The author is the executive director of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association.
When I was a kid, my mom, like millions of other moms like her, believed not only in me, she believed in my generation as being a generation that would reach great milestones and achieve amazing things. She believed my generation would see and do things that her generation and generations before hers could only imagine.
Today, as seems increasingly clear by this rapidly boiling climate change catastrophism, this current generation of moms seem to have little or no faith or confidence at all in the generation coming up after us. Indeed, they seem to have no confidence in their children’s generation when it comes to solving problems, inventing, innovating, or developing new and smarter ways of learning, thinking, computing, working and producing.
The future is bleak, they say. Indeed, there is no future at all, because we only have 12 years left, they tell us. We only have a dozen years left because today’s generation of moms and dads subscribe to a fundamentally flawed axiom, which is that nature provides us a safe climate, but mankind is making it unsafe.
But the opposite of that is true. Nature provides us, and always has, an unsafe climate, and it is mankind that makes it safer through industrialization, innovation, technology and human inventiveness.
When it’s too hot outside, we’ve learned to make ourselves cooler inside. When it’s too cold inside, because it’s too cold outside, we’ve learned to make ourselves warmer inside.
If I were a teenager today, I would be insulted by the lack of confidence my parents and my parents’ parents seem to have when it comes to my generation’s ability to tame the world around us and to leave it better off for our kids.
Leaving the world better off than we found it has always been true throughout history, and yet for some inexplicable reason, this new generation of human beings have been identified as hopeless, uninventive and frankly incompetent when it comes to designing, innovating and solving what is and always are solvable problems.
My generation, and the baby boomers too, seem to have fallen victim to a naked pessimism that I find utterly bewildering. My generation, what demographers call “Gen X,” while not having invented computers, we have very nearly perfected them.
No better evidence of this is the existence of what computer scientists call artificial intelligence. Super-intelligent computers! Sounds really cool. Sounds pretty darn exciting to me. But even this is now the often-discussed subject and focus of the professional doomsayers.
Super-intelligent machines that can think, even though these genius machines don’t know anything that a human being didn’t tell them, are doomsday machines, the warning goes. They are just lying in wait with the dastardly intent of destroying the human race, according to some.
Just as reliable, plentiful and affordable energy is our undoing as a species, so too is artificial intelligence, it turns out. This is what the “best minds” are predicting.
But don’t take my word for it; consider this quote from the late Stephen Hawking, considered by many as the smartest man since Albert Einstein. According to Hawking, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” That is an actual quote.
And the dire predictions about the climate aren’t any more encouraging; for example, consider this terrifying warning from last week: “Climate change poses a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization, and there’s a good chance society could collapse as soon as 2050.” That statement is from the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration.
All of this brings to mind the classic comment by Sgt. Hulka from the movie “Stripes”: “Lighten up, Francis.”
But doesn’t it stand to reason that if artificial intelligence could render the human race extinct, those same super-artificially intelligent life forms could figure out how to solve the problem of climate change, lest they also go extinct?
In other words, how intelligent can they really be if they don’t even have the basic instinct of self-preservation? Spoiler alert: Artificial intelligence isn’t the enemy, and neither is reliable, abundant energy. Both are here to make our world smarter, safer, better.
Look, I’m no Stephen Hawking, but I’ll go out on a limb here and make this following prediction: The same species that created super-intelligent computers is the same species that will solve the “problem” of climate change without forcing us to freeze in the winter or swelter in the summer.
In other words … lighten up, Francis, the future’s bright.