How can we ensure that the transition to a zero-carbon global economy is fair and equitable to the workers and communities it impacts?

How can we ensure that the transition to a zero-carbon global economy is fair and equitable to the workers and communities it impacts?

[ 8/April/21 ]

Wrong question at multiple levels.

Yes – we do need to move to technologies that are sustainable long term, and that is far deeper and more complex than just the simple idea of “zero carbon”.

One of the many deeply complicating factors is advanced automation. It is both essential to our long term future, and completely disruptive to many of the systems that used to work reasonably well in many contexts – particularly the economic and political systems.

Advanced automation is rapidly moving towards making the very distinction “workers” historical. That has impacts far deeper than “zero carbon”.

The idea of “fair” is a reasonable one, and very context sensitive. The idea of equity is useful only is a very narrow range of contexts. You don’t need to think about it very deeply to accept that nobody really wants to be exactly like everyone else; and that societies where rigid conformity to norms are enforced are the worst nightmares of most of us, as by definition all freedom has been removed.

So the idea of equality can be exceedingly dangerous if taken too far or used outside of appropriate contexts. Any real expression of freedom has to result in diversity, which is by definition the opposite of equality. And it is also true that freedom has to be used responsibly if it is to avoid destroying the conditions that made it possible. Every level of structure has necessary sets of boundaries that give it the form that it has. By the time you get to human beings in complex technological societies in complex ecosystems, then there are a lot of required boundaries that we need to be responsible about when we exercise our freedom. So freedom can be just as dangerous an idea as equality, if it is used without appropriate levels of responsibility to the context. The tricky bit is that many contexts are deeply more complex than is generally understood by most people. We all have strong biases to over simplify complexity for the sake of speed and convenience.

And there is a general theme in the question that is undeniably present – that all advances in complexity are predicated on new levels of cooperation, and that our systems we develop need to deliver reasonable levels of resources and freedom to all individuals, if they are to survive long term. And that does get deeply complex because we are dealing with multiple levels of complex self aware agents simultaneously, many of which are running very low resolution models of the complexity actually present.

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
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