Metaphors (was 180 IQ idiot)

From: J. Andrew Rogers (
Date: Fri Nov 25 2005 - 00:16:26 MST

On Nov 24, 2005, at 8:34 PM, Rik van Riel wrote:
> This does not rule out the possibility that a small
> temperature spike triggers CO2 release, and the CO2
> then turns the temperature spike into a long term
> temperature rise.

Except that CO2 decreases are also preceded by temperature declines
-- it is a very consistent pattern. This strongly suggests that CO2
levels are directly regulated by temperatures that vary independent
of CO2 levels. While the static thermal characteristics of various
atmospheric mixes are reasonably well understood, the dynamics of
such things as they interact with the planet and biosphere under a
broad range of parameters are largely a mystery. Given the evidence
of other strong dynamics at play (e.g. parallel atmospheric warming
on neighboring planets), it would seem incredibly premature to
attribute it entirely or even mostly to anthropogenic CO2 at the
moment. In all probability, the underlying dynamics of climate
change do not neatly package into a soundbite any more succinct than
"shit happens"; no thirty minute sitcom answers with an obvious moral
lesson here, no matter how much we desire one.

This is a very common theme, whether discussing AI, the Singularity,
or planetary atmospheric dynamics. People want the universe to be
explained by something that is simple, succinct, and which requires
little effort to absorb or use. In reality, most systems of any
complexity do not become "simple" until one exerts an extraordinary
amount of effort trying to grok them.

Saying that CO2 is the primary driver of climate is approximately
like saying that an AI is nothing more than an expansive library of
"common sense" facts. It is turning an observation about the system
into the system itself. This is much, much cheaper than grokking the
system, but it has only a shadow of the utility of grokking the
system and is a dangerous basis to make broad assertions from.

> There are a lot of feedback cycles in play, and I
> wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the opinion of the
> scientific community...

The substantial conclusions of the scientific community are far
thinner than the conclusions frequently attributed to them by
ideologues. I have no problem with the idea that the planet is
warming; the variance in global temperature over the last century has
been placid compared to most centuries over the last million years,
so I would consider the regularity of the last century to be an
anomaly. My problem is with the level of certainty people have
regarding the nature of the system given such thin understanding -- I
have no preference for any conclusion as long as it is reasonable and

J. Andrew Rogers

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