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April 20, 2013


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Bill Flinn

Hi George,

I follow your blog with interest - Just thought I'd mention some recent work of Carlos Brody at Princeton (link in case you hadn't come across it - these experiments seem to indicate that brain processing has well developed error correction processes - the real problems are with perception. That seems likely - viz GIGO. I would hazard a guess that many societal problems today are greatly exacerbated by the massive river of misinformation streaming from the media and other sources, which results in mass misperception.

Aboc Zed

Very very good. Long and with many words but all good.

I think "Language and Abstract Thinking" and "Empathy" are one and the same thing or rather are manifestation of the same thing.

We call it 'deliberative capability'.

Totally agree on discussion on plurisexuality - that is where the whole is heading. The nuclear family will be at some point the thing of the past. The term 'congregational sexuality' is the one our little group uses to refer to this kernel property of hominid-being.

Again: very very good piece.

The only question remains: how the higher-sapience individuals in the genus homo identify each other and how they form the group that would be viable under default human condition of institutionalized ignorance across such cultural artifact as nation-state?

At some point Homo Cogitans (higher sapience emergent species) will have to compete with Homo Sapiens Sapiens for resources.

And the sooner that happens the less corruption of the resource/ environment and the larger the final population of homo cogitans.

Think what that means in terms of the current socio-economic system and its fate in the long run over evolutionary deep time.


"Thinking that there might actually be a future for the human genus is comforting."

George Mobus

"If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will get neither comfort nor truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair."

C. S. Lewis

"A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

Max Planck

"Truth is a pathless land."

J. Krishnamurti

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly."

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge in the field of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."

"After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well."

Albert Einstein

An afterthought: What if what is referred to as anti-social behavior is a natural response to there being far too many human apes on a finite spherical planet, the conditioned impulse thus being to grab as much of the available resources as quickly as possible?

Would not the post-bottleneck humans be those who most skillfully garnered control of the necessary share of vital resources, justifying whatever means necessary, thereby being the ones who write the history of the conditions that occurred during the bottleneck, reinforcing the values and behaviors and favorably treating the "winners", i.e., the survivors?

Anti-social behavior in the context of 7 billion human apes today might not be so perceived in the post-bottleneck epoch in which perhaps 10-20% or fewer of today's population will survive, adapt, and reproduce.

Most of us today who might be inclined to protest such an outcome, nor our progeny, will survive, adapt, and reproduce sufficiently to find out which model of eusociality is the fittest.

The fittest type of eusociality might require ruthless racial/ethnic, geographical, and socioeconomic exclusivity, even to the extent of an unspeakable scale of genocide and ecocide as a kind of "self-cleansing" from the perspective of the human species evolving in a finite ecosystem.

Consider that 90% of all species that have ever existed on the planet are today extinct. Further, vast majority of us on the planet today are largely unconscious of the fact that our very act of existing and reproducing on such a large scale is coinciding with, or arguably causing, the sixth mass extinction on the planet.

What would a fully informed, sufficiently adaptive subset of the human ape species do in response to the mass of the species by its very existence causing a planetary mass extinction and the risk of a similar mass die-off of its own species?

Aboc Zed

In the section on "Languge and Abstract Thinking" George writes:

A more sapient mind would not harbor misconceptions about what someone else means by a phrase or word. If there were to be doubt, the simple solution is to ask questions until the meaning became clear. A sapient mind would be able to recognize that clarity when it emerged.

This is a very important observation. It can be also used by ourselves as a litmus test of whether we behave in sapient ways or not.

Very often we dismiss a communiction from others without adequate attempt at asking questions to clarify the meaning.

In fact our natural tendency is to seek confirmation of our cognitive biases instead of looking to acquire new knowledge or new and better ways to discuss observed reality.

And this lack of forensic integrity of the discussion is at the heart of humanity talking past each other and wasting the time and energy on the concepts, ideas, behaviours and mental maps that are the product of our evolutioanry past and not even our evolutionary present, not to mention our evolutionary future.

We are corrupting the sources of knowledge faster than the brightest among us can get a glimpse of what kind of informtion we could have availed ourselves of should we did not act but simply observed.


This comment has been banned by the CRISPA Bill. Nothing to see here. Move along.


This is an excellent detailed essay that injects profound rationality (sapience!) into the continuing debate about post-bottleneck possibilities. While diehard nihilists, pessimists and doomers will no doubt summarily dismiss your case for eusapient evolution, it makes perfect sense to suppose that there's at least an even chance that, in the Aboc Zed-described competition between Homo cogitans (higher sapience emergent species) and Homo sapiens sapiens, the former may prevail in the long term, on the basis that social cooperation could prove a more successful adaptation than individual self-centered needs fulfillment.

