How Does the World Work?

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

Series Indexes

Global Issues Blogroll

Blog powered by Typepad

Comment Policy

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

« Great News! | Main | You Wouldn't Even Be Here If... »

April 20, 2013


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


@Bruce - if your thoughts on the matter aren't already adopted by the elite, you've certainly written a manifesto for them!

I will watch with interest as my remaining years pass by, to see if your predicted process edges forward. I have now added your bone-chilling scenario to my list of events which if they occur, I would like to be among the first to depart the Earth, joining thermonuclear war and Tony Blair becoming prime minister again in the UK. :-)

step back


Why do you bother?

(To write/ worry about the long term continuance of the human species and/or of sapience.)

Actually you have little in the way of "choice".

The desire for "continuance" is hard coded into your genes.

Those mutations which did/ do not include a strong desire for "continuance" quickly die out when competing against those that do.

You are a progeny of the gene pool that strongly desires "continuance".


@Welp, good points.

Imagine what would have happened to the relatively docile bonobos were they to have had to compete with the more aggressive, hostile chimps, especially the limb- and spear-wielding big alpha make chimps.

@Oliver, the elite do not need my insights or advice; they conceived of these ideas and contingencies decades ago. Yes, I sympathize with your sentiment regarding the scenario being disagreeable, but a pre-conceived and planned mass die-off of the human ape population need not be as unpleasant as our worst nightmares would envision; it could be done humanely, but then that would require extraordinary intelligence, compassion, courage, and persuasive skills by the elite. If they do not possess collectively such traits, they have the resources and power to employ those who do in order to accomplish the objective.

And here is where the cooperation of "homo socialis" and "networked minds" are applicable:

Aboc Zed


Thanks a lot for the link to the "homo socialis" article.

There model indeed is very simple and fits the reality much better than the standard models.

But the most interesting part is not that they found the proper language to describe the reality but what they suggest their discovery may lead to.

They simply talk about "stimulating a huge and exciting field of research".

Where is the understanding of a bigger picture?

Where is _acting_ as one of the "homo socialis"?

We are still in the age when there is no group that actually does genuine cooperation.

We all stil are conditional cooperators. Some less some more but conditional. Christ, Budda and the rest may have been those who where real instances opf "homo socialis" but the larger environment still promotes conditional cooperation at best.

And that is why I say the 0.01% are far away from sapience.

the "homo socialis" group needs to emerge. then it needs to survive and rise to power. Then they can implement population reduction humanely and solidify the eusocial and sustainable organization of genus homo and life on the planet in general.

We are a still evolutionary long way from that reality but the trajectory points towards that outcome over long enough time horizon.

Bodhi Chefurka


What an excellent, though-provoking article.

The meaning I’ve adopted for “teleonomic” is in the context of living organisms, as part of a three-level framework:

Teleomatic: “End-resulting” behavior. It applies to all matter, energy and structure through the Second Law of Thermodynamics (2LoT). This quality is most clearly seen in inanimate open systems.

Teleonomic: “End-directed” behavior. It represents the operation of 2LoT in living systems, as in the growth of an organism from zygote to adult.

Teleological: “Goal-seeking” behavior. It represents the operation of 2LoT in abstract, human cultural systems like nation-states and corporations, and social institutions like political, legal, educational and economic organizations.

Each layer can be seen as a progressive elaboration of the underlying ones. Teleomatic systems do not exhibit teleonomic or teleological qualities. Teleonomic systems exhibit teleomatic but not teleological qualities, while teleological systems rest on a foundation of both teleomatic and teleonomic behavior. The implication is that human civilization follows the same thermodynamic rules that drive the operation of a steam engine (though heavily abstracted by our intelligence and elaborated by our own motivations).

I’m greatly tickled by your writing on bonobo sexuality. Those chimps have been my model for appropriate human sexual behavior ever since 1969 or so. Whether “plurisexuality” (sp?) as you call it will play any significant role in the future development of humanity remains to be seen. But decoupling sex from both procreation and our socially conditioned concept of “love” seems to me like an enormous step forward.

We tried the best we could back in the 60s and early 70s to break those linkages, but the social conditioning opposing the shift was too strong, and the movement was eventually corrupted as a result. It was fun trying, though! Based on my experience I’d say that the work needed to make that change is enormously beneficial to the individual who undertakes it. :-)


@Bodhi C - right on man, I'm with you all the way. :-)

@Aboc Z - agree, agree, AGREE!


"And that is why I say the 0.01% are far away from sapience.

the 'homo socialis' group needs to emerge. then it needs to survive and rise to power. Then they can implement population reduction humanely and solidify the eusocial and sustainable organization of genus homo and life on the planet in general."

@Alex, my contention is that the 0.01-0.1% are as sapient as we are likely to see (or not) for the forseeable future, and that they LONG AGO "emerged" as a successful "homo socialis" group and are well entrenched at the top of the hierarchy of power relations; their eusociality is the model of evolutionary success to date.

However, because of the nature of 4th- or 5th-order Pareto social exclusionary effects (socioeconomic level at birth, geography, ethnicity/genetics, etc.), you, the readers of this blog, and I are not among those sorted for fitness into this exclusive sub-set of society of "networked minds".

If for the sake of discussion one were to concede this to be true, if one were not a member of the exlusive "homo socialis", by definition one would likely be unaware that one was not a member of the exlusive social group. Therefore, one would be unaware of the process of sorting, allocating, reproducing, and reinforcing the social, economic, and political institutions involved. One would be the product of one's socioeconomic socialization, "intelligence", and allocation to the division of labor and power relations strata.

My further contention is that the evidence for this mass-social conditioning and lack of awareness is everywhere in society, including here on this blog.

But these results, by extension, are further evidence of the success of the sorting and reproduction processes of the exclusive "homo socialis" group.

Further, when the time comes for the irretrievable effects of the mass human die-off to take place and persist, the precipitating causal events will be no more readily recognized by the masses as being evolutionarily deterministic and allowed to occur than the masses are aware of the existence and exclusionary effects of the "homo socialis" group who is instrumental in the mass die-off.

That the most influential members of this group perceive that there is little that can be done to prevent the die-off, that such a grand scale of resources deployed to prevent the event would mean far less in terms of resources for the "homo socialis" to survive and thrive through the bottleneck, the task for "homo socialis" is to accumulate as much in resources, wealth, power, and capacity to secure it all while allowing Nature to take its course, if you will.

I personally find this to be quite sapient in evolutionary terms, irrespective of the fact that my progeny and I will very likely not be among the post-bottleneck remnant "homo socialis".

Again, accepting all of this as the case, there is very little any of us can do individually or collectively to overcome the highly deterministic, socially exclusionary 4th- and 5th-order Pareto
effects enjoyed by "homo socialis".

Therefore, there is very little we and our loved ones can do but to live as fully, consciously, and conflict free as we can each day.

In this context, knowing and not being in conflict with the known and unknown is quite liberating.


@Bruce - on further reflection, when all is said and done, I believe you attribute too much to this exclusive group whom you denote as Homo socialis.

The other interpretation is that they are just more clever/successful at seizing other people's resources, because they lack common socialization - in other words, they are sociopathic. I don't find these people to be sapient, and if they are labelled such, it is an abuse of language. By all means discuss this elite in terms of their "excellence" in thieving from the 99.9% for generations, and in possibly preparing to survive a mass die-off, but they surely cannot be in any way eusapient in the sense set out by Professor Mobus. Let's just say they are cleverly self-selecting for survival - that's a far cry from sapience when it occurs at the cost of seven billion surplus-to-requirements hominids.

George, what say you?

PS - Bruce, I hate to be a spoil-sport, but there's a flaw in your statement:

...if one were not a member of the exlusive "homo socialis", by definition one would likely be unaware that one was not a member of the exlusive social group.

We are not members of this group, but we are not unaware of this. We are fully aware - otherwise we would not be discussing them.

George Mobus

Sorry I can't keep up. Many excellent comments. I just have a few things to insert.

@Bruce: It seems to me that you are using a very different definition of sapience from what I produced in my working papers. That is fine as long as you are clear that we are talking about different attributes/behaviors. As per my version of the definition, first there are no eusapients extant today. That is the species name I give to a future evolved species of Homo. Second, every human alive today is a sapient by definition. It is just that there are greater and lesser degrees of sapience as there are greater and lesser degrees of all human traits. There is variation in the degree of sapient qualities with very few people having a high degree of sapience and most having relatively low degrees.

I can assure you that the kind of people you seem to want to elevate to a high sapient position are anything but highly sapient by my definition of the term. And using different species nomenclature does not clear up the meaning.

The top 1% that seem to have your craw may be very clever, but they are almost certainly very low on the sapience spectrum. I have known a few of these types over the years and that is one of the reasons I began to realize there was a significant difference between simply being clever (and hence accumulating wealth to oneself in what is becoming a zero-sum game) and being wise, especially in understanding the effect of wealth hoarding on the lower 90% and being able to see subsequent consequences.

Oliver said it well from my perspective.


All of us have a desire to continue our own existence, but I am unfamiliar with a similar concern for the species as a whole. As I understand the reproductive urge it is to continue ones own sense of self (a kind of immortality). My own sentiments lean more toward continuance of the genus (not even the species per se) because it is the only game in town in terms of symbolic thinking sentience.


Understand your hierarchy but for many the term teleology implies a God-intended cause (the pull up described by Teilhard de Chardin). When my book is substantially complete, I'll send you the chapters on emergence and evolution which give a more detailed description of the processes that you will recognize as your hierarchy above.

Bodhi Chefurka

Thanks, George. Yes, Chardin got a glimpse of Aristotle's "final cause", but couldn't draw the idea into the realm of science.

Have you run across Eric Chaisson, the Harvard astrophysicist? His model for "cosmic evolution" from the Big Bang to modern human culture, and the energy-based metric he developed for complexity are the line I'm exploring now.

Aboc Zed


If the 0.01% were sapient and therefore truly capable of cooperation in the sapient way and also were at the top of the hierarchical power structure as you describe they would have humanely pulled the plug on the 90%.

Why allow further irreversible loss of biodiversity and planet's carrying capacity for genus homo if you can prevent it?

The fact that the organism-whole continues on the pass to further ocean acidification, deforestation, human induced climate change and so on and so forth clearly indicates that sapience does not guide genus homo at the moment.

I may agree that elements among 0.01% may become more aware of where the whole is heading and why but that would be an exception not the rule.

Of course you are right that from the 90% side the emergence of sapience within 0.01% would not be observable directly but it would be observable indirectly even only for a very short time immediately proceeding the population reduction events.

Like with the nuclear bomb explosion there is a tiny moment of seeing the flash before one turned to dust there will be a moment when observant people from the 90% side will discern the sapient top getting rid of the bottom.

It is because the society is interconnected and the thoughts and actions of the top diffuse to the bottom.
What we observe now tells me that the top can be called "clever" at best and even that only in the raw and not-intelligent sense of our primitive evolutionary past.

Genus homo still has a long way to go to sapient self-organization.


Gentlemen, I suspect that if you knew what is happening among the top 0.01-0.1% since 9/11 and the '08-'09 Crash, there would no longer be a debate about sapience, evolution, competence, etc. I have had for a couple of decades what might be described as a unique opportunity to observe from a distance many of the important discussions and deliberations; therefore, my perspective is informed/biased by this experience.

We aren't in the club. They know growth is over. They don't expect the economy "to recover". They don't need the economy to grow.

They know that the bottom 90-99% can't afford the public and private debt that has accumulated. They now hold imputed compounding interest claims on all wages, profits, and gov't receipts in perpetuity. They own virtually everything of economic value, including claims on public assets they will eventually foreclose upon. We actually own nothing.

The vast majority of the human population is a nuisance and a net cost to them and their objectives.

They know China is going to crash, as they will pull the plug and cause it.

They know that war with China is a given (they will precipitate it at the opportune time), including blockades and embargoes in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

They know that Peak Oil is not a "myth".

They know that mass die-off is inevitable, even necessary.

They don't care what we think or want. They have the power of life and death over billions of people.

They will respond in their self-interest, not ours.

They don't want what you want for the species.

If we think we have a choice in the matter, we are delusional, however comforting it is.

Aboc Zed


We know everything what you just said.

We are not delusional.

Yet they are not sapient.

they may cull the 99% of the population but if they do not address the fundamental problems with capitalism and democracy the whole wil be in overshoot very quickly.

Then cull again.

Then overshoot.

Then cull again.

the cycly of overshoot and cull is not sapient.

