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December 05, 2011

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Robin Datta

Thank you, Dr. Mobus, for a perceptive and comprehensive analysis of humanity's current predicament, and its hope for the future.

Sari

Two questions:

1) Is there any hope for sapient individuals who live in very non-sapient brainwashed societies, under totalitarian governments (such as the radical Muslim states today), where the government isn't just silly and bumbling like in the US, but actually makes an active (and I would say evil) effort to coerce everyone to its own stupidity?

2) Since your proposed solution to population control is very unlikely to happen, and assuming the approaching bottleneck will favor the survival of the most-cooperative, emphatic and wisest people alive (and assuming they won't be exterminated in gas chambers by some tyrant regime), should sapient individuals have more children than what is good for the rest of the population, to increase the chances of survival of at least some of their offspring?

AlT

@george

excellent post again
very consistent with everything else
and with the right balanced attitude towards the reality and inevitability of homo sapiens die-off

i am glad you are not tired to repeat yourself again and again - one never knows when the next young brain of future supspeciated homo species will stop by

@sari

re: question 1) i think you might want to review george's post on "hope" - i am lazy to put the link but you can go back - it is recent - that is the only sort of "hope" one can entertain

re: question 2) having more children is not sapient therefore if a person is sapient he/she will may consider to go childless

children are born in ignorance and since outr human condition is not sapient therefore becoming sapient is very much a chance occurence and really sapient person will always dout his own "sapience" - you therefore get the situation when "sapience" will never be declared but it will be selected for over the bottleneck event (die-off, peak everything, kill for food and water, and other miseries awaiting our children and grandchildren - and many parts of the world are already experiencing it)

AlT

@Sari

re question 1) in my opinion the best option is to immigrate to either Canada or Australia - those countries are "best": they are relatively less populated and therefore the rebalancing is expected to reach them later than other regions and countries

they are also still accepting immigrants - a situation that may change towards the mid century or end of century when the die-off becomes obvious the international trade collapses and everything reverts to local ecosystems and their ability to maintain the limited populations of humans

Tom

AlT: there's nowhere to run or hide from what's coming down on humanity due to the pollution of the entire biosphere.

George: great post as usual. i've given up hope on humanity getting its act together and doing the right thing by the environment (and restructuring society around that imperative) in time to ameliorate the catastrophe that's already begun and will only get worse as we go forward. Simply look at Durban and the resistance by the big three: China, India and the U.S. to any kind of climate-related curbing of our industrial pollution as an example of how the small mindedness of our "leaders" will doom everyone and many species we rely on for survival to the dustbin of history.

Of course we can't give up, but i think it's becoming all too clear that as a species we've failed on too many levels to exist much longer on this planet.

AlT

@Tom

yes there is nowhere to hid but countries that have population below that their land can support are expected to join the crash party later

"hope" or "depression" ios for those who do not know and do not understand the reality of life

there is no "good" or "bad" "right" or "wrong" in nature

those are artifacts of thus-far human intellectial development

the fact that homo sapiens has not learned yet only tells you that as a species it will be superceeded by genus that will incorporate learning and "sapience" in georges words into _human condition_

there is a lot of work to be done in terms of looking for, contacting and organizing the people who understand the nature and course of human evolution, the unsustainability of current socio-economic system, rebalancing, low-energy and so- on and so forth

there is no time for dispair or fear - it is the time to get better at thinking and working even harder to start a seed group of proper scientists and people of reason

whining gets us nowhere

Sari

Oh well, I suppose that since wisdom strongly correlates with age, a really sapient person would be too old to have children anyways. Sapience would have to develop through cultural rather than biological evolution. But how permanent would a cultural evolution be? You'd have to have some sort of religion (or something equally powerful) to keep things the way they are, and even then it's too easy for a religion to become heirarchical, stagnate or fanatic.

And you can't ignore external influences. I wonder how a sapient species could survive (and dominate) in a world populated by average humans, who still have a very strong tribal instincts, who do not recognize the importance of keeping their growth in check and are competing for new ecological niches, and are non too interested in seeking peaceful, cooperative solutions. Some of the wisest people I could think of have propounded the ideas of non-violence, turning the other cheek, walking away, etc, but eventually, if they want to defend themselves, they'll have to take up arms. They would have to make sure that the weapons are used in the wisest ways. A sapient society would have to be capable of exercising empathy and compassion for the "other", while at the same time avoiding the pitfall of moral relativism and recognizing when the "other" is a threat, which needs to be removed for the greater good of the tribe\race\humanity.

I know you've said before that if a community is sufficiently isolated, the "enemies" won't have the energy available to reach them, but throughout history isolated communities have been invaded and pillaged. It seems that throughout history, brute force (whether through greater numbers or more advanced technologies), and not wisdom, is what wins.

George Mobus

Robin,

Thank you for your continued interest and supporting words. And for the very funny bits you send me every once in a while. Humor is essential.

------------------------------------
Sari,

I tend to shy away from giving direct advice on such matters. To #1 I have to say I really have no experience to draw upon nor do I know much about what options might exist under those conditions. All I can suggest is be mindful and seek out others who seem to understand.

As for #2 the complexities are even more daunting than for #1. I suppose I could safely say that the truly sapient will know what is right to do. After all, sapience is about good moral judgment about complex social matters for one's own life. In the end this is exactly what is meant by survival of the fittest!

-----------------------------------
AIT,

Thank you. From your last paragraph it seems to me you are implying that sapience is an acquired capacity. My research suggests this is not the case. One's level of sapience is more dependent on genetics than learning per se. It is not too different from IQ in the sense that its level may vary around a norm for a particular genotype due to environmental influences, but not by very much.

It is wisdom that is acquired and for which sapience is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Sufficiency comes with obtaining life experiences, and those do, to a degree, may be stochastic. Sapience may aid one in choosing directions to take that help provide good learning experiences so it is not exactly random. Perhaps you mean wisdom rather than sapience as I have been using that term.

-----------------------------------
Tom,

I agree. Humanity as currently constituted genetically and behaviorally will not succeed and cause its own demise as a species. But there is hope for sentience, in my opinion.


George

AlT

@george

yes in your terms i should have used "wisdom" instead of sapience

but the outcome is the same

once the "wiser" and therefore more sapient will realize that they have no other choice but "infiltrate" the societal structures of homo sapiens and eventually "take over" the human condition we get the heuristic system that will allow for artificial selection of sapience - that is running genetic tests, enhancing them and eventually "breeding" sapience

sapient society starts with "wise old men"

@ tom

i rearranged the list of countries by ecolodical footprint at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_ecological_footprint

by the ecological remainder

the countries that have the highest surplus are
 Guyana-59.75,  Gabon-27.88,  Bolivia-16.27,  Republic of the Congo-12.31,  Mongolia-9.61,  Paraguay-8.05,  Canada-7.91,  Australia-7.87


AlT

when i said sapient society starts with "wise old men" i of course included women as well

because life is such that an old wise man is not possible without an old wise woman

we can only realize ourselves when we are in a communal relationship with another human and it may be homo or heterosexual but the important quality of thee relationship is _communion_ - not an easy outcome and requires lots of efforts to maintain over time

Sari

to AlT:

"those countries are "best": they are relatively less populated and therefore the rebalancing is expected to reach them later than other regions and countries"

I think it was William Catton in his book "Overshoot" who pointed out that there is a difference between population density and population pressure (or some similar term). He meant that even if a region has less people than its carrying capacity, there are still cultural influences that will cause them to feel the effects of population growth earlier (for example - 100 drivers on a congested highway will feel the population is more dense than 1000 rickshaws will). So things could turn pretty nasty despite there being potential room for more people.

AlT

@sari

Re: importance of the "life-styles" for extimating when the ugliness reaches the country and "turn the other cheek"

good point

still Canada and Australia are "the best" in my opinion

if we use ecological footprint as the proxy for the population pressure then Canada and Australia are the only so called developped countries that have relative room for population growth

of course it is all relative

and it is only about the timing because homo sapiens will eventually corrupt his environment everywhere to such a degree that only a fraction of currrent pop[ulation of 7 billion will be able to continue

on your earlier note about whether wise people following ideas of non-vilence will have eventualy to give them up

my opinion is they will

when wise people realize that the only way to survive for them personally and for "their kind" going forward they will use their wisdom to take over the homo sapiens

for now the system can support ignorance on tope of the hierarchical structure

when the carrying capacity is diminished so much that only few can live there will be no room for ignorance to survive

this is how evolution works

the more advanced (wise and sapient) among us are already seeing what is ahead of us

they are spending time thinking what should be done about it

they understand that they need to organize and find the ways to take over the institutions of homo sapiens

yes, traditionally, the wise, would opt for a "nirvana" and "zen" and "tao" and "enlightment" escape route from human condition but that route is being shut down because dying when one can survive is against our biological genetic imperative to survive: our sapience and wisdom will always be its masters

those who think otherwise simply check out (suicide) and are irrelevant to those who stay behind

George Mobus

AIT,

What I imagined is not Homo sapiens eusapiens "infiltrating", but rather distancing themselves from the mainstream, Homo sapiens sapiens. I don't see a point in trying to "take over" what is doomed. Also I don't see how "wise old men" could effectively guide the "breeding" of eusapients. I think the best that can be done is for those of us who see the opportunity to produce mechanisms that enable those young people who, through their stronger sapience, see the need and respond to the challenge. It is more a self-selection process than a breeding program as such. In my view.

George

AlT

George,

I think it would be hard if not impossible to distance from Homo sapiens sapiens.

We know beyond the shadow of the doubt that the civilization of homo sapiens sapiens is not sustainable over the long run and the more it will continue the more impoverished and polluted biosphere

There will be a point in time when the only "wise" course of action will be "to dethrone" homo sapiens sapiens and restructure the whole system

I do not think "waking away" would be an option simply because homo sapiens sapiens will continue appropriate any and all resources for its own use with no regard to sustainability

If there will be more sapient offshoot of the homo genus it seems to me it would organize around understanding that for the viability of the species homo sapiens sapiens simply should not be allowed to continue any longer.

At the moment the balance is totally in favor of homo sapiens sapiens because there are very little if any homo sapiens eusapiens and they are all scatttered around the globe and are not united.

But once the civilization begins to fall apart and beliefs in democracy as the only form of government are questioned by more and more people there will be fertile ground for homo sapiens eusapience to restructure democracy into sustainable structure

The sooner it happens the more of uncorrupted carrying capacity is left for homo sapiens eusapiens.

Of course there may be a period when the wisest move would be to do nothing and allow homo sapiens sapiens to kill each other and diminish their numbers greatly.

But even that would be temporary because eventually the confrontation will have to happen simply because carrying capacity will shrink to such a point were two populations will not be able to survive

This is why I put more emphasis on "infiltration" and practicing surviving within homo sapins sapiens structures but as a completely separate group and community getting ready for a "take over"

Of course in no way I advocate any revolutionary activity

No ooverthrowing the government or any such nonsense

I am talking about _evolutionary_ horizon and evolution of beliefs which is happening anyways

George Mobus

AIT,

I am talking about _evolutionary_ horizon and evolution of beliefs which is happening anyways

Exactly. I imagine any people who are more towards the eusapient end of the spectrum have already "embedded" themselves in the institutions that exist. They do need to find each other now. And then when TSHTF (and they will know it when they see it), that is the time to disassociate themselves from a crumbling civilization. I don't see anyone subverting anything. Civilization is killing itself from within so there is no need to do anything extra. Just be prepared.

George

AlT

George,

I agree that our individual efforts may be insignificant on the scale of the organism-whole when viewed in isolation.

But when we consider them as part of the eusapients seeking each other and organizing it is very important to go thru initial stages of identification and connection as soon as posssible.

the state of the matters is such as litteraly days count. The sooner self-organization of eusapients happen the earlie proper "hasbanding" of resources can begin and the trully sustainable system can emerge.

Anather aspect of importance to organize early is iterpretations of the signals coming from the civilization. The complexity is already at such a level that it is not possible to decide the begining of the end in isolation. Only as a group, comparing notes and even developing an entirely "new" set of indicators eusapients will _evolve_ required tacit knowledge to pinpoint the key moment when they will have to "make a move".

This is why I tend to think that mere understanding of the trends is not enough. One is to _actively_ to seek ourt others who also understand and are looking to connect.

To me this eagerness to connect, communicate and cooperate with the common goal to "watch" civilization and "prepare" is in itself an indication that an individual has made an important jump to the next level.

