manifesto - Already Dead

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This site is dedicated to the premise that our civilization is unsustainable and will inevitably collapse, maybe before the end of the century, maybe next year, and that we would be better off if we stopped deluding ourselves that we could do anything to prevent this.   This conclusion is based on consideration of the many resource and other pressures that now mitigate against the ongoing survival of modern civilization (the nature and magnitude of various threats), weighed against the empirical record of policymakers in being able to identify and address significant issues in advance (the adequacy of any current or projected responses).  

In concise technical terms, given the magnitude and complexities of all the variables now arraigned against us, we're toast.

The first step to making some progress in this area, and find authentic peace, is to admit that the current situation has passed into hopelessness.

Scientists, in particular, need to stop nurturing hope. It's unprofessional, and can only lead to disappointment.  

Are you a troubled optimist?  Are you feeling conflicted by the mental gymnastics required to juxtapose reality with hope?   Would reconciling general relativity with quantum mechanics seem an easier proposition?   Tables 1 and 2 should set your mind at ease.
What about sustainability..?
All species, from microbes to complex animals, eventually face population collapse or extinction if they overshoot the carrying capacity of their environment.  On the Petri-dish scale with microbes, this process only takes hours.  On Earth-scale we're just about there now.

Programmes targeted at sustainability are technically interesting because they test our ability to utilise dwindling resources in ever-more creative ways, to see how many more people we successfully can pack onto the planet before the big crunch.   They can also improve quality of current human life.  But they're also misleading.  We bypassed any point of genuine sustainability years ago, when the global human population passed a few hundred million. Relative to Earth's natural carrying capacity, the planet is now overpopulated by a factor of at least 30.  Currently we're in delusional optimization mode, as a species which has at least some inkling of the finite nature of our increasingly degraded resource base, but little to no understanding of the limits of its own interventional capabilities.

  • Is this the fault of governments?   
  • Is the human race immune to the ecological laws of population biology that govern the rest of life?  
  • Are we smarter than yeast?
Nope, nope, and nope.   John Gray puts his finger on it:  

The destruction of the natural world is not the  result of global capitalism, industrialisation, “Western civilisation”  or any flaw in human institutions. It is a consequence of the  evolutionary success of an exceptionally rapacious primate. Throughout  all of history and prehistory, human advance has coincided with  ecological devastation.
— John Gray, Straw Dogs
What to do?

Given the inevitability of our impending doom (Tables 1 and 2), personal responses fall into two rational options:

  1. Enjoy the golden age you're currently living in;
  2. If you want, think about preparing for what you might need if you're still alive, post apocalypse.

Of course, realization of the second option presupposes that you might survive whatever onslaught first catches up with your neighbourhood of civilization.  On the face of it, this would appear unlikely. However, you never know [1].

With collapse of modern civilization no longer a remote possibility, but the most likely outcome, the earlier we start redirecting resources to address the question of how we might project the best of our scientific understanding and technological achievements through to the other side of the crunch, the better it will be for us in the longer term.  We may want to think about how to preserve the very best of what we have achieved, if possible, in a feudal and fragmented world likely to be rocked by resource wars, neo-tribalisms, religious dictatorships and downed communications networks.

Or not.
[1] No, you never do.
Assuming you survived, what would you need?
After the collapse, the ongoing survival of science and technology will require precisely five essential ingredients. These have been identified by a panel of experts as: (a) coffee and alcohol, the so-called "wonder beverages" (b) chocolate and croissants (or similar bread-like treat), the so-called "staple foods" and (c) guinea pigs.   The enabling role of three or more of these ingredients in virtually every major scientific discovery of the last century has been well-documented.  
The need for coffee, alcohol, chocolate and croissants is self-evident and requires no further explanation.  The need for a robust supply of guinea pigs is frequently under-estimated, but will also be essential to the ongoing survival of science, particularly if we are to have any hope of maintaining a comprehensive range of double-blind scientific experiments involving cosmetics and toiletries. In addition to their professional skills, these little animals are said to make good eating. Further, guinea pigs feed on grass and the occasional invertebrate. Projections indicate that grass may well still continue to exist in the post-collapse environment, along with worms and cockroaches.
A note about your personal apocalypse...
It may have escaped your attention, but you're also a finite resource.  Fuck civilization, you are thinking, what about me?  Good point.  Let's look at your chances:
The empirical record

Not much to say here.  As C.S. Lewis observed, even war does not increase death over the medium term, because death is total in any generation.  

Consistent with that, scientists are not aware of any humans who have violated this highly reliable and empirically robust "100 percent" rule [2].

The most consistently reliable predictor of death appears to be birth.

[2] Apart from Highlander, arguably.  But even in that case, there were ... complications.   
Future prospects

We've all heard hopeful technerds breathlessly expostulating that in a few years we'll be able to upload our minds.  Nope.  Your mind and body are not separate, but are one integrated system.  Your brain is part of your body, and your body is part of your brain. Even if that limitation could be bypassed via simulation of a fully integrated system, and uploading technology could be developed before our resources ran out:

  • 1. Any simulation of your mind, no matter how accurate, would be what we scientists call "...a copy."

  • 2. Even if your copies were sentient, any power system running any simulation will eventually fail.  Probably in an ironic way, when an underpaid cleaner who could never afford upload insurance trips over a cable.

  • 3. Your copies would all undoubtedly hate you.

If you're worried about this, just remember - you haven't lost anything.  You have the exact same amount of physical immortality now as you had when you were born.
But what room does this leave for wonder..?
More than you started with, and more than you've been taking advantage  of.  There are still plenty of mysteries and wonders, and there is love,  and there is art.  Embracing hopelessness will help you to better  appreciate them all.

Maybe, as physicists are now speculating, the Universe itself is in fact a type of information engine.

Maybe  we shall walk other planets and see each other again, through untold  aeons and evolving miracles of information expressed as iterations of  space and time.  Maybe, but that's all guesswork.

Meanwhile on this planet ... you, me and our civilization are all most definitely finite.  Lighten up - there really is nothing you can do.

"Don't take life seriously because you can't come out of it alive."

- Warren Miller
And don't even get me started on the so-called "hard problem" of consciousness.  That's nothing.  The harder problem of consciousness is how it came to be that your experience of you, and mine of me, is first-person and singular.  How is it that you came to find yourself inside a single consciousness, inside a skull looking out?  Why this skull?  Why..!?  You wanted wonder?
Anything else..?
Who knows? There are a range of scenarios for our future, most of them unpleasant. However, the point of embracing hopelessness is that it allows you to move on. Having understood that I'm mortal, you're mortal, and our civilization is most definitely terminal, we can better appreciate what we've got.  Today.  

So we're in the middle of a slow-motion train wreck, what the hell. Surf on an upturned carriage. Appreciate the scenery.  Enjoy the ride.

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