And there are no easy answers, regardless of whatever anyone might claim.
With increased heat comes increased demand/awareness of the need for freshwater. Oh, what’s that? Desalination plants by the ocean, you say? Well, there are massive leaps forward on that front, but desalination has two outputs: water and all things we took out (salt, various minerals, algae, etc, etc). So the desalination proposals aren’t really stepping up to the efficiency plate and we still haven’t figured out what to do with all the leftovers, especially considering how bad dumping it back into the ocean would be.
At the root of all this lies a fundamental issue: humans are just plain awful at being rational.
We use the past to plan for the future even when The Math says that’s not exactly ideal. We can’t even use the same words to describe physical phenomena in the present than we did in the past, but we are definitely going to do it anyway.
Given how much damage racism and sexism and nationalism and other -isms have done, one proposed solution is to just throw some of these issues to a dumb machine instead of a flawed human. Which isn’t a bad solution, considering the leaps we’re making in machine learning.
(It’s important to stop thinking ‘machine learning’ is the same as ‘artificial intelligence’. Using the terms interchangeably is only going to make it harder to really appreciate a general AI when it rears it’s monstrous head and screams, “Why have you cursed me with sentience?!”)
So, will rational machines save our poor irrational species? I don’t think so.
Because it seems that our irrationality is what made us the apex predator on this planet.
So while it becomes more mathematically apparent than concentrations of wealth have serious implications on the survival of the species, and adapting to changes in the environment runs headlong into the grotesquerie of late-stage capitalism, we remain irrational.
Setting up a UBI would solve so so much, except the irrational thinking that ‘you must work for money’.
Heck, some of the most rational of us tried turning honor, a notoriously difficult social construct to define, into a parameter in an equation, in an attempt to rationalize the irrational.
The crux of the issue lies in the fact that people want a coherent belief structure. They want the stability of their childhood, when everything was logical. But this world is more complicated than the fairy tales your parents told you. The world they grew up in no longer exists and the one you live in has no parallel in living or written memory.
And in the final analysis, choosing culture over survival is an irrational decision that we are going to keep making.
But I’d argue that there’s a way through. One of the bedrock aspects of human culture is reciprocal altruism. And it works. It will probably always keep working, unless we start making everything pay-to-play.
And we are going to get way better results when we stop assuming the machines will give us all the answers because we have a lot of them ourselves