14 January 2014

Selected Axioms

Some working axioms that I rely upon to consider the future and understand the world:

1.  The costs of hedonism in affluent societies are greatly overstated.  Drugs, polyamory, atheism and other rejections of traditional values are far less harmful than widely assumed.  To the extent that this is demonstrated by legalization that has only modest societal impact where it happens, the legal barriers to restrictions on these activities will collapse.

2.  We have a sufficient technological base to continue to maintain advanced civilization in the face of dramatic increases in the cost of natural gas and mineral source oil driven by great scarcity in those resources.  The changes would be dramatic, but would not return us to the dark ages.  Peak oil will lead to a bad recession with a major economic restructuring, not an apocalypse.

3.  20th century Cold War communism is dead in all but name almost everywhere by North Korea and one or two European pocket states like Belarus.  Elsewhere it is merely a facade covering what has become a basically capitalist economy.

4. A very large share of U.S. military expenditures are devoted to conflicts types that are profoundly unlikely to ever happen.  Much of it is devoted to World War II style conflicts that will never recur.

5. All fundamental physics that could have useful engineering applications has been discovered.  Scientific advances in the future will involve chemistry, solid state physics, biology and other intermediate sciences that in principle can be derived from the Standard Model and General Relativity as they exist today.  There is more fundamental physics to be done, but at this point it is a mountain to climb and not a bridge to build.

6. If technology makes it possible to do something that people desire, regulation will not be able to prevent it from happening, within reason.

7.  Earth's carrying capacity is much greater than we give it credit for being, by orders of magnitude.

8.  Some people will live in outer space and other planets and the moon someday, but the percentage of people who do so will be no larger than the percentage of people who relocate to unfavorable environments on Earth like Antarctica, the Sahara, the ocean depths, and the atmosphere.  The overwhelming majority of humans (99.9%+) will live on the surface of Earth for centuries to come, barring something like global nuclear war or a major comet strike.

9. We will deal with global environmental problems like global warming too late to prevent permanent serious change to the world, but definitely in time to prevent species extinction.

10.  Even a major global societal collapse would set back technology by decades nor centuries for more than a brief a period of time   The necessary information to rebuild is too redundantly distributed to be totally lost in large amounts.

11. Even very serious plagues that wipe out 90%-95% or more of the global population, which are virtually unprecedented even with modern medicine, will set back global population sizes by only a century or so.  The long term survival of humans as an advance, global civilization is virtually unstoppable even in the very long term at this point.

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