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Comment: Re:Misses the post-scarcity point; digital abundan (Score 1) 421

by f1r3br4nd (#30112844) Attached to: What Computer Science Can Teach Economics

Well, sometimes some discretion is necessary. Better the seeds of high-tech society survive in a few tightly-organized pockets than spend themselves bailing out the masses who never bothered to make their own preparations. Still, general information should be shared, that's definitely a positive sum game. Specific preparedness measures taken by individuals not so much.

Interesting links, thanks for them.

Comment: Re:Misses the post-scarcity point; digital abundan (Score 1) 421

by f1r3br4nd (#30070098) Attached to: What Computer Science Can Teach Economics

Those are worthy projects. I'm probably going to continue in my own line of academic research, but I'll keep that in mind.

But it's also important to be as prepared as possible for the future getting derailed. I've actually heard people say they would rather die than live through a dark age. Their optimism is a fragile and brittle thing, apparently.

As for me, at the same time as I work to bring on the future, I will continue thinking up and implementing ways to come out on top even if the shit does hit the fan... so that I'll be in as good a position to get my local corner of civilization get back on track as I can manage.

Thinking that the future will play in the high-tech post-scarcity way I want it to would make me complacent. It's far more useful to think of risks that stand in my way and how they can be neutralized.

Comment: Re:Misses the post-scarcity point; digital abundan (Score 1) 421

by f1r3br4nd (#30048432) Attached to: What Computer Science Can Teach Economics

You're right, my tone was too strident. Just heard this post-scarcity sillyness too often. I actually agree with you about solar and wind except I insert "I really really hope" before "almost all our energy will come from renewables".

To prove to yourself that technological adaptations don't always come fast enough to bail us out, imagine that for some reason oil jumps to $500/barrel tomorrow (terrorist attacks on refineries, all-out nuclear war in the Middle East, etc). Will there be enough time for everyone to switch over from gasoline fuel and feedstocks? Hell no. There is some irreducible period of time needed to upgrade the electric grid, build wind/solar/nuke installations, and reorganize our entire manufacturing and goods distribution network. During that period we will have riots, blackouts, unemployment, and food shortages. If the crisis lasts long enough, the infrastructure (what's left of it) will eventually be almost entirely independent of oil, partly because we have retooled to renewable energy and partly because we have retooled to the now cheap and abundant human/animal labor, giving up on energy-intensive technologies (automation and mass production in general, including the manufacture of wind turbines and especially solar panels). I don't know how to predict the percentage contribution of these two causes of reduced demand for oil, but I want to know, because that is the difference between a technotopia and a dark age.

Trends are funny things-- they find unexpected ways to develop. Especially if we mechanically follow them without understanding why they appear exponential. If past performance was a guaranteed predictor of future outcomes, nobody would ever lose money on the stock market.

I guess I'm just not content to sit back and let The Market and R&D work their magic. I need to understand what the actual likelihood is that we will win our race against Malthus yet again. Until I do, I must put some of my effort into preparing for and mitigating the effects of the most likely civilizational risks (and thus making a small contribution to that very race).

PS: In the long run, things don't look good for exponential growth of any sort. You might want to read this post by Robin Hanson: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/09/limits-to-growth.html. He is the last guy you'd expect to take Malthus seriously, but apparently Robin's intellectual integrity and ability to do the math has dragged him kicking and screaming to this repugnant conclusion. Not that I'm saying technotopia is not a worthy goal-- it's the only worthy goal, but we should go into it with our eyes open to the fact that the odds are stacked against us and we don't necesserily have a lot of time.

Comment: Re:Misses the post-scarcity point; digital abundan (Score 1) 421

by f1r3br4nd (#30044000) Attached to: What Computer Science Can Teach Economics

The biggest problem we face is post-scarcity technologies of abundance wielded by scarcity-obsessed people

I disagree. I think a bigger problem are abundance obsessed people who choose to remain ignorant of the obstacles to actually implementing theoretically possible technologies: cost, time, and social/political inertia. Just because we know how to replace unskilled labor with machines and oil with nukes doesn't mean we can retool the infrastructure overnight nor convince investors to fund a rapid cutover.

Even though futurists like you dislike thinking about nitty-gritty details, especially economics and politics, that doesn't change the fact that they are real constraints on the feasibility of your plans, and if you ignore them your plans are just as sure to fail as if you were to ignore friction or entropy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no luddite. I'm in the same singularity fan club as you are. I'm just frustrated that so many of us waste time on mental masturbation of "what if people were rational and had the same techie goals I do" instead of working on the hard problem of how to insure that our future doesn't get cut short by some stupid mundane problem like petroleum depletion pushing us back into the 1800's.

One way to make your old car run better is to look up the price of a new model.

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