There are three existential threats our world faces today.
Each one alone a big enough threat to warrant massive government and societal attention. And we will face all three while our government runs at record levels of corruption, ideological fervour, and incompetency.
But the looming catastrophe is not inevitable and if we play the terrible cards we have been dealt deftly, it’s possible we could turn the whole situation around and make the world a better place.
Let’s start by going over the three crises.
Number one shouldn’t surprise anyone, it’s climate change.
First of all, calling it climate change is a misnomer, an intentional one in fact. A few years back some fossil fuel PR people thought “Global Warming” sounded too scary and gave it the non-threatening name “Climate Change” as though the rapid artificial heating of our planet was business as usual. Which is why every politician who takes fossil fuel bribes today (sorry, campaign contributions) will only call it that, if they even acknowledge it at all.
But even global warming is an inaccurate term, really it should be called “Ecological Collapse” because it’s more than just carbon build up in the atmosphere we are talking about here. Ecological collapse is a mixture of issues including; deforestation, over-fishing, clean water pollution, plastic pollution, and the US military. The thing they all have in common, is they are caused by the same thing, corporations.
Although we often use the terms synonymously, corporations aren’t businesses. Because corporations have only one metric for success, profit growth. Whereas a business is considered profitable if it makes a profit at all, a Corporation is only considered successful if its profit growth is higher each year
This concept is insanely dangerous to the planet. It is also a mentality that is almost impossible to break. To understand why, let’s step out of our shoes and become the CEO of Seal Clubbers Inc. You are appointed by the board of directors, for only one job; make these people more money this year than last year.
You realise you need to make a tonne of new money with only a few months to do it. You then remember about a colony of endangered seals living on a forgotten island, unfortunately they are legally protected by a sovereign government that is determined to keep them safe. So what do you do?
Simple, you just bribe (sorry lobby) the ministers of that nation to get the island taken off the endangered list and boom, profit growth!
Now you know this behaviour is unethical and amoral, but everyone has their price and the board will happily pay it. Ever wondered why CEO’s are given salaries worth tens of millions of dollars a year?
The second crisis you have undoubtedly heard about many times before and probably never considered it to be an existential crisis at all, but it is, and its name is wealth inequality.
Decades ago, something happened that turned this societal issue into a societal crisis, an inequality tipping point where the entire economy is now at risk of collapse. A point where approximately all of the money is in the hands of only a few people, and the economy which is designed to keep money flowing, started drying up like a dammed river.
It started with Reaganomics, or the belief that economic growth is best achieved by cutting regulations for our old mate’s the corporations. The logic being if corporations are unhindered by “red tape” they will make more money, resulting in the economy performing better and excess profits trickling down to the rest of society. Sounds great, in theory. Except that “Red Tape” was put into place for really good reasons, things like minimum wage, OHS and environmental protection are all “Red Tape to corporations.
The other major problem with this idea is the trickle down part is not legally binding, there is no requirement for the profits made by these corporations to trickle anywhere but to board members, and if you will recall, the entire point of a corporation is to make money, so good luck with that.
Because corporate lobbyists bribed (sorry, campaigned) so many governments around the world, this whole philosophy has been adopted by many nations, but as we now know if you give poor people money they spend it back into the economy, but if you give rich people money they hoard it in tax free Caribbean Trusts.
The whole point of an economy is to provide that society with all the goods and services it needs. For this system to work people actually need money to buy those services, so an economy that both ends minimum wage requirements AND starts sending all of its money offshore, will eventually collapse.
Now this crisis wouldn’t be the end of life on Earth, but it would end our ability to mitigate the effects of the other two. Because remember all three crises are set to hit us at about the same time.
Finally the most fascinating of the three crises. The existential threat posed to us by Automation.
The academic reports around AI almost universally agree that while automation will displace many workers it will also create more jobs that will offset the displacement. The justification for this view seems to be, ‘well that is what has always happened.’
But the situation we face today is completely different.
AI is growing in capability at a geometric rate. Within decades AI capabilities will be indistinguishable to human capabilities, at this point AI will effectively be able to do every job, and our ability to make new jobs will be irrelevant, because AI will do them too.
Automation isn’t a threat to the economy or jobs, it is a threat to humanity itself. Specifically the fundamental change from a society no longer centred around labour, and no one has made any plans for what happens when we get there. which, of course, is right in the middle of the other two crises.
But crisis is opportunity.
Ultimately the solution to fix all three crises is simple. We already have the solutions, the hard part is creating the political conditions where our government takes these threats seriously.
The solution is to end private money in politics.
If you take the private money out of politics, doing a good job, and addressing real societal issues suddenly becomes a necessary part of being a politician. Without that private money, politicians need to present results if they want to keep their jobs.
We have for centuries lived on a planet where economic growth is seen as the most important aspect of governance, to the point that it has become more of a cultural issue than an economic one. We are at the stage now where resources are running out due to over-exploitation and over-consumption. Infinite economic growth on a finite resource planet will eventuate in collapse.
Our current leaders refuse to believe that the end of this centuries old economic culture will happen on their watch. Simply put, they can’t handle the massive transition our world needs in order to survive.
So it is our responsibility to replace them with people who can.