The Transhumanist community mostly ignores Climate Destabilization, as if technological evolution were divorced from the natural world. I propose a radical view for the initial stage of approaching singularity, intimately entwined with our growing climate crisis,
Gas to Liquid: Civilization Phase Change.
Greater connectivity is our best chance to escape the growth model of economics and civilization hindering transition from fossil fuel.
Tim Garrett analyzed civilization mathematically as a heat engine in 2009.
Civilization is a self-perpetuating feedback loop that grows to consume more energy, based on four emission drivers:
...population p, standard of living g, energy productivity (or efficiency) f and energy carbonization c.
Specifically, the human system grows through a self-perpetuating feedback loop in which the consumption rate of primary energy resources stays tied to the historical accumulation of global economic production—or p×g—through a time-independent factor of 9.7±0.3 mW per inflation-adjusted 1990 US dollar. This important constraint, and the fact that f and c have historically varied rather slowly, points towards substantially narrowed visions of future emissions scenarios for implementation in GCMs.
What Garrett is saying is that population and standard of living will always expand when energy’s available, because they always have.
In other words, human beings behave like gas molecules, expanding to completely fill their container, or gobble up all available energy, no matter the cost. We’ll always maximize personal resources by increased consumption, like independently acting gas molecules.
What does unlimited expansion of p mean? Individuals reproduce much as they can manage now, competing with one another for descendent market share. Is the “right” of one sultan to make 449 babies really critical to civilization? Religions and nation states often compete as well, coercing members to overproduce. China’s one-child policy is a one size fits all, simplified version of top-down limits to p. Presumably we could be more creative and allow for diversity.
What does the unlimited expansion of standard of living g, mean? Is the “right” of an individual to own mansions, private planes, yachts, media empires, and “own” legislators and courts really essential for civilization? Does a civilization require corporate entities’ acquisition of ever-expanding wealth and power?
Wouldn’t it make more sense for us to invent a mechanism to limit reproduction and consumption, instead of consuming our own future for present “growth”?
This will require collective self-restraint, like a liquid in which the molecular bonds form a free surface, limiting the volume occupied. What would such human bonds look like? They would require feedback among all of us, to negotiate on limits for reproduction and consumption.
In other words, to master living sustainably instead of self-destructing, we’ll have to invent a civilization in which we’re more connected to one another. This would have to be two-way communication and influence, not top-down hierarchy where 1% controls the information and dictates to everyone below.
This phase change to a sustainable civilization, from “gas” to “liquid”, would require every person to be connected to a secure access information network. Only large scale investment will enable the poor in remote locations to have equal information access and voting on this as the wealthy. Computer geeks hold the key to interactive civilization. The urgency of Climate Destabilization demands we take this first step toward Singularity.
Even for people who don't look forward to Homo sapiens radically changing ourselves, you make a good case that an interconnected civilization, with secure access for all, is not merely an optimistic wish, but essential if we're to survive.