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It's the End of the World: Climate Collapse

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17 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

Ah, sorry; I thought you were saying that famines can be dealt with rationally, and Yemen is experiencing a massive famine right now. My mistake then. 

Syria is a much better example of war erupting when there wasn't, which was driven in part by drought. 

The most recent article I could find about this on short notice is the one from Slate on November 20, and it says although the famine has been exacerbated by mismanagement of water resources, it's primarily the result of a blockade by Saudi Arabia. The article doesn't even mention a drought, so this crisis doesn't seem to be directly related to global climate change. 

And of course this famine could be dealt with rationally. That it may not be is the result of governments behaving immorally. We may not be able to stop this one in the time available, but we can work toward a world where these things will be less likely.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2017/11/how_yemen_s_famine_got_so_bad.html 

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1) Climate change will lead to very bad outcomes for a lot of people and an ecological disaster for many plants and animals (though some will flourish, like jellyfish). But it won't be the end of civilization as we know it. People will adapt, and when things get bad enough they'll take more concrete steps to address the problem; even if they never acknowledge humanity's role in creating the problem.

 

It will certainly be the end of civilisation as we know it, when combined with AI, automation and postcapitalism. It probably won't be the end of civilisation full stop, but what comes after will be pretty different, potentially better (for the survivors) and potentially worse.

Edited by Werthead

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5 hours ago, Werthead said:

 Given how many governments have their heads buried in the sand about both climate change and postcapitalism, I am not hopeful.


Postcapitalism could do with a thread of its own (if it doesn't have one somewhere)? It's actually disturbing how unspoken about it is. Like, at least with climate change, most people have a handle on what it is and what it means, even if many do so so they can argue bullshit against it. I've talked about the imminence of a post-work society to quite a few people and most- even the open, interested ones with their eye on the ball about many social issues and things- can barely even bring themselves to acknowledge the idea. I'm not sure it even registers with them past the end of the conversation.

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21 minutes ago, polishgenius said:


Postcapitalism could do with a thread of its own (if it doesn't have one somewhere)? It's actually disturbing how unspoken about it is. Like, at least with climate change, most people have a handle on what it is and what it means, even if many do so so they can argue bullshit against it. I've talked about the imminence of a post-work society to quite a few people and most- even the open, interested ones with their eye on the ball about many social issues and things- can barely even bring themselves to acknowledge the idea. I'm not sure it even registers with them past the end of the conversation.

In my experience the conversation is often a non-starter because most folks assume that we will always come up with new jobs to replace old lines of work when technology renders them obsolete.  It's hard to get people to think about the possibility that we will get to a point where there just aren't enough jobs for the number of able bodied workers and that the alternative to massive social overhaul is some really bad stuff.  It's hard to detach the idea of postcapitalism from current biases about economics and social programs.  In America if you can't find work you're usually either regarded as lazy or a victim of political policy, either in the form of policy picking 'winners and losers' or in the form of policy allowing jobs to be exported overseas.  And socialism?  Labeling a policy or politician with the 'S' word in the US kills it right off the bat for a large portion of the electorate.  

The biggest thing to keep an eye on over the next 10-20 years is the rise of autonomous vehicles.  Anyone whose paid even a little bit of attention can see that the days are numbered for a world where people can make a career driving long-haul trucks or taxi's (uber).  No company is going to want to pay a human driver who gets tired, wants pay and benefits, and makes far more mistakes once the technology becomes good enough to supplant the driver - and we are pretty much already there with implementation likely to follow soon.  This will become a highly visible example of an entire large area of employment rapidly going extinct due to technology.  Hopefully, it will serve as a wake-up call.   

Edited by S John

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4 hours ago, Werthead said:

It will certainly be the end of civilisation as we know it, when combined with AI, automation and postcapitalism. It probably won't be the end of civilisation full stop, but what comes after will be pretty different, potentially better (for the survivors) and potentially worse.

The other three are different issues, and I don't necessarily believe all three will happen; certainly not within the next several decades. It is not a certainty that we'll ever create a true AI, automation always seems to go slower than expected (turns out labor is really cheap sometimes), and the argument that we'll end up in a post-capitalist society is fatally flawed. It completely ignores the possibility that we remain a society of haves and have-nots much like today and that there never is a revolution to change it.

Also, any of those issues, if they did occur, would dramatically change civilization as we know it, they wouldn't end it.

