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« The Possibility of a Third Party? | Main | Seven Billion and Counting »

October 24, 2011


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alex todorov


your scenario of going thru the population bottleneck is only _one_ possible alternative

It seems to me that by describing your scenario (departure-nomads-knowledge seedback- sapient society) you make an assumption that "the seed group of sapient people" will

1. organize outside of current instititions
2. decide to be in opposition to the crumbling power structures of non-sapient current homo species (democracy and capitalism breaking down going thru peak everything environmental collapse, increase of vilence thruout, etc)
3. is able to escape the control of crumbling 'aristocracy by non-sapient'

I think on all of the counts your assumptions are more of the leap of faith rather than logical continuation of observable human condition because

Sapience under current institutions exists only among the aristocracy in the sense that it can be developed (or acquiered) when basic needs (food, shelter, sex) are satisfied and deliberative capability , operating out of idle-mind-state works on relationals (properties of matter) and the brain acquires/produces "sapience". If the 'human condition' turns into struggle for food and survival "sapience" will have very little time if any and like in the case of "use-it-or-lose-it" those whose time is spent on roaming the planes for food will have verry little time for sapience.

This is the disconnect in your thinking.

I therefore maintain that whatever sapience we now pocess among 7 biillion people on the face of the planet it will concentrate and gravitate into aristocracy. this is a simple matter of survival on an individual level.

I would then speculate that

1. There will be no organization of sapient people (sapience ) outside of current instituions.

2. Sapience and sapient people will eventually "infiltrate" current power structures (aristocracy) as a matter of survival because they will discover that it is _the only_ way of survival for sapience

3. The aristocracy will breakdown and transform into gated communities. The uneducated drone/burden will be outside of the gates struggling for food and clean water. Sapience and sapient will be slowly overtaking aristocracy from inside.

3. The resources outside of gated communities (food, water, etc) will be so impoverished that they will not be sustaining any hunter -gatherers or nomads of any kind. Aristocracy will always control resources and therefore the power to expropriate everything for themselves.

4. Thus your scenario seems to me unsupported by observable 'human condition', evolutionary psychology and the institutionalization mechanisms we are all parts of.

Remember that everything is _evolving_.

Human condition and democracy and capitalism are not exceptions - they will continue to evolve and science and sapience will eventually overtake the aristocracy and will supplant primitive pecking order that is currently in operation as the basis of 'human condition'.

George Mobus


You tend to assume a great deal, reading between the lines. But perhaps you assume too much.

Your four points make many claims based on your assumption regarding sapience concentration in aristocracy. I have no idea what you are talking about.

Your final point (4) asserts that my scenario (which I never claimed was the only possible scenario, by the way) is not supported by the evidence of "human condition". And that "human condition" that supports your claims IS? I know, read the web pages. We've been through all of that.

You advise me to "remember that everything is evolving". I'm not sure you have really read or understood my writing or you would not be reminding me of this fact!

You have a belief in what is going to happen. It isn't really too clear what that is based on this comment. I can interpolate based on the DH web materials, but I still find it scattered, incoherent and not really leading to logical conclusions. But keep trying.

Nathan Chattaway

Interesting use of Biblical happenings to illustrate this week's blog George. But if any of your readers do likewise, isn't that unwanted discussion on religious topics?

When the Israelites fled Egypt, they were fleeing industrial and economic oppression. Pharaoh had them making bricks to build his cities. They toiled for bread. When they had left and were wandering in the wilderness, many began to grumble that things were easier under the old regime where they didn't have to worry about water and food. They wanted to eat humble pie and voluntarily return to slavish dependance. A very apt analogy for what is going on today. Biblical Agrarian Separatists are living this exodus from industrial dependance all around you right now. Many of them are embracing permaculture principles to do so. There's no need to wait. The sooner you leave, the better off you will be in terms of actual happiness.

George Mobus


Nice try. Referring to a story in a book that many people are familiar with isn't quite the same as promoting a religious point of view. Nor did I claim the Israelite trek was real history. Indeed there are many archaeological finds that have cast doubt on the veracity of the story as told.

I know that many are taking up a disconnected, permaculture-based life right now, and that is good so far as it goes. But I fear for the stationary and especially the go-it-alone types who are motivated by the back-to-the-land sentiment. They will be as vulnerable as people in the city unless they have really chosen a secure and climate stable site.

I think you are right, however, in asserting that doing this will lead some people to a greater sense of well being in the meantime. Perhaps a temporary (base camp) site could be started that would be abandoned if need be. There are probably hundreds of possible scenarios.


Nathan Chattaway

I think being part of a like-minded community makes a huge difference to chances of success. It's possible that one or two families fits the description of go-it-alone types, but there is also the hope that "build-it-and-they-will-come" kicks in at some point along the journey.
Your views on the benefit or even necessity of a nomadic approach are interesting. No doubt you've read some of Dmitry Orlov's thoughts here. He's a firm believer in sailing boat nomadism with several established and self-thriving permaculture gardens located in remote coastal areas. I love this concept for it's low cost startup. There's almost no impediment to complete withdrawal from the fiat money economy if you can sell up and clear your debt. The traditional agrarian model requires larger capital to get started. In areas like South Australia where I live, community title landholding in arable areas is not allowed. So there is a requirement to keep earning fiat currency to cover landholding costs.

The sense of wellbeing in either scenario is far greater than the industrial consumerist ratrace though!


1. Are there any regions on earth that are pristine enough to allow for a hunter-gatherer existence, without hunting species into extinction?

2. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on how women would integrate into your ideal future society. If each family had two children (which would be the sustainable choice), it would still mean that women would have to remain at home and dedicate several years of their lives to raising them (without all the modern convieniences such as washing machines for dirty diapers, freezers and microwave dinners). What could such an arrangement do to our perspectives on feminism? What would a wise, post-industrial society have to say about women's education, involvment in public affairs, etc?

3. Related to the above: If we return to a "pre-industrial" life-style, how can we ensure that our beliefs don't revert to preindustrial philosophies, especially when facing precarious living conditions, and most likely, less leisure for study, experimentation and philosophical\scientific inquiry? They say that non-industrial societies have more "leisure time", but I wonder how true that is. It seems that most of their "work" is activities that we derive pleasure from and categorize as "hobbies", such as strolling the hills herding goats, or weaving by the fireplace, but it's not exactly "spare time" for reading a book, sitting in a lab, or reconstructing quantum mechanics and other forms of "ancient knowledge" encoded in a seed.

George Mobus


I had read Orlov's book and about the sailboat idea. As much as I love sailing I had difficulty imagining it as viable unless he was talking about a really big boat with several families on it. The storms out over the Pacific here would be a major deterrent to me personally!


1) I'm not sure what you are asking here. The size of the surviving population of humans would not be so large as to be a threat to driving other animals to extinction. Quite the opposite. Those populations would start to regenerate where climate change permitted. And, the humans I am talking about would presumably be wise enough not to hunt to extinction.

2) I haven't given much thought to the issue of feminism per se. The wisest people I know, of either sex, consider men and women on equal footing in intellectual matters. However the division of labor that you mention seems likely to emerge as it is also the one that hunter-gatherer humans have had across time and space. What labor one performs for the good of the community and family is not a matter of value (e.g. changing diapers is somehow lowly work whereas tilling the garden is highly regarded). What we should do is not make the mistake of projecting our past and current considerations into the future. If the only survivors are to be ordinary sapients, then there might be a tendency to devolve back to a time when women were "kept in their place", so to speak. I would hope more sapient people will understand how wrong that is.

3) Future humans will do whatever it takes to survive. If they take the right tools and techniques with them they will not just survive but also enjoy the time to explore more "cultural" activities, whatever those might be. The nomads will more likely not have as much time. They are the founders of a new species that will, themselves, probably have to make sacrifices. But, again, the key to everything that I have been describing is the average sapience of the survivors/nomads. If it is far above the average in our current population then they will have the ability to work out whatever they need to. If it turns out about the same as our current population, then they could very well revert to primitiveness, just as we humans typically revert to war when we can't figure out what really needs to be done.

There are no guarantees about any of this. Only hopes based on a quality that I have found in some humans that leads me to believe that a future population of said types could be a significant advancement over what we are now.


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