AI v climate change: The Race Against Time

In a blogspot with some pertinent links, author and “Occasional CEO” Eric Schultz wonders what will come first. Will the offspring of capitalism wedded to human nature lead to the extinction of our species, largely through the agency of climate change? Or will the exponential capabilities of Artificial Intelligence – ironically itself powered by the appetites of capitalism – see the conception and implementation of solutions to the challenges arising from climate change before we can incinerate ourselves? Put baldly, can advances in renewable energies, CO2-absorbing moss and desalination technologies counterbalance the excesses of consumerism, the profit motive and cognitive denial? Can AI make up for the deficits in human intelligence?

It makes for an amusing read and does no harm to its instructional impact that this blog turns deliberately on two key target years. In 2040, according to Nick Bostrom’s famous TEDTalk of last year, we will hit a tipping point in the measuring of artificial against human intelligence, beyond which moment – and this is the thrust of Bostrom’s message – the capabilities of AI as against human brainpower vanish off over the horizon. Within a few pulses of the eternal mind, our problems are all over, including climate change and possibly even the potential dangers of rampant AI.

Critically, the second target date in the Schultz blog is 2041, the year forecast as the focusing point of the future speculations in The Collapse of Western Civilization, a work of “science-based fiction” examining a species slow-roasting itself into oblivion. Its authors are clearly not the optimists that Bostrom is, and that Schultz may be.

Common to blogspot, book, and TEDTalk is the idea of mitigation. Through complex evolvings of nuance, increment, compromise and inspiration, these dates could move forward or backward in time. All the while, the crooked timber of humanity will muddle forward in denial about its responsibility in resolving the tragedy of the commons, pathetically hoping that a smart computer will solve its problem for it.

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