( Seventeen minute read)
As our technological prowess has increased, so has our ability to transform landscapes and the planet.
Up to now the defining trait of the human species has been our tendency to shape our environment and surroundings to suit us.
Today we can divert entire rivers, reclaim land from the oceans, chop down swathes of forest, level mountainsides and build new ones as we constantly seek to improve the physical world around us.
However isn’t it clear that our actions are taking a toll on the health of our planet, in the guise of climate change, the destruction of habitats, the loss of species and pollution. Attempts to resurrect species that have gone extinct or use gene-editing technologies to create artificial life are examples of this.
Right now, we’re in this era of stopgaps.
Society used to be able to make a long-term plan: people built long-term infrastructure and thought a bit further out.
That’s not something that happens now: We go to quick fixes, when we need a cultural change in values.
To enable more deliberate decision-making, if we focus on trying to make the world better rather than simply protecting what remains of the natural world are we just turning our species with algorithms into an senility of greed, paying lips service to what is really happing
The way we talk about climate change can impact the solutions we develop. We can’t solve any problems, especially at the global scale, if we don’t talk about the problem and the best way to address it.
I think this is because of people do not wanting to talk about it as they are incapable of imaging just like a nuclear war the concepts of a world unliveable, because they don’t have the body of knowledge, and it would need 20 or 30 years to develop it. “Humans are a very flawed species.”
So the world of 2050 will be unimaginably different in many ways, even if we can safely assume people will still generally have two arms, two legs and an unpleasant smell if they don’t wash for long periods of time.
Right about mid-century means it will be a crunch point: Climate change will be really apparent.
However over the past couple of years new AI tools have emerged that threaten the survival of human civilisation from an unexpected direction. For example, AI has gained some remarkable abilities to manipulate and generate language, whether with words, sounds or images. AI has thereby hacked the operating system of our civilisation.
Language is the stuff almost all human culture is made of. Human rights, for example, aren’t inscribed in our DNA.
Let’s look at the present scenario with the Climate.
Why all the silence about climate change?
Why isn’t this topic filling our conversations, the way a tsunami would, or a major earthquake?
I ask again, why are not more people crying out?
Some of the smartest people think we will not be able to act in time, that we will continue to delay until we can’t stem the rising waters, the droughts, the refugees, the failed states, the wars fought over precious resources like arable land, food, water.
If we have no hope of having a better world, then it becomes a more divided world.
Let me suggest some of the reasons.
Continued efforts that largely focus on persuading people about the realities of climate change “is going to be wasted money, wasted effort, wasted air. It sometimes seems as though climate change conversations can be divided into two narratives: People are either overly optimistic about solutions — or claim it’s “too late” to act.
Will enough human beings actually undertake any of the necessary actions?
Climate change is a complex problem and proposing “simplistic, all-encompassing grand solutions” is not the answer.
We have to focus on where most emissions are and focus on reducing that as quickly as possible. Its not possible for any one person to be capable of single-handedly creating major change. Individual action should be seen as part of an ecosystem of change that requires systemic level changes. Social solutions that address inequities and environmental justice issues “need to go hand-in-hand” with discussions about physical or economic solutions to climate change.
A key component of talking about climate issues revolves around making climate solutions equitable.
If we just addressed the question from the standpoint of, ‘Climate change is here, we have to reduce greenhouse gases,’ but don’t talk about how we do that, then you end up with communities being presented with what we call false solutions or our legislature being presented with false solutions.
THE CLIMATE IS NOW IN THE PROCESS OF CHANGING NOT JUST WHERE WE WILL LIVE, BUT HOW WE LIVE.
The specifics of what will change are not for this piece, but the human response very much is. humanity, in time, reaches net zero when it comes to emissions.
In that scenario, we will live in a world where plant proteins replace meat in everyday consumption, where electrically powered networked mass transit reaches into the suburbs and beyond, a world of video-conferencing and remote attendance steadily chipping away at business flights. A world in which mega scale injections of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere turn the heavens a milky-white, and a whole generation never sees a clear blue sky, in order to reflect more of the sun’s rays and pause the greenhouse effect.
It is one in which we turn on gigantic processing plants that do nothing but extract carbon dioxide from the air and pump it underground into disused oil wells. It is one in which whole cities are abandoned and populations relocated to avoid the worst effects we can’t prevent.
We need everyone to be a climate communicator and not just rely on one or two people or not just scientists because we’re going to be living with this problem for a long time.
