Re: Why bother (was Re: Introducing myself)

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sat Apr 13 2002 - 16:44:57 MDT

Evan Reese wrote:

> The fact that the climate is warming is not bogus, but the climate change is
> a threat is. It comes about from the generalized fear of change that is a
> part of many people's outlook. The geological shows that a warmer Earth
> than the one we have now is far from a threat..

How do you figure that exactly? Past geological evidence did
not have our pertubations as part of temperature shifts. I am
not at all sure that we will not manage to create a heat and
ozone-depletion run-away a bit different than what has happened
in the past. Also, in the past we did not have very significant
major population centers on the coast where they would be wiped
out by an significant rise in the level of the oceans.

> As far as these others: There is a big difference between 'possible' and
> 'real danger'. At the rate tech is advancing, if a rock doesn't blam us in
> the next 30 years, then it's not a threat; before that time, it's irrational
> to worry about something we are in no position to deal with.

Actually, if we mapped the heavens a bit more as far as likely
rocks go, there is a very good chance we could do something
about anything that looks too dangerous long before 30 years
from now. Why take a risk that is not that expensive to
evaluate the chances of more thoroughly? I consider it
irresponsible that we don't bother to finish mapping these things.

> Nuclear exchange? Between whom? The only other country with enough nukes
> to threaten a worldwide catastrophe is Russia, and the possibility of an
> exchange between us and them is remote. Certainly, other countries have
> some, and others will have them in the future; but a few detonations -
> tragic though that may be - does not a racial wipeout make. You need a lot
> more than any of these countries have - or will have presingularity - for
> any real danger of that.

I don't think it is so terribly remote at all. We didn't
exactly rush in to offer any real aid when Russia stopped being
a threat. As a result (and also for many other reasons) the
country is a huge mess and many of its people are in very dire
straits. This is a bad combination with a lot of major weaponry
around. Also there is the possibility of these weapons being
captured by others besides their original owners that is not
sufficiently accounted for and protected against imho. Lastly,
at the pace the US is threatening various countries it is not at
all impossible that the rest of the world will eventually come
to see us as a dangerous threat.

But I will concede that a biological war is much more likely a
threat at this time (until nanotech is available).

>>The world is also a bit hotter and the ozone hole is relatively
>>new on that timescale. Way too much of our human resources are
>>undereducated, undernourished and so on to be of maximum benefit
>>to themselves and all of us. Most of our intelligence, energy
>>and resources is used in the goal of accumulating more monetary
>>tokens than all those others one is in competition with. The
>>current scarcity based model imho, can lead to not much better
>>even in the face of real physical and information abundance.
> Those are - in themselves - not very good things, but they hardly constitute
> an 'Eve of Destruction' scenario. I think you're being self-indulgent - as
> many moderns are - who are still in a paleolithic mindset, looking around
> for threats from the predators and worrying about whether the crops will be
> flooded out or dry up and blow away and all those other threats our
> ancestors had to face just to survive. (Someone should write a book called
> _The Maladapted Mind_ showing how many of our ancient adapted mentality is
> out of step with the modern society.)

I think you are grossly out of line to call someone you don't
really know "self-indulgent" with so little evidence. I am
quite used to thinking with new and likely soon to be realities
firmly in mind. I dare say that I am better at it than most.

>>Well we do have a rabid evangelical at the head of Justice, a
>>president who many will argue was not duly elected and who does
>>not read his briefing papers generally but has them read to him,
>>a cabinet full of relics from 10-20 years ago administration,
>>increasing attacks on human rights and security of person and
>>effects, a much larger percentage of people in jail than any
>>other nation, a press that is overly-homogenized and sanitized
>>and a wacky notion of never ending war againt "the Evil Ones".
> Maybe you advocate just turning the other cheek to those responsible for
> 911, but I do not. So you disagree with - or don't like - whose in office.

Huh? I said nothing at all about "turning the other cheek" in
the above. Are you actually responding to what I wrote? A
never-ending war that is by definition not capable of completion
is certainly not the only alternative to "turning the other
cheek". The war as defined by President Bush is a huge danger
to the freedoms and well-being of ourselves and is a danger to
all the world. It is a simplistic rabid response to situations
with very complex causes. It cannot work to end terror. It is
mostly likely to create vastly more of it including terrorizing
our own citizens by their government for their supposed

I not only don't like Bush. I considering him an incompetent
scoundrel who stole the Presidency. The scoundrels he has put
into his cabinet are truly deserving of the word "evil".

> There are forces militating against the extremes these people *might* in
> their heart of hearts want to go to that do not exist in dictatorships.
> That's what checks and balances are for. They work pretty well, overall; so
> I think your unrealistically extrapolating what some of these people *might*
> like to do into actual actions that won't happen under our system of
> government.

