Many of the concerns of the cyberpunk genre have come true. The rise of corporate power, ubiquitous computation, and the like. Robot limbs and cool VR goggles. But in many ways, it’s far far worse.
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When we think about short-term thinking, how short-term is short-term? Because if you plant a tree, like an oak tree, it takes 100 to 120 years for an oak tree to be fully grown. So anything between the point in which you plant the tree to when the tree is fully grown is short-term thinking, when we speak about land.
Geologists are trying to recognize the magnitude of this change by giving our epoch a special name: “the Anthropocene,” the age of humans. Some people find this depressing because they think that the Anthropocene is inevitably a bad thing. But it’s not. Because we aren’t bacteria. Those brains that give us the ability to harness energy also give us the ability to shape the way the planet is transformed. We can design our future.
Water is a difficult commodity. It is free, and yet costly. It is simultaneously a private good, and a public good. It helps cities flourish financially, but now it is their financial burden. Almost nobody pays for the water per se. The cost of water is the cost of making it available at the right time, in the right place, and with the right quality.
This emerging narrative of catastrophe is putting enormous pressure on all our political beliefs. Now there’s still some conservative parties, some US Republicans for example, who deny the basic facts, but we can be pretty sure I think that any politics that denies the facts doesn’t have much of a future.
I think that politics has always been susceptible to conversion so that it’s not actually about living people it’s about signaling membership within a particular community.
One year ago I came to Davos and told you that our house is on fire. I said I wanted you to panic. I’ve been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do. But don’t worry, it’s fine. Trust me, I’ve done this before and I can assure you it doesn’t lead to anything.
For this theoretical physicist here it seemed actually very simple. It’s a conservation law. If you take carbon out of the ground and you put it into the system it will stay there unless you take it back out. From a societal perspective, this is much much more complicated because as we fix it there will be winners and losers.