This page contains the opening portion of Chapter 5 from
Sustainable Superabundance: A universal transhumanist invitation
5. Towards abundant energy
The foundation for all human activity is energy. Without energy, nothing can be accomplished.
As human activity has grown in scale, we have utilised increasing amounts of energy, in ways that some would describe as bold and ingenious, but others would say is reckless.
We have converted vast forests into firewood. We have unearthed and burned immense quantities of peat, coal, gas, and oil. The resulting light, heat – and air conditioning – have provided ample illumination and kept citizens at comfortable temperatures. Our factories have been enabled to manufacture countless goods, and our vehicles to crisscross all over the earth. However, side-products of all this activity have been accumulating in unsustainable ways. Greenhouse gas emissions have been amassing in the atmosphere, and now pose a number of potential drastic threats to human flourishing.
To solve these threats, do we need to cut back on human activities? Should we adopt low-energy lifestyles?
The transhumanist answer is that there is no need to slam on the brakes. However, significant steering is overdue. We need to transition to a different trajectory. Urgently.
Indeed, as this chapter explores, an abundance of clean energy awaits us, ready to power productive, exuberant lifestyles. That’s provided we have the strength of purpose to quickly switch away from our present near-addiction to unclean energy.
Anticipating climate chaos
The future is arriving faster than used to be expected. Likewise, climate change could be arriving faster than used to be expected.
In both cases, a dangerous heritage of complacency needs to be overcome – the complacency that says nothing much will actually change any time soon, so it’s OK for the time being to continue with “business as usual”.
In both cases, we need to shake off the complacency. We ought instead to heed the advice of Amara’s Law: whilst we should beware overestimating the effect of a technology in the short term, we should also beware underestimating the longer-term impacts that can ensue once the adoption of the technology has reached its stride. A period of gradual build-up can tip over into a period of turbulent disruption. A period of apparent calm can morph seemingly overnight into a period of chaos.
In both cases – the case of general future disruption, and the specific case of climate disruption – it is compound effects that prove hardest to anticipate and hardest to manage. Complications arise from self-reinforcing feedback cycles, from crossover effects, and from the destabilisation of previous patterns.
In both cases, the possibility of acceleration in the pace of change increases the urgency for society to exert wiser, firmer control over aspects of collective human behaviour.