We who are now halfway or more through our lives are probably more capable of accepting the two key concepts in this debate: (1) There will be a population bottleneck resulting in a major decline in human numbers, and (2) There is a potential evolutionary outcome after the bottleneck apart from extinction or a rump population almost entirely made up of sociopathic remnants from today's failed-capitalist structure.

As a side note, it amuses me that you feel obliged to pre-warn readers before you enter into the section on plurisexuality. That anyone with a mind of their own could be offended by the notion that sex is for fun and sociability, not monogamy and mere procreation is beyond me. Then again, I’ve been on this planet long enough to cast off the ‘norms’ proclaimed by people who appear to rarely practise personally what they preach to others.

Professor, I look forward to you keeping the light burning in this debate. It is increasingly difficult to find places on the web where sapience is both discussed and governs the actual discussion. Thank you.

G. O'D

Speaking on behalf of nihilistic tendencies, I would hazard to conclude that the progressive aspect of evolution is one of reaction to necessity rather than evidence of a purposeful process hinting at a greater scheme in which we are the primary actors.

I used to like to think that our species was moving towards a consciousness or state of being that would be shared eventually with the creator of life itself. But without any reason to believe in a creator wishful thinking proves to be just that.

Thanks for the wonderful blog!

G. O'D

Speaking on behalf of ascendant tendencies. What would you do if you were capable of manipulating the creation of energy and had spent eons alone?

make a big bang and hope that a consciousness capable of sharing your experience would emerge?


I just want to start by shouting a resounding BRAVO!!

This is one of the most deep writings I've had the privelege to read in a while. You left so many avenues to explore and so much to think about in while going about daily affairs. All while giving slight matter-of-fact details. Amazing!

One thing that really stood out and I would like to see be explored further is your conjecture on plurisexuality. I've always been quite fascinated of the evolutionary characteristics of sexuality.

"Is it possible that we are simply witnessing the results of this conflict between a social norm, invented as a response to the settled lifestyle of agrarian societies, and a biological proclivity, evolved to enhance social cohesiveness. The current human species is, indeed, caught in a tragic nexus of evolutionary forces if this is so."

I believe so.


Oliver writes: " . . . [C]ompetition between Homo cogitans (higher sapience emergent species) and Homo sapiens sapiens, the former may prevail in the long term, on the basis that social cooperation could prove a more successful adaptation than individual self-centered needs fulfillment."

Cooperation has, indeed, already proved to be "a more successful adaptation". The top 0.1-1% have been cooperating to garner control of most of the techno-scientific knowledge and skills, physical and financial capital wealth, disproportionate share of income from same, and the financial, economic, and political power derived from same.

It is "cooperation" by a small elite "in competition" with the bottom 90-99.9% for control of vital resources and the control over securing and distributing these resources and the power the process permits.

This is so far the ideal type evolutionarily adaptive model that is most successful to date as a result of the peak Oil Age industrial/post-industrial era, leading into the global bottleneck and post-capitalist, post-growth epoch.

While we who are not in the top 0.1-1% can comfort ourselves that cooperative sapience is likely to self-select for adaptation, we err if we do not recognize that the top 0.1-1% have already figured this out and have institutionalized the system of reproduction of this system and its concentrated flows to the top of the hierarchy, leaving the rest of the population vulnerable to declining resource flows per capita and eventual exticntion.

Cooperative eusociality is a natural inclination and successfully adaptive trait, and the top 0.1-1% are the most successful in utilizing it. The problem is that the vast majority of the rest of us are not members of the elite cooperative club and thus are unlikely to benefit from the rewards derived from the exclusive cooperation of the top 0.1-1%.

This is a critical perspective that distinguishes wishful thinking and abstraction from pragmatism and concrete action as non-elites lacking membership in the top 0.1-1%.

Robin Datta

Even though the intellect is in the driver's seat, it is usually overlooked that it is the chauffeur. The non-rational, non-verbal reptilian brain takes the back seat, but it dictates where to go. It operates through emotions (short-term) and morals, ethics, aesthetics and values derived therefrom (longer-term). The intellect is directed by it along the paths of its choosing. Sapience, however much advanced, remains its fief.

Examples of how that non-verbal, non-rational reptilian brain steers the intellect:

"The first argument is very personal. Thinking that there might actually be a future for the human genus is comforting."

"The second argument is, perhaps, a bit more pragmatic;" - the pragmatism stems from the first argument.

