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Ask HN: Problems for the next decade?
129 points by dmundhra 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 293 comments
Environment, people, technology are changing rapidly. What are some worthwhile problems or ideas that you think would be important to solve or work on by end of the decade.



We have an aging population and many places have a flat birthrate. We need to solve how to deal with this consequences.

Who will care for these people? How will we deal with the consequences of flat population growth? How will we deal with the stock market's expectations of perpetual growth when the underlying population itself is not growing (and especially since productivity has also been relatively flat)?


This aging topic is very important. Re: stock markets, economies need to shift from eternal $ growth to share holder wallets, to providing equitable outcomes for all people and the planet - that will be very interesting to watch, i can’t see it going well.


Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered

    is a collection of essays published in 1973 by German-born British economist E. F. Schumacher.

    The title *Small Is Beautiful* came from a principle espoused by Schumacher's teacher Leopold Kohr (1909–1994) advancing small, appropriate technologies, policies, and polities as a superior alternative to the mainstream ethos of "bigger is better".

    Overlapping environmental, social, and economic forces such as the 1973 energy crisis and popularisation of the concept of globalisation helped bring Schumacher's *Small Is Beautiful* critiques of mainstream economics to a wider audience during the 1970s.

    In 1995 The Times Literary Supplement ranked *Small Is Beautiful* among the 100 most influential books published since World War II.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Is_Beautiful


This seems somehow unrelated.

It's not about scale, it's about balance. You can run a small an beautiful country with zero economy growth and zero decline, all in a perfect balance, and 70% of population younger than 65. Everything works out.

But when 50% of the population is older than 60, the picture changes a lot; the percentage of economically productive population is much lower, and the need to care for people who can't sustain themselves any more grows. Take a look at how Japan fares today.


Fair point, in hindsight it seems I may have thrown this book recommendation in under the wrong comment.

It's relavant to this Ask HN question at large as we very much need to move away from blind pursuit of unlimited growth in population, resource consumption, waste byproducts, etc. and address the question of how to live well within our means.

Aging population demographics is a challenge, but one that we must address and then move beyond to a move persistent and sustainable low term distribution.

As for the current situation, I am 60, my father was born in 1935 and lives here in the same town as I do. He takes meals on wheels to the older folks who aren't all that mobile (yes, he's almost 88, walks 10km per day, and maintains a 15 km long section of a 1,000 km long walking trail) which is indicative of the entire community which has the highest median age in this country.

There is scope to employ able older people to look after less able older people which gives provides purpose, companionship, and reduces the demand for younger pople in care roles, etc.

This is not a full solution but it is a partial path forward.


We'll we're going to have to learn how to deal with it.

At the start of the 1900s the world was set for a population boom and overshoot. We went from families having 6-12 children to 2ish children in a few generations. This is going to lead to those 'boom' generations having a far older population and there is not really anything that can be done about this unless you want your population to continue growing forever.


You might be interested in the work of Steven Hail and Gabrielle Bond. There's an online course they run through Torrens University that covers a lot of this stuff:

https://www.torrens.edu.au/courses/business/economics


> to providing equitable outcomes for all people and the planet

The top 10% who hold essentially all the wealth in the world have very little interest in that goal.


Yep 100% agree. Unfortunately


Problem is, if you're being fair, the 90% bottom that will actually have to do the work, also don't want to care for elderly.

A decent fraction would need to become nurses, and frankly, with less pay/worse conditions than they currently get. A small fraction will need to study a lot more so more treatments can be provided, which requires doctors and researchers. And we'll all have to do with less (much less) because this will cost a lot even disregarding wages.


Given limited resources exponential growth will always hit saturation. It is time we structure out economic systems in a way that aknowledge this reality.


[flagged]


"Fair" is just an arbitrarily-applied constant in your sentence.

Why is meritocratic more "fair" than equitable? Perhaps more precisely, why do you deem meritocratic to = fair? Someone could just as easily (and supportably) deem equitable to = fair.

Hearts!


Because “equity” (communism) requires violence. Taking away from those who create more and giving to those who create less. Something that is non-consensual and requires violence is by definition unfair (unless you’ve a wicked moral compass).


"meritocracy" also requires violence. Unless what you really mean is "might makes right", in which case the violence is kinda baked in.


How so?


Well... how do you enforce meritocracy? A pride of lions is meritocratic, in the "might makes right" sense. What definition of "merit" are you ordering your population by?


You don't need to enforce meritocracy. That's the beauty of it, it's based only on mutual consensus and transparency of information (a.k.a. free market).

Would you rather go to a doctor who's good at surgeries or one that's bad at surgeries? One that got into medical school because of affirmative action, or one that was discriminated against and still got in (e.g. Asian doctors in the US)? Would you rather go to a car mechanic that's amazing at juggling but bad at fixing cars, or one that's bad at juggling and good at fixing cars? See, the "definition of merit" just takes care of itself (driven by the self-interest of customers).


> You don't need to enforce meritocracy

So it's ok if I come to your house and take your stuff because I'm bigger than you?

Because that's what meritocracy does - it gives more resources to people who fit an arbitary definition of merit.


> So it's ok if I come to your house and take your stuff because I'm bigger than you?

No, stealing is immoral.

> Because that's what meritocracy does - it gives more resources to people who fit an arbitary definition of merit.

The system itself doesn’t give anyone anything, the market is free to determine that. A doctor who helps more patients (your arbitrary definition) will face higher demand than one who doesn’t help many patients, since people are free to place the value they see fit on their personal health.


> No, stealing is immoral.

a) So is stockpiling resources that other people need. b) Who's going to stop me?

> the market is free to determine that

So we don't drag this out any further, I'm going to explain the place I'm trying to get to, as best I can: markets aren't physical laws of the universe, they're human constructs that are defined, regulated and policed by governments (I'm using a very wide definition of government here, think "governance").

If you think the market is the fairest way to allocate resources, you have to accept that people who "cheat" the market (inside traders, muggers, etc) are subject to state-sanctioned violence. That's the violence that a "free" market, and your vision of meritocracy, requires.


>So is stockpiling resources that other people need.

Owning property is not immoral. Stealing and coveting your neighbor's property are sin and very immoral.

>Who's going to stop me?

Any authority we've democratically elected to uphold that task. Probably the police, in many cases. Or me with a weapon of course, seeing as you're bigger than me in this hypothetical. In reality, you are not bigger than me.

>That's the violence that a "free" market, and your vision of meritocracy, requires.

Yes, societies require laws that are ultimately enforced through the use of physical violence and restriction of freedom if it comes to that. Mostly to stop people from doing immoral things at the cost of other people.

Insider trading is a tough nut to crack, since it could be seen as just another tool to reach a more efficient market. Envy comes very naturally to humans, and if someone makes more profits than you in the marketplace, it's very easy to call it unfair and get mad about it. Then you're looking at the definition of "fairness" - in my opinion it's fair that anyone can pursue the kind of information that will help them make better sales in the market. Deceiving or lying to other people are different topics entirely, but the term "insider trading" doesn't entail those things.

>markets aren't physical laws of the universe, they're human constructs that are defined, regulated and policed by governments

I don't really understand your point here. Yes, our society runs on top of some underlying systems that we've agreed upon. Freely trading your labor and property go all the way back to the beginning of our evolution, and for good enough reason - it's the best system we've ever come up with and used.


Communism (at least in an ideal Marxist form) has no relation to equity, it’s more of a liberal concept than anything else.

People use the term Communism (both upper-case and lower-case) in various ways nowadays, but Marx’s original ideal form of society was "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" The ultimate goal is to create an affluent productive society that can provide all amenities for all people, so they can unleash their potentials as individuals without being enslaved by capitalists as wage workers just to survive. And socialism is only an intermediate step before realizing this ideal state, socialism wasn’t intended to be ideal even for the leftists (In this sense communism has never been tried anywhere yet).


> In this sense communism has never been tried anywhere yet

From my knowledge of European history, this is not true.

Marx also said that there should be a dictatorship of the proletariat, who should seize the means of production.

The difficulty is, is that absolute power corrupts absolutely, to steal a phrase.

The worker's union movement working inside a capitalist system has brought more benefits for workers, than communism, which proved to kill millions wherever it is attempted.


> From my knowledge of European history, this is not true.

You will need to elaborate on that.

> Marx also said that there should be a dictatorship of the proletariat, who should seize the means of production.

Which should be temporary, right? Do you have an example where it was actually temporary? That would answer my point above.


> You will need to elaborate on that.

My particular familiarity is with the German Democratic Republic. There were many true believers in communism, who in their attempt to construct a communist utopia created and contributed towards a police state.

Jordan Peterson said it shows arrogance to suggest that people just weren't doing communism right, and that if only they got the theory right, then they would usher in the utopia.

I would tend to agree.

> Which should be temporary, right? Do you have an example where it was actually temporary? That would answer my point above.

Your point was to assert that communism has never been tried.

Mine was that it has been tried, and is always unsuccessful. So the failure of temporary dictatorships is proving my point, not yours.


I think we're talking past each other. You say "communism doesn't work because we can't reach it", and I say "it's not entirely clear if communism doesn't work because we haven't managed to reach it".

Don't you think that you risk missing interesting ideas if you reduce communism to temporary dictatorships?


> communism doesn't work because we can't reach it

No, I'm saying it has inherent problems that means it doesn't work, and "doesn't work" is putting it lightly, given the number of people who have suffered and died under the ideology.

> Don't you think that you risk missing interesting ideas if you reduce communism to temporary dictatorships?

No, I've already mentioned that workers unionising under a capitalist system has brought more benefits to workers than communism.


Yes, and this will require violence to achieve (how else can you enforce the “from each” and “to each”?)

Communism has been tried. Again and again. The utopian endpoint it tires to get to is not possible. The consistent result is mass death and poverty.


The "this will require violence" argument makes no sense. If you live in the US, everything you have is the end result of some horrific violence. Inferring a need for violence to achieve some ideal is a completely useless analysis.


OTOH systems not going as far as communism, but still with far more equitable outcomes than e.g. US system, have been tried as well and have been quite successful.


I dunno, in the real world, the kind of libertarian society you seem to be advocating for has descended into its own unique form of violence:

https://newrepublic.com/article/159662/libertarian-walks-int...


Did the American revolutionary war require violence? Who chose to be violent?

Violence is not bad. Violence to oppress is bad. Violence to seek justice is good.

That's why the 2nd amendment exists.

> Something that is non-consensual and requires violence

War is ultimately dispute resolution between two parties, at least one of which, has decided "might makes right."

Ukrainian violence is justified and good, while Russian violence is abominable and evil.

So it's important to think past words like violence or war or 'take' and instead frame conversation around justice.

If a billionaire bribes a supreme court justice to rule that they can pollute drinking water with a chemical that causes cancer, is that violence? A billionaire should not have enough money to corrupt the fabric of society. Extreme wealth inequality is injustice, especially if they use their power to say "we'll crash the economy if you don't bail us out."

Taxing the rich and funding social programs while otherwise retaining property rights isn't communism.


When a measure becomes a target, it becomes useless as either. What is "productivity"? Does your definition accurately encapsulate all externalities? I'm going to tell you the answer: it doesn't. Stop using productivity as a proxy for that which is "good".


Merit is close to the idea of investment.

Everyone deserves equal investment, yet investment is not distributed equitably at all.

Education, internships, mentorship, etc are all investments, but more importantly, they snowball.

An executive branch cabinet official likely had a high profile job, and a high profile job before that, and a job with mentorship before that, and several internships before that, and admission to a great college before that, and potentially private school before that, and potentially community clubs or community help before that, maybe they had a parent in a position of power.

Every opportunity helps you get more opportunities in the future, and those who have capitalized on opportunity are those people you would say "have merit."

So merit ultimately does not measure productivity, but investment. With this understanding strictly "meritocratic" systems are systems that do not promote social mobility.

Communism is often maligned (and it should be, because it empirically always results in authoritarian rule) and our schools did indoctrinate us with "communism is bad" and "there must be profit motive for people to work," but we have a blindspot for oligarchy which is a system with no social mobility and little public investment which is a much more likely outcome than communism. Wealth disparity results in oligarchy and we are very much on our way.

If people have no hope for their future they become a drag on society as a whole, so it is important that it is not just productivity, but willingness and ability to work that is taken into account. It is our responsibility to lift our fellow man up, so they do not drag us down.

