Re: Luddism meets psychobabble

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Mon Jan 08 2001 - 06:29:34 MST

At 12:50 PM 7/01/01 -0800, Mark Plus wrote to the >H list:

>A fellow from
>Australia over on Cryonet argues that Europeans have "damaged" Australia's
>environment, even making it "unsustainable." Yet the objective measures of
>human well-being for Australia indicate high life expectancies and an infant
>mortality rate lower than that of the U.S.! [...] The rest of the world
>should be so environmentally "damaged."

Mark, this is really a very dubious response to a terrible quandary. Most
scientists qualified to judge the matter appear to agree that European
settlement in Australia's terrifyingly fragile environment has savaged it
to the point where it actually is approaching unsustainability.

Such an assessment is always, of necessity, open to revision as new
technologies emerge that do more with less, or intervene powerfully at
critical points not previously understood, and so on. But do we wish to bet
our lives on it? What Phil Rhoades was describing ruefully in his quite
measured posts on Cryonet is arguably best seen as an economics of
despoliation equal to oafs living for years inside the ruins of a
magnificent palace, each winter tearing apart more paintings and antique
furniture and floorboards to light cooking fires. Hey, they're doing okay!
Look, there's another whole room of books in there they can burn next year!

Can we depend with utter confidence on the AI gods of the Spike to step in
and make us new furniture and books using hyper-nano at the very edge of
disaster? Maybe. It's just as likely that any such critters will eat the
whole planet even faster. I hope not. I do hope we can morph these
accelerating technologies toward a civil and decent outcome. But in the
meantime, I believe we do the planet a disservice by bad mouthing those who
point out that the reason the emperor hasn't frozen to death, despite his
lack of clothing, is that he's huddled beside those blazing library books.

Damien Broderick

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