The Water can only get so Cold
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The fundamental disagreement on catastrophized issues is whether we're headed towards a phase transition or trends can continue. For example:
- Does rising CO2 mean things will get slightly warmer, the sea slightly higher and a slew of things we're adapted to being slightly different? Or once we reach some critical threshold will arctic ice melting, forests burning and droughts intensifying lead to a irreversible apocalyptic feedback loop?
- Does increased political polarization mean we'll have more awkward elections and Thankgiving dinners and pass less legislation? Or once we pass some threshold will neither side trust the other to uphold elections and we'll have a civil war?
- As AI systems increase in power will they continue to serve us, slowly displace some human labor but in aggregate make us more effective and therefore more valuable? Or will they pass some critical threshold of capability which depending on your level of optimism either: 1) Makes all human labor redundant or 2) kills us all.
Two things about phase transitions:
- It is beyond us to predict them. Good luck computing the freezing point of water from first principles.
- They do happen.