If merit is the sum of opportunities capitalized on, then it's important to distinguish between those who have merit because they had many opportunities, and those who have merit because they capitalized on the limited opportunities they were given.


While communism does have it's flaws, i would argue it has in fact never been tried.


But don't worry guys... When it's ME given absolute power it will be different... Just trust me.

Not even a single Gulag...


What you're describing is authoritarianism, not communism. Authoritarian communists certainly exist, but there are plenty of anarcho-communists who directly oppose anyone having absolute power, including themselves.


It's a shame GP decided to miss the point so badly. They do indeed describe authoritarianism not communism.

I think there are very good reasons that every time some regime self branded as communism it very quickly devolved into dictatorship. Reasons that many of the solutions proposed were unworkable and naive. And I am not sure those reasons can be overcome.

Communism should maybe be more of an ideal to be strived for but impossible to ever achieve.

I think it is fair to at the same time accept the self labeling of historical regimes as communist when discussing history yet also recognize that none of them ever achieved the communist ideal and became dictatorships instead when discussing philosophy.

The values of communism are aligned with democracy yet a democratic communist regime has never been implemented.


How could you ever implement it democratically? What happens when people vote for the capitalists?

The reality is that communism requires centralised power, centralised power attracts bad actors, and bad actors are significantly more comfortable wrestling control of that power by force than good ones are.

Communism isn't inherently totalitarian, but according to all the experiments we've run so far as a species (at the cost of several hundred million lives), it does seem to inevitably lead to totalitarians.

Capitalism works as a socio-political system because its decentralised.


> What happens when people vote for the capitalists?

You mean what happens if people vote for the capitalists. Why do you assume that people will vote for the capitalists?

Historically, we know what happens if people vote for the communists: if this happens at any scale, the US steps in and sets up a capitalist dictator. Examples:

1. The US displacement of Lyuh Woon-Hyung to set up Syngman Rhee. Rhee was "democtratically" elected in a US-controlled election which was boycotted by other candidates because voting was limited to property owners and tax payers or, in smaller towns, to town elders voting for everyone else.

2. The 1948 Costa Rican civil war, where the CIA helped stage a coup against Christian Socialist Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia. However, the most conservative leader they could find was still pretty close to a communist, and he reinstated democracy, leading to a more equitable democracy, albeit still hampered by CIA interference, in 1950.

3. The 1949-1953 failed operation to overthrow the democratically-elected Albanian government with US/UK trained Albanian anti-communists.

4. Operation Fortune, the 1952 CIA operation to overthrow democratically-elected Jacobo Árbenz, followed by the more successful 1954 CIA coup which instated the capitalist dictator Carlos Castillo Armas, after the US-based United Fruit Company approached the CIA with concerns that Árbenz's anti-exploitation laws would hurt its ability to exploit workers in Guatemala.

5. The 1953 CIA/MI6 Operation Ajax/Boot (a.k.a. 28 Mordad coup), which overthrew a constitutional monarchy headed by Mohammad Mosaddegh's parliamentary government after the parliamentary government nationalized the Iranian oil pipeline. The coup saw the transition of Pahlavi from a constitutional monarch to an authoritarian, who relied heavily on United States government support. That support dissipated during the Iranian Revolution of 1979, as his own security forces refused to shoot into non-violent crowds.

6. The 1961 overthrow of democratically-elected Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, followed by the systematic US-supported genocide of democratic separatists in two separate rebellions.

7. 1970-1973 Chilean elections. Both the US and USSR were funding elections in Chile, so it's difficult to describe this process as purely democratic, but ultimately Salvador Allende was elected along with a right-dominated congress (i.e. congress was capitalist-majority, while the president was communist). This balance wasn't acceptable to the CIA, who in 1973 helped enstate Augusto Pinochet as dictator. Pinochet went on to commit one of the largest genocides in history.

8. The 1976 overthrow of democratically-elected President Isabel Perón in Argentina, starting the military dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla, which committed multiple crimes against humanity, with explicit support from the US including multiple visits from Kissinger during its reign of terror.

> The reality is that communism requires centralised power, centralised power attracts bad actors, and bad actors are significantly more comfortable wrestling control of that power by force than good ones are.

Capitalism is just centralized power by other means, where power becomes concentrated in those with enough wealth to enforce their will. At least with communism there's a chance that the centralized powers can be democratically elected--with capitalism, there's no pretense that corporate executives are democratically elected, with corporations being able to withhold people's basic needs if they don't comply.

> Communism isn't inherently totalitarian, but according to all the experiments we've run so far as a species (at the cost of several hundred million lives), it does seem to inevitably lead to totalitarians.

As seen above, this is not the case. Numerous large-scale democracies have elected communist leaders--followed by US interference and instatement of capitalist dictatorships. At a smaller scale, there are numerous examples of successful democratic (or even consensus-based) communism. With corporations funding political disinformation and buying candidates, it's questionable whether a capitalist democracy is even possible.

But, if people really vote for the capitalists, you have a capitalist government. That's how democracy works: the majority might not be correct in their beliefs, but they still get to put those beliefs into action. The question is, why does the US brand of capitalism not seem to believe that? Why is it that when communists get elected, western capitalists suddenly don't believe in majority rule any more?


Venezuela would like a word with you sir...


I just posted numerous clear examples of my point, and you responded with an opaque jab that makes no point at all.


Show me a single example of a democratic communist nation that has not descended into some form of totalitarianism or anarchy...

All you posted was a long list of things that failed because of interference from the west. That's not what the question was though, show me ONE that didn't fail... ONE


Look, I think communism sounds great, but the problem is that it simply doesn't work in practice. In other words, it has been tried, it just doesn't work.

To see why, you can categorize the forms of government as so:

    - Monarchy/Dictatorship: Power in the hands of one, one person is authority
    - Oligarchy/Republic: Power in the hands of a few, aristocrats are authority
    - Democracy: Power in the hands of many, majority is authority
    - Communism/Anarchy: Power in everyone's hands, everyone is equal in authority
In reality, society only works when there's a power hierarchy; it's the natural order of things. The more you equally distribute power amongst people, the more dysfunctional/less orderly/more bureaucratic society becomes.

In particular, notice all the forms of government (except for communism) has a way to settle disputes without resorting to violence. For example, in Democracy, you settle disputes by voting, where the majority wins, and the rest don't get their way. This ability to settle disputes without violence, is what makes us civil and what makes society a society. Without it (such as with communism), you are in complete anarchy, where raw might/ability (eg successful violence/persuasion) is the only thing there is left to settle disputes. Thus, those who wield it typically end up becoming the "authority", and is why over time, communism/anarchy will naturally change into one of the other forms of government.


"For example, in Democracy, you settle disputes by voting, where the majority wins, and the rest don't get their way. This ability to settle disputes without violence, is what makes us civil and what makes society a society. Without it (such as with communism), you are in complete anarchy, where raw might/ability (eg successful violence/persuasion) is the only thing there is left to settle disputes. Thus, those who wield it typically end up becoming the "authority", and is why over time, communism/anarchy will naturally change into one of the other forms of government."

In the US only 50% of the population votes. The church doesn't pay taxes but lobbies the gov via proxies. Rich people definitely have more rights than the others. Just because they fight in court doesn't mean it's not called violence. Rich people are the authority in the US. They decide what you watch, what you buy and where you can spend your money. Just because they work for corporations doesn't mean there isn't a hierarchy. Rich people own America and they behavior of it's citizens, because they shape the contexts in which you live. They also own the rest of the world via Hollywood.


You're right. The US isn't a democracy, it's predominantly an oligarchy/republic. And as matter of fact, no national government is purely a democracy (because a pure democracy at such a scale also doesn't work, because of how bureaucratic it would be). Most governments are hybrids to varying degrees. The way I categorized the governments here was just to show how things work, nothing prevents it from being a spectrum.


Actually Yugoslavia and Pre 1978 Romania were not that bad. They produced a lot of their own things. Yugoslavia had a strong economy with lots of industry. Same for Romania and their prospects for oil development.

The issue came in because the US wanted to break up the soviet bloc so the World Bank went to town and made sure that happened.

We will never know what would have happened if Tito and Ceausescu would not have been squeezed by debt and foreign interference.

Maybe the reason you don't see a good example of Communism besides maybe China/Viet Nam is because the west is actively engaged in making sure that doesn't happen.


I do not know about Yugoslavia but it is certain that the Ceausescu regime would have ended up in misery either way. Having as a ruler an idiot who is capable of playing opponents against each other and who was enthralled by the prospect of having a personality cult ensures things will never end well for the people.

I would argue that China and Viet Nam aren't good examples either.


disclaimer, i dont think communism could ever work on current humans (there will always be people who will exploit system), it works great on paper or for ants etc.

That said can you give me an example of the communism you described as

"Power in everyone's hands, everyone is equal in authority"

The best example i can think of is a 'proto' communist fraction in Spanish civil war as Orwell described in Homage to Catalonia.


I agree with both things. I think communism is unlikely to be achieved by current humans.

Also that quote really does not describe either the ideal of communism nor does it describe the historical regimes under the communism brand. In fact, I think none of the 4 categories Rury described are truly correct.

1. "Monarchy/Dictatorship: Power in the hands of one, one person is authority" is wrong simply because no one ever rules alone. Monarchy is just oligarchy with extra steps. Most historical communism is here.

2. "Oligarchy/Republic: Power in the hands of a few, aristocrats are authority", equating these two is wrong because the second is supposed to have time limits and accountability. Oligarchs are aristocrats, senators are not aristocrats.

3. "Democracy: Power in the hands of many, majority is authority", democracy is much more diverse than that.

4. "Communism/Anarchy: Power in everyone's hands, everyone is equal in authority" this is anarchy not communism. And anarchy is indeed inherently unstable. There were branches of communist thought that were anarchist but by being anarchist they were doomed to failure.

In practice we have only ever had variations of oligarchy that were more or less disguised and variations on democracy that were more or less direct.

What has not been tried and is unlikely to be tried is a democratic communism.


"In reality, society only works when there's a power hierarchy; it's the natural order of things. The more you equally distribute power amongst people, the more dysfunctional/less orderly/more bureaucratic society becomes." That's a pretty bold claim to make without and real evidence, perhaps humans have been conditioned to operate within a power hierarchy and attempts to realize a just society without a centralized authority holding monopoly on violence is simply due to material conditions being such that people cannot transition to a free lifestyle without a power hierarchy. Communism/Anarchist societies based on voluntary association are possible if humans are healed from the collective mental trauma of generations of systematic oppression by the power hungry oppressing them under the guise of Hobbesian necessity or sheer selfish personal interest. TLDR: Don't assume Hobbes without first providing an actual argument against Rousseau.


You don't need real evidence. Just the most simplest thought experiment in the state of nature (which is anarchy). How do two wild animals win a dispute over something? They either fight violently, or intimidate (ie persuade) their opposition into getting their way. The act of avoiding violence (giving into intimidation), is an act to ceding to the other as the dictator.

> perhaps humans have been conditioned to operate within a power hierarchy

Yes, exactly! No human, nor animal, wants to be perpetually in violence, as it is very risky to living. So, if they wish to avoid violence whenever a dispute arises, they naturally subject themselves and cede to the other as the superior authority in the matter, letting them get their way. However, if a human/animal ever thinks the reward for winning a fight outweighs the risks of violence, they will indeed risk the fight. Repeated disputes where one continues to be the victor, conditions those in the matter who is superior and inferior, and a power hierarchy is naturally established.

The only way communism can ever work, is if there is never any disputes. That is not a practical scenario outside a power hierarchy, and hence why it does not work in practice. And for those that don't see how "communism == anarchy", just look at how "public == many", and "private == few".


Communism has never been tried? Could you explain a little bit more? I don't know if you are joking or lacking knowledge. Or maybe I lack some knowledge you know about


I don't agree with the poster--I think communism has been tried, sometimes even successfully (i.e. kibbutzim).

However, the examples of communism which capitalists like to point at as failures, such as Stalinism or Maoism, didn't ever actually distribute wealth, instead merely changing the concentration of wealth. This points to a failure to actually achieve communism, rather than a failure of communism to work.

Unfortunately I don't think there are very good explanations of this out there. The best I can find is this[1] but that's pretty dense, assumes a lot of prior economic knowledge, and is (ironically) behind a paywall.

[1] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/089692050809085...


