*** S.O.S. *** Input
Name = Charles Barnard
state = Wisconsin
age = 56
citizen of = yea
Religious affiliation = Unitarian
SOS Answer = "The idea behind the game is to see if anyone in the world has a solution to humans determination to self-annihilate -- present Earth's worst case scenario to game players and let them try to win the game."
There are major problems with the goal as stated:
It limits solutions to people on Earth.
It assumes that there is a human "determination to self-annihilate."
It assumes that we are in a 'worst case' scenario.
Limiting solutions to people on the planet is short-sighted and vastly limits the possible pool of players. I would argue that humans do not have a "determination to self-annihilate." As proof, I offer the fact that we have had the capability of self-annihilation for many decades and yet, we are still here. In fact, there are 7 billion of us, by far more than in the rest of history. There are LOTS of much worse cases! E.g. an active large scale war, rogue planet on collision course, rogue wave on the Sun (exceptionally large mass ejection event,) active dispersed microscopic agents (prions, viruses, bacteria, protezoa and my favorite, unknown. There are and never have been, "sides" to this game. "Sides" were invented when we were ignorant of the world, and believed that what we could see was the universe, what we could use was the planet and the EMF from the Sun. These assumptions lead inevitably to "sides" becuase the assumption of limited resources implies a zero-sum game in which there are winners and losers. If I have it, you cannot. In fact, the planet contains merely a tiny and insignificant portion of the resources within our grasp, to say nothing of the even larger pool of resources within our reach. Nearly all problems that humans face involve either resource apportionment or power (political/energetic.) We depend heavily upon combustible materials for our surplus energy usage (beyond that expendable by our muscles & domesticated animals.) So long as our usage created no more wastes than the ecosphere could absorb and neutralize, this functioned well. Unfortunately, we are, as most lifeforms, tied very closely to here & now (now being approximately 3 minutes.) From this vantage, the world is infinite, any problems can be solved by changing where 'here' is located. This only works so long as you have unexplored territory. Because of this short-sightedness, we repeatedly destroyed local portions of the ecosystem, moving on as each became depleted. An ecosystem of some sort will exist wherever there is life, and life requires (so far as we know) water, so long as there is any water and energy available, there will be an ecosystem. On a planet with 3/4 of the surface covered in water and an atmosphere which can and does hold water in gaseous form, there will be life everywhere. Such destruction reduces the ability of the ecosphere to moderate and neutralize wastes. Once that threshold is exceeded by our expansion and our reduction of the ability of the ecosystem to respond, the ecosphere will trend towards a different semi-stable balance. Because we are clever, we assumed that we were greater than any other part of the ecosphere—like the brain saying it is more important then the stomach, this is was invalid assumption. In order to thrive a species must be able to generate surplus resources. In our case, our cleverness has slowly and surely put each of us in control of more power than we can generate. Our ability to cooperate has permitted us to perform tasks impossible for a single human. Ability without wisdom is a loose cannon—as likely to damage you as your foe. Our problems are based primarily upon false assumptions.
Life is conservative. Novelty is more often than not, dangerous. At every stage of our development, we have left at least some of our kind living in the previous lifestyle. Only very recently have the last of the hunter-gathers (perhaps) moved on to a newer game. This is our safety net—the ability to return to a known semi-stable state. Unfortunately, it also means that substantial percentages of our population hold world-views which are obsolete (which is o.k.) or in direct conflict with reality (which is dangerous.) So, while many of the players now realize that the game is not as it seemed, that it is not zero-sum, a huge proportion of them either do not comprehend or refuse to comprehend this change and continue to play as if the only possible outcomes were to win for themselves, or to lose. The truth is that the game never ends, but the players may be eliminated—or leave the playing field. It is possible for all players to win and it is possible for no players to survive. The current condition is that too many players are still playing under rules which contradict reality. Since the previous rules assume that everything is in limited supply, these players seek to control as much of the known resources as possible. Because of the amount of power which can be wielded by a single person, even a few playing with rules which are contradicted by reality is dangerous. Resources get hoarded rather than used. Artificial shortages and surpluses are manipulated in order to gain a larger share. Even those players who understand that they are part of, not superior to, the ecosphere, too often assume that the resource base is fixed in scope. Additionally, we are an emotion-driven species. Only a few can and do make decisions based upon objectified reality—and they only do it part of the time, much of the time they make emotional decisions and later find justification in objectified reality.
We are optimistic. We believe that people can change their nature...though we have seen that it doesn't happen. Optimism is often good, it will permit life to continue based upon hope.
But it also allows us to minimize in our thoughts any negative effects we see in reality. “What's one empty plastic bottle on the beach? Insignificant. What's one combustion-based power plant? Insignificant. What's one windmill? Insignificant.... But a billion plastic bottles on the beach is not insignificant, it is a major change of the environment, and the same goes for everything else. The impact of a single clan of humans is insignificant, but the impact of 7 billion is a calamity. Among other things, this ability to be optimistic permits us to live in denial. Nobody in my small town was surprised by this recession in September 2008—it started in 2002. Yet in the weeks before September even professional economists were optimistic, despite oil prices which far exceeded the demand and thousands of other indications that the economy was about to make a chaotic change. And none of them would listen to the few of us who warned of the disaster months or years inadvance—in part because we live in the moment. Ever since we began leveraging our power using tools, we have been running on the edge between disaster and prosperity—often falling off, but only in local areas. We are now a global phenomena, to the ecosphere we are as prevalent and quirky as the weather. Technological progress has, usually, managed to prevent/repair wide-spread disaster whatever the cause. It also creates new problems, some we can and do foresee, others we should have but did not and still others we could not have envisioned. Our current situation is dire, though hardly unsalvageable.
My projections show that we can expect significant rises in sea level (1-10m) sometime before 2027—uncertainty is high, but the expectation is that it will NOT be linear, but an accelerating phenomena; ALL of the factors involved in climate change at the moment are positive feedback mechanisms. But every season “scientists were surprised to find how rapidly things had changed.” Each of these pushes the danger a bit closer—though 'official' estimates place the danger decades in the future—where it will be ignored by people of the moment. By the way, “climate change” is ridiculous. Climate is the history of weather. Any change to climate can only be seen in historical records. Weather patterns change. Climate records. On the universal scale, a planet insignificant. On the human scale, a planet is huge. Inertia makes it much, much more difficult to change the direction of a large object than a much smaller object. (It is this which causes us to believe that “In a vacuum, a feather and hammer fall at the same rate.” Patently untrue, since the attractive force of gravity is based upon the sizes of both masses. Apparently true because on a planetary scale mass, the difference between the planet and a hammer or a feather is nearly identical.) In addition, weather patterns are susceptible to chaotic discontinuities—events which begin with a small change which under previous circumstance would result in a small or even no change in condition which result in major change. “The straw that broke the camel's back.” While the general public is busy arguing about whether or not we 'caused' the problem, many of us and our governments are trying to find ways to survive what appears to be an inevitable major change in our environment. It becomes less likely each day that we will be able to stall or reverse our current changes in weather patterns (though I have one idea which possibly could do just that.) But the important point is that humans struggle endlessly to survive. They do stupid things which cause themselves great problems and deaths. But it is not because they are attempting self-annihilation. It is because each is doing what they perceive is their personal best option for the survival of their genetic codes—just as every life form does. This means that the problem as stated is in contradiction to the reality. The problem as stated doesn't exist.
