Myopia - The Paradox of Success


The economy, the environment, Earth’s ecosystems, politics, culture, values are all interconnected. Each new discovery has unintended consequences. Civilization’s use of fossil fuels is warming the earth’s atmosphere at an alarming rate, unprecedented, perhaps, since life began to define the nature of our planet’s chemistry. (Definitions being purely a human thing, of course.) As far as we know now, life only exists on Earth. Humans have only been here a couple of hundred thousand years. That’s what we’ve learned through the amazing toolkit we call science. (What a boring old cliche of a paragraph - well worn indeed, but not well enough considered.)

J. Robert Oppenheimer, Nuclear Physisist and all business. 

J. Robert Oppenheimer, Nuclear Physisist and all business. 

Perhaps the most powerful human achievement was splitting the atom and creating nuclear bombs. We have learned much from having used them against our fellow human beings in Japan. Thanks to science, of course. Did the Japanese, by not surrendering to the Alleys earlier, unwittingly volunteer to be subjects of our research into the effects of a nuclear bomb attack? Modern civilization has so many complex and debatable things to ponder. I can imagine our world giving Socrates, and dare I say, even Jesus Christ a nasty headache.

We have nuclear power because we were compelled by our enemies in WWII to make nuclear bombs. After nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we needed a benevolent Genie, one that could remain happily out of the bottle. The Nuclear Power Industry was born. Since then we’ve tried in vain to limit nuclear weapons proliferation. But the bad Genie won’t be imprisoned.

The North Korean, leadership obviously believes that nuclear weapons are essential for their survival. Their only hope for “freedom”. Isn’t that ironic? That’s what they believe, that’s what the North Korean people have been made to believe. Their leader knows he doesn’t stand a chance of remaining in power without nuclear weapons that can be effectively delivered to his enemies porch. The world has been dealing with threats from North Korea since the Korean war. North Korea das stayed the course for decades and are finally close to having the most powerful bargaining chip any country could possibly possess. There is no way they are going to give that up.

Don’t we all wish nuclear bombs would just go away? How can we put that damn Genie back in the bottle? Will threats work? Will war help? Did we get enough bang for our buck in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? Were those wars worth the cost? Who benefited from those conflicts and how? Who made money and who died?

(Nuclear power plants generate 14 percent of the world's electricity, but some countries are more dependent on this power source than others. France relies on nuclear for 75.2 percent of its electricity; the United States, about 20 percent.) Nuclear power is costly and its price may ultimately be too high but for now we're living with nuclear power just fine.


Depending on what sources you look at, decommissioning a nuclear power plant is either insanely costly and dangerous or well within reasonable costs and risk parameters. At any rate, nuclear power is a huge and important industry with plenty of lobbying money. How do you think climate change will affect the nuclear power industry? Is Fukushima still a big deal or can we write that disaster off already and get on with it?

And energy policy really is all about money and power. Cheap energy is a great source of power for businesses and governments. Of course, common people like it too. In fact, we’re addicted to it. We all need energy, lots of it. Human exploitation of fossil fuels created modern civilization. Fossil fuels have been the low hanging fruit compared to the complex business of creating the latest generation of nuclear power plant. Homo Plugged-In can't live without cheap power. Imagine the suicide rate if the power grid went down for a month.

Global Capitalism needed fossil fuels to develop. Without cheap energy at the scale of fossil fuels, we would be living very differently today. We may never have discovered a way to split the atom. Other than Global Capitalism, consideration of any other social-political-economic system ended many decades ago. Today, the many externalities and unintended consequences of global capitalism have finally and inevitably caught up with us, and the consequences are dire. We may now need to prepare ourselves and our children for a very different way of life.

What solutions to these problems are you looking at? Share compelling solutions your interested in from across domains of technology, science, social science, business and so on. Tell us what you're working on. What must we be busy doing to prepare for the future and to make our lives better? If you believe that our current global social-political-economic paradigm is inevitable and for the best, explain yourself and try not to parrot cable news. If you can't think of any possible alternatives then I must congratulate you on your lack of imagination and recommend you for the Pangloss Medal of Optimism and It Is What It Is, 2017.

["Pangloss gave instruction in metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. He proved admirably that there cannot possibly be an effect without a cause and that in this best of all possible worlds the baron’s castle was the most beautiful of all castles and his wife the best of all possible baronesses. —It is clear, said he, that things cannot be otherwise than they are, for since everything is made to serve an end, everything necessarily serves the best end. Observe: noses were made to support spectacles, hence we have spectacles. Legs, as anyone can plainly see, were made to be breached, and so we have breeches. . . . Consequently, those who say everything is well are uttering mere stupidities; they should say everything is for the best." From Voltaire’s “Candide”]

If you’re a highly paid clerk, professional or executive working for a large global enterprise, or only a bright little slacker waiting for your stock to vest, enjoy your salary and good luck; deaf ears also hear no evil and see no evil and it seems nothing can be done about that. Just hone your intuition, that will have to be good enough. Oh and, nice car!

Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, $2,500,000

Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, $2,500,000


Steven Cleghorn

Steven is an autodidact, skeptic, raconteur and film producer from America who has been traveling since he was a zygote. He's a producer at The Muse Films Ltd. in Hong Kong and a constantly improving (hopefully) Globe Hacker. He's seeks the company of interesting minds.