I will read up on what you posted. But to answer GP, I basically agree with what you posted.

From a philosophical pov, the well known regimes (Stalinist USSR, Maoist China, Varsovia pact regimes, DPRK) were dictatorships and they were failed attempts at communism.

From a historical point of view it is fine to call them communist.


It’s a “no true Scotsman” fallacy that communists trot out to defend their failed ideology.


I did not argue that communist regimes didn't fail. I even think that was inevitable. And I even think that it was inevitable that the communist ideal would be immediately abandoned by every single regime once they gain power.

That doesn't change that none of the well known historical regimes under the communist brand ever came close to the communist ideals. The betrayal of their original ideals was decried by communists themselves very early on.

My argument is actually that there are good reasons that humanity as it was 100 years ago and as it is now is incapable of achieving the communist ideal and therefore we need better philosophical theory on how to get closer to that ideal. I think the idea that revolution can bring about the communist ideal was naive.

There are comments here about smaller scale communist social systems claimed to have worked I did not know about and about which I will read.


The important bit is that every communist country tried to implement communism and every single time it led to one-party authoritarian nightmares where actual thoughtcrime was illegal and brutally enforced. That indicates a fundamental problem with the ideology to me, and one that isn’t ever worth trying again.


I do not think it indicates an unfixable problem with the ideal. It does indicate fatal flaws with the plans to get there. That is why I believe we need better theory on how the communist ideal can be achieved in a democratic way. I do not know if this better theory can be developed. And I do not know if humanity will ever align with this ideal. The communist ideal of a classless society is in many ways unnatural and presupposes that we will overcome some of our vices. Note that this does not solve all of our problems and therefore I think it is outdated. The 17 UN SDGs are a far more up to date set of directions we need to work on.

Just to make it clear, I think the 10 planks/10 point action plan of communism from the actual manifesto is simply WRONG and would never have achieved the communist ideal (and nowadays it is also outdated). An authoritarian nightmare is the direct result of that plan, points 1, 3, 4, 8 and 9 ensure that. Even more damning and depressing is that many communist regimes did not actually implement point 10 by actually having mandatory child labour even if education was free.

But also note that most capitalist countries actually implement to some degree point 5 (having a national central bank) and many to various degrees implement point 10 (free education, no child labour) and several implement 6 (state controlled transportation and communication). And this was for the better.


No system has managed to reach the point where it could be called "pure communism", because it was "interrupted" in the middle (e.g. by becoming authoritarian).

Saying "communism fundamentally cannot work because I know examples that did not work" is similar to saying "democracy fundamentally cannot work, look: Hitler was democratically elected".


I think it is inevitable. Why would anyone willingly give up their rights to tools of production? Correct me if this is a gross misunderstanding, but how can you get people to invent things in their garage when statesmen are trotting around looking for "unearned surplus"? And if the wealth will somehow end up being distributed to you anyway, and more work doesn't have any meaning, why try anything at all?


Well, productivity today is actually the biggest problem humanity is facing, if you think about it: productivity is directly linked to fossil fuels, which are not unlimited (that will soon be a problem) and also are the cause of climate change (that will soon be a problem too).

So I could ask it differently: why would you want anyone to spend a lot of effort keeping us in the direction that will globally make our society collapse?


The only two choices aren't "status-quo vs mediocrity", that's just a false dichotomy. Why can't people invent clean bio-energy, low-powered computation, space travel, cure for all kinds of cancer, or free desalination? Does every invention need to burn society down?


> Does every invention need to burn society down?

Apparently, yes. That's called "rebound effect". I don't know of an invention that did not suffer from it.

5G is more efficient than 4G for the same usage, but it allows us to use more, so we will use more. Reusable rockets are more efficient, but they will allow us to launch a lot more rockets, so we will.

We don't know how to constraint ourselves. That's probably also why we won't be able to voluntarily degrow, and therefore we will just continue until it all collapses.


I don't see a reason to believe this. A lot of my examples went unaddressed.


> A lot of my examples went unaddressed.

You mean the "why can't people invent <place here some cool technology we don't have>" part?

Not sure what to say to that, to be honest... would be cool to live in peace in a sustainable way, that's for sure. But I don't see that as an argument.


Okay, I don't really see much of a point in arguing for the tech we do have that doesn't cause any society to collapse that you are oblivious to.


I think this fallacy you displayed is in fact core to the discussion in this thread. The whole thread started from the need for equity and then user tomp basically went (paraphrasing) "why would you ever want equity? communism bad".

Some people want to dismiss the entirety of the thought behind communism and behind equity and use the historical regimes as justification even if those regimes did not in fact achieve or uphold communist ideals.

People will invent and will create regardless of whether that results in wealth or not. In fact the current capitalist regime is te perfect demonstration of this. People continue to invent things and continue to create art of all kinds despite the fact that most of the times the royalties are captured by corporations. And before IP was created, people did invent and create because that is simply what they do.

Also people will continue to work even without the threat of starving. An example of this is Japan where plenty of retired people engage in community work even if they have no personal need to do so, they do it for the community. This level of care for the surroundings and for the community makes Japan spectacular. Even the most anti-work will eventually get bored and start doing stuff.

This fallacy is used to dismiss all kinds of anti-capitalist ideas not just communism.

A society without intellectual property is against capitalism. A society with UBI is against capitalism. A communist society where workers can control the means of production and where things are redistributed according to needs is against capitalism. All three ideas are against a small group of people maximizing the captured (by themselves) value of the work of everyone else.

This view that humanity is some sort of herd of kettle that will not do anything unless threatened with starvation by a group of wealthy capitalists controlling the herd is bleak and disgusting. To bring it full circle, of course capitalists are against equity.


I don't care about capitalism, communism or whatever cold war propaganda fetish people have.

I'm down with any economic principle where your merit as a worker earns you leverage. It's a binary proposition.


Capitalism has been tried more times than communism and has failed to reward productive people more times.

It's 2023. The absurd idea that, for example, the billionaires pushing the Metaverse or burning Twitter to the ground got there by being productive, is thoroughly disproven. Stop pushing this motivated ideology.


Capitalism has lifted billions out of poverty. Even China, who is communist in name, only started experiencing high economic growth once Deng Xiao Ping started reforming the state to be more market oriented, ie capitalism-lite.


I would love for capitalism to stop being treated like a child with all these monetary policies, interests rate massage, bank bailouts, etc. Ludwig Von Mises was right about the business cycle. Hands off the free market dammit!


Don't create an account just to specifically reply to one comment.


> Capitalism has lifted billions out of poverty.

It's not clear that capitalism was a necessary component of globalisation or the progress of technology, both of which are adequate to explain any benefits capitalism might claim.

What is clear is how many billions capitalism has kept in poverty while the top 1% get absurdly rich. 10 men had more wealth than 3.1 billion people in 2021[1]. The US, supposed beacon of capitalism, can't even provide housing, healthcare, or education for its people, despite having the largest GDP of any country in the world. You claim capitalism a success, but the only way you can do that is by turning a blind eye to the capitalism's total failures.

> Even China, who is communist in name, only started experiencing high economic growth once Deng Xiao Ping started reforming the state to be more market oriented, ie capitalism-lite.

You claim China has experienced economic growth: who in China has experienced that? Capitalists love to lump everyone in a country together in their measures of economic growth as if everyone is benefiting, but that's not the case.

And the thing is, I'm not even a communist, per se. But I sure as hell am against a few lucky capitalists getting fat off the labor of billions of people.

[1] https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/inequality-kills


> You claim capitalism a success, but the only way you can do that is by turning a blind eye to the capitalism's total failures.

Some countries have to build (real or metaphoric) walls to prevent people from getting in...

Some countries have to build (real or metaphoric) walls to prevent people from getting out...


Would you care to respond to my post? All you've done is show you don't understand that correlation isn't causation.


> We need to solve how to deal with this consequences.

I'm hoping that we start to see an increase in pro-family policies. A couple rough ideas to look into would be decreasing taxation (or giving refunds/payments) based on how many children a productive family has, providing financial support so families can buy homes, and promoting wage increases so a single income can support a family to allow one to work and the other to focus on raising the children.


Housing policy is dead simple (not easy): build more homes.

The problem is, when you build more homes, the price of homes go down.

Great for people that want homes and people who are just joining the workforce. Not great for grandma and her retirement planning.

If you frame your housing policy around anything but building more, then housing is fundamentally zero sum. If it is zero sum, that means those couples with a children are being subsidized at the cost of that 20 year old new grad or people who earn minimum wage without a family. Those people look at their finances or their mental health and make decisions about their future. So if people new to the work force are subsidizing those with children you could be harming their mental health to the point where they don't want children.

Why would any sane person bring children into a world that is almost guaranteed to be worse for their children than it is for them? I wouldn't.

So from a systems thinking point of view, the only cogent housing policy is to build more homes.


> Great for people that want homes and people who are just joining the workforce. Not great for grandma and her retirement planning.

I think policies that encourage families from passing their property down to their children rather than being used as an investment vehicle should definitely be considered. The strategy of buying a home young and dumping it later seems to cause bad behaviors that result in families spreading out which prevents a healthy familial support network to form.


> providing financial support so families can buy homes

You mean building more homes. If there's X homes, and Y families get 10% subsidy, they're all still buying the same X homes for 10% more. (roughly)


Not mutually exclusive. More homes + making it easier for families specifically to get a home.


We should subsidize supply, not demand


I see people always talking about the economics of starting a family, but they're missing the real reason for low birth rates: opportunity cost borne by women.

Women who choose to have a child put their careers back several years at the age when they are making the most important advancements in their careers. They choose not to have children because doing so doesn't just mean they have to pay a bunch of money in childcare costs, it means they will likely never achieve the dreams and goals they set for themselves. It will become much harder for them to travel, climb the corporate ladder, create things, and be someone. Many women want to achieve all these things and then have children later in life, but it becomes biologically infeasible for them to do so.

This is harder to solve. We can force maternity policies with hiring mandates, but that would be VERY expensive for smaller businesses (having to pay 2 salaries to get the work of 1 for a year or more).

I'm just not sure what other policies exist to solve the opportunity cost issue. You can give people as much cash as you want but government can't give away free self-actualization


I lived in Singapore for a little while and this was one thing I noticed they did there. For example, by giving preference in subsidized housing to people who were married and further preference to those who had kids.

In the U.S. (and broadly, the western world) we seem to have a really hard time using economic incentives to encourage certain behaviors. I think it's partially because we don't want to implicitly judge a given lifestyle choice as better than another.

However, I think there is much we can learn from a place like Singapore. Singapore simply does not stick to any single political dogma - they choose a mishmash of policies based on the outcome they want to achieve.


That is a down-right evil idea, in my opinion. It means those who cannot find partners to make families are further punished, making their chances to create families even lower. They're turned to a literal slave caste to provide for other people's families.

Remove taxation on young and productive people instead if you want to help them create families.


> It means those who cannot find partners to make families are further punished, making their chances to create families even lower.

Incentivization of family formation would push people to get married, it would not make family formation less likely. The entire point of incentivizing a behavior through providing benefits is to make it easier for people who partake in that behavior, therefore drawing people to it.

> They're turned to a literal slave caste to provide for other people's families.

I'm single, and due to various factors it's unlikely I'll be getting married in the immediate future. I'm one of the people who would be "punished" by my "down-right evil idea" but I still think it's good. Economic pressure would definitely make me more invested, not less, in getting married sooner. Calling this a creation of a "literal slave caste" is an extreme emotional exaggeration since I'm definitely not calling for myself to be enslaved by any meaningful usage of the term.


The end result is that a class of people live and die to provide for others. That's against nature, unless we reduce ourselves to the existence of ants.

Down-right evil is what the consequences would be, but I retract that comment regarding the idea itself, because I don't think any malice is intended.

Economic incentivizing by the government often have awful side effects. Let me make a comparison: Business is good for the economy and nation. Therefore the government should incentivize people to have businesses. Let's therefore give a million dollars to every successful business owner. We take the money by taxing those who don't have businesses.

I think most do not like that idea, but it's basically the same thing.

Let's not pit young people against each other furthermore.


Houses are against nature. That doesn't mean they're bad.


I don't agree with the person your replying to but its clear that they aren't using "nature" to mean "things happening outside" or "things happening to non-humans". When people say "against nature" almost always they are saying that something runs contrary to the nature of man in such a way as to inhibit an ordering towards flourishing. Against nature means something not conducive to the proper ordering of the human person, so a house is not in principle "against nature" since it acts in accord with human nature and furthers human flourishing rather than frustrating our natural faculties.


