Climate change – another context

Matt Ridley: What the climate wars did to science

This is a really complex issue.

Certainly there is evidence of human induced warming.

Certainly there is evidence of the recent period of roughly 10,000 years of relative stability being very unusual in the recent (last million years) of geological record.

Certainly we have much evidence of unstable feed forward mechanisms that tend to create wild oscillations in climate, and we do not currently have either the deployed technology nor the social, political or economic systems capable of managing such a system.

It seems to be true that we could relatively easily (in a technical sense) develop a suite of technologies that would allow us to manage climate, and mitigate any unwanted effects that emerged from the exceptionally noisy and semi-chaotic system that is climate and more locally weather (the system has some feedback mechanisms that promote stability and other feed forward mechanisms that can amplify oscillations and push the system into a different valley in the complex attractor topology that is our climate system).

And the development of such technology would need to be based in an abundance mindset, not in a scarcity based mindset. Markets and their derivative value measure money are based in scarcity. Any universal abundance has zero market value (consider oxygen in the air, arguably the single most important thing to any human being, yet of zero market value).

So markets, in and of themselves, in and of their own internal incentive structures, can never deliver universal abundance of anything – it will always have zero value, and there will always be meta incentives to erect barriers that create marketable scarcities (which is arguably over 90% of the laws in any jurisdiction).

It seems clear to me that there is considerable risk from a climate system that is essentially chaotic, and is prone to either heating or cooling, in essentially unpredictable ways. We need technology to be able to manage it within limits that promote human welfare, much as we manage many other aspects of systems.
We need to preserve areas of natural ecology.
And any idea that nature is any sort of grand balance is a myth, it is an open evolving system, and we and our technology are as natural an outcome of it as anything else.

And if we are smart, and want to survive a long time in an interesting and diverse world, then we will preserve representative samples of non-human ecosystems, and manage systems as a whole in ways that give us wide margins of safety.

It is no longer safe to maintain or promote the myth of free markets.
Free markets are dangerous and unstable things, that pose direct threats to every entity within them.

The classical view of evolution of “nature red in tooth and claw” is every bit as untrue and misleading as the Gaia myth of nature being in some grand balance.

Evolution is a simple process that produces outcomes that are not at all simple.
Evolution can be accurately characterised from a systems perspective as a competitive system that produces new levels of emergent complexity that result from new levels of cooperation stabilised by attendant strategies that prevent the cooperative being invaded by cheats.

Arguably the bulk of the finance and banking sectors can be accurately characterised as essentially cheating strategies on the loose, delivering no nett benefit to the cooperative.

Garret Hardin’s tragedy of the commons was disproven by the work of Lin Ostrom. Most of the dogma of economics has now been demonstrably falsified by a systems understanding of complexity.

Arguably we are now on the verge of developing a level of cooperative systems that empowers every individual to self actualise in whatever way they responsibly choose, where responsibility in this sense means acknowledging the need to mitigate the risks resulting from any action of their’s on anyone else.

What we need is a managed economic system, that starts with a philosophical context that holds individual life and individual liberty as its highest values, and acknowledges the systems reality that cooperation is far more powerful than competition. We acknowledge this reality in allowing the existence of corporations, but somehow manage to deny it in respect of society more generally (another example of cultural drag on understanding).

So I am definitely a classical liberal, in the sense of being a stand for individual liberty.
And I am such a liberal in a context that acknowledges the reality of the many levels of cooperative systems within every one of us as individuals and within society more generally.

Individual freedom works if, and only if, it acknowledges this cooperative foundation.

Any attempt to promote individual freedom within a more purely competitive framework is systemically unstable and must result in high risk outcomes for all.

In an age where even Google have now set up Calico as the life extension arm of their business, it is now becoming clear to most people what has been clear to me since late 1974 – that indefinite life extension is a technical possibility.

What few people have spent much time on is the question that has dominated my thinking since 1974: if indefinite life is a biological possibility, then what sort of social, political and technical institutions do we need to have in place to allow individuals a reasonable probability of living a very long time (defined as 5,000 years or longer)?

There are lots of factors in this time of profound paradigm change for humanity, and global warming is but one of many.

If you have not already seen it – watch this video by David Snowden on complexity and systemic responses appropriate to different sorts of complexity:
Dave Snowden: Combining Complexity Theory with Narrative Research

And in the wider sense – poverty is the direct systemic outcome of allowing scarcity based market values to dominate our society.

In the technical sense, it is relatively easy to deliver an abundance of all of the necessities of life and liberty to every person, and it requires a set of values that place life and liberty above profit.

We can use the economic system to deliver on our values.
I am sick of being used by the economic system to deliver profit – above all else.

Life and liberty first and second, profit a distant third.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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