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« Am I Living in a Nightmare? | Main | When will truth dawn on economists? »

February 02, 2012


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Great read George - thanks for recommending it. i'm not hopeful that humanity in its current evolution will survive at all once the collapse happens. Due to our baser instincts chaos (entropy personified, if you will) will destroy any semblance of survival or sustainability. The rich 1% of humanity that have been the "overlords" for many generations (and even the new rich) think they can buy security when people are starving all around them. They don't realize how vulnerable they are. The hordes will find a way to get what they need from where ever it's being stored because they have nothing to lose. Once the necessities are gone, they'll turn on each other until no one is left (nobody can do all the farming, maintenance, education, energy and resource extraction, medical needs and security etc by themself or in any small group). So, clever as we are, i think there is no place to hide and no preparation will get anyone through the collapse we face - since our ultra-complex civilization will be reduced to the stone age in a blink and scarce resources will curtail any long term survival.
i sincerely hope i'm wrong, but the way it looks is that the planet will kill us off (cancer that we are) and rebalance the chemistry we screwed up so badly in a few millenia and maybe the conditions will be right to re-boot the whole life cycle again. Hopefully some DNA rememberance of our short-term thinking mistake will survive to breed the kind of "wise" life-form that can peacefully co-exist with the planet (as stewards) and not overpopulate it.

Aboc Zed

hanks for the book review. I will definitely read it to see if it does as good of a job accounting for our path to where we are now as you say it does.

Since I have also read your writings extensively I am curious to see if my comparison of your views and the book will be substantially the same as yours.

For now I wanted to make an observation and pose some questions.

First I should say that I am of the opinion that the bottleneck event is inevitable stepping stone on the evolutionary path. As such it is neither bad nor good. We just have to live thru it and that’s all. I of course would want to avoid as much suffering for myself and others as possible but I am clear that it cannot be done. So what will be will be, che sara, sara.

And here is my observations and questions.

It seems to me that many overlook the experiential nature of our learning. We are born knowing nothing. That is neonate ignorance. Collectively as species we accumulated vast amounts of knowledge but our institutions reflect evolution out of ignorance. I think this aspect of human condition is overlooked even by you. Ignorance is our default state as individuals and it is also our predicament as species. This of course is no surprise because organism-whole continuously gets fresh injections of ignorance (newborns) and the education is not about developing our brains but about conditioning the individual to conform to the norms of the society and make sure that new generations take over the status quo from their predecessors. And thus o on the level of organism-whole ignorance perpetuates itself.

Some individuals (like yourself, for example) due to specific circumstances of their upbringing and possibly because of some inborn variations in brain wiring (I don’t mind calling it “more sapience”) mature to be capable of understanding bigger picture and indeed end up doing exactly that.

And I think there should be a number of individuals like this among 7 billion walking the surface of the planet now.

Do you think my observation is valid? If yes then the population bottleneck event is merely a feedback loop. This is our first opportunity to experience the natural selection with some of us actually understanding how natural selection works. And we also can understand how we are organized and why . And we can figure out what needs to change to align ourselves with the large planetary system of which we are most dynamic part.

In my view understanding the institutional aspect of ignorance perpetuating itself is the key to minimizing the time it will take us as the species to “get it”. And from what I see in the academia and blogosphere there is next to nothing in terms of the inquiry into this aspect of human condition.

This is why I say that SCIENCE is merely serving IGNORANCE. This is why I say that until men and women of science recognize that they are the ONLY agency of the learning our species is forced to do we will not move towards sustainability but will continue the spiral of irreversible corruption of the environment; decreasing carrying capacity of the planet and die-off of drone/burden overpopulation.

The longer it takes us to learn as the organism-whole the smaller the number of individuals that could be ultimately supported by the planet even if we strip our consumption to the base-domain human requirements (basic food, shelter and conversation with another human) eliminating all pecking-order based consumption (wealth, gadgets, status telling asrtifacts , etc.)

This is why men and women of science bear unique responsibility to the species whether they recognize it or not. This is why I expect those who learn enough of science to understand this responsibility to come out of the woods and start searching for one another in order to create the seed group and start working on understanding of how our institutions could evolve from “democracy and capitalism” towards “heuristic hierarchy of heuristic hierarchies”.

