Friday, June 28, 2019

Focus on the Future

The fictional "world like ours" portrayed in the Simulated News blog is about to execute a global strategy for confronting a threat of imminent global extinction that was confirmed nearly seven months ago. Definitions of the threat and the strategy have evolved along with my progress in simulating the future and evaluation of options for making it better than the alternative that we are living.

Our real-world trajectory is bleak, as any open-minded perusal of recent scientific research on climate and ecology will attest. Timelines for action to limit mass death of people and members of other species are converging on the period that my simulations have identified, along with a similar scale of effort. 

Humanity's extinction, which results from all of my simulations if action isn't taken, is generally considered an extreme worst-case scenario by mainstream science, and taken as an article of faith by a growing minority that is focused on what I call "self-sustained feedbacks" (such as the melting of permafrost and polar ice, and the decimation of species at the base of ocean and land food chains). Global catastrophe involving sizable fractions of the world population by the middle of this century is a likely alternative outcome, which can at best (with current capabilities, as I understand the literature) be delayed until the end of this century. 

The apparent dependency on available ecological resources of population (among other variables) modeled by my simulations has yet to be proven as more than a strong correlation. Demographic transition is the generally accepted explanation for the observed changes, involving reduced fertility in response to better economic conditions that are notably a reward – if not the goal – of dominating our natural environment. Both explanations logically ascribe a peak in population to a peak in economic activity (which I model as a function of a group's population and total consumption – essentially the trades of resources). A decline in economic activity would naturally accompany a reduction in resources that can be traded; and people (traders) dying from harmful environmental conditions, reduced resources, or both. Population loss is effectively inevitable; the main uncertainty lies in how soon and how much.

Probability is not destiny. As individuals and as groups we can take actions that will alter the trajectories of our lives toward something better, however we choose to define that. Alteration does not ensure success, but it changes the probability. I personally define success as, at a bare minimum, extending the survival of our species – and the species it depends on – for as long as possible; beyond that, "better" includes minimizing pain and suffering for as many people as possible, and extending to the affects of our actions on other non-human lives. My writing and research related to this topic are part of a set of personal actions intended to increase the probability of success.

In the imaginary world that I call "Hikeyay," representing one of several simulations resulting from my research and the subject of the Simulated News blog, the overwhelming majority of the global population has chosen to reduce their personal consumption and let the population decline naturally by not replacing those who die from old age until it is almost too late to maintain a constant level. Activities are focused on putting the drivers of extinction in reverse: creating habitat, controlling invasive species, cleaning up pollution, and eliminating over-harvesting of "resources" that largely include members of other species. Gaps in capability will be filled by the development and deployment of technology, especially relating to pollution and self-sustained impacts. 

Hikeyay's global strategy is based on success as I define it, taken to an extreme that is unlikely in our world but dictated by the logic of the model on which it is based. The inhabitants readily admit (as my proxies) that the intended end-state is a very unlikely, even with their civilization's extraordinary level of commitment. The effort will, in the worst case, buy time that they wouldn't otherwise have to live, and do so according to their values. I believe their example is worthy of emulation to the extent possible in this world.

1 comment:

Bradley Jarvis said...

Here's an example of one of those other "extreme" views: