China has been running the world’s largest and most successful eugenics program for more than thirty years, driving China’s ever-faster rise as the global superpower. I worry that this poses some existential threat to Western civilization. Yet the most likely result is that America and Europe linger around a few hundred more years as also-rans on the world-historical stage, nursing our anti-hereditarian political correctness to the bitter end.
…that current tools in economics and econometrics don’t work, whenever there is an exposure to a large deviations, or “Black Swans”.
We are at a strategic disadvantage in the fight against viral infection.
What I am particularly worried about is that humans will be less and less able to appreciate what they should really be worrying about and that their worries will do more harm than good. Maybe, just as on a boat in rapids, one should try not to slowdown anything but just to optimize a trajectory one does not really control, not because safety is guaranteed and optimism is justified—the worst could happen—, but because there is no better option than hope.
In a media landscape oversaturated with sensational science stories, “end of the world” Hollywood productions, and Mayan apocalypse warnings, it may be hard to persuade the wide public that there are indeed things to worry about that could arise as unexpectedly as the 2008 financial crisis, and have far greater impact. I’m worried that by 2050 desperate efforts to minimize or cope with a cluster of risks with low probability but catastrophic conseqences may dominate the political agenda.
The universe is relentlessly, catastrophically dangerous, on scales that menace not just communities, but civilizations and our species as well. A freakish chain of improbable accidents produced the bubble of conditions that was necessary for the rise of life, our species, and technological civilization. If we continue to drift obliviously inside this bubble, taking its continuation for granted, then inevitably—sooner or later—physical or human-triggered events will push us outside, and we will be snuffed like a candle in a hurricane.
…the Internet Drivel Factor can’t be good—and is almost certain to grow in importance as the world fills gradually with people who have spent their whole lives glued to their iToys.
In the past, meaning was only in the minds of humans. Now, it is also in the minds of tools that bring us information. From now on, search engines will have an editorial point of view, and search results will reflect that viewpoint. We can no longer ignore the assumptions behind the results.
The underpopulation bomb: Here is the challenge: this is a world where every year there is a smaller audience than the year before, a smaller market for your goods or services, fewer workers to choose from, and a ballooning elder population that must be cared for. We’ve never seen this in modern times; our progress has always paralleled rising populations, bigger audiences, larger markets and bigger pools of workers. It is hard to see how a declining yet aging population functions as an engine for increasing the standard of living every year. To do so would require a completely different economic system, one that we are not prepared for at all right now.
I worry that as the problem-solving power of our technologies increases, our ability to distinguish between important and trivial or even non-existent problems diminishes. Just because we have “smart” solutions to fix every single problem under the sun doesn’t mean that all of them deserve our attention. In fact, some of them may not be problems at all; that certain social and individual situations are awkward, imperfect noisy, opaque or risky might be by design. Or, as the geeks like to say, some bugs are not bugs—some bugs are features.
We should worry that so much of our science and technology still uses just five main models of probability—even though there are more probability models than there are real numbers.
“science by (social) media” raises the curious possibility of a general public that reads more and more science while becoming less and less scientifically literate.
Gibbon, in describing the fall of Rome, spoke of “the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness” and of “the triumph of barbarism and religion”. Those forces—the diversion of intellectual effort from innovation to exploitation, the distraction of incessant warfare, rising fundamentalism—triggered a Dark Age before, and they could do so again.