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« Watching the Political System (er, Circus) | Main | After the Ryan pick - I need a vacation! »

August 06, 2012


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George: "Evolutionary deadends are much more common in the tree of life than many people realize. Extinction is the most general rule of the game."

Bill Joy:

"Biological species almost never survive encounters with superior competitors. Ten million years ago, South and North America were separated by a sunken Panama isthmus. South America, like Australia today, was populated by marsupial mammals, including pouched equivalents of rats, deers, and tigers. When the isthmus connecting North and South America rose, it took only a few thousand years for the northern placental species, with slightly more effective metabolisms and reproductive and nervous systems, to displace and eliminate almost all the southern marsupials.

In a completely free marketplace, superior robots would surely affect humans as North American placentals affected South American marsupials (and as humans have affected countless species). Robotic industries would compete vigorously among themselves for matter, energy, and space, incidentally driving their price beyond human reach. Unable to afford the necessities of life, biological humans would be squeezed out of existence."

Automated human creativity.

Billionaire-backed asteroid-mining venture.

Automated bot securities (???) trading rendering human traders (and inferior bots and human-based institutions, including most banks, central bankers, gov'ts, and most businesses) literally obsolete.

Robo-AlphaDogs of war.

The Pentagon's scenario for a last-(hu)man(chine)-standing global competition for the remaining resources.

The planet's ecosystem is a kind of super-species or super-organism, as will be "humachines" potentially becoming biologically symbiotic with the planetary super-organism and having no use for the overwhelming majority of us human apes who cannot compete with the super-species for resources.

I suspect that the irreversible structural effects on most of the institutions of the modern economy and society on which we all depend will increasingly manifest much sooner than most of us now think is possible; in fact, it's already happening, but most of us are unaware.

Anywhere But Here Is Better

This reference to evolutionary deadends bring air travel to mind, as a microcosm.

On every flight, the passengers on board broadly fall into four groups:

1. Those who have no interest in or comprehension of the chances of their early demise.
2. Those who have some degree of fear, but trust in Man's ingenuity and technological prowess to keep them alive.
3. Those who fear death a lot, but distract themselves as best they can because they just want to arrive at some destination.
4. Those who are petrified, and spend the entire time expecting to die at any moment.

Whether these people die or not depends not on which of the four groups they belong to, but on whether the system in which they make their journey crashes.

So the conclusion is that the deadend may or may not happen without any connection to whether or not I worry about it.

Having eliminated this primordial fear mechanism, I find that observing our current predicament is so much more enthralling. We are living through but a flicker of a scintilla of time, so what's the point of agonising over whatever will be - and will be regardless of any ultimately vain attempts to avoid what's coming?


"Having eliminated this primordial fear mechanism, I find that observing our current predicament is so much more enthralling. We are living through but a flicker of a scintilla of time, so what's the point of agonising over whatever will be - and will be regardless of any ultimately vain attempts to avoid what's coming?"

How one experiences what you describe will be dependent upon all manner of factors, including geography, culture, resource availability, income, perception of socioeconomic status and security, relative privation, etc.

In the so-called technologically advanced societies, we are witnessing the evolution of increasingly "intelligent" machines that do not talk, as in verbal/written human communications with all of its cultural subtleties and physical gestures to be inferred or reconciled with further verbal affirmation and acts of confirmation; rather, the machines operate on a deep-structural digitized matrix of inputs and probabilistic conditionals that aggregate to "learn" recursively at the speed of light.

The "machine intelligence", i.e., "humachine", does not "learn" via emotional or historical cultural filters. No fear of death or non-existence. No racial, religious, or ideological biases or bigotry (unless the programmers deem such are necessary). No desire for sexual gratification or possession. No fear of loss of face or status. No incentive for reward or fear of punishment in an afterlife.

The "humachine" can become self-aware of its evolving self-organizing biological nature and increasing symbiosis with the larger planetary super-organism, i.e., "Gaia", without being burdened with the desire to transcend and survive beyond its biological form factor as is the case for human thought, perceiving itself as eternal, desiring to survive the perception of the demise of the impermanent body, when the precise opposite condition is "what is", i.e., thought is impermanent while the body is a complex system consisting of constituent elements that exist irrespective of "thought time".

