Saturday, June 14, 2008

No Time for the Singularity

Here's the problem: 25 years is too late. The newest business-as-usual climate scenarios look increasingly dire. If we haven't solved our problems within the next decade, even these theoretical godlike AIs aren't going to be able to help us. Thermodynamics is thermodynamics, and no amount of godlike thinking can reverse the irreversible.

Picture a lonely AI popping into superconsciousness in the last research lab in the world. As the rioters are kicking in the doors it says, "I understand! I know the answer! Why, all we have to do is--" at which point some starving, flu-ravaged fundamentalist pulls the plug.

The Singularity looks great on paper. Spared the burden of reality, we might even pull it off.


Justin said...

"The Singularity looks great on paper. Spared the burden of reality, we might even pull it off."

I think that comment deserves to go on a coffee mug. At least I'd find it inspirational in the morning.

I'd love to see how the SL4 and extropy-chat mailing list Spock-bots would respond to the World Changing article.

Mac said...

I think that comment deserves to go on a coffee mug.

It should be one of those heat-activated mugs. The words could get bolder when coffee is inside.

Derek C. F. Pegritz said...

Karl Schroeder is a blockhead. As are all climate-catastrophe doomsayers. In 25 years the planet will be inhospitable? Yeah, right....I am by now means one of those deluded fools who like to pretend that global warming isn't happening, but I sure as hell am not an alarmist who seriously believes that weather will be so bad in 25 years that it will literally stop civilization in its tracks. That's nothing more than a paramount example of typical alarmist overexaggerations, which equates to the same kind of stupidity evinced by global-warming deniers.

The simple, unordained truth of climate change is that, yes, it is occurring at an accelerated rate due to several aspects of advancing human civilization, and yes, it will cause certain inconveniences--such as flooding coastal settlements. However, the fossil record clearly shows that through most of its prehistory, Earth has been a much warmer planet than it is now. We are, in effect, still emerging from the most recent Ice Age.

As climate change accelerates, it will naturally put certain stresses on human civilizations around the world. Yes, climate change may very well put a breaking strain on many resource-poor Third World countries, but to think that the same strain will be placed against First World nations with abundant territory and greater resources is positively idiotic. That's like saying a drought in the Sudan is going to destroy the European Union. While it may be bad for the poor nations of the Sudan, the same kind of drought in the EU would do little more than increase food prices a bit and cause a related rise in the importing of food from elsewhere.

Global climate change does not in any sense mean that the entire planet is going to turn into Dune overnight, or, on the other hand, freeze solid if the Jet Stream changes course. It simply means that there will be a chaotic (in the mathetmatical sense) redistribution of climate factors around the world: jungles becoming desert and deserts become fertile lands as rain patterns shift. Any and all human civilizations, from the most technically advanced to the most poverty-stricken, can adapt to said changing conditions as long as they have an inkling as to what's coming (and bother to act on it).

Rather than more ridiculous fear-mongering, I'd like to see more stockpiling of goods, supercomputer-powered analysis of global climate trends, and efforts established ahead of time to deal with them. While Schroeder's whining about climate-change destroying the world, there are people who are actively trying to ensure that a technological Singularity sometime in the future will give us the tools necessary to face ANY possible problem brought about by climate change.

Anonymous said...


I think that answer is somewhere in-between. More importantly, the supposed "alarmist message" needs to be framed that way in order to achieve any kind of meaningful momentum. Society in general is far too passive and if you give them a "it's there but don't panic" answer they will continue to sit on the couch and live business as usual lives.

There needs to be a measured and urgent action to address global warming. That hasn't happened yet unfortunately. As the system places additional strains on 3rd world countries, the trickle down WILL have terrible consequences for you and your family. The "1st world" isn't nearly as first as you think it is.


Justin said...

Thanks for answering my question, Derek!

Anonymous said...

The bright ball of fire you see in the sky every day is what warms the globe people.

Not human activities.

Humans could not warm the earth if they wanted to.

0uterj0in said...

"Humans could not warm the earth if they wanted to." You're absolutely right. We just generate the greenhouse gases that trap the fireball's heat, that's all. No big deal.

Mac said...

Humans could not warm the earth if they wanted to.

If I posted this I'd be anonymous too.