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« Happy Winter Solstice - 2012 | Main | Is the End Near? »

January 06, 2013


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John Wheeler

The problem with the current political system is that it requires super-human sapience. A truly intelligent system would deal with problems at the smallest scale possible, requiring the least sapience, and freeing up the higher levels to solve only those problems that require a higher level solution.


Good luck with that enormous workload George.

Your analogy of the eye of the storm is doubly apt, as it also applies to reading your words of wisdom on this blog. I find Question Everything an oasis of sapience amid a whirlwind of pure idiocy in the grand system known as everyday life.

When you have time, I welcome your updates on 'Everything'.

Aboc Zed


Good to hear you are busy. And the developments are very positive. I especially like the fact that your book on system science is going forward. And that you get valuable feedback from teaching the material to students.

For review of your book don't forget to send it to TAD if you did not do so. He seems to be very level headed and open minded and does not mind helping others. He is busy writing his book too but I am sure such subject as system science is close to his heart and he will give you pointers. At least I think so.

Book on sapience is also needed but I think most will not get it and that means it may not have as much success than your system science book. But if you find the time to squeeze it in it is great.

Don't worry about not blogging. We are all adults here and we don't need to be "hand held" and there are always your old posts that apply to human condition - nothing going to change much this year.

Come back once in a while to let us know you are doing well and focus on your teaching and books - that would be a much bigger contribution to humanity.

Make sure you go for hardcover and archival type paper - the book needs to survive the collapse of the grid.

Happy New Year!

Aboc Zed


The smallest scale possible is the scale of an individual. And all of us are born ignorant much the same way we were born ignorant some 10 -12, 000 ago when we first settled into communal way of living.

People enter society with all sorts of _opinions_ and if they go into a occupation that is outside of hard sciences they may never learn anything of _fact_.

You comment is on target but I would point out that it is not just political system but the whole of human enterprise, that is the whole of our species not having an intelligent system.

In other words we simply continue on automatic pilot out of our evolutionary origins, which, by definition, had very little knowledge about our configuration space.

George always connects the big picture at the evolutionary process scale to current events at the scale of the individual.

I think the whole wwill continue to evolve and only people like George and yourself, thru educational efforts and thru coalescing into some sort of a seed group that would also begin_proper institutionalization of science_ we can shorten the time from our ignorant ways of the past to fully sapient ways of the future.

that is why I atribute the most importance to writing books and learning how to communicate properly amongst those who understand the nature and course of human evolution.

The planet will be scortched but whatever remnants of human population, one day the system will be intellegent because that is the only way for it to continue over deep time (geological timeframe).


George: Thanks for devoting your energy in order to include this site - i appreciate it, you and the commenters too. i look forward to learning a bit about system science each time i peruse this blog in your approach, analysis and "solutions" to topics you delve into.

Aboc Zed: Not only born ignorant but also "born into captivity" (in the sense Guy MacPherson used it)!

It's far too late to do anything about our lack of a future, and the almost genetic ignorance we display as a culture within our overpopulated species practically guarantees that nothing will be done up until the electrical grid crashes forever, at which point the way to extinction is not far off (think Fukushima times 450), so use your remaining time in the pursuit of your own personal well-being and development (while helping others where and when you can) - good luck on your ventures everyone.


One more thought.

i liked the way Occupy approached problems by consensus and through leaderless effort, with modification anywhere and whenever it was called for or when a better way was found. The rigidity and corruption of most governments precludes efficient practical and real solutions to most civic, state and national problems.


Apologies to all if I am repeating myself, but I have concluded that it is time to stop gnashing my teeth and bemoaning the terrible and primitive society of mankind. I now fully realize the futility of complaining that rain is wet.

In what remains of my life sentence, I am devoted to building a camaraderie with whichever fellow prisoners of earth I encounter who are interested in what may arise post-bottleneck (minus us).

This includes lending a hand to others in even worse economic state than myself, which I have discovered is the sole source of peace and contentment left to Homo pre-cogitans [Privet ZA :) ]

Aboc Zed


when you talk about "our lack of future" I keep thinking that such wording is unnecessary emotional.

Yes, homo sapiens sapiens does not have a future but genus homo does like LIFE as a whole. Granted there will not be biodiversity and there will not be many individuals comprising genus homo but talking about complete extinction seems to me unwarranted simply because we cannot possibly have enough information to come to that conclusion.

Take your Fukushima times 450 as an example. Yes when grid comes down and the fuel leaks into environment everything become irradiated. But that does not mean the life is wiped out. We simply have no data and models to think about what would happen then. Yes we know about increased mutations and cancers that kill but it only takes 14 -16 years a female to reach child bearing age and theoretically one only needs one healthy sperm donor to keep producing babies and see if nature at some point produces a mutation that can continue under "unlivable" levels of radiation. I am not saying that what would happen. All I am saying that even thinking about extinction is a waste of time.

