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« The Coming Equinox | Main | A New Human Society - Part 2. »

September 22, 2016

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Craig Moodie

George,
I'm a great admirer of your work,however, at times have a differing opinion on some of your ideas. You stated in the above article that these desires are biological in nature.Which I humbly disagree with. I would infer that the primary cause of our predicament is the rampant consumption of discretionary commodities,aided and abetted by one of the most evil of professions namely'marketing'.
Would you not agree that this evil constitutes an act of nurture and not nature as stated by yourself?
Would appreciate your opinion.
P.S. If what you are saying is true, why is a percentage of the population(albeit tiny) fully aware of the situation and hence try to to live a truly or close to sustainable life as possible.W ould we be regarded 'freaks of nature'.

George Mobus

@Craig,

What I was addressing is the fact that these desires have their roots in biological mandates. It isn't a matter of nature OR nurture, but rather recognizing that our natural (genetically endowed) propensity to acquire excesses, for example, is part of what motivates our behavior (profit taking and maximizing).

You are quite correct to see that the culture provides a specific shaping influence on how these fundamental desires end up as behaviors. You have correctly, I think, named one of the great shaping powers of modern life, advertising. However, I don't think advertising would work the way it does unless humans are already programmed to respond to its messages. The brain is not a tabla rasa after all. Culture can affect how we think but we are pre-sensitized to respond in biologically meaningful ways.

As far as the fact that there is a small percentage of the population that does not get overwhelmed by these shaping forces, that is a reflection of my theory of sapience. The distribution of sapience in the population means that there is a skinny tail of people who are wiser than the ordinary person.

George

Davy

We will have to evolve consciousness as we are “devolved” by evolution. This will likely occur in existential crisis and in accordance with “Ecos”. We are in the vicinity of this crisis. I also have come to the conclusion that this process was inevitable because it is part of the nature of “Ecos” to destroy itself as it finds itself because extinction and evolution is the frequency of life. This frequency reflects the greater system found in the stars. We are just a resonance of this star based phenomenon. Life is hummed into existence by the stars so to speak.

Another way to put this inevitability is to pass on blame. Blame is for and within our modern civilization it is a dualistic approach typical of humans in separation from “Ecos”. The reality is humans are “vectors” or “carriers” of this frequency of life as top level species. Other species do not have the forces to transmit evolution and extinction as we do. This place in the “Ecos” of course is not conscious. Our consciousness is towards a separate human civilization not the “Ecos”. Our drive then becomes a subset but it is at a level that places us in the driver seat of extinction and hence evolution. There can be no blame if we are following the nature of “Ecos”.

Once blame is disposed of then we can see through the fog of doubt and guilt who and what we are. This is only partial because a part can never know the whole. It is also a call to devolve our consciousness as much as to advance it. If we understand that we are vectors of extinction by acquiescence of “Ecos” we must also come to the conclusion that it is also “Ecos” nature to extinguish this drive to extinction with evolution. We can flip from an extinction vector to an evolution vector. We can thus transform and evolve from our extinction phase.

Our impact has reached the stage of turning an Epoch. We are now turning a human age. The final phase is turning a species. This is if “Ecos” acquiesce this path. That is not known nor can it be known. This is not a known because this path is part of the frequency and such a frequency cannot know its range or there will be no frequency. To know completely is paralysis. Thus our final phase as a species may or may not be evolution into a new species it may be the end of our species and over time new life will form and find its place as the top level vector of extinction and evolution. If we accept this then we can go extinct in peace.

“Ecos” dwells within geologic acquiescence of the Earth system, to the solar system and finally within the galaxy. Ultimately all meaning and acquiescence originates somewhere out there. For us now then there is this profound time of the whole meaning of life resting within our hands. The meaning of life and death is now in our hands and self-realized. What we do with that immense power is now. This power is much more powerful than our technology because this is life reflecting on itself at its highest level but lowest level. We are there as extinction and evolution and we are reflecting upon it.