And the key to this process is recognizing that our personal ideology and beliefs including morality and human rights do not enter the picture.

And this is not heartless but as humane as it can be because ultimately it will minimize the number of those who will be born only to die.


you believe we landed on the moon? yet my cell phone still does not make a call at 8K feet above the earth.

George Mobus


I know there is this bleak outlook. But I have met people who give me reason to believe that there will be a shred of DNA left after the worst is over. All need not be lost.


Ignorance is our default state as individuals and it is also our predicament as species.

I am not really sure what you mean by 'ignorance'. Both evolution and learning are processes that build upon prior knowledge. We as individuals are not actually born as blank slates (see: Steven Pinker's book Blank Slate). There is a good mathematical argument that supports the idea that no learning process (and evolution is a learning process, understood correctly) can operate from scratch (see: the No Free Lunch Theorem). In essence all learning processes are built on prior knowledge or "bootstrapped". Thus I think you need to be careful to specify what you mean by ignorance. For example, all children are born with the innate ability to learn a language or a moral code, but which one they actually learn is dependent on their culture. Without that innate ability (gained as an evolutionary learning process) they would truly be ignorant of how to communicate and interact with others. It is true that we are all born with no explicit knowledge (e.g. the fact of the Great Wall of China) but we are built with the knowledge of how to acquire such explicit (and implicit) knowledge and do so quite naturally.

I think that what we observe in most people today, that relates to their seeming ignorance, is simply due to information overload and a shutdown of the intellect to protect the ego (as noted by a commentator in the previous thread). This is artificially induced ignorance rather than a manifestation of a priori ignorance per se.

Now, having said that, I recognize that we as a body of knowledge-encoding beings are ignorant of much in terms of how the Universe works. This includes knowledge of how we, ourselves, work. And science is an excellent process by which to go on learning what we need to learn. But I don't think science is going to solve the sociological problem caused by insufficient sapience. Even the most brilliant Nobel Laureate scientists can be only modestly wise (though there is a strong correlation between intelligence and wisdom!) Today, our universities are pumping out a commodity called PhDs in the sciences. These are people of above average intelligence but who think doing science is a kind of mechanical process for which they have been "trained". Science is in trouble every bit as much as are all of our human institutions. I don't think you will have much success telling scientists that they have a "unique responsibility". The ones who are highly sapient to begin with already know this and many are doing something about it. Howard Odum was an excellent example. Edward O. Wilson, David Pimentel and many others are contemporary examples. They do their best to dispel the ignorance but because of the phenomenon I mentioned above, it is like talking to a brick wall.

The effects we see are due to too many people, too much complexity in our culture, and too little sapience in the average brain.

BTW: I still do not know what you mean by a "heuristic hierarchy". That combination of terms does not invoke an image for me.


Sorry for your inconvenience, but yes I do believe we landed on the moon.


Steven Earl Salmony

Human Beings With Feet of Clay And Self-Proclaimed
Masters of the Universe

By Steven Earl Salmony

27 January, 2012

Humankind could soon come face to face with an incredible and unprecedented situation. We are spectacularly successful at doing something potentially ruinous of all we claim to be protecting and preserving as we ever more rampantly increase our exploitation of natural resources and continually increase our food production and distribution capabilities. Stupidly we hold fast to a wicked idea that, if we do not do these things, a catastrophe will follow. This upside down, deluded thinking is leading us to risk the precipitation of a colossal disaster of some unimaginable sort. The continuous plunder of limited resources and conversion of biomass into human mass, including the continual increase of food production to feed a growing population, are precisely what is causing humanity to charge down a “primrose path’ toward an unfolding confrontation with a global, human-driven ecological wreckage.