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16 minutes ago, Fez said:

The other three are different issues, and I don't necessarily believe all three will happen; certainly not within the next several decades. It is not a certainty that we'll ever create a true AI, automation always seems to go slower than expected (turns out labor is really cheap sometimes), and the argument that we'll end up in a post-capitalist society is fatally flawed. It completely ignores the possibility that we remain a society of haves and have-nots much like today and that there never is a revolution to change it.

That's not what postcapitalist means in this context. Put simply, it means that the notion of exchanging money for goods or services may be entirely antiquated. Haves/have nots will almost certainly exist, and will likely be exacerbated - but the notion of things like profit may be meaningless, or a marketplace, or anything like that. 

Again, imagine a world where 50% of the population has no actual job title and no interest in working at all. Those people still need food. They still need housing. They still need medicine, and entertainment. You can either choose to give them some money to get those things and the ability to get those things, you can provide them to everyone, or you can let them all die. None of those options are capitalism. 

 

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2 hours ago, S John said:

Postcapitalism could do with a thread of its own (if it doesn't have one somewhere)?

It does now.

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18 hours ago, S John said:

  I think that the biggest issue is really one of population.  There are too many humans.  Here, again, there’s somewhat of a chance of it sorting itself out as countries industrialize and it simply becomes more expensive to have kids.  We are probably too late for this to help in the short term, but it will eventually. 

I actually laughed out loud when I read this. It was like seeing something from the 1960s!

What you should have said was "There are too many humans in the USA." And in Europe as well, of course. They represent 12% of the world's population between them (<5%  in the US) and use 60% of the world's resources. It's not the countries in the third world that are industrializing that have caused this problem, it's us in the first world.

I really hadn't looked at the list of topics in the last day or so and actually came here to open a thread like this after reading various comments in the US Politics thread.

Frankly speaking, for quite some time now I've been convinced it's too late for this planet. We hit a turning point decades ago. And if you search the topic you'll find many stories about scientists who believe the same.

Those recent pictures of how Greenland's ice mass is melting away are the nail in the coffin, IMHO. Sea levels are going to rise far more quickly than scientists have been predicting. That will displace 300 M or more people in both India and China, and tens of millions in the USA. The inland sea will return to the US. Hundreds of millions more will be refugees in Africa and South America, not to mention most island nations in the world. If you think the world has a refugee problem now, just wait a decade.

My question is, will people on higher ground in the US feel the same way about Floridians and anyone living along a coast or the Mississippi as they do about Syrians, Central and South Americans and other peoples from around the world seeking refuge. I wonder how the Dutch are going to survive, and a lot of other Europeans as well.

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On 12/5/2017 at 7:05 PM, Kalbear said:

My personal view is that climate change is not stoppable by humans at this point, and we should work not towards reducing emissions but instead work towards removing emissions and/or dealing with the ramifications of the climate change.

And we should be doing it soon, because it will be way too expensive to have a Houston-level calamity every few months, and that will be completely untenable in other parts of the world.

I also truly believe that a couple generations down the road we will have climate courts that try certain people for crimes against humanity for their part in perpetuating the climate disasters that we'll see. 

It's unlikely that you would be able to convince 7 billion people to make the necessary sacrifices.  

 

 

Edited by GAROVORKIN

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1 hour ago, GAROVORKIN said:

It's unlikely that you would be able to convince 7 billion people to make the necessary sacrifices.  

 

 

I'm not calling for any real sacrificing here. This isn't making them do anything differently; this is us going to cheaper energies, focusing on dealing with rising water as a future plan and assuming Houston-level disasters at least twice a year in the US. I assume there will be no change without monetary requirement, and that'll happen with demand. 

I have zero belief that the world will be able to reduce things enough to fix anything short or long term. 

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If I'm skeptical about this year's current "AI going to take all our jobs" bit, it's because it's been the dog that hasn't barked for the better part of at least two centuries (if not longer). Individual sectors come and go*, but no systemic-wide increase in unemployment.  I'll believe it when I see it, and we'll see it when we start getting very high productivity coupled with rising unemployment. Right now we have neither - unemployment in the US is low (although not as low as it was in the 1960s and late 1990s boomlet), but productivity on average remains stubbornly lower than what it was in the Postwar Era. 

Of course, if we do create perfectly compliant AI that can essentially do everything a human can do . . . we still might have some jobs done because the comparative advantage of using human labor is lower for some stuff, but it definitely does open up the possibility of a "post-capitalist" economy where the machines do everything for us and we essentially live on a Culture-esque allowance per person (or in Star Trek, probably an allotment of goods and services you can use that represents what most people will probably use within a period of time). 

