Finding Balance and Pillaging the Earth
What does ecological balance have to do with finding balance in our lives?
One of the chapters in Following Fish follows the story of the hilsa. Samanth's search for the best hilsa leads him to various eateries. Everyone has an opinion of the best hilsa, where to find it, how to cook it, etc. A section I found particularly interesting was the handed-down instruction of not fishing for the hilsa during the winter. Today's fishermen are of the opinion that the elders were lazy/idiots and that there is hilsa to in the winter.
Duh! Of course, it is there, you nitwit, until there's no hilsa in any season.
The human race, in its infancy, lived in ecological balance. The right balance between prey and predators. The right amount of fishing and layoff to allow the rejuvenation of the environment. The interplay between the Grizzly and the salmon, and how the Grizzly eats the salmon is vital for the continued ecological balance. There are thousands and thousands of beautiful balances at micro and macro levels.
Today, we are in a race to fuck up the Earth. And the plan is to get the fuck outta here before it becomes untenable.
How depressing and deplorable is that?
The human race seems to think it is the focal point of the story. The idea is to ensure that it survives. No one (country) seems to want to go first and take a stance - zero pollution, zero plastics, zero oil or zero whatever. Why? Coz someone else will overtake it. Classic game theory and well, the human condition playing out.
The solution touted is that we will zoom off into the stars and continue our story elsewhere. First up, does a civilisation that cannot take care of its home and other inhabitants deserve that kinda status? But that's also throwing the baby out with the bathwater - the human race has done some awesome shit.
The better solution might be to figure out the ecological balance on a planetary scale and get there. Let there be forests and lions and tigers. Let there not be humans everywhere. Let there be enough water for everyone and food. To get there, we need to think on a planetary scale, one would assume.
Since we cannot even stop wars from happening yet, the odds of an organisation/coalition forming and doing that are zero. If you haven't seen Don't Look Up, do check it out.
AlphaZero and AI
Watching and reading about AlphaZero and DeepMind let's one get carried away with the potential of a new overlord.
AlphaZero is an AI program that has learned to play chess at a level not seen before. Not only has it proven unbeatable by any human, but it has also beaten top chess programs. It is also playing chess in new ways, not conceived by human grandmasters.
The amazing thing is AlphaZero taught itself chess. Given the rules, it played against itself and figured the game out in a few hours. Of course, chess is 64 squares and limited pieces, and the universe of possibilities is mapped.
But, what if, we write smart AI programs which will write smart AI programs to govern the Earth. In my head, scenarios closer to that path seem to be the only possibility of Earth 1.0 recovering itself and not ending up in Wall-E like scenarios.
Making sense of my tangential thinking
Earlier in the week, I was speaking with 25-35 year-olds about why fitness needs to be fun and sustainable. The reason is simple - you have to do it for the long-term and the only way to do that is by looking forward to it.
One needs to be in balance. One needs to have good short-term effects, as well as learn to put aside instant gratification for the longer term. You need to do what you need to do, regardless of what your friends or family want to do. At the same time, you cannot be a recluse and reject society. Well, I guess you can if that's your balance point.
When you focus only on one aspect or metric, you lose sight of the whole picture. In the past 100-ish years, from the Industrial Revolution, the human race has been caught up in its own bullshit and pillaging the planet and going forward. Is forward at any cost moving forward at all?
Likewise, is working unreasonable hours with stupid stress the right thing to do? Putting aside your instant gratification for a better tomorrow. Or to live as if today's the last and to heck with tomorrow.
Balance. Whatever that means.
It means everything.