Describing Kim Stanley Robinson with a single label is easy and unfair. He is one of the most prolific science fiction writers, essayists and one of the most renowned activists against climate change. Born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1952, he began publishing novels in 1984. His work has been described as “humanistic science fiction,” according to the unofficial page. KimStanleyRobinson.info.
He is the creator of The Ministry of the Future, fruit of his imagination and above all of his long and exhausting investigation into the progress of our planet and the evolution of climate change, which makes his latest story a reliable documentary and a cry of alarm, because “we can still dodge a mass extinction event.
How did you spend these months of pandemic?
I am good. I spent the months of the pandemic at home with my family, writing and gardening.
What lessons or experiences did you learn from covid-19?
I found that I do not really like business travel and would do much less. The house is good.
Do you think they are the same as those obtained by the majority of people in our countries? And by our political and business leaders?
I do not know. There is no way to know how others have been affected. I think we have learned that we are vulnerable to disease and that we are part of a biosphere that we must take care of, if it is going to take care of us. The future will be full of surprises, and we must stand in solidarity with each other and work hard to reduce our impact on the biosphere, including the burning of coal, but also everything else.
Do you maintain your utopia? Will the future be better than these present, marked by climate change and imbalances?
This is an open question, it depends on what we are doing now. Utopia or dystopia has never been established beforehand, although it is true that we are on the verge of starting with negative climate effects from which we will not be able to recover, and extinctions are forever. It is therefore a time of great danger.
What do you think are the main problems facing humanity today?
Life in the nation-state system and in capitalism, both poorly designed to deal with the origin of the biosphere. Especially capitalism, this is the main problem we face today, the system by which we govern ourselves is bad.
Are we in time to fix ourselves?
Yes, we can still evade a mass extinction event. But the time is short. The risk will also never go away.
What tasks must we take to achieve a sustainable future, in which inequalities and imbalances are not the general norm in global society?
We must force our political representatives to legislate for the health of the biosphere and human justice. We have all the plans and technologies, but to finance them and make them happen is going to be difficult.
To what extent does our memory condition the future and therefore limit ourselves when it comes to proposing a model of coexistence other than the one we know?
We must not frame it as radically different, but we must use the tools we now have at our disposal to change rapidly.
Do you trust people to implement the change agenda?
Yes, but there is work to be done to gather active political majorities. Support will not be unanimous; It will not be humans as a species, but functional political majorities overcoming fierce opposition to doing the right thing.
What is your opinion on the 2030 agenda and the United Nations’ goals for sustainable development?
I like them, but they also show what we can do if we are serious and not let the market decide where we should spend our time and effort. In other words, the SDGs were achieved – in part – out of charity, not because of a well-functioning capitalism. That they have been achieved shows that if we take the goals seriously and if governments seize finances to direct money to good projects – such as decarbonisation to ward off mass extinction – we can do good things.
Is it valid for an increasingly digital society?
Yes, we are not that digital.
Machines can operate according to algorithms based on universal consensus, such as Human Rights or the Sustainable Development Goals. Would it be easier for the machines to govern us with these principles?
We make and program the machines, so we are still the one who decides. Writing better algorithms and better laws is a big part of the work we need to do. Laws and judges are very important and powerful in the rule of law. The laws are algorithms by which we are controlled and the courts decide whether the laws are conflicting or inadequate.
Why do you think the debate over the ethics of artificial intelligence is so frequent, but we do not consider the ethics of aviation or the car or of so many other activities related to the constant consumption of the earth’s resources?
Artificial intelligence is a phrase we use to indicate science itself. We as individuals acknowledge that together we do greater things than any person can: it is AI. We therefore debate its ethics because we feel the power of science. That question does not arise when you think of cars or jets.
Everything seems to indicate that robotization and automation are leading us to a world without jobs.
Not at all. Why do you think that? Robots and automation can only perform very specific robot tasks, nothing more. Humans do all the real work of building these robots, maintaining them, and so on. Humans are the best robots of all and there is more work to be done to save and maintain the biosphere than there are humans to do. Actually, it is the reverse problem because the population will decrease and we will reach full employment while trying to fill all the jobs that need to be done.
Do you think that people are willing to live without work being the only thing that gives meaning to our lives?
This is not a problem.
Do we need a Ministry of the Future?
Can be. This is a jurisdictional issue, because if there were a ministry for the future, its decisions would prevail over all other ministries. It can be a disaster, in terms of where to place responsibility and power. But if every department has an internalized ministry for the future, that might be fine.
a supranational organization that indicates the future of mankind in a balanced and fair way? Do you consider it viable?
Can be. We must hope that the Paris Agreement will change that.
Dependent, for example, on the UN?
Possibly the UN could be the platform for stronger treaties. The great powers like the United States, China, Russia … are determined to dominate the future of the planet with AI and also other planets like Mars. Even the transhumanists, or part of them, dream of conquering other planets. Do not believe all the science fiction stories out there. Each project must be assessed separately.
Gerd Leonhard spoke to us in Telos of a Global Ethics Council that will set the priorities for the future to avoid an environmental, social and humanitarian dystopia. Do you share global initiatives of this type?
It will be better if he G20 agree on common policies and apply sanctions for non-compliance.
what’s worse the Anthropocene or the Capitaloseen?
The Capitaloseen it is by definition bad, because capitalism is a power relationship of the few over the many. The Anthropocene it’s here, but it can be made good or bad. We are now very clear in both. The project is to end Capitaloseen and make a good Anthropocene.
Can you briefly describe what the immediate future will be like?
In 2008, the magazine Time declared himself an “environmental hero” for his “optimistic vision of the future”. Do you still recognize yourself in that award? In that description?
I’m sure it’s good. I do not think it’s important, it was just a magazine article Time try to draw attention to people who do good work. Good for that moment.
“I do not like to think that I have given up, but rather that I am realistic. We must live, we must leave our children a world where there are still animals and give them the opportunity to live. It does not require too much. ”
The Ministry of the Future, P. 257.