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Forbidden Research: Messing with Nature Part II: Climate

Solar geo­engi­neer­ing rests on a sim­ple idea that it is tech­ni­cal­ly pos­si­ble to make the Earth a lit­tle more reflec­tive so that it absorbs a lit­tle less sun­light, which would part­ly coun­ter­act some of the risks that come from accu­mu­lat­ing car­bon diox­ide in the atmos­phere. When I say tech­ni­cal­ly pos­si­ble, it appears that at least doing this in a crude way is actu­al­ly easy, in the sense that it could be done with com­mer­cial off-the-shelf tech­nolo­gies now, and it could be done at a cost that is real­ly triv­ial, sort of a part in a thou­sand or a part in ten thou­sand of glob­al GDP.

Forbidden Research Welcome and Introduction: Cory Doctorow

At that moment when every­body is sud­den­ly car­ing about this stuff, that’s the moment at which nihilism can be avert­ed. It’s the moment in which nihilism must be avert­ed if you’re going to make a change. Peak indif­fer­ence is the moment when you stop con­vinc­ing peo­ple to care about an issue, and start con­vinc­ing them to do some­thing about it.

The Conversation #37 — David Keith

There are biol­o­gists who’ve spent their careers work­ing on some species of bee­tle in the trop­i­cal rain­for­est, and they just love the rain­for­est in their bones And they feel that when they go tes­ti­fy in Congress to some com­mit­tee, that they can’t just say, I love it in my bones and you guys will love it too, if you share it with me.” They have to say, Oh, we’ve done all this math and com­put­ed that there’s an ecosys­tem ser­vice here.” And I think that that has real­ly impov­er­ished our debate about envi­ron­men­tal issues.

Blockchain Beyond Bitcoin

I think the obvi­ous thing to do with one com­put­er per plan­et is fix cli­mate change before it destroys agri­cul­ture and leaves bil­lions of peo­ple to starve. That seems like a fair­ly rea­son­able kind of an objec­tive. You know, there are all kinds of lit­tle opti­miza­tions you could do with these things, but fun­da­men­tal­ly the big unsolved chal­lenges that human­i­ty faces are cli­mate change and resource scarci­ty.

The Conversation #36 — Ethan Zuckerman

We are in the midst of a shift in how we encounter infor­ma­tion. And we’re wrestling with three par­a­digms at the same time. The old­est of these par­a­digms, for for most of us, is edit­ed media. … You have a pow­er­ful gate­keep­er, the news­pa­per edi­tor, who says, Here are things you need to pay atten­tion to today. Give this a small amount of your time, and you will be rough­ly up to date with what you need to know.”

The Conversation #25 — Frances Whitehead

Some of my artist friends think what I’m doing isn’t art, and I’ve giv­en up on art. It’ll take care of itself. You know. I mean it’s always been there, it will always be there, and we always know that new art nev­er looks like art at first, ever. So why should this be any dif­fer­ent? We just have to trust the process. And I would say that must be true for every oth­er dis­ci­pline.

The Conversation #23 — Carolyn Raffensperger

When the pub­lic can­not prove that the oil com­pa­ny is going to cause dam­age, then we’re not allowed to say, Nevertheless, the risk is not accept­able.” So we have turned it over, the deci­sion, to the expert. We have tak­en it out of the hands of the com­mu­ni­ty. And then when we say we want com­mu­ni­ty input, we hold a pub­lic hear­ing, and the experts sit up at a table. And then the grand­moth­er who does not have a grad­u­ate degree, she’s not allowed to say, Here’s what I’ve seen. Here is what’s hap­pened in my com­mu­ni­ty. And that’s not accept­able.” Her view is not tak­en because she’s not an expert. And so we’ve tak­en away the right for self deter­mi­na­tion and for com­mu­ni­ty deter­mi­na­tion.

The Conversation #7 — Alexander Rose

If the point of mak­ing a 10,000-year clock is to get peo­ple to think longer term how do you design that expe­ri­ence so that it real­ly does that? And one of the things that we we real­ized is that peo­ple real­ly need to be able to inter­act with it. That they need to be able to make the moment they vis­it it their own. So while the clock does keep time all by itself with the tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ence from day to night, it doesn’t actu­al­ly update any of the dials, none of the chimes chime, unless someone’s there to wind it.

The Conversation #6 — Jan Lundberg

If we are look­ing at what oil real­ly pro­vides to soci­ety, and what keeps us going for essen­tial ser­vices and goods, then our life sup­port sys­tem is in jeop­ardy. We are not prepar­ing for peak oil. We are not reor­ga­niz­ing our­selves for a degrad­ed ecosys­tem. So we are head­ing head­long into col­lapse, and this is some­thing that is not being dis­cussed. It is taboo to imag­ine that the whole growth scheme some­how comes to an end or that there is some­thing like peak oil that doesn’t trans­late into some tran­si­tion of renew­able ener­gy to make pos­si­ble a green con­sumer soci­ety with this lev­el of pop­u­la­tion.

The Conversation #4 — Colin Camerer

We know very lit­tle about com­plex finan­cial sys­tems and how sys­temic risk, as it’s called, is com­put­ed and how you would man­age poli­cies. And if you look back at the finan­cial cri­sis, you can either say, as many econ­o­mists do, It all had to do with badly-designed rules,” which may be part of the sto­ry; it’s cer­tain­ly part of the sto­ry. Or it may have to do with the inter­ac­tion of those rules and human nature, like mort­gage bro­ker greed, opti­mism… And you see it not just in indi­vid­u­als who now have hous­es and fore­clo­sure, but at the high­est lev­els.

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