Perhaps we need to invite one another to listen more, see farther on a clear day, and communicate better. Thanks to all in the Circle of Friends and the Royal Society’s People and the Planet Working Group for being now here just as you are. We are going to make a difference. Like all of you, I do not have answers, but not having answers cannot be used as a ‘justification’ by population professionals, demographers and economists on our watch for ceasing their explorations and denying extant scientific research. Scientists cannot consciously and deliberately deny evidence of what could somehow be real. All these unwitting experts must be called out. If foolhardy experts and their greedmongering benefactors are ultimately victorious in their elective mutism and willful denial of science, what is to keep silence from killing the world we inhabit? If ‘the ninety-nine percent’ are denying the human overpopulation of Earth, then 0.99% of the remaining 1% are in denial of the science of human population dynamics, I suppose. These circumstances are intolerable and cannot stand. As a growing number of scientists are making all of us aware, a way needs to be discovered and chosen that effectively communicates an adequate understanding of the profoundly dangerous situation in which the human community finds itself in our time. As Paul Ehrlich reported last year, “Everybody who understands the situation is scared witless.” That as it may be, experts need to gather their wits about them because they still have responsibilities to assume and duties to perform. After all, we live by our wits not witlessness; moral courage not fear; and by adapting to the requirements of reality rather than putting our heads in the sand. Somehow the vision, the honesty, the judgement, the pluck, the will and the means will be summoned by human beings with feet of clay to acknowledge, address and overcome the human-induced global challenges that are already dimly visible on the far horizon. Otherwise the greed of self-proclaimed masters of the universe and the witlessness of their minions, who together rule the world on our watch, will certainly bring about its ruin as a fit place for human habitation.

In all the seriousness and gravity of what could be true, never in a lifetime did I expect to see a situation like the global predicament looming ominously before humanity. Although my eyes were open during the first 50 years of life, I did not for a split second catch sight, even through a glass darkly, of the awesome big picture: the global predicament that is given its shape in the gigantic presence of seven billion, soon to become 9 billion human beings ravaging a finite planet with size, composition and frangible environs of Earth. The sight of something so awesome left me initially thunderstruck and later on incessantly compelled to speak out as I have for years. Perhaps speaking out about what is true to you as best it can be expressed and thereby raising awareness, is at least one distinctly human way to go forward.

Baw Faw T


Thank you for the review and continued sharing of your vision for the future. At my regular Saturday breakfast with my four grandchildren (ages 19 - 25), we discussed your review and your interest in sapience. Following are some of our conclusions. They may be a bit off topic but they flow from your post and may give you another view of how people, who are actively organizing a community, respond to your perspective.

We agree that the decreasing availability of net energy and our current overshoot will lead to a bottle neck (our term is die off). The bottle neck will filter out those who are unable to cope/compete in an environment of drastically reduced resources and general chaos. The question then becomes, What set of human characteristics will provide the greatest potential for survival? We are particularly interested because we are consciously planning and preparing for all or some portion of our family getting through the bottleneck. Your wisdom is of great value to us and I hope that this comment will elicit a response from you.

Today, because of the lack of sapience and one man/one vote we elect those who are the most persuasive liars. Once in power they use that power to enhance their position and over time create a ruling class that possesses a minimum of sapience. Because of the lack of sapients, it is impossible for those in authority to tell the truth. If the CEO of a major oil company called a press conference to tell the truth about peak oil, the company’s stock would fall precipitously and he would be fired and disgraced. If the Nobel economist stated the truth about the world economy he would never be invited back to Davos, Jackson Hole, or any other lucrative speaking gig. The truthful politician does not get elected. Therefore we are not likely to select people of significant sapience for leaders.

History indicates that when resources are in short supply, people turn to rape and pillage. There are those who are actively planning to take control by force (war lord) in less populated areas at some point in the anticipated collapse and ensuing chaos. Either the sapient will meet that force with equal force and superior tactics or they will eliminated or made subservient to the brutal war lords. In other words, become a superior war lord or be eliminated or enslaved.

In our discussion someone suggested the concept that the power of the second can be greater than the power of the first. Immediately, I recalled that my significant success in a large aerospace corporation flowed from taking the initiative to influence those above me who had the power to effect change to the system. I routinely wrote personal notes to those above me in the management hierarchy suggesting major improvements. Most often the changes were implemented and in my opinion resulted in significantly improved systems.

At the moment, I see that the sapient has the following options in influencing the system; 1) By force of arms, 2) By becoming a powerful second to a powerful first, or 3) By appealing to the innate human trait of seeking and adopting a religious faith (establish a religion led by sapients).

