27 votes

What are the Big Problems?

What are the Big Problems? I'm leaving this open-ended, there's no specific criteria for responses.

I'm interested in both your list and the reasons why. Submitting your suggestions before reading others' contributions would be preferred.

Optionally: who is (or isn't) successfully addressing them. Individuals, organizations, companies, governments, other. How and/or why not?

I've asked this question periodically on several forums (G+, Reddit, HN, Tildes) for seven years now.

I've written fairly extensively on my own views, reasonably findable if you wish, but my interest here is in gaining fresh input, resetting my own biases, and not colouring the discussion overly myself.

30 comments

  1. [2]
    Grimalkin
    Link
    Not just big, but the biggest problem we face is that the natural environment that supports all life is breaking down more and more rapidly as time goes along, and it's too late to "fix" it. There...

    Not just big, but the biggest problem we face is that the natural environment that supports all life is breaking down more and more rapidly as time goes along, and it's too late to "fix" it. There are multiple issues we face and multiple feedback loops that have been set into motion, any one of which would present a serious challenge but all together paint a grim picture of what's to come.

    It's not being addressed on any meaningful level, because doing so would equal less profits for those in power and that's not acceptable for them so it continues accelerating toward a climate that will become more and more inhospitable as time goes along.

    It would have been great if our political leaders had acted in the late 70's/early 80's, as that seems to have been the last chance where swift and decisive action by the major polluting countries could have made a difference. But now...well we can still make some difference, but so much damage has been done and for so long that there's no way there won't be a massive die-off in the coming decades.

    18 votes
    1. dredmorbius
      Link Parent
      This certainly qualifies in the impacts, likelihood, and difficulty axes.

      This certainly qualifies in the impacts, likelihood, and difficulty axes.

      2 votes
  2. [3]
    arp242
    Link
    How our society is unable to solve pretty much any systemic issue unless there's a clear short-term economic benefit for someone. Pretty much all the other non-science problems people have posted...

    How our society is unable to solve pretty much any systemic issue unless there's a clear short-term economic benefit for someone. Pretty much all the other non-science problems people have posted (and will probably post) stem from this.

    Climate change is the obvious one here, it's in everyone's economic interest to fix it, and we even know how to do that. But we're not, and we're not going to. Costs 50 years from now are not in the quarterly numbers presented to shareholders and won't affect the vote in 2 years. The economic and human costs will be huge, and even politicians/companies that recognize this ... do nothing, or very little.

    I'm all for free market and democratic principles, but we need to radically rethink how we organize that, because our current method has been failing us for a very long time, and it's not getting any better either.

    12 votes
    1. [2]
      dredmorbius
      Link Parent
      More concerning is when financial interests are aligned with not solving the problem. For climate, trillions of dollars in stranded assets. The silver lining is that flipping the bookkeeping might...

      More concerning is when financial interests are aligned with not solving the problem. For climate, trillions of dollars in stranded assets.

      The silver lining is that flipping the bookkeeping might automatically incentivise solutions. Of course that rule change itself would be problematic.

      5 votes
      1. arp242
        Link Parent
        I don't think is necessarily a problem as such. It's fine to have a vested financial interest in "bad" things and even defend those interests. The problem is that there are very few lobbyists for...

        More concerning is when financial interests are aligned with not solving the problem

        I don't think is necessarily a problem as such. It's fine to have a vested financial interest in "bad" things and even defend those interests. The problem is that there are very few lobbyists for "the general good" so politicians become stuck in "echo chambers" of these kind of interests (and never mind all the bullshit research, think tanks, etc.)

        1 vote
  3. [8]
    psi
    Link
    In my mind, the "Big Problems" are those questions which we seem no closer to answering than when they were first posed, despite century(ies) of work meant to address them. Why is there something...

    In my mind, the "Big Problems" are those questions which we seem no closer to answering than when they were first posed, despite century(ies) of work meant to address them.

    1. Why is there something rather than nothing?
    2. What is consciousness?
    3. What is time?
    4. What is the correct way to interpret quantum mechanics?
    6 votes
    1. [4]
      dredmorbius
      Link Parent
      These strike me as more Big Questions than Big Problems. Anticipating another set of suggestions: while all Big Problems as both Hard and Unsolved, not all Hard or Unsolved problems are Big. I'm...

