.
A new pandemic is sweeping the planet. Police fired on secessionist demonstrators in Oregon. The Chinese government is trying (unsuccessfully) to suppress news of eco-terrorists bombing multiple coal-fired power plants. We’re looking at climate refugees numbering in the tens of millions. The human race will go extinct by 2042.