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Eschatologist #28: If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear
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Have you considered religion? No? Well you should. But I understand if you’re hesitant. There’s a lot of that going around. Or perhaps you are already religious, but you've heard that the Lord helps those who help themselves.
Fair enough. Let’s tackle preparing for the end of the world. First it’s necessary to define the term. Sure, some people are worried about the literal extinction of the human race or a catastrophe so bad that the living will envy the dead. But most people’s worries are more immediate: they just don’t want horrible things happening to them or their loved ones.
For the vast majority of people — including you — this is wise. Yes, great and terrible apocalypses are possible and we shouldn’t ignore them. But most of your time and attention should be focused on those around you, your community. To begin with, you should make sure you have a community in the first place. Outside of the most extreme catastrophes this will be very important.
Beyond that, you should prepare yourself for the common stuff. Are you saving money? What does your job look like? Is it precarious? Do you have a plan if you're laid off? What natural disasters might happen in your area? Do you have a 72-hour kit? I understand that all these questions are just boring common sense. But, I am surprised by how many people will spend hours talking about a possible AI apocalypse, but who haven’t spent 30 minutes deeply considering the consequences of losing their job.
Speaking of the AI apocalypse, another common failure mode I see is for people to get freaked out, to start panicking. They end up with an unhealthy degree of fatalism. If you fall into that category, perhaps this observation from Ray Dalio about historical calamities will help:
What are these destruction/reconstruction periods [Great Depression, world wars, Spanish Flu] like for the people who experience them? Since you haven’t been through one of these and the stories about them are very scary, the prospect of being in one is very scary to most people. It is true that these destruction/reconstruction periods have produced tremendous human suffering both financially and, more importantly, in lost or damaged human lives. Like the coronavirus experience, what each of these destruction/reconstruction periods has meant and will mean for each person depends on each person’s own experiences, with the broader deep destruction periods damaging the most people. While the consequences are worse for some people, virtually no one escapes the damage. Still, history has shown us that typically the majority of people stay employed in the depressions, are unharmed in the shooting wars, and survive the natural disasters.
That last bit is worth emphasizing: “the majority of people stay employed in the depressions, are unharmed in the shooting wars, and survive the natural disasters.” This has been true and I believe it will continue to be true. The majority of people will stay employed despite AI automation. They will survive even nuclear armageddon. And yes they will also successfully weather global climate change.
This does not mean that any of these events will be pleasant, and you might end up in the unlucky minority of those whose lives are destroyed. But they are all things that can be mitigated by being prepared. Also, if you’re in a strong community it’s unlikely that all of you will be in the unlikely minority, and those that aren’t can help those that are.
Some of you may be saying, but what about the singularity? What about truly unprecedented black swans? Yes, even if you’re perfectly prepared, there are some catastrophes you can do nothing about. I don’t think they’re going to happen soon, but the probability of them happening eventually is much higher than I would like. And it’s not just you, it’s possible no one can do anything about them. Not when they’re happening, and — even if they had perfect foresight — not now either. Should this be the case, is there then no hope?
Well… Have you considered religion?
I guess what I’m saying is that you should focus on things you can control. Which is more than you realize. For example you have control over how you spend your money. You can spend it wisely or foolishly. I leave it as an exercise to the reader, what category donating to this blog falls into.