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Denkenberger comments on Should we be spending no less on alternate foods than AI now? - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: DCM 08 November 2017 06:29:04PM *  1 point [-]

Could you speak a little to the adversarial nature of nuclear war adaptation? (Apologies if it’s already discussed and I missed it, I’m quite bad at tracking the maths often used in the EA community.)

As far as I know, a full-scale nuclear exchange is still understood strategically as mutually assured destruction. If agricultural adaptation becomes a confounding factor for MAD, then would this not just increase pressure to increase stockpile sizes/yields, or encourage the use of deadlier alternatives (e.g. cobalt-60 weapons, or the effective equivalent thereof), until MAD is achieved again? It strikes me as a situation somewhat analogous to ICBM shields - in a vacuum it’s a countermeasure to the status quo, but there’s an obvious counter-countermeasure available.

Comment author: Denkenberger 18 November 2017 02:48:10AM 0 points [-]

I didn't mention this issue in this point, but here is an excerpt from a paper:

"Moral hazard in this context refers to the possibility that awareness of a food backup plan will result in less effort to prevent these catastrophes. Nuclear winter is the catastrophe over which humanity has the most technical control and poses the most serious threat. Mikhail Gorbachev explicitly stated that a motivating factor for reducing the nuclear arsenal of the USSR was the studies predicting nuclear winter and therefore destruction outside of the target countries [48]. However, despite the knowledge of the possibility of nuclear winter, the nuclear arsenals remain large enough to potentially cause nuclear winter. Similarly, though there is a clear and present threat of anthropogenic abrupt climate change, little has been done to effectively prevent global climate change [49]. Furthermore, the backup plan presented here could reduce the damages associated catastrophes over which humanity currently has no or very little control (e.g. supervolcanic eruptions). The only cases for which moral hazard appears to be important are the super organisms. Therefore, despite the relatively small moral hazard dilemma, we believe humanity would be much better off with a viable back up plan."

We are addressing more the TAD (total assured destruction) in the quote above. Your question was on the mutual assured destruction, or basically deterrence. In this case, I would argue that despite food backup plans, being able to kill half of your enemies' population is sufficient deterrence (and indeed just having 100 nukes and being able to kill as many people as died in WWII would be enough deterrence in my opinion, and far less nuclear winter risk). ICBM shields have the potential to eliminate deterrence and could make a first strike attractive, so they are more problematic.