> How will we

By adjusting which price to earnings multiple we want to tolerate, just like we always do

Or take a bearish position if it happens to match your risk tolerance at the time

The stock market will be fine, people will trade shares, who cares if the market price is greater or less than today’s


aging population who accumulated a lot of wealth. so that'll take care


Wealth is just paper and bits in a database if there is nobody to hire to take care of you in old age


The UN has identified 17 sustainable development goals (https://sdgs.un.org/goals) and the AI for good Global Summit https://aiforgood.itu.int/ (which was held last week) focused on exactly that.

If you check the recordings, some sessions were directly focused on connecting problem experts, data access, computing resources and people with skills or idea or passion. The opportunities span from students or researchers, up to what will take innovative companies or bigtech to solve, or government and international organizations.

It was also the place were a lot of discussions about AI regulation took place. The discussions and the decisions that will follow from that meeting will shape the world to come IMHO.


The SDGs are really the defining issues of this century that need to be solved. I think if a company truly wants to make the world a better place™ then they should start at looking at them.


Neat. Although there seem a to be overlap in the goals.

Do they have measurement in the goals over time?


I believe the World Bank keeps some metrics on tracking SDGs (sustainable development goals). Googling "world bank sdgs" yields results.


The biggest problem domain worth pursuing is figuring out fusion. If we can unlock what is effectively limitless power a lot of problems become far more tractable. Everything else is a distraction. We need cheaper and more available power.

Every physicist and engineer in the world should probably try dedicating at least one or two month of their life to figuring out fusion.

If humanity could pay a trillion dollars to instantly unlock fusion it would still be considered a bargain. And yet we don't treat research into that field as something with such a potentially massive impact.


We are living a mass extinction right now (that's not a prediction for a future risk, that's a fact that we can observe now). The reason of this mass extinction is cheap, abundant energy: habitat loss comes from there.

Fusion would be great to finish making life on Earth look like surviving on Mars. Is that what you want?

What we need (and will most likely face anyway) is to do less with less. Organise society to live the forced degrowth that is coming, and survive the climate changes that we started and cannot possibly change anymore.


I'm not sure I follow. The mass extinction event is mostly due to habitat destruction AFAIK right? The reason for that is seeking new resources aka energy. You don't need to cut down the rainforest to plant low yield crops if you can more profitably grow higher yield crops vertically with grow lamps and powered watering systems.. no? 'Cheap energy' is very different from 'basically free energy' in terms of what you can do.


I get what you are saying, but... yeah I guess I need to elaborate on why I believe fusion is not a solution (and get more downvotes from techno-solutionists, yay \o/).

First, let me say that I usually start by mentioning the mass extinction, because technical people (myself included) have a tendency to believe that "the problem is CO2 emissions, and we can find new technology to reduce that". So I find it important to note that we humans are already responsible for the loss of essentially 2/3 of trees, 2/3 of animals and 2/3 of insects on Earth, and this is before the consequences of climate change. It is easy to say "if we had more energy, we would grow crop vertically and leave biodiversity alone", but sadly I don't think it works like this. Crops are not the only factor (population raises because of cheap energy, so we transform more wild spaces, also for tourism, and I am not even talking about hunting and industrial fishing, etc). But even for crops, we already know a simple way to use them more efficiently: eat crops, not meat. But we don't do that, because with cheap energy (and ignoring the fact that we are killing the planet) we don't need to. If you think about it, we used to eat the crops (and not the meat) in the past, when we did not have access to cheap energy :-). Why would we suddenly avoid rebound effects with fusion, when history shows that it has never happened for any technology before?

Then, if we put the biodiversity problem aside, there is the energy problem. Modern society fundamentally relies on fossil energy, which is limited by definition (this is very important to realize!). We passed the production peak for conventional oil in ~2008 (Europe has been feeling it since then), the global peak is predicted to be around now (I remember the predictions for the peak of conventional oil from when I was studying in 2004, and retrospectively they were very accurate, so I could imagine that the new ones may be reasonable as well), and for natural gas it may be in the next decade. So fossil energy will become a problem in the next few decades. Building a nuclear plant today, with technology we know (i.e. fission) takes what... 15 years? Fusion is most likely already too late for the party (and anyway it is not clear to me that it fundamentally solves the problem better than fission, except that people are afraid of fission for some reason). But nuclear plants make electricity, and that's only part of our society. Planes don't fly with electricity, plastic is not made of electricity, and we can't store electricity in big jars like we do with oil. So we are facing an energy problem, and we don't know technology today that could remotely solve it (I know, it's hard to accept for engineers, but please try to seriously think about it and don't stop at "many VCs put a ton of money on startups that try to find solutions, it will work out in the end").

Finally, and on top of all that, climate change is coming (again in Europe we have been feeling it strongly every summer in the last few years, and it won't go back to "normal" ever again). From what we can observe, it seems like the IPCC predictions are systematically optimistic; in other words, it seems like climate change is going faster than predicted. So it's not that we can count on 60-80 years to solve the energy problem anymore: now it seems like we may be playing the "survivability" (if that is a word in English? :-)) on many places on Earth in the next 10-20 years (maybe less). As a reminder, 10-20 years is the time we need to build a nuclear plant. If we continue in the next two decades the way we have in the last two decades (which we are clearly doing, if not worse), it is very likely that we will have screwed up many places on Earth for the next centuries. That means mass immigration, famines, wars, general world instability... not very good conditions to develop new non-military tech to solve a problem we haven't solved in decades of peace (globally).

Those are all problems with huge inertia (i.e. once you realize it is very bad, then there is no coming back), each with major consequences if they were taken individually. But they are not happening individually, they are happening together! Essentially for the same reason: our society is based on abundant energy. So the solution is not to "make a small step in one of those problems with a major technological change (like fusion)", because (and ignoring rebound effects with new technologies) even if we solve one of them, the other two problems will screw us big time.

All that not to say that we are already screwed anyway: maybe it's too late already (that's possible), but maybe not. And in case it is not, the highest chances of survival IMHO come from degrowth. Degrowth is a huge technological challenge. It's maybe not as fun as throwing Python scripts using ChatGPT in piles of docker containers running on hundreds of machines on the cloud, but it is not less challenging: how do we do less with less, while keeping our society from collapsing?


Energy is not a bad thing in itself. Fossil fuels are problematic precisely because they’re slightly more energy dense than previous forms of energy while having huge, dispersed externalities not reflected in their upfront costs. Fusion and nuclear in general put the power densities of fossil fuels and all other previous forms of power to shame. It’s not a single order of magnitude more dense, it’s very many. And there are high costs up front which can thus be reflected in costs and price. Thus the market can more accurately use them.

Energy is not an evil. We are not “screwed already” as you put it. But thinking we’re past some fundamental point that makes any progress futile absolutely negates the possibility of improvement by keeping us from searching and exploring options. It’s saying we can’t row ashore because we refuse to row the boat despite being fully capable of rowing the boat.

All the rest of us not convinced of the futility need from those people unwilling to figuratively row is for those unwilling to simply let the rest of us row, figuratively, instead of them. That’s all your side needs to do-stop obstructing the rest of us.


> Energy is not a bad thing in itself.

I did not mean to say that. My intention was to say that our society fundamentally relies on fossil energy, and it seems more and more clear that we won't manage to solve that without degrowth before our society collapses.

> But thinking we’re past some fundamental point that makes any progress futile

Who said progress is futile? I say infinite growth is bad. I find it much more elegant to build a sustainable society with clever use of technology than to rush for productivity. Since we're on HN, look at software: we as an industry mostly write bad software, because all we care about is growth. We could probably write better, more sustainable software, for more sustainable products. To keep with the software comparison, my feeling is that I am saying "guys, please stop piling up crap code and hacks just to release a bad product tomorrow; let's go slower, but write good code that solves actual problems". And you're telling me "stop obstructing the rest of us, we like piling up hacks and releasing crappy software, and it makes good money".

Degrowth does not mean "go back to how people lived 300 years ago", but rather "be clever and do sustainable stuff". Or "instead of optimizing for productivity (which is killing us), what about trying to optimize for something that would be sustainable?". I, for one, would call that progress.


Is fusion really that great? Decades of research and billions of dollars later it's still not commercially feasible.

Whereas solar power is cheaper than coal now. Also on the horizon is thorium reactors.


The funding is really not that great, we are on the funding level described as "fusion never" (https://benjaminreinhardt.com/fusion-never/)


Fusion really is that great, but we could also use more efficient processes that recycle the byproducts of fusion.


It's never going to be useful.

D-T fusion is not as clean as is touted, and the economics just aren't ever going to make it viable compared to ever-cheaper solar, wind, batteries/energy storage, etc.

Better fission designs OTOH are worth pursuing, and also deep geothermal, and maybe one or two of the CCS options though they seem a bit greenwashy.


15 years ago, solar and wind looked stupid expensive compared to fossil fuels.


Don't forget that solar and wind today are still heavily relying on fossil fuels. So they get better in a world where we have abundant fossil fuels. And still their contribution today to our energy needs is marginal.


It's a tautological argument: The current energy mix is 90% fossil, it takes energy to make solar panels, therefore solar panels are made of 90% fossil.


> It's a tautological argument

It is not at all what I meant.

What I meant is that there is a need to go past that, and it is not clear that we are capable of doing it. It's great to say "wooooow, photovoltaic increased 1000% last year, McKinsey estimates (with the dumb uninformed extrapolations they love to do) that in 10 years it will have replaced all energy", but if you are serious, you should acknowledge that it is still the easy part.

I am not saying "it is not possible", just "think about it: it may be harder than expected".


But they didn't look like they were guaranteed to be that way forever.


learned about the Wendelstein X-7 this weekend (and stellarators in general) and they've accomplished some pretty impressive acheivements... i think there are many breakthroughs and things to be done in this space


What's the biggest problem with fission that fusion solves?

My understanding is that that raw materials are a low % of total cost for fission, waste disposal is not that hard, and that it's technically more complicated and expensive to build a fusion plan than a fission plant.

I found this pretty interesting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tYlXY19I3c


yeah ... fusion - the technology, which is always just 20 years away(tm) from commercial application ... since the early 1980ties / 40+ years :/


If we truly are living inside of a simulation, it makes sense that there would be a lootbox


"We need cheaper and more available power."

Based on your requirements, this is already solved. Pull more oil out of the ground. Burn more trees.

AND, throwing money at a problem will definitely solve fusion.

Give people cheap energy and people will use it up. Just look at cryptomining. Then you are back to needing more energy. People will do just fine with expensive energy. They will adapt.


Every existential problem is downstream from having dramatically more energy--carbon capture, desalination, food beyond remaining arable land and healthy soil.


Or the opposite: having dramatically less energy. Our ancestors were not destroying biodiversity, and were running on renewables :-). Our modern problems came with fossil fuels...


Our ancestors didn’t destroy biodiversity? I think the extinct mega-fauna of prehistory disagree with you. Ironically enough, their remains probably make up the gasoline in your car.


You're right: as soon as we are able to do it, it seems like we over-exploit everything around us.

Still not exactly the same scale, I would think.


They also killed each other for land. Sometimes they starved.

As for us, we’ve already emitted too much. If we merely stop it’s still going to be a bad century.


> They also killed each other for land. Sometimes they starved.

If you don't, good for you. Don't think everybody has that chance.

> As for us, we’ve already emitted too much. If we merely stop it’s still going to be a bad century.

If we stop, it's going to be complicated times. If we don't... well we will have more conflicts for land (those that remain where humans can survive) and famines.


Unpopular opinion: One of the biggest challenges facing humanity in the next 2 decades is avoiding a catastrophic "Great Simplification" as we run out of oil. If this were allowed to happen, we'd suddenly be unable to practice industrial scale agriculture, and I'd estimate 90% of humanity would starve to death.

The US produces large amounts of oil via fracking, which requires more resources to drill and produce than previous methods. At the same time, the wells tend to decline at 40% per year. These wells are making up a larger percentage of our fossil fuel production as time goes by. At some point the energy and resources required to drill a well will match the possible production, and new wells won't make sense, leading to collapse.

Without fossil fuels for transportation, and especially as chemical feedstock to creating fertilizers, food shortages would quickly appear world-wide.

