If you have ever spent a few moments in a brain melt thinking about our major threats to life on earth and how to solve them, you have probably been thinking about the Metacrisis.
But what is it?
The Metacrisis is a term used to describe widely and at a high level the very complex and evolving state of the world today, the type of risks we face and what the solutions might look like.
Today, the two biggest existential risks faced by humanity are:
- Environmental risks triggered by human activity, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, topsoil erosion, dead zones in the ocean etc.
- Technology risks which have the potential to trigger a cascade of catastrophes, for example A.I, bioengineering, geoengineering etc.
What is the problem with our solutions?
Any one of the above events is singularly a threat to the whole of humanity. But in truth most of them are interconnected. Treating one problem alone often does not make a meaningful impact and may cause other unintended consequences elsewhere in the chain. Narrowly defined problems create narrow solutions which do not address the interconnectedness of the issues we face.
According to Metacrisis expert Daniel Schmachtenberger, solutions which try to solve these issues at scale lead us to multi-polar traps with either catastrophic or dystopic consequences (which he terms as “the twin attractors”).
New technologies like Web 3, A.I. and other emerging tech hold the potential of finding solutions. However, high innovation requires decentralisation of intellectual property, scientific publishing and open-source technology.
More freedom of information and less oversight increases the potential of bad actors accessing this information and using it to catastrophic effects. Many of the technologies mentioned above do not require sophisticated machinery or skill, in the way that, say, nuclear weaponry does, to make them cataclysmic.
BUT, stringently regulating technology development and its application requires a powerful centralised ‘big brother’ style of control. This is itself difficult to control and increases the potential of dystopic outcomes (think, China’s control over social media).
So, what is the solution?
In short, there isn’t one. Yet.
Daniel discusses the need to discover a third attractor, one which avoids both catastrophic and dystopic outcomes. He reasons that mapping out the underlying dynamics and the outcomes of the other two scenarios will provide a starting point for a framework of a third more enlightened route.
So, where do we start?
3 important starting points to finding the third attractor:
- Understand human coordination failures.
Humanity’s greatest threats have been created by patterns of human choice making and failures of collective action. To improve them, we should fully understand them from a more holistic perspective, and then find alternative incentives and pathways for individuals and collectives to act in ways that rewards them for making the right choices.
- Intelligent sense making.
Internationally, we need to make sense of and agree on the nature of the risks we face and how we should approach them. Otherwise, whole nations waste resources working in opposite directions on disparate issues, cancelling out their impact or even sabotaging each other in no-win geopolitical races to the bottom.
- Build thoughtfully.
Web 3 solutions can build in the above-mentioned incentives and pathways BUT we need to steward the exponential power of exponential technology. Typically, the pace of technology and pressures of being first to market does not leave much time for due diligence to ensure that tech solutions do not have unintended exponential negative impacts (think, the anti-democratic effects of social media). The tech industry has the opportunity incorporate modelling of complex unforeseen outcomes before racing to apply their solutions.
The scale and complexity of these topics can be disheartening, and this is a reality that is unavoidable. But hope and possibility abound, solutions do exist. We are already experimenting with and forming alternative improved economic frameworks, infrastructure and governance approaches to reach more positive sum outcomes. The power of Web 3 allows us to facilitate these fundamental paradigm shifts in social dynamics by building these parameters into technology solutions.
Bringing on the ground action together with more thoughtful consideration about how we approach complex problem-solving at the intersection of technology and environment will put humanity in a far better position to achieve the seemingly impossible.