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jerryking : existential   14

How to save the human race from extinction
March 19, 2020 | Financial Times | by James Crabtree.

** The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity,  by Toby Ord
** Apocalypse How? Technology and the Threat of Disaster, by Oliver Letwin, 
** Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back, by Mark O’Connell,
How Everything Can Collapse, by Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens (translated by Andrew Brown)

If coronavirus doesn’t kill us, climate or AI could. Why we must get serious about saving the world.

Visions of post-apocalyptic collapse are familiar from disaster movies, or novels such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Ord’s concern is more with what he calls “existential” risk: an apocalypse in which there is no “post”; just the end of all of us. Hence his calculations of the chance of human life ending entirely during this century: one in six.......Ord's book tallies up various apocalyptic scenarios, from asteroid strikes to the one in 1,000m chance of a “stellar explosion” in space taking the Earth with it. More alarming are the man-made “anthropogenic” threats, specifically climate change, broader environmental collapse, nuclear war, biotechnology and artificial intelligence. These risks are new, coming together in the latter 20th century to create an era that Ord dubs “the precipice”, meaning one in which total human collapse remains alarmingly likely........Ord worries most of all about “unaligned artificial intelligence”, giving odds of one in 10 to the notion that future intelligent machines might wipe out their human underlings — a scenario that has also alarmed the likes of the late scientist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk.....Pandemics are his second-biggest fear......The real risk here, however, is man-made, specifically a bioweapon or lab-mutated virus......Chaotic hospital scenes in Wuhan and Lombardy make such risks easier to imagine.......Oliver Letwin’s Apocalypse How? sketches out just one scenario, in which a fictional freak “space weather” magnetic pulse knocks out Britain’s internet, electricity and other vital networks on New Year’s Eve 2037, causing chaos and tens of thousands of deaths.......
Letwin's bigger argument concerns the rising vulnerability of sophisticated industrialised societies, given the complex interlocking technological networks that already underpin almost all of our social systems....“If the electricity grid and the internet go down in the late 2030s, and if we have not taken very particular precautions, it is likely that life as we know it will close down too,”.......Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens'  How Everything Can Collapse......focuses on "collapsology” which covers plenty of ground, from the risks of fossil fuel-dependent energy systems to instability in international finance.....their concern is primarily ecological, namely the overburdening of the Earth’s natural systems, from the climate crisis to the collapse in biodiversity.....Five mass extinctions have scarred our planet’s 4.5bn-year history, the most recent wiping out the dinosaurs 65m years ago........contemporary potential disasters share a common feature — they result at some level from the intersection of globalisation and technology......Globalisation has brought huge benefits, but also levels of human interconnection and environmental strain that make now truly global catastrophes much easier to imagine.......Today’s visions of collapse are more gradual, be that a spreading pandemic or the remorseless warming of our planet. “Today, climatic and environmental catastrophes are less spectacular, but they have actually started,” Servigne and Stevens suggest.........How should we prepare for such a possibility? Some take matters into their own hands, the subject of Mark O’Connell’s Notes from an Apocalypse, a delightful peek inside the world of “preppers” gearing up for imminent disruptions to our social or political order......begs the question of what sensible measures should be taken to prepare instead, especially when politicians find it so hard to focus on risks that are low-probability and complex, or those, such as climate change, whose full effects will not be felt for decades......Existential destruction would, by definition, be unprecedented. Yet our world is still littered with the ruins of once-thriving civilisations that did at some point come to an end, mostly for reasons that modern societies are in a position to prevent.
Apocalypses  artificial_intelligence  bioterrorism  book_reviews  books  catastrophes  COVID-19  disaster_preparedness  Elon_Musk  existential  extinction  globalization  H5N1  human_race  humanity  network_risk  pandemics  power_grid  risks  societal_collapse  Stephen_Hawking  threats  viruses  vulnerabilities 
11 days ago by jerryking
Fossil Site Reveals Day That Meteor Hit Earth and, Maybe, Wiped Out Dinosaurs
March 29, 2019 | The New York Times | By William J. Broad and Kenneth Chang.

The Chicxulub impact and the global disaster it wrought are sometimes held up as the death stroke for the dinosaurs. But many scientists argue that an array of other factors, including volcanic eruptions and climatic disruptions, contributed to the demise of the giant reptiles.
asteroids  dinosaurs  disasters  evolution  existential  extinction  fossils  meteorites  meteors  natural_calamities  paleontology 
march 2019 by jerryking
The best way to solve a problem is to wait a while
May 25, 2018 | Financial Times Tim Harford YESTERDAY.