We need to transition away from fossil fuels to avoid this fate. In doing so, we'll also help reduce, and perhaps eliminate the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, which is a far more immediate concern in the minds of many.


The globe is absolutely nowhere near facing dwindling oil supplies in 2 decades. We won't even hit our proven reserves in that time, and companies frequently spend $ to find more reserves on an as-needed basis. Current usage trajectory of oil is roughly a century. Oil's problem is the CO2 emissions causing climate change.

proven reserves/consumption = 47 years left

https://www.worldometers.info/oil/


YES! Peak of conventional oil was in 2008, Europe feels it economically. Global peak oil is around now. We are facing a big energy problem, and we don't have any viable alternatives (renewables are just not up to the task, even nuclear is not).

> We need to transition away from fossil fuels to avoid this fate.

Yes, IMHO that involves degrowth: do less with less. Doesn't mean living like in the Middle Age, but make technology that helps degrowth. That's a big technical challenge that is not in fashion (because we love to jump on ChatGPT APIs and feel like we are productive making prototypes using it).


> Global peak oil is around now.

Source?


Production peaked a few years ago[1].

Additionally, the energy required to recover a barrel of oil from shale, etc. is far more than from traditional sources.[2]

[1] https://data.oecd.org/energy/crude-oil-production.htm

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_return_on_investment


We’re projected to hit a new global production record this year.

I used to work in the shale industry so I know how it works. Yes it’s more intensive but breakevens for fracked wells are down to what breakevens for conventional wells were 20-30 years ago. They have superior technology and processes now that are only getting better, more efficient, and cheaper. There is a lot of money at stake and a ton of very smart people working on this stuff.


That looks like a pretty constant upward trend that just juked due to COVID and a lack of more recent data.


> At some point the energy and resources required to drill a well will match the possible production, and new wells won't make sense, leading to collapse.

The world thought this around 2005 or so and then fracing technology changed everything. Every year new tech is being invented that makes previously uneconomic wells profitable to drill.

Further, there is still so much oil out there.

You are right about society collapsing and everyone dying without oil though, but I don’t think that will happen.


A quite Malthusian prediction [1].

Your comment also hints at the repostes by Engels (technological progress) or Ricardo (pricing out, or alternative).

To a united communist-capitalist solution! And a worthy path for OP.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malthusianism


Unpopular opinion: Secure general purpose computing isn't available for the masses. In fact, most people here on HN don't have access to it either. Our current crop of widely used operating systems all share the same flaw, the ambient authority granted to any program that is run to access anything that the user account is permitted to access.

This causes a host of problems, and almost nobody is aware of them, or incorrectly assigns them to other causes. This results in a patchwork of "solutions" like virus scanners, signatures on executables, and a need for users to be exceedingly cautious about what they do with their computers. Because of this need for caution, users don't feel free to experiment with novel programs or web sites, lest their computer be infected with malware, etc.

Imagine your house without circuit breakers, or fuses. Imagine that there were no widespread use of them. The first shorted cord could potentially take down the power grid, and plunge millions into darkness. We can generally agree that circuit protection is a good idea.

When you run a program, you could explicitly specify the resources it is to have access to, instead of giving access to all of your files and folders. In fact, it doesn't even have to work differently in many cases, just replace the calls to file selection dialogs with equivalent calls to "power boxes" which return file access capabilities for the calling program. This allows the user to quickly and easily work in the manner to which they are accustomed, while simultaneously preventing malicious or just buggy code from accessing anything outside of the wishes of the user, no matter how evil the code is.

Spreading awareness of such systems, incorporating capability based security, is a worthy pursuit over the next decade.


Yes, there's much more work to be done here in the open source community, and I think it might have to be done there due to lack of aligned incentives otherwise.

For instance, on platforms such as Android that are meant to be secure in this way, I can't block an app from accessing the internet anytime it wants. Of course, the reason for that is that blocking internet access would also allow blocking ads, which Google has a negative incentive for.

Large corporations always take advantage of the sandboxing for anti-user features as well. In many apps I can download videos on desktop whether they want me to or not using inspect element etc, but this is often tricky or impossible on Android. Again, corporate incentives are aligned against the user.


We also need UX innovations that make granular permission management friendly for average users. I suspect good defaults are half the battle here.

If we use the popup approach for 20+ permissions when users download an app, they'll likely say yes to everything, no to everything or be frustrated at how much time they spend setting up their new app. None of these seem like good outcomes.


Permission management - not part of capability based security. That's the bad thing with the same name that happens on cell phones.

Capability based security is more like cash(an economic capability) in your wallet. You take out $5 to buy something, you can't risk more than $5 in the transaction.

With a phone, it's like you enable access to ALL of your money, effectively forever, in a binary manner. (Unless you remember to turn it off later, or the OS does after 3 months of non-use)

Edit/Append - Capability based security dates back to the 1970s. It's perfectly possible to do it with modern hardware. You just need to protect the OS from applications, which anything with an MMU can do. (Or, if you don't have an MMU, you could just run WebAssembly, which is capabilities based)

The key is that instead of giving file names to programs, you give handles (capabilities) at run time, when the user wants to open a file, save, etc. Otherwise the program has NO access to anything by default. (Thus it can't cause unwanted changes anywhere else)


Ah okay. Is it possible to have capability based security in software at all? Or is the definition such that it must be implemented at the hardware level?


The problem of having a "secret" computer (with an operating system) within your computer.

https://youtu.be/1seNMSamtxM

This embedded computer system has access to all your memory devices.

Disabling it? Not convenient.


Renewable power production is wasted due to curtailment.[1] All this free power is being wasted, which could be used to charge cars. The US has 2 billion parking lots, 290 million cars and cars are idle 23+ hours every day. All we need is a cable from nearest building to parking lot to charge electric cars. The technology exists.

This is a win-win opportunity, accelerate renewables and wean off of fossil fuels. I'm working with middle/high school kids on improving charging: HOA managed parks (a LOT of them), parks, schools, utility poles, apartment garages, all new construction ready for EVs (residential, retail and commercial).

curtailment is the deliberate reduction in output below what could have been produced in order to balance energy supply: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtailment_(electricity)


I don't think it's solely a matter of getting more electric cars connected. Basically it's a mismatch between production and consumption by time (peak vs base loads) and so storage (whether electric cars or otherwise, like home storage solutions) acts as kinda a buffer. But so would utility scale storage (pumped hydro, giant battery farms), demand time shifting (smart water heaters, HVAC, dryers, etc.) or fossil fuel/hydro peaker plants.

But a big part of it isn't just the engineering but the human and consumer psychology. You can build all the infra, but convincing households to abide by your time of use schedule is challenging unless you force them into it (which many utilities do). People want to use their stuff whenever they want, not when it's most efficient for the grid.

That's where the storage is nice, letting the utility manage those fluctuations, but we can't produce enough battery capacity at a good cost right now. And there's geopolitics too, China controls a lot of the raw materials, and production of the downstream products are often limited by the Japanese and Korean battery manufacturers.

It's a multi faceted problem, not just something we can throw an infinite amount of EVs at.


So basically the battle to fight here is overcoming various regulations and restrictions on laying or hanging cables? A quest for a true hero.

The company, of course, needs to employ highly efficient, least-invasive, fastest ways to lay cable. But it's a serious power cable, it can't be easily snuck together with other existing cables or pipes, like it's done usually with fiber cables. Some technical innovation can belong here.


Government.

Someone threw in the rise of authoritarianism. The issue is much broader. It's one of efficiency; understanding and respect of technology and science (past, current and potential); influence of religions, mobs and fads (including scientific fads and mobs); understanding and respect for economics (mostly taken as a joke and molded to other obsessions); understanding and respect for time scale including the power of engineering at scale (as opposed to the next election or coup).

In general humanity has tremendous resources and potential power - and makes sad and shitty use of it. Yes, different people have different ideas on what is the right thing to do, but that's where the problem is. We need to become more effective at sorting that out. It's hopefully not simply a question of "enlightened authoritarianism can do it". This all deserves work and progress and our systems are dated and don't seem to be progressing currently (I mean over the past 20 years).

And corruption (in broad terms, not just money), and alignment, etc, etc.


The animals and ecosystems wide scale extinction seems to be a major threat I think. It’s something people don’t seem to notice much as it isn’t in the news constantly, but 60% of wild life disappearing in the last 70 years seems like a disaster snowball that is growing fast.

I think this is the threat that will be largely ignored, and because it is purposely ignored it will keep growing in the background until it takes us all down as a storm of natural disasters.


Could preserving animals be turned into a market?

If companies can own the genetic code of the animals they protect, as long as those animals are alive, will the companies create the necessary structures to protect their animals?


You know they’ll turn the genetic code “ownership” into NFTs so some cryptobro can brag they own the Greater Borobudur Howling Monkey after they’re long gone…


As much as we are all about laissez-faire when it comes to dating and romance - I think we’re getting to a point that might cause some real strife in the western world. Seeing 60%+ of young men be single when only 30% of young women are single - it’s… worrying.

There’s no simple solution when we’ve become such an atomized society and so hyper individualistic. It’s a problem that we rarely care about as well. As soon as someone is no longer alone, they no longer care about this problem that society is going through. As long as the majority of people are getting together (even if it’s a slim majority), nothing will be done.

I think the fall of romantic relationships is a contributor to society becoming more individualistic. I’m not worried about birth rates like everyone else. I’m worried about our happiness.

Being single and alone and without any intimacy is a very unenjoyable existence for most people - and I don’t think there’s ever going to be a cure for it other than to be with someone who loves you.


Fundamentally we have only 1 problem worth solving: how to support 11bn people sustainably and equitably by 2050 (that's when the population peaks and levels out).

you can do a Wardley map that shows the needs of those people, then you can move down the chain of needs, until you find something you're apt to solve.

Personally I'm working on reducing eWaste by providing a global solution to carrying multiple mobile phones as many people do this for work.


Climate change is a problem.

Bret Victor did a good subdivision into sub-problems for a technologist here - which probably suits this audience:

http://worrydream.com/ClimateChange


A lot of a billionaires which:

1. Exist

2. Actively making us not noticing their existance by shitting us with some fake problems like gays, drugs, foreigners, terrorists, etc (different set of fake problems per country).


"The greatest trick the ultra-rich ever pulled was pitting poor people against each other instead of against them."

https://v.redd.it/6wourzysxuma1/DASH_720.mp4


In the western democratic world billionaires are an inevitable side-effect of having a high standard of living for the general population. If you create a company that employs a million people and manages to remain profitable you'll be a billionaire even if you don't want to. The only way for you to not be a billionaire is to give up control of your company to someone else who will then be the billionaire.

We have yet to discover a system of government that both allows for a generally high standard of living yet at the same time prevents billionaires. Every variant that has been tried so far has inevitably led to total misery for the entire population.

I think the solution is not to prevent billionaires, but to prevent their ability to affect politicians, being very strict about anti-trust and so on.

By no means easy but I think preventing billionaires from even existing is a dystopian nightmare in any scenario.


No. Billionaires are a result of avoidable taxation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_avoidance

Have a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_inequality . There are lots of countries there with a very high standard of living AND a low economic inequality, mostly in Europe.


That makes no sense to me - you don't become a billionaire just by avoiding taxes, you have to actually create at least a billion dollars worth of surplus value first. And the only way to create a billion dollars worth of surplus value is to create many more billions of total value.

If you want Jeff Bezos to pay taxes on the value of Amazon (which is the measure by which he is a billionaire) you basically force him to sell Amazon. How else can he pay the taxes?

In such a system, where you will be forced to sell your success, Bezos (or anyone else) would never have created Amazon.

It's worth keeping in mind that Amazon generates several billions of dollars in taxes every year. Every one of the million plus employees of Amazon pays taxes, every transaction is taxed, every service Amazon buys from other companies is taxed and so on. If you kill Amazon by going after Bezos, you have caused society a net loss, even if you get all his money.

Economic equality is a different topic IMO. If a teacher makes 10% the money of a doctor you get problems in society since teachers can't buy houses priced for doctors and so on, but the difference in wages between workers has nothing to do with billionaires. Nobody became a billionaire from earning wages.

This has to be solved from the bottom up, not from the top down. Increase minimum wages, dictate working conditions and so on. You don't have to target billionaires to do that. Most countries in Europe has at least one billionaire, in fact lately the wealthiest person in the world is French.


