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Scientific American's Fred Guterl Explores the Threats Posed By Technology 93

Lasrick writes "Fred Guterl is the executive editor of Scientific American, and in this piece he explores various threats posed by the technology that modern civilization relies on. He discusses West African and Indian monsoons, infectious diseases, and computer hacking. Here's a quote: 'Today the technologies that pose some of the biggest problems are not so much military as commercial. They come from biology, energy production, and the information sciences — and are the very technologies that have fueled our prodigious growth as a species. They are far more seductive than nuclear weapons, and more difficult to extricate ourselves from. The technologies we worry about today form the basis of our global civilization and are essential to our survival.'"
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Scientific American's Fred Guterl Explores the Threats Posed By Technology

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  • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @11:35PM (#42126343) Homepage Journal

    Unicorns? You just drop a teapot on them. From orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

  • Re:Confusing summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @02:48AM (#42127069) Journal

    Apparently you're not getting the nature of the problem. This is an issue all over the planet. There are a number of human contributions to the ecosphere. Many of these things are antagonistic, as in the case of the Indian Monsoons, The smoke causes local dimming, reducing the amount of solar energy that gets to the ground (or in this case, the ocean.) The green house gases (and you need to appreciate how fast India's use of fossil fuels is growing and how fast their middle class is growing and they want to live like Americans) are being produced by Indians themselves. They want cars and night life and products that have to be shipped half way around the world. So they're producing more than enough local greenhouse gas to impact their own local climate and the climate of others around them. Poor Bangladesh is already in deep guano. Water is rising, and they live on a flood plain. A population half that of the United States lives in profound poverty and they will be displaced by the effects of Global Warming in this century... where do they go? The likely answer is away.

    Anyway, you have these two growing forces pushing harder and harder in the opposite direction and for now canceling out. Alls well right? Not so fast, as the two sides push harder and harder, the probability of a catastrophic failure of the system grows exponentially, So, even though the system is almost completely unpredictable what starts to become clearly predictable it that they are going to be faced with severe flood or drought or both quickly alternating in a bistable environment, and the damage it will do to their society and their people will be simply shocking.

    I know this is really hard for people to get, this is absolutely solid science. We understand the mechanisms, We are clear what will happen, we just don't know when. Mount Ranier in Washington State has the dark side. After hundred of years, acid from its vents slowly breaks down the rocks of which its made. Here's the problem. They've discovered catastrophic lahars from the mountain that wash right out to the sea every so often. Huge catastrophes, nightmares that beggar the imagination. Scientists know its coming, but they can't say when, Its already overdue. It could be any time. There are folks living at the base of the mountain and they think its all a big joke and the scientists are full of crap. Not all of them, but a lot of them. So there they live mooning the mountain gawd and taunting fate. The thing is, being smug about someone else's endangerment is pretty crass. Being so ignorant about you own endangerment, well that just make you foolish.

  • Re:Confusing summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @07:17PM (#42135991) Journal

    Oh yeah, this makes complete sense, for example Americans have always been so excited to have Mexicans just come marching over the border. I'm sure if that number ever rose to 150,000,000 we'd welcome them with open arms. Those pesky artificial boundaries of which you speak of are called national borders and when refugees anywhere on the planet try to leave the disaster they come from, they create a brand new disaster where they are stopped, at of all places... NATIONAL BORDERS. You imagine that's going to go away? Whatever you're smoking, please let me know, I'd like some. As for the amount of sea level rise... the last two years have shown an acceleration of the melting of the Greenland ice mass and a number of other large bodies of ice profoundly faster than expected. I'm the first to say 2 years does not a trend make, give it what, 10 more years, if this in fact the new normal, we're all boogered. The Greenland ice mass could raise global sea levels 20 feet all by itself. Say goodbye to Bangladesh. Florida becomes the newest Caribbean Island and its half its current size. Most of Louisianan is gone, as well as significant amounts of coastal Texas, Mississippi and Georgia. The San Francisco bay expands engulfing the entire Silicon Valley and the wine country of the North Bay. Kiss Manhattan goodbye. Amsterdam gone. Venice Ciao. Even London would be seriously threatened. So your answer is to open borders and let people come and go as they please when the water rises. Logical. Utterly batfsck insane, but logical.

    The problem with this conversation is that when the same change that has happened over 20,000 years happens in 80, particularly in a world with strong national borders and infrastructure to prevent both animal and human migration, what you have coming is a biblical disaster. You know... Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria! So you propose a 50 year human exodus from the tropics for most of 3-6 billion people as a solution to us as opposed to just cleaning up the mess we made. So let me wrap my head around this, correct me if I'm missing something, rather than ceasing to crap all over the scenery and cleaning up the mess we've been making for centuries, you suggest we should just keep crapping away and avoid the advancing crap wall as it chases us north. Yeah, that sounds like a plan, sign me up. Just for laughs, what happens when the last 100 million of us are treading water at the north pole trying to climb up each others back? Don't bother, I don't need an explanation.

    I'm all for technological solutions, bright folks all over the place are coming out with genius plans to harness the carbon, sequester it, use to to advance out society. Sticking my head in the sand and waiting for the lion to chew my haunches off just wasn't among them, it lacks a wee bit of technological finesse, don't you think, eh?

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.