Technologic capacity creating catastrophic risk
I have to admit I am making headway on a moral dilemma that seemed intractable. How do you wrap your head around the daily challenge of really hating the industry you had been a part of for a few decades? To clarify, it wasn’t like I hated it. It was more like I thought we all had the same goal. Wasn’t improving health and patient outcomes a noble effort? It was until the slow drum beat of profits over patients grew louder and louder. Drive past your local hospital complex. The construction and expansion is a monument to feeding a system without checks and balances. There is no off-ramp. No plan for allowing GDP to decline or hold steady because our healthcare economy is shrinking due to a healthier population.
Social philosopher Daniel Schmachtenberger questions if it is possible have health in the U.S. when for-profit pharma industry sells people more drugs every single year creating one of the most medicated countries on earth. Or world peace with a backdrop of a for-profit military industrial complex. Begin to consider the perverse incentives we create that have yielded deforestation, climate change, plastic islands floating in our seas and the monetization of our offline lived experience to technology companies.
Forrest Landry is a “philosopher, writer, researcher, scientist, engineer, craftsman, and teacher bringing thoughtful conversations about large scale complex systems, and at the same time, the thriving of all forms of life on this planet.
He acknowledges the individual action of say a person or company and the relationship in the world where the action will have its effect(s). Look to the work of Donella Meadows where she explores different levers and how we can influence change in a system.
“The world is a complex interconnected, finite, ecological, social, physiological economic system. We treat it as if it were not, as if it were divisible, separable, simple and infinite, our persistent intractable global problems arise directly from this mismatch.” — Donella Meadows
The cacophony of voices with ideas of how to mitigate Facebook’s hold on America and beyond basically has to choose between oppression and chaos. Create government restrictions or let the psychologic manipulation of billions of people be untethered and evoke chaos on the populace.
But Forrest Landry has another framework, abstraction, extraction, depletion, and pollution discussed by Schmachtenberger as well. For example, a tree isn’t actually a tree if we abstract it to be the timber and two-by-fours we can create. Depletion follows because of the finite number of trees in the forest. And now pollution because the tree works as a carbon sink and balances its surrounding ecosystem.
“That even if you got the tech issue addressed, even if you perfectly address that, you still have abstraction, extraction, depletion and pollution running on a finite planet and a finite ecosystem across every other domain.” — Tristan Harris, Your Undivided Attention Podcast
you moved a problem from one area to another and actually a more sensitive area. And we see this with, well, can we solve hunger by bringing commercial agriculture to parts of the world that don’t have it so that the people don’t either not have food or we have to ship them food. But if its commercial agriculture based on the kind of unsustainable, environmentally unsustainable agricultural processes that lead to huge amounts of nitrogen runoff going into river deltas that are causing dead zones in the ocean, that can actually collapse the biosphere’s capacity to support life faster than we’re solving for a short-term issue that’s important and driving even worse long-term issues. — Daniel Schmachtenberger
We don’t need to be sad sack about these ideas and realities. Instead of thinking of an infinite number of different problems across a vast number of industries, we can model them as generator functions of existential risk. The reason we keep producing plastic, medicating the masses, and destroying our planet all reflect the same core set of values. The first generator function of existential risk is
rivalrous dynamics. I might as well do this harmful thing because my competitor will do it if I don’t and put me at a disadvantage.
The second generator function of existential risk is the subsuming of our substrate. Our democracy depends on the electorate paying attention — but in reality the substrate of “attention” has been eroded by social trust degradation. Pick your evil and it is pretty easy to identify the substrate being eroded.
The third generator function of existential risk is exponential technology or technology that grows and improves exponentially. A crazy conspiracy theory once only existed in a dimly lit basement until technology evolved to disperse the ideas across the world in seconds. Tin foil hats unite.
These are topics we will continue to explore. Stay tuned…
Originally published at https://datadonuts.weebly.com
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