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« Our Wishes Are Going to Come True! | Main | The Third Annual Biophysical Econonics Conference »

April 09, 2011


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I think the universities have done too well at promoting the technological paradigm. The process of creating human resources capable of designing and creating metabolic tools and information for digesting every energy source and resource to our ultimate pleasure and satisfaction has proceeded almost to its logical conclusion.

There will be no further need for universities because they have failed to understand their own role in undermining the future of humanity. However, as dissipative structures in their own right, they will continue to struggle for survival, even if it is at the expense of other complex entities in their environment.

Eventually, when industrial scale human product is no longer necessary, some universities will remain for the elite and the few exceptional individuals from the lower classes.


Way down the ladder, let's say at the bottom, are us adjuncts (otherwise known as "slaves") which the business model-based college (both public and private) have come to rely on year after year, yet we get no raises, no benefits and have no recourse if/when fired for whatever reason. It's next to impossible to form a union since we're so diverse and have little to no interaction between fields (like math and English, business and foreign languages or science and the arts for example). Even at religious universities where i've taught, they don't practice say Christianity with respect to their adjuncts (it's the same all over) when it comes to fairly dealing out the compensation.

So Very Doomed

You’re absolutely correct about the “tremendous amount of work done in obscure areas, particularly in the social sciences”.

Ruston’s work on Differential K Selection comes instantly to mind.

How very much better society would be if we actually heeded and acted upon the facts.

Dan Bednarz

Excellent post, George. Actually there are two basic responses to decline: 1) scale back to the core mission, as you've outlined and 2) reduce but do not eliminate programs/offices/duties in the expectation that once business as usual returns it's easier to build up than to restart what has been eliminated.

Also, many fields and disciplines core technology and knowledge are rooted in the paradigm of grwoth and progress. For example, medicine and public health fully expect to grow and are paying no attention to how economic contraction will threaten personal and public health. Esoteric medical innovations are taken as a right to pursue that society must fund; and more and more schools of public health are being started, even as the jobs the students will seek are disappearing. Both medicine and public health are preparing their students for a world that in many respects no longer exists.

George Mobus


There will be no further need for universities because they have failed to understand their own role in undermining the future of humanity.

But isn't it possible that there is a kind of university that could do right by society? For example: the University of Noesis.


Many of us tenured faculty have recognized this problem and feel your pain. But faculties no longer have any power in the so-called "shared governance" arena. If we could get rid of the business model of education, there might be some hope.

So Very Doomed,

Yes. But most people are completely ignorant of what reality is and what the facts are. There is no getting around this, and no reason to lament it as if it were different then we could be saved! The majority rules. So personal mitigation strategies is all we can really look to.


Good points. #2 is the typical response when you imagine (believe) that everything will get back to BAU and you can redevelop and then go forward with more growth. What I am recommending is a complete structural adaptation to the on-going conditions of contraction.


Robin Datta

Then when things are back to normal, we will go on as if nothing had happened.

This misperception is the key to the problem, as is the idea of the "new normal". The march towards contraction and collapse from overshoot is a part of the normal. Even the microorganisms in the vat follow this course, programmed into their DNA. Looking at human "civilization" as an emergent epiphenomenon on biochemical processes, the current administration of universities is also a part of the normal.

Over the next ten years or so

That may be a rather sanguine outlook. The collapse, by some thoughtful prognostications. may be much swifter, with many institutions and organizations, while appearing fairly functional on the surface, being so deeply undercut by the tides of change that they would be swept away in a precipitous collapse, with no bailout like that of General Motors and the banksters.

George Mobus


I do suspect you are right, at least about the dynamics if not the timing. My next post will be addressing this very thing from a macro-view of the forces accumulating against our efforts and from the micro-view of the failure of internal mechanisms to adjust to those forces.



So; market stupidity translated to the university world. I think Universities should center on their natural functions: transmission of knowledge for the people to do social functions, rather than competitiveness, acummulation of prestige, etc. But social functions are not what market or people wants, they are determined by nature and are constant. Education is the most basic step in the goal of living and reproduction. I think top down social design is better for order than individualism and markets. Pay for function and result, not to particular persons. Eliminate individual careers and compulsive change of function.


Whenever any subject starts doing an activity for the acummulation of "X", "Y" or "Z", natural social function is out of sight; resulting in compulsive and lasting stupidity and blindness. "I have 50000 hammers, so let's get another 100000" type of thinking!

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