Existential risks: climate change and superintelligence

posted in: Uncategorized | 1

Nick Bostrom’s new book, Superintelligence, is a fascinating read for anyone interested in existential risks. I imagine that includes most people concerned with climate change. Marty Weitzman’s analysis and my own calculations make it clear that a substantial part of the expected impact of climate change come from catastrophes we would face if the world turns out to be just a bit more sensitive to greenhouse gases, or a bit more vulnerable to their effects, than we thought.

Superintelligence seems to pose a similar threat. Artificial Intelligence equal to the average human might be decades or more away, but once that point is reached, a superintelligence might emerge very rapidly. Before then we have to solve the twin problems of how to control it, and give it aims that lead to human flourishing, or it will be too late. Bostrom is doubtful that we will be able to do this, so he recommends we ‘put [the quest for artificial intelligence] down gently, and quickly back out of the room’, while concluding sadly that ‘some little idiot is bound to press the ignite button just to see what happens’.

In the week of the latest climate change summit, more and more people are coming round to the view that there is a relatively simple first step, climate change taxation, that we can take to bring it under control. What is more, it won’t cost the Earth. In fact, if we do it right, it probably won’t cost much at all. Now is surely the time for strong, comprehensive and sustained climate change taxes in those countries that are willing around the world. Let’s not kid ourselves that ‘the greatest market failure the world has ever seen’ is actually the greatest problem humanity is likely to face. Other challenges await us.

Read a full review of Bostrom’s book if I have whetted your appetite.

  1. Varghese Kozhimannil,

    You should read the End of the World chapter in BUSH WENT TO HELL. I read books on global warming and worked with scientists who wrote books on the topic. The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere is measured in parts per million and the current level is 403 ppm. According to Dr. Robert Storm when we cross 440 ppm there will be cataclysmic consequences. By 2040 we will have crossed that threshold. Many things written in the books are happening everyday as the current hurricane Harvey that is nothing compared with what will happen in years and decades from now. Nobody in network news and newspapers explain what caused Harvey to form in the first place. We have some fake scientists rather than climate scientists when we have powerful storms and, many other so-called natural disasters. It is like the story of a patient with heart attacks and lung cancer died. But nobody talked about the patient drank heavily, ate all junk foods, and smoked heavily. We don’t tell young people what will happen 20 or 30 years from now. American media have censored, discriminated, and suppressed my books. And it tells a lot about our free speech.
    Wish you all the best.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.