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09 December 2017 - War Tinder

posted Dec 9, 2017, 4:11 AM by Benjamin Bias
In our lifetimes we are going to see more change than we saw last century.

Last century saw the birth of instant global telecommunications, the revolution of industrialized fertilizer & evolution of industrialized farming, and the beginning of the nuclear age.  For the first time we could talk to anyone instantly.  For the first time there was a bounty of food for billions of people.  For the first time the propensity to war was quenched by fear of nuclear fire.  Big deals!

This century will have at least three revolutions for our civilization.  We will see the birth of strong AI, climates will change, and our mastery of biology will extend productive lifespans.

Strong AI and automation puts hundreds millions of people out of work and simultaneously makes some individuals thousands of times more productive.   We will have to reconsider what it means to work and be a productive member of society.  

Climate change will disrupt the ability to produce food for billions of people. When people move away from flood and drought they will challenge the relatively stable geopolitical structure that has lasted since World War 1. We may have to rethink what it means to have nations.

Average life spans were doubled last century and it was difficult to notice the change day to day.  Babies did not die.  Toddlers did not die.  Old age became a little more comfortable, but the maximum life span did not budge.  In this century maximum life spans will go up.  We will regrow aged and diseased organs.  We will solve more types of cancer.  The duration of adult productive years will expand and the trials of old age will be delayed by decades.
 
That is great until you realize a hidden consequence: The value of labor goes down as lives are extended because there is more labor.  Simultaneously, the value of capital goes up because each dollar buys more labor AND there are longer lifetimes in which interest to compound into vast wealth.  We may have to rethink our core values around money lest all the benefits of wealth are reserved for a very few immortals.

In conclusion, we will live in interesting times.  The development each of these marvels is nearly inevitable due to market forces.  And each of these has the potential to disrupt market forces catastrophically.  Our civilization must evolve.  Imagine that hundreds of millions of people are put out of work because of AI, forced to move because of climate change, and pitted against one another by centurions with more wealth than Mansa Musa.  The tinder of war would be ready to spark into a world consuming conflagration.  Yet, if we take steps now to take care of one another, then the disruptions could be managed, and we won't have to kill each other for a chance to survive.
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