In case you haven't noticed, Bush and his cronies give the bird
to "checks and balances". Our system of government? You mean
the one that has just released the CIA to practice assasinations
again? The one that has combined the FBI, CIA and local law
enforcement along with military "aid" to their efforts to spy on
the American people and arrest any of us they consider offensive
with hardly any judicial oversight? Please wake up and smell
the coffee. We are in considerable danger.

> The media is a helluva lot bigger than the big media companies (I guess)
> you're thinking of. I can get news from all over the world, so can anyone
> else with an account. So even if you are correct, it is immaterial. The
> world is more than just the U.S.

True, but it is pretty damn worrisome when I can't get remotely
balanced reporting in American media without going to the
"underground" press or to foreign sources. Exactly how long do
you think it will be before this government finds a pretext to
shut down some of this access? As it is they can watch every
click you make and have proposed various mandatory filters on
any public access points the government contributes money to.

No the world is not just the US. Unfortunately, some of those
currently in power do not seem to really appreciate this. That
we are the "only superpower" is, imho, going to their heads.

>>We have forces working hard to kill the power of nearly
>>limitless access to information and computational capability. So
>>yes, imho, this country could very quickly go to the dogs. Will
>>it be like Lebanon or Iraq? Dunno. But if it doesn't change
>>its course where it ends up will almost certainly not be pretty.
> There are always opposing forces in 'life, the universe, and everything'.
> The question is: Which direction is the tide flowing? I think the tide is
> flowing toward a positive future, and it only gets more powerful with
> passing time. Some people want to control information or resources for

I have very little evidence that the tide is currently moving to
a positive future so I don't think I can afford to just ride the

> their own selfish ends; they always have. They'll either realize which way
> the wind (changing metaphors in midstream, here) is blowing and tack
> accordingly, or get smashed against the shoals of history. The collapse of
> the Soviet Union is only the most prominent recent example of this. The
> list could be expanded at great length.

And it would be meaningless to expand an argument like this to
great lenght of course because you haven't really given your
evidence for which way the tide is moving. I think it is far
from inevitable at this point that it is moving in the direction
we wish it to.

> Change to what? Everybody wants changes of some kind or another. I want
> some things to change, as well. The difference between us is that I do not
> have apocoliptic visions if things don't turn out the way I'd prefer. Maybe
> that's where you need to get your energy from to move forward. If so,
> that's unfortunate. But I don't feel a threat of doom hanging over me to
> motivate me to act. I think that's a sad way to live if that's the case.

So, are you acting at full power to insure your dreams come to
pass in any case or do you believe that things going as you wish
is inevitable? I used to think that way more. But while I was
thinking that way a lot of things in the US and the world were
done in ways that are not at all inline with where I hope we
arrive. Things that I might have had a small hand in seeing
done differently. I feel more than a little guilt for some of
the places I was asleep at the wheel dreaming. If there was one
thing that 9-11 did it was to wake me up from the assumption
that things were headed in the right direction. Watching the
various reactions since has taught me that there is a lot of
work to be done, much of it on ourselves, in order to hope for a
good outcome. Even with our best efforts I don't think that
success is by any means assured.

Instead of accusing me of being apocalyptic or "self-indulgent"
perhaps you should pause to wonder if I haven't noticed a few
things and connected them that you have not yet noticed.

>>If people do not invest in Singularity it will not happen or we
>>will not survive it. Why? Because without investment in the
>>benefits of increasing techological prowess and direction toward
>>the goals that truly lead to abundance AND greater effective
>>intelligence, we could easily degenerate socially and
>>politically to the point where a deadly war or getting caught by
>>some other tragedy is quite likely before the point of no return
>>to Singularity is acheived. If we are together enough on a war
>>footing to keep advancing to the point of no return then the
>>escalation of ultra-high-tech weaponry will very likely finish
>>us off before we pass Singularity. Our weapons and their brains
>>may survive us but I doubt we will survive them.
> As I've already said, I don't believe any of this

Unless you can absolutely guarantee that it is not so then I
suggest you reconsider and work to assure it does not come to pass.

>>So I would advise people to work toward Singularity and toward a
>>state of psychology and sociology geared toward abundance and .
>>producing an unlimited future. I would advise everyone to work
>>toward it as if your life and the life and destiny of the entire
>>human race depends on it. Because it does.
> No, it doesn't

Really? Do you think we can stand still where we are
indefinitely in terms of our ability to comprehend and solve our
many problems and issues? Do you think that without
significantly more wisdom and effective intelligence we can
manage to continue existing long with even current challenges?
Do you think that without this increase we could deal
non-catastrophically with nanotech? If so, I honestly wish you
a lot of luck and I most fervently hope not too many agree with you.

- samantha

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