So what are the key ideas and designs that could influence the world of tomorrow?
(Look, it can’t all be high-tech. There is also this way of looking at it.)
There is, perhaps, little point in dwelling on the 50% chance that AGI does develop.
If it does, every other prediction we could make is moot, and this story, and perhaps humanity as we know it, will be forgotten.
And if we assume that transcendentally brilliant artificial minds won’t be along to save or destroy us, and live according to that outlook, then what is the worst that could happen – we build a better world for nothing?
How ever if we are guessing the future from simple trend lines, there is another one that we need to acknowledge:
The engineering of any possible transition that can avert catastrophic climate breakdown must be paramount in the minds of governments actions because there are not enough rare earth metals for wind turbines and all the other hardware we will need for renewable energy which means eight billion people will go to hell.
We all know this.
However what we see are countries governments offering billions in sub’s to attract the manufacture of batteries for electrical cars. The producing the average 60kWh battery alone generates nine tonnes of CO2.
In fact, the batteries that power electric vehicles may also be their Achilles heel.
These manufacturing companies will go broke in the long term.
Well, fair enough, but questions arise when we dig into the inner layers of electrical vehicles and see how sustainable their components are. They already have a significant environmental impacts, ranging from the mining for materials and the water and energy used in making new batteries and vehicles, through to the hazardous waste from discarded batteries.
So even though EVs may help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over their lifetime, the battery that powers them starts its life laden with a large environmental footprint.
In about 2025, when millions of EV batteries reach the end of their initial life cycles, a streamlined recycling process will be needed.
A plug-in hybrid has a battery and an electric motor, are made from advanced materials to reduce its weight but it also has a petrol or diesel engine. At a stroke, the efficiencies of one are cancelled out by the inefficiencies of the other. Not even a 30-mile electric-only touring range can fix that.
The reason all manufacturers currently use lithium is that it provides a lighter battery that lasts longer. That gives the car greater range without recharging, and it make possible a much lighter car. In other words, lithium batteries are cheaper.
You can’t tinker with an electric car as you can a conventional one because you’ll very likely be electrocuted.
In the age of electrification, we take rechargeable batteries for granted. From phones and laptops to hi-tech cameras.
The main use of rare earth metals now is for screens, smart phones, games consoles, electronics and laptop computers. You can have a phone, a computer or a screen without rare earth metals. – these batteries have one thing in common. They’re all made of lithium and it costs more to recycle them than to mine more lithium to make new ones.
Lithium is a metal used in almost all electric vehicle batteries today. About half of global production of lithium currently goes to electric vehicles. And in future we will need to increase the production of electric vehicles from hundreds or thousands to hundreds of millions. That will require vast amounts of lithium.
In South America, huge lithium reserves are using up water by the gallon, causing devastating water-related conflicts among locals. Most of the known deposits of lithium rich brine are in the arid highlands where Bolivia, Chile and Argentina come together. It is also mined from hard rock in China or the United States where a whopping 2.2 million litres of water is needed to produce one ton of lithium. The mining is also toxic, because large amounts of acid are used in the processing.
The result is that ancestral homelands become unliveable.
That’s not to mention that the world’s oceans contain an estimated 180 billion tons of lithium. But it’s diluted.
Lithium is not the most environmentally friendly chemical element we could be using. The transition to green energy does not have to be powered by destructive and poisonous mineral extraction.
More important, batteries do not have to be made out of lithium. The way forward is hydrogen fuel cells.
We can no longer treat the batteries as disposable.
Similar arguments apply to rare earth metals.
It is not possible now to tell what metals will be needed for which industries in ten years’ time.
There are several different kinds of rare earth metals, each with different properties. They are widely used, in small amounts, in wind turbines, car batteries and much other technology necessary for climate change.
It is often said that this rarity is an obstacle to decarbonizing the world. This is not quite right.
Right now most rare earth metals are mined in China. There is nothing special about the geology of China. Most of them could be mined in the United States, or a range of other countries.
Next we have AI.
There is no doubt that if AI is used for the benefit of humanity it could able us to conquer many of our problems, like new medical treatments diseases, exploring the universe and beyond, addressing inequality etc, the list is endless with our own very extinction at the end.
With self learning algorithm’s, killings drones and the internet far more entrenched now, with its chaotic effect on our lives showing no sign of abating, its far too late for regulation. It is at least predictably unpredictable and has to be harnessed by International laws before it develops its own fee will.