"The third argument is motivated by the fact that one has to fight the good fight right to the end."

The absence of purpose does not necessarily invoke nihilism, despondency or depression. The concept of Lila, The Divine Sport or The Divine Play excludes the need for any purpose, yet is free of despondency or depression.

The functioning of the universe, including the functioning of the human brain requires no invocation of awareness anywhere. Even the most complex of behaviours can be attributed to the programming of the meat robot.

Consciousness is not an object (yet use of the term "consciousness" refers to a concept - an object). Awareness of "consciousness" is awareness of an object, and it (the "consciousness", and indeed also the "it") is not consciousness. Even "awareness" is a concept and is therefore an object. Awareness illuminates concepts and objects, and they are therefore apparently perceived. Within each circumscribed domain in which they are perceived, the awareness appears as an "I". This apparition can be overcome. In the absence of content - objects and concepts - consciousness is neither perceived nor conceived: it does not "exist".


@Bruce - that's an interesting angle, but what you term cooperation among the elite is not social cooperation in my opinion, but simply tacit approval of fellow elite members' Alpha male practices. I don't believe the elite cooperate so that they protect their group going forward (as if there is some 'New World Order'), but because it's always in their short-term selfish interests to keep the gravy train running. Alpha males will just as quickly turn on each other as turn on their serfs, whenever this serves their selfish needs.

To be coarse, the elite are in constant competition with each other to see who has the biggest penis (witness what goes on in finance, commerce, militarism, etc), and as energy resources deplete I predict that they will drop the facade of pseudo-cooperation to which you refer and act to protect their narrow turf and their gene pool, taking no prisoners among other elitists.

I don't feel it is wishful thinking to suggest that at some far point, there is a percentage chance of true social cooperation among a more sapient group outlasting the <1% 'club'. The opposite is more likely to result in extinction through continued aggressive competition and unbridled resource depletion, therefore it's not evolutionarily advantageous.

I posit the above as a possibility, not an avowal based on dogmatism or hope.


This is becoming more and more like philosophizing aboard the Titanic. Wonderful read that it is, George, i think you assume entirely too much - especially with respect to the intelligence/sapience level of our own species. How are the few eusapient ones going to overcome all the pollution, degradation, lack of resources, lack of energy, lack of infrastructure, lack of medicine and dentistry, lack of potable water, a dead ocean, and 6C degree or more temperature increase that will be a by-product of the collapse of both civilization and the entire biosphere, especially once the global electrical grid fails and all the nuclear plants go Fukushima on us?

Olive, i hear you, and actually hope you're correct! Unfortunately, there is a much higher probability that no one is going to survive this than any other scenario, if we're being realistic. In fact i'm beginning to think that very little if any aerobic life will be left after it's all over (hundreds of thousands of years from now when this all plays out).

Respectfully, Tom

Shawn Aune

Estrus still exists. It just takes for form of different levels of sociability.

Also, dolphins bone for fun too.

Great article!


Oliver, we need to distinguish between the alpha male CEOs, hedge fund plunderers, and the like and the Anglo-American, German, Dutch, Swiss, and Milanese int'l banking Power Elite top 0.01% (fourth-order Pareto distributional effect) who hire the CEOs, banksters, and eCONomists, and who own virtually everything of economic value on the planet via collateralized compounding interest claims on wages, profits, resources, and gov't receipts in perpetuity. In this context, there is most certainly cooperation towards a definitive objective, which they have all but achieved. Once the top 0.01-0.1% pull the plug and debt-deflationary effects begin to take hold in earnest, only then will it become abundantly clear that the bottom 90-99% actually own nothing, especially not subordinate, three- and four-times removed claims on tax-deferred savings, pension assets, gov't elder transfers, etc.

Among the bottom 90-99% is a kind of self-satisfied notion that the elite will get their just rewards along with the rest of us when it all comes down. But the elite top 0.01% know this and have been busy for decades getting it all and establishing and reinforcing the necessary institutions to protect "it all" against the hoards with nothing. They have a "final solution" to the mass human condition, only most of the rest of us are on the null side of the equation.

But this is not meant to be judgmental but descriptive. Given the planetary population overshoot conditions, resource depletion per capita, and the implications in the years ahead, why would the top 0.01-0.1% NOT be preparing for culling of the excess population and creating a kind of sustainable techno-scientific, neo-utopian "New Jerusalem" on Earth?

They are in the elite positions of wealth, privilege, and power because they have self-selected to cooperate over generations against the competition of the mass of the rest of humanity to accumulate wealth and power and reproduce institutions that secure their wealth and power. The overwhelming majority of us have no entree to the upper stratum of the hierarchy of resource, income, and wealth flows and the power and protection that result.

Therefore, we have no recourse when the "final solution" is deployed, which has de facto been underway since 9/11, Peak Oil in '05, and the '08-'09 financial meltdown. Each successive unraveling event hereafter will further reveal the structural vulnerabilities and insufficiencies of the division of labor, savings, and social safety net to support and protect the purchasing power and well-being of the bottom 90% of the population. The top 0.01-0.1% know this, don't need these systems, and have acted to fully protect themselves against the rest of us.

Aboc Zed


I would not be so sure about "final solution" being deployed.

That kind of solution is not trivial and I tend to think you overestimate the level of sapience that is among the top 0.01% and underestimate the complexity of "final solution" and the institutions and structures needed to implement it safely for that 0.01%

My logic is simple enough:

if they achieved necessary level of sapience and implied cooperation and have built the institutions and mechanisms required to implement it then they would have implemented it long time ago.

Because why keep feeding the drone/burden lessers and watch environment go down the drain if you can SAFELY pull the plug on them?

The key here is the impossibility to separate building the institutions for "final solution" from people actually constituting the very structures that are to implement it.
That is what institutions are.

I agree with you that it is likely that sapience may take hold within 0.01% but the key is timing and unpredictability of how the whole conundrum would unravel.

We know very well how collapse happens on the local scale but we have no data at all how it will play out on the truly one world all-connected fully staffed planet level.

I do think the hierarchical structure will persist and the attrition will happen from the bottom to the top.

I think permaculture, nomadic lifestyle, resettlement and direct democracy will not work as they are more wishfull thinking that reflection of the observable dynamics.

But I also cannot rule out that the roll back from overshoot in terms of the population reduction would be much deeper than anything any of us can imagine in the scariest nightmare making the second iteration of overshoot-re-balancing playing out in a completely different fashion than the first.

I therefore think more along the lines of preserving and passing knowledge over anything as disruptive as the upcoming bottleneck event.

Technically the genus homo has 3.5 billion years to keep learning and if knowledge passes thru each bottleneck event I am fairly confident that at some point the sapient organization and true eusociality would emerge as a matter of survival.

LIFE never stops learning.


@Bruce - you appear to have the inside track on the plans of the power elite, and I can't argue against this on the basis of my own knowledge. I would however like to point out that the vast bulk of the apparent power-through-wealth of this sliver of mankind is fictional, and only exists in the context of the 99% having little share of current notional values and not realizing or acknowledging that the Emperor is naked. In a collapse leading up to the bottleneck, the only real wealth is ownership of energy, which for the most part is the energy of people under the control of the elite. Someone has to produce and distribute food, sanitize the water, extract/produce materials for creating power for light, heat and cooking, guard and protect elite families, make necessary items, perform menial tasks, etc, etc. Most of all, vast squads would have to do the culling you predict, and dispose of billions of human carcasses without poisoning the air, the land and the water supply.

How do you think the 0.1% will get this job done, when the global financial edifice is a pile of dust and the rest of the population are excluded from and have no interest in the future? Unless there are legions of robots waiting in hiding places, it is fanciful to think that an army of human slave-drones will cooperate with the elite to a sufficient degree, and if some people do participate just for a food ration, it is probable that a number would turn on their masters in due course.

In any case, in my musings on this subject, I am looking far ahead of the bottleneck. The lead-up, the bottleneck period itself and the immediate aftermath are of less interest to me, as I have no doubt that it will be more messy than we can imagine. To return to the Professor's discussion of emerging eusapience, this is what interests me as one of the future evolutionary possibilities.


Oliver, good questions. The top 0.01% only need to co-opt and secure the loyalty of an infinitesimally small share of the population and withhold sustenance from the rest for 5-30 to 60 days or so (okay, say, a year) before dehydration, disease, advanced age, immature immune systems, exposure, malnutrition, and starvation would do the trick for untold hundreds of millions of people. Read the history of the results of war, famine, and pandemics during world wars, civil wars, and in Russia, China, and Medieval times to learn how quickly vast numbers of humans can die in a relatively short period of time with little or no effort on the part of the elite.

How long would it take for countless millions of human bodies to decompose? Not as long as we might imagine given the millions of dogs, birds, cats, and other carnivorous creatures that would enjoy a moveable feast.

How much food, water, and electricity would be required to be produced and distributed per capita if the population served was no more than, say, 1-10% of the current level? How many people would literally kill to get a job securing, defending, and enjoying a share of the resources when the alternative is to be among the mass die-off. The old saying that many would sell their mothers and children to survive is quite apt in this case. Those self-selected to sell their children and mothers would be at the top of the list of recruits for the top 0.01%.

Survival often comes with a very high cost to those who do not survive, and those who are willing to take the necessary risks to ensure someone else pays the cost of not surviving are the ones who by definition will survive, adapt to these ruthless, winner-take-all circumstances, and reproduce.

Alex, these are the traits and conditioned value attributes that I expect will self-select among the top 0.01-0.1% and those whom they select to protect them from the rest of us.

But among these "winners" there will be the luxury of a surplus of techno-scientific elite, engineers, technicians, craftspersons, and the like who will be similarly self-selecting within the remnant post-bottleneck population.

Today there exists the techno-scientific knowledge, skills, and recources per capita to build and maintain indefinitely an enviable techno-utopian intelligent-systems society/economy, only it won't require 90%+ of humanity to achieve and maintain. Those with the knowledge, skills, wealth, and control of same only now have to determine how to realize the objective while dispensing with the the costly, redundant, surplus population.

In the context of a post-bottleneck remnant population looking back 50-100 years from now, I see no conflict or inconsistency between this possible outcome and sapience and a successful type of eusociality.

To us today, it sounds too much like eugenics, racial/ethnic/genetic superiority, Nazis, or Hollywood's sterotypical mad scientists. But I suspect that a fully informed, techno-scientific, sapient remnant elite will by definition choose mass die-off of the unfit population, genetic engineering/cloning, geoengineering/ terraforming, planetary symbiosis, techno-scientific socialism vs. capitalism, and biomachine evolution, just to name a few aspects of the post-bottleneck intelligent-systems society. The necessary scale of net energy per capita to achieve such an objective does not exist to include even a small fraction of 7 billion people, let alone even a plurality of the population in the West. The overwhelming majority of the rest of us have no place in this future phase of human/"humachine" evolution.

Aboc Zed


I agree with your well articulated position that most of us outside the 0.01% are not needed for eusocial configuration on the post-bottleneck side of the curve.

At some point the directed die-off is very likely if not inevitable.

My comments are always about timing and ability of staging that kind of population correction at the scale of human organism -whole.

We may think that technology exist to implement directed population reduction but the institutions that would make it possible are not there yet and, in my opinion, will not be there for a very long time (on the scale of one life-time that is)

In my opinion the elite, like the rest of us, is intellectually lazy and prefer to kick the can down the generational road instead of actually doing anything remotely sapient about dealing with the predicament.

"Not on my watch" is much easier position and only requires minimal cooperation among elite which is nowhere near the true sapience required to implement directed population reduction.

Think about the difficulties of discussing human condition with someone who is simply from different socio-cultural background. Now add the distractions of trying to protect one's wealth and status constantly from the fellow humans trying to push you down the pecking order ladder and take over your place.

I simply cannot see how the elite would have any clarity of mind and luxury of having time necessary to contemplate all the issues that are discussed here. And not just contemplate but also come up with the actionable plans. And then actually implement those plans!

I do agree, however, that at some point the surviving scientists and the elite merge and become one and the same people and then what you are talking about would become quite possible.

But, at the moment, I think we are quite far from those conditions.

In my opinion it will take obvious failure of governments and governance everywhere for at least a good 10 to 20 years for the top 0.01% to be forced to genuinely think about the present and the future of human organism-whole in anything remotely resembling sapient ways.

I may live long enough to catch the beginning of the proper cooperation of 0.01% among themselves but given the ability of science coming up with "solutions" I think the proverbial can will be kicked down the road at least one or two generations, say another 50 to 100 years.

That's why personally I expect to enjoy my old age in more or less stable steadily deteriorating environment of contracting global economy, famine, extreme weather and social upheaval here and there but no directed die-off. I also expect general public to continue on the path of getting dumber and elites getting smarter.

Preserving the knowledge seems to me to be the ultimate challenge and building the pockets of cool-headed-ness when discussing what the humans will have to do over next 100 years is all we can do.

And of course, life is too short to be unhappy.

We should enjoy being alive.

And when we check out and depart this best of all worlds the whole thing would not be our problem anymore because there will be no us.


As I understand Bonobo's "hippie" social structure comes from the lack of fierce competition, whereas Chimpanzees had to compete with each other and gorillas north of the Congo. I think similar patterns can been seen in human societies too, where promiscuity is much more tolerated in the developed west than the rest. Plurisexuality seem to be a natural result of a particular set of ecos, no more a solution than the much more violent social structure of the chimpanzees.

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