You concentrated on Jeff Bezos' taxes. I should have been more specific.

What each individual billionaire pays (or not) in taxes, depends on his nationality, current residence and the specifics of his income. But avoinding taxes happens at every level: avoid company profit taxes, avoid company VAT (or even do VAT returns fraud), avoid import taxes, avoid individual income taxes, avoid VAT on goods that the billionaire buys, avoid property taxes (both individual and company property), avoid luxury taxes, get income from non-taxed sources, etc. There are probably hundreds more ways to avoid taxes than an ordinary person like me can imagine.

> If you want Jeff Bezos to pay taxes on the value of Amazon (which is the measure by which he is a billionaire) you basically force him to sell Amazon. How else can he pay the taxes?

So? Don't we all sell our work to pay taxes? I live in east-Eurpean country. Currently, aprox. half of my work value (as eval'd by my employer) goes to taxes and mandatory services provided by the state (health, pension fund, etc.). How much did he pay?

Taxes vs declared income don't make much sense for a billionaire. I wish we could know the value of the goods and services he got (paid or free, as in "this is the company's car, not mine") in a year, vs. his taxes.

> pay taxes on the value of Amazon

AFAIK, there are no taxes on the value of a company, except maybe property taxes in some places.

> This has to be solved from the bottom up, not from the top down.

Mostly true, but not enough. Creating extremely wealthy individuals should be avoided, because money brings power and power influences politics/policy, including (or especially) bottom-up reforms. To take Amazon as an example: I suspect the management would do anything to avoid a minimum wage increase or improving working conditions.


Amazon's "value" comes from the insane profits they generate each year. Profits they earn by taking advantage of labor (not paying them enough, not giving them breaks, not hiring enough people to staff warehouses), and by taking advantage of not paying taxes on those profits with creative schemes. It's not about making Jeff Bezos pay individual taxes, it's about making corporations incentivized to not suck the soul out of every human being in their supply chain in order to maximize profits to result in some higher valuation. People that hold your view tend to look at Amazon's value in a vacuum and say "Wow! Amazon produces so much value, they deserve it!", but you ignore that they do it off the backs of labor and off public infrastructure (roads, etc.) and have been for years.

> In such a system, where you will be forced to sell your success, Bezos (or anyone else) would never have created Amazon.

This is simply conjecture and is not provable in any way. In fact, there are plenty of centi-millionaires and billionaires outside of America (in countries that require them to pay their fair share of taxes) that are doing just fine.


>It's not about making Jeff Bezos pay individual taxes,

You are commenting in a thread that started with a statement that the very existence of billionaires is a problem, and a followup claimed that billionaires exist because they don't pay taxes.

My point is that the mechanism that creates billionaires in western societies is beneficial since the same mechanism generates a higher standard of living for everyone, not just the billionaires. It also generates way more taxes than the billionaires can pay even if you forced them.

I don't see how you can remove the billionaires without killing the mechanism. It has been tried, and has never worked out.

To be clear, Im not talking about people becoming billionaires in dictatorships or by owning the natural resources of entire nations. That's a different matter entirely.

I completely agree that one of the actual problems is that corporations are incentivized to treat workers as poorly as possible btw, and that is a problem that is actually fixable.

Whether billionaires pay a "fair share" or not depends on what you consider fair. I don't think basing tax on a market valuation of something you own is fair and I am not aware of it being done in any western nation. You get taxed when you sell shares, not by simply owning them.

The only example I can think of where it kind of happened is Jack Ma in China.


> I don't see how you can remove the billionaires without killing the mechanism. It has been tried, and has never worked out.

You are implicitly claiming that if you write the tax laws in such a way that every dollar of income past $999,999,999 will be taxed 100%, then that kills the mechanism. And you say it as if it's self-evident that it's true. From here, it seems to be self-evidently untrue. So what gives—why do we disagree on this? Why am I wrong?


> There are lots of countries there with a very high standard of living AND a low economic inequality, mostly in Europe.

A low amount of economic inequality among the lower class, absolutely. European rich are absolutely as extravagantly wealthy as any American or Asian moguls. Their assets are nowhere close to where Wikipedia can account for them.

At least in America there is an impression that an industrialist or tech genius can become a billionaire. In Europe you need to belong to banking families or have deep tentacles into government.


Rather than focusing on billionaires I think the overarching issue is the widening wealth gap. this is not sustainable in the long run and will lead to catastrophes for our society.


Just because terrorism and drugs make you uncomfortable to think about, doesn't mean that those are fake problems. If you prefer to live your life in a bubble, go ahead that you do that while you can. But good luck trying to convince other people that the real world doesn't exist.

I think your reasoning is an example of modern Stockholm syndrome, where people get absolutely furious at anybody shining a light on a problem, instead of getting furious at the actual problem.


Which billionaires are these? You have specific examples?


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It seems doubtful. Extremely wealthy people have a very poor track record for solving societal problems, and a very good track record of perpetuating problems that lead to them increasing their power.


Your comment is very low on substance. Care to elaborate what kind of problems billionaires will solve, that are otherwise unsolvable?

The number of billionaire is growing and growing, and so are the fundamental problems that might be leading the world to collapse. How many more billionaires would you reckon do we need?


Perhaps my naїvety lies in the fact that I put this problem in the topic of the problems of the next decade, when in fact it seems to be the topic of the next century, where their competitor will be AI. But this can be solved very quickly if at least one country establishes a tax formula whereby the richer a person is, the more taxes will be paid on every dollar earned, without any exceptions for the richest. Ukraine might be that country if it ends its war not very destroyed.

A definition of "problem" bond to some actor. Here is the definition from Google with my notices: a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome (for whom?) or harmful (for whom?) and needing (for whom?) to be dealt with and overcome.

So, what kind of society/environment problems are they solving right now? Except of Bill Gates and pre-Twitter version of Elon Musk.


+1


So having >= 1,000,000,000 USD is somehow bad?

How about 999,999,999? Still bad?

How about 900,000,000? No?

Hm. How much is too much, and why?


By that line of reasoning, we may as well eliminate tax brackets entirely. Or any sort of arbitrary limit, really. What makes an 18 year old mature enough to vote, but not a 17 year and 364 days old?


Humans, as all animals, have a built in maturity limit, which is puberty. After completed puberty you are biologically an adult. You can be a completely immature fool though biologically adult, as well as at 18, at 38 or until death. I'd say a majority of people live their whole lives without ever reaching adulthood in a spiritual sense. Go work in the service industry catering to an elderly clientele if you don't believe it.


How does that answer the argument? Puberty is not reached at the same age for all humans, or even both biological sexes?


Unlike a tax bracket, adulthood is not an arbitrary limit i reality.


I appreciate your mathematical approach but what I consider bad is not having $1e9 or $9e8 but ability to pay less taxes per dollar than poorer folks. Bad thing is that kingpins of: mining, slavery and proprietary software are so rich while providing so little value to society/environment.

Examples: mining materials from Earth is important, but the revenues should belong to all who live on the planet being mined. Slavery situation (I mean Nestle corporation and most of Cobalt production) is a pure shame. Proprietary software is a shame as well because it effectively converts users into digital slaves, effectively this is a branch of Mathematics which is forbidden (and obfuscated) to learn.


The only thing of value business owners produce is tax revenue?


There's also the value of whatever labor they do! But that labor probably isn't worth 100x someone else's work.


You play your cards right, you could be in the three-comma club, too. But probably not. But you could be. Probably not.


That's the thing I don't get: the vast majority of people are not rich, and will never be. Why do they fight so bad to help the rich people pay less taxes?


Some things I'd love to work on if I could make it work.

1. Food: Current farming practices emit a lot of CO2, hurts local ecosystems (nitrogen runoff), and consumes a lot of water/fertilizer. Currently proven methods could fix many of these problems.

2. Housing: Bringing modern technology to the construction of homes/apartments could dramatically lower costs. Kit homes are an example where only focusing on the tech and not the zoning/social issues doesn't improve the issues. I think realistically we could build a lot of high efficient, safe (much safer than codes require), and comfortable housing and drive down rental prices substantially while turning a huge profit (if you can sort out zoning).

3. Programming: Working in a large monorepo is amazing. Many people who work at a big tech company which has one will tell you about the amazing stuff you can do in this environment. Open source does not have one and most developers only ever see the multi-repo approach to software development. Building a parallel SWE-tooling stack which was "the monorepo of $FAANG but open source" would allow OSS devs to collaborate and build really cool things.

4. Compute: Non-profit compute infra for common good. Right now everyone is focused on decentralized apps and it's possible these are just too complicated for end users (I certainly am confused but I don't know if I'm just too old). If there was a not-profit-focused compute infra which gave out free compute/bandwidth/storage to open source public commons software that might be a good thing.


Monorepos put us in the blast radius of a lot of premature commits we could have avoided. I'd rather have a git submodule UI that isn't meant for aliens to operate, and use known-good dependencies.


The world population is collapsing at a rapid pace.

Our economic growth is based on a growing productive population.

Our economic prosperity is based on a growing productive population.

Different parts of the world are dealing with population collapse.

Look at Japan, a xenophobic country facing population collapse. The total GDP has remain stagnant over the past 20 years.

Look at UAE, a country facing population collapse and acknowledging reality by handing our long-term residency permits to affulent immigrants, mostly Indian Hindus. They are even building the first Hindu temple in Islamic middle-east in Dubai!

Look at Africa, where the population growth combined with sectarian warfare is making for a troublesome living - https://pudding.cool/2018/07/airports/ South Africa is even regresssing. Rich businessman of Asian Indian origin who have lived for generations are already heading for UK/Canada. And with them tax base would collapse like Uganda (90% tax revenue came from Asian Indians in Uganda in 1972 - https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36132151).

Look at USA/Canada/Australia, all of them have low birth rate but compensate by being genuinely immigration friendly. They will grow while sucking even more productive population out of rest of the world.

The Europe would keep importing cheap labour (by choice) and welfare-loving immigrants from middle-east & Africa (by virtue of proximity). And they would transform Europe, how they tranformed Lebanon - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WubIe3c5NGc, further imagine how the voting blocks would look like when whites are rich & old while non-whites are poor & young. Why would they not demand higher taxation and lower welfare policies?

China would have same fate as Japan. Xenophobia with a collapsing population. China would appear a lot of more timid.

12,000 years ago, when sea levels rose, Tasmania lost connection to mainland Australia, and this lead to decline of knowledge and tools over time.

We might see the same in our world.

So, I believe population collapse is a huge problem.


World population is still increasing.

It's climbed from 2.6 billion in 1950 to 7.8 billion in 2020.

If world poulation halved we'd still be at 1975 population levels .. a time when the world functioned.

> Our economic prosperity is based on a growing productive population.

We live on a finite planet with limited resources, the notion of unlimited growth being essential for continued status quo is flawed thinking.

Our greatest challenge as a species on this planet is to learn how to live well within our means.


Your reasoning is very flawed for a single reason. If by let’s say 2075 the population was reduced to 1975 levels, the demographics would still differ widely.

1. Age distribution would look like an inverted pyramid instead of a pyramid

2. The geographical, racial/ethnical and cultural demographics would also look like the totally different. The share of global population of the global south, which is currently highly dysfunctional, would be drastically more important, especially in the younger age groups.

Note that the increase of wealth of the “third world” is mainly due to China / India, followed a bit by Indonesia / Bangladesh / Vietnam. Nearly all of them have already a TFR < 2.1

Other countries’ economies even lost complexity and the share of their economies that are basically commodity exports increased


> racial/ethnical and cultural demographics would also look like the totally different

Why is this a problem?


Not an issue per se. It shows the limit of the analogy used by defrost to justify such a world would be as functional as 1975’s was.

The basic assumption that the two situations are similar is just… false


Four billion is a goal that doesn't happen overnight, ergo it takes decades to get there during which time global education continues to improve and the application of automation to bulk resource handling increases.

Today, in my state, we extract and move more raw iron ore for steel production per year by a considerable factor more than the US ever achieved, and with far fewer people per tonne - largely due to better techniques and automation.

If you look about the world as it is you will realise that we are capable of having greater production and better lifestyles across the globe with a lower population and less by product from consumption than we do today.

The means and levels of consumption today are problematic to say the least.


> If world poulation halved we'd still be at 1975 population levels .. a time when the world functioned.

