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May 12, 2011

Sent this in Email Today

There's really only been one social institution that's been able to get people to work hard on changes/solutions that they'll never see come about: religion.

That leaves us with two real choices:

• We figure out what it is about religion that has managed to do this, and try to replicate it in a non-religious arena -- something that political and military institutions have been trying to do for a very long time, without much success.
• We try to embed sustainability/innovation/foresight discourse into existing religious institutions. A lot of us secular humanist types are going to be awfully uncomfortable with that.

The latter will happen without much intervention on our part post-disaster, but I'd rather not take that course.

So the big question, then, is how we can reverse-engineer religion such that we can make use of the persuasive aspects without having to bring over the mythical aspects...

May 5, 2011

In the NY Times: How 10 Billion Can Survive


The New York Times "Room for Debate" series brings together a half-dozen or so experts to offer diverse opinions on the news. I was asked to contribute to the conversation about the new UN report claiming a global population of 10 billion people by 2100, and my piece is now up.

Population projections 90 years out – even 40 years out – are risky. There are big challenges to human civilization already under way this century, such as climate disruption and food sustainability, and more on the horizon. If any of them hit as hard as we fear, or if our responses are insufficient, there’s little likelihood that Earth’s population would get to 10 billion people. In a way, getting there would be a sign of successful navigation of this century’s problems.

It goes on from there.

I'm particularly pleased with the point made in the last sentence of that paragraph -- it's a reframing of the issue that I haven't seen elsewhere. But it's true: given the scale of the challenges we'll face this century, if we do end up with a planet of 10 billion people in 2100, it can only be because we've successfully managed the cascading crises. Ten billion in 2100 is a positive sign, not a negative one.

May 4, 2011


A while back I was asked by Dan Schneider to do an interview for the website COSMOETICA, a somewhat eclectic arts and culture website that's been around since early 2001, apparently without changing the layout of its pages. Schneider has, over the years, interviewed quite a few folks I consider to be world-class thinkers, (such as Dan Dennett, Steven Pinker, and Jack Horner) so I was pleased and amused to be in such company. The interview was done as a long set of questions in a Word doc, without any limits to how long my answers could be.

The full text of the interview is now available at the COSMOETICA website.

A few notes before you read it.

This was an odd interview. Some of the questions were quite good, and gave me a chance to think through why I think the way I do. Other questions were more problematic, containing errors of fact that I couldn't just ignore. Unfortunately, Mr. Schneider chose to respond to me without giving me a chance to reply in turn; more importantly, his responses seemed to be just doubling-down on his positions, even when they were categorically erroneous.

There isn't a comment section attached to the interview there, so if you want to reply, feel free to do so here.

Jamais Cascio

Contact Jamais  ÃƒÂƒÃ‚ƒÃ‚ƒÃ‚ƒÃ‚¢Ã‚€Â¢  Bio

Co-Founder, WorldChanging.com

Director of Impacts Analysis, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

Fellow, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Affiliate, Institute for the Future


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