      These strike me as more Big Questions than Big Problems.

      Anticipating another set of suggestions: while all Big Problems as both Hard and Unsolved, not all Hard or Unsolved problems are Big.

      I'm trying to leave this as unconstrained as possible, but this contribution does stray a bit beyond even those generous bounds.

      9 votes
      1. [3]
        psi
        Link Parent
        I feel compelled to push back on this (and not only because those bounds were never defined). To begin with, I don't think Big Questions and Big Problems mutually exclude each other. While the...

        I'm trying to leave this as unconstrained as possible, but this contribution does stray a bit beyond even those generous bounds.

        I feel compelled to push back on this (and not only because those bounds were never defined).

        To begin with, I don't think Big Questions and Big Problems mutually exclude each other. While the items I listed might seem purely academic, people have spend their lives trying to address them. If a question resists a lifetime of work, doesn't that elevate the question to a problem?

        So far this thread has interpreted the Big Problems as Big Societal Issues. And I agree that those issues are contained within that set of problems. But society only functions so long as everyone has purpose within it. Indeed, humans strive to have meaning! One could even argue that How do we find meaning? is the Big Problem. (After all, why should we care about climate change or systemic racism or right-wing populism if we don't find meaning in any of those things?) Understanding our place in the universe (and, more generally, what the universe even is) brings us closer to addressing that problem, which is why I chose those four questions.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          gpl
          Link Parent
          This is a bit tangential, but I think a “What are the Big Questions” sister thread would be totally cool.

          This is a bit tangential, but I think a “What are the Big Questions” sister thread would be totally cool.

          3 votes
          1. psi
            Link Parent
            Good idea! Maybe I'll start that thread in a couple days (so as to not steal from this thread's thunder).

            Good idea! Maybe I'll start that thread in a couple days (so as to not steal from this thread's thunder).

            2 votes
    2. [3]
      RapidEyeMovement
      Link Parent
      My favorite answer to #4 is that time does not exist, as we normally understand. It is an emergent property of the universe

      My favorite answer to #4 is that time does not exist, as we normally understand. It is an emergent property of the universe

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        dredmorbius
        Link Parent
        The Universe is an emergent property of the Universe.

        The Universe is an emergent property of the Universe.

        2 votes
  4. [3]
    suspended
    Link
    In keeping with your request (which I don't believe would matter that much): I read Derrick Jensen's Endgame back in 2008. I don't agree with everything Jensen writes/says. However, I am still...

    In keeping with your request (which I don't believe would matter that much):

    Submitting your suggestions before reading others' contributions would be preferred.

    I read Derrick Jensen's Endgame back in 2008. I don't agree with everything Jensen writes/says.

    However, I am still struggling my way through his premises:

    Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.

    Premise Two: Traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the resources on which their communities are based until their communities have been destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their landbases to be damaged so that other resources—gold, oil, and so on—can be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.

    Premise Three: Our way of living—industrial civilization—is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.

    Premise Four: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

    Premise Five: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.

    Premise Six: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.

    There are fourteen more here: https://derrickjensen.org/endgame/premises/

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      archevel
      Link Parent
      Does he ever give a definition of what he means by "civilization" a cursory read of his premises list doesn't seem to deliniate it. Is it just large collections of humans?

      Does he ever give a definition of what he means by "civilization" a cursory read of his premises list doesn't seem to deliniate it. Is it just large collections of humans?

      4 votes
      1. suspended
        Link Parent
        Not that I can see from his book.

        Does he ever give a definition of what he means by "civilization"

        Not that I can see from his book.

  5. [3]
    post_below
    Link
    Money in politics. Adjacent to that, corporate power and the wealth gap. There are lots of potential solutions floating around so I won't restate them. The environment. The time seems to be...
    • Money in politics. Adjacent to that, corporate power and the wealth gap. There are lots of potential solutions floating around so I won't restate them.

    • The environment. The time seems to be approaching ever more rapidly when we'll find out if the human race can unify against an existential threat.

    • Humanity. Or more specifically how we define ourselves. I think we need to create a culture that prioritizes self exploration. Until we do that we'll remain a largely amygdala based society.

