[ExI] 10 Predictions About the Future That Should Scare the Hell Out of You

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Mon Jul 18 20:37:38 UTC 2016

On Mon, Jul 18, 2016 at 12:27 PM, BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:
> As individuals we can watch out for authoritarian governments,
> but as he says, when a nation feels under threat they seek
> strong governments. And when you give strong governments
> the total surveillance capability, that is something new in the
> world. We see the effect of that already, with huge databases
> of 'suspects' (i.e. everyone).

One problem is one can always feel threatened and threats per se can be
felt regardless of their likelihood. And some can feed on those fears
regardless of either their [the threat's] likelihood, any effectiveness in
mitigation, or the costs involved. (On the latter, let's remember that
effort expended in one area -- against one threat -- might reduce efforts
in another. This isn't always so, but it's so often enough and tends to be
forgotten when people are in crisis mode.) Politicians, especially, like to
be seen as part of the solution and to be doing something -- a recipe in a
fear-driven society for bad policies and bad institutional arrangements.

By the way, those who say we can fight authoritarian regimes as we've done
in the past might reflect on two things:

1. The sunk costs here -- even if an authoritarian regime is successfully
undermined, it's not like the cost is low or recoverable. Every time I read
up on wars, especially the two world wars, I wonder what if they had both
been avoid. How much further along might we all be had the efforts of
millions not gone into fighting them -- if only a fraction had gone into
making life better?

2. People often die doing so. One might call this the ultimate sunk cost.
It's fine is you survive and thrive afterward, but what about those not
around? And if that doesn't motivate you, imagine the rest of survive but
you're the victim -- you die. You might've preferred a path where we simply
avoid authoritarianism -- even if it meant putting up with more of those
other things we fear.

> Of course, all his scenarios are debatable. So we can try to avoid the
> worst possibilities.

I think the satisficing vs. optimizing distinction might apply here. Sure,
I want to avoid the worst outcomes, but one should consider the costs. For
instance, to prevent home made pandemics, a quick and dirty solution might
be strict controls on all biotechnology and even chemical research. Whether
that's doable is open to debate, but it seems like avoiding a possible
catastrophe by overkill. The slowing down of research plus the likelihood
research will become even more politically controlled seems very high here.


  My latest Kindle book, "The Late Mr. Gurlitt," is free today PDT:
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