My name is Arturo Macias. I am a 45 years old economist working at Banco de España, the Spanish Central Bank. I have recently finished my Ph.D (see my ORCID account for my published papers: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1623-0957) and consequently I have recovered a substantial amount of free time.
While I have a great deal of simpathy to the whole Rationalist, Progress and Effective Altruism movements my main interest is related to intitutional desing and economic estabilization. In my view among the main existential risk bottlenecks for this Dangerous Century, a critical one is institutional stagnation. E.O Wilson famously said: "The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology". Regarding the Paleolithic emotions, I can not advance any solution (this is for geneticists), and regarding the godlike tecnologhy, after Aug 6th 1945 nobody can.
Regarding the medieval institutions I think I can make some modest contributions and thats is why I am here.
In a previous post I commented that before we deal with spaceships, we need a complete circular and almost self replicating human economy:
This is the hardest problem
It is obviously a critical consideration; beyond that, I would say that the best countries in the world are those with a long history of descentralization and a relatively less hierarchical urban structure: Switzerland, Germany and the United States. It makes life cheaper, allows people to live in bigger houses, the enviorment is better... Urbanization was a necessary evil and a necessary risk. Fortunately, less neccesary now.
Because cities are sitting ducks for nuclear weapons. We don't know if nuclear winter is real, but in case it were not, nuclear war would be survivable if human population and industry were spread.
There are obvious avenues for progress in our society: more income security, less working hours, ideally some degree of population de-concentration. Addionally, relatively poor countries still have a large room for economic improvement, and political and military risks are un un-acceptably large.
On the other hand, your criticism of the "rockets and flying cars" progress ideal looks spot on to me.
Perhaps you would find this post interesting too:
Also posted in Effective Altruism Forum: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/QianitTHjKBSH2sXC/space-colonization-and-the-closed-material-economy
If fussion propulsion is possible, probably fussion would be available for energy production on Earth, and that would imply "energy too cheap to measure". The kind of economy under that regime would extremely different from ours. Under that conditions, for example, materials would be extremely easy to obtain from Earth (we could profitably mine minerals with far lower ore grades than we can now).
I think that if we ever reach the "energy too cheap to measure" economic regime, for example, extiction risk would be far lower than now. But we all know that Brazil is the country of the future, and allways will be, and that nuclear fussion will allways be 30 years in the future either... I hope I am wrong in both :-)