    • Bigotry. Refer to the zeitgeist with any questions :)

    • Dogma. We can't solve any of our current problems with externally imposed belief systems.
      If they were going to make us not suck you'd think they would have succeeded sometime in the last few thousand years. Instead I think we need to use the impressive and growing body of research in neurobiology and psychology to build a model for what the human race should be striving for based on empirical evidence rather than mythology.

    For the first time in history we have the information, spanning a variety of fields, to create such a model.

    I think the first step to solving any of our big problems is to look at our daily decisions, what we prioritize, what we talk about, what we celebrate, what we condemn. Collectively that's what makes culture and culture makes the world (the human bit of it anyway).

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      dredmorbius
      Link Parent
      Good list. Of several threads going on this, you're the first to even mention bigotry (or race, tribalism, prejudice, etc.). That's one of several recently-highlighted concerns I'd have expected...

      Good list. Of several threads going on this, you're the first to even mention bigotry (or race, tribalism, prejudice, etc.). That's one of several recently-highlighted concerns I'd have expected to see mentioned.

      Dogma is also good. Would you consider questions of "narrative" as related or adjacent?

      4 votes
      1. post_below
        Link Parent
        Narrative is a good word, I used culture instead, since that's where all the external narratives live :)

        Narrative is a good word, I used culture instead, since that's where all the external narratives live :)

        4 votes
  6. mrbig
    Link
    Which set of beliefs or guidelines can we agree on that will prevent us from hating and killing each other just because we're different?

    Which set of beliefs or guidelines can we agree on that will prevent us from hating and killing each other just because we're different?

    4 votes
  7. spctrvl
    Link
    How does a democracy deal with having a large voting population of right wing authoritarians undermining that democracy, without compromising on its democratic values? It's a problem that's been...

    How does a democracy deal with having a large voting population of right wing authoritarians undermining that democracy, without compromising on its democratic values? It's a problem that's been around for a long time, but it's obviously got some renewed urgency of late. Education is the usual long term answer, but it almost requires the problem already be solved, since authoritarian forces in government will try to make education less accessible, or narrow its scope to mere technical skills that leave students ill-equiped for intellectually engaging with society.

    4 votes
  8. CALICO
    Link
    In no specific order: Humanities failure to cope with existing, and our eventual, unavoidable ends. Humanities potential to find "the source code". Consciousness 1) This one has a lot personal...

    In no specific order:

    1. Humanities failure to cope with existing, and our eventual, unavoidable ends.
    2. Humanities potential to find "the source code".
    3. Consciousness

    1) This one has a lot personal bias baked into it. To keep it brief, I have the perspective that a lot of the problems we bump into—and have bumped into, throughout recorded history—stem from our failure to cope with being "awake", with being aware of our own consciousness, in a seemingly arbitrary world with no inherent meaning but many inherent horrors, and the knowledge it will all stop at some point.
    I have the belief that until we (on the macro scale) can get past our screaming into the void, we're not going to be able to evolve interpersonnally or societally much further than we've managed thus far.
    Worth saying that I believe some philosophies or belief systems have enabled this to happen, but have not been implemented or internalized on a large enough scale to solve the problem.

    2) "Source Code" here mostly should be understood as a Comprehensive Theory of Everything, but genetics & epigenetics fits as well.
    The human brain has been anatomically modern for (roughly) 60 thousand years. Most of that time had our ancestors living in the Upper Paleolithic of nomadic hunter-gatherers. With the same brains of our forebears, we live in a veritable Sci-Fi world. With these brains, we've managed to understand the "rules of the universe" well enough to pervert atomic weapons into existence.
    If we don't soon run in to the limits of human intelligence, we may soon understand the entire rule-book and all that can be done with it. I fear what that understanding may enable us to do at our worst.

    3) What is consciousness? Whence does it arise? Where does it reside?
    Why is there a Thing subjectively experiencing a subjective experience at all? Why are we not instead unconscious automata?
    Are the Materialist Reductionists right, and it comes solely from the structure of the brain?
    Are some of the fringe ideas on the right track, and there's an external component?
    Can the nation of China be conscious? Along similar lines of thought, is an ant colony conscious? What of fungi, or interconnected plants? Can they be conscious? Are they conscious? If they are not, can not, why? If they are or can be, how are we adapt our interactions with the world?
    Can a machine be conscious? If so, why is there debate on the ethics of creating a machine-consciousness when there is little-to-no debate in creating a new human-consciousness?
    Is consciousness a binary, something you either have or you don't? If so, what are the things that are conscious, and what makes them different from the things that aren't?
    Is consciousness a spectral quality? Is a cat more conscious than a fly? Is a cat less conscious than a human? Are humans as conscious as it's possible to be? What does it even mean to be more or less conscious?