The world is full of risks. Can anyone guarantee that over the next 300 years both the UK trust fund and country will survive asteroid strikes, thermonuclear war or a deliberately engineered pandemic?

Perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. The imminent threat to the trust fund is the British government itself, which has decided that a tiny advantage is worth seizing now, since the costs will fall to someone else. (You may supply your own analogy at this point.)

All democratically elected governments struggle to see past the next election, but this one struggles to see past next Tuesday. In fairness, it often feels as if the next election may come sooner than that. And it is hard to take a truly long-term perspective, whether contemplating the future of human life or the prospect of cheesecake.

As long as the [UK] debt stays roughly in proportion to national income — not an outrageous assumption — then the trust fund would be sufficient to pay off the debt a mere four centuries after the original bequest

The Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees wrote a book titled Our Final Century, warning of the existential threats arising from complex, interconnected modern systems. The book was renamed Our Final Hour in the US, perhaps because a century seemed like too much time to kill.

Economists and moral philosophers argue among themselves over how to account for the interests of future generations. The answer is far from obvious. It turns out to be crucial in pondering a rational response to slow-burning disasters such as climate change — assuming that anyone cares about a rational response, which seems a forlorn hope.
problem_solving  Tim_Harford  long-term  books  disasters  slowly_moving  short-sightedness  imperceptible_threats  existential  interconnections 
may 2018 by jerryking
China Could Sell Trump the Brooklyn Bridge - The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman NOV. 14, 2017

The saying — “When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there” — and it perfectly sums up the contrast between China’s President Xi Jinping and President Trump.....All along, Xi keeps his eye on the long-term prize of making China great again. Trump, meanwhile, touts every minor victory as historic and proceeds down any road that will give him a quick sugar high.

Trump literally has no idea what he’s doing and has no integrated strategy — because, unlike Xi, Trump’s given no thought to the big questions every effective leader starts his day with: “What world am I living in? What are the biggest trends in this world? And how do I align my country so more of my citizens get the most out of these trends and cushion the worst?”

What world are we in? One in which we’re going through three “climate changes” at once.
(1) Destructive weather events and the degradation of ecosystems are steadily accelerating.
(2) globalization: from an interconnected world to an interdependent one; from a world of walls, where you build your wealth by hoarding resources, to a world of webs, where you thrive by connecting your citizens to the most flows of ideas, trade, innovation and education.
(3) technology and work: Machines are acquiring all five senses, and with big data and artificial intelligence, every company can now analyze, optimize, prophesize, customize, digitize and automatize more and more jobs, products and services. And those companies that don’t will wither.
artificial_intelligence  Tom_Friedman  China  U.S.  Donald_Trump  globalization  technology  climate_change  TPP  international_trade  questions  think_threes  wealth_creation  grand_strategy  foundational  existential  extreme_weather_events  Xi_Jinping 
november 2017 by jerryking
‘Last Secret’ of 1967 War: Israel’s Doomsday Plan for Nuclear Display - The New York Times
By WILLIAM J. BROAD and DAVID E. SANGER JUNE 3, 2017

On the eve of the Arab-Israeli war, 50 years ago this week, Israeli officials raced to assemble an atomic device and developed a plan to detonate it atop a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula as a warning to Egyptian and other Arab forces, according to an interview with a key organizer of the effort that will be published Monday.

The secret contingency plan, called a “doomsday operation” by Itzhak Yaakov, the retired brigadier general who described it in the interview, would have been invoked if Israel feared it was going to lose the 1967 conflict. The demonstration blast, Israeli officials believed, would intimidate Egypt and surrounding Arab states — Syria, Iraq and Jordan — into backing off.

Israel won the war so quickly that the atomic device was never moved to Sinai.
existential  Israel  Arab-Israeli_War  anniversaries  1967  nuclear  secrets  Doomsday  Arab-Muslim_world  Six-Day_War  David_Sanger 
june 2017 by jerryking
The Great Questions of Tomorrow: David Rothkopf: 9781501119941: Books - Amazon.ca
“Asking the right question is the biggest challenge we face. People typically let the immediate past shape their questions—how do we avoid another shoe bomber is an example, when that’s not a risk that we’re likely to face. Or they let their area of expertise and their desire to be useful shift their focus. This is kind of the when-all-you-have-is-a-hammer-everything-looks-like-a-nail problem, and it leads people who feel the future is drone warfare to ask questions that end in answers that require drone warfare. Or, to choose an example, it leads people who have spent much of their adult lives fighting Saddam Hussein to ask questions after 9/11 about his role, even though he didn’t have one. And that did not turn out well.”

So, in the end, Hamlet had it wrong. “To be or not to be” is not the question. The question of questions is, “What is the question?” In this respect, history tells us to start with the basics, the foundational questions that we have for too long taken for granted. There are questions like: “Who am I?” “Who rules?” “What is money?” “What is a job?” “What is peace?” and “What is war?”
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Podcast : http://dcs.megaphone.fm/PNP5814408937.mp3?key=6548e439290ceeb43bb04f17f90d55bf
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"The biggest problems with Trump is that his daily melodramas are distracting us from the big challenges of our age," says David Rothkopf, whose book, The Great Questions of Tomorrow, seems to have bypassed the White House. "You cannot tweet or bully your way to leadership in complex times." [29 April/30 April 2017 | FT Weekend pg. 4 | by Edward Luce]
5_W’s  Amazon  asking_the_right_questions  books  David_Rothkopf  distractions  Edward_Luce  existential  expertise_bias  foundational  metacognition  podcasts  questions  recency_bias 
april 2017 by jerryking
Nick Bostrom: ‘We are like small children playing with a bomb’
Sunday 12 June 2016 | Technology | The Guardian | by Tim Adams.

Sentient machines are a greater threat to human existence than climate change, according to the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom.

Bostrom, a 43-year-old Swedish-born philosopher, has lately acquired something of the status of prophet of doom among those currently doing most to shape our civilisation: the tech billionaires of Silicon Valley. His reputation rests primarily on his book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, which was a surprise New York Times bestseller last year and now arrives in paperback, trailing must-read recommendations from Bill Gates and Tesla’s Elon Musk. (In the best kind of literary review, Musk also gave Bostrom’s institute £1m to continue to pursue its inquiries.)
artificial_intelligence  books  catastrophic_risk  climate_change  dangers  deep_learning  existential  machine_learning  Oxford  prophets  risks 
march 2017 by jerryking
Those who focus on police reform are asking the wrong questions - The Globe and Mail
AMANDA ALEXANDER
Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jul. 29, 2016

The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile underscore two truths about the United States: We make it difficult for people to get by and harder yet to care for each other. After decades of slashing welfare budgets and increasing investments in prisons, federal and state governments have charted a path for the country’s poorest: aggressive policing and incarceration. We’ve locked people out of the formal job market and criminalized their survival.

It is not coincidental that officers in New York and Baton Rouge killed Eric Garner and Alton Sterling, respectively, in the course of policing informal economies (selling loose cigarettes and CDs). We simply make life hard for people – until we extinguish it entirely....Each day, we require black people to risk their lives to be cafeteria workers, teachers, therapists. The United States demands impossible sacrifices from black people to sustain its economy, and has since slavery.

What does this have to do with police reform?

Very little. Reformers are asking the wrong questions. They have turned to increased police training and altered use-of-force protocols to end this nightmare. Fortunately, some among us demand another way. Young black activists are not just asking, “How do we make cops stop shooting us?” but instead, “What do our communities need to thrive? How do we get free?” They’re not begging for scraps; they’re demanding the world they deserve. If there’s a future for any of us, it’s in asking these questions, demanding fundamental shifts in resources and organizing like hell.....Meanwhile, cash-strapped cities continue to raise revenue from policing and fining the poor. And because of insufficient social service investment, Americans rely on police to be first responders to crises of mental health, addiction and homelessness.
policing  African-Americans  reform  informal_economy  mental_health  addictions  existential  foundational  homelessness  community_organizing  incarceration  institutional_path_dependency  structural_change  questions  Black_Lives_Matter  cash-strapped  cities  reframing  political_organizing 
july 2016 by jerryking
Mark Helprin: Why Israel Needs the Bomb - WSJ.com
OCTOBER 18, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | Mark Helprin. It's
the only country whose right to exist is routinely questioned, and its
conventional military superiority in the region is being challenged.
nuclear  deterrence  Israel  existential  threats  Mark_Helprin 
october 2010 by jerryking
Can Islam co-exist with itself?
July 22, 2006 | Globe and Mail | Jeffrey Simpson
Jeffrey_Simpson  Islam  existential 
may 2009 by jerryking
Pakistan's Existential Challenge - WSJ.com
MAY 12, 2009 | Wall Street Journal | by BRET STEPHENS

The trouble for a country defined mostly by what it is not. About Iran,
Henry Kissinger once asked whether the Islamic Republic was a country or
a cause. About Pakistan, the question is whether it's a country or
merely a space.
Pakistan  Bret_Stephens  existential  challenges  threats  Henry_Kissinger 
may 2009 by jerryking
Fearful, divided and outraged
March 14, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT |From Saturday's Globe and Mail | by YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI
Iran  Israel  peace  Israeli  initiatives  ostracism  existential 
march 2009 by jerryking

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