From: Olie L (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat Nov 26 2005 - 01:28:29 MST
(This is SL4 relevant. I know the Global Warming /evidence/ thread has been
killed, but I'm commenting on specific concerns about our future)
>From: "J. Andrew Rogers" <email@example.com>
>That said, why exactly is all this even important? Solving problems a
>hundred years in the future today seems like a fruitless use of resources.
> Even the most catastrophic climate shifts in the historical record took
>a couple decades to occur, and those were a couple orders of magnitude
>more extreme than the variances we've seen over the last century.
Firstly, it is incorrect to say that climate changes always occur "slowly"
on the scale of decades. Plain Wrong.
A decent example of startlingly abrupt change is the end of the Younger
Dryas approximately 11,500 years ago. According to ice-core records, about
10 degree C of change happened really suddenly. REALLY suddenly. Although
global change /might/ have occurred over a decade or two, the Greenland
(GRIP/GISP2) and Vostok core samples both indicate change over less than a
decade - possibly in as little as ONE year.
The end of the Younger Dryas is covered succinctly by K C Taylor, LA
Mayewski et al "The Holocene/Younger Dryas Transition Recorded at Summit,
Greenland", 1997, in /Science/ v 278 pp 825-827
A compilation of YD data was put together in 1993 by D M Peteet, ed, "Global
Younger Dryas" 1993 in Quaternary Science Reviews, v 12.
Since abrupt global climate change will* have a profound effect on global
economic activity, this is a SL-4 concern. A potential global economic
collapse this century would interfere with computing developments, and
consequently with AGI concerns.
Admittedly, the best thing that people in the computing sphere can do is to
develop an AGI ASAP, firstly to help climatologists do their job (rather
than have computer heads pontificate at them), and secondly, because MNT may
offer some solutions to climate change problems.
However, it is also important to note that the attitude that "Solving
problems a hundred years in the future today seems like a fruitless use of
resources" is also harmful in the domain of climate change. As Prof Richard
Alley (Geosciences, Penn State) makes a point in his beautifully simple (and
not too preachy) "The Two Mile Time Machine" (Princeton UP, 2000): "the
Climate may be a bit like a drunk -- when left alone, it sits; when forced
to move, it staggers."
Reducing the push on the climate a little may make a crucial difference to
climate outcomes. Because the various feedback mechanisms (CO2 is one of
many) cause jitters and fluctuations, not causing climate jitters will lead
to a lot less human suffering overall.
Furthermore, it is obvious that some actions lead to results with a
time-lag, and that the time-to the result makes the results no less serious,
and therefore the problem no less significant.
It would seem kinda silly to say that just because a bomb has a longer fuse,
that it becomes unimportant to avoid setting it off. Sure, it's better to
have 2 hours to evacuate a building than 2 minutes, but having to evacuate
the building is nevertheless important!
By all means, do whatever you can to create an entity that will take more
care of our nest than we have done. But that doesn't mean that it's OK to
shit in our water trough.
*Climate change is a given. The past few thousand years of stable, warm
weather has been an anomaly. Without some serious Sysop intervention, there
will be change, and sometimes that change will be abrupt. Change might not
happen this decade or this millenium, but 20degC of change will occur in the
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