* This used to be something that often went unnoticed, or only rarely noticed - hence the periodic flare-ups of concern about the loss of jobs and machines. But nowadays we got a tech press that either ultra-hypes up everything new out of the tech sector, or "negative hypes" it into the Doom of All We Hold Dear. 

 

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9 hours ago, Fragile Bird said:

What you should have said was "There are too many humans in the USA." And in Europe as well, of course. They represent 12% of the world's population between them (<5%  in the US) and use 60% of the world's resources. It's not the countries in the third world that are industrializing that have caused this problem, it's us in the first world.

Except surely we want to raise the standard of living of the rest of the world's population to match that of the US, rather than reduce the US and Europe to third world states? Which is a huge problem resource-wise.

9 hours ago, Fragile Bird said:

Frankly speaking, for quite some time now I've been convinced it's too late for this planet. We hit a turning point decades ago. And if you search the topic you'll find many stories about scientists who believe the same.

In theory, I think humanity probably could turn things around. In practice, not gonna happen. The people who understand and care about the problems don't have the power to do anything, and those who do have power are more interested in protecting their own interests.

9 hours ago, Fragile Bird said:

My question is, will people on higher ground in the US feel the same way about Floridians and anyone living along a coast or the Mississippi as they do about Syrians, Central and South Americans and other peoples from around the world seeking refuge.

English-speaking white people will probably do ok; US citizenship is unlikely to do much good for most other coastal refugees.

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5 hours ago, Fall Bass said:

If I'm skeptical about this year's current "AI going to take all our jobs" bit, it's because it's been the dog that hasn't barked for the better part of at least two centuries (if not longer). Individual sectors come and go*, but no systemic-wide increase in unemployment.  I'll believe it when I see it, and we'll see it when we start getting very high productivity coupled with rising unemployment. Right now we have neither - unemployment in the US is low (although not as low as it was in the 1960s and late 1990s boomlet), but productivity on average remains stubbornly lower than what it was in the Postwar Era. 

Of course, if we do create perfectly compliant AI that can essentially do everything a human can do . . . we still might have some jobs done because the comparative advantage of using human labor is lower for some stuff, but it definitely does open up the possibility of a "post-capitalist" economy where the machines do everything for us and we essentially live on a Culture-esque allowance per person (or in Star Trek, probably an allotment of goods and services you can use that represents what most people will probably use within a period of time). 

* This used to be something that often went unnoticed, or only rarely noticed - hence the periodic flare-ups of concern about the loss of jobs and machines. But nowadays we got a tech press that either ultra-hypes up everything new out of the tech sector, or "negative hypes" it into the Doom of All We Hold Dear. 

 

You're confusing AI with automation. Most jobs quite frankly don't need anything close to an AI. There are robots that can already do cashier work and drive vehicles better than most human (though we have higher standard for the driverless car than we do humans) So that's millions of jobs right there that could theoretically become obsolete right now. (And are becoming such, automatic cashiers are becoming increasingly common) The thing that might save jobs isn't so much that a robot can't do it, it's that for some reason we decide not to let robots do it, like all those weird places that have actual drivers in their subway trains.

Also two centuries of working on AI is nothing, we spent longer than they trying to figure out fix winged flight. And in both a lot of progress was made before we ever got to the real thing. The strides we've made in AI in just the last decade have been huge. See Watson or robots that are capable of learning to do a task by watching it be done.

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On 12/5/2017 at 5:05 PM, Kalbear said:

My personal view is that climate change is not stoppable by humans at this point, and we should work not towards reducing emissions but instead work towards removing emissions and/or dealing with the ramifications of the climate change.

And we should be doing it soon, because it will be way too expensive to have a Houston-level calamity every few months, and that will be completely untenable in other parts of the world.

I also truly believe that a couple generations down the road we will have climate courts that try certain people for crimes against humanity for their part in perpetuating the climate disasters that we'll see. 

I think we've passed a threshold too. I also think moving to clean energy (I've heard so much conflicting energy on nuclear waste, I don't even know what to think about that one, but it's the most ready) is a must, but I wonder about the ingenuity of humans when our backs are up against the wall. What weird idea are they going to come up to help immediately impact emission reduction that shows tangible reversal of climate? Can that be done? I think something big will happen in the next 50 years, Republicans be damned!

