Human Specialness, Unilateral Climate Geo Engineering and Explanations
Your weekly 5 things from the mind of Miles Lasater
Happy Saturday! Here are your 5 things from the mind of Miles for this week.
Are Humans Special? At first we thought humans were central to the universe (subject to supernatural forces but still central). Then we realized we are not central to the solar system, to the universe, or to biology. Now we are skeptical of any claim to human specialness. But what if we are special in this sense: We are universal explanation engines and memetic creatures. That means we are capable of understanding the universe and creating knowledge. If we use that ability and improve our knowledge through criticism, iteration and testing, we can grow our understanding and ability to control reality with the laws of physics as the only limit. That is a thrilling idea! If you aren’t sure what I meant or assume I must be wrong, please read the Beginning of Infinity. I’m almost done with my second time through. So mind blowing.
Unilateral Climate Geo Engineering: We’ve talked before about geo-engineering to mitigate climate changes. Who decides if we should do it? Do we have the global governance mechanism that can make this decision? In two near future speculative fiction novels, an individual (in Termination Shock - fun read) or a country (in The Ministry for the Future - I did not finish) geoengineer unilaterally. Strife and drama ensue, as you can imagine. Is this our future?
Moral Tribes: I was rereading parts of Moral Tribes. A highly anticipated book i enjoyed reading the first time. The book is a lovely mashup of experimental psychology and moral philosophy. One item that stuck out this time was the suggestion to react to controversial political or policy positions by asking for more details about how it would work. What is the step by step details of the theory of change? A number of good things happen: (a) it puts you in listening mode where you can learn and calm down and (b) may cause the proposer to realize they don’t understand all the details and therefore reduce their conviction. I do wonder if it can backfire in increasing the psychological commitment on the part of the explainer by investing more time, thought and social capital into the position? Does it work? Maybe try it this holiday season with your family?
Year End Giving: If you’re looking for year end giving opportunities, you could do a lot worse than one of the three nonprofits I’d had on the podcast recently. Check out GiveDirectly, FreeWorld and Curious Learning. Or join our giving circle to support tech nonprofits.
Forward to a Friend. If you enjoy this newsletter and think a friend would, too, please share it. This is one time it is OK to use the forward button. Go on, press it.
I’ll be taking a week off. Catch you in two weeks,