Quora – Many people are now aware of the ill effects of pollution, but still we are being told that our future is in danger. What are the reasons behind this?

Quora – Many people are now aware of the ill effects of pollution, but still we are being told that our future is in danger. What are the reasons behind this?

Arun Basu has part of the issue, and part is much deeper and more complex.

One major problem is the ideas we use to make sense of the world.

In some aspects these ideas are influenced by systems deeply distilled by genetic evolution over many millions of years, in the shape of the subsystems of our subconscious brains that deliver the experience we as conscious entities have, that are our experiential realities. One of the hard things for most people to get is that reality must be very much more complex than we experience it to be.

The more stressed we are, the simpler the reality our subconscious delivers.

Everyone has to deal with that, somehow.

Another aspect of it is cultural, the sorts of stories we learn, the things implicit in language and culture that are rarely (if ever) explicitly discussed or questioned.

Some cultural forms or sub forms have explicit mechanisms that prevent questioning of assumptions, these have names like faith, belief, trust, loyalty, patriotism, devotion that are prized in various cultures. Each of those things demands a suspension of questioning at some level, which is a suspension of freedom, and can be easily co-opted into some form of captured servitude at some level. And not everything about culture is capture or servitude, as all cultures are complex forms, and all levels of complexity have boundaries that are required to maintain structure. So there is an eternal and complex balance that we must each judge and maintain (to the best of our limited abilities) as to what is necessary for survival of all, and what is capture for the benefit of some minority – and there will always and necessarily be uncertainty at such boundaries, they are necessarily that complex and sometimes overlapping.

So there are two senses in this that impact on an answer to the question.

One sense is that for many people the older stories of culture prevent them appreciating the newer stories of the new forms of danger, and the old boundary systems that have given the old cultural forms structure through time actively prevent the sort of change that is required for the new ideas appropriate to our ever changing reality, to take hold. Such things are not all bad, and they do present levels of threat in new and deeply complex realities.

We must all start our personal growth in simple stories, there is no other logical option.

Some of us have been fortunate enough to have had no real limits on the things we have been allowed to question and explore. Such freedom is normally only granted to those who demonstrate a certain level of respect for the old ways, and acknowledge that such ways can carry many levels of deep and hard won lessons from history. So there has to be a sense in which all freedom is balanced by this sort of respect, of consideration of and exploration of potential depths in the older ways of being, even as we simultaneously explore new levels of complexity and possibility that are beyond anything history could possibly have encountered in the explicitly stated stories.

That segues into the idea of money as a measure of value, and the idea of markets as giving a useful proxy for human value more generally, and the many other levels at which money and markets impact us individually and collectively. Markets perform many levels of complex functions, but they have a problem that is becoming critical. All forms of market value have a scarcity component. When most things were genuinely scarce, this was entirely sensible, and did deliver a reasonable proxy of value. However, as the level of automation has increased, many things can now be produced in universal abundance, and that fundamentally breaks markets, as anything universally abundant has, by definition, zero market value. When the set of things universally abundant was basically just air, then it was not a major issue. But with the exponential advances in fully automated systems (which advances we absolutely require to address a range of threats that have no other solutions) then the market tendency to destroy or limit universal abundance to create market value sets up multiple levels of perverse incentives that pose existential level risk in the deep instabilities that they generate. This specific issue does directly impact on pollution, at multiple levels, and multiple systems at each level.

So a lot of the pollution we see is a result of the very idea of markets and the value they measure (aka money), and money has been a very important part of our past, but now poses high risk (something many people find very difficult to see).

A lot of pollution is due to old cultural practices that worked well at low density, but impose exponentially increasing risk as density increases.

So solving the pollution problem is deeply more complex and challenging than simply saying that pollution is a problem, it requires deep changes to social structures at many levels that will be deeply disturbing to many people who have been deeply trained to be limited by notions like faith and belief and truth.

It is always deeply disturbing at multiple levels to leave behind “truth” for the eternal uncertainty of science, and there can be multiple levels of structures that resist such transitions (both within us and around us).
It is a very complex problem, and one that we must all accept responsibility for addressing, to the best of our (necessarily) limited abilities.

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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