… take the only tree that’s left/ stuff it up the hole in your culture … or, my robot left home to solve the world’s problems

… in January 2020 Greta Thunberg went as far as to specify just eight years [to avert a global castrophe].

Just a few months later, the president of the UN’s General Assembly gave us 11 years to avert a complete social collapse whereupon the planet will be simultaneously burning (unquenchable summer-long fires) and inundated with water (via a rapid sea-level rise). But, nihil novi sub sole: in 1989, another high UN official said that “governments have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effect before it goes beyond human control,” which means that by now we must be quite beyond the beyond …

Such predictably repetitive prophecies (however well-meant and however passionately presented) do not offer any practical advice about the deployment of the best possible technical solutions, about the most effective ways of legally binding global cooperation, or about tackling the difficult challenge of convincing populations of the need for significant expenditures [the] benefits [of which] will not be seen for decades to come. …

Why should we fear anything–be it environmental, social, or economic threats–when by 2045, or perhaps even by 2030, our understanding (or rather the intelligence unleashed by the machines we will have created) will know no bounds and hence any problem will become immeasurably less than trivial? Compared to this promise, any other recent specific and intemperate claim–from salvation through nanotechnology to fashioning new synthetic forms of life–appears trite. What will happen? An imminent near-infernal perdition, or speed-of-light godlike impotence?

Based on the revealed delusions of past prophecies, neither. We do not have a civilization envisioned in the early 1970–one of worsening planetary hunger or one energized by cost-free nuclear fission–and a generation from now we will not be either at the end of our evolutionary path or have a civilization transformed by Singularity.

–Vaclav Smil, How the World Really Works: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Past, Present and Future, 2022, pp. 212-213