How Does the World Work?

  • See the About page for a description of the subjects of interest covered in this blog.

Series Indexes

Global Issues Blogroll

Blog powered by Typepad

Comment Policy

  • Comments
    Comments are open and welcome as long as they are not offensive or hateful. Also this site is commercial free so any comments that are offensive or promotional will be removed. Good questions are always welcome!

« Mental Capacities of Leaders - What Should We Expect? | Main | What is a Smart Species Like Us Doing in a Predicament Like This? »

January 25, 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

step back

"It doesn't matter if the promises can be fulfilled ..."


I think those few, well chosen words of yours sum it up not only for the energy issues but also for the financial crisis issues.

At the end of the day, an advanced civilization relies on people making trustable "promises" to other people, most notably to strangers and living up to their promises.

Here is a simple example. I promise that when you and I go driving in opposite directions on a same 2 lane road, I won't cross the double yellow line and I trust that you won't either.

Here is a more complex example. Boss to worker: "You have have worked hard this week and in compensation for your hard work, I give you this "money" stuff. I am not personally obliged to make sure you get fair value for this "money" stuff and the minute you accept it, I wash my hands of all responsibilities, but trust me, it will get you fair value (from unnamed strangers out there) for the valuable services you rendered to me."

And finally of course, we have the "promises" made by politicians to the citizenry where the politicians never intend to personally be obligated to seeing to it that any of those promises are kept.


George, the human ape species IS collectively insane. One is not permitted to claim sanity among the mass of insane apes or be called delusional, deviant, unmutual, or worse.

The more insane human apes among the rentier-oligarchic top 0.1-0.4% of households in the English-speaking world are even more insane, and dangerously sociopathic to the rest of us, because they perceive themselves and their progeny as worthy of having it all, and they fully intend to have it all in a winner-take-all, last-ape-standing contest to the bloody end.

In the meantime, the mass of insane human apes, pardon me, f&@k and consume ourselves to certain mass die-off and extinction.

What is a sane human ape to do in such a situation?


Yes, of course you are (living in a nightmare) and, alas, there will be NO morning in which to awake from our collective BAD DREAM. Because the "dream" is the INSANE reality into which we are all locked by the willfully ignorant political-economic powers that control our fates. What the hell to do? Damned if I know.......

step back


You have to read.
Read from many sources and juxtapose the contradictory pieces next to each other.

Then ask yourself what allows the human mind to hold itself together in spite of all the contradictions?

Here is an example:
1. First consider this "free market" theory
Laissez-faire economics where everyone is just out for himself (individual greed)

2. Next consider this recent NYT times article about the collapse of the fisheries due to Laissez-faire economics, Mackerel's Plunder

The line that should catch you eye is this:

"We’ve got to fish harder before it’s all gone."

How can human beings think this way?
But we do.

Hat tip to Ugo Bardi

Robin Datta

One may recognize the disconnect between the "politician" and the "state". The "state" is an oversized organizational chart personified. There is no such thing as Country X, but its organizational chart specifies and defines the location and status of everyone in the hierarchy. When the politician makes a promise, much of the responsibility devolves on the personified chart. This is particularly true for promises that are to come to fruition after the politician's term(s) in office.

This adds to the surreality of the circumstances where diving into deNile with ignorance of or blindness towards the approaching crocodile of reality.

property for sale in the usa

Oh, at first I really wonder about why it title like that. Maybe you have to read lots of information about that. Thanks a lot in sharing this to us.
[Moderator edit: removed commercial URL]

Aboc Zed

George did a good post again.

It is a pitty that George and community of the commenters here has no chance to have any influence on human condition at the moment.

On the other hand this is only at the moment.

Eventually the species (aka organism-whole) will learn.

Of course during and after a mass die-off of drone/burden overpopulation from the bottom all the way up.

Bruce is pointing cortrectly that the mass of the humans can be called "insane".

Take this exammple: the guy who I used to work with just sent out the picture of his new born daughter. Because his mom recently died he called his message "Circle of Life".

We are not close with the guy so that I would tell him: Are You Crazy? How can you have the guts to _knowingly_ to have a child? Given what is coming. How can you? But then I thought to myself: his daughter is most like is simply a failure to properly use protection. Simple as that.

Until someone ot top refuses the bottom to breed freely we will continue to have the problems we have.

And it is all because most of us believe in such thing as "human rights".

Soon there will be only one right for most: to die.

What to do?

Stop pretending that believing in "human rights" and morality is doing humanity any good. Not to mention it is only on paper.

those of us who understand what our children and grandchildren will have to go thru must get together and start working on the siode of their "daytime jobs" to begin new ways of icommunication and interaction in order to kick start a community that will prepare the grounds and be transitional environment for Homo Cogitans of the future - the subspeciated of shoot of homo sapiens sapiens which will inherit the planet (waterver will be left of it after homo sapiens sapiens "watch")

there is a lot to be done

and it all starts with connecting to the fellow men and women who understand

remeber Avatar?


Aboc Zed

@ step back

Although I agree with your portrayal of homo sapiens sapiens as species incapable of thinking consistently I think your presentation leaves out an important observation.

EVOLUTION never stops. For as long as there are sufficient number of replicas of homo species ( at the moment 7 billion and counting) and some of them have the time in excess of the time needed for basic survival (pretty much anyone in “first world” countries who has food to eat and shelter to sleep and does not have to spend all their time to procure the money for these necessities) the species as a whole will continue to accumulate KNOWLEDGE. This process is best represented by the view of SCIENCE as machine-that-goes-by-itself, independent of idiosyncratic beliefs of any particular individual.

It is only a matter of time before a group of highly wise men and women will realize the inevitability of sub-speciation that is ALREADY under way. George identifies such people as having more “sapience”. I make more emphasis on organizational aspects of our interactions including communication and using language as representational system giving rise to human condition that is essentially as primitive as it was when cavemen spent almost all their time for activities securing basic survival. Either way the "transitional" group will emerge.

To the extent each of us understands our configuration space and can trace our human condition to our evolutionary origins as warm blooded vertebrates he or she can comprehend the fundamental incompatibility of “having beliefs” and necessity of managing system rebalancing that we as the species will be forced to do because this rebalancing is predicated on the laws that govern matter and energy, laws that are _independent_ of beliefs, laws that are _phenomenological_

I have said it before and I will say it again: as long as wise men and women of science allow themselves to have luxury of beliefs in “right” and “wrong”, “morality”, “human rights” and other noumena that simply reflect our evolution out of ignorance these wise men and women of science will not comprehend that they are the ONLY agency that can ACT on their knowledge consciously adding their individual efforts to the vector of EVOLUTION.

We cannot “speed up” EVOLUTION of the organism-whole. But we can learn and MANIFEST it in our individual life and the way we interact with each other.

Belief-free scientists will have no choice but move into government and "manage" the transition from arrogant Homo Sapiens Sapiens to unassuming, constantly learning and heuristically rebalancing Homo Cogitans

George Mobus


I couldn't agree more with Bruce re: the insanity. My own view is that the source of this insanity is really an inadequate average brain trying to cope with complexity it was never designed to deal with whilst still maintaining the biological mandate to survive and procreate. I rail against the system but I do not rail against this natural outcome.

My complaints against the system are in order to spur concern and thought among those of you who grasp the bigger picture so that we can consider what kind of system would be a more ideal social environment for future humans to occupy. At the same time considering how it might come about that those future humans are on an evolutionary journey toward becoming a more fit species. That means a species with all of the intelligence and creativity we have now but with the increased sapience to manage that cleverness to remain in balance with the rest of the Ecos for the long haul.

Even though I feel trapped, at times, in an insane world of human creation, I still maintain a conviction that this is just a way station on the path to the greater organization of life on this planet. We cannot change things in the present. The die is cast. The roles are being played out in the drama of evolution. But we can, perhaps, have an influence on the future if we have a vision and develop a plan.



@ step back - Been there, read that, and a whole hell of a lot more..... e.g. Griftopia by Matt Taibbi, etc. etc etc.........


Methinks a good part of the insanity can be excused/explained by the trappings of the ego. (Yes I tend towards a Buddhist philosophy/theory of mind.)

It is hard to accept/admit to have lived in a pipe dream of eternal growth, compound interest and cheap energy. It's even harder to admit/accept to have partaken in the destruction of one's children's future. It's not easy to admit that one's pension funds were "earned" at the expense and detriment of others. For the middle class, this ego challenge is magnified by the fear of descent back into the proletariat. For those who can't get above their ego and its conflicts with outside reality, the result is a paranoid worldview.

Insanity as a consequence of a mental defense mechanism.

(Heck, I've for many years witnessed elderly Germans (and their later born children) "explain" Hitler. The psychopathology of Auschwitz denial is strikingly similar to climate science denial.)

Methinks a good deal of sapience can be achieved by getting aware of and then transcending the psychotic powers of one's ego.


Thanks for the comments everyone and for your thoughts which provoked them, George. i've been thinking along these lines since Nixon, but once GW took office, it became abundantly clear that the U.S. has lost its grip on reality. Now it's just a race to the bottom.


i also wanted to present to you the Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein's version of the peoples' state of the union address:

for your consideration.

Aboc Zed


I am worried for your state of mind.

I just saw your comment at Dave Cohen's site and I se recurring theme coming up again.

I feel that you are not letting out your energy and unnecessary focus too much on negatives even when you know that it is only names with negative connotations.

We can call 'human condition' insane. And we can notice suicide rising. On the other hand we can focus on the fact that without agriculture and subsequent overpopulation tour species will not have an abundance of man-hours to spend on science.
And here is the positive: the science that explains 'human condition' exists. the trajectory of the evolution is discernable. If one person or a group of people (George, you , me, others) can see the big picture then the big picture CAN BE SEEN. In other words it is _guaranteed_ that for as long as science continues our collective understanding of the BIG PICTURE will only improve.

Yes now those who see big picture are scattered voices on the fringes of society.

Yes the momentum of overpopulation, overconsumption and irreversible destruction of biosphere supporting viability of our species is only getting bigger.

And this hurts us. And it pains us to think that as a species we are so "stupid" as let this happen.

But on the other hand we should be looking at the positive side of this. We are the ones who care about us all. Together. We care about thinking for the solutions for us all. And we create mental environment that is propagating this caring.

Mental environment that allows those like us (who cares) to find understanding and those who will listen.

We simply need to organize and implement the strategy of our survival as a group over the collapse of the civilization based on ignorance and emergence of civilization based on knowledge.

And that will happen.

Simply because life-forms are driven by genetic imperative to survive.

And genus homo is life-form too.

At the end of the day, when we are drowning in our own poop some of us wil say: enough is enough; forget right and wrong; let's just do what is needed for survival

And those people will be raised from their infancy to adulthood by people who were exposed to the understanding of big picture that we are building now.

We simply need to keep doing what we are doing. Learning as we go. Refining our language. And be prepared to pass this process to our children.

There will be a time on this planet when homo species will look back and think :"Homo Sapiens Sapiens was our ancestor but they did not know what they were doing; We now know and we will manage ourselves and the planet wisely, for as long as we receive the energy of our star, and who knows - one day we may receive visitors or even send ourselves into outer space."


@AZ, thanks for your concern. I take your point and appreciate your saying so with such clarity and passion.

The risks we face at this particular moment in time are so immediate and grave that it is my personal experience that most of us are virtually clueless as to the extent of the financial and economic destruction that awaits and the mass-social and political madness that will thereafter descend on us.

Perhaps your personal situation is not imminently at risk, or you are confident in your understanding that you have sufficient contingencies in place; however, knowing what I know and perceiving the implications for me personally, I am not confident that I am adequately prepared, nor will I likely have the luxury of remedying this condition in the time allotted.

And I say this knowing that I am relatively more prepared than the overwhelming majority of my fellow humans.

As to the positive and the negative, I understand the desire to frame issues as positive so as to motivate or encourage oneself to take affirmative steps individually and with other like-minded individuals. Perhaps I am older than you are and have grown somewhat weary over time in attempting with little success just what you wisely suggest.


i hear you Bruce. i've been "this way" for too many years now and it seems that people would rather live in a fantasy world than come to grips with the (practically insurmountable) problems we now face. i'm confident that when it all starts crashing down that most of humanity can be counted on to go berserk and act chaotically with guns and such rather than group up and cooperate to survive, but i still try to get the message out and keep trying to prepare for the eventual (probably imminent) collapse.

Aboc Zed


It is not possible for us to prepare for the collapse of the civilization. When it happens we all will be affected. And we all already are. Since we have this conversation at this particular place in the blogosphere I would think that neither you nor I are high in the pecking order structure. If we were we would not be talking. :) I therefore think that should things unravel faster than we would want them from our individual perspective we may go through similar fate (lose our job if we have any; lose our comfortable life, etc, etc.) We may even die. So for that I do not think our situation can be substantially different.

In terms of being older and weary (burned out?) I could not comment because I do not know enough about you to have an opinion.

You certainly sound tired of dealing with idiots and those who would not listen but whether you really ARE like that I do not know.

From my personal experience I know that somewhat more sophisticated minds tend to perceive reality more adequately than less sophisticated minds. They call themselves ``realists``. But then this `realism` turns into pessimism simply because real human condition is mostly made up of pain and suffering. In fact even children who grow up protected by harmonious relationships of their parents eventually `learn` to be like everybody else which means they learn to worry and be unhappy.

I am sure this popular psychology is nothing new to you. And I am not trying to suggest that if we adopt positive attitude we will solve problems of humanity. That would be foolish. Mindless optimism is not only stupid but very dangerous. And there is abundance of it all around us: Obama`s SOTU address is a fine example of that.