Thinkinfg about how the system can be made more intelligent and what institutions need to evolve in what way to me is a much more productive use of time.

Of course only after one takes care of his own well-being and well-being of people that close to him and takes the time to enjoy life.

In other words I live byt the motto:

"No matter what is going on around it take the time and effort to make yourself healthy and happy. Then you will be able to make people around you healthy and happy. Once you have your immediate environment as healthy and as happy as possible you will be able to live as long as possible given the conditions that are outside of your control. If you live long and you persist with a certain idea or effort long enough you will have an effect , hoewer insignificant on a big scale nonetheless the effect on a small scale changing people around you.
As time continues the proper thinking and proper science persists and eventually will be brought to guide the genus homo into proper self-organization that is eusocial with individuals moving up and down the hierarchy only in accordance of their ability to take care of the whole and for that individuals will have to be most knowleedgeable and constantly updating themselves on latest science.
At that time the pecking order of our evolutionary origins will vestigialize and the system would be intelligent with neo-nate ignorance contained thru proper education that is universal, for every child and for every adult alive with the lower levels of hierarchy learning less and slower and the top levels learning fast and most and all knowing enough to understand that their personal freedom can only be excersized withing an envelope that is the same for every individual and on a bigger scale we all are like cells in the body - each has its role and function for the organism whole to keep going.

This may sound as utopia but this is tawards what evolution of deliberative capability - a genetice property of genus homo is taking our life-form.

It is a pitty I will nt leave long enough to witness that happening and nobody probably can because the change will never be over one lifetime but what I can do now is to think thru those developments when I have spare time and write them down onto a book and also support efforts of people like George who write books on systemness and sapience which are in line with the general trend of human evolution.

It is inevitable that the posterity will not have the planet as beautiful and bountiful as we have it in much the same way as we do not know the abundance of 16th or 17th century but the dynamic stability will come and we want it to come sooner than later.

For that all we can do is learn the science , learn the proper language, seek out people like us and begin building the institutions that would promote proper communication, learning and institutionalization of the proces by which we eventually husband the planet in such a way as to minimize our impact on the black-box system so that we leave more of it to be learned for posterity when they may know better how to manage htemselves and system.

We are at the beginning of the slowing momentum and the momentum is slowing because of the physical constraints. If we are prepared to act ot certain pressure points coherently we can slow the momentum very fast and stabilize the population and after that the momentum of proper institutionalization of science will take over and will continue on automatic pilot - like the momentum of ignorance goes now.

All of it stems out of physical properties of matter and independent of our opinions and beliefs.

This is why it is inevitable and will happen sooner or later.

We should leave a good record for posterity of all our intellectiual activities in this regard - they will need it.
And the record should be in books and people who can read them.


George - as in Professor Mobus and KIND SIR - MANY thanks for agreeing to teach freshmen! One of the delights of my long ago freshman year were the (relatively rare, alas) courses taught by TOP FLIGHT, UW professors to us members of the Great Unwashed! Those were WONDERFUL courses that I STILL - 50 years later - remember!

And regarding the "eye of the hurricane," I'm reading The Crash Course, by Chris Martensen. No book is PERFECT, but this one does have a very understandable discussion of the LOGICAL IMPOSSIBILITY of maintaining ANY species of exponential growth in a finite system.

Martin Gisser

Hmmm, U.S. politics... For me (baffled European spectator) it looks there's a problem of an ethics/culture of facts and logic. You 'Merricans seem too tolerant towards liars and reality deniers. Crass folks like Inhofe, Ryan, etc. would get laughed out of most (west) European parliaments. The press would tear them to shreds. In Washington DC instead they get to chair a science comittee or seriously run for (vice) president.

Of course politics isn't only about graspable facts or truth or logic. But who's bad at these basics should get laughed out of politics.

So, methinks sapience is not only about individuals. It's also about culture. If it's OK to be non/anti sapient, why work hard on one's sapience. Why, sapience is bad for the Ego.

I'm getting more and more a fan of the old philosopher Buddha. He's not only great in systems intuition (except for some rebirth inconsistency). His process ontology is 2500 years ahead. He's also the first in trying to foster a culture of sapience. Methinks a book on sapience should have a look at him, plus perhaps some Greek philosopher.


Wish you a productive new years!


Professor Mobus,

I have thought often about your hopes and ideas for the evolution of humans with greater sapience.

