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Figuring out what to write about for the next few months
I am going to keep it short because I want to switch to writing long. I have been nibbling at the edges of the Globe, trying to figure out what’s worth writing about at length. That problem has been solved, for I know what I am going to focus on:
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Global risk can mean many things. As existential risk, it usually means the kinds of risk that can end civilization, i.e., even if some of us survive, we will have lost the capacity to sustain ourselves the way we are right now. That might be because:
Runaway climate change
The usual suspects.
Global risk can also mean the risk that comes with being global and/or the risk inherent in being global. Pandemics and climate change fall into that slot as well. These two are globe sized forms of risk. There are also risky forms of the Globe, like drawing the globe only around the human.
Of the three, I am most interested in how the Globe is inherently risky, and how the riskiness of that enterprise is presupposed
In the previous essay, I said that one way to grasp the risky globe is to risk-ify some major thinkers and their texts. Descartes was mentioned as someone who built his philosophical system on the basis of elements that are risk-proof. He was (metaphorically, if not literally) concerned about the Devil making him see and hear things that weren’t there. It’s a risk we all take, but if I may say so, the real problem here is not of risk but of trust.
Do you trust your senses? Do you trust your mind? Do you trust the world?
If, like, Satoshi Nakamoto, we are zero trust, then yes, we have to engineer systems that ensure certainty without trust. And as we are seeing unfold in front of our eyes, that so-called trustless solution has infused enormous risk into the financial system while claiming to be the opposite.
Our counterfactual Descartes should accept risk while doubling down on trust.
Let’s add Global Trust to Global Risk as the headline topic for a few months. But there’s also the converse: globalizing some risky thinkers. I am particularly interested in the Buddha’s analysis of suffering and how suffering pervades individual life. The Buddha recognized that life is risky and there’s no retreating to some cave or stove to make the risk go away. But what about suffering at the global scale? How might we experience it if we wore a Buddha hat?
Note that I said “Buddha hat” not a “Buddhist hat” - I am not as interested in what the religious tradition has to say about Global Risk as much as what it might be like for us to confront Global Suffering in the way the Buddha (as Siddhartha Gautama) confronted sickness, aging and death before he left home to seek the truth. We can only speculate, but global risk is an existential condition the B-man would have felt keenly if he were born today.
Summary of where I am going
By looking at global risk through different lenses, we can begin to understand it in a deeper way. We can see how global risk is an existential condition that must be addressed, and how trust and risk must be balanced. This exploration of global risk will give us a better understanding of its various dimensions.
It can mean the risk of ending civilization, either through asteroid strikes, runaway climate change, superbugs, or nuclear war.
It can also mean the risk associated with globalization, such as pandemics and climate change, which affect everyone regardless of where they live.
The third way of looking at global risk is to risk-ify some major thinkers and their texts.
Finally, the fourth perspective is to look at global risk through the lens of the Buddha's analysis of suffering, and to consider what global suffering (risk being the potential for suffering) might look like if we were to approach it with the same kind of insight.
There’s no coherent argument that connects all four perspectives; my goal is to find one or to admit defeat. But even they are four unrelated viewpoints, looking at global risk from these different angles will help us gain a better understanding of its complexities and develop ways to create a more better world.
These speculations and more after a break. Might take me a week, might take me a month to get my act together.