The problem of our species destroying itself and/or most others is separate, but must be considered in the light of self-interest, not self-annihilation. The one climate modification idea which I believe might mitigate or even reverse the current meta-pattern of weather patterns would be to cool off the Caribbean by recreating the current flow that existed prior to the closing of the Isthmus of Panama. This could be done within 7 years at an estimated cost of ~US$10 billion, using current technologies. The key to avoiding death by our own wastes is to reduce those wastes and 100% recycling. This requires energy. The energy required for our civilization is too much and increasing too rapidly to be met by any means or combination of means we currently use on the planet without major ecological disruptions. Short-term, we can reduce wastes and impacts by changing production to methods with lessor impact than combustion. Long-term we need another solution. Ever since we discovered that atoms aren't the smallest particles, and that we could disassemble them and liberate relatively huge amounts of power; Or that we can merge atoms, and release even more power; one of our great hopes has been fusion power. Oddly enough, we have been running on indirect fusion power almost entirely. And it is dangerous. The power we depend upon is uncontrolled nuclear fusion in the Sun. ~150 million km away and it kills people daily. At that, we only utilize (as a planet) an insignificant fraction of the Solar output. Moreover, conversion efficiency of that portion we use is very low, meaning that the vast majority of energy ends up as heat. The most feasible solution extent is to work short-term to replace our least efficient and most waste-producing methods of power generation with more efficient waste-free(captured/recycled) methods. But that is only a short-term solution, and civilization will inevitably run up against the fact that all of the energy intercepted by the planet will not suffice to support our civilization. Longer term, we need to generate more power than is possible on the planet, and we need to minimize the waste heat as well as the waste materials. We must expand off-planet.
Luckily, we live in a binary planet system, and our companion is close enough that we can reach it, and small enough to have a much lower energy cost to ship material away from it. Being this type of system, we also possess a number of semi-stable orbital positions—the Lagrange Points. Facilities placed in these positions will tend to stay there with minimal energy expenditure. We have technology which can convert Solar energy into narrow-frequency, narrow beam EMF radiation, other technology to convert those beams into electrical current (which can be converted to many other forms at convenience.) One advantage is that the waste from the initial conversion ends up radiated back into space instead of in the environment. Another is that the transmission losses are in the form of heat dispersed over cubic miles of atmosphere. Reconversion and on-planet losses will end up in more concentrated form in the ecosphere, but substantial amounts of energy which is unusable will never reach the planet. In order to survive long-term, a species must disperse over as wide a volume as possible. Merde happens. Far too many disasters can destroy a planet or a star-system, or even a galaxy for long-term survival in any of these places alone. We are gaining control of not only our birth-rate, but of our own evolution. Using those abilities can greatly lengthen the time before we die in our wastes. Or accelerate it. The majority of humans need to know in their guts, that they, their environment, and others around them, are one organism interdependent—as much as one human body is a bag of water with many different microbes living together in a semi-stable ecosystem. We need to control our birth-rate. Or our death-rate. Or both.
We need to cooperate to use the readily available resources to move our most wasteful and damaging activities outside the immediate ecosystem. We need to put a rapid halt upon those who hoard resources or group together to take them for themselves. These forces accelerate the decay by destroying rather than producing. We are rapidly acquiring the skill to make much more efficient use of matter on a molecular scale, this has important ramifications to efficiency. Any permanent solution must be based upon individual self-interest.
As I usually find with problems, this one asks the wrong questions, places unnecessary restrictions upon the answers and thus frustrates those who try to solve it. But, I have presented my case as a solution despite these flaws. But, if this is the wrong question, what is the correct question?
Is it the survival of Homo Sapiens? Or the thriving of Homo Sapiens? The survival of our current ecosphere? Or the construction of an ecosphere in which we thrive? Long-term the planet and everything else is gone. Therefore, at least a portion of the species must be elsewhere before that event.
I do not believe that the species is self-destructive. Personally I have been self-destructive for decades and yet I have survived, so there is a balance of some sort. Your data indicates that it is the survival of some essence of 'self' which is most important. Zygotes begat zygotes. But, self-aware life can desire less tangible legacy in addition or replacement of genetic continuance.
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