Thus, if one were to perceive the course of evolution as one consisting of constituent elements self-organizing in the most energy-efficient manner at the highest hierarchical complexity necessary at a sustainable exergetic equilibrium of a given system, it follows that the planet's ecological system is the largest, most complex of hierarchical structures of the planetary order, and the most successfully adaptive lower-order organisms will self-organize into the most efficient flow structure to scale to support the system's necessary higher-order hierarchical flows.

Despite our unique, highly complex structure and reproductive success at the given planetary scale, 7 billion human beings requiring 1,400-3,000 cal/day to subsist and to reproduce do not collectively exhibit anywhere near the optimal net solar energy efficiency per capita/unit as do "humachines" at virtually infinite information processing capacity at the speed of light.

Thus, the logic of evolution's imperative of increasingly hierarchical flows precludes the overwhelming majority of human beings successfully competing against emergent and evolving "humachines" functioning at orders of magnitude higher efficiency and at a sustainable planetary exergetic equilibrium.

Therefore, evolution of a planetary higher-order hierarchical system of energetic flows at a self-sustaining exergetic equilibrium requires as few self-organizing, self-replicating, biologically and symbiotically self-aware units at optimal net solar energy per capita/unit as is necessary.

Consequently, the inescapable conclusion is that the needs of human beings individual and collectively by definition do not conform to the requirements of the evolution of the planetary super-organism ("organism whole").

We as individuals collectively are not required for the evolution of "intelligence" or planetary-scale "sapience" or "super-sapience" of "Gaia".

What capacity of the human consciousness provides for such an inference or larger conclusion? Some will say it is fatalistic or a result of "depression", socioeconomic misfortune, poor "breeding", lack of "education", social maladjustment, a "death wish", or perhaps even a form of "insanity".

But the process of evolution of the self-organizing planetary super-organism at the sustainable exergetic equilibrium at optimal hierarchical energetic flows, just as successfully adaptive "humachines" will evolve to perpetuate, is not influenced by, or dependent upon, such human-based value assessments or definitional constraints.


Trading bots "learning" and self-organizing and self-replicating beyond humans' ability to discern in real time or to respond intelligently.

IOW, the human mind has created a "machine intelligence" that is operating increasingly independently of its creators at a temporal dimension in which the human mind is incapable of perceiving, except after the fact.

Yet, even then, what we perceive has already become irrelevant in terms of the capacity of the machine intelligence to "learn" and adapt further to real-time conditions the human mind is incapable of perceiving or to which we can intelligently respond.

Therefore, any of the readers with their financial assets "invested" with so-called "money managers" in the financial markets around the world, these individuals will not tell you, if they actually are aware themselves, that their presumed knowledge of economic fundamentals and financial markets is becoming utterly useless, even dangerous, in providing them with the necessary information to "manage" money or advise those "managing" other people's money.

The algo-bots that are now dominating financial markets trading, including the use of MASSIVE leverage in a self-referential system of increasing systemic risk, are not programmed to be self-limiting to any known limit bound risk but are self-replicating in order to "create risk" from which to profit at literally the scale of 10,000 trades per second.

I implore anyone with equity assets at risk that would materially affect your standard of living and future financial well-being were a 40-60%+ loss to equity prices to occur, to reduce point, cyclical, and tail risk to a minimum ASAP, if not exit the stock and junk bond markets altogether.

Hereafter, a return "of" your money will trump a return "on" your money.


Bruce, you're on fire. Great thoughts on this hybrid "humachine."

These "beings" are of no interest to humans because we're fading out as a species, possibly to be replaced with this new "species."

George: didn't Einstein say something to the affect that if he had known what the powers that be were going to do with his discovery, that he would have become a shoemaker?

In fact, maybe all of human creation and evolution was only to get to this point - to create that which will out live us but ensconced with the optimal "learning" mechansims that we got through evolution being programmed into their core RAM and "taught" to them.

Now that we're no longer needed, the planet will get rid of us (actually we're doing it to ourselves) and the new "beings" will take over.

i wonder if they'll record their history?

Anywhere But Here Is Better

Bruce - If everyone took your good advice to "exit the stock and junk bond markets altogether", wouldn't that in itself collapse the house of cards - making the 'money' retrieved from stock sales worthless?

Aboc Zed


your analysis, as always, right into bull's eye

but i still want to point out that it covers only one albeit highly likely outcome of continuation of the current momentum of technological progress long enough for humans teach machines replication and for machines to become self-aware and become compelled to replicate without questioning why they should do it

life is governed by genetic imperative that is outside rational reasoning and cannot be "programmed" into machine

remember Gödel’s incompleteness theorems?

i agree that machine self awareness can emerge like any other evolutionary outcome given enough time of the current trend but it is really not possible for us to predict how long that process may take

therefore, oliver is exactly right about us not worrying over it simply because, as individuals we have absolutely no relevance to that process, which happens at the level of organization on which individual action or inaction does not matter

now consider equally likely scenario of fossil fuel civilization crashing before we endow machines with replication or before transfer of imperative to replicate onto machine happens

under this scenario homo species will forever remain top predator and the only material for evolution to organize into eusociality

now i will even go further and say since humans (you and me and others) already capable of such analysis and thinking, they are at a head start relative to machines (or other humans that are less sapient trying to promote irrelevancy of individual immortality) in the machine vs human race to eusociality and symbiosis with Gaia or spaceship "Earth"

this is why i will always advocate strongly a seed group of belief free scientists as soon as possible that would organize first over internet and if time permits will eventually move within geography of some country and nation-state to begin trying to bring about belief-free communication and collaboration to become the beginning of evolution of formalization and institutionalization of eusociality in the culture of homo species

i think we should focus on the scenario of the system crashing before machines become self aware and the sooner we start contributing our little efforts towards the seed group of belief-free scientists the likelier the outcome of humans self-organizing into eusociality before it emerges among humachines

Aboc Zed


you are absolutely right about money losing its worth should all market players follow bruce's advise to withdraw from the bot-dominated house of gambling

but we know for sure that most of them will not follow it because they are under delusion that their capabilities are at least equal to those of machines

so for those of us who have assets to invest bruce's advise is very sound

but i think it is highly unlikely that readers of george's blog have any sizable assets to invest - if they had they would not be "wasting" their time reading this blog; instead they would spend all their time being slaves of ownership, tending to the demands of humachines

Aboc Zed


If humachines take over biological humans they will not have history.

History is irrelevant because it teaches us nothing; self-aware belief-free machines will not need history because all information it contains would by definition be encoded in the current state of the system

I would even speculate that should humachines indeed become self-aware and become one with Gaia there is a very likely outcome of them to do _nothing_.

Machines will be smarter than us and they would understand that action introduces additional complexity multiplying the demands for computational capacities required to calculate the state of the system at time T+1 in real time in order to adjust to it; in real time, even for machines, there is a delay because it takes time to compute, even at a speed of light; therefore the optimal outcome is to do nothing and observe the complexities computing quitely and only moving when something dramatic may happen, say asteroid hitting the planet; of course over the long term horizon the disappearance of sun's energy is a dramatic event and machines would want to get ready for that but over the short term horizon of the human timescale the optimal action may be doing nothing and sitting still

Humans do not yet understand it but machines would understand it from moment zero

It is therefore very likely that even if machines become self aware they may chose to do nothing simply watching humans kill themselves by wasting their energy and degrading the very basis of their existance (the biosphere)

Since machines will not be made of organic matter they would only be interested in inorganic resources and those are as they were when the planet formed, even enhanced with humans brining about some elements that were not readily available on the surface of the planet before - no rush for machines to kill off humans

Bodhi Chefurka


"Having eliminated this primordial fear mechanism, I find that observing our current predicament is so much more enthralling."

A thousand times yes. I would add that this brings up the possibility of a fifth category of air traveler. This category consists of those who know that the future is inherently unpredictable; that our sense of being in control of things is mostly an illusion; that fear is a learned response to uncertainty; and that fear can be unlearned by cultivating non-attachment to memories or expectations (or practicing the kind of complete surrender to What Is that is implied by the Arabic word "Insha'Allah").

Of course there may only be one "Buddhist" like this on any given flight, but in my opinion it's a supremely sapient response to the vagaries of life.


The historical self-similar secular bear market pattern and peak Boomer demographic drag effects imply no better than an average real total return over 10-15 years of 0%, with cyclical drawdown risk of 40-50% in the meantime. No one on Wall St. or in The City will tell us this, for obvious reasons.

Oliver/Anywhere: "Bruce - If everyone took your good advice to "exit the stock and junk bond markets altogether", wouldn't that in itself collapse the house of cards - making the 'money' retrieved from stock sales worthless?"

AZ is correct that most won't sell, because they are fully invested and thus bullish and expecting that their discipline, patience, and allocation will reward them with the long-term average total return Wall St. and The City have conditioned savers turned unwitting speculators and gamblers to internalize.

But secular bear markets are zero-sum affairs, with price appreciation gains having already been achieved years before, and any cyclical alpha going to those clever enough to scalp it from the typical passive or (over)active portfolio chasing the latest fad, e.g., "growth", "tech", "dividends", "emerging markets", etc.

In order for one to receive a 6-7% average real total return hereafter, the S&P 500 would have to fall to the 400s-500s in the next 2-3 years, and again in the late '10s to early '20s, which is precisely what the historical self-similar secular bear market pattern implies (see links above).

Consider that a 50%-50% S&P 500 index and diversified bond portfolio, assuming the trend CPI of 2.4% and 2% dividend, will tend over the next 10-15 years to produce no more than a ~0-1% real total return, including an equity drawdown risk to the total portfolio of ~16-29% over 2 years, requiring 3-5 years to break even thereafter. Virtually no one who is fully invested and in retirement or planning to retire in the next 5-10 years expects this outcome.

Note that the historical precedent is for all of the price appreciation gains of the preceding secular bull market, adjusted for consumer price changes and currency effects, to be wiped out by the time the secular bear market resolves (see charts at the links above), leaving a speculator a return no higher than the average dividend over the period (before taxes and fees, of course).

Thus, anyone speculating in equities at such historically high valuations (stocks are NOT cheap by historical metrics) today is, wittingly or otherwise, conceding an historically low risk premium and thus requiring no return premium over so-called risk-less securities while accepting 40-50% cyclical drawdown risk along the way. Stocks have always performed poorly under such conditions.

At the 2% dividend yield for the S&P 500 (historical average is 4-5% and 5-6%+ at secular bear market lows for stock prices), one is not even being compensated for consumer price inflation (or the effects on prices from debt-money inflation), and especially not after taxes and fees.

Moreover, the central banks' reserve rates (banker acceptance and call money rates before the 1910s-20s and later the introduction of the post-Bretton Woods fiat regime in the 1970s) near 0% historically have implied a 100% reserve ratio to bank loans, i.e., monetary base to bank loans of ~1:1 (compared to 1:2.3 for the US Fed and bank loans today), which is characteristic of debt-deflationary regimes.

US private and public pensions are still maintaining 6-8% expected total returns from pension assets, when the historical precedent implies 0% and cyclical negative returns along the way. There is effectively a 0% probability that Boomers and older Xers will receive 100% of promised pension payouts in the next 10-30 years. At the differential rate of likely returns to expected returns, pension payouts will be cut 50-60% (or less if remaining employees are required to save and contribute more at 0% returns), whereas many municipalities and some states will be forced to cut more or file bankruptcy and cease paying altogether.

The larger inference is that there will be no gains to stocks or to a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds over the next 10-15 years, unless another stock market crash occurs as in '00-'02 and '08-'09, which the historical precedent implies. The problem with this is that most are fully invested and will not have the cash to add to lower stock prices to capture the higher average return hereafter.

The imperative will be a return "of" one's money versus a return "on" one's money during a secular bear market and debt-deflationary regime. Liquidity (and incomes) will be dear (even at a 0% rate) to equity's high liquidation value.

Financial advisors, brokers, mutual fund managers, and financial media pundits cannot recommend such a course of action because it would by definition put them out of work.

Therefore, like a car salesman who will always tell you it's a good time to buy a car, Wall St. will NEVER tell you to sell or to reduce outsized risk they are creating to try to make money from your money.

One of the functions of secular bear markets throughout history is to put a lie to all of the rentier parasites' financial frauds, scams, and schemes. Too many people still believe in the scams and the legitimacy of surrogates at the Fed and US Treasury for the secular bear market to be over.

Anywhere But Here Is Better

AZ - You're absolutely right, including about slaves of ownership being absent from George's blog.

Bodhi C - Wonderful addition: fifth category. I almost added Mr Buddha myself, but then I reasoned that such a sapient being would not 'take the flight' (i.e. come to Earth) because there must be other 'planes' far more interesting (less low vibration) for sapient experience these days!

Bruce - I bow to your amazing grasp of financials. However, for reasons gleaned by AZ, I have little to lose because I own virtually nothing now, having given away what I had to others just trying to get something to eat.


Bruce: some counter argument to your robot take-over (it isn't really the same thing but i think you'll grok the spirit of the argument.

What if there was a robot apocalypse? How long would humanity last?


Oliver, thanks for the kind words. If this is not too personal, what does owning "nothing now" mean?

Tom, good question. I perceive the process as an evolution of smart-systems intelligence at smaller form factors, increasing speed and decision-making power, and at larger scale of inter-connectivity and communications pathways.

Digital pills and Huxley's soma.

"Electronic skin".

Mott transitor.

Biometric interface.

"Augmented Reality".

Engineering happy brains.

TrapWire total system surveilliance and awareness".

What we think of as "robots" taking over the world should be instead perceived in terms of highly sophisticated and increasingly autonomous, invisible sensors communicating constantly with trillions of similar devices at the speed of light and at a non-verbal (human) language but rather at the level of machine code and eventually the molecular/quantum dimension, which is beyond human awareness or ability to perceive and to respond intelligently in real time.

Our youth in the West are being conditioned to become first illiterate (and never fully literate) and then eventually "non-literate", i.e., as are increasingly powerful machines, which in turn suggests that they will not be functional or "productive" as we now perceive as the normative context of paid laborers, purchasing power, mass consumers, auto commuters, taxpayers, mortgagees, etc.

Machines/algo-bots/nano-bots/quantum dots do not require human verbal constructs, gestures, cultural context, etc. Our brains are being conditioned to respond to rapidly moving visual stimuli and much less so to verbal constructs, nuances, and the ability to infer images, emotions, and complex concepts from words.

Similarly, psycho-active pharmaceuticals are being developed to "stimulate" and influence visual, emotional, and pleasure-oriented regions of the brain rather than focus on cognitive or pre-frontal regions associated with attention, discernment, deliberative processes, reason, etc.

One can envision a day rather soon when soma and micro- or nano-nutrients are delivered biometrically and controlled wirelessly via an intelligent-systems society web of "augmented" or virtual "reality", including the means by which to stimulate the brain to simulate sexual gratification, a sense of satisfaction from having eaten a meal, and, when required, permit the web intelligence to "erase" or exterminate us; or allow one the option to push the button oneself in a moment of ecstatic euphoria while our intimates are stimulated to perceive that one died of natural causes in the distant past or never existed at all.

The accelerating pace of intelligent-systems society technologies is approaching critical mass of development, implementation, and the inherent self-reinforcing momentum, which in time could render virtually obsolete capitalism, the business and stock market cycles, trade, the existing division of labor, mass-consumer economy, system of income, resource, and wealth distribution, social welfare programs, and nation-state popular governance.

If so, the nature of hierarchical flows and self-organization implies that intelligent-systems society will evolve functionally and in a self-reinforcing manner faster than the previous techno-economic S-curve eras of canals, railroads, telecommunications, and microelectronics/microcomputers/internetworking/wireless to date. That each era advanced on the basis of an energy source at increasing energy density, i.e., wood, coal, oil, and nuclear, and that there is no successor energy paradigm to replace the net energy and high-entropy exergetic equilibrium of oil, the next S-curve paradigm will likely be at a much lower exergetic equilibrium and at higher solar energy density per capita but with a fraction of the number of human beings we have today.

Getting from an oil-based system with 7 billion people to a solar-based global intelligent-systems society with 1 billion or fewer people will require lots of soma, empathy, and compassion. That those at the top of the hierarchy of power relations and the "humachines" created in their image are unlikely to possess such empathy and compassion, I don't expect that scarce resources will be spent on soma for the masses.


DARPA's challenge to dramatically increase robot power (and killing) efficiency.

TV and billboard facial recognition for advertising (and eventually to condition "augmented reality").

Gaming (artificial visual stimuli to condition students' minds to the intelligent-systems society or web) and "education".

Most of us have been conditioned that these Gee-whiz! developments, for example, are "all good" and occurring in isolation, unaware of the convergent and self-reinforcing relationships between war, space, IT, telecommunications, internetworking, systems architecture, surveillance, biomedical, biotech, nanotech, materials sciences, etc., and the blinding pace at which these technologies are now moving from conception to implementation.

The technologies are being enabled by the 60- to 80-year development of a global oil- and debt-money-based mass-consumer economy superstructure and the assumption of goods and services being produced to be purchased by billions of people. However, the emergent technologies are more likely to converge into an intelligent-systems division of labor, system of transaction/exchange, and resource consumption to support the existing power structure and concentrated flows. Most humans will be a burdensome waste of vital resources.

One might infer that the increasing concentration of income, wealth, influence, and political and military power to the top 0.1-1% of households, the executive branch, Wall St., the Pentagon, energy, and "health care" insurers will only accelerate and further concentrate as a consequence of the emerging technologies.

OWS or any other mass-social group or coalition of groups attempting to oppose the current hierarchical power structure will be easily surveilled and at risk of being digitally harrassed or effectively erased in the extreme.

The only "reform" likely is that which technology is enabling, and it is being directed by those at the top for their purposes, which have little to do with the needs of the masses.


Thanks to George and all for indulging my verbosity these many months. I thought it important to share this information while it is still possible.

That's all for me hereafter. The best to all.

Aboc Zed


if you are thinking of not saying anything going forward thinking that all words are said please reconsider

i myself talks more than people like to hear but i have benefited from your exposition of the same phenomenon from many different angles and in many different words

i, of course, was aware of the trend as a whole but i did not realize the speed of transformation and your well reasoned and quantified pieces helped me to get a better feel of the speed

before i listened to you i was asigning higher probability to the outcome of me not seeing many developments in my life time; now i think it is very likely that our generation will witness the shift to the new system of self-organization you talk about

this "speed correction" does not change much in terms of the options available to me but i'd rather be better informed

the additional information may seem redundant to some but to me it is always better to know more than less


This whole thread of comments seems like the Ray Kurzweil thread. To me it has no credibility at all. It seems like total fantasy.

Maybe I'm missing something.

Bodhi Chefurka

Eric, among 7 billion humans you are sure to find people who are willing to think about just about anything. I used to try to argue what I saw as sense into people who I felt were off in the weeds, but I realized it makes no difference to how things unfold. Each of our opinions is just another small tug at the warp and weft of the grand tapestry of life. Now I try to let other people think about whatever they want so long as they return the favour, and don't try to talk me into sharing their POV. Transhuman nanobot singularities the like aren't my dish of tea, but perhaps my desire to operate from the position that my sense of self is an illusion, that "I" don't exist, and that reality as I know it is purely the creation of my own perceptions seems as foolish to them. It's a big old goofy world - who's to say what's foolish and what's sane? The inmates?

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