Bev

You say that it was inevitable that humans would burn fossil fuels and release the stored energy into space...."nature abhors a gradient". There is an essay by David Price called Energy and Human Evolution, in which he says much the same thing (sorry I don't have a link handy). If I remember correctly, he says humans have evolved in the service of entropy, to readdress the energy balance of the planet. I never did understand that bit. I don't see why this should be so....why can't the earth retain the stored energy? Why does it have to be released and why should it be humans and not some other species that do it. It sounds almost like a justifcation for burning fossil fuels.....I'm sure many would see it this way if given a chance (but then they might not me the type of person who reads this sort of thing anyway.

Like you, I have been trying to understand why an intelligent species would deliberately and knowingly undermine the systems that support its life.

Will look forward to the next installment!

Davy

Deliberately and knowingly are probably the wrong word to describe the situation. You and I are on the same wave length. I see delusion and denial driving deliberate and knowingly. IOW we are lying to ourselves. Deliberate and knowingly imply an option and our options are only bad ones. These words imply knowledge and the knowledge is disputed. I agree with you a select few intellectuals know we are undermining our system but a majority do not see it that way. Some not at all and some partially or abstractly. Some think we can correct what we have done so we have time. These are the bargainers that are partially in denial. This process has all become too complex, self-organizing, and self-perpetuating. The system is adapting beyond human control.

We do not have a plan B to shift this undermining. We do not have a plan B that is attractive to a world that is in cooperative competition. Unless we can find a plan that enough people buy into then we are doomed to our present course. The current climate agreements are hollow without substance. A real agreement with teeth would involve the end of the status quo along with a die off because that is what is needed to solve most of our issues. The scale becomes unmanageable with the amount of population we have. This is the population predicament. The scale becomes unmanageable with consumption requirements of a delocalized global system. This is the consumption predicament. A die of will collapse globalism and reducing consumption will destroy the global economy. Global consumption is the only energy carrier we have to support 7BIL people. Scale prevents action. System adaptations are further driving scale the wrong way. This is a snowball earth like situation only without the snow.

cassandra

Really enjoyed the pleasure of having a fresh morsel of your food for thought to tuck into.

Perhaps I'm asking a question you'll find more related to your coming metaphysical series but...

Do you find yourself challenged, as I am, by feelings of misanthropy towards the species when considering our many flaws and the arguably pointless achievements of our culture?

When you state "I am hopeful (almost confident) that a remnant of the human species will survive through the impending evolutionary bottleneck" is this a position that wavers when you consider the futility of the human project? Or is your faith in the 'objective value' of sapience in another wise value-less universe a conscious position?

I ask not to demean any position you may have but to help interrogate my own position and search for my own way through the nihilism that confronts me when I consider the disputable value of human continuance.

cassandra

I hope my phrase "the arguably pointless achievements of our culture" is read in the context of a metaphysical enquiry regarding how we place value NOT as a value judgement in itself.

Davy

I live in the surreal of disgust and the fear of loss but then empathy shines through. If we leave blame and acknowledge a great force at work how can we have judgment. Judgement is dualistic and requires a beholder. A beholder must separate and to separate is to depart harmony

Our species will be shattered in the coming bottleneck and this will be the seeds of a new species. That is if "Ecos" allows a rebirth. Judgement will be irrelevant in this process. Judgement is for the individual and once judgements are made they must be lived up to. We can never attain the perfection our judgements reflect. Salvation in this project "Ecos" only comes from the melting of judgement into acceptance of what is.

In the here and now we can go forth on "Ecos" behalf with one foot in the status quo and one foot through the door of a great turning. We who have our foot in that door can prepare those who are not privileged to witness this process. With privilege comes power and responsibility. True power comes from humility and responsibility comes from duty. Duty is in the very heart of our DNA to assist our own. We can go forth on "Ecos" behalf once we have lost and then found ourselves. This is the only way to find grace which is the natural expression of "Ecos"

Don Stewart

George
I look forward to reading the rest of what you have to say. FYI, I posted this on Ugo Bardi's web site, regarding the subject of using much of our remaining fossil fuel allotment to build mostly PV panels. My comment is also pertinent to some of the above comments...Don Stewart

Ugo
I was having some coffee and rereading Capra and Luisi's book The Systems View of Life this morning. I propose a very fundamental question to you.

I have previously called your attention to Nick Lane's book The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life. In that book, Lane explains how the need to mediate between two autonomous but fundamentally different actors, the host cell and the mitochondria, have shaped evolution and resulted, among other things, in death as the destination for eukaryotes because Nature could not find a better ultimate solution to the conflict.

In their Introduction, Capra and Luisi describe the historic tension between mechanism and holism in Biology. They suggest that the 'clockwork' paradigm from a few hundred years ago is being replaced by a 'network' paradigm, with the network being fundamentally integrated to accomplish certain overarching objectives. (Think Gaia...)

But my question to you is this: Suppose humans are to be understood as the uneasy symbiosis of two fundamentally different processes: physical and aspirational...analogous to the symbiosis between the host cell and the mitochondria. There is no particular reason to assume that the physical characteristics and the aspirations are any better aligned than to assume that the marriage between the host cell and the mitochondria proceeded smoothly. In fact, if we simply look at the obvious destructiveness of human aspirations in terms of the natural world, we would probably conclude that Nature hasn't yet figured out how to generate the equivalent of eukaryotic death in order to keep the conflict from spinning even farther out of control.

My label for the problems generated by two autonomous actors who need to cooperate closely in order to achieve objectives is the Two Clocks Problem. (Clocks in the broad sense of 'what makes them tick'). We can see this problem in everything from host cell and mitochondria to rabbits and foxes to husbands and wives to trading and wars between nations. And perhaps between the physical environment and the aspirations of humans?

If my hypothesis is correct, then some attention should probably be paid to the nature of the conflict between aspirations and physical reality, and mechanisms which might ameliorate the conflict.

Don Stewart

Don Stewart

I have previously mentioned that a single entity, such as a human being, may consist of autonomous agents who tick according to different clocks, which sets the stage for conflict.

Here are some methods for dealing with some of the conflicts, gathered quickly and without much depth of analysis.

Reference #1: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_background_music_influences_our_behavior_at_work
'According to Kniffin, this finding fits with previous research on music showing that it can increase cooperative behavior through synchronization among listeners.
“When people are presented with a steady rhythm or beat, they are inclined to mimic that beat and, in turn, get in sync,” he says. “That translates naturally into more cooperation during decision-making.”

Though results from this study are preliminary—for example, the researchers didn’t consider the impact of participants liking, disliking, or being familiar with the songs—they do point to the fact that music could impact workers, as well as clients or shoppers. Kniffin believes this is especially relevant to employers.

“Compared with expensive off-site team-building retreats, our findings suggest that inexpensive modifications to the office soundscape can boost mood and performance,” he says.

More research needs to be done, though, he says, as too little attention has been paid to how “atmospherics”—the background qualities of the workplace environment—impact worker performance. Some of his previous research has found that even simply having workers eat together can increase job performance; yet the employee social climate is often overlooked.'

Reference #2: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.
Page 53. Considering a forest which consists of competing tree species and symbiotic fungi, whose various species also compete with each other.
‘In oak forests alone, more than a hundred different species of fungi may be present in different parts of the roots of the same tree. From the oaks’ point of view, this is a very practical arrangement. If one fungus drops out because environmental conditions change, the next suitor is already at the door.

Researchers have also discovered that fungi also hedge their bets…radioactive carbon from a birch moved through the soil and into the fungal network of a neighboring Douglas fir. Although many species of tree fight each other mercilessly above ground and even try to crowd out each other’s root systems, the fungi that populate them seem to be intent on compromise. Whether they actually want to support foreign host trees or only fellow fungi in need of help is as yet unclear. I suspect fungi are a little more forward ‘thinking’ than their larger partners. Among trees, each species fights other species. Let’s assume the beeches native to Central Europe would emerge victorious in most forests there. Would this really be an advantage? What would happen if a new pathogen came long that infected most of the beeches and killed them? In that case, wouldn’t it be more advantageous if there were a certain number of other species around—oaks, maples, ashes, or firs—that would continue to grow and provide the shade needed for a new generation of young beeches to sprout and grow up? Diversity provides security for ancient forests. Because fungi are also very dependent on stable conditions, they support other species underground and protect them from complete collapse to ensure that one species of tree doesn’t manage to dominate.’

Consider the fragility of supply chains. What may be needed is an independent actor (the fungi) which are ticking to a different clock. Suppose that tax policy favored companies with inventory. Would that add to the stability of the total system?

Reference #3: Looking At Mindfulness: 25 Paintings to Change the Way You Live by Christophe Andre.

The entire book is about pausing to separate one’s initial impulse from a more considered decision as to what it is you really want to do. (Daniel Kahneman describes the contrast between impulse and considered decision in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow.) In a sense, we have the physical reality, we have impulse, and we have considered aspirations. The process of mindfulness helps us find and pursue our considered aspirations, which we believe are consistent with physical reality, rather than blindly follow impulse.

All of these examples are far removed from a single clockwork model. They all recognize that there are limitations and conflicts. All of them use some mechanisms to help humans (or fungi) to select the ultimately best choice.

If we are trying to ‘save the world’, then it probably pays to make a more thorough study of how Nature and Culture have managed limited choices and conflict and arrived at methods which are ‘good enough’ to let multiple autonomous actors cooperate to produce things which are beyond the power of individuals working alone.

Don Stewart

George Mobus

@Davy,

It sounds like you are a follower or fan of Lee Smolin. Tying the cycles of dynamics on the Earth to the cycles of the cosmos is something he has been interested in.

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@Bev,

I know David from years ago when he was putting together a software system for problem solving. I can probably find the essay. However the concept that the universe will always find a way to diminish a gradient is just the 2nd Law of Thermo writ large. The very same phenomenon is at the base of why stars burn their fuels through nucleosynthesis. They eventually burn it all up and die. Within the dynamics of a star the outward pressure of energy flow competes with the inward pull of gravity to find accommodating balance at various stages of star life. Until the end. That balance helps keep the star from burning out too quickly (except for really massive stars of course).

But in you second to last paragraph you hit the nail on the head. Why do we have to burn fossil fuels so quickly? Whereas in a star the balance is maintained by negative feedback, for us there has not been any such feedback. Fossil fuels have simply been dirt cheap and technologies like the internal combustion engine have simply enabled the quickness of burning. What has been missing is the negative feedback from nature OR, and this is the important point, human intelligence and wisdom being able to self regulate so as to not burn things up so quickly.

The normal state of affairs for a planet like Earth is to NOT have an oxygen-rich atmosphere and sequestered carbon. That is why I said inevitable (meaning over the long haul). It's a long story about how life has been working at sequestering carbon and why human's burning it is restoring a kind of balance (just not at this rate perhaps). So I won't even attempt it here. A good reference is "Into the Cool" by Schneider and Sagan.

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@Cassandra,

Thanks. My thoughts re: the human condition are mostly about how where we are, what we are, and how we are behaving is still a matter of evolution. I do not have animosity toward humanity for being what they are (I think I did once when I was still confused about why we lack wisdom). Rather I see what we are as part of the natural progression of evolution toward higher levels of consciousness (as I talk about in an upcoming post). I think natural selection (e.g. climate change, etc.) is about to select for humans who are closer to that higher level of sapience than the average person is today. Thus evolution will continue to push toward improved intelligence and wisdom.

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@Don,

Thanks for the cross-post. Did Ugo answer your query.

I guess what I don't understand in your characterization is the emphasis on, may I call them, dueling clocks. The idea that various dynamics are at odds yet interact is very old and at the heart of cybernetic governance theory (the answer to your last point). So I would argue that many people have looked at the notions of coordination of inherently diverse dynamical systems. How is what you are considering new and different from that work?
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George

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