by Elixxir July 27, 2020
Ray Kurzweil, the Transhumanist soothsayer and the prophet of “Singularity”, does not fret about little things like Global Warming and Climate Change.
In 2008, Kurzweil prophesied that solar energy will provide for all of the world’s mortals’ energy needs in 20 years. By 2028.
In 2016, Kurzweil repeated his prophecy. He declared that solar will dominate energy in 12 years. So Kurzweil believes solar energy is on track to replace fossil fuel by 2028.
A technopian, a believer in technological utopia, Ray Kurzweil believes that new technology in the form of solar energy will come to humanity’s rescue just in the nick of time.
But this easy and quick fix, this deux ex machina, isn’t going to happen, not in time anyway.
Why Kurzweil’s Prophecy Won’t Happen
But we must credit Kurzweil with one thing: he knows his trade, that of the seer. He gets it that the more audacious the prophecy, the more likely you get media buzz. It’s good copy. So when Kurzweil revisited his 2008 prophecy in 2016, it got him into Fortune magazine, which described it as a “bold” prediction. Since in 2016, solar was still only 2% of the energy market mix.
Actually, Kurzweil’s 2016 update of his 2008 prophecy was less expansive than his 2008 prophecy which predicted that solar energy will provide for all of the world’s energy needs in a mere two decades. By 2028.
In 2016, with the deadline getting nearer, Kurzweil considerably restricts his prophecy to give himself some wiggle room: instead of solar energy providing for all the world’s energy by 2028, it will merely dominate the energy market by 2028.
Kurzweil Did Not Foresee Trump
But it still won’t happen. And a big reason is Donald Trump. Which Ray Kurzweil’s crystal ball somehow did not see coming.
Trump’s 2016 seizure of the White House makes the triumph of solar energy over fossil fuel by 2028 extremely unlikely.
Aside from withdrawing the U.S. from The Paris Accord, an unforgivable crime against humanity, Trump has supported the return of Big Oil (a powerful constituency in the Republican Party), the revival of dirty coal, the digging up and use of tar sands, and the rescinding and overturning of all of Obama’s executive decrees to attempt to meet the U.S. promises in The Paris Accord.
The only hope for solar energy? If the price for solar energy were to plunge so much that small and big businesses and the whole wide world would opt for it.
This was and is Kurzweil’s bet. But it won’t happen. Definitely not by 2028. Kurzweil’s pipe dream won’t come true.
Kurzweil’s Crystal Ball Didn’t See Trade War Against China
The prices were actually falling. Thanks to China and Taiwan.
China and Taiwan’s great increase in solar photovoltaic production was a major factor in the fast decline of solar panel prices which spurred solar installations in the U.S. during the early years of the last decade.
Beaten at the game by Chinese and Taiwan manufacturers, American solar manufacturers lobbied the U.S. Department of Commerce to accuse China and Taiwan of the cardinal trade crime of “dumping.” In other words, China and Taiwan were allegedly selling solar panels for less than their manufacturing costs in order to drive U.S. manufacturers out of business.
So the U.S. Commerce Department imposed punitive tariffs on those solar panels from China and Taiwan. Sounds familiar? Well, at least the China part. But this was under the Obama regime, a Democratic administration.
The WTO (World Trade Organization), set up and dominated by the US until recently, took up this case. The WTO ruled that the U.S. violated global trade rules by imposing punitive import duties on Chinese products including solar panels. The WTO ruled that the imposed punitive duties on Chinese imports were “unjustifiable.” Just as unjustifiable as Trump’s punitive tariffs on Chinese goods.
Listening to the pollyanna prophecies of “Transhumanist” soothsayers like Ray Kurzweil, you’d think that we’re divinely protected from problems such as global heating and climate crisis. You’d think we’re 100% assured of defeating them.
No worries, be happy! The omnipotent god of technology will descend in a golden chariot and snatch us from the jaws of global heating and climate crisis just in time. Just as in ancient Greek plays.
Well, how technopian, how wishful-thinking, and how naive!
The Problem with Being Technopian
This is the problem with the overriding faith in technology of someone like Kurzweil and the Transhumanists. It does not factor in things like Republican Presidents from Bush Junior to Donald Trump insisting on denying global warming and climate change, on deriding it as a hoax, against all scientific evidence and advice, on criminally aiding and abetting Big Oil in its attempt to cling on to the fossil-fuel economy and derail any greener alternatives for as long as possible.
This is not to say we’re anti-technology. We’re ImmorTalists after all. We’re for life-enhancing life-saving technology.
But unlike Ray Kurzweil, our immortalism is sober with eyes wide open. It doesn’t believe in the fantasy that technology will always and inevitably provide the solution to a civilization-and-species-threatening problem like global heating and climate crisis. And that our technological savior will always arrive just in time to save us.
Elixxir is the Immortalist philosopher and author of Cure Disease, Old Age & Death: The ImmorTalist Manifesto. All Rights Reserved.
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