New Teams to Help Humanity

We aim to serve humanity as a whole, helping current and future generations all over the planet.

Our strategy, described on our Mission page, will help society find better ways of addressing many of the challenges of the Anthropocene, yet the very novelty of our methods requires that we have a well-defined test case before expanding to address the wider set of challenges.

For this first test case, we are developing an integrated set of plans for climate engineering, using the approach described in our first white paper, “‘Special Focus Teams’ to Help Solve the Problems of the Anthropocene”. The team’s (initial, tentative) plans help highlight key areas of risk and uncertainty—areas that no one else seems to be studying in sufficient detail. Though not emphasized in the first white paper, we are setting up collaborations with other groups to try addressing these challenges, so that subsequent versions of the plan can account for these previously overlooked risks.

Through this cyclic process of collaborations (to explore potential problems) and of subsequent revisions to the overall plan, we’ll be able to analyze the risks and benefits of climate engineering in a way that will help society make a careful go/no go decision. More generally: We offer ways to dramatically improve the decision/action cycle when dealing with global challenges of the Anthropocene, allowing more careful thought and more rapid, effective action and improving the prospects for a flourishing human future.

Climate Engineering: A Case Study

We have launched our first large-scale project that uses our new cognitive tools and our special focus teams,” applying them to the critical, but often underappreciated issue of climate engineering. As the world struggles to deal with climate change, scientists and policymakers are increasingly considering whether climate engineering (climate intervention) could be used to cool the earth if global warming starts to spiral out of control.

Several studies suggest that spraying aerosols in the upper atmosphere could provide a relatively rapid, relatively inexpensive way of cooling the earth—thus buying time while searching for a better, long-term solution to the problem of rising carbon dioxide levels. However, climate engineering raises myriad scientific and sociopolitical challenges, and these require a more detailed analysis. Yet as the earth continues to warm, society may need to make a go/no go decision in the next 10 years.

At this stage, there are many careful studies of various aspects of climate engineering—looking at concerns about the science, the technology, and the challenges of governance. Yet no one seems to have set out a plan in sufficient detail so as to help us see all the operational challenges (as, for example, with cybersecurity and with the full burden of the damage claims and lawsuits the program is likely to face).

We work to fill this gap. Employing our new methods for thought and our new special focus teams, we have identified crucial, but underappreciated, risks to the long-term stability of a climate engineering program. We are now collaborating with colleagues in the scientific and policy communities to try to address these risks—helping to ensure that society can weigh the full set of risks and benefits when its time to decide what to do.

Follow our blog to keep up with our progress on this project.

Next Steps

Given our new perspective—focusing on the crisis of complexity as we work to address the challenges of the Anthropocene—we are expanding our work at Humanity 2050 in several different directions:

New Tools for Thought: After resigning a tenured faculty position at MIT in 2001, Carl Pabo spent years focusing on the development of new theories of thought. Although this work is still being revised for publication, it provides a vitally important frame that will be used when training new members of the special focus teams.

Special Focus Teams for Other Problems: Although we have started with climate engineering as a test case, we believe that special focus teams can help with many other challenges of the Anthropocene. Our next projects at Humanity 2050 will look at the full range of approaches that might be used to address problems of climate change, and we look forward to sharing our experience and to working with other groups addressing these critical challenges of the modern world.

Artificial Intelligence: Given the “wicked complexity” of these challenges, there is a chance that developments in artificial intelligence will eventually help computers search for more effective solutions to the challenges of the Anthropocene. Although meaningful contributions from AI may still be five to ten years away, we are starting to explore prospects for this approach.

Other Ways to Tackle Complexity: We believe that special focus teams can play a critical role over the next few decades, but further steps will be needed to help address the full crisis of complexity now facing modern civilization. We hope that Humanity 2050 can—as the one global organization that focuses on the connection between challenges of complexity and challenges of the Anthropocene—provide a forum for ongoing discussion about other ways to try cutting through this Gordian knot of complexity and helping to ensure prospects for a thriving human future.