    What is the individual experience of a consciousness when the system that supports it, dies?

    4 votes
  9. Amarok
    Link
    Energy, energy, energy. Everything we need or want, and every solution we'd like to implement, comes back to energy costs eventually. The best solutions to our big problems (such as food...

    Energy, energy, energy. Everything we need or want, and every solution we'd like to implement, comes back to energy costs eventually. The best solutions to our big problems (such as food shortages, fossil fuels, and climate change) all wind back to that core issue and can't be implemented economically without big changes in the costs of energy production.

    We also have big problems with access to clean energy - many parts of the world are starving for it, others have an overabundance, and everyone should have abundance if we're serious about making the world better. We will make little to no progress on these problems until we've dealt with the energy supply issue. There's a lot of work to be done with the distribution network as well - power systems need to operate like the internet does with power routing like packets and that means we've got a lot of grid upgrades in our future.

    Lucky for us the hardest part of this problem has been solved in theory. Now it's just a question of startup funding. If Indonesia's government opts for this solution over coal, we'll be looking at a nuclear powered future with all the energy we could need or want available. The power plants will be rolling off the assembly line in less than ten years.

    4 votes
  10. monarda
    Link
    There are too many big problems which leads to apathy, polarization, and dread. With so many big problems, it's easy for us (humanity) to get spread too thin because each big problem is weighted...

    There are too many big problems which leads to apathy, polarization, and dread. With so many big problems, it's easy for us (humanity) to get spread too thin because each big problem is weighted differently to the individual which is a big problem.

    Racism and bigotry - it allows people to be dismissed without need for critical thought towards their ideas - it allows scapegoating without the need to reflect deeper - it keeps us divided and easier to control.

    We're on the road to environmental collapse - leading to huge migrations of people seeking new homes and resources, what will those that have them do? What will those migrating do?

    Inequality - leading to power over those that are less equal : financial power, racial power, gender power geopolitical power, and etc. - Usually this leads to the will of those in power being forced on those without it.

    Violence (physical and psychological) - It seems like a fair number of humans are predisposed to it, and that it is accepted as part of the human condition. It leads to such things as war, human trafficking, prisons, child abuse, spousal abuse, rape, genocide, and etc. and of course it begets more violence.

    3 votes
  11. [6]
    Kuromantis
    Link
    One of the ones I find the most interesting (and seems to be a concern unique to me for some reason I hopefully haven't been told yet) is how should we address population and the age pyramid (if...

    One of the ones I find the most interesting (and seems to be a concern unique to me for some reason I hopefully haven't been told yet) is how should we address population and the age pyramid (if we should.) Birth rates are down basically everywhere globally and it's predicted that global population will decrease somewhere in mid-century, but in some places like Japan and Hungary it's already happening.

    If we let the population decline (see climate change and human consumption), what are the consequences of a perhaps indefinitely aging society, and are we ready to handle them? We can certainly do a lot to mitigate aging of all kinds for a pretty long time, it's not like we can just do that indefinitely, right?

    If we do choose to keep our population as-is and push our birth rates to replacement level (not above, just in case anyone is not sure), how do we do that? Places with vastly better child support like Scandinavia seem to have equal or lower birth rates than places like the US and none over replacement so better childcare and general healthcare so parenting is less expensive doesn't seem to be the answer. If people just don't want to have/take care of children and the solution is not welfare to make children cheaper and free time for parenting, what do we do?

    1 vote
    1. moonbathers
      Link Parent
      It seems to me that the planet can't sustain eight billion people permanently. @Qis is right that you have to be really careful about how to handle this. My solution is that we continue to become...

      It seems to me that the planet can't sustain eight billion people permanently. @Qis is right that you have to be really careful about how to handle this. My solution is that we continue to become a sustainable civilization as quickly as we can and don't worry about birth rates for a long time. I think we already have the resources to give everyone in an aging population a decent life, we just need to change how we live and how we use our resources (I recognize that the just is doing a lot of work in that statement). I don't think we'd even have to move away from capitalism to do it, we'd just have to have stronger safety nets and live more efficiently. Once the population of the world gets down to a billion, or maybe even less, then we can start talking about bringing the fertility rate back up to replacement. But to worry about that right now when we're in the middle of an environmental collapse caused partially by the amount of people in the world feels like misplaced priorities to me.

