( A survival read of eight minutes)
These question have plagued mankind down the ages.
While some may consider such a discussion a waste of time, more and more people are coming to the conclusion that preparations of some sort are warranted in our current troubled environment — on many fronts.
What exactly are the “existential risks” that threaten the future of our species;
How do we measure them; and what can we do to prevent them?
Or to put it another way: In a world of multiple fears, what precisely should we be most terrified of?
Any single event or combination of events could cause terrible and debilitating circumstances for a short or long period of time: but what is the one to most likely to wipe us out?
The Philosophical answer is:
For the most part that mankind itself is the by far the most threatening threat to our existence we creating two more in the last blink of evolution. A cursory glance around the world reveals that, given the enormous problems facing our planet, it would be surprising if climate change did not crack a list of the top 10 immediate concerns.
Perhaps threat is not climate change, nor pandemic, nor nuclear winter; it is the possibly imminent creation of a general machine intelligence greater than our own.
However the rise of the machines isn’t the biggest threat to humanity.
It’s climate change, extreme weather and other environmental factors.
To be sure, the machines, rise of illiberalism, income inequality and a raft of other problems all could disrupt the global order, but they will not destroy it.
Here is my list:
The single biggest threat facing humanity is Climate Change > in terms of water crises, fresh air, food shortages, constrained economic growth, weaker societal cohesion and increased security risks resulting in large-scale involuntary migration.
The impacts of climate change are becoming clearer with each passing day as we continue to pour carbon pollution into our atmosphere at an unprecedented pace.
What are we doing about it?
Little or nothing. We appear to be passing the problem on to Technology.
Next: We have Technology. Not in itself but the unregulated software called Algorithms
What are we doing about it?
Nothing. We are in a hype cycle with expectations far beyond the technical reality.
Happy to hand our future to the black box of machine learning systems. Plug and play while we allow algorithms exploit the world for profit creating technological black holes around the globe.
Sophisticated algorithms can complete tasks we once thought impossible. Whether they decide to pulp us into human meat paste, or simply make our work completely unnecessary we will have to wait and see. ( See previous post re: A new world Organisation to vet all Technology to ensure it abides by our core human values)
Next: The terrifying rise of multi-drug resistant bacteria, as well as the ever-present threat of deadly viruses going pandemic, such as influenza and MERS.
What are we doing about it. Creating genetically modified crops, fiddling with DNA. Antibiotics do not create resistance per se.The rate of development of new antimicrobial agents has failed to keep pace with the “ingenuity” of bacteria to mutate and become resistant to antibiotics. When we should be minimize antibiotic usage and sneezing into our elbows.
Next: Nuclear proliferation, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction.
What are we doing about it. Not much. Nuclear warfare is not necessary to cause a breakdown of our society. Our society is so fragile, so dependent on the interworking of things to provide us with the goods and services that you don’t $1.25 r warfare to fragment us anymore than the Romans needed it to cause their eventual downfall. What is more likely is a coordinated cyber-attack. Money becomes worthless. We should ban all countries that sell arms from Trade deals.
Next: Poverty. One of the $1.25 realizations you see firsthand as you travel extensively worldwide is the extreme wealth, extreme poverty, and extreme corruption that exists in all of its world flavors. About 1.3 billion people don’t have electricity never mind food.
What are we doing about it.
We turn a blind eye to High frequency trading, and Sovereign wealth funds that are blundering the earth resources.
We raise the poverty line from $1.25 to $1.90. Just over 900 million people globally lived under this line in 2012 (based on the latest available data), and the project that in 2015, just over 700 million are living in extreme poverty. According to the most recent estimates, in 2013, 10.7 percent of the world’s population lived on less than US$1.90 a day, compared to 12.4 percent in 2012. That’s down from 35 percent in 1990. This means that, in 2013, 767 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day, down from 881 million in 2012 and 1.85 billion in 1990. Moreover, for those who have been able to move out of poverty, progress is often temporary: economic shocks, food insecurity and climate change threaten to rob them of their hard-won gains and force them back into poverty. It will be critical to find ways to tackle these issues as we make progress.
Next: Global financial panic. Derivative, debt crisis, economic collapse and/or bond implosion will cause currencies to implode and governments to topple.
What are we doing about it. We are propping up Finical Institution with quantitative easing while subjecting the rest of us to Austerity.
Next: Problems with the exploration, deliver
y, or production of oil, the lifeblood of modern economies is coming to an end.
What can we do about it. Nothing, except to go back to bartering.
Next: Religion Beliefs.
What can we do about it. Adopted Dave Allen saying, “goodnight, thank you and may your God go with you”
Next: Asteroid Impact or an Electromagnetic pulse event.
What can we do about it: Get rid of all our nuclear weapons in an attempt to destroy or deflect the Asteroid. Electromagnetic pulse event. Nothing.
Last: The Sun.
What can we do about it. Sweet Fanny Adam, other than have left earth as transhuman.
With any of these scenarios listed above (and there is a host of others I have probably not even thought about), you could have localized, national, or global unrest and even war for an indefinite period of time depending on the scope and duration of the event(s).
The world in general seems afflicted on so many different fronts.
When you look at the list above, any rational person could easily see one or more of these scenarios occur within their lifetime. Aside from the geophysical things that seem to be going haywire, and could be explained simply as the planet’s cycles, there are plenty of man-made catastrophes that loom on the horizon…
Take your pick.
Never has the planet had as many people as it does now. With increased population numbers, there is increased pressure for resources, like water for example. As a result we are beginning to see the rise of extreme political parties as a consequence of the total and utter desperation of the populace.
However the main event is staring us in the face, and the whole of the world has front-row seats. Climate Change.
If things unravel at the core we can kiss our arse good-bye, Donal Trump nor religion will preserve life.
So I will sign off this post with this thought.
These events are never properly covered by the news media, Social media, (what a surprise!) my intent is to at least get you thinking about the most important things.
Individuals can still hope for the best (that things can and will eventually work out), but what good is your prosperity going to do if you don’t have anything to eat or a safe place to hang out for an extended period of time?
Risks appeared to be rising. After the shit hits the fan people will not behave normally. There’s no place like home. Most risks are rising. It’s a riskier world right now.
No matter how you slice it, things worldwide are getting very strange very quickly.
Ayn Rand: “Man’s mind is his basic tool of survival.”
Otherwise, robots may end up owning the world after all.
Feel free to add to the list. All comments appreciated and needed. All like clicks chucked din the bin.
By the way this is what home looks like from 1.5 billion kilometers away complements of Cassini.