I fully expect a war lord to arise in my community. If I can influence him according to my Christian faith, I will cooperate and even support him. Supporting a war lord is not incompatible with my Christian faith. In fact on April 15, I will pay very tangible support to the most powerful ‘war lord’ that ever existed. If that war lord begins to damage my community and thus my family, I will strive to neuter or eliminate him.


santiago cravero

Jorge, no hablo inglés y usé el traductor de google para intentar entender tu artículo, el cual no termine de leer porque me parece un error intentar separar al ser humano del resto de la naturaleza terrestre.
Mi idea es que no somos más que una herramienta de este complejo sistema llamado vida, y que nuestra función no es otra que llevar ese sistema a otro lugar antes de que se agoten los recursos aquí en la tierra. No importa si lo conseguimos con forma humana, con una bacteria que se adapte a otro medio alcanzaría, y quizás luego de unos millones de años puede que aparezca algo parecido a nosotros, pero eso no es lo importante.
Todo indica que vamos por el camino correcto.
Espero que a pesar de mi pésima redacción usted pueda entender algo de lo que intenté decir.

hasta la vista baby

Santiago Cravero

George Mobus


Many other readers have stated a belief that the historical pattern of human barbarism or overlording will re-emerge as a result of the impending bottleneck. Of course I expect something like this to occur, but I do not think it sustainable for very long. What we face is a very different situation from what we humans were in coming up the net energy per capita curve through history. It takes increasing net energy to sustain an overlord because maintaining power over the underlings is expensive - just ask the Saudi princes today! In a world of diminishing resources (and a lot of turmoil) future would-be overlords are going to find it difficult to maintain any kind of position over the masses, especially if the masses keep dying!

I think the period of reversion to feudalism or whatever interim economics is tried will be short lived. By definition a bottleneck eliminates all but a very small founding population. The last such event involving humans may have left no more than a few thousand individuals out of a population of several million. It is difficult for me to imagine the conditions under which a feudal-like society could exist in the future. This is especially the case in major agricultural regions where the soils have been so depleted and reliant on fertilizers, etc. that even feudal farming might not be very productive.

If you read any of the series on the Goal and the Path:
My idea of a "religion" has more to do with enlisting the aid of lower-sapient beings who, nevertheless, are sufficiently sapient to see that for humanity to have a distant future they will need to take actions today, before the worst of the collapse, to prepare the pathway for the higher sapients (sort of like John the Baptist's making the way ready for Jesus). The idea of a nomadic life is to remove the sapients from the population centers so as to minimize their contact with overlord types should they arise. The trails that they follow will need supplies in caches that are put there by those who wish to help them survive. Those caches need to be built today.

There can be no one group of nomads, but many, taking different paths in different parts of the world. There are no guarantees that any will survive for many reasons. But the more that set out, the more likely some of them will survive past the time of major social turmoil. At least, that is the strategy that seems most appropriate to me.

Your option to influence an overlord might work. But in my experience the old saw that power corrupts (when wielded by the less-than-sapient) should be taken seriously.


My Spanish is very rusty. I submitted your text to an on-line translator that gave me the following:

Jorge, I do not speak english and use the translator of google to try to understand your article, which does not finish reading because it seems to me an error to attempt to separate the human being from the rest of the terrestrial nature. My idea is that we are not more than a tool of this complex system called life, and that our role is not one that carry such a system to another location before exhaustion here on earth. It does not matter if we get it with human form, with a bacterium that is adapted to another medium be reached, and perhaps after a few million years ago may appear somewhat similar to us, but that is not what is important. Everything indicates that we are on the right path. I hope that, despite my bad wording you can understand something of what you try to say, until the light baby Santiago Cravero

Perhaps you can now run that through google's translator and see if it comes back with Spanish that reasonably represents what you've said. [Invitation to anyone out there who has much better Spanish than mine to offer a translation!]

If I understand this (and it is reasonably correct) you are operating under the impression that I have segregated humanity from the rest of nature. This is not the case. My view is that Homo sapiens represents the emergence of a new level of organization on the planet. As with prior emergences this one is highly dependent on the lower levels of organization and so is still a part of nature. Nevertheless, as a new level, humans and their societies provide new behaviors not predicted from the behaviors of their components. Therefore they do need to be analyzed and treated as a new phenomenon in its own right.

I hope that translates OK!



You all might like to take a look at this:

Matt Holbert


I just reviewed a copy of the book. It has a similar theme to Nikolai Eberhardt's "From the Big Bang To The Human Predicament" and I have to say that I got more out of the Eberhardt book. Have you read "From the Big Bang..."?


Aboc Zed


I completely support your point about the need to define “ignorance” and I was very happy to see that you elaborated with your comment. When we define “ignorance” we of course also define “knowledge”.

I liked your suggestion to look at evolution as a “learning process” and that resonates strongly with me saying that we as individuals are born in ignorance and as species we are ignorant too.

Especially when you talk about us as a body that constitutes of knowledge-encoding beings and how we have yet much to learn about how Universe works and especially how, we, work. And yes SCIENCE is an excellent process by which we go on learning what we need to learn. And I would add the _only_ process.

When I talk about us being ignorant as organism-whole I talk about our institutions being essentially primitive institutions. That is they reflect evolutionary “knowledge” accumulated long before “emergence of sapience” if you will.

And yes you are right about telling scientists that “they have responsibility to the organism-whole” is not going to work because nobody can tell anybody what to do or what to think or what they should or should not do. Not to mention that “scientists” are first and foremost “members of society” and therefore as individuals they have very little in terms of going against institutions. That is what you call “talking to the wall”.

Yes most sapient among scientists already doing “right thing” in terms of explaining SCIENCE to others and sharing their knowledge but what I am trying to draw attention to is the lack of proper effort to build an _institution_ that in its foundations would have SCIENCE as the never–ending process of accumulation of knowledge.

What I am talking about is the need to infuse the scientific process into institutions of mankind.

And this can only be done by starting from a small seed group and watching that seed group survive population bottleneck event and being the only viable way of societal organization eventually become the default human condition.

Heuristic hierarchy would be the type of organizational structure that dynamically reconstitutes itself in accordance with the knowledge it accumulates about the relationship of its structure to its viability (self-perpetuation) within some other “larger” environment.

Heuristic refers to the fact that this process does not have a pre-determined path but the attractor states of the system exist and given enough time the system will reach the attractor state because such event is “encoded” in the first-order properties of the system (physical or matter-and-energy characteristics of the building blocks from which the structure builds itself).

I am sure you know what I am talking about because your idea of human evolution having a trajectory is precisely the idea of attractor state for human condition.

Our brain is heuristic hierarchy with attractor states of feral child on one hand (a human raised without human language communicators “looses” its ability to operate in the language environment) and continuous refinement and co-evolution of our language definitions together with evolution of our configuration-space (design-space in your language) on the other end of the spectrum.

Our current socio-economic system of democracy and capitalism is not heuristic hierarchy because accumulation of knowledge about how its structure relates to its viability is not “built-in” into the system.

Science works on the side, and essentially, does not mix with governance and government.

This is natural outcome of evolutionary process.

Democracy and capitalism will have to run its course and the building up and unwinding of the bottleneck will continue for as long as it takes for us as organism-whole “to learn” or _evolve_ the next level of organization that will manifest in the emergeance of appropriate kind of institutions.

I refer to that next level of organizational level as “heuristic hierarchy of heuristic hierarchies". One can also call it to be at the same time “heuristic hierarchism and hierarchical heurism”. You say it will happen when more sapience is accumulated in the neo-cortex. I do not mind talking about it in that way but I prefer to focus on evolution of human institutions and “feeling out” the path of our species from unsustainable democracy and capitalism to sustainability (“sapient government” in your language).

George Mobus

Dear Commentators,

I've been receiving e-mails from some of you complaining about comments not showing up. It turns out that typepad has adopted a new policy (that I was unaware of) regarding the length of comments. Apparently they are filtered as spam if they are too long, or if the poster is already in the spam list. I have gone to the spam list and published some older comments that should now appear. This is to get them out of the spam list. Some may be repeats. Also, they do pick up content that sounds spammy, whatever that means, so don't use phrases that might show up in some kind of spam (like: "only 20 days left till this offer expires...")

I have not made a daily habit of going to the spam list to check to make sure there aren't any valid comments there. I would not like to have to do this because I really don't have time to do so. I guess until they come up with some better mechanism for keeping comments shorter, I'll have to ask you to break long comments up into several posts and try to let some time pass between. I have yet to find out what the max length is. Obviously the rule doesn't apply to the blog owner (yet), only to commentators.