      2 votes
    2. [4]
      Qis
      Link Parent
      That sort of question leads almost immediately to very dangerous considerations. If you start thinking that people are the problem you need to back up to your assumptions -- about what kind of...

      That sort of question leads almost immediately to very dangerous considerations. If you start thinking that people are the problem you need to back up to your assumptions -- about what kind of authorities can be cobbled together from our many divisions; about what kinds of resources can be distributed fairly and which cause conflict as they move and why; and how you came to concern about the number of people in the first place. Birth and death rates are effects of conditions which we have an extremely incomplete picture of -- thinking about population dynamics requires a kind of remove that we struggle to manage ethically. Of course we can anticipate the needs of large areas using demographic analyses, but it's really another thing entirely to consider tuning population as some kind of dial.

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        Kuromantis
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        BTW, I agree with a few things here: I agree with your first point that this is talking of a fundamental reshaping of society and very large and broad groups within it and anything of the sort can...

        BTW, I agree with a few things here:

        That sort of question leads almost immediately to very dangerous considerations.

        I agree with your first point that this is talking of a fundamental reshaping of society and very large and broad groups within it and anything of the sort can imply and result in dystopia.

        But to worry about that right now when we're in the middle of an environmental collapse caused partially by the amount of people in the world feels like misplaced priorities to me.

        I agree with you (@moonbathers, I'm gonna reply to both of you here) that this is mainly a ~-2050 and onwards problem rather than a 2020 problem, although some places are closer to dealing with aging than that. I'm not entirely convinced that there's too many people on the planet though. Stuff like lab grown meat can replace a lot of our worst polluters like industrial farms, right? It's not everything (I do think that we might need to put an end to rural life and then repopulate those areas with trees to get there and get cities to be more dense and just do everything to not use oil) but it will bide us some amount of time, right?

        Anyway.

        what kind of authorities can be cobbled together from our many divisions

        I'm assuming by this you mean "what kinds of people can people/society at large trust?"

        about what kinds of resources can be distributed fairly

        Most of them, with the exception of land derived resources and the not unmanageable but very high amount of effort/time/resources it takes to build infrastructure.

        which cause conflict as they move and why

        Most resources that are derived from the ground/sky/nature (agriculture/livestock, extracted resources, water), because they are... tied to the ground and you can't really change the ground without very heavy consequences (climate change, again.) If someone dams your river water for energy, you can't really get more. Wealth does that, but with way less violence, at least with wealthy areas.

        and how you came to concern about the number of people in the first place.

        Primarily because we kind of are society?

        But population is kind of separate from and secondary of my main concern which is that the world's populations could get older indefinitely, and that's would be a big deal, right? ( I admit, that probably wasn't clear. )

        While I agree with @moonbathers that we can do many things to limit aging, bodily and mental weardown and we don't need to cut welfare, if anything we need to expand it indefinitely to keep up with a likely ever increasing share (not number) of old people, but if it is ever increasing, that's not ideal either, right? If you look at Germany and Japan for example, their median ages have been going up for 50 and 70 years respectively, to a median age of around 47 years old. In 50 or 70 years, will it have kept going up to 50, 55, or 60? Because, unless we have bigger problems in our hands like dictatorship (not discounting that as unlikely because it isn't unlikely) medicine is not gonna get worse/less advanced and life expectancy is not gonna decrease.

        But aging isn't gonna change either, and it can make learning, remembering, staying healthy and a lot of things harder and more and if a continually larger share of people are under or risking those effects, and until there is some sort of big advance to stop it and vastly increase our lifespans and that's better than trying to keep our current population, aging is gonna be an increasingly big deal that needs to be continually adressed and with some bad luck/shit politics, a threat to society, right?

        1 vote
        1. moonbathers
          Link Parent
          I don't have good evidence on hand that there are too many people on the planet, I say that based off of feelings about what I've seen about our impact on the environment. I have to imagine...

