May. 26th, 2016 10:19 pm
fj: (Default)
[personal profile] fj

I honestly am convinced by all reports that Global Climate Change is happening, and that we are so past the point of no return for a cataclysmic change of our current lives that the debate whether it was caused by humanity or not is pretty much moot (it was, btw). Even a 100% change right now of burning no fossil fuels, none, nada, tomorrow, would only limit the carnage, not prevent it. Hell, the carnage is already happening anyway with river floods and food shortages. I actually expect it now to be worse than any "reasonable" prediction.

I recycle, but I feel it is a futile experience; decreasing landfills seems like a minuscule activity when you consider the city you live having major floods in your lifetime and god knows what will happen to NL--at some point you just can't build up against both the sea rising and river floods. And fuck knows what all of the Asian coast line will do. How all our arable land will shift north. How storms and events the world over will intensify and become 5 times more frequent or so.

In 2008, when I was hanging around the Collapsonomicists, they always told me cultures don't collapse into Mad Max overnight, or in months, or a year. It is a decades slow decline as the network of people and specialisations and sub-widget-for-sub-widget-for-machines factories start to fail and disappear, slow, slowly. And god, when you think about it, is our current world fragile and specialised, stacking nonsense on nonsense.

We live in a world where people can have whole lucrative jobs helping people who make nothing tangible as well, to write 140 character messages with a mental lifespan of about an hour, if that, to be seen on pocket computers that are expected to be replaced every 18 months. If these social media helpers get good at it, they get to lord over other people writing those messages. I've made money herding smart people for days into a process of drawing badly so that we could agree how a person could use a tiny pocket box that talks to a bunch of computers in an office to display the data from their homes so they could tell other computers to add non-existent money to their accounts to keep the lights on. An infrastructure worth millions and millions of pounds employing thousands of people to recreate a wood fire than we used to sit around in caves, but now with proper shareholder value added. There are days my business existence drives me insane, both by how fragile it is to breaks in those networks and stacks of brittle technologies, and how when the zombie apocalypse happens, I will have nothing of value to contribute--unless someone needs workshops run on how to best construct the perimeters to the survival camps. I will be sending out foraging parties to get me back Sharpies. I will use them well: many brave people will have died to fetch them for me. I hope they find some green ones too.

I have ten nieces and nephews and I don't know what the kind of world the fuck they are going to live in, but I doubt it will have pre-packaged single serve organic mochi in 5 flavors for all of them--maybe just the 5%. We're caught between rapacious neoliberalism that stops most of us from getting better off over time as our parents did, and has now saddled the young with ridiculous debt and no options, and mechanisation of almost every job now that deep learning will allow robots to navigate mines as easily as they diagnose diseases. The planet's weather has been so destabilized resources we depend on will dwindle, while we globally undermine the only model for portioning them out we have collectively agreed on sucks the least, by making everyone unemployed and gives 200 people all the wealth. Currently 47% of all Americans can't cover a $400 emergency. That is shocking. It's also the state the world has always been in except between the years of 1945 - 1980.

Can the AIs mititgate out of control weather? They had better because humans can't get organised enough to stop it because of our short term impulse. It's just that I do expect these major shifts in my lifetime, as certain breadbaskets now become 0 yield and other land will become arable. Will we get vertical farms in collapsing office buildings in Detroit? Will all cities slowly start to look like inner-city Detroit as infrastructure rots away? I still recycle paper and plastic in my household, but I keep wondering for what.

The image I feel coming closest to is SOYLENT GREEN. Forget the sensationalism of the plot reveal; I'm more thinking a city crowded, perenially hot. We recognize how the people live, but it is brutally backwards from where we used to be. People are crowded as everyone needs roommates to pay the rent, and sometimes just fucking homeless sleeping on stairs. We already have plenty of homeless, but these aren't mentally ill or confirmed clochards: they are people who want to work and want to stay healthy but for whom the economy of overcrowding and mechanization and indusrtialisation just no longer has a dwelling but an assigned spot in a hallway. I just noticed days ago that the homeless problem in London is worse--and that the homeless look healthier, younger, and relatively undrugged. They travel in small groups, they share resources and pets, and they could be a whole lot of trouble if their class-consciousness ever truly awakes.

Yes, my fear is making me more of a Socialist. I was thinking Basic Income wasn't the worst way to distribute the resources robots and a few smart people will produce in our post-AI world, until an article woke me up to the fact that that is basically a technocratic solution to an organizational problem that will only stratify everything more. Menawhile, the dream of richess combined with an incredibly clogged market is creating the opportunity for privacy-free dorms for entrepreneurs, which are basically homeless shelters for people with enough social markers to make their aspiration to wealth more credible than of a mentally ill black man roaming the streets of Downtown LA.

