Solving problems on Earth

In your most honest and unbiased opinion, don’t you think we should focus on the problems here on Earth and build a strong foundation before focusing on Mars?

[ 5/June/22 ]

Yes, but we need to focus on the Moon rather than Mars, to solve the issues on Earth – and the reason why that is so is actually quite deep.

If one is really interested in security, in the real probabilities of living a very long time (either personally or as a lineage of individuals making up population(s)); then one needs to consider all of the risks from all possible sources, not simply those that have happened in recent living or written memory.

If one takes that exploration deeply into the emergence of life on this planet, and explores the classes of strategic territory capable of supporting and maintaining complexity (particularly the sorts of complexity that we embody); then it becomes clear that (contrary to popular economic and political and military dogma) the emergence and survival of such complexity is predicated upon new levels of cooperation.

It seems clear that, in the first instance, such cooperation is usually predicated on some common external threat that requires cooperation to mitigate, and the existence of such a threat allows time for new classes of cheat detection and mitigation systems to emerge and maintain such cooperation over the long term.

This gives the two general classes of existential threat to complexity (external threats {comets, meteors, pandemics, super-volcanos etc} and internal threats {systemic failure due to either over simplification of the truly complex or cheating on the cooperative by some set of agents}).

The external threats listed all require very powerful technologies in order to develop and deploy appropriate sets of mitigation measures; and without all agents accepting the fundamental need for cooperation and acceptance of any diversity that must result from any real expression of freedom (that is not an actual unreasonable threat to existence), any such technology is a greater immediate threat (if used as a weapon in competitive war), than the long term risk it is designed to mitigate.

So we absolutely need space exploration, and it makes far more sense to focus on the Moon, and using mass from the Moon sent back to Earth orbit by largely automated and to some degree remote controlled systems on the moon, to establish a lot of very high tech in Earth orbit. That is demanded for long term survival of complexity like ours on this planet.

However, that demands that all levels of agents (from individuals, through military industrial complexes, to nations, to economic systems) accept that any level of “all out” competition is necessarily destructive, and thus all activity must be based in fundamental cooperation that ensures the lives and reasonable liberties of all classes of agents. And that demands (at all levels of logic) that all agents accept that the existence of complex structures place necessary limits on liberty, that expresses as recursive levels of responsibilities; and at higher levels these are approximated in cultures by levels of morality. Any level of liberty without appropriate levels of responsibility necessarily self terminates (with a probability asymptotically approaching unity, no logical escape from that, not in any level or class of logic I have investigated in the last 50+ years).

So – yes, in a sense, we need to solve the major classes of existential level risk here on Earth, and that is relatively easy to do, and it does demand accepting both responsibility and diversity; it does require accepting that central control, or any level of uniformity, does actually poses a systemic level of existential risk. It requires accepting that we do seem to live in a reality that is complex beyond the ability of any computational entity to model accurately, a reality with multiple classes of fundamental uncertainty, and multiple classes of possibility that need to be explored; and that diversity (some level {all levels} of random search across the infinite sets of infinities that seem to be potentially available) is an eternally necessary part of any set of survival strategies with reasonable probabilities of long term survival.

The massive problem we have, is that reality has often put our ancestors into contexts where rapid decisions were demanded for survival, and thus evolution has tended to select for multiple classes of subconscious simplifying mechanisms. The more stressed we are, the more such mechanisms dominate in the sorts of models our subconscious systems assemble for us and present to our consciousness as our experiential world. In the extremes of stress that can result in an experiential world where other agents are identified simply as “Friend” or “Foe”, or some version of “Good” or “Evil”, and there is simply no experience of the vast diversity actually present in every human being.

And all of us necessarily experience some degree of such simplification. One of the things that artificial intelligence (AI) research has clearly demonstrated over the last 70 years is that it is extremely difficult to make any sense of a complex reality without having preset biases in the neural networks. Those biases are both essential, and limiting (if they are not acknowledged as such).

So we all have a tendency to demonize anything different, and there are very good evolutionary reasons for that tendency to be present, and we need to learn how go beyond such prejudice when necessary.

We must all accept uncertainty, even in those things we are most confident of. We simply cannot consider real diversity until we accept the possibility of error. That necessitates replacing all “Truths” with some sort of “contextually useful approximation”, recurs to every level possible. We must do that, even as we accept that we all had to start from such simple truths, as there is no other path reasonably possible.

We need cooperation – all levels.

We need diversity, all levels.

We achieve it, or we perish.

Russia and America need to stop fighting their proxy war in Ukraine (and everywhere else).

All levels of government and non-government agents need to stop creating incentives to conflict.

All levels of agents need to accept that any real expression of liberty results in diversity; and they need to start spending a great deal more time in those very difficult conversations about exactly what responsibility at the “margins” looks like; and that means accepting that someone else’s “margin” might look very different to yours, particularly if there are multiple levels of complexity in multiple sets of dimensions separating the sets of understandings (that can be true for every agent, in different dimensions).

So yes, focus on our problems here on Earth, and accept that part of solving those means going into space, and that means the Moon in the first instance, not Mars. If we don’t solve for kinetic conflict here on Earth, then Mars really doesn’t provide any significant degree of backup. Mars is not the logical target – the Moon is!

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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