Technology really has made great leaps and bounds in the past 16 years, nowhere more clearly than AI hidden behind all its hype is data hoarding which can be misguided or well-intentioned, but it’s always bad for the environment.
Take the I Cloud the great AI techno rubbish dump of data. Pumping 5.8 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere this year as a result of storing unnecessary ‘dark data’ – this translates to more emissions than 80 individual countries.
Its no wonder the cost of energy is going up.
90% of what’s stored in the Cloud is undulating rubbish produced by social media weapon – the Smart Phone.
(After half a century of single-purpose consumer electronics, it was difficult to perceive how all-encompassing a single device like the smartphone could become.)
Smartphone penetration in the west is now as high as it looks likely to go, with a loss of privacy that is going to be very difficult for people that haven’t figured out how to deal with that. However the world changes over the next 30 years, won’t be as a result of more Britons or Americans getting phones.
Computational machines will have surpassed the processing power of all the living human brains on Earth. The cloud will also have absorbed the thinking of the many dead brains on Earth, too – and we all need to work together to survive.
So I predict that we will see a lasting cooperation between the human race and the computational machines of the future, as to which sets the playing field is still up for grabs.
Is there any other way people live their lives?
Artificial intelligence brains simply cannot cope with change and unpredictable events.
The complexity and ambivalence of people’s relationship with daily mobility is decreasing with services and shopping going online Here, commuting is seen simultaneously as a tiresome burden, but also as a key source of interaction with the wider world which is important in sustaining people’s sense of daily balance.
Furthermore, ‘compensatory mobilities’ emerge as a widespread practice which helps people retain aspects they miss about commuting while working from home. This practice, underscores the intrinsic enjoyment associated with being on the move, and is important for unravelling the potential impacts of working from home on people’s mobility carbon footprint.
Understanding experiences of a less mobile life under COVID-19 offers insights into the taken-for-granted meanings of mobility in daily life, and into new opportunities for low-carbon mobility transitions associated with working from home.
Perhaps if we were to consider turning our villages and towns, districts of our cities, into green spaces, surrounded with local businesses. WE COULD RETURN TO LIVING WITHOUT THE NEED TO COMMUTE FROM OR TO SUPERMARKETS THAT SUCK THE SOUL OUT OF TOWN CENTERS FOR PROFIT.
WE MIGHT DISCOVER NEW EXPERIENCES AND ROUTINES THAT HOLD OUR DAILY LIFE TOGETHER AND MAKE IT PLEASANT, RATHER THAN BEING DRIVEN BY ALGOTHRIMS.
The bottom line is that Western Civilization, as we know it is unsustainable, because everything about Capitalism is built around economic growth and continuous accrual of increasing wealth, while despising those who fail to win a growing stake.
All for brief moments of superficial comfort that are considered vital for happiness.
It is too late to stop our climate from getting worse, no matter what we do, and it is highly unlikely we
shall avoid human extinction if we dont start questioning just how far beyond the planet’s resources we
are already extended.
The overwhelming challenges are: end livestock farming , stop burning fossil fuels, stop felling the rain
forests trees & avoid other GHG emissions.
Nuclear fusion, Nuclear fission, Green hydrogen, Wind farms, Solar panels, Hydropower, Plant a trillion
trees & maybe I’ve missed some.
In order for any possible solutions to be successful it would require the world’s powerful people
( Politicians, farming organization leaders, investors, corporate leaders etc.,) to come together, speedily, to
tackle these challenges, and in the short amount of time to “contributing to a community that maintains
quality of life with enhanced social connectivity and minimal emissions.
Our species is hard-wired to pay attention to the present.
We are more motivated by our emotions than by rationality, more by the moment than by the future.
So we tend to pay attention to current problems, both personal and civic, and put climate change out of
We have contribute to this with technology disempower ourselves, truncated ourselves from nature.
As a matter of fact, government and business are in an unholy alliance that often stalls social change,
including the desperately needed change in our emissions rate.
We can’t count on them to lead.
People are overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem, coupled with the lack of political will,
worldwide, so they distract themselves from their fear and grief, and just get on with their everyday lives.
Human nature will mean I am asking too much and that as a result: Human extinction is unavoidable.
We have to try.
We cannot let the worst happen without giving our very best effort. Our very sense of decency and
morality compels us.
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Morales was unable to nationalize corporations. To transform society, we must begin by transforming
the media .
All human comments appreciated. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin.