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« Mommy, where do jobs come from? | Main | The Goal Episode III: Fulfilling the Higher Needs »

September 10, 2011


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Phil Henshaw

My comment on Episode I applies. ...that we also need to stop steering our investment choices with the finance system designed as a casino which loses multiplying amounts of money on every bet.

George Mobus


See my response to your comment in the "How might humanity survive..." thread.



It seems to me that the only place with relatively high chaNCES for survival with security is the US: a place that is rather isolated from an influx of invaders\refugees (at least compared to Eurasia),a place with a rather homogenous culture spread over large areas with favorable climatic conditions, with almost no history of ethnic or religious strife, and has very low population density - enabling such a thing as "isolated communities" that are "far from the hoards".

In less favorable regions (like the Middle East), it seems more likely that there will be some strange combination of warfare and interdependent cooperation between settled agricultural communities and communities (or tribes) of nomadic herders, traders and bandits.

It seems that currently, in most countries, there is no hope of "quietly disappearing" in an unnoticed sapient village and waiting for the storm to pass. Most villages are dependent on some form of centralized modern military defense for security.

L Pilolla

George I wanted to reply to your statements re: Zocor/cholesterol. Please don't fall victim to that trap. NO fat is the worst thing to try - guaranteed to make all numbers worse! Please see:

David Ando

Regarding Zocor, it won't be missed in the future. The most effective ways of maintaining good cholesterol numbers is to get lots of sun exposure during midday, eat a diet with roughly equal Omega3 to Omega6 fats, and lower ones carbohydrate intake, especially from wheat, to a level similar to that in our environment of evolutionary adaptedness. Cardiologist William Davis goes over the details at his blog:


George writes, "Our moral sentiment of outrage for members of society who violate our rules of behavior, and the desire to punish them, derives from the same basic brain mechanisms as our sentiments to be upright (i.e., moral) citizens. We need this sentiment so that when cheaters do emerge from the background of mostly cooperators we can detect and delete them. My conjecture is that if the community starts with higher sapient beings in the first place, the frequency of cheater emergence should drop considerably (though obviously as with all genetically influenced traits, some regressions will doubtless take place)."

William Catton discusses human deception in "Bottleneck" (p. 37):

"1. A given organism of a particular species has an interest in influencing other organisms' definitions of situations insofar as the given organism depends for survival or goal-attainment on the actions of other organisms.

2. Deception consists of perpetrating a misleading definition of a situation. Signals that deceive may be elements of behavior, but they my also be elements of an organism's appearance to another organism, the one that is deceived thereby.

3. Deceptive traits or practices result from evolution, or learning, in the on-going processes of interaction among interdependent organisms.

4. Instead of being content merely to deplore deception because we moralistically suppose that honesty is always better than dishonesty, we should recognize that dishonesty will tend to occur when it appears to contribute more effectively to survival or propagation than would a non-deceptive alternative.

5. If modern division of labor enhances interdependence among a human society's members, it thereby increases both the opportunities for deception and temptations or pressures to deceive.

If we want to ensure honesty will be more prevalent than dishonesty, a taboo against deception, together will sanctions to enforce that taboo, are not likely to suffice. A society in which deception becomes rare must be a society in which circumstances make deception less effective than non-deceptive methods of goal-pursuit. In other words, when accurate definitions of situations are conducive to well-being off all parties to the interaction, traits or practices conducive to misdefinition will by unlikely to occur and will not be reinforced or selected for."

Catton goes on to discuss how the modern division of labor and its emphasis on efficiency, increasing scale, hyper-specialization, and -differentiation led to excessive interdependence on the "unseen web of exchange" of "the market", which encouraged dehumanization of interactions at ever-higher levels of abstraction and monetization of human interactions via "the flow of money". (Everything is for sale, and one must literally buy into the system in order to sell oneself to "the market".)

This, in turn, resulted in a normative system that encouraged anti-social behavior and predator-prey, power-dependence relations.

What Catton describes as "interdependence" of social relations of the competitive predator-prey relations of "the market" is distinct, or so I infer, from George's altruism and cooperation, or what might be referred to as mutualism: a system of social relations in which individuals cooperate as collective owners of their individual production/labor product, and of their personal property; but there would not be what is commonly referred to as "private property", which is often a legal justification (fiction) for a system of parasitism in which concentrated ownership by a few creates artificial scarcity and competition for wages among those who own little than what their labor will fetch from "the market", even if it is insufficient to sustain them.

And our system of parasitic rentier capitalism cannot survive without increasing returns to capital's (increasingly financial capital) share of output at the expense of labor's dwindling share, which is exacerbated by gov't intervention at a larger share (and cost) of output.


Adding to the above comments, FWIW, markets and some variation of "free markets" can exist, and have for millennia, without "private property" as has come to be defined in the West since the Enclosure Movement and yet another dehumanizing increase in the level of abstraction of ownership by way of the state-sponsored construct of the "public domain" (serving private interests with concentrated wealth and power):

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from off the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.


A supranational corporation has a legal right to pollute and harm private and personal property and "the commons" up to the limits stipulated by EPA regulations. To receive remedy for harm done by a large firm, the individual or community must spend large sums of money and wait sometimes a decade or more only to watch as the firm is fined an insignificant about and allowed to continue legally harming.

Yet, were I to change the motor oil on my vehicle and thoughtlessly dump the old oil down the storm drain and be caught doing it, I could be arrested, severely fined, and even be imprisoned and lose my livelihood and personal property were I to refuse to comply with the law.

This is another example of Catton's anti-social predator-prey, power-dependence social relations and the increasingly dehumanizing higher levels of abstraction of "the market" and the effective monetization of every aspect of life.

Predator-prey, power-dependence, monetized social relations exist for virtually every significant social relationship one can think of, including doctor-patient, gov't-citizen, employer-employee, lender and realtor-mortgagee or seller, financial advisor-client, spouse-spouse, parent-child, college-student, and so on.

Overpopulation and the hyper-specialization and -differentiation of the division of labor, and thus social relations, and monetization of every aspect of life leads to alienation, competition/lack of cooperation, anxiety, lack of trust, and loss of empathy/self-identification with others' similar responses to the system's anti-social effects.

Without trust, empathy, ownership of one's labor product, reciprocity, and self-identification with others' needs and desire for mutualism, there can be no durable sense of individual security and well-being.

Perpetual growth of population and renewable and non-renewable resource consumption on a finite planet only worsens the anti-social effects of scarcity (real and artificially constructed), competition, and hyper-specialization of the division of labor. In seeking financial security by attempting to obtain more money and socioeconomic status from competitive exchanges in "the market", we are compelled to become a deceptive predator, which conditions others to do the same when interacting with us and with others.


Climate change getting worse by the year as mankind continues to rely on the driver of it for its existence is a formula for extinction. All the economic, social, and political doings will collapse due to this simple interconnection: fossil fuels both pollute the biosphere and cause the continuing adaptation of the planet to make living conditions more and more impossible for all species.

In short - we're toast 'cause it ain't gonna work much longer.

Lotsa luck everyone.

George Mobus


Well lets hope there is some way to stay isolated from the hoards until they have weakened (remember they have no energy either).

L Pilolla,

Thanks for the link. As of right now I have found the right combination for me and I am a nearly 25 year survivor of heart surgery with all chemistry stable (for the time being).

David A.,

Also, thanks for the link.


A reasonable summary. My thesis is that higher sapient individuals will tend more toward cooperation than competition. And in a social setting with an optimal number of people (tribe sized?) that dynamic would maximize their survival chances. I do see the tribal territory as containing far more commons than "owned" resources. But everyone will need their own bed and fork!!!

Your second comment gets right to the heart of the security needs fulfillment. Trust is paramount and only possible when you know the others around you are trustworthy.


Well I certainly agree that the majority of humans are going to be "toast", as you put it. But I really hope some more fit representatives of our genus make it through the bottleneck. Life, and intelligent life, in particular, is still pretty resilient and adaptable when all the channels are open. For most of humanity (described aptly by Bruce above) those channels have been closed off due to the cultural milieu. Those who naturally are still curious as to why things don't really seem to work the way we are told they do, have a few channels still open! Wish them luck, as opposed to "everyone"!



Question Everything.

OK, ... Are there any people out there, willing to detail, exactly How, and in what Way, we can move into the future, with the Current, Built Infrastructure, ... all Transportation, Buildings, including our Homes, while Eliminating Fossil Fuels ?

George, do you Know ?

George Mobus


You won't like my answer. Others, like Phil (see for example) seem to think there is a way and a how. But I don't think so.

The future I am describing is just that, a description of a future state of human society long after whatever transition occurs. And it has very little to do with moving the current society in that direction. I do not think such a transition could be done in practice (or even in theory), and, in any case, the vast majority of people in this world would not be able to even try due to denial until it really is too late.

What I will be describing is more like what some call a "life boat" approach. We are on the Titanic and there are very few life boats available, so you can imagine what will happen to most of the passengers. It is not pretty. It is not a pleasure to think about. But reality is sometimes not very kind. Think dinosaurs.

But, always seeking a better understanding of reality (since I assume my current view is flawed in some way), others who can lay out the pathway for the less objectionable steering of our society around the iceberg should present their cases. I'm open to learning.



George, perhaps a better analogy than a lifeboat is "Spaceship Earth", implying a finite space within which to attempt to adapt and survive, rather than a large ship on an open body of water from which we must try to escape to somewhere more hospitable, or so we hope.

If we are on an overcrowded spaceship with limited food, water, energy, and waste disposal capacity only sufficient for a small fraction of us and our fellow passengers in the months and years hence, the situation is perhaps more acute and the implications rather more grim than we would like to admit.

If so, is it not more likely that those who would ally together to survive would perceive the urgency and that a large majority of the spaceship's passengers must be eliminated in whichever way is most resource efficient in terms of the remaining provisions of the spaceship?

Would not such a situation encourage the more "sociopathic" or "anti-social" passengers to act preemptively at some point to secure the remaining resources for themselves, and thus act aggressively to prevent others from getting a share sufficient to sustain them?

In the context of the imperative to survive, would not one fully expect this behavior to select?

Would this behavior be considered sapient under the circumstances?

Are we not seeing this behavior manifest among corporate, financial markets, and political leaders?

Are the top 0.1-1% of US, British, Canadian, Aussie, Russian, and Chinese households not positioning to compete to grab virtually all of the remaining wealth?

If sapience when faced with mass-population die-off is sociopathy, then this is what we would expect to select for survival as we enter the bottleneck and the effects of population/ecological overshoot increasingly bear down on us.

If so, I see few desirable prospects for the rest of us on Spaceship Earth?

And might not this response be what evolution would select for the overwhelming majority of us human apes who will not survive the bottleneck?

Might it not be an indication of sapience not to want to face the human culling of the bottleneck?

George Mobus


This view of aggressive/competitive (sociopathic) behavior having a selective advantage is one of those enduring themes in the apocalyptic literature/discussions. The Mad Max world. It is easy to imagine and, on the surface does make sense based on what we've seen in history.

But I don't think it will necessarily or even likely prevail. The reason I use the term lifeboat rather than spaceship earth is that I do think the metaphor apt. The idea is that the Titanic (human civilization) will sink, and probably do so rapidly; rapidly enough so that much of the potential sociopathic consequences will never get a chance to play out. What I am envisioning is a set of lifeboats launched as soon as word of the iceberg reaches those who already had doubts about the unsinkability of the ship. They will be proactive and take measures to avoid the fate of the rest. Why? Because they possess true sapience (you should take a look at my working papers to see why sapience would never include sociopathy as a factor). Here I think you are asking if the sociopathic route wouldn't actually be the wisest thing for people to do. And my answer is definitely not. The future will be won by much greater cooperation rather than greater competition.

The lifeboats need to get as far from the ship as possible to make sure those that are falling into the water don't swamp the boat trying to save themselves. That is crass (might even be considered sociopathic by some values) but also a practical reality.



"The lifeboats need to get as far from the ship as possible to make sure those that are falling into the water don't swamp the boat trying to save themselves. That is crass (might even be considered sociopathic by some values) but also a practical reality."

That does sound a lot like what I described that the top 0.1% of US households by wealth and income have been doing for 30 years, and especially since 9/11. ;-) I know a few personally, and they have yet to invite me to join them behind the gates of their neo-feudal walled citadels with their private security systems and personnel, bunkers, hydroponic food production, wine cellars the size of houses, weapons caches, etc.

Nor will I be able to afford to join the uber-wealthy rentier-technorati on their offshore floating city-states, i.e., "seasteading".

Such institutions as democracy, women's suffrage, and welfare-state programs offend these folks' delicate sensibilities and sense of justice. ;-)

These guys are among the leaders of the private (and sometimes public) efforts to disengage from the economy, hoard financial wealth, gold, and land, and protect themselves from the seething "undeserving" masses.

These so-called "libertarian" views are informing a growing share of the rentier elite, which is trickling down to the "just-wealthy" second 0.5% to 1%.

While we discuss how to escape in lifeboats, they've been building compounds and offshore escape domiciles for years with little attention from the mass media and the masses.

George Mobus


I guess I see it a bit differently since these top 1%ers are actually a major part of the cause of the problem - more like the captain and crew of the Titanic who tell everyone it can't sink even when they don't really know that.

I agree that they are trying to separate themselves from the masses by hoarding and isolating themselves, but they are actually making a horrendous mistake. It is as if they are prepping their own private lifeboats but they are using ones with holes in them - destined to sink. They will not be able to eat the gold and paper they accumulate. Nor will those kinds of assets buy the stuff they will need (e.g. food). Currencies only work if there is a working economy producing the stuff they need. They can get it now, but after the crash/collapse it won't do them any good.

I've heard of these compounds from others, one of whom has seen the preparations at one in Honduras. By their description they will fail miserably. They don't have enough land in the right location. If that is typical, and I suspect it is, they are in for a very rude awakening when the SHTF.


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