The psychologist Geoffrey Miller has written an interesting piece about the Chinese government's explicit and purposeful eugenics efforts.

It is available at the following website:

I wonder if greater sapience, as you understand it, will actually result from these efforts. Could it be that the sorts of things (high IQ, skill at conventional academic performance) that the Chinese are selecting for do not completely overlap with true sapience?


Aboc Zed: surely you don't think NTE is a myth.

An intelligent fellow like yourself can connect the dots and see that clearly not only are WE on our way out, but we'll most likely take most if not all of life on earth with us this time.

Sorry to inform you of this and sincerely wish it was all fictitious, but the reality is that we overshot our planets carrying capacity and polluted it to the point of toxicity to everything from plankton to vegetation to humanity to all other animals.
It's over.


Pretty much everything we're doing as a civilization is wrong and leads to our demise (at minimum). Take feeding ourselves, for example:

Is our national habit of eating dead animals dragging us closer and closer to a flu pandemic that could kill tens of millions of Americans? Dr. Michael Greger believes so.

He's the author of the new book, Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, and he recently came on our show, The Big Picture, to ring the alarm bell.

"Up to sixty million Americans get the flu every year," he said before asking, "What if it turned deadly?"

The question wasn't exactly rhetorical.

We do know that the flu is already deadly. Hundreds, sometime thousands, of Americans do die every year from the regular seasonal flu, which according to the Center for Disease Control has a mortality rate of about two-tenths of one percent.

A particularly severe and infectious form of influenza struck the world in 1918 infecting a third of the global population and killing as many as 100 million people. In the United States, that flu took the lives of more than a half-million Americans. Unlike the average seasonal flu that we're confronting today with a mortality rate of .2%, the 1918 strand of influenza had a mortality rate of 2.5%. It was the worst plague in history.

But what if a strand of influenza swept across the nation that was twenty-five times deadlier than the 1918 strand? What if we were dealing with a flu pandemic that had a 60% mortality rate?

Here's the frightening news: We already are.

An extremely deadly and contagious form of bird flu, H5N1, has already infected people in several countries including densely populated China and Indonesia, as well as Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, among others.

Just in 2012, known cases of H5N1 bird flu in Cambodia killed 90% of those infected. In China, 65% died. In Indonesia, the mortality rate was 83%. And in Laos and Nigeria, the mortality rate was 100% - every single person who got it, died.

If the 60 million Americans who get the flu every year suddenly got this particular strand of the flu, H5N1, then upwards of 40 million Americans would die. It would be a disaster on a scale never before seen in this nation other than, possibly, how Europeans wiped out Native Americans when they first brought the flu from Europe. And if it spread around the rest of the world, it would make the Black Plague of the 14th century look like the common cold.

Dr. Greger warned: "It's like crossing one of the deadliest known human diseases, Ebola, with one of the most contagious known diseases, influenza." He added that the single factor that was most likely to cause this is factory farming.

(there's more)

Happy days, everyone!

Aboc Zed


It is all about definitions. The civilization of homo sapiens sapiens is over and even he himself is done with but LIFE as property of matter and genus homo will continue simply because it adapts and evolves. If you define extinction as decrease from 7 billion to say 1 million in population of genus homo then yes we will be extinct and yes all of the biodiversity of life will be gone but my definition of extinction is "no living individuals of the species". For this definition I think it is highly unlikely (save another asteroid hitting the planet). Scientists know a lot about every little detail we need to rearange ourselves into sustainable configuration and we can even figure out what that level of population would be provided we redefine our needs and wants in line with science of sustainability. But that is not going to happen before genus home as organism-whole experiences all the consequences of overshoot and subsequent die-off.

It is all about the speed of our learning as an organism-whole and re-arranging ourselves in line with reality of us not having rights and freedoms to believe things that are not supported by science. Until we allow our children to not know and understand science we will be governed by ignorance for the ignorance and the momentum of evolution out of ignorance will continue with the endless cycle of overshoot and corruption of our environment.

It is a long time before sun goes "poof". And over that time genus home may have one or two or many cycles of overshoot and die-off.

We are only in the first one.


Aboc Zed:

So you don't think we've poisoned the entire biosphere to the point that the oceans will become too acidic to support life, that the trees and most other vegetation will die because of the excess ozone in the troposphere, and that once the electrical grid fails that all the radiation from the over 400 nuke plants in the world (that won't be decommissioned in time) will make the earth unable to support any life? Even if the last one is avoided there's still the runaway greenhouse effect from the positive feedback loops we've already triggered and which are worsening each year (with a delayed worsening effect on the planet's climate). Add to that the fact that we aren't doing anything differently as a species with regard to powering our civilization(illustrating our supposed "sentience"?) to mitigate the harmful effects.

