[ExI] extropy-chat Digest, Vol 111, Issue 15

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Wed Dec 12 14:53:18 UTC 2012

On Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 4:00 AM,  Stefano Vaj <stefano.vaj at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 6 December 2012 01:26, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:
>> Hanging around climate scientists (in a broad sense) is interesting. The
>> local Oxford consensus is something along the lines of:
>> "Humans are definitely changing the climate in worrying ways, but the
>> models can we make are fairly crappy due to foundational reasons that are
>> unlikely to ever go away (but we still want bigger computers! Because they
>> are cool!) But the *big* hole in our knowledge is the mapping climate ->
>> weather -> human impact. We simply do not have any good ways of estimating
>> that. And then politicians and activists take our dear research and make it
>> *stupid*. Oh, and geoengineering looks like it could work... which is
>> *scary*, because it is going to be the mother of all governance and safety
>> problems - now you have climate change with some of the stupid people in
>> charge."
>> Of course, at least in Europe farmers are largely decoupled from actual
>> climate: given the current subsidy situation and the apparent impossibility
>> of dislodging it, you can do well by not producing anything.

That may not always be the case.

>> The problem for engineers is that engineering works when you get to build
>> a clean system that optimizes certain things. But if you need to interface
>> with messy existing systems that change, behave irrationally or even
>> adversarially, then it becomes *much* harder. It often fails as a
>> discipline because it produces too brittle solutions in the face of this
>> kind of mess. Which doesn't mean that neat solutions to particular problems
>> are not transformative and desirable. It is just that, as soon as you scale
>> them up to a  big system it will start to interact with the mess.
> Cool and clever depiction. Exactly my take on the subject.

In the process of ending the burning of fossil fuels humanity by going
to SBSP, humanity would became highly dependent on space industry and
access to space, particularly space based GW scale lasers for
transportation.  Something, perhaps a solar flare 20 times the 1859
event, put a kink in the carbon 14 in 774 or 775.  Without serious
attention to radiation hardening of the power sats and particularly
the laser propulsion satellites, the whole Earth could be abruptly cut
off from the considerable majority of our energy supply *and* the
transport to get out there to fix the power satellites if an event
like this happened again.  Not to mention frying the people in space
who were not behind considerable shielding.

If we understand this potential problem we can take steps to mitigate it.

The harder problem is taking steps to mitigate "black swan" events
that we have no idea might happen at all.

A large number of combustion turbines and a year's supply of oil or
methane to fire them might be a prudent backup.


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