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Tarmo Soomere: Today's truth will be disproved by tomorrow

Tarmo Soomere.
Tarmo Soomere. Source: ERR

President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Tarmo Soomere said on the "Hommik Anuga" talk show that people will need to learn to live in a world where information develops and is discarded at breakneck speed.

Education

"Our education has lost a little ground in PISA testing, we've dropped one or two places, which makes for a negligible change statistically. Estonian research started in another age 30 years ago. Today, standardized data puts us in fourth place in the world in terms of the influence of our research. Our education is the foundation," Soomere said.

The academician is not worried about artificial intelligence as such. "If so far we managed to have machines stand in for our hands and send our eyes to far-away orbits, we can now replace a part of our cognitive processes. It's neither good nor bad by and in itself. It is made good or bad by the people wielding the technology," he remarked.

Soomere also believes that how to recognize trustworthy information online should be taught starting in kindergarten. "If a generation ago, it was enough to teach kids Newton's laws – that falling off a table hurts, now we need to explain the problems that a misused artificial brain can cause."

"Fact-checking is no longer relevant. What matters is being able to interpret things the right way. Our know-how is expanding so rapidly. I would give the example of the coronavirus pandemic. What was fact one day was replaced with more advantage knowledge a week later. We need to learn to live with rapid turnover of information. It is a new formation in the history of human thought," Soomere explained.

Climate crisis

"The Earth is protected from cooling by a coat of greenhouse gases. Without them, the average temperature would be -18 degrees. But it is 15 degrees for a difference of 33 degrees. This puts us close to the normal body temperature of humans, which is 36.6 degrees. The Earth's average temperature has grown by rouhgly 1.4 degrees. If we add 1.4 to 36.6 we get a fever of 38 degrees. A person no longer feels well once that happens. The average temperature of the Earth rising also affects plenty of other species. Some will go extinct, while others will blossom," Soomere said.

He said that the northern hemisphere will become increasingly green. "We will have birch woods where a vast tundra used to lie a hundred years from now. But tropical temperatures will soar to levels where humans cannot survive without aids and appliances. The habitable zone will move north from the cradle of civilization. Nature and the planet will be fine, it's just that humans will be yanked out of our comfort zone."

Jüri Liiv claims in his "Suur rohepesu käsiraamat" (The Great Manual of Greenwashing) that the current human civilization will fall 100 years from now. Soomere believes 100 years to be a little optimistic. "We will come to big problems sooner than a hundred years. Climate change is not happening evenly in different parts of the globe. Some regions are cooling, while the rest of the globe has been heating up all the faster," the scientist pointed out.

"Climate has been seen as a set of conditions suitable for human life. This is an extremely anthropocentric view. More than a few species are having a blast of a time. That great change reduces biodiversity is a part of the nature of things. Species that are on the fringes of their environment will die out. One more stressor and they're pushed aside," Soomere said.

He gave the example of people living on the edges of the Sahara. "They will not stay where they are waiting for death. They will start looking for a place where they could live. The question of how to manage global migration is a global problem. There is virtually no chance that global migration won't happen. It is a new world we will need to learn to live in and handle."

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Editor: Rasmus Kuningas, Marcus Turovski

Source: "Hommik Anuga"

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