It looks to me as if the two big risks of large immediate damage to humanity
within the coming year are --
1 -- risk of big new war in the Middle East (most likely involving Iran, though
Kashmir is still a question)
2 - risk of a 1930's style depression, with all that that would lead to.
(Just a few days ago I heard some worried people talking about
(Caveat: it may be that other longer-term risks are larger and just as
urgent for action.)
In all of these areas, it is interesting how subliminal messages and
the behavior and rationality of the various actors.
As one small example -- Syria. We in the US generally assume one view,
assumed and propagated by the media:
that Syria is a classic morality play of the advance of democracy,
that we are witnessing the battle between tyranny
(even hereditary monarchy of the worst nouveau kind) and democracy.
People seem to find it hard to even imagine
any other view.
But from Russia, it seems clear they would view it as a rerun of the
Balkans, where they see the US as intervening to supporting
Al Qaida type Sunni extremists aiming to suppress and ultimately kill
Christians, due to the blinding and deluding effects
of relying on mass media such as Fox where the Saudis have a large
share of ownership, and the Saudis have other allies.
Within the Middle East, there are those who have essential contempt
both for the US and for the Russians,
who believe that we are in the penultimate stage of God's plan for a
Third Caliphate, to enlighten the entire world,
where the penultimate stage is to purify Islam by eliminating its
powerful heretics, and where the Americans and the Russians
are basically just semi-sentient pawns in the great struggle between
Sunni and Shia.
Not that we have heard the last of Gog and Magog and of asteroids
coming to earth...
Europe is certainly not out of the woods, even after "the euro won the
election in Greece."
The blind spots and the attitude problems all over the world are a
part of the ongoing risk.
For example -- it seems clear that corruption and sloth associated
with the government of Greece
needs to be cut back and "reformed," AND ALSO that new sources of
demand and employment are
needed to make up for the loss of old ones, in order to prevent a
downward spiral. (As well as massive bank
runs being avoided.)
Yet just this week, I heard a very prominent guy say: "Hey, a few
years ago, GERMANY was the economic sick
man of Europe, mainly because of its inability to assimilate East
Germany. The problem got solved BY REFORM.
So we should all support Merkel, who is steadfastly applying to the EU
what worked in Germany."
Interesting blind spot here. With Germany, it was a COMBINATION of
reform (breaking some bad corporate culture
developed in old East Germany) AND heavy investment to create jobs and
support education in East Germany,
relying on a traditional German culture which was not 100% alienated,
which worked. The balance was necessary
then, as it is necessary now.
I also heard someone say: "Create new jobs in Greece , Italy and
Spain? That's absurd. None of those people
are willing or able to work anyway, no matter who the new managers
would be. No one can get any useful work
from those people, even in construction tasks (like assembling solar
dishes from parts made elsewhere, and constructing solar farms)
under supervision. They don't have the education or the genes."
Yet that very evening, I heard people complaining about the US
workforce, and how it has fallen behind
many of these others in education. Can Americans work, even if offered
jobs? Could they ever?
Have Greeks or Italians ever been able to build anything?
Strange world indeed....
Underlying all this... I think about the paper I just got published in Neural Networks,
"Neural networks and the experience and cultivation of mind," providing something of a scientific analysis of how it is possible for people to be so crazy, and what it takes to achieve a bit more sanity.