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Romashka comments on Roadmap: Plan of Action to Prevent Human Extinction Risks - Less Wrong

13 Post author: turchin 01 June 2015 09:58AM

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Comment author: [deleted] 07 June 2015 01:50:32PM 1 point [-]

(Thinking out loud)

Currently, about a third of all food produced in the world doesn't make it to being consumed (or something like that - we were told this in our phytopathology course.) With the increase in standardization of food processing, there should be more common causes of spoilage and the potential of resistant pathogen evolution and rapid spread. How much worse should the food loss become before initiating a cascade of x-threats to mankind?

Comment author: turchin 07 June 2015 06:23:31PM 1 point [-]

As a lot of grain now is consumed by meat industry, returning to vegetable and limited diet could effectively increase food supply 4-5 times. Many other options exist to do so.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 June 2015 07:03:44PM *  1 point [-]

Legally enforced veganism? (But grain spoils. It is also often stored in buildings designed specifically for that purpose, and once they get infected...) All in all, I was just trying to think of a hard-to-contain, hard-to-notice, hard-to-prevent x-risk; those already discussed seem more... straightforward, perhaps. I am sure there are other examples of systemic failure harder to fight with international treaties than nuclear war.

Comment author: turchin 07 June 2015 07:14:49PM 1 point [-]

If your suggestion would be something like "invest in bio-divercity of food supply chain" or "prevent crop loss due bad transportation" it may be interesting. Because while the whole humanity can't extinct because of food shortage, it could contribute to wars, terrorism and riots, as happened during Arab spring.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 June 2015 01:22:38AM 1 point [-]

Those would be useful things to do, I think, resulting in 1) better carantine law (the current one does not seem to be taken seriously enough, if Ambrosia's expansion is any indicator, and the timescales for a pathogen will not be decades), 2) portable equipment for instant identification of alien inclusions in medium bulks of foodstuffs, and 3) further development of nonchemical ways of sterilization.

Comment author: turchin 08 June 2015 09:07:31AM 1 point [-]

Thank you for this interesting suggestion! I will include it in the map and I want to send you award. PM details to me. But what is Ambrosia? Corn rust?

Comment author: [deleted] 08 June 2015 10:08:24AM 1 point [-]

Thank you. (Ambrosia artemisiifolia is a carantine plant species, I used it as an example because it's notorious for having allergenic pollen, contributing to desertification - its roots can reach about 4m down, maybe more - and is rather easy to recognize, but people just don't care to eradicate it or at least cut off the inflorescences. And yes, in many places its spread is already unstoppable. Some other plants of the same genus are carantine weeds, too.)

I referred rather more to pathogens that could arise and benefit from totally manmade environments. (I remember from somewhere that in supermarkets all over the world, the same six species of Drosophila occur; I think that transportation and storage networks can be modeled as ecosystems, especially if more and more stuff gets produced.)

Comment author: turchin 08 June 2015 05:39:55PM 1 point [-]

Yes, in fact fungi rusts could eliminate entire species, as has happened with previous variant of banana and now with amphibious. And here rises the question: could some kind of fungi be dangerous to human existence?

Comment author: [deleted] 08 June 2015 06:05:55PM 1 point [-]

I really cannot tell. The Irish Famine comes to mind, but surely such things are in the past?.. It's just not a question that you should ask a non-expert if you, because the trivial answer is of course 'yes', but enfolding it takes expertise.

Comment author: turchin 08 June 2015 07:49:52PM 0 points [-]

I meant the fungi which kill humans...