Saturday, August 12, 2006


Vince has a good summation on the relationship between techno-innovation (Singuarlity) and Global Warming.

Kurzewil spends a great deal of time critiquing the commonplace notion of simply assuming things develop in a roughly linear fashion--little by little--much as they are now.

Kurzweil sees techno-evolution through a Law of Accelerating Returns, even exponential in scope. Development does not proceed in a smooth linear fashion.

The concept of linear development is a product of the 18th century modern mind (constant feature of orange-cognition). In its original philosophical context this habit invovles the siblings of gradualism and uniformitarianism: i.e. events transpire continuously, uniformly bit by bit over a long period of time.

While orange, being multiplistic came to (over blue absolutistic) evaluate multiple claims, it has no real injunction for doing so in time-space, historical context (hence green as relativism, genealogy).

This type of thinking, which is philosophical note not scientific per se, lies at the root over the confusion over Neo-Darwinianism and the paucity of intelligent (no pun intended) writing on biological (not to mention technological) evolution. The gradualist-uniformitarian "belief" allows for the mechanism of evolution to be described as random mutation (uniformitarianism) over long periods of time (gradualism).

The same paltry thinking affects (aspects of) environmentalism, particularly global warming thinking.

As Kurzweil rightly notes--when asked about Al Gore's movie--there is a linear assumption to the debate, namely that humans will be using the same technologies down the road well into the future (pun intended).

It does not assume an evolutionary context--the notion of Accelerating Returns/Exponential is essentially transcend and include, or emergence and integration. I'll come back to this in a second, extremely important point.

Add to Kurweil's thinking that of Bjorn Lomborg (The Skeptical Environmentalist....note that still makes an environmentalist, just a [healthy?] skeptical one. I consider myself the same, and I think Kurzweil, as he does mention his concern for the environment but not catastrophe-mongering might well view himself similarly].

Here's Bjorn hanging with Fareed Zakaria.

It is important to see his perspective first, prior to emotional reactions. The key question he asks is what can we do? We only have so many resources, so much time, it is so difficult to get humans to agree on anything (much less governments/aid organizations) AND how big an issue is global warming?

It's there, he's not denying it, though he certainly doesn't buy the idea of massive flooding, he just thinks our time/resource can be better spent elsewhere--at least at first. Which when combined with possible insights from Kurzweil this pov makes a whole lot more sense I think.

Bjorn tells us the UN Panel on Climate Change predicts 1-2 feet of water rising (not 20!!!) in the next hundred years. There was about half that ratio rise during the last century.

More damning is his take on Kyoto. Even if every country on the planet were to implement Kyoto to the fullest degree for the next hundred years, global warming would take place in 2106, not 2100. A whooping six years. And such a full-scale implementation will not happen. No human society on earth that is in the primarily developmental economic stage (attempting to enter modern world) will EVER halt their own advance for the environment. So there goes China, India, Russia, Brazil. Nor will the hegemon--out goes the US. And there is even already rumblings of the fialilngs of Kyoto in places like Britain where losses, as a result, have been substantial, and positive outcomes (surprise!!) next to nil.

And Kyoto is estimaed to cost 150 billion a year for every year until the end of the century!!! 150 billion a year spent every year for the next 100 hundreds spent on advancement and not "conservation" and we don't imagine we could create tools and frameworks to "manage", much less "alleviate" global warming? Where's the perspective on this? Any realistic hopefulness?

Lomborg talks of 75 billion (alone) to give clean drinking water, literacy, food, and increase global trade. Which also of course raises the specter, as I've been writing about much in the last week of terrorism and the future of bringing the world to orange.

Which has to happen, once we see developmentally, before we will as a species tackle the environment (green). It doesn't mean we can't be doing both simultaneously, since there are people up and down the chain. It's just as Lomborg realistically notes, there is only so much good will, concerted action, and fundraising to go around. Gates and Buffett understand this better than most and I think realize that if global aid efforts don't become reproducible and measurable, the giver-fatigue will take over more and more.

And another issue I've never quite understood is instead of spending all this money simply to cut carbon and therefore in many ways degrade our existing economic structure, why not spend essentially all the money--after the aid work outlined by Lomborg--on technologies like carbon sequestration, post-petroleum energy, and give Kurzweil's predictions a serious chance of being realized. It just seems to me so reactive, so problem-centric, our minds devolved only to the issue of fixing problems, fear-based emotionality, instead of pro-active creation of new scenarios and the recognition that intractable problems are never so much solved, as dis-solved.

Global warming is a difficult theory in many ways, not the least of which, is that it deals with human beings. Not like gravity which pre-dated us. Global warming is a theory that increased levels of carbon in atmosphere--mostly? due to humans--in 100 years will lead to an average increase of 1-2 degrees Centigrade in the atmosphere. Average, not everywhere and the areas that will be most adversely affected are the already vulnerable Global South.

