The trouble with humans

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Sometimes, I’m proud to be a human. But I get over it quickly enough.

Humans perform such incredible feats of science and engineering as putting a robotic lander on Mars, sending probes on precise trajectories around the solar system, and recreating conditions close to the Big Bang. And yet, NASA has to survive on a meager budget of a few billion dollars, when the Iraq war gets hundreds of billions. That’s how humans sort their priorities. What’s worse, the main catalyst of what space technology we do have, was the Cold War. Humans got into space, and landed on the Moon, only because the US and Russia were each afraid that the other would put the nukes in orbit faster. Since the Cold War ended, space exploration got sluggish. Only now we are thinking that maybe, in 10 years or so, we might land again on the Moon. And perhaps in 20, on Mars. Right now, we barely have an idea what the soil on Mars feels like. And we only casted furtive looks on planets further away, and their satellites.

Humans developed technology down here, on the Earth, that radically improved their lives, over the space of a few short decades. But to run all this technology, they rely on burning fossil fuels. Which may, or may not, run out. We don’t know. But we plan our business like they’ll last forever. Burning fossil fuels may, or may not, lead to catastrophic climate change. But it’s becoming quite likely that they will. There might be technology that gets us out of this trouble — but why invest in it, when the real money is somewhere else; it’s in the oil. Who cares that our grandchildren may live on a planet that is half deserted.

Humans invented the Internet, which has completely changed the way we think. Nearly every bit of information that we need is at our fingertips. And yet, what are people doing with the Internet? Sending spam. Stealing credit card numbers. Installing malware and botnets. Sending your bank transactions to Big Brother behind your back. All these things wouldn’t really be so bad. Not compared with what’s starting to happen now, anyway. Governments have started realizing that having all this big, wild, untamed internet where people can meet, and talk, and speak their mind — oh My God, what a horrible thing for them! They can’t keep doing the things they’re good at, which is pull strings so their friends, who put them there, get the big money. They can’t, because people tell each other about these things, on the Internet. No, the Internet has to be closely watched, archived, sifted through, and controlled.

Behind all these weird, self-destructive priorities of humans, there are really just two things. The big M, and the big N. Money, Now. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were just money. You don’t get much money in 50 years, if you ruin your economy in 10 by waging senseless wars. But the people that make the weapons get a lot of money, now. Hundreds of billions of money. You don’t get much money in 50 years, if half of your people die of famine in 25, and half of the rest in the ensuing war, because most of the farmland gets too dry to grow anything on. But you get a lot of money in two years, if you arrange so that people burn more fuel, more of your fuel, and as expensively as possible. The humans on top of the big corporations, they only care about Money, Now. They don’t care what kind of world their children and grandchildren will live in. Or maybe in some twisted, schizoid way, they lie to themselves that having all those piles of money in the safe will somehow protect their offspring. Like maybe those money can be magically turned into bags of grain and clean water, when there is none around to buy, or noone is willing to sell it to you because they don’t have enough for themselves.

I suppose it’s all natural. Humans have evolved in a very aggressive environment: survival of the fittest was all that mattered. Domination was important. It is normal that many humans will do everything they can to get in a position of power. It is also normal that when they get in that position, their natural tendency will be to gather as much wealth as possible. It seems entirely possible that this tendency can get out of control, destroying any semblance of common sense.

But that doesn’t change the consequences.

If the climate is really warming up, a lot of people will die of famine, and there will be a lot of wars in many places, due to people who flee from the famine, and other people who don’t want to give what little they have left. In the worst case, the changes will be drastic enough to trigger a mass extinction event, where most of the human race will disappear. (A mass extinction event for the other species is already happening, and it’s induced by the humans). In such a case, human civilization as we know it will be destroyed. Technology won’t survive. The few people that remain will be back in the Middle Ages, or worse. We don’t really know what’s going to happen, because our models of the climate system are crude. But we start to see more and more clearly that bad things are very likely to happen. And acting under the assumption that they won’t is a very, very bad idea.

If the fossil fuels will run out unexpectedly, the economy, which is entirely and hopelessly dependent on cheap fuel, will collapse. That part of civilization that we now call “developed” will not survive.

If the people who dream about wars in their wet dreams have their way, our world may go up in a big, nuclear mushroom cloud. But no matter, life itself will survive and be reborn from the ashes, as it always was.

If the governments have their way, we’ll have a Soviet Internet soon enough. Nobody will be allowed to disagree with the way things are run. We’ll just have to sit and take it — or maybe we’d like to pay a visit to the nearest police station.

There are people that are trying to stop these things from happening, or at least the parts that are not yet unavoidable. But they are not the ones who make things happen. Those are the guys with the big Money, Now. And their whores, the politicians. So I don’t know whether to hold out much hope.


Written by tma2

6 August 2008 at 8:38 pm

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