          I'm not entirely convinced that there's too many people on the planet though. Stuff like lab grown meat can replace a lot of our worst polluters like industrial farms, right? It's not everything (I do think that we might need to put an end to rural life and then repopulate those areas with trees to get there and get cities to be more dense and just do everything to not use oil) but it will bide us some amount of time, right?

          I don't have good evidence on hand that there are too many people on the planet, I say that based off of feelings about what I've seen about our impact on the environment. I have to imagine lab-grown meat would be way more energy and resource efficient than raising livestock.

          For a society to be completely sustainable, it has to do the following:

          • its energy must be generated from renewable, non-polluting sources
          • its resources must be either generated from renewable, non-polluting sources or from existing nonrenewable sources
          • all renewable resources must be replaced at the same rate that they are used
          • ensure that the populations of plants and animals are stable in the areas they live in

          I think (but I'm not positive) these four things cover all aspects of society. All metals are non-renewable and we'll have to recycle them, which includes the cobalt and lithium used in electronics. If we want to continue to make new electronics, we'll have to salvage old electronics and we might as well start doing that as soon as we can to minimize both the human and environmental impacts of mining. Biological resources like trees have to be replanted at a rate so that there are always the same number of trees at each stage of maturity. We have to do this for every aspect of society. That means we'll have to recycle pretty much everything, restore the land as accurately as we can after we're done with it, etc.

          My stance on the economic aspect of an aging population is that we already have the technology and financial resources to sustain people working less. The last time this subject came up, I looked at Wikipedia and found that about 35 countries have a GDP per capita of at least $40,000 per year, adjusted for purchasing power. That's enough to live a decent if not extravagant life, at least in theory. I don't think we even necessarily need to leave capitalism behind to not have to force old people to work longer; we just need to put social safety nets in place and reduce income/wealth inequality by raising taxes.

          I do also think that we're overdue to rethink the 40-hour work week and thankfully that's been gaining a little momentum. We produce so many resources that aren't being used meaningfully (by which I mean a lot of the new wealth made goes to the rich, who don't use it nearly as much as not-rich people) that if we changed where those resources are going we could reduce how many hours people work and most of us wouldn't notice the difference in how much we're getting paid. You can also argue this point from the angle that a lot of jobs only exist in the amount that they do because people are busy working, like childcare and cleaning services, and from the angle that if people didn't feel the pressure to buy as many things as they do that they would both buy fewer things (which results in needing less money) and retail places at least wouldn't need to be staffed as much.

          I imagine the average life expectancy of people will max out at between 90 and 100 barring breakthroughs that we shouldn't count on. The maximum lifespan of a person hasn't really changed in the last couple thousand years, we've just gotten really good at keeping people alive past childbirth and reducing the external factors that reduce life expectancy.

          We have to minimize the amount of resources that we use both to ensure that we are sustainable and to minimize the amount of damage we cause until we get there. Fortunately a lot of these things feed off of each other. For example, reducing urban sprawl as you've mentioned, accomplishes:

          • Less money and materials spent on buildings and infrastructure both by virtue of fewer roads and higher-density buildings, which means means fewer resources are used and more unclaimed land for plants and animals to live in
          • Less time and money spent on traveling, which means less pollution, more time for whatever you'd like to do and probably a higher quality of life for everyone because sitting in traffic isn't fun
          • Smaller lot sizes, which means fewer resources spent on maintaining lawns and less pollution

          I'm not an economist and I'm not a scientist, but I really do think it's possible for humanity to have a good standard of living, even with a less pronounced population pyramid, while being completely sustainable with our level of technology, if not with most of our cultures. We just need to get there.

          2 votes
        2. Qis
          Link Parent
          The idea that aging populations pose a challenge to public health has merit, but the idea that aging is a process of worsening or becoming more burdensome has some unfortunate baggage. Countries...

          The idea that aging populations pose a challenge to public health has merit, but the idea that aging is a process of worsening or becoming more burdensome has some unfortunate baggage. Countries with older populations aren't necessarily facing crises, and in any case anticipating these changes doesn't require especially exotic solutions. Many senses in which we can prepare are decently outlined at the bottom of this WHO page.

          Watch out for arguments that trade in hypothetical expressions of fundamentality or naturalness or goodness -- those values are much more real and useful when applied to specific, practical contexts.

          1 vote