All I am trying to do is to remind ourselves that our productivity and our reactions are linked to our emotional states. Our emotional states both shape and are being shaped by our physical environment. Because we think in words it is important what kind of words we chose to talk to ourselves. If we keep on talking to ourselves in negative terms we simply rob ourselves of the mental energy that we could apply to alternative uses.

This is why I said what I said. I have been reading your insightful comments for a while now. I have no doubt that you understand the big picture in all its depth and breadth. I also noticed that there is an element of pain in all of your writings. And that I perceive as inconsistent with true understanding of human condition. In my opinion, life is neither good nor bad. The upcoming (or already under way) collapse is neither good nor bad. It is just there. It is the reality we have to deal with. It is not much different from the reality cavemen faced when they stepped out to search for food. They did not know what awaits them outside. They did not know if they will come back. And so are we. We live one day at a time. On the other hand we know so much more than cavemen. We know what is coming. Shouldn`t we feel less scared than they did? And shouldn`t we always be able to `draw` optimism when we need it in the fact that evolution never stops and homo sapiens sapiens will give rise to the species that will do it all quite differently? Don`t you feel good about having the chance to contribute to that? Wouldn`t you feel excited merely about understanding this?


@AZ, your points are well taken, deeply insightful, and encouraging.

In my case, I concede that "realism" has turned pessimistic in the perspective of most observers. One wonders if the most successful of your cavemen were optimistic or pessimistic "realists" or not "realists" at all.

In the US, optimism is a commodity to be sold juxtaposed against the mass-media messaging intended to condition personal dissatisfaction in order to persuade one to spend money to assuage the feelings of dissatisfaction, boredom, envy, fear, loneliness, etc. An optimistic predisposition that one can buy something to feel better is required.

It is often said that we cannot predict or anticipate the future; however, when couples choose to have children, they inherently are optimistic that their offspring will succeed. When we borrow money, we are optimistic that we will have sufficient future financial resources to service the debt. We are quite good at optimistically extrapolating linear "knowns" and "wants" into "the future".

Whether we perceive it or not, we are collectively optimistic that we can successfully compete as individuals and social groups in an increasingly competitive, resource-constrained "full world" of 7 billion human apes and growing. To perceive otherwise is to know that one is not likely to be competitive under such conditions, one does not really want to subject oneself to such competitive conditions, or to be "realistic" about one's lack of competitiveness and that of most everyone else.

Is it "realistic" to think that one can compete successfully against 7 billion and more human apes for scarce resources on a finite planet (or within the confines of Spaceship Earth)?

Is it "pessimistic" to perceive or conclude that one cannot compete?

Should one then by default internalize that one has only the choice to be "optimistic" that one can compete successfully and thus proceed with learning how to be as competitive as is required, including against one's siblings, social group, and neighbors?

And this is certainly what the elite atop the current hierarchical system of power relations, division of labor, and wealth and income distribution promote as the ideal type: ruthlessly competitive winner-take-all, last-man-standing system in which a vanishingly small number are "winners" gain at the expense of the rest of us "losers".

But this situation lends itself well to what you suggest. Thus, one should be encouraged to "feel good" and be "excited" about the prospect of encountering and working in a cooperative, collaborative, creative relationship with like-minded individuals and functioning social groups in a mutually beneficial way that might reduce individual competition and encourage cooperation and group success.


The more insane things get, the more comedians are the only serious ones.

Check out this recent onion article,27166/

Oliver P

Hello George
I am delighted to have accidentally discovered 'Question Everything' when I was so frustrated with Life that I googled "what is going on?"
I have now read several of your posts and I believe you are the right person to ask about something that has tickled my brain cells for years. Let me first admit that I am not an academic, and I profess no specialist education beyond a BA in Law and Philosophy way back when. So here's my question: Is psychopathic behaviour indicative of a sub-species of homo sapiens?
I have looked into psychopathy fairly extensively and it seems to account for the ostensibly insane behaviour of our political and corporate classes (the 1%), in the sense that these so-called "top people" behave on a daily basis in a totally self-interested manner, with no empathy for the well-being of others, except possibly their offspring for genetic reasons.
I am interested to learn your perspective on this matter. If it so happens that we have been led towards the forthcoming evolutionary bottleneck through our blind and I guess lazy acceptance of psychopathic leaders, who are different from us in the way their brains work, there is a chink of light that the emergence of an alternative leadership among non-psychopaths could help build the ark on which our common future depends.
Thanks in advance for any words of sapience.
Best wishes, Oliver (living in England for my sins)

The comments to this entry are closed.