mhornberger t1_jefdg1v wrote

I love the series. But the whole premise rested on the Minds, basically inscrutable god-like AIs who ran everything and prevented any humans from taking over or doing too much damage. Though you also had the Affront and the Pavuleans (from Surface Detail) to show other paths civilizations could have gone down. But without the Minds, strong AI, you don't get the post-scarcity economy.

It's not a given that there's a line leading from ChatGPT to strong AI. It's not a given that we're going to let AIs improve themselves in a feedback loop without our oversight every step of the way, nor is it a given that if we did you'd get benevolent God-like AIs who kept us around out of some vague sense of nostalgia and respect.


mhornberger t1_jdy8dth wrote

The point is that Africa's birthrate is declining. Every time they look, the decline is happening faster than anticipated. I am confident that experts are aware of the existence of the continent of Africa, and are not excluding those countries from their population projections.

Uzbekistan also has a population of 35 million.


mhornberger t1_jc47g9m wrote

Since people keep mentioning that nameplate capacity is not the same as generation:

So we can sort of predict from the new capacity coming online how much new generation we'll get. Why is there not more nuclear? Cost and build times. Here's just one decade of generation changes in the US. Solar and wind are ramping at very high rates around the world.


mhornberger t1_jby7t2y wrote

Not for social ills like racism, no. But some social ills are due to problems that technology can in principle address. Such as controlled-environment agriculture, cultured meat, cellular agriculture, and other tech incrementally addressing food security and water security, by reducing the amount of arable land and water needed to produce your food. Or by electrification, renewables (and/or nuclear), and BEVs incrementally reducing the problems associated with fossil fuel dependence.

To me pollution is a technology problem. To others it's a social problem. But people are going to way, say, transportation. An ICE Lada burns the same fuel whether it was made in a capitalist auto plant or one under communism. You need to replace the ICE vehicle with better technology. Mass transit exists too, but many people still want or need automobiles. It would be silly to forego electrification until that hypothetical future date when we've changed society so no one wants or needs an automobile.


mhornberger t1_jbxxom2 wrote

As always, "what do you mean by AI?" It's an umbrella term that can be used by some to mean machine learning, while others think of AGI research or "strong AI," and then get bogged down in whether computers can "really" think.

One of the applications I find interesting is machine learning + computer vision to improve agriculture. To automate weeding or pest removal. Though you can also combine robotics to push automation even further.


mhornberger t1_jbtzupy wrote

It's an exceedingly difficult subject to find good conversation on. Unless you're a doomer, and then you can find plenty of validation. HN has a lot of reflexive contrarians and intuitive conservatives who default to a new (to them) idea being dumb until it is proven otherwise. A recent discussion on agrivoltaics did not impress me. Many defaulted to "solar roadways!" and other versions of it being an obviously dumb idea.

There are plenty of talks and lectures on Youtube on futurology. Tony Seba, Andrew McAfee, Ramez Naam, Isaac Arthur (more about the long term), etc. But for discussion, the signal to noise ratio is drowned out by doomerism, advocacy for "radical population reduction," degrowth, etc. Any discussion of tech solutions usually veers into lectures that "we can't technology our way out of this..." and similar. Many here would rather see the world burn than for technology to address problems but there still be capitalism.

I'm not saying those people don't get to exist, or have their opinions, or express themselves. Just that I haven't found a lot of discussion spaces I find valuable, mainly due to that s/n ratio. Plus it does effect me to see such frequent advocacy on this sub for killing millions of people.


mhornberger t1_jbg9xqj wrote

No, light bulbs are a decent proxy for economic output. Their purchase and use track with economic development, literacy (kids can study after the sun goes down), energy use, and population size. As does food production, scaling as it does with population, though it can be reduced per capita with technological improvements.

And yes, I have seen degrowthers lament declines in infant mortality, and agricultural improvements like the green revolution, precisely because they led to population increase.


mhornberger t1_jbg88et wrote

> Which is the degrowth premise... well done. You got there.

Condescension is not fruitful here. Degrowth is not the mere recognition that we were never going to build infinite anything, or have infinite people. Not because we have to stop growth now, but because growth was never going to go to literal infinity. That's not a thing.

