Hi Aayush, thank you for your question and apologies for the delayed reply!
I think "solving" is relative here(: The short answer to your question is that I believe the various processes will become more efficient, but there are physical limits we need to bear in mind, and we shouldn't delude ourselves as to the timelines associated with some of these improvements. As an example: even if we make drastic improvements in the production efficiency of hydrogen (or the processes that use it), electrolysis inherently involves electricity, so using carbon-neutral electricity directly will always be more efficient than converting it to hydrogen first. We should try to capitalize on this efficiency advantage wherever possible. For me personally, an important takeaway from this research is that there really isn't a one-size fits all solution here; we need to find ways for various different technologies to work together effectively to tackle this problem in the short term, while still pushing for the R&D that will address the challenges you mentioned and push those technologies into new sectors.
I hope that was helpful!
Hi Frank, my pleasure! This is really interesting, I actually didn't know about Thorium reactors - thank you for pointing that out(: Having just read the Wikipedia page it appears that Thorium offers some promising advantages. In hindsight I definitely would've touched on this in the paper. I think regardless, getting to net-zero in the next several decades will require all the technologies and innovation we can muster, so this definitely sounds like something we should be investigating and dedicating resources to. As far as an opinion on the development timeline: hard to say without further research I think. All new tech investments are obviously accompanied by a certain level of risk; I would be hesitant to attempt to replace one nuclear source with another for the same reason I wouldn't replace nuclear with renewables, but as far as the potential to replace CO2-based energy sources in new regions or in places where the political situation favors the advantages of Thorium, it sounds like there's a lot of promise here!
I see this is a very promising initiative. I think the increased fragmentation of our society - stemming in large part from the silo effects of our respective social media timelines and subsequent loss of a shared truth - poses one of the most direct threats in recent history to both American democracy, as well as liberal ideals the world over.
If you believe that liberal democracy is the form of government most conducive to economic growth and the free exchange of ideas (as seems to be the case for many https://80000hours.org/problem-profiles/#democracy), then it must follow that unstable democracy dramatically lowers the threshold for an array of other existential risks to occur. It's hard for me to imagine that threats associated with our handling of Biorisks (see exhibit A), totalitarianism, climate change, or great power war for instance, would not increase in lockstep with the crumbling of democratic institutions and the trust we place in them.
Jack Goldstone's point about a universal income tied to social service struck a cord with me as well - while I see great potential in an initiative such as this one to spur economic growth and innovation, what strikes me as the most promising aspect, is for the two sides to see each other again, and lower the temperature.
In a world of sensationalist headlines and fake news it is far too easy for us to "unfollow", "unlike" or "unfriend" the other side. We cannot hope to reduce the risk to our democratic institutions if we don't create more public forums through which we can exchange ideas and see each other as fellow citizens again.
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