Spinoff – Vesuvius and other risks

Comment to Spinoff on Vesuvius article

[ 11/9/20 ]

The Vesuvius-Pompeii article does not just apply to Auckland, it applies to most of the North Island.

Last time Taupo erupted (which was more recently than Vesuvius), it essentially sterilised most places north of Pukerua Bay and South of Warkworth. It is possible to imagine a technological solution to that set of issues, that involves essentially digging a hole down to the magma chamber, and releasing material in a semi constant fashion as fast as it is being added (a little faster for a while, it has been building up for almost 2,000 years). The average rate required is about 1m3 per second, so we probably need to run it at about 3m3 per second for a couple of hundred years to pull the volume down to a safer level. It is high pressure. Last time it blew the pressure was enough to push the magma to 40km height (three times the height that commercial jetliners fly at).

All that is doable technically (very complex, with many levels of problems), and needs to be done; but so long as we are bound by the insane incentives of markets, such a project cannot be contemplated.

We need many more people to start to consider that in an age where we can fully automate any process, the idea of measuring value in markets produces incentives that are not in the long term interests of anyone. Markets and automation are not a good mix. We need automation for survival – to be able to realistically address threats like Taupo (and much worse, which are real, and will happen unless we make very high tech interventions, we just don’t know exactly when).

Thinking about value in a post scarcity world is something very complex.

Thinking about dealing with complex systems that have many levels of eternal uncertainties within them is also complex. Simple rules like right and wrong do not apply, it is much more complex and nuanced than that.

Both of those things are interesting, take time, and cannot be incentivised as a natural outcome of market based thinking.

So we have much to do.

How to get people to start to consider the necessity for fundamental change, without inducing irrecoverable anxiety and fear?

We need to be telling people that solutions are possible, but only with cooperative action at all levels of complexity.

We can do that.

Markets cannot do that.

We have to start to seriously discussing the many different sorts of values that do exist and are actually relevant to our survival, as individuals, as communities, as nations, as a species, and as sapient entities.

We have to accept that any real expression of freedom must result in diversity – thus to value freedom one must accept diversity.

We have to also accept that freedom without responsibility is necessarily self terminating. All levels of complex systems require sets of boundaries for survival. Freedom must exist within those boundaries if it is to survive long term. The really interesting questions are around exactly where those boundaries of responsibility exist in any particular context, as they necessarily contain aspects of eternal uncertainties at all levels.

The idea that evolution is all about competition must be seen for the insane over simplification that it is.
Sure, competition can and often does play important roles in evolution, but in terms of complex systems it is much more accurate to say that all new levels of evolved complex systems require new levels of cooperation to survive.

We are the most complex systems we yet know of, so in terms of us as human beings it is much more accurate to say that our survival and existence is all about cooperation; and so long as we have a cooperative base, there is nothing wrong with a little competition. But all out competition between humans is not survivable.

As a species, we need global cooperation to survive, and global cooperation is not global control.

So interesting times ahead.

Keep up the good work.


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) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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