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The point is OF COURSE population size. I don't know how any one can dispute that. A world with 1 billion people on it is sustainable, pretty much indefinitely, in my view. A nice side effect (I say nice, because some might find it inconvenient), is that it removes or significantly reduces the economies of scale required for some very large industries. Think of a world where say only a third as many mobile phones, automobiles, airplane flights, container ships, computers etc etc. are required. Suddenly the incentive for R&D into the latest model IPhone, or new BMW series is significantly reduced.

So less product variety, probably a much smaller services industry, and generally a lower standard of living. But on a much more sustainable basis. A worldwide enforced ban on more than three children per parental couple, magically enforced around a century ago, would have solved this problem.

Now, I think we are in for a brief growth spurt and then some kind of mass die-off, sadly, or else a descent into social collapse for large parts of the world over the next century or so. That's why we need to reach and build a self sustaining civilization on Mars in the next century, else we might lose the capability to do so forever.

Edited by Free Northman Reborn

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3 hours ago, Simon Steele said:

I think we've passed a threshold too. I also think moving to clean energy (I've heard so much conflicting energy on nuclear waste, I don't even know what to think about that one, but it's the most ready) is a must, but I wonder about the ingenuity of humans when our backs are up against the wall. What weird idea are they going to come up to help immediately impact emission reduction that shows tangible reversal of climate? Can that be done? I think something big will happen in the next 50 years, Republicans be damned!

There's also a lot of people looking into carbon capture and sequestration as a means to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.  I don't think we yet know how viable this is on a large scale, and would certainly be expensive, but it is an area of research at DoE and several major universities.  (though El Trumpo slashed DoE budget.. of course).  In any case carbon capture along with a push toward renewable energy could end up saving our bacon from the worst of it, but this country needs to get more serious about it.   

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14 hours ago, S John said:

There's also a lot of people looking into carbon capture and sequestration as a means to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.  I don't think we yet know how viable this is on a large scale, and would certainly be expensive, but it is an area of research at DoE and several major universities.  (though El Trumpo slashed DoE budget.. of course).  In any case carbon capture along with a push toward renewable energy could end up saving our bacon from the worst of it, but this country needs to get more serious about it.   

I hadn't heard about carbon capture before--that's really interesting. I figured there'd be smart people working on this. But...yeah, anti-intellectualism in this country is literally murdering us.

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4 hours ago, Simon Steele said:

I hadn't heard about carbon capture before--that's really interesting. I figured there'd be smart people working on this. But...yeah, anti-intellectualism in this country is literally murdering us.

Anti intellectualism may be rampant in the US but a good chunk of the rest of the world are happy to be educated. Just don't depend  on the  US to be of any help in reducing the effects of climate change. 

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1 hour ago, maarsen said:

Anti intellectualism may be rampant in the US but a good chunk of the rest of the world are happy to be educated. Just don't depend  on the  US to be of any help in reducing the effects of climate change. 

That's great, and I mean it, but I live in the U.S. It's a dire situation here.

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@Free Northman Reborn I have to dispute your assertion of a lower population via limited reproduction (no more than three children per couple) leading to reduced standard of living, or even a more sustainable environment. 

Most of our population explosion in the past century has come from the third world, where birth rates fall slowly as education and living standards rise but infant mortality improvements via access to western technology/medicine happen earlier.  If we had limited population expansion in the manner you suggest, even starting 2-3 decades ago, we would have just as many iPhones and BMWs, possibly more.  Tech innovation and luxury good development depend on the size and wealth of the educated first world population, which would be almost exactly as it is today if a three child limit had been in place.  Subsistence farmers in isolated villages do not add much stimulus to tech development or resource consumption in developed nations.  They ride the coattails to eventually join in the fruits but it would have happened if they never existed.

And limiting the world to a three child policy would not get us from ~7bn back to 1bn, not unless we could go back in time and introduce it in the late 19th century just as the Industrial Revolution was really gathering steam.  We would need huge famines, plagues and/or war to see the population reduce by 85% while the birth rate remains at the replacement ratio.

A population of 1bn might be more sustainable but achieving it via the proposed three child policy would most likely have little effect on global resource consumption or pollution, which mostly comes from the wealthiest whose population had already near-plateaued decades quite a while ago.  The  carbon consumption by the US, Europe and Japan would have happened anyway.  China had a one child policy — much more draconian than a three child policy — and still saw a vast increase in pollutants and emissions. 

I strongly support proactive policies to manage our global environment, and I would support a global three child policy— mainly because it reduces population pressure in already marginal lands, which lead to grievous problems like war, genocide, epidemics, extreme tribalism, etc — but I am more realistic about the limitations of that policy in improving our environmental problem. 

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