I am less sanguine about the idea that this will be enough to solve the really big issues (e.g., climate change), because these are “tragedy of the commons”-type problems.
Doubt is inevitable. But it is arguably a result of our conditioning — particularly in areas like social sciences. Even if a person has not studied these things, the inherent determinism in the very idea of science bends the mind towards the idea that society is something other than we the people that make it up. The mindset is based on society as being like some sort of chemical compound that can be analysed and understood as having a knowable and predictable behaviour. Having embraced that, it is easy to be an armchair expert (no personal attack intended) who fails to realise that he, including his mind and his view of the world, is actually an active ingredient within that (society) which he imagines he examines objectively. In short, your very ideas — the ones you hold and the ones you drop — have a direct impact on the future you try to predict. Multiply that principle up and you can realise that the challenge is actually to change both what and how we all think about the world. If you believe humans have any form of freewill then social science is an inherently flawed approach to understanding society.
I should have pointed out that I was including humans as being seriously impacted if not actually made extinct within the coming sixth mass extinction event. Obviously no one knows the future for sure, but we are so dependent on nature that it seems bizarre that we could do so much biological and environmental damage without being casualties ourselves. Deaths from cancers and other human-provoked conditions are already on the rise. Once food chains begin to suffer, the problems will begin to compound in a domino effect. Future wars are predicted to be over water — a substance that falls from the sky. But we have so screwed things up that we are going to be killing one another over water… unless we can change our ways.
I do not think we are making a conscious trade-off about our dismal future as you suggest. I think we are living in denial — a conviction that the scientists will magically fix matters, combined with our lifestyles of short-term gratification and distraction in which we just blank the awkward truth.
The extinctions in the ocean are occurring because fossil fuels are being used for industrialization, which (most would say) improves human quality of life.
Yes, but or how long? In any case, people are indoctrinated into materialist lifestyles and so just reactively parrot the idea that they are better. If people really want all their material possessions and technology, why do we need to have adverts fired at our senses 24/7?
Whether these are overall good tradeoffs or not is beyond my pay grade.
Please do not say that. We have a culture of specialisms in which people are conditioned to do what you are doing there — back down and defer to the experts. But experts only have 24 hours in their days too. The fact that they dedicate many of those hours to a narrow band of all possible human knowledge makes them no better placed to pass balanced judgements than the generalist who spreads his attentions far and wide. Expertise is a much overrated phenomenon — a deliberate narrowing of one’s field of vision. You are as qualified to comment as anyone.