Not Manhattan--and it is to my mind, pure cynical politics, for Gore (only an example) to emphasize that kinda point, showing the city under water. He's argued it's necessary because the US is so culturally behind on this, but still that presentation angers and offends me deeply.

If the poor are the ones who are going to get hurt, then that still leaves the prior problem of them being poor and having no resources with which to combat threats, environmental or otherwise.

And by a scientific theory that involves human action, we assume a la Kurzweil, becaues most of the thought still holds way to much modernist fallacies, is gradualistic and uniform (linear). It is not and will not.

So it is hard to know how seriously to take the theory itself as a guiding point for action. Because it is based on the premise of everything else being equal, unifrom and gradual, for the next 100 years. and that is patently false. So that is why I can at the same time say I generally assume the theory is true--if everything stays the same for the next 100 years and we keep burning gasoline cars and there is more carbon then temperatures will continue to rise and cause problems.

But we won't be. There is no understanding of emergent leaps and transformation. There is no recogntion that the history of earth has been a serious of wild changes across the board. Given the speed of advancement oover the past 300 years it is clear that one or more such transformations will occur within the next hundred years (likely 2-3, possibly more).

So only when someone holds such a un-realistic notion of things staying the same or only getting worse in kind (that is still gas burning just a lot more coming from China/India) does one advocate such a conservative (in the bad sense) notion of "cutting back."

There is no evidence I'm aware of, from human psychology, that states that mass rollbacks ("conservation") are going to happen. I think as a political-social-ethical framework it has some deep naive flaws.

What combining Kurzweil and Lomborg sugests to me is that we don't yet have the technological nor the economic capacity to really effectively deal with global warming. [Although I'm sure we have the technology to do way better than currently]. Hence, to me, too much enviromentalism is hype and fear-mongering (and thence the charge of playing foul by Michael Crichton). And that very interestingly, in terms of Kurzweil, the technological advance is going to come, from those not looking, out of "left-field." The technological advance is going to come from wherer people expect it.

And by focusing on global warming outside the context of human problems--except to say that if we all die from gw it won't matter if we solve hunger or that we should stop oil because by buying oil we fund terrorist, both such simplistic lame-brain arguments I don't even know where to begin dissecting them--global warming ceases to mean much of anything. It becomes this bogey-man for all ills and everytime the weather goes up or there is a hurricane, because people have been told to think this way, immediately global warming is to blame.

There are other natural patterns (nature is actually quite complex and beautiful not so reduced and infantile as we treat her) on earth. There are other human problems. They don't ex -ist in isolation, but orange-cognitive/emotional folks can not understand that fact. It does not emerge in their worldspace. They cant' feel the constriction of their views.

It turns out strangely that they are rght--life as we know it will cease to ex-ist, just not in the way they imagined.


At 2:27 AM, Blogger ~C4Chaos said...

this is a very excellent blog post, bro. very well articulated. though it seems like your more informed, we share the same perspectives on this issue ;)

Al Gore touts that Climate change is not "political". i say it's BS. the Climate Change issue is uber-political and then some (social, natural, psychological, psycho-spiritual, etc...)

a lot of the Climate Change proponents are too idealistic that they get blinded by their own idealism. Kyoto Protocol is not all that! that's one of the reasons why the U.S. and Australia are ditching it. instead of focusing on technological solutions, KP will thrive on the fungibility of emissions. um, yeah. that will work. and it's a BIG waste of money too. why? because governments are not the most efficient organizations for implementing things like these.

one look at Kurzweil's historical analysis and projection diagrams (on his book The Singularity) and we can see that technology and change happens at exponential pace.

note however, that this is still a linear view of things (er, exponentially linear). i think it's also possible that the rate of decay to happen exponentially (e.g. all it takes is one nuclear war to bring a society back to where it started.) "the higher that we climb, the more the ladder sways."

but anyway, for the sake of the Climate Change argument, i find that Kurzweil, Crichton, et al, arguments and proposed solutions are much more compassionate and positive compared to the dooms day scenario and "all we need to do is save the environment" solution.

i think that technological solution (e.g. new sources of energy other than freakin' oil) is a more positive solution because it would actually solve MORE problems along the way (e.g. terrorism, poverty, hunger, etc.) including Climate Change.

but anyway, i don't see any harm on tackling the problem "simultaneously" (e.g. technological, social, environmental). the only harm is if people start collapsing everything into just one major solution and ignore the other intelligent perspectives on this issue.

for example, i love but the way they make fun of Crichton's arguments and name-calling Kurzweil is not helping their cause. much more i haven't seen any arguments on their end that can be classified as "integral."

i think it will be fun if there will be a blog site that would speak the Kurzweil, Crichton and even an "integral" arguments louder than the idealistic approach to ecology and the environment. we'll see.

in the meantime, i've added this cool blog post on zPod:CLIMATE CHANGE for future "integral" discussions on this topic.

thanks Chris.


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