Aboc Zed


Watch the future climate presentation at this year holiday lecture series of HHMI

There is a nice explanation of the "thermostat" that in operation on our planet

Also the first lecture talkes about history of life and a bit on the Curiosity mission to Mars - to check out if life ever existed on that planet

Pretty cool.

I trust after you watch those videos you will get a better sens of timescales on which LIFE operates and will see that no matter how hard we will try we wil not extinguish LIFE on the planet.

We will make it very difficult for us to survive in any sort of big numbers and we will irradiate the planet and the oceans will certanly turn acidic.

But as son as we kick the stool from under our feet and hang ourselves the life will begin to recover.

The question is in what shape and form genus homo will make thru the fossil fuel civilization collapse and how much as species we will learn from it.

The planet will certainly recover from the results of us being slow learners but whay kind of the set -up we will have in terms of self-organization and at what sapience level is another story.

I am an optimist in the sense that I think the genus home will need only one global civilization break-down to wisen up but I may be wrong about the speed of learning at the level of organism whole and it may be the case that we will need one or two iterations.

In the end if we can assure continuity of science (which I think we can) then my opinion is that at some point in the future we will learn enough about ourselves to be able to manipulate our organism-whole in such a way as minimizing the impact on the environment and speeding up our understanding of the black-box relationships in the system humanity - whole LIFE on the planet - humanity.

In any case all those developments are way in the future and the only immediate thing is the collapse of civilization due to inability to deal with extreme weather events and collapse of "planetary services"
We also will be forced to deal we the consequences of playing with genes which will ultimately come back to us in unpredictable ways and compromise our reproduction. At that point we should really feel the heat and stop the nonsense of thinking capitalism and democracy is the best form of government. That would be the first step on the long road towards sustainability.


ZA - Nicely stated. My conclusion is that once we are individually able to relegate existential fear to the file cabinet named 'Pointless Emotion', we gain the ability to ponder and grasp the timescales of your predictions - and find some justification for optimism.

In the meantime, because most of us are unable to extricate ourselves from the myopic anthropocentricism that makes us believe we exist at the center of the universe, there will continue to be both doomers and sociopathic capitalists dominating the debate about where we're heading.


Oliver, Aboc Zed:

i sincerely hope you are correct, but think that you're overly optimistic. The next 5 years will provide meaningful data to ascertain whether or not we as a species can correct our course in time to alleviate certain extinction. Looking back at the past 100 years clearly doesn't count since it's what got us here and only illustrates our self-centered ignorance, which SURELY we can overcome via your rosy attitude and solid belief in mankind, over the next decade.

So, if we're still around then, we'll revisit this to marvel at our progress.

also admin.: please note my new e-mail address (i was hacked and can't access the old one now).


Tom - I'm a little less confident than Aboc Zed about the survival of genus Homo, and both my ex-wife and my girlfriend would guffaw at you labelling me an optimist. As for "rosy attitude"... hilarious! But what strikes me as plausible is that 'we' won't go completely extinct, and be able provide some genetic material for the emergence of what Aboc Zed terms Homo cogitans.

As a born-again realist, I no longer think in terms of 100% black or white. There always seem to be many shades in between.

By the way, I enjoy your interesting postings, so let's keep up the debate.

Aboc Zed


I must say again that I do not disagree with you that Homo Sapiens Sapiens is heading towards dramatic decrease of its numbers.

If you call that "extinction" then yes we may think we will become extinct.

But LIFE will certainly will not become extinct. Think about bacterial and viral lifeforms (viruses are not strictly organisms but more of a packed genetic material wch needs cell's reproductive machinery to replicate).

If you think in terms of DNA biomass then LIFE has hardly increased or decreased. Yes LIFE has went from simple single cell organisms all the way to the current biodivercity with the genus Homo on top of the food chain.

We got were we are _before_ we had SCIENCE and could understand what was going on now.

It is simply unreasonable to think that the inertia of evolution out of ignorance for millenia can be overcome over next 5 years. Or over 10 years or 50 years. It may not even be overcome over several generations with all the collapse and decrease in numbers there is still possibility that homo genus would not wise up and would not reorganize itself to be sustainable. In that case we will have another overshoot and our numbers would go even lower.

But with each such oscilation of overshoot and subsequent collapse, if we manage to continue science, we will learn a bit more and at some point we should be wise enough to manage ourselves and whatever left of the planet's biodiversity in such a way as be sustainable and have little or no impact on the dynamic stability of the whole LIFE system.

I agree with Oliver that your postings are stimulating. So keep more coming.

It is a pleasure to have this conversation.

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