This article is supported by brilliant org. Welcome to the penultimate article of 2019 penultimate, a word that gets misused quite a bit. A lot of people make it synonymous with the word ultimate. So let’s say like he’s, the penultimate race, car driver or something like that, but penultimate actually means second-to-last.
This is the second last article of 2019. So this is the penultimate article. So let’s start with a grammar lesson. Not only is this the final days of 2019, this is the final days of an entire decade and you only get a handful of these in your lifetime, two handfuls of your lucky.
So one of the end of year was something that might be a little bit different. A lot of other people are doing the looking back. You know the biggest science stories or pop culture stories of the last ten years, and I don’t know.
I might throw something like that together, but I thought I would do something a little bit different and look forward to the next ten years and I wanted to do it with two articles. One of the things that I’m most concerned about over the next 10 years, and one about the things that I’m, most optimistic about over the next 10 years.
So let’s start with this article with the angst, because it wouldn’t be my channel. Without that that way, we can finish up the year next week on an up note that sounds nice. Doesn’t it, but for today let’s, bring the pain so before we start talking about the future, let’s just start by talking about the passage of time, because really that’s, what we’re talking about here, the passage of time, the enormity of it the unpredictability of it.
These are things that you can only really appreciate once you’ve, seen a lot of it and I’m, actually pretty old for a youtuber, so I’ve, probably seen more of it than a lot of you. People watching, in fact, if I look at my demographic breakdown, it turns out, I’m, actually older than 80 % of my viewers, so uh so glad.
I look that up. You know growing up. You learn your history from history. Books like that’s, the framework you’re given and it’s all names and dates really boring stuff. It’s very abstract right, but it’s.
Only when you’ve lived through a little bit of history that you finally can sort of contextualize it a little bit. You start to see. The history is just a series of events that are all reactions to previous events that they themselves were reactions to events that happen before them and so on, and so on.
You know in looking backwards. All of that looks obvious and inevitable, but the thing that the history books don’t they get across very well, is that in that moment there’s, nothing inevitable about it.
Now we ride this wave of time through history and it always feels like we’re on the precipice of the unknown. We never really know what’s coming next and and the longer you’re around the more difficult it becomes to predict.
What happens next? Because you realize that you know really great things can be twisted and turned into really awful things and horrible calamities can have really wonderful breakthrough moments come out of them and the truth is.
We have no idea how the actions and decisions we make today are gon na pan out in the future. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, he says you know don’t, pat yourself on the back too much for your successes and don’t beat yourself up too much for your failures.
Your decisions are all half chance, so is everybody else’s, not to mention that technology and science and commerce are all moving so fast that predicting the future has become just a fool’s errand. Now all this is to say that what I’m about to talk about in this article.
These are not predictions. The future can go in many different directions, some of which could be wonderful, which I’ll talk about next week and some of them well, some of them keep me up at night, so I’m just gon na start with climate Change because it is the most obvious one and for those of you out there that are groaning about it, because I talk about it, so much just deal with it, because this is a real problem and not a small one.
So the IPCC said that we have about 13 years to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Now, of course, this led some people to say that the world is gon na end in 13 years, which is of course, ridiculous.
But that gave enough wiggle room for climate change deniers, to throw the whole thing out and say that climate change people are alarmists and extremists. The truth, in their statement of course, is much more nuanced, which is not something that you know converts very well to 140 characters or what is it 250 now? No, no, but what they were actually saying is that we’re in danger of reaching some tipping points beyond which the world will be irrevocably changed.
Now that doesn’t mean uninhabitable. Like most scientists agree, we’re, not gon na turn into Venus or anything like that. But what it does mean is that this stable climate, that’s, made our way of life possible, might be going away, and I feel like that’s missed a lot in the climate change discussion.
Is that what we’re really talking about here, is simply maintaining the systems in the akan that make it possible for modern society to function like climate change, isn’t gon na look like polar bears on ice floes.
It’s, gon na look like massive migrations of millions of people. In fact, it probably should be called climates change, because that’s, really what we’re dealing with here, multiple climates around the world.
They’re gon na be seeing more extreme weather events and disrupting the way of life of millions of people. Droughts and some areas will cause people to move to wetter. Climates. Rising sea levels will cause people to move inland people moving from one area into a different area that already have other people living there that now have to share their resources and their jobs with these other people that are not like them.
