We need to open source intentional geo-engineering

I am not calling for geoengineering as the solution to global warming. We know nowhere near enough to make (re)terraforming a plausible or safe option. Our best pathway to avoiding climate disaster remains the rapid reduction and elimination of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. But I am calling for us to learn more about geotechnologies. Like it or not, we’ve entered the era of intentional geoengineering.

On February 9, 2007, Virgin Corporation honcho Richard Branson announced that he would give $25 million to the winner of the “Virgin Earth Challenge”, which is a call to geo-engineering, re-design natural processes and the planet, surely a very dangerous endeavour.

James Cascio has issued a passionate warning against such ill thought-true transformative technologies and says that open sourcing such information is the only way forward.

James Cascio:

If we’re already looking at geoengineering, and may potentially need to consider it as a necessary path to survival, how can we do it in a way that has the best chance to avoid making matters worse?

I’ve already given away the answer in the title: open up the process.

I’ve long argued that openness is the best way to ensure the safe development and deployment of transformative technologies like molecular nanotechnology, general machine intelligence, and radical human bioenhancements. Geoengineering technologies should be added to this list. The reasons are clear: the more people who can examine and evaluate the geotechnological proposals, the greater the likelihood of finding subtle flaws or dangers, and the greater the pool of knowledge that can offer solutions.”

This call is a re-iteration of an earlier call:

Opening the books on emerging technologies, making the information about how they work widely available and easily accessible, in turn creates the possibility of a global defense against accidents or the inevitable depredations of a few. Openness speaks to our long traditions of democracy, free expression, and the scientific method, even as it harnesses one of the newest and best forces in our culture: the power of networks and the distributed-collaboration tools they evolve.

Broad access to… [transformative] tools and knowledge would help millions of people examine and analyze emerging information, nano- and biotechnologies [and geotechnologies], looking for errors and flaws that could lead to dangerous or unintended results. This concept has precedent: it already works in the world of software, with the “free software” or “open source” movement. A multitude of developers, each interested in making sure the software is as reliable and secure as possible, do a demonstrably better job at making hard-to-attack software than an office park’s worth of programmers whose main concerns are market share, liability, and maintaining trade secrets.

[…]The more people participate, even in small ways, the better we get at building up our knowledge and defenses. And this openness has another, not insubstantial, benefit: transparency. It is far more difficult to obscure the implications of new technologies (or, conversely, to oversell their possibilities) when people around the world can read the plans.”

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