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jerryking : imperceptible_threats   8

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
Not if the Seas Rise, but When and How High - The New York Times
By JENNIFER SENIOR NOV. 22, 2017

The Water Will Come
Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World
By Jeff Goodell
340 pages. Little, Brown. $28

Political time now lags behind geological time: If we don’t take dramatic steps to prepare for the rising seas, hundreds of millions could be displaced from their homes by the end of the century, and the infrastructure fringing the coast, valued in the trillions of dollars, could be lost.....Unfortunately, human beings are uniquely ill-suited to prepare for disasters they cannot sense or see. “We have evolved to defend ourselves from a guy with a knife or an animal with big teeth,” Goodell writes, “but we are not wired to make decisions about barely perceptible threats that gradually accelerate over time.”....he visits cities in peril around the globe: New York; Lagos, Nigeria; Norfolk, Va.; Miami; Venice; Rotterdam..... every coastal city faces its own obstacles to adaptation, and the problems each one faces are different......It is, perhaps, the world’s poor who will suffer most. Goodell devotes a good deal of this book to contemplating their fate. Salty soil has already destroyed the rice crops of the Mekong Delta and Bangladesh. If the sea rises high enough, whole island nations could be washed away. The slum-dwellers of Lagos, Jakarta and other coastal cities in the developing world could be chased from their homes, many of which are already on stilts. The International Organization for Migration estimates there will be 200 million climate refugees by 2050.
climate_change  books  book_reviews  Miami  slowly_moving  sea-level_rise  coastal  imperceptible_threats  developing_countries 
november 2017 by jerryking
From climate change to robots: what politicians aren’t telling us
OCTOBER 26, 2017 | FT| by Simon Kuper.

Most politicians bang on about identity while ignoring automation, climate change and the imminent revolution in medicine. They talk more about the 1950s than the 2020s. This is partly because they want to distract voters from real problems, and partly because today’s politicians tend to be lawyers, entertainers and ex-journalists who know less about tech than the average 14-year-old....Ironically, given the volume of American climate denial, the US looks like becoming the first western country to be hit by climate change. Each new natural disaster will prompt political squabbles over whether Washington should bail out the stricken region. At-risk cities such as Miami and New Orleans will gradually lose appeal as the risks become uninsurable......American climate denial may fade too, as tech companies displace Big Oil as the country’s chief lobbyists. Already in the first half of this year, Amazon outspent Exxon and Walmart on lobbying. Facebook, now taking a kicking over fake news, will lobby its way back. Meanwhile, northern Europe, for some years at least, will benefit from its historical unique selling point: its mild and rainy climate. Its problem will be that millions of Africans will try to move there.

On the upside, many Africans will soon, for the first time ever, have access to energy (thanks to solar panels) and medical care (as apps monitor everything from blood pressure to sugar levels, and instantly prescribe treatment). But as Africa gets hotter, drier and overpopulated, people will struggle to feed themselves, says the United Nations University. So they will head north, in much greater numbers than Syrians have, becoming the new bogeymen for European populists....The most coveted good of all — years of life — will become even more unfairly distributed. The lifespans of poor westerners will continue to stagnate or shorten, following the worldwide surge in obesity since the 1980s. Many poorer people will work into their seventies, then die, skipping the now standard phase of retirement. Meanwhile, from the 2020s the rich will live ever longer as they start buying precision medicine. They will fix their faulty DNA and edit their embryos, predicts Vivek Wadhwa, thinker on technology. ...Troubled regimes will also ratchet up surveillance. Now they merely know what you say. In 10 years, thanks to your devices, they will know your next move even before you do.
2020s  Africa  automation  Big_Tech  climate_change  climate_denial  imperceptible_threats  life_expectancy  mass_migrations  migrants  politicians  precision_medicine  refugees  Simon_Kuper  slowly_moving  surveillance_state  unevenly_distributed  uninsurable  Vivek_Wadhwa 
november 2017 by jerryking
Shopping for the apocalypse
Aug. 26, 2017 | The Financial Times | by Esther Bintliff.

Apocalyptic thinking has always been with us, but its power waxes and wanes. "We live in an extremely unstable and insecure time," says Ash Amin, a Cambridge University geography professor who studies urban culture. "Risks are much bigger and globally integrated."

The psychology of prepping rests on this sense of chaos, of needing to assert some control - any control - over an unpredictable reality. There is solace in practical, orderly steps you can tick off a list. Buy a three-day supply of non-perishable food, a few gallons of water, a torch, a multi-tool. Identify your family meeting place, evacuation route, shelter. These are achievable aims.

