After the flood

2020-01-19 22:17

One thing computers taught me is solving things backwards. For many things it's easier to look at where you want to get and figure out the way towards it.

For society I believe we largely know what we want at this point (at least some of us). So maybe it makes sense to look at what we want and can do.

It's not hard to see that changes are coming. It must have been what beginning of 20th century felt like: things are just moving and they are bigger than us and it's not up to us whether things will stay or will change but the outcome still depends on us.

Climate crisis, mass migration, new technologies of oppression and liberation, it's all those materialistic factors which you cannot deny or dismiss as just ideas. I may be very optimistic but I believe we will get to the other side of these changes. What will that look like?

One thing we need to do is to reimagine agriculture. We know for a long time that the way we grow food is neither sustainable nor healthy. And like many other things changes must be characterized not by "what we do" but by "what we can no longer do":

Why do we use them now? well, it's simple enough, it's cause and effect in the name of efficiency and reduced costs. Need to scale up. To scale up, you need automation. To use automation you need to grow big monoculture fields and to prevent these monocultures from dying you need pesticides and fertilizers.

What I believe we need instead is human labour. Where do we get it? We get people out of the bullshit jobs, that's how. We stop producing shit, that's how. Just compare 2_310_000 us workers employed in "agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting" with 158_331_000 workers working in retail (that's not the only category and not the biggest one but it's the one no one would miss too much). There's 3.5% unemployment rate in the US which amounts to 328_239_523 * 0.035 = 11_488_383 people (and US is far from the worst in unemployment). How many people work in Amazon hell? We have a lot of free hands across the world and agriculture is what we've been doing historically. If we want to stop pushing CO2 into atmosphere and pollute our own water and oceans like there's no tomorrow, I would say that's what we need to do.

[Disclaimer: I don't know about agriculture that much but if that's not true that I'm sure people who know better will correct me.]

One of the things i don't like about it is the fact that we need to move out of the cities. I read quite a lot about urbanism and I am pretty much sold on the cities and higher population density. What are the benefits of the cities? Mostly it's reuse. Access to health professionals, education, cultural events etc. We've been without it and some people say that they are willing to give up on that for other benefits but pragmatically you are still in disadvantage when you don't have it. That's something you cannot have if big chunk of your population lives on farms/in villages. They have to either commute with some means of transportation or give up on this idea completely.

And that's just one of the challenges we need to face. It fits into the bigger problem of "how do we keep life quality in the face of change". And I think that largely we don't but it's not that simple. I also think that the freedom from bullshit jobs, bosses, landlords and cops is a huge improvement. That quality of life is not how many appliances you have but how often you can connect with nature and people. But it's also about what and when you can eat and which services (can we give up on this word please? Can we stop serving? Let's say care) you have access to. Like electricity, production of which can no longer follow demand and the the relationship with availability of which must be inverted.

There are no easy answers but tradeoffs. The only option we don't have is to keep doing what we do. I'm scared but I'm excited.