The prosperity was much lower than. The scientific advancement even lower.


We won't lose knowledge by returning to 1975 population numbers, nor will we lose the ability to expand our scientific understanding.

The knowledge gains of recent decades did not ride on the back of population growth.


> Our economic prosperity is based on a growing productive population.

Yet a growing productive population, in modern societies, relies on cheap (usually fossil) energy, which brings two problems: 1- fossil energy is not unlimited, and we're soon at peak production. 2- fossil energy brings climate change, which is very very bad for our survival at large.


A huge problem… for capitalism.

I think the refusal to marry and have kids (regardless of it being necessary or by choice) is basically the ultimate worker’s strike. So far capitalists have relied upon the fact that there will always be workers to exploit, since they consider any care work necessary to raise families (for the next batch of exploited workers) as simply just given. Now that this is going away (people can actually choose to not bear the burden of reproduction!) first in Japan and South Korea but also in China and the rest of the developed world, the ultimate factor that has propelled economic growth so far is withering away…


This is analyzed in that classic economics text The Wealth of Nations, neither capitalists nor urban workers win this one.


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There’s difference between working and being able to afford to buy your own house so you could raise a family,

And rent being so expensive even with dual income that having kids does not make financial sense.

Everyone, especially women should have full control of when/if they want to have kids.

Yes, population is collapsing. 50 years ago population was exploding, and we somehow figured out that problem. We’ll figure out the collapse problem as well.


>> The world population is collapsing at a rapid pace.

Maybe the second derivative of world popultion is collapsing but not the "world" population (at least if you mean world as a whole and not "developed world" only, because population of "developed world" maybe getting there).

>> Our economic prosperity is based on a growing productive population.

If by prosperity you mean key economic indicators like GDP, then yes. But those economic models are so primitive that I question they usefulness and validity. The nature of work changed so much for last 100 years due to technology that it amazes me that we still belive that it can be summed up with few simple agregate numbers. Even the most important domains such as Agriculture, despite growing population, are needing less and less people to produce almost enough (if we include the food waste it's more than enough, but lacking fair distribution). At this moment about 800 milion people are working in or around farming - that's only 10% of overall population. In year 2000 agriculture was employeeing more than 1 billion, that is - 16 % of population.

This is the real reason of production growth - technology advancements and popularisation, not population growth.


You’re missing the knowledge gained over time in your equation. You only need more people assuming that we don’t have technology that increases productivity.

I’m happy to see population numbers decrease and I’m ok with the stock market getting hit or having to make some sacrifices on lifestyle if that means a more sustainable way of living.

We keep hearing of food production issues caused by climate change. Why would we need more people? To starve them? To give them busywork? To have to figure out welfare?

I’m ok with going through shrinking pains, it should be a lesson that the fake reality we built for ourselves was not sustainable.


Technology: (1) getting off “free” platforms aka adtech. (2) Software quality aka actually providing good software that is intuitive to use and does what people need.


So what do we do with the billions who can't pay? They should stay offline until they can? I know I can pay now, but when I was starting out, I couldn't


The problem with free is the adtech surveillance system.

“Can’t pay” is a sliding scale - without going into a detailed discussion it’s hard to say what a product is worth, but i get your point.

There needs to be some cost to cover operations of the business.


Do whatever you want for them. Make free content for them if you like. Get together with like minded and make free content and services. Are you on it?


I feel like the current situation where a lot of the content online is ad-supported, and people are free to install ad-blockers or move to publications that require payment already does this, no?

I was wondering about OP's suggestion (that is very common around these parts from time to time) that everything online should be paid and the ad supported internet economy is the worst thing in the world.


Maybe just give an option to pay/go ad-free. It may be difficult, but it seems like there has to be a revenue neutral way to do this.


The rise of authoritarianism. We need computing, banking, communication and other solutions that are more robust to governments and people generally that want to control what people can do. Decentralized (I don't mean anything to do with crypto nonsense) and simplified methods are needed, e.g currently any nontrivial computer and internet use require relying on a bunch of parties that could quickly turn hostile.


You can't "software" your way out of authoritarianism.


You can't software yourself out of most meaningful problems.


As someone who grew up in the 1980s, I find very amusing how no one seems to be worried about the nuclear war. Even though NATO is de facto in a war against Russia and could face China as well soon.


Climate and the reason that nothing significant have been done regarding that in 40+ years.

Problems will not stop to appear while that is not solved. The whole system becomes fragile, and minor disturbances will become major ones.


> The whole system becomes fragile, and minor disturbances will become major ones.

Why would this be the likely outcome?


Summary by NPR: https://www.npr.org/2023/01/09/1147805696/climate-change-mak...

Report they're summarizing: https://www.ametsoc.org/index.cfm/ams/publications/bulletin-...

It appears to be the case that heatwaves and extreme storms are becoming more likely.


Do you mean that you don't understand why climate change is a major problem? That's a genuine question: I guess it is fine, but respectfully I think you should look into it. Because where we are headed now looks pretty bad, both for the half of humanity that will have to migrate because it won't be possible to survive in the outdoor conditions and for the half of humanity that won't want the other half to come to their country.



Phone addiction. I know plenty of people that average 10+ hours a day of screen time. Teenagers are even worse. We have tons of worrying signs and for now we’re not doing anything about it. Unfortunately not a problem that’s easily solved and the algorithms are only getting better.


I have been thinking more of this problem recently. Excess phone use seems to be affecting vitality, presence, connection, sharpness, and happiness, with older adults too. Can you share any more insights on the problem or ideas?


Climate change, environmental remediation, therapeutics solving for cancer and similar maladies.



A website or app that turns exactly this question into action.

This post will fade away in a day or two. However, there could be a place where the answers are condensed into targets to which all available information is added. Structures could form that provide education, information and resources which lead to answers and implementations.


Universal basic services. Food, clothing, shelter, education, safety, healthcare.


Here are a few that an organization would be able to work on right now according to the researchers at Charity Entrepeneurship. They might even take less than a decade to solve if things go well:

1. An organization that addresses antimicrobial resistance by advocating for better (pull) funding mechanisms to drive the development and responsible use of new antimicrobials.

2. An advocacy organization that promotes academic guidelines to restrict potentially harmful “dual-use” research.

3. A charity that rolls out dual HIV/syphilis rapid diagnostic tests, penicillin, and training to antenatal clinics, to effectively tackle congenital syphilis at scale in low-and middle-income countries.

4. An organization that distributes Oral Rehydration Solution and zinc co-packages to effectively treat life-threatening diarrhea in under five year olds in low-and middle-income countries.

5. A charity that builds healthcare capacity to provide “Kangaroo Care”, an exceptionally simple and cost-effective treatment, to avert hundreds of thousands of newborn deaths each year in low-and middle-income countries.

6. An organization that aims to reduce stock-outs of contraceptives and other essential medicines by improving the way they are delivered and managed within public health facilities.

Source: https://www.charityentrepreneurship.com/post/announcing-our-...


Soil. It's more of a "how do we get along of people on board to take 5-20 years to rebuild what they have or are near".

Soil scouts, with patches for an acre that sequestors x amount units of carbon, or another that rewards those that have y ppms of living microbes.

If someone could recruit, deploy messaging, and enable long term action, at a minimum it'd be symbolic. In tandem it could be hopeful, and with success could be valuable.

Part biology, part humint.

See: JADAM and Korean natural farming.


Outside of the 'tech' realm: China's path in International Relations.

The next decade is decisive for China's future. She must make her moves soon or is very likely to be shut out of any path to hegemony for the century. What will be the response of the NATO+ countries to Chinese moves? Essentially, are we finally, for really-real-reals this time, going to see the 'end of history'?


Reports released by IPCC and other organizations [0] indicate that we have 15 years to take drastic action on the environment. This tracks with the extremely accurate prediction from The Limits to Growth [1] published in 1972.

If we do not take action on climate _now_ then _nothing_ is going to matter.

We will enter into an irreversible feedback loop that causes human extinction, yet it won't be apparent until it is literally on the doorstep for people to realize.

If you are not quitting your job and working to advance the existential threat of climate change and the main driver of the catastrophe (capitalism and perpetual growth) then you are wasting your (and your children's) time.

An excellent book on what needs to be done is Less is More by Jason Hickel [2]. This is the only problem that matters since literally existence depends on solving it. The time for deep concern is over. Action is needed and it is needed now. Education, degrowth, reuse, technology. So put everything else aside or you are laboring (and living) for nothing.

[0]: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-023-01157-x

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Limits_to_Growth

[2]: https://www.jasonhickel.org/less-is-more


Unfortunately, this argument is no longer convincing. I've been hearing for most of my life, at least the last 40 or so years, that "action is needed now" and "we're 10-15 years away from disaster," which never comes. The doom-predictors' credibility is unfortunately totally shot at this point. We've been "almost beyond the point of no return" for as long as I can remember--it's the Truck Almost Hitting The Pole GIF[1]

1: https://tenor.com/view/truck-crash-test-pole-doesnt-reach-gi...


The study I linked on The Limits of Growth did not predict 15 years. They predicted between 2030 and 2040. The original authors of that study have reasserted just last year that they still believe it to be true. IPCC and the nature study I linked have predicted collapse in the same time frame. So I am not sure the doomers that you are referencing were credible. However, I place my trust in science. The fact that scientists are literally screaming that we are headed towards extinction in the time frame I mentioned, the fact that we have lost 70% of species since 1970, and other data backing up the claims is enough for me to be convinced. I am not sure what it would take for you to be convinced.


> I've been hearing for most of my life, at least the last 40 or so years

Well, maybe you don't care that 2/3 of animal populations have disappeared in the last few decades, but I guess for many it counts as a big problem.

Anyway don't be sad, we are starting to actually feel the consequences of climate change, so stay tuned: famines and global instability might still come in your lifetime, or at least in your children lifetime!

(I assume you are at least 50 if you've been aware of this for 40 years)


The world will not end, just change. Maybe for the better? E.g. Siberia becoming fertile. Maybe even Sahara becoming green again!

We know what needs to be done. Build nuclear! But unfortunately anti-growth “green” parties and activists (like you I presume) have been pushing anti-nuclear propaganda for decades, stopping progress.

Nothing can be done on an individual level, so quitting your job or not having kids is completely pointless. Only top-down action (less regulation) can solve the problem. So vote!


I really don't agree with this. And I am not against nuclear. I am for any action that will restructure our society that is more reciprocal with the environment. The world will not change for the better with 60+% of species extinction, wet bulb temperatures and not enough power to cool will affect and kill millions of people N/S 30deg of the equator.

My alarmist talking points it to actually engage people like you and who have similar thoughts that think they can't do anything. You absolutely can. And it is time to be alarmist. Not being so is not working.

My point is to work to restructure society at any level you can, to educate, and to stop this myth of perpetual growth GDP as the only indicator of success. It is killing everything.

> E.g. Siberia becoming fertile. Maybe even Sahara becoming green again!

We have a perfectly good world as is, and you want to gamble everything on this?


Well if we built more nuclear, we’d have more power to run more A/C. Actually even with solar we can do that (it’s night power that would remain a problem).

No solution that requires degrowth, less energy, lower GDP or lower human quality of life, is acceptable to me. Degrowth means less food, less medicine, less power, less transport, more death.

Alarmism and promoting degrowth and/or stupid policies (paper straws, anyone?) just further increase the public backlash against “green” movement, so I guess it’s a good thing?!


> Well if we built more nuclear, we’d have more power to run more A/C.

You don't get it. We are heading towards a world where, on a very big part of the planet (around the equator), it will not be possible for humans to survive outdoors (at some temperature and humidity, sweating does not work anymore, you don't regulate your temperature, and so you die).

> Degrowth means less food, less medicine, less power, less transport, more death.

You are describing "forced" degrowth (what will happen if we don't prepare our society to handle it). The idea is to plan it, and have priorities (so that maybe you can't take the plane every two weeks, but you can still eat and survive, hopefully without a civil war).


You actually could not be more wrong. Degrowth is the only thing that is going to solve our issue. That does not meaning cutting off food to populations, that means not maximizing profit as the only imperative to living. Your solution is technical, as many naive people believe, but will not solve the issue. We have planetary boundaries and "renewables" and nuclear will not solve those issues. More AC, means for CFCs that will still impact the environment. More growth means more extraction for wind/solar and other technologies that will impact the environment. These are not solutions to our issue.

