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Jane Goodall Needs an E/Acc Intervention
Tech optimism can prevent an Avengers-level threat
Jane Goodall, for as long as I can remember, has represented compassion and Buddha-like wisdom. Why, then, is she recommending to wipe out 7 billion people?
Sounds nuts, but that is in effect what she recommends as the best solution to our environmental problems. When a clip of her talking about this went viral on Twitter recently, people aptly compared her to Thanos, the Avengers villain.
Although Goodall wants the world to return to “the size of the population 500 years ago,” I don’t actually believe Goodall would, if given the change, annihilate 7 billion people to achieve that goal. But no doubt she would advocate radical means of decreasing population growth. Unless you’re talking about growing a nation’s middle class and increasing access to contraception and education, there aren’t many ethical ways to top-down control population. You have to wonder where Goodall would draw her ethical lines. Is a one-child policy too far for her? Mass sterilization?
In Goodall’s mind: the environment is good; people harm the environment; therefore, people are bad. Her worldview seems to be that simple.
I would like to introduce her, and people of her mind, to the e/acc community. E/acc, which stands for effective accelerationism, is a trendy tech concept that says we should pursue radical technological progress at all costs. Like, what are we waiting for, guys? The problems we see in the world are entirely solvable if we just stop pussy-footing around and get serious about accelerating technological innovation.
Here's how Business Insider describes it:
In an e/acc world, no idea that offers hypothetical value should be considered too absurd, too dangerous, too out there to make a reality. For e/acc adherents, the path of progress at all costs, would, in theory, make possible any imaginative idea with a purported benefit to humanity. That could mean justifying the development of something as outlandish as Dyson Spheres — physicist Freeman Dyson's theoretical megastructures, which would surround a star and harvest its energy — or something closer on the horizon, like artificial general intelligence (AGI).
I don’t expect normies to quickly embrace e/acc. Unless you have an ideological predisposition to trust technology to solve problems, you’ll undoubtedly find this e/acc talk unsettling. But Jane Goodall and those of her stripe—doomers, Malthusians—aren’t normies. They’re equally radical, ready to flip the switch that annihilates 7 billion human souls.
What if she were presented with another switch that has the possibility of having the positive outcome she’s after (saving the environment) but without the dirty business of mass population decline?
Goodall of course is too old and set in her ways to ever give a moment’s thought to crazy technological schemes. But, importantly, doomers of a younger generation most certainly are susceptible. I’m talking about the Extinction Rebellion types—young people who are willing to ruin priceless works of art for the sake of drawing attention to the environment.
Zion Lights is a good example of someone who, as a young environmental activist, radically shifted her views in a pro-technology direction. She went from being an outspoken climate doomer to an optimistic nuclear-power advocate who writes about rewiring our brains to be optimistic about “Bright Mirror scenarios.” She writes:
For me, it’s a relief to have realised that the future isn’t necessarily going to be a hellish nightmare and to understand how much progress is being made globally in many areas. Now, when I read about advances in AI, I think “maybe they’ll be less like HAL and more like Data from Star Trek”.
I don’t know where Zion stands on the e/acc movement, but it all comes down to opening your mind to the possibility that we don’t have to give up and die; we can fix this.
This view is so much more exciting and mentally healthy than the doomer view. Also, if you move closer to the e/acc side of the spectrum, you don’t have to live with the guilty conscience of secretly wishing for genocide.
Not to say that Jane Goodall would wish a genocide upon us, but Thanos would. And if the shoe fits…
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