>Growth needs to end because it's physically impossible.

That's like saying we need to stop growing food now because it's physically impossible to have infinite food. That I shouldn't try to cure an illness or avoid death today, since it's impossible to live for infinite time. We should stop making light bulbs, because we can't have infinite light bulbs or infinite light. I can't believe people are so dumb as to think we can have infinity light bulbs! Except they don't, and it's a dumb argument. "We need to stop growing, because you can't grow to infinity" doesn't make any sense. The clause after the comma, after the "because," doesn't have any connection to the need to deliberately stop growth now.

Just like "you have to die eventually, so you should die today" doesn't make any sense. It's a given that humans will go extinct eventually, and the sun will stop shining eventually, and the earth will be sterile eventually.


mhornberger t1_jbg6dxj wrote

> Exponentials always beat polynomials. >

Except much of what looks like an exponential is really an s-curve. We were never going to scale to infinite people, calories, land use, energy use, etc. We aren't going to build infinite solar panels.

And that panels are already recyclable isn't a "talking point," rather it's the state of reality. "But it's not mandated" just shifts the goalposts. And even if recycling was mandated, someone would say "but not all will be!" (which is true) and that will be the supposed "exponential" pointed to that will doom us all.


mhornberger t1_jbffd7p wrote

This is unfortunately one of those subjects where the right-wing talking points and the degrowth talking points are exactly the same. Some would rather the world burn than for technology to be the way we address climate problems but there still be capitalism.


mhornberger t1_japrngg wrote

Here's an interesting paragraph from his Wikipedia page:

>>However, financial journalist Justin Fox observed in the Harvard Business Review in 2010 that "In fact, Roubini didn’t exactly predict the crisis that began in mid-2007... Roubini spent several years predicting a very different sort of crisis — one in which foreign central banks diversifying their holdings out of Treasuries sparked a run on the dollar — only to turn in late 2006 to warning of a U.S. housing bust and a global 'hard landing'. He still didn’t give a perfectly clear or (in retrospect) accurate vision of how exactly this would play out... I’m more than a little weirded out by the status of prophet that he has been accorded since."[21][22][23] Others noted that: "The problem is that even though he was spectacularly right on this one, he went on to predict time and time again, as the markets and the economy recovered in the years following the collapse, that there would be a follow-up crisis and that more extreme crashes were inevitable. His calls, after his initial pronouncement, were consistently wrong. Indeed, if you had listened to him, and many investors did, you would have missed the longest bull market run in US market history."[24][25][26][27] Another observed: "For a prophet, he’s wrong an awful lot of the time."[28] Tony Robbins wrote: "Roubini warned of a recession in 2004 (wrongly), 2005 (wrongly), 2006 (wrongly), and 2007 (wrongly)" ... and he "predicted (wrongly) that there'd be a 'significant' stock market correction in 2013."[29] Speaking about Roubini, economist Anirvan Banerjee told The New York Times: "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day," and said: " "The average time between recessions is about five years ... So, if you forecast a recession one year and it doesn't happen, and you repeat your forecast year after year ... at some point the recession will arrive."[30][8] Economist Nariman Behravesh said: "Nouriel Roubini has been singing the doom-and-gloom story for 10 years. Eventually something was going to be right."


mhornberger t1_jadv3nt wrote

> Do you have any clue how much kids cost?

I wasn't going off my own assessment or gut feeling. I'm just pointing out what demographers trace the decline in birthrates to.

> affordable family housing doesn't exist in many places.

Yes, our standards have gone up with our wealth, but faster than our wealth. In the US, new houses are much larger than houses built in previous generations. Plus construction safety code (wiring, etc) have gone up. Plus we've allowed homeowners to restrict the building of density to protect their equity value. We could throw up shacks, but people want proper housing. But our view of what constitutes proper housing has gotten a lot more expensive. That goes with being in a wealthier society.

> If the next generation is much smaller, that will free up a lot of housing

Unless people continue to migrate. The cities have been gaining population, and the losses in population have been in rural areas. Even for moves between countries, it's usually the poorer rural areas where people are fleeing to find better economic opportunity. That there are empty houses in Appalachia, or somewhere in rural Guatemala, doesn't help people who are moving to Houston.

