Saturday, 7 December 2013

Why I Don't Worry About Global Warming (Much)

I don't worry about global warming or any other threat whose most important effects are several decades out. Technology is going to change everything by then: either we'll kill ourselves in more immediate ways, or at least destroy most of civilization (which would do a lot to reduce carbon emissions!) --- or we'll make a lot more technological progress, probably developing brain uploading, strong AI, or other game-changing capabilities we can't forsee yet. Probably the former.

People who worry about what will happen when the sun burns out in five billion years are the worst.


  1. Are you trying to say that just because the future might bring other benefits and problems, we shouldn't act on the current information we have about the climate, and projections of it? (If this isn't what you mean, I'm sorry that I misinterpreted your post.) To me this course of (non-)action sounds very irresponsible and egoistic. Also, I don't see why any of the potential technological advances that you mention should make it less necessary (for the well-being of humans) to work on reducing climate change right now. Especially since the climate is a system with very high "inertia", it will be harder to reverse climate change the longer we continue on the same track. I don't think it's a good idea to just leave this problem to coming generations.

    1. >>> Are you trying to say that just because the future might bring other benefits and problems, we shouldn't act on the current information we have about the climate, and projections of it? <<<


      I'm not a Singularitarian but strong AI or brain-upload would change our world utterly. Organic human life might not even survive it. If we do, we will likely have vast new capabilities such as access to resources in space.

    2. Okay, I'm sorry, I just couldn't quite see where you were going with this, and I've seen so many versions of climate change denialists lately that that was my first guess.

      I agree that such technological advances that you mention could seriously change the world we live in, although I haven't thought about that much. I seriously doubt we will have brain upload within this century, though, but strong AI I think we might pull off.

      Still, I think "saving the nature", such as in not rapidly changing the conditions on earth so that species are killed off, would be desirable and valuable even if all of humanity was uploaded somehow.

      Honestly, I can't really follow your train of thought regarding why you don't worry about global warming because we might advance technologically in such ways as you mention. Maybe I need to think more about this. :)

  2. Wouldn't large populationgs dying due to starvation/lack of resources be something worth avoiding?

    1. Yes. I think we probably will avoid them.Mostly likely we will avoid them because something else will strike first :-(.

    2. "probably"

      Is it fair to gamble with other peoples futures - if it's only "probable" that we'll figure something out? Sounds like an unfair gamble to me.

    3. When we're working on future problems there is only "probably".

    4. Yes. But all options are not equiprobable.

      We're talking about a clearly understood risk with high probabilities of large damages. And a small probability of catastrophic damages. The hysteresis effects make it much more difficult to solve later.

      You're wading into an issue with a large body of published research - both physical science and economics - and just saying "Well I don't really know anything about this - but I'm an optimistic guy so - I guess everything is going to be alright."

      What if your techno-optimism is misfounded - who pays for your mistaken judgement?

    5. That is a gross mischaracterization of my position.

    6. Perhaps you could clarify your position then.

      This is what I read:

      "I don't worry about global warming or any other threat whose most important effects are several decades out. Technology is going to change everything by then"

      Sure - software and cell phone hardware changes quickly.

      Most of the big coal power stations running today will still be well within their designed operating lives in a couple of decades of time. Also consider how long a mine operates for.

      What kind of technology can you imagine that will suddenly appear within the next decade or two, and will convince the existing owners of the power stations and mines to give up on their investments? (And citing doomsday scenarios isn't a useful answer)

      I'm sorry - but your statement appears hopelessly naive.

      It's as if you believe that peoples actions are unimportant and all outcomes are predetermined so we shouldn't worry about anything.

      Where should these technologies come from? Who is going to develop them? How much should we invest in these new technologies? These are actually all important collective decisions that are made being made by our society - whether you choose to participate or not.

    7. I guess you hit it on the head at the end. I choose not to participate in those decisions, and I don't worry about them. There's another set of important issues that I can do something concrete about, and I focus on those.

  3. I think what you've written in this last comment is very different to what you've written in the original blog post. The blog post itself is "participation" in our collective society's discussion and decision making process. It suggests for others not to worry because technology will come to the rescue someday. Perhaps you should update the blog post to make it more clear what you actually mean.

    Also - with many issues remaining silent and not participating just means supporting the status quo. I think it's important for technology literate people to talk to people about science/technology based issues - including climate. Even if it is just amongst their friends and families. Without this discussion democracy fails to address these problems.

    1. Why would you want me talking to people when you've already determined I'm ignorant?

      Anyway, I'd rather spend my time talking to people about the risks of nuclear proliferation, biological engineering, runaway AI, corporate power, the surveillance state, non-existent cybersecurity, etc, many of which I regard as even more existential threats than climate change but get far less press. But I'm not going to stop you or anyone else agitating for what you think is important.

    2. The surveillance state seems to be getting far more press than climate change. It's about time that state surveillance was in the spotlight though. I also agree on the others - they are definitely low profile but also important.

      My guess is you're more capable of understanding the issues on energy technology than many others.

      Thanks for the chat. Probably said all that needs to be said.


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