Rick Rosner is a personal and professional friend. I interviewed Rick in an extensive interview on In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, which came to about 100,000 words. Rick claims to have the world’s second highest IQ. He is a member of the Mega Society and was the journal editor, as well Errol Morris interviewed him for the TV series First Person. This is part 4 of a series devoted to conversation on women and the future from the extensive interview. This series is comprised of excerpts from the In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal interview. Part 4 covers the examples in outstanding women in history, the poor outcomes and lives for most people in history, and more.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Ethics exists beyond issues of the sexes. Issues of global concern. Ongoing problems needing comprehensive solutions such as differing ethnic, ideological, linguistic, national, and religious groups converging on common goals for viable and long-term human relations in a globalized world scarce in resources without any land-based frontiers for further expansion and exploitation, UN international diplomatic resolutions for common initiatives such as humanitarian initiatives through General Assembly Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), United Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Develop Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP), Food And Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Human Populations Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT), Interagency Standing Committee (IASC), and issues of UN humanitarian thematic import such as demining, early warning and disaster detection, the merger of theories of the grandest magnitude (e.g., general and special relativity) and the most minute (e.g., quantum mechanics), medical issues such as Malaria, Cancer, and new outbreaks of Ebola, nuclear waste and fossil fuel emissions, severe practices of infibulation, clitoridectomy, or excision among the varied, creative means of female – and male – genital mutilation based in socio-cultural and religious practices, stabilization of human population growth prior to exceeding the planet’s present and future supportive capacity for humans, reduction of religious and national extremism, continuous efforts of conservation of cultural and biological diversity, energy production, distribution, and sustainability, economic sustainability, provision of basic necessities of clean water, food, and shelter, IAEA and other organizations’ work for reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear armaments, culture wars over certainty in ethics on no evidence (faith-based ethics) and lack of certainty in morality because of too much data while lacking a coherent framework for action (aforementioned bland multiculturalism transformed into prescription of cultural/ethical relativism), acidification of the oceans, problems of corruption, continued annexation of land, issues of international justice handled by such organs as the International Court of Justice, introduction of rapid acceleration of technological capabilities while adapting to the upheavals following in its wake, issues of drug and human trafficking, other serious problems of children and armed conflict including child soldiers, terrorist activity, education of new generations linked to new technological and informational access, smooth integration of national economies into a global economy for increased trade and prosperity, and the list appears endless – and growing.
If collated, they form one question: “How best to solve problems in civil society?”
Main issue, all subordinate queries and comprehensive, coherent solutions require sacrifice. You might ask, “Cui bono?” (“Who benefits?”) Answer: all in sum. Problem: few feel the need to sacrifice past the superficial. Some Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram protestations to represent themselves as just people while not behaving in the real world as just people. Hashtags and celebrity speeches help in outreach and advertisement, but we need long-term, pragmatic solutions to coincide with them more. Nothing hyperbolic to disturb healthy human societies, but reasonable and relatively rapid transitions into sustainable solutions. You have stated positive trajectories by thinking about the future. You talked of some, but not all. What about these collection of problems and the growing list?
Rick Rosner: I believe the best instrument of change is information. Informed people more readily disbelieve stupid shit. Widespread ignorance and distrust of well-substantiated facts are usually signs of somebody getting away with something.
We know society is trending in an egalitarian direction. Trends towards equality are in a race with technology remaking society. For me, the question becomes, “How many lives and generations will be spent in misery before social and tech trends make things better and/or weird?”
The happy possible eventual situation is that tech creates a utopia in which all people get what they want. The unhappy possible eventuality is that tech debunks the importance or centrality of humanity, and humans are afterthoughts – the stepchildren of the future – being taken care of but not really having their concerns addressed because their level of existence isn’t taken seriously by posthumans. (And of course there’s the possibility that AI gets out of hand, eats everything and craps out robots. Let’s try to avoid that.)
Tech will solve some huge problems. One of the biggest is the steadily growing population. People who have a shot at technical, earthly immortality (50 to 80 years from now) will reproduce less. When transferrable consciousness becomes commonplace (120 to 150 years from now), posthuman people may not reproduce at all (though traditional human enclaves will still spit out a steady stream of kids). The uncoupling of individual consciousness from the body it was born into solves a bunch of, perhaps most, current problems and anticipated problems – crowding, food, pollution, global warming – by allowing people to live in ways that leave less of a footprint. (Not that their choices will be made for purely ecological concerns. People will always follow their own interests, and posthuman people will choose a variety of non-fleshy containers (200 years from now) because virtual or semi-robotic containers will be cheaper, more convenient, more versatile and exciting.)
But our current problems will be largely replaced by fantastically weird problems. Virtual people will be subject to virtual attacks and virtual disease. Agglomerations of consciousness may become bad actors. People may sic nanotech swarms on each other. You can find all this stuff in good near-future science fiction. William Gibson’s new novel, The Peripheral, which takes place about 20 years and 90 years from now, can serve as a good, fun intro to the future. In it, some impossible stuff happens, but it’s the possible stuff that’s interesting and scary. There are websites devoted to the future in a very non-la-de-dah way. Look at http://io9.com/ and http://boingboing.net/ – they’re entertaining and informative.
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