Saturday, February 17, 2018

Watch The Edge Video, It's About The "Church Approach" To Global Warming



edge  |  I would say that there are two things I’m obsessing about recently. One is global warming and the other is augmentation. Global warming is something that strikes me as an interesting social phenomenon and scientific challenge. From the social side, you’ve got denialism, which, to me, is more important. You have denialism on a bunch of fronts. You've got denial of the Holocaust and evolution, but those aren’t things that necessarily in and of themselves impact our lives. It’s very heartrending and callous that anyone would deny the Holocaust, but as long as they don’t add to that a lot of other racism, nobody’s going to get hurt by it.

I imagine that we could probably populate my company enEvolv, which has evolution in the title, mostly with creationists and they would still get the products out. You just follow a recipe. Even though you’re doing evolution, you don’t need to believe it. Maybe it would help if the very top scientists believed in neo-Darwinism or something. Those are curious things that people fight about and have deep feelings about, but they don’t affect day-to-day life.

Global warming is something that could be catastrophic. You could argue that it’s in the same category because you can’t prove that my life today is worse because of global warming, but it’s something where it could be exponential. The odds are against it, but we don’t even know how to calculate the odds. It’s not like we’re playing blackjack or something like that. There’s more carbon in the Arctic tundra than in the entire atmosphere plus all the rain forests put together. And that carbon, unlike the rain forest where you have to burn the rain forest to release it, goes into the atmosphere as soon as you get melting. It’s already many gigatons per year going up. That’s something that could spiral out of control.

Even for the ultra concerned citizens, almost all the suggestions are not about how to prevent an exponential release, but how to slow down the inevitable. It's like the extinction problem: If you don’t have a way of reversing it, then you’re fighting a losing battle. That’s not psychologically a good thing, it’s hard to get enthusiastic funding for it, and you will ultimately fail. Whether it’s solar panels, or not using your SUVs as much, or not buying SUVs, or having smaller houses—all of these things are slowing down the inevitable. It’s hard to get excited about that.

The other thing that is problematic socially is the whole idea that it’s an "inconvenient truth." To some extent Gore’s phrase is brilliant, but it’s also counterproductive because the people for whom it is inconvenient don’t want to believe it’s inconvenient. People don’t want to give up their SUVs and their steak meals. It would be better to talk about a convenient solution, whether or not that’s the real solution or the best solution, just talk about it so you get acceptance first. You need acceptance before you can get to the best solution.

The other part that makes acceptance difficult is blame. People will say, "It’s not my fault," and that gets confused for "it’s not anybody’s fault." You could make an argument that it’s not your fault because you weren’t around during the Industrial Revolution. You didn’t personally do that much; you’re just one seven billionth of the problem at most. You could make an argument that you’re not personally to blame, but then expanding that to no human being has had anything to do with it is where things go off the tracks. The thing that got us into the position of denial was the blame game. 

You want everybody to be inconvenienced because it’s their fault. That’s two strikes against you.
I don't know if you’ve read The Righteous Mind, but Jon Haidt makes the point that even people who consider themselves very rational are not using a rational argument when making decisions. They’re making decisions and then using the rational argument to rationalize. A lot of what he says sounds obvious once you restate it, but I found the way he says it and backs it up with social science research very illuminating, if not compelling.

The elephant, as he refers to it, the thing that’s making your decisions in your life, is deciding that this person is telling you that you’re responsible for something you don’t feel responsible for. It's telling you that you have to sacrifice many things that you don’t want to sacrifice. From your viewpoint, that person is inconvenient, incorrect, and you’re going to ignore them. The more they insult you and your way of life, the less you’re going to listen to them, and then you’re going to make a bunch of rationalizations about that. This is why we have problems.