Many everyday catastrophes, in contrast, are unwieldy and intractable. Rather than arriving with the sudden bloom of a mushroom cloud, they unfold slowly, in quiet, unobtrusive ways. Some 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in the US in 2015, more than from guns or cars, or from HIV/Aids in the year the epidemic reached its height. Mothers, fathers, teens collapsing in shopping aisles and sports pitches is its own kind of Armageddon; most of us feel helpless in its wake.

Of course, calamities do occur. One morning in September 1859, British astronomer Richard Carrington was in his observatory when he saw a white-light solar flare - a huge magnetic explosion on the sun. It was followed by the largest geomagnetic storm ever recorded on Earth. Telegraphs were disrupted across Europe and the US. My husband's fear is of a repeat Carrington event - a severe geomagnetic storm that this time would take down the electrical grid, GPS and satellites. In 2012, scientists suggested that the likelihood of such a storm within a decade was as high as 12 per cent. Worst-case scenario: millions of people, hospitals, businesses without power for months.

Perhaps it's worth preparing for this one-in-eight possibility of chaos. So when is prepping not paranoia - but planning? Tom Martin, founder of the American Preppers Network, which has 35,000 forum members and 230,000 fans on Facebook, tells me: "The definition of a prepper is quite simply 'one who prepares'. So if someone stores extra food and emergency supplies in case of a -disaster, then by definition they are a prepper... It's all varying degrees."..........Amin points out that the emphasis on individual prepping may be misplaced. "Where you find really resilient populations, they often share responsibility with their families and communities. And the history of managing for apocalypse is the history of governmental and infrastructure preparedness."

I take this to mean that instead of building up supplies, we should invite the neighbours round for cake and pressure the government to invest in things such as transport and back-up energy. That's the kind of prepping I can get behind. But I might buy a wind-up radio as well, just in case.
apocalypses  catastrophes  chaos  disasters  disaster_preparedness  emergencies  evacuations  imperceptible_threats  natural_calamities  power_grid  preparation  readiness  resilience  risks  slowly_moving  survivalists  unwieldy  worst-case 
november 2017 by jerryking
Can the Tech Giants Be Stopped? -
July 14, 2017 | WSJ | By Jonathan Taplin.

Google, Facebook, Amazon and other tech behemoths are transforming the U.S. economy and labor market, with scant public debate or scrutiny. Changing course won’t be easy....."we are rushing ahead into the AI universe with almost no political or policy debate about its implications. Digital technology has become critical to the personal and economic well-being of everyone on the planet, but decisions about how it is designed, operated and developed have never been voted on by anyone. Those decisions are largely made by executives and engineers at Google, Facebook, Amazon and other leading tech companies, and imposed on the rest of us with very little regulatory scrutiny. It is time for that to change.

Who will win the AI race? The companies that are already in the forefront: Google, Facebook and Amazon. As AI venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee recently wrote in the New York Times , “A.I. is an industry in which strength begets strength: The more data you have, the better your product; the better your product, the more data you can collect; the more data you can collect, the more talent you can attract; the more talent you can attract, the better your product.”".....How did we get here? I would date the rise of the digital monopolies to August 2004, when Google raised $1.9 billion in its initial public offering......This shift has brought about a massive reallocation of revenue, with economic value moving from the creators of content to the owners of monopoly platforms. Since 2000, revenues for recorded music in the U.S. have fallen from almost $20 billion a year to less than $8 billion, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. U.S. newspaper ad revenue fell from $65.8 billion in 2000 to $23.6 billion in 2013 (the last year for which data are available). Though book publishing revenues have remained flat, this is mostly because increased children’s book sales have made up for the declining return on adult titles.....The precipitous decline in revenue for content creators has nothing to do with changing consumer preferences for their content. People are not reading less news, listening to less music, reading fewer books or watching fewer movies and TV shows. The massive growth in revenue for the digital monopolies has resulted in the massive loss of revenue for the creators of content. The two are inextricably linked......In the third quarter of 2016, companies owned by Facebook or Google took 90% of all new digital ad revenue. ....The history of Silicon Valley itself offers some guidance here. The astonishing technological revolution of the past half-century would never have occurred without the impetus of three seminal antitrust prosecutions. ....The clear historical lesson, which is waiting to be rediscovered in our own day, is that antitrust action has often served not to constrain innovation but to promote it.
Apple  Alphabet  Big_Tech  Google  Amazon  Microsoft  Facebook  artificial_intelligence  privacy  antitrust  Silicon_Valley  content  platforms  virtuous_cycles  content_creators  public_discourse  oligopolies  oversight  value_migration  regulation  innovation  seminal  no_oversight  imperceptible_threats  FAANG  backlash  Kai-Fu_Lee 
july 2017 by jerryking
How to avert catastrophe
January 21, 2017 | FT | Simon Kuper.

an argument: people make bad judgments and terrible predictions. [JCK; bad judgment = bad decisions] It’s a timely point. The risk of some kind of catastrophe — armed conflict, natural disaster, and/or democratic collapse — appears to have risen. The incoming US president has talked about first use of nuclear weapons, and seems happy to let Russia invade nearby countries. Most other big states are led by militant nationalists. Meanwhile, the polar ice caps are melting fast. How can we fallible humans avert catastrophe?

• You can’t know which catastrophe will happen, but expect that any day some catastrophe could. In Tversky’s words: “Surprises are expected.” Better to worry than die blasé. Mobilise politically to forestall catastrophe.
• Don’t presume that future catastrophes will repeat the forms of past catastrophes. However, we need to expand our imaginations. The next catastrophe may take an unprecedented form.
• Don’t follow the noise. Some catastrophes unfold silently: climate change, or people dying after they lose their jobs or their health insurance. (The financial crisis was associated with about 260,000 extra deaths from cancer in developed countries alone, estimated a study in The Lancet.)
• Ignore banalities. We now need to stretch and bore ourselves with important stuff.
• Strengthen democratic institutions.
• Strengthen the boring, neglected bits of the state that can either prevent or cause catastrophe. [See Why boring government matters November 1, 2018 | | Financial Times | Brooke Masters.
The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, by Michael Lewis, Allen Lane, RRP£20, 219 pages. pinboard tag " sovereign-risk" ]
• Listen to older people who have experienced catastrophes. [jk....wisdom]
• Be conservative. [jk...be conservative, be discerning, be picky, be selective, say "no"]
Amos_Tversky  apocalypses  bad_decisions  black_swan  boring  catastrophes  conservatism  democratic_institutions  disasters  disaster_preparedness  disaster_myopia  elder_wisdom  emergencies  financial_crises  imagination  imperceptible_threats  Nassim_Taleb  natural_calamities  noise  silence  Simon_Kuper  slowly_moving  surprises  tips  threats  unglamorous 
january 2017 by jerryking
The biggest threat to the global economy? The weather -
Sep. 06 | The Globe and Mail |ERIC REGULY

In an interview in Munich, Peter Hoppe, the meteorologist who is head of the reinsurance giant’s georisk unit, said: “Climate change will create security problems because of the migrations it will create.”

Drought is emerging as one of the biggest natural hazards. It has the potential to reshape human landscapes and entire economies, mostly for the worse but sometimes for the better. Canada is less prone to drought than the United States; it could emerge as the world’s emergency breadbasket if the warming trend extends the growing season and the amount of productive agricultural land....Droughts are especially ugly because they sometimes develop gradually, meaning that their potential to cause harm is often ignored, and can last many years. ...The former boss of the World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, was fond of saying that the desperately hungry do one of three things: They riot, they migrate or they die. The Syrian civil war is giving the world an uncomfortable taste of the effects of mass migration. An enormous drought could make that migration look small and its security and economic consequences would be hard to fathom. It appears that no country, rich or poor, has a plan to deal with mass drought and mass migration.
extreme_weather_events  weather  climate_change  insurance  Munich_Re  Eric_Reguly  natural_calamities  droughts  farmland  food  hunger  mass_migrations  agriculture  threats  security_&_intelligence  slowly_moving  geopolitical-risk  global_economy  imperceptible_threats 
september 2013 by jerryking
We are stone heads on medicare
Feb 28, 2005 | G &M Page A13 | By WILLIAM THORSELL. In
his bestseller, Collapse, Jared Diamond asks: "Why do societies make
disastrous decisions?" He is referring primarily to the environment, but
the answers apply to other things as well. Societies make disastrous
decisions because: We fail to anticipate big problems. It's hard to see
them in advance. But you can't say that about Canada's debt crisis, or
the rising crush of medicare. They were predicted for yrs., and yet we
barged on into them. We fail to perceive problems when they do arrive
because they are too small to see, or because they arrive slowly and we
get used to them....But the most potent of Mr. Diamond's reasons is "core values" -- the insistence on holding to certain defining values in the face of even mortal threats.

He cites the cult on Easter Island (cutting down trees to erect giant stone heads) as an example of bovine loyalty to core values in the face of compelling problems (deforestation).

Isn't that the case with medicare in Canada? We have raised the monopoly-pay/provider model to the status of a defining icon -- a core value of Canada itself. No matter how self-destructive and ineffective this approach may be, we are too invested in its symbolism to change it. It's a classic case of dumb loyalty to dysfunction, with deserved consequences.
William_Thorsell  Medicare  Jared_Diamond  incrementalism  anticipating  Canada  healthcare  creeping_normality  complacency  selfishness  values  self-destructive  slowly_moving  core_values  imperceptible_threats  societal_collapse 
october 2010 by jerryking

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