The following very long article - series is about catastrophic doom, a concept that I view from many perspectives. It was deemed TOO broad for a coming academic book on the subject and if I collect much more material, it might make a book! Or else a series to post on Amazon Shorts. (For that reason, please read/comment, but don't copy.)
The Parameters of Doom:
What We can Tell from History, Geology
Human Nature... and the Stars
Optimism and pessimism come in ironic shades. Some expect the future will take care of itself -- solutions will arise naturally out of market forces, or we'll just continue our run of incredible luck. Then again, might we already be on a failed path? Doomed by ignorance, complacency, sin... or perhaps by a sequence of events entirely outside of our control?
The universe contains quadrillions of stars, many far older than our sun. Logic suggests that intelligent life should have prospered and spread, to such a degree that signs of that proliferation would be visible by now, in much the same way that way humanity has laid unmistakable imprints across both the Earth and the electromagnetic spectrum. Yet, despite scans of both the sky above and rocks below, no trace of nonhuman technological achievement has yet been verified. Some conclude that the universe may be a more lonely place than optimistic searchers predicted.
In other words, intelligent life may not be an easy game to play.
This clue -- along with many others from history, biology, physics and our own hard life experience -- may caution us, provoking redoubled efforts to probe the territory just ahead, searching for possible failure modes. Human beings already have a talent for this kind of dour fretting. As obsessive worriers, we know, deep in our hearts, that life is hazardous and nothing is guaranteed. Success often depends on both good planning and good luck.
In this extended series, I plan to cover each of these themes in a wide-ranging overview, surveying the topic of failure from several perspectives.
* At its core, our aim is to explore possible futures -- both good and bad -- before any of them have a chance to come true. How do humans do this? Is there any chance of success?
* Other societies were able to envision catastrophe, but cultural assumptions limited their ability to consider the worst failure modes. The ones that would bring them crashing down.
* For a century, we have probed more deeply into why civilizations collapse, but even these appraisals have been colored by cultural bias.
* “Singularities” represent the extrema of transforming change, both success and failure.
* Is the rocket of progress aimed up or down?
* What boundary conditions to calamity can be see in the sky overhead and rocks below?
* What general processes can we use to encourage best possible outcomes? How might we best avoid calamity during the years ahead?
* Our urgent goal is to find a wide range of quicksand pits - potential failure modes -- as we charge headlong into the future. Nothing could be more important than improving two skill sets -- Anticipation and Resiliency
* After dealing with generalities, is there any one practical step that could make a crucial difference, right now? How about a method for finding out which human beings tend to be “right” more often than others?
This promises to be a very wide-ranging discussion. We'll start by considering some of the limitations that have been imposed by culture and our own natures, often hampering our ability to look ahead.
comments, suggestions, references welcome...