Nothing else is working. Alarmism is supposed to get people to actually act, because otherwise they take your (ignorant) positions on sitting back and keep growing. The next idea you have for a great startup, a way to make money, something for your individual advancement, please go back to imperative #1 -- nothing is going to matter as we kill everything on this planet.

People become really defensive when they hear they have to change due to climate catastrophe. I get it. It's not fair. But it is necessary. If people read the alarmist language (not just from posters like me, but alarmist language from scientists who tend to use neutral language in their reports), then they will have to deal with the fact that the have a direct causal link to our children's and the next generation's death due to their inaction. At that point, the person is not just ignorant, but sociopathic. If we continue on this path, it will be humanity's ruin.


Technology literally means getting more value from the same amount of inputs. Earth has essentially unlimited resources in its crust, and with better technology we'll have access to more and more of them. Not to mention offworld resources.

Sure, there's a few things that we need to figure out - like stopping fossil C release into the atmosphere, and how to spread good agritech to poor, non-democratic countries (hint: Europe produces tons of food sustainably using minimal resources, and is actually regrowing forests!).

But I'd bet on further technological development and economic growth any time, my own life and that of my child(ren), rather than embrace degrowth and the associated (19th century) poverty, hunger, child mortality, etc. that comes with it.

Degrowth is literally murder.


> Earth has essentially unlimited resources in its crust, and with better technology we'll have access to more and more of them.

Just check how it goes with fossil fuels :-). Spoiler: definitely not unlimited, definitely becoming a problem (that Europe can feel economically since 2008).

> Sure, there's a few things that we need to figure out - like stopping fossil C release into the atmosphere

Yep, "just a thing" that makes the difference between life and death of hundreds of millions of humans. And we don't have any serious technological solution right now (if you don't believe it, ask yourself: are you an expert in such a solution, or do you just have faith that "someone else" will find it?). Degrowth is the only solution when you don't have that kind of faith.


I think we are talking past each other on what is meant by degrowth. Degrowth means not tying the success of nations and people to that of GDP YoY. It is not sustainable. What I mean by degrowth is removing the growth imperative from economy and switching to a sustainable economy. The studies have shown (referenced in Hickel's book) that material consumption goes up with technological innovation. This means that the more efficient are technology becomes we don't use it to sustatain, we us it to grow. More products, more material extraction, more profits, more reinvestment - all to grow. Degrowth means to move to a sustainable economy while preventing the death of humans and other biodiversity. But we have to rethink things that are "not to be questioned" (eg. capitalism, Platonic dualism, etc).

So I am confused by the meaning of degrowth you are referencing because the definition I am using is the antithesis of murder. We want to save the planet, and hence all life that exists within it. So I hope that comes across, because degrowth does not mean collapse of materials needed to sustain life, but it does re-imagigening the profit above all mindset that is de facto in our economies.


The problem is you swallowed the “capitalism is evil” pill and now you’re confusing everything.

But it’s not complicated. GDP is literally ”the total sum of what humans value” (per year). GDP growth is “creating more of what humans value”, and profit is “reward for those who create value”. You can split what humans value into essentials (food, sex, medicine, security, …) and non-essentials (nice car, nice house, nice vacations, nice nature, …). The basic premise of Western civilisation (i.e. the most well-functioning society we’ve invented so far) is to satisfy the essentials of almost everyone and allow many people to satisfy many of their non-essentials.

> More products, more material extraction, more profits, more reinvestment - all to grow.

Sounds like a good thing! More people getting their needs met.

As it turns out, people do value nature etc but only after their basic needs are fulfilled. So the best way to protect nature is to create companies that make profit satisfying essential needs and higher-priority non-essential needs, so people start valuing nature etc.

Which isn’t to say capitalism is without problems - e.g. tragedy of the commons, principal-agent problem, negative externalities - but they should be solved within capitalism (maybe with better regulation or more aligned market incentives).

But if you support “degrowth” you literally support people living worse lives (less non-essentials) and dying (less essentials). And if you don’t, well, your movement needs better marketing.


> The problem is you swallowed the “capitalism is evil” pill and now you’re confusing everything.

I think the problem is that you don't realize how bad the situation is, given the state of science today (which is pretty good, to be honest).

I don't care about capitalism. I'd say I care about living in peace and having food. Where we are going now, I am not sure I will have that.

I don't support living worse lives, I actually support living a better life. But I still have quite a few years to live (hopefully), and with most people thinking like you, it seems like my life will gradually get worse.


you could create degrowth libraries, or community sheds where you store items used irregularly that people can borrow like lawn mowers, drills, saws, 4 wheelers, cleaning supplies, etc, and even have a free Laundromat, and other tools and a free clothing swap. In this way you can buy less, do you really need a drill if you only use it twice a year? A lawn mower if you only use ur 20 times per year, etc? isn't it a waste to build and horde these things?

Degrowth doesn't mean ending capitalism, it just means living a little bit more communal, you need to check out items from the local community garage which there'd be one every two blocks.

With less material possessions also comes the need for less space in homes, so we can build homes just big enough, saving resources, etc. We can also use new building techniques life binishell homes that cost under 20k and are earthquake proof and very well insulated.

Nothing I've said ends capitalism, it just tapers materialism a bit


This is actually something I 100% support. As long as degrowth or similar non-sensical ideologies ("luxury beliefs") are practices within free-market capitalism.

The obvious problem, of course, is that 99% of people won't willingly choose lower quality of life (as described in your post, and as most "green" solutions end up being) voluntarily. So ultimately degrowthers end up trying to coerce others.


Creating communes of tools and such is not "within free-market capitalism." It's individuals choosing to ignore the free-market imperative to make profit for common good. The sooner we deprogram people the better, but sadly I don't think we'll make it before capitalism destroys this beautiful world.


Sorry I meant the whole Western civilisation framework of "democracy + rule of law + contract law + freedom of association + free market + capitalism (private property) + ...".

As in, you create a non-profit (rule of law), buy tools under this non-profit (private property / capitalism), maybe put some specific language in the non-profit's charter to specify what rules members must abide by (contract law), etc.

There's plenty of existing examples of this (such as cooperatives, e.g. Waitrose/John Lewis in the UK and Mondragon in Spain).

The beauty of free market capitalism is that it supports all these!

Instead, communism / degrowth want to trample on several of these principles, starting with "private property":

1. steal stuff from other people

2. ...

3. run out of stuff to steal

4. collapse


To be fair, almost none of that is free market capitalism, or requires it. To me, you're implying democracy, rule of law, contract law, freedom of association, or free markets require capitalism. I don't see why this would be the case, just because we happened to package all those together doesn't mean they all necessitate one an other.

Getting rid of capitalism also wouldn't require getting rid of the concept of private property. Capitalism is simply the concept that wealth can generate revenue through investment. It's a way of allocating money by way of a ruling class of the most wealthy. This isn't the only way, or in my opinion the best way, to decide what resources are allocated where.

I think coops, nonprofits, and even open source software all show the limits to capitalism. They are examples of people rejecting capitalism in order to persue higher goals than the ever increasing profit margins capitalism demands. I think our economic system should reward them.


Capitalism is literally evil based on first principles [0]. The fact that you have swallowed the "capitalism is the only thing that is good in this world pill" is the result of 500 years of propaganda.

> Sounds like a good thing! More people getting their needs met.

And less of everything else getting their needs met. It seems like you have a very dualistic view that humans are somehow outside the realm of ecology. Infinite growth is literally impossible in a finite system. And is a core tenet of capitalism. I really don't know what else to tell you at this point.

You are basing all of your arguments on capitalism being the solution to itself, which is the problem.

> As it turns out, people do value nature etc but only after their basic needs are fulfilled.

The problem with capitalism is that once basic needs are met, companies need won't be met - the growth imperative. Profit means taking more than what you give. It is the sole idea of what capitalism is built on. And it has appropriated nature as a means to this end. So what happens then? Artificial scarcity, more manipulation, more marketing all to sell people what they don't need.

It seems to me that you have latched onto an idea, and you will argue anything to fit that narrative. I have no idea where these arguments are coming from that degrowth means that people are not getting their needs met. Do you have sources to back up any of what you are saying? It just seems so synthetic to me.

Degrowth is removing the profit motive for the sole benefit of reinvestment and accumulation to continue growing. It does not mean that the market economy goes away. It does not mean that people do not have their needs met. It means that capitalism as a religion is finally put to an end. That we are able to subsist on finite resources instead of eliminating everything that we depend on for survival. And to use your beloved's terminology, a (positive) market externality would allow species to thrive without the material extraction of their habitat that you have placed a positive value on for some reason (eg. "Sounds like a good thing!").

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_capitalism#Enclosur...


Based on my personal experience with psychedelics I used to think that these medicines could be a tool to wake people up. Actually, after seeing what else has been tried and failed, I came to the conclusion that psychedelics are the _only_ reliable tool in this arena because of their power. I sincerely thought that psychedelics could make people reconnect to the reality of how things really are. That if they wake up to reality, they would 1.) freak out about our situation and then have an incentive to restrain from doing the "bad" things and 2.) rediscover this deep connection with Nature which is the only viable basis for a harmonious relationship with it.

Unfortunately during the decades I lost my faith even in this. Apparently to have this kind of experience on a psychedelic it's not enough to just dose someone. Of 1000 people taking psychedelics, maybe 1 gets such an experience. And although the scientists at Johns Hopkins try to figure out how to increase that percentage, it's still not enough.

Nowadays I tend to think that all of this is a God's dream and this God for some reason does not want to wake up too soon from its dream.


> Maybe for the better?

Eventually, maybe. For most species, humanity collapsing is definitely a good thing.

Now in your lifetime... I would rather bet for mass migrations, famines, wars and global instability.

But yeah, voting is important, because given how most people vote, they are not aware of the problem.


I'm confused how _only less regulation_ can solve the problem. Famously, companies love less regulation so they can do what they want without consequence.

Good regulation, is quite effective. Just hard.


How could less regulation possibly help? Negative externalities need to be captured, how else can that be done but with more regulation?


Did you quit your job? And how are you working on climate change now?

> If you are not quitting your job and working to advance the existential threat of climate change and the main driver of the catastrophe (capitalism and perpetual growth) then you are wasting your (and your children's) time.

Or did you decide to waste your time (and possibly the time of your children?)


Yes. I did quit my job and am looking for climate careers actively through climatebase.org and climacareers.com (not associate with either but where I have been searching).

I have transitioned to veganism, raise the AC of my house to a very high level to where I am spending $7 per week, bought a bike to commute around the city, have stopped buying clothes and am now buying only through thrift stores, reading (and trying to educate) everyone I can on this subject.


You use AC? I just went through 107 last week without AC. How do you even call yourself an environmentalist? Only when if affects your comfort level right?


Yes I use AC. And no, I live well outside my comfort level and well within the material consumption guidelines for being a person that is doing something about this the environmental issues on this planet.

Your line of questioning is disingenuous and utterly lowbrow. Do better.


Grand problems for any decade until there are figured out.

- General artificial intelligence - being able to effectively model how the world works, and search for solutions in that model.

- Energy - nuclear fusion, cheap artificial photosynthesis, cheap solar such that we can have solar on almost every surface facing the sun.

- Molecular assembly - figure out how to custom program DNA from scratch to build what we need. Imagine building more efficient trees where it captures CO2 and sunlight into gasoline, or strong timber directly.

Each of these can go quite wrong if not developed with safety in mind.

I call it the Mind (intelligence), Body (molecular assembly), Energy (putting energy to work) problems.


Fake news and mass media control. And their effect destroying democracy


AI will upend the economy before we create skynet. All the people worried about AI destroying society are looking in the wrong direction: they think some evil AGI will somehow hack the nukes and kill us all, but we'll kill each other over the increasingly scarce share of global wealth as our jobs are eliminated one by one.


Privacy, longevity, nutrition science, trust, deep space exploration.


Amazed not to see Biorisk in the comments.

A pandemic brought a ton of global infrastructure to it's knees, and it could have been so much worse.

What if that happened again?


I’ve got a second grader and myself & other parents are wondering how useful a public school education will be in 10 years when they are graduating


It never was useful, people differentiate based on the choices they make outside of school and the people they meet. Public education is there to level out the childhood trauma and normalize things. It’s a big sander that levels down.


It is not my experience at all, but I suppose you implicitly mean "in the US"?


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