So The Supercomputer Said ’42

And like the people in the famous Douglas Adams novel we stand perplexed.

ARK spent the better part of yesterday trying to understand the implications of the GEAS report.  The shock of it is pretty obvious.  There are only twenty-three years left.  But as astounding as the report seems, there also would appear to be a lot that has been left out.  Human extinction is a huge proposition, and for us it’s rather difficult to grasp how the factors named add up to the total extinction of the human race.

If by example the extinction was due to ReDS alone things might make a little more sense.  ReDS is a communicable disease.  If it was proposed that by 2042 ReDS would have spread across the globe, then yes we can see how that leads to human extinction – all humans get ReDS, all humans die.  But it isn’t just ReDS.  There are four other factors, or as they are being called ‘superthreats’, the combination of which is  the cause for concern.  Yet, exploring those threats, something is awkward.  Quotes below are from the report.

Quarantine covers the global response to declining health and pandemic disease, including the current Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ReDS) crisis.

Critical phrase here – global response.  Indeed this is a global issue born from a lack of global response to early warnings about the contamination of our atmosphere leading to it becoming inhabitable.  However, the report makes it pretty clear that even more than the disease, is the human and financial response to the disease.  On the human level the fear of the terminal disease has pushed some to actions of genocide.  Similarly on the financial level, the health care industry, unable to find a solution to the crisis has begun abandoning those that made it the one of the most profitable industries of our times, their patients.

You have people dying from the disease, people killing because of the disease and ‘even worse’ no means of profiting off the disease.  Why is the financial aspect ‘even worse’?  Because ultimately the fabric of our society has been built on a notion of the economics not people.  Something becomes a crisis when it has a negative affect on our economy.  Lets not forget that AIDS and cancer have been killing people for decades but aren’t considered an extinction level crisis because they are profitable.

One can imagine the number crunching of the supercomputer, when plotting out the trajectory of ReDS, realizing that the rate of illness and death was happening way too fast for a suitable economy to be established around it, with the necessary controls on population to sustain profit.  Yet there’s no mention in the report of the correlation.  Could the conclusions have been reached without acknowledging this symbiotic relationship?  Not as it is written.

Ravenous focuses on the imminent collapse of the global food system, as well as debates over industrial vs. ecological agricultural models, and basic issues of access, energy, and carbon.

Again here we’re dealing with a global food system. But if the global food system collapses does that mean the end of the local food system as well?  Probably not, but rather than develop a society that is informed about how to sustain itself locally, for the sake of profit our society has become reliant on a global industry to feed people.  To be fair, GEAS has done well to mention the connection, and even gives a nod to the exploration of ecological solutions, but only as they correspond to industrial adoption.  Have we forgotten that industry created this problem?

The idea of feeding the planet was not altruistic but directly related to profit.  What we predictably lost in the corporate race to feed the planet was bio-diversity, and bio-diversity makes the world go ’round, perhaps more than people.  Corporations meddled with genes to create proprietary strains and even worse (no quotes here) suicidal strains, based on profit models from the lab to the supermarket.  When that chain of production to distribution breaks down, as it has, people are at a loss for how to get food.  So in solving this crisis is it better to think of solutions to revive the industry, or prepare people so that they can create their own sources for food?  As the saying goes, ‘give a man a fish…’

Power Struggle tracks the results of energy resource peaks and the shifts in international power as nations fight for energy supremacy and the world searches for alternative energy solutions.

Do you see the pattern here?  Reliance on global powers to come up with global scale energy solutions when it’s perfectly reasonable for individuals and small communities to do so on their own.  There was an old saying back in the mid 00’s, “Think global, act local.”  Unfortunately it wasn’t very popular amongst CEO’s and government officials who since that time have acted globally without even thinking about it.  All of the superthreats seem reactionary to the failure of the global model.  Are we to conclude that if the global model falls apart humanity will go extinct?

Not that we shouldn’t take these threats seriously, we definitely should.  But if we are to find the solutions we must be completly honest with ourselves.  We should have begun dealing with these issues a long time ago, but instead we looked to industry to fix it for us.  There was a meme around 2008 of ‘market based solutions’ to the climate change problem which meant a solution was only viable if it accounted for market stability, putting the protection of the market ahead of the protection of the earth.  It doesn’t take a supercomputer to see the fallacy of that notion, and it shouldn’t take a supercomputer’s threat of extinction to see what’s in front of our faces.  Especially when the supercomputer seems to parallel human existence with stability of a global infrastructure.

Addendum: Perhaps the most tragic outcome of this report is the level of fear it has created.  We’re getting reports that the sucide rates worldwide are climibing since the announcement, a statistic that troubles us greatly.  Did the supercomputer take this into account when tallying all the data.  Does it see itself as responsible for this outcome?


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