What bothers me a lot is the fact that many people see the inevitability of the civilizational collaps and they stop right there. They do not view it over evolutionary horizon. And many become "depressed" or "check out" into enjoyment of the moment.

As to being "embedded" in the institution that exist.

All of us are "embedded" in some sort of institution. Family, profession, class, gender, love of fishing, etc.

We need to find each other and kick start an _institution of survival_ that would be at the begining only manifesting in our connectedness to each other. An invisible journal so to speak. All while being functional under institution of dying civilization.

Only clearly understanding this aspect of institutionalization and the need to begin "institutiona of survival" that is completely foreign to all current institutions we can harness the power of institutionalization thru which cultural evolution unfolds.

I think this is an important aspect that many overlook.

Jean-Paul de Vooght

Hello George,

I'm a bit late as I tend to slowly digest your posts...

This one made me think in terms of variety engineering and the need for the managing part of a system to develop enough variety to cope with its changing/problematic environment in line with cybernetics.

I also wondered about the ability for ICT to contribute something positive to the coordination of large numbers of people. I have recently come across a neat talk by Luis von Ahn, father of the annoying reCAPTCHA, where he shows how 900.000.000 individual users have contributed to decipher missed OCR readings from Google Book and other similar projects. Another fascinating example of massive task distribution was the DARPA challenge asking participating teams to locate as quickly as possible 18 hot air balloons across the continental US.

Ok, locating balloons and reading a few characters are not exactly the best examples when thinking of economic descent or other serious problems which affect our planet, but I am asking to what extent the research done in Internet-based coordination of massive workloads could help us reach collectively higher levels of variety to cope with the transition phases ahead of us.

George Mobus

AIT,

From where I sit it seems to me that the finding and making connection process has already started - auto-organization in action. As to whether or not it will result in the construction of viable survival institutions is still very much up in the air. Relocalization, transition towns, permaculture academies, etc. are signs that wiser people are trying to grapple with what they now see as the inevitable. I talk with a number of people in these "institutions" and have great hopes that some of them will find a workable formula. They all have slightly different takes on what is going to happen and what they need to do to prepare. But that is exactly what you expect in the evolutionary process. Variation is essential so that there is a greater chance that some number of organizations will be found fit by whatever natural selection forces emerge in the future.

As for the timing, I agree that there needs to be more action now. What I will say is that I am doing things outside of this blog. The problem is that we don't really know what the rate of change or collapse might be and before many people get ready to withdraw they need to see the right signs. I practice, and recommend, vigilance and scenario planing. That can include taking practical (affordable) steps. I don't recommend total divorcement quite yet.

-----------------------------------
Jean-Paul,

Excellent question.

Years ago I got very active in the internet-enabled distributed collaboration literature and various groups that were attempting to find ways to allow large groups to work on global issues, like global warming. Some interesting work came out of that but I am not sure how effective it has been.

You can get a look at one of the more successful (in terms of participation) at: http://globalsensemaking.net/

David Price started this group and it is still active. I have not participated of late because I see the issues overwhelming any efforts to find solutions in time. But I still applaud their work in trying. They might be right and hopefully I am wrong!

I will say that as civilization tends toward collapse I personally hope the internet is the last to go! There may be ways to sustain some semblance of it as long as possible. And, indeed, it may yet play a role in coordination of efforts to find a sustainable future for humanity. We'll see.

George

Jen

@ Sari: In answer to your first question, then assuming migration is not an option, sapient beings in aggressively non-sapient societies such as Iran or Saudi Arabia should conserve their energies and where possible minimise their contacts with the dominant society. For example, by doing jobs that don't require too much intellectual work on their part but which pays enough to support themselves and their families.

In their free time, if possible, they can think and work out the kind of society they would want to live in. They should prepare for the day when the dominant society around them will collapse. Many oppressive societies like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain exist mainly because they have oil which the United States needs and it's in the US government's interests to curry favour with the ruling elites in those countries. If the US were to collapse, then these countries' governments are likely also to collapse.

Preparing for collapse may mean growing your own food, learning community organisation skills, brushing up on any teaching skills you may have because you're probably going to have to teach people survival skills in the event of a widespread social and political collapse.

Visit Dmitry Orlov's blog at http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/ to see articles on how Russians coped with collapse in the 1990s and on how the United States might cope, and how well the country is prepared, when collapse comes.

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