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How to Think About Our Problems

Outlining types of future problems

Outlining types of future problems

There are different types of problems that we will face now and in the future.

We need to evaluate the degree of “alarm” with which those problems should be treated.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

How to Think About Our Problems

How to Think About Our Problems

https://humanprogress.org/article.php?p=2459

humanprogress.org

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Key Ideas

Outlining types of future problems

There are different types of problems that we will face now and in the future.

We need to evaluate the degree of “alarm” with which those problems should be treated.

Known problems with known solutions

Known problems with known solutions include the following:

  • Global warming. It is partly caused by excessive emission of carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 emissions come from energy generation and can be replaced by nuclear power.
  • Declining freshwater reserves could be tackled through greater use of desalination and recycling wastewater.

Once the gravity of these problems becomes apparent to a critical mass of humanity, solutions would be put in motion.

Known problems with solutions within reach

Known problems to which solutions are not only imaginable but (probably) within reach include:

  • Malaria: Like smallpox that was fully eradicated in 1980, it is not much of a stretch to think that Malaria will be defeated through a combination of genetic engineering, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, vaccines, and drugs.
  • Superbugs or deadly viruses: Crispr technology allows for easy alteration of DNA sequences and modifies gene function. Crispr could be used to turn bacterium or viruses machinery against itself.

These problems are bound to cause suffering until an appropriate solution is found.

Known problems without imaginable solutions

Known problems without readily imaginable or implementable solutions include:

  • Nuclear weapons: Governments in possession of nuclear weapons are unlikely to abandon them. The technology cannot be unlearned. We can only hope that the number of nuclear warheads is reduced.
  • Artificial intelligence: Futurologists believe that AI will eventually put an end to work itself. How would we react to a world without work?

Safety protocols aimed at preventing accidental nuclear conflict and ethical standards in AI development will be useful, although rogue agents can still sow chaos.

Problems without solutions

Some known problems cannot be addressed by humans on Earth, and include:

  • The eventual exhaustion of hydrogen in the Sun and the star's transformation.
  • A sudden appearance of a black hole that could consume our planet.
  • A burst of gamma rays from a close supernova that destroys our ozone layer and expose us to ultraviolet rays from the Sun.
  • A surprise asteroid strike that destroys a large part of the planet and blacks out the Sun.

We don't have implementable solutions to these problems, but we also cannot worry about everything. We can only address issues as they arise.

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