Historically, this has always gone really well, but this is what climate change looks like resource Wars, immigration issues and the blowback from all those things. This has happened over and over and over again in regional pockets throughout history, but this is global and I think we’re starting to see it happen from family separation at the u.
s. southern border to the rise of nationalist movements in Europe. Following a wave of Syrian refugees, this is what climate change looks like it. Doesn’t feel like climate change, but it is instability in any area is gon na cause people to flee it into other areas in search of a better life, but when a third of the countries around the world are unstable because of extreme weather Events, this will be a problem on a scale that we have never experienced in human history, and I want to think that our better angels are gon na kick in and and we’re gon na adapt.
We’re gon na take people in and kumbaya and all that and maybe eventually we’ll get there. But if human history has taught us anything it’s, that those tribal instincts are deep, deep rooted in us and I think it’s.
Gon na get ugly like collapse of the social order kind of ugly. These are the worst effects of climate change that we’re, trying to avoid in the next dozen years, which means getting down to carbon neutral globally all around the world, and we are nowhere near that in fact, right now, the number of new coal Plants going up around the world is actually accelerating.
The grid is getting greener, but we’re nowhere near what we need to be. My biggest fear is that this whole issue is just simply insurmountable, not without making major major sacrifices that most people are just not going to be willing to make.
You know we’ve, all gotten accustomed to this certain life style, but it might just be the case that the world just can’t sustain it and that it’s. Gon na have to come to an end. One way or another like take concrete, a lot of people don’t know this, but concrete actually amounts to 8 % of the global carbon emissions around the world and with the continued urbanization of the planet, that’s.
Only gon na accelerate and while a lot of different, cleaner products have been created and suggested they’re all more expensive than concrete and usually don’t work as well as concrete, plus concrete already.
Has this whole infrastructure built up around it? You know for developers to embrace these newer and more sustainable types of concrete. It would drive the cost way up, meaning that homes and businesses can only be affordable by you know really wealthy people unless they’re forced to do it by legislation, which means that the number of projects would dry up and go down.
Most people would be able to afford their new homes and office buildings. Any more jobs would go away. You get where this is going. Of course. If it’s just left in the hands of the market, then likely nothing will change and we’ll, get to experience those worst effects of climate change.
I was talking about a minute ago. It just feels, like the human race has been running up a credit card for about two hundred years now, and it’s. Just getting to the point where 25-year old Joe would have gotten another credit card and just paid off the original credit card.
On the second credit card, because I am good with money now – there are reasons to be hopeful which I’ll talk about in the next article, but I’m starting to wonder if our best use of energy could be toward just Being prepared for the worst like, it was a series on HBO a few months back called years and years, and it basically took place in a very near future where some of these effects started to take place.
And you got to see what basically, the collapse of an economy would look like, including runs on the banks and everybody. You know massive unemployment having to rely on gigs and run. You know doing two or three jobs just to get by from people who are used to be.
You know pretty pretty well-off, I mean it was. It was pretty hard to watch. To be honest, it felt a little little too real. We rely on our institutions to provide stability, but what happens when those institutions fail? You know.
Most of us have not seen anything like that happen in our lifetimes, but it has happened over and over and over again throughout, but speaking about the economy, even without climate change. We are long overdue for a recession which there have been many markers, indicating that there’s, one on the way like maybe in the next year, so like Fortune magazine, ran a survey and two-thirds of business economists agreed that the economy was going to Contract sometime in 2020 and one of the big signs that something is on the way is that in August we have what’s called a yield curve inversion, and what this basically means is that the potential for return on short term bonds, like 2-year Bonds was lower than long-term bonds like 15 or 30-year bonds.
In other words, the market is expecting a downturn in the near future, so the yield the potential yield for short term bonds went down. Now. This doesn’t sound like a major thing, but it turns out that every single recession since World War, Two was preceded by a yield curve inversion.
Now economic downturns, aren’t the end of the world. They’re, a natural part that I’ve been flow. The economy, sometimes it expands sometimes it contracts. The problem is: the economy has been expanding since 2009.
This is actually the longest expansion of economic growth in human history or in the history of the u.s.. I guess I should say economic expansions have an average length of about 38 months, which means that the current one that we’re in should have ended in 2012.