So if you want to make sure your comment is posted, please keep each short (don't use my model of making several responses in a single comment) or it will end up in the spam folder and I may not get to see it for several days.

I apologize for inconveniences. Maybe some day they will figure things out (like giving the owner the right to specify comment lengths).


George Mobus


Saw this. I've added Guy's blog to my blogroll. Thanks for the comment that prompted me to contact Guy.


I've put Eberhardt's book on my wishlist. Amazon doesn't stock it but has a number of sellers who do. Next book purchase I will get it. Thanks for the suggestion (it did have high recommendations on Amazon).


And yes SCIENCE is an excellent process by which we go on learning what we need to learn. And I would add the _only_ process.

This might get some kickback from many social scientists! Sounds awfully scientistic.

Heuristic refers to the fact that this process does not have a pre-determined path but the attractor states of the system exist and given enough time the system will reach the attractor state because such event is “encoded” in the first-order properties of the system (physical or matter-and-energy characteristics of the building blocks from which the structure builds itself).

I am sure you know what I am talking about because your idea of human evolution having a trajectory is precisely the idea of attractor state for human condition.

Well I think I understand a little better now what you mean by "heuristic", although the usage is very unusual and can be misleading. Why not just say that mentation is a dynamical process that appears to have chaotic attractors? In my experience the word heuristic means rules of thumb or guidelines which suggests intentionality, whereas a chaotic attractor basin is more stochastic and does not imply intentions.

But you still need to explicate what a "heuristic hierarchy" means. What would a "chaotic attractor hierarchy" be, if you actually do mean the latter concept?


Aboc Zed

George and esteemed commentators,

Yes I may sound “scientistic” but it does not bother me at all. 

Science (in my opinion) has shown beyond a doubt that every replica of homo sapiens sapiens is substantially identical  right before that moment around 20 weeks of gestation when the brain develops enough for chemical and electrical activity to begin.

Once neurons begin firing the “accumulated knowledge of evolution” expresses itself in deliberative capability.   At this stage  there is no “tacit knowledge” yet although you probably would say that level of sapience is already different.   There is no language. The brain has not yet acquired any “ideas” or “beliefs”; there is no “knowledge stored in language” yet.

Instead there is brain as self-organized criticality and cogitation in relationals (properties of matter). The configuration-space (design-space) is limited to the space within the uterus and the depth and breadth of the relationals in which brain operates are only beginning to accumulate.  No language yet, no communication except through kicking the mother from inside, but  genetic property of anthropoids, which I call deliberative capability, is fully engaged and is already at work.  

The “learning has” begun. The “happy smiling”, “the yelling of the argument”, “the worry about the future”, all are accompanied by mother’s hormones reaching the blood stream of the developing brain adding to the breadth and depth of experienced relationals. The developing brain, having the standard motherboard, follows the broad patterns, gets the substantially similar layout of circuits which nonetheless are not identical.  The basic process of observing relationals, storing them, relating them, interconnecting them, makes continues to affect the connectivity.  Language is nowhere in sight yet.  Beliefs are nowhere near. Ideology does not yet exist. Brain plasticity is high, the urge to experience and explore is high.  RELATIONALS ARE THE STUFF OF THOUGHT (yes I borrowed from Pinker).

Now let’s move to the time when a child is born. From the first moments of life most or all of physical discomforts experienced by a newborn are eventually alleviated by the actions of attending caregivers. These interactions allow the child to associate other humans as the guarantors of his/her viability and are his first experiences of hominid-being.  As deliberative capability of the child is stimulated by these interactions the child learns to communicate his desires and his (human) condition through various vocalizations. It is important to note that at these early stages language is only complimentary to evolutionary old communication devices such as body language and non verbal vocalizations. Over time the child learns semantic conventions of the language thru observing the use of specific words in specific circumstances. As soon as the basic vocabulary reaches critical mass the child progresses to classify unknown words through the known words (synonyms - antonyms). This experience exposes language as representational system. Mastering use of language as representational system for all internal states of his organism as well as for all phenomena perceived outside of it the child develops concept of self. This event marks transition of classical persona and deliberative capability operating upon relationals directly observed (sensory inputs of touch, hunger, etc) to reificational persona and deliberative capability operating directly upon relationals of  language which are, from this perspective,  second-order relationals.  In other words, language "transports" relationals from the physical world of brain into the self-contained world of mind and associated self.

Thus all we can ever know is the properties of matter which can only be observed in some sort of relationship to each other. To mark these properties of matter and the fundamental relationships that cannot be separated from these properties we call them “relationals”.

Back to “scientism” and science being the _ONLY_ way of KNOWING.

I trust my long introduction of “relationals” somewhat illuminates the fact that words are only names and  when we use them to point to something we are merely connecting the phenomenon  of “human condition”  and the tag most of us agreed to use for this  phenomenon.

When we talk about something that most of the people have not ever observed yet it is very difficult to convey our “meaning”.  I am sure that you find yourself often in the situation when you feel that people think they understand what you mean by “sapience” but the way they use the word or talk about the concept later on betrays the fact that they are mixing it up with something which you would call a different name. For example I think I understand your concept of sapience but I may be wrong.  The same does for the concept of “deliberative capability” and  “heuristic hierarchy”.  And the same goes about “scientism”.

To me that is not even a subject for discussion. Like existence or non-existence of God and spirituality is not a subject for discussion. What is the subject for discussion is: “What do we do with ourselves, the planet, the human condition, the way we indoctrinate children, the way we communicate, and so on and so forth TO INSURE OUR VIABILITY AS SPECIES beyond bottleneck event?” And to the extent that is the most important question one can ask himself when he has leisure time I keep coming back to it again and again. It bothers me. And I know it will continue to bother me until I die because this is the ultimate practical question of our time.  Not the search of ultimate truth or TRUTH but “how do we go from unsustainable democracy and capitalism that depend on and promote overpopulation and overconsumption to sustainable socio-economic system that will operate under mantra least population with least environment/resource corruption.

Our language is intrinsically limited representational system subject to Godel incompleteness theorems. With that there is always countless quantity of ways to disagree and those ways do not need any effort on the part of communicants. One can always say that his definitions differ.  To agree we need to invest time and effort into understanding our terms bridging the gap separating our idiosyncratic beliefs. To that we need to be motivated.

What would motivate us to do that?  Can we find the people who care about what we leave to posterity and are willing to keep talking until we all agree what needs to be done next and how we will go about doing it? Can we agree on the course of action and follow it? Or we are stuck forever in talking mode just watching the system go through its evolutionary destiny and our personal lives merely subject to larger than life inevitabilities?

What is the role of an individual in history?

PS. I will elaborate on my understanding of “heuristic hierarchy”  and how I feel it is related to “dynamic process with chaotic attractors” in a separate comment later.

Aboc Zed


Before I attempt to relate “heuristic hierarchy” and “dynamic system with chaotic attractors” I want to ask you a question.

The entry for “chaos theory” in Wikipedia gives good overview of this field of study, applications, terminology used to describe chaotic dynamics including sensitivity to initial conditions, topological mixing and strange attractors.  Fascinating.  

Wikipedia article for “life” gives equally fascinating reading with 7 point descriptive definition of life as it is understood in biology and “alternative” one–line definitions trying to reflect minimum phenomena required.

Reading both articles back-to-back and tapping into “tacit knowledge” of lifetime what is your answer to the question:

Is life a dynamic system with chaotic attractors?

PS. I have an intuition for your answer that follows from your writings but I wanted to ask you this question for your most current views on the subject.

Aboc Zed


I took Too Smart for Our Own Good by Craig Dilworth out of the library right after your review. Yesterday I finished it. I now can comment on the book and your review from a more informed perspective.

My general impression is the one of disappointment. After your review I must have had my expectations high enough for this to occur. I think you are overly generous when you say that Dilworth’s work is intellectually satisfying explanation of why we are where we are. In my opinion Dilworth work can be called “explanatory” only to the degree that any good description can be called explanatory.

I am completely behind your observation about the Dilworth’s choice of language. Calling the cycle of invention-population growth-more problems-invention to be “vicious” puts emotion and judgement of anthropocentric worldview where it does not belong. And this greatly devalues the whole work. It seems to me that the benefits of exposing the inevitability of upcoming collapse are completely negated by this paralyzing effect on our analytical abilities produced by the emotional language of “doom and gloom”. When our limbic brain is fully engaged our sapience has a lot more work to do to make sure our actions are not knee-jerk reactions.
Of course I would still give Dilworth a lot of credit for going out and reading all the works of others and meshing them all into his book. I am glad he did it because I now know “how not to write about it”.

We need a book presenting your view of the bottleneck being completely necessary from evolutionary perspective. It would help people see that we should stop wasting our energy on getting emotional about inevitable and simply start preparing for what is coming both on the level of individual and on the level of the society.

The sooner this message can be pushed into our collective consciousness the less human suffering happens over the time of transition from evolutionary past to evolutionary future.

George Mobus


RE: life and chaotic attractors. The problem with this question has to do with the mathematics of chaos. Life is an extremely complex process just from the numbers and kinds of molecular components and relations. Chaos is seen in extremely simple (low dimensional) systems where one can actually compute the trajectory of the phase space. Chaos in the weather system is seen in the climate models because they have abstracted so many factors in order to reduce the dimensionality.

There may very well be hidden attractors within life, but these would be hard to spot (with a few exceptions) directly. Rather, in our simplified models where non-linear relations are made explicit we see evidence of chaos. For the most part, living systems use a tremendous amount of negative feedback through redundant control loops to maintain internal consistency. If any thing this might be viewed as an anti-chaos approach!

RE: me writing a book? I have generally reject that idea because it would be a lot of work to do for what is probably a very small audience. The majority of people who would read such a book would probably not understand it, or would most likely reject it out of hand. My concepts are locally pessimistic though globally optimistic. Most people will not be able to get beyond the local pessimism part since we are talking about their personal lives at risk.

Of all the gloom-and-doom writers I know (not a small number at this point) they all are in it to try to convince the readers that they need to change their ways to prevent the worst. I have decided the worst is unavoidable, so there is no point in writing a book to suggest it is avoidable.

Rather I choose to continue in this vein, recording my thoughts and developing notions of applying systems science to the world condition to project likely scenarios and feasible actions in the face of unsolvable predicaments.


Escarcega Torrez

There is absolutely no way that computers substitute or surpass human brains. Computer gurus are just making the human brain as inspiration for their innovations, but it remains just that way. But we cannot deny the huge contribution of computers to humans.

This is a commendable discussion. I learned beautiful insights from this. Thanks!


I Have read this book and I think this is the most important one I have ever read. It is not impressively well written but its thesis is simple and striking. If such a simple view of history took such a long time to surface, it is mostly because we have self polluted ourselve with our own specificity which became an article of faith. We have fallen into a fascination toward our own history.

The genius of Dilworth is simplicity: he has the gut to look at facts casting aside morality and personal judgement.
There are points in his thesis that makes things more dire than in the above analysis of the book and that are not emphasized enough to my taste; one of them is irreversibility. Human history is ireversible meaning this transformation is fully adiabatical. As such we cannot go back smoothly but only crash fully. This is not a possibility but a predicament that is physically engraved in our history. Recent archeological history makes this past fully readable and this reading i the core of the book.

In concrete term, we now have strong indication that we have flourished on a progressive degradation of our environement, a long trend that contradicts the simple darwinistic approach: we never adapted to our environement like that would be the case in a reversible reaction with exchange of heat. We, like a fire, spreaded on progressive destruction. Our environement is largely depleted today and we would need to find another huge pocket to deplete to sustain our numbers. It is unlikely to hapen and even ifwe would, this would only postspone the crash and make it even more spectacular.

There are some omission in this book. Namely the role of society in selecting human genes, ie human self domestication. This is another aspect that would make thing even worse and prevent any further adaptation to a degraded post crash environement. Wisdom is an ndividual trait that is not relevant in a social context. A wise society, stable is a loosing configuration when confronted to an agressive destructive opportunistic society. This is one of the conclusion of american history for instance. Opportunistic, cynical behavior are selected by the fact that unsustanable way of production can sustain larger and powerfull society.
Another type of trait might emerge only if the fuel for such a society will deplete. My guess is that it is not for tomorrow and that unsustainable, aggressive and destructive societies will persist for a while, even after oil is gone.

Individual can be wise, but the wisdom tell them that they have to ponder their long term pessimism if they want to keep their income in an unsustainable society.

George Mobus


Possibly. The one thing you can say about evolution is that you can't easily predict where it is going to go. The past is not necessarily a guide to the future.


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