>Population change may look exponential, either up or down, but it really isn't.

Fertility rates do have a cumulatively exponential impact on population size. You are assuming they'll bounce back, but demographers have seen no indication of this. I'm not dropping my own intuitions on you, just deferring to what people who study this professionally have found. Some countries have increased from their nadir, but still stabilized at around 1.4-1.7, i.e. still below the replacement rate.

>There are a lot of constraints people respond to that affect population growth, like availability of resources, pathogens, and biological desires that we affect this.

A lot of things do go into birthrates. The things demographers have found most track with birthrate declines are here:

Poverty correlates with higher birthrates, not lower. Universal healthcare or lower income inequality also don't correlate with higher birthrates. Even the Scandinavian countries have low birthrates.


mhornberger t1_jabmj9h wrote

3/4 of the sub is terrified of technological change, and wants a moratorium until we "figure it out," chuck capitalism, get a UBI, kill the rich, something or other. A lot see every technological change in the most gratuitously dystopian way possible. But when you think the rich actively want to kill 99% of humanity and every new advance will either give them the opportunity, pretext, or idea, I guess it follows. But doomers and tankies get to exist too, even if I disagree with them completely.


mhornberger t1_jabjvkx wrote

I said nothing bad about women, at all. There's nothing in that list demographers trace birthrate declines to that I oppose, other than the coercive measures, like China's one-child policy. Other that that, I celebrate all of those things, even if it leads to exponential population decline.

And it pertains directly to the Fermi Paradox if a declining birthrate can lead to exponential population decline and the collapse of technological civilization. There is no indication that sub-replacement birthrates bounce back automatically, much less to replacement levels. S. Korea, Singapore, Thailand, China, Vietnam, and others are still dropping. They won't drop to zero, but a birthrate of 1 child per woman makes every generation half the size of the one before it. Even the US's 1.6 means that ten women on average will birth eight girls, or 100 women 80. Those 80 women will birth 64, at the same fertility rate. Exponential change is exponential.

There's no way that wouldn't be related to the Fermi paradox. I'm not saying we know for sure this is the answer. There's also the possibility that FTL travel isn't actually possible. Or that technological civilizations are really rare. I'm just saying it's something that no one seems to have seen coming. Of course, before that everyone thought exponential growth would be the great filter, or that Peak Oil or some other Malthusian thing would take us out. But not all exponential change takes the form of growth. But exponential change is still exponential.


mhornberger t1_jaati2n wrote

One filter no one before now (that I know of) seems to have thought of is low birthrates.

It seems that wealth, education (mainly for girls), empowerment for women, access to birth control, and other things we mostly consider positive also happens to lower the birthrate. I'm starting to think that wealth and education may be the 'solution' to the Fermi paradox.


mhornberger t1_jaat5rc wrote

I'm not sure of the point. Those OS's have been surpassed, in terms of stability, security, memory management, etc. I guess some businesses may depend on programs that only run on these legacy systems, but that vulnerability is more of a problem than their inability to find a new Win2K install disk.


mhornberger t1_jaasfec wrote

To a point. At the moment it only works economically for some crops. Greens mainly, though some are expanding to cucumbers, berries, tomatoes, and a bit else. But fruits and vegetables don't represent the bulk of the acreage we use, unfortunately.

V. farms will have a role, I think. But the real land/water savings will come from cultured meat and the rest of cellular agriculture. Plus companies like Solar Foods and others using hydrogenotrophs to make analogues of flour and plant oils, with no need of arable land. A bag of flour and liter of cooking oil made in a bioreactor will represent a much more significant revolution than tomatoes and berries grown in vertical farms.


mhornberger t1_ja3pzyu wrote

> Televisions were way more expensive back then, though, and advances in CRTs was really slow

Reddit generally has trouble accepting that a) prices have gone down, and 2) products have improved. We want stuff for dirt cheap but also think that if it wasn't for "greed" then things would last basically forever, like the survivorship-bias outlier examples of our relative's washing machine, refrigerator, or television.