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« Nano Jobs | Main | Nanofuture: What's Next »

May 31, 2005


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Hal Finney

We've got a ways to go before we catch up to Nature. According to http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat8.htm#Total megascale deaths due to human action account for only 4.5% of total deaths during the 20th century. In other words, Nature is 20 times better than Man at killing humans.

And of course the other side of the coin is that one reason we've been able to kill so many is because there are so many to kill. Not clear whether Nature or Man gets the credit on this one, but the 20th century was by far the most populous in history.

If human deaths are bad, perhaps we will accept that human lives are good. By any scale, the increase in lives is far greater than the increase in deaths. Therefore, human culture, for all its faults, is actually the greatest force for good that exists in the world. We should be proud to be human beings, and members of the current world culture.

Mike Treder, CRN

Thanks for making those points, Hal.

It's easy to find fault with the human race for all the harm we have done to ourselves and the biosphere. On the other hand, there are hopeful signs that as a species we are growing and maturing.

Currently I'm reading Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States, 1492-Present." It's unsettling, but also enlightening, to learn more about how cruelly people treated each other in the past, *as a rule, not as an exception.* I see progress in the fact that cruel treatment of others is far less acceptable today: though certainly still practiced, it seems to have become *the exception and not the rule.*


Made me sick to my stomach to learn of some of the recent massacres I was not previously aware of. I guess that's a good thing... I don't know if the down-trend in mass killings is the result of moral growth. Large pockets of 21st century populations no longer need to kill for sustenance, but this "progress" has occured on the backs of others who still have this need. Modern communications and precision weaponry is undoubtably responsible for some of this trend. But I think the biggie has been the cold-war. Skirmishes have been somewhat avoided for fear of triggering a nuclear holocaust. This is a horrible price to pay in terms of MM. There have been 3 or more events since WWII where the likelyhood of large scale amounts of nukes actually being used has been reliably assessed at over 10%. Combined, all of these events place the odds of a nuclear holocaust at well over 50%. With MM, such a battle would be an extinction level event. All of the risks in 5 decades of large nuke stockpiles would likely occur in 5 months in a MM timeframe. A Hitler, Stalin or Mao with MM, would not see the reach of their tyranny limited by national borders. With MM, we might be able to end nature's tyranny until some large-scale physical boundaries are encountered, but MM presents an enxtinction risk of its own, and enables a whole bunch of analogously dangerous product technologies. (BTW Mike: one of the best books I've read, and I always knew landlords were evil Machavellian beings ;)

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