It's all too inching to dystopia for me, but only because I am old enough to remember dreams of everyone getting white picket fences, not just a few whose lives allow them to live far outside of cities or have a crapton of money or have been in the same place for half my life and thus could buy in before the cheap money of the last three decades turned homes from a necessity to an investment vehicle and blew up city living for the young and the new. And above a certain age, the homeowners just don't get what the rest is looking at; I have 30-something friends telling me their parents berate them that of course they will never own their own homes for buying new phones every two years, and of course my friends wonder what planet their parents are on if they think an iphone and a plane ticket to the US for a holiday is actually what is keeping them from having a £60.000 downpayment ready. People ten years younger than them start this race with student debt to service even before that downpayment. I'm terrified at what the twentysomethings here are looking at, because I can tell them what it looks like: I just have to look at my 40-something friends in the US who are not in tech.

I am 46 and I don't feel safe. Circumstances have me free-lancing again, and I laugh at this "freedom" is the envy of many. I just see it as having to double down on budgeting because I can't predict the future much, and I certainly can't book travel unless I know where and when I am working. I was talking today about someone about graffiti artists and they said "But of course, they have no financial security." I had to remind them that neither had I. I may be comparatively wealthy (but not for long should I be unable to work) and I make a lot when I work, but nobody in the sharing / free-lance / flexible economy is stable. A friend of mine in one of the financial oversight agencies keeps telling me the macro balance sheets have still not dealt with the 2008 crisis, really, and that he is a pariah at work when he mentions he is not sure either homeownership or pensions will actually be any kind of old-age insurance, something the rest of the agency just assumes will be.

Articles being shoved at me by Medium on recommendation of my tech & design entrpreneur friends on Twitter tell me global poverty is crashing so things are working, and that I need to spiritually grow to let go of the rat race and find freedom away from the shackles of expectations about materialism, ambition, career, and relationships I carry from social conditioning about success created to keep me in my place as an unenlightened drone. I keep think I'd love me some enlightened release from this existential anxiety of what the fuck I will do once the world shifts so fast UX no longer is what I can get paid to do or my credibility to do it is lost for being too old in an ageist tech world, but I still need to make money for shelter and food today, and that involves staying in this rate race.

I'm just fucking happy yet again I don't have children. Having someone whose future depends on me would drive me insane right now.

Date: 2016-05-27 07:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] badrobot68.livejournal.com
The planet is surely doomed, but humans did this & I'm not sure the human race deserves this planet anyway...I doubt we will last another 100 years. I won't be here to see what happens, but I feel bad for my nephews & the generation inheriting this mess.

Date: 2016-05-27 02:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dendren.livejournal.com
I suspect the planet will survive us. One good global pandemic and a couple of wars will knock out 40-60% or more of the population and give the Earth a breather. Not trying to sound flippant but it just feels like that is the coming reality. The question is will it be next year or in 100, there is bound to be a severe die-out at some point.

Date: 2016-05-27 02:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jwg.livejournal.com
Several years ago I read several books that speculated about the future. If I remember correctly this one was very interesting - and somewhat hopeful in its own way.

The great disruption : why the climate crisis will bring on the end of shopping and the birth of a new world
by Paul Gilding.

Date: 2016-05-27 02:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rsc.livejournal.com
There are days -- and you just made this one of them -- when, contrary to societal norms, I feel quite fortunate to be 70 and childless.

Date: 2016-05-27 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fj.livejournal.com

Date: 2016-05-27 04:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bitterlawngnome.livejournal.com
Yup. What do I say to my nieces? There is just no way to prepare them for what is coming.

Date: 2016-05-27 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fj.livejournal.com
Yup again.

Date: 2016-05-28 07:32 am (UTC)
dpolicar: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dpolicar

Date: 2016-05-28 10:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] picosgemeos.livejournal.com
I'm with you FJ - I worry about all of this as well. In fact, have been doing so since university (when I nearly had a nervous breakdown when the penny dropped).

I personally now believe that it will be similar to WWII, dragging the whole world into conflict, many lives lost, old structures collapsing, and something new taking its place. I think there will be losers and there will be winners, and humanity will survive in some form or shape. Also agree with you that it's more like a slow-mo carcrash than a mad-max style collapse (though I'd hate to be in the Middle East and some other parts of the world in the next fifty years!)

As you may know, my only nephew has a degenerative eye sight disease and will likely be blind when he's an adult. This makes me very sad, but I suppose the only thing we as a family can do is try to prepare everything now so that he can cope as best as possible. And I guess this stands for all our friends and loved ones - the best we can do is help each other, support each other, be near our loved ones and always be open to helping (which I know already you are very good at, so I know you'll be ok!)

Date: 2016-05-29 07:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aliceinfinland.livejournal.com
Yeah. Well said.

I have heard something like citizen salary PLUS redistribution called Fully Automated Luxury Communism (-The Cultures podcast). It doesn't sound that bad compared to the alternatives.

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