Chaotic era: avoid or survive?

post by Just Learning · 2021-02-22T01:34:41.317Z · LW · GW · 3 comments

In the world of the “Three-body problem” novel by Liu Cixin, stable eras, when the planet is rotating just around one sun, and everything is quite predictable, are changing to chaotic eras, when all three suns are involved, and nothing is possible to predict.  In our history, we have relatively stable periods (when you are quite certain that your job or savings are not going to disappear tomorrow, for example). The levels of stability can be different, of course. The first few months of the pandemic were really less stable than life before the pandemic, but certainly more stable than life during WWII (at least in Europe). The question that I want to discuss here is how likely that we will get into a very chaotic era again, and what should we do with it. Notice, that by chaotic I don’t mean necessary “troublesome”. I mean only “hard to predict”.

 Hard to predict for whom?  We have many agents with different levels of expertise and different level of responsibility. If experts make a correct prediction, but many non-experts made a crucial mistake that strongly hurt them (loss of income or savings, for example), these non-experts can start acting based on emotions making the situation even less predictable, thus leading to the “domino effect”. Peculiar conspiracy theories spread among them can make the situation even worse. Another option is an irrational decision of a person with a huge level of responsibility, such as a dictator of a country with nuclear weapons, for example.  

I can name a few scenarios that may increase the level of chaos in the system – just what came to my mind. Of course, there are more, most likely – those are just illustrations

-Due to AI, a lot of people may lose their jobs, and there may be no other job they have skills to do, so we get a huge amount unemployed and likely angry people, that can unpredictably vote or protest. 

-The world financial system may transit to cryptoeconomics, which, in the process of transition, may lead to huge instabilities on the market, inflation, and people losing almost all their savings (again, a lot of angry people)

-Technological progress may lead to asymmetry in the opportunities of countries with nuclear weapons (like the system that would destroy all opponent’s missiles, for example). The threat of such an event may result in the dangerous behavior of the opponent without such a system.   For example, if he is a dictator and more concerned about preserving his power than about the lives of his people, he may decide to strike first before the system is working.

-Robots may be used in the army and police. That will make any dictatorship very stable, and alleviate any coup that would lead to dictatorship – what makes the whole situation less stable since it is less controlled by institutions and more by the will of a dictator.

 

What are other scenarios you can think about? How likely is it to go into a chaotic era in the near future? What can be done to make it less likely? If it is something unavoidable, what can be done to decrease the level of damage? 

3 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Gerald Monroe (gerald-monroe) · 2021-02-23T03:20:29.852Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Another possibility that could exist within the lifetimes of some of us reading this comment is some definitive development of physical immortality.

It could happen because of a successful scan and emulation of a cryo patient's brain, it could be done by developing a form of medical AI that does, let's call it "flight control".  For an aircraft to remain flying, a pilot has to observe what happens and constantly make adjustments.  The pilot doesn't perform an RCT and call up the FDA and spend 1 billion dollars and wait 10 years to make an adjustment, he just changes something.  

A medical system that could actually do the job of keeping people alive would probably need to work more like a pilot, where systems analyze the specific physiology and specific genetic and biochem details of a particular patient, and specific small molecules and genetic tweaks are made to reverse their aging and fix and problems as they come up.  In a sense the patient would always be living in an ICU.  

Anyways I am not a pessimistic as some.  I think within 10 years of the development of such a technology it could be automated enough and widespread enough that all the residents of first world nations could benefit.  But on day 1 of year 0, only the uber elite get it, and it might seem both grotesquely unfair as now great wealth and status mean you meaningfully get to exist for probably thousands of future years.

comment by Just Learning · 2021-02-23T04:30:22.493Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It sounds possible. However, before even the first people will get it, there should be some progress with animals, and right now there is nothing. So I would bet it is not going to happen in let's say next 5 years. (Well, unless we suddenly get a radical progress in creating a superAI that will do it for us, but this is the huge another question on its own). 
I would say, I wanted first to think about the very near future, without a huge technological breakthrough. Of course, the immortality and superAI are far more important than anything I mentioned in the original post. However, I think there is a non-negligible likelihood for something from the original post to happen very soon (maybe even this year), while the likelihood of the immortality before the end of this year seems quite negligible. 

comment by Gerald Monroe (gerald-monroe) · 2021-02-23T19:35:22.591Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Was there a timescale in the OP? Some readers of this post might be 22 and taking their metformin and see age 98. So 76 years. I personally, having seen the state of things in biomed, think it is a problem that there will not be real progress on until we have substantially better AI systems. I think the fundamental problem is to create a (cocktail of possibly hundreds of drugs and genetic hacks, administered 24/7) to cause optimal outcomes in (a matrix of numbers that represent a patient's health and aging state, obtained from a large battery of continuously run tests).

I think that finding out how to generate the drugs and genetic hacks will require repeating most previously performed experiments, just now a robot is doing them and the data is published without bias to cloudservers.

This cannot be solved by human beings just like we cannot keep a modern jet fighter in their air without computer assistance. But we can write and debug the systems that can.