So we’re long overdue for a recession. Many economists believe ones coming. The big question is how Bad’s, it gon na, be here the opinions diverge. Some say it’s. Gon na be extra bad because the economy never fully recovered from 2009, with a lot of people who had salary positions with benefits and all that now working in more of a gig economy which, or they just dropped out of the workforce altogether.
Which kind of you know affects the employment numbers now others say they: it’s, not gon na. Be that bad, including Campbell Harvey, who’s? Actually, the guy who discovered the yield curve inversion. Some people say that recessions, following longer periods of growth, are actually milder than ones following short periods of growth.
That’s, because in the shorter period of growth the economy is not quite you know fully rebounded from the last recession and moving on to another thing, you know there’s, some subjects that I cover on this channel that once I Really dive deep into it.
It really affects me and changes my way of looking at things and one of those this year was plastic. I named it the best and worst invention in human history, because plastics have made our entire way of life possible.
That’s, a good thing, but it’s also. You know gon na kill us, since I did that article. I become super militant about recycling and not using single-use plastics. It’s, the worst thing in the world. It drives me nuts, when I get coffee at a diner or something, and they bring out a bowl full of little single-use creamers.
It’s, just it’s, so wasteful and it’s, just a pain in the bud. But there are some people who complained in the comments of that article, that plastic recycling is BS and I had to look into it and it turns out.
Unfortunately, they’re kind of right, so it turns out the vast majority of plastic recycling takes place in China, so so most places just put all the recycling on a boat and ship it over there to China on the other side of the world.
Think about all the diesel that is burned to get our waste over to China and by the way that’s where most of it came from in the first place. But apparently China’s. Economy has shifted and they can’t really handle all the recycling anymore.
So most of this plastic that is being sent over there to recycle, just kind of winds up in landfills or just gets dumped into the ocean. So yet again, our entire economy and our entire way of life revolves around an unnatural substance that we create with fossil fuels by the way that has to get shipped all the way from the other side of the world to a restaurant, where you use it.
One time and then it gets thrown into a recycling bin and then shipped all the way back across the other side of the world again only to wind up right in the ocean anyway, and it never fully breaks down.
Micro plastics are basically in everything right now. It’s in the water we drink, it’s in the food we eat. We are plasticizing the planet, including ourselves. It’s like that whole cautionary tale of a paperclip machine that becomes sentient through AI, and it winds up wiping out all of humanity and destroying the world because it’s, basically using all of its resources of the entire planet.
To make more paper clips, because that’s, what it’s just programmed to do. I feel like that’s, us with plastic. It’s like somehow turn the world into plastic was embedded into our DNA. A long time ago and like everything in human history, it was about getting us to this point where we can just bury the world in plastic, and you often think about like in the far far future after our civilization has collapsed, and maybe one beyond us has Also collapsed some way future archaeologists find just this layer of micro polymers that seemed to just cover.
Planet like this is gon na, be a huge puzzle for them. They’re gon na wonder if the world went through some interstellar cloud of complex molecules or something like. Is this? What wiped out these people so just chalk up another thing that future civilizations will think we were crazy about, and the thing is plastic recycling is just so so far behind the amount of plastics that we’re using.
We have just become addicted to single-use plastics, and I’ve, been following this issue since I made that article – and I have not seen anything to make me more optimistic about it, it’s, just it’s really unsettling, But perhaps the biggest problem, or at least the one that I’m most concerned with – is the collapse of the information structures in the world social media platforms, deal and information.
We use it to get information about our friends about our interest. They use it to get information about us and sell it to companies who want to exploit us, and we all, by the way, just seem to be fine with that.
The gatekeepers of information are now gone and a lot of people, including me once upon a time, thought this would be a great thing. You know the world shouldn’t have information gatekeepers that should be free and out there for everyone all the time you know we shouldn’t, be having a bunch of stuffed shirt, corporate drones, telling us what the information is and what We should know you know, the information should be free and the world will become a paradise yeah that’s.
Not what happened. We’ve lost trust in information. We’ve, found ways to create echo chambers and just surround ourselves with other opinions that are similar to our own, and we avoid at all costs, and we’re stepping outside of that bubble.
This makes it really easy to turn the others in to the others. We’ve, become more tribal, more isolated, the internet that was supposed to democratize, information and open it up to all of us has instead used AI and algorithms to get it to the point that we don’t even believe in the Same realities anymore, something we’ve, never been more divided as a nation, although I would say the civil war was probably worse, but what we’re dealing with now might actually be more dangerous.
A lack of faith in systems, information systems, value systems once those gets so out of whack that we can’t even agree on what’s. True anymore, that’s when collapse of civilization. Problems start to creep in.
In the book sapiens you & # 39. Ve all know a Harare talks about how human society is not an objective scientific thing: it’s, not like physics. It’s, not like chemistry. It’s, all something that’s, just kind of made up amongst ourselves.
Society only exists because we all agree that it exists, and this is why we can look back in history and wonder with awe how they could condone slavery and ritual sacrifice and polygamous marriages with child brides.
You know just because they were able to all come together and agree that those were okay back then those were their imaginary values. Our values are different today, but they’re, no less imaginary, but just because they’re imaginary doesn’t mean they’re, not important.
They’re, actually very important. These these shared values, they shared myths or the framework that society relies on for stability. So now we seem to be entering a period where we can’t even agree on objective truth anymore, where a large percentage of people just proclaim anything that they don & # 39.
T want to be true as fake news and scrupulous people can go in and and post fake articles and generate outrage to make money off of it. And what we wind up with is a chaos of ideas, and this is the perfect environment for authoritarians to step.
In and so fear and doubt amongst people are usually pointing at other people as the problem. This is something we’re, starting to see more and more around the world right now. Now it’s really easy to just point your finger at Facebook for this, and you should right now it might be fair to consider what kind of position they’re in and is there anything they can really do about it? I mean Facebook can kick out Nazis and probably should kick out Nazis, but there’s, nothing stopping them from using another social media outlet or just create one of their own keeping people with specific ideas or goals off of the internet.
It’s, just a never-ending game of whack-a-mole and look this whole information paradigm that we’re living in right. Now it’s only what a couple decades old you know we don’t really know what the trajectory is here.
Maybe it’s, something we can fix. Maybe that’s, just something that an advanced society has to go through. Maybe it can’t be fixed. Maybe it’s, the Black Swan. That turns out to be the thing that leads to the downfall of society.
You know any one of the problems I’ve talked about in this article are enough to doom humanity. If we don’t handle it correctly, but that’s. What keeps me up at night? It’s, not just one thing. We’re facing all these things at once, and one of the books that I read this year is this book right here.
It’s called 1177 BC. The year civilization collapsed by Eric Klein. I went on a trip to Greece and I really became fascinated with that period of history and I became obsessed with collapse of the bronze age.
So what happened in the year? Eleven? Seventy seven Amanda, all didn’t, take place in the year of eleven seventy seven. It was over about a hundred years or so, but most historians kind of default to that year, but basically several long-standing prosperous civilizations around the Mediterranean.
Within about a hundred years, all went away the Hittites, the Mycenaeans, the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Babylonians. All of these had been around for a long time. They had very strict social orders, they had religious systems, they had economic systems, they had been going really strong and then, in a period of a hundred years they were all in ruin and in this book he examines all the different theories that have been proffered over The years as to what might have done this, but what he comes to is that it wasn’t any one thing.
It was kind of a perfect storm of several things, calamities and include mass migrations of people which historians have always called The Sea Peoples that came in from other parts of the world that disturbed everything, extreme weather events, droughts caused problems and the interconnectedness of all the Different civilizations, so that when one of them went down, they all fell like dominoes, and I was struck reading this book.
How similar the world is today only amplified granted. Yes, the world is an entirely different place today and we probably have more systems and institutions to prevent something like this from happening.
But what? If we don’t what? If those systems and institutions are actually more vulnerable because of today’s, technology civilizational collapse is not an unheard-of thing in our history, in fact, it seems to come and go in cycles, but then again – and this can’t – be overstated.
The world has completely changed in the last 200 years. We have no idea how this is gon na pan out everything. I just talked about reflected a worst-case scenario. Of course, there is also a best-case scenario and everything in between, and that is what I’m going to talk about in next week’s, article so come back for that one.
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You guys have a good one love. You guys take care.