And I do not see them understanding what needs to be done about capitalism and democracy to make it sustainable.

Even if they were to understand that it cannot be implemented with their primitive methods or their so called "wealth".

So the history will repeat itself.

And that is not sapient.

That is our point.

Not the fact that we will die and they will continue - that is a given.

George Mobus


I have had for a couple of decades what might be described as a unique opportunity to observe from a distance many of the important discussions and deliberations; therefore, my perspective is informed/biased by this experience.

You seem to be claiming an authority based on a privileged position. I hope you will understand that this is not a truly acceptable argument in discourse. You claim knowledge that no one else here can have access to and thus you assert that you have the "truth". I would prefer it if you would offer something more solid in the way of evidence than "I know this because I alone have seen it." You see my point I hope.

Fundamentally the process you claim to have special knowledge about, even if it were true, would be doomed to failure I think. There is no mechanism of control that anyone, no matter how smart, could bring to bear to assure the outcome would be in their favor. Unless you are imagining that they are seeking a world in which they have a few slaves and they live essentially as masters without anything like modern technology (and the creature comforts they afford) - just food and shelter - then your claim that they are planning this for their benefit makes no sense at all. We do not yet have the kinds of robots and their maintenance infrastructure that would let them live as they do now. We won't have the energy sources to run the robots even if we had them. There is simply no physically plausible scenario in which a 0.01% of the population today will live comfortably in the future.

So if THEY are planning as you claim, they are planning something totally absurd.

Now as it turns out I do know a few people who probably fit into this category of the obscenely rich. Its a very small sample, true, but I can tell you that while very brilliant when it comes to capitalizing on capitalism, they have no clues whatsoever about physical reality.

Bottom line: if you are going to continue posting this claim you will need to bring better evidence to the conversation. I haven't yet banned anyone and I do not wish to start doing so, but I do insist that claims of knowledge be backed up with presentable and verifiable evidence. That is science and that is what I want this blog to be based on. I hope the whole QE community will continue to think outside the box of conventional wisdom and suggest whatever alternative hypotheses they wish. But even speculations should be subject to verifiability, at least in principle. My own speculations in this blog are based on a road map for how to investigate sapience genetically, neurologically, and behaviorally. And it turns out that much of that work is getting underway in various laboratories. So even though I speculate on the bigger picture, and meaning, I do not make any claims of "special knowledge" that means people should listen to me. Quite the opposite. I put stuff out there and everyone who reads it is free to do with it as they will.


My two-cents' worth: I visit QE because I am wide-eyed with interest in the topics discussed, and keen to learn about sapience and the possible emergence of eusapience. Visions of dystopia based on unprovable assertions sit uncomfortably with systems thinking. Debate is wonderfully stimulating, but yes, please let's focus on evidential material rather than the ritual of guaranteed doom, the latter being covered extensively elsewhere.

George, I look forward to more thought-provoking essays as your schedule allows.


George, it is as absurd as what has transpired for nearly a half century in this country that, had one announced 40-45 years ago a plan to achieve the outcomes we see today, one would have been committed as a raving lunatic; yet, here we are.

Falling real wages, outsourcing/offshoring, extreme wealth and income concentration, mass immigration, hopelessly unserviceable debt/GDP, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, '08, bankster takeover, a black president, "austerity" (slashing social programs for the bottom 90%), the coming crash in China-Asia, eventual war with China, and mass die-off are not accidental or unpredicatble events; they are integral to the metanarrative of "globalization", i.e., empire, which can't be said.

What is planned for the next 20-30 years I suspect not more than 10% of the population would (1) believe, (2) approve of, and (3) have any idea how to adapt to. The top 0.01-0.1% must, therefore, condition us to accept what will be imposed on the masses as necessity in response to "unanticipated" events.

Apart from North Koreans, Americans are perhaps the most highly propagandized, credulous, and self-deceived/self-delusional population on the planet. The majority of us are true believers in our exceptionalism, superiority, and techno-optimistic destiny, which is a testament to the success of the top 0.01-0.1% in influencing mass-social perceptions. Yet, those among the top 0.01-0.1% don't see the bottom 99% as exceptional by any stretch of the imgaination.

What is described as "higher education" is mass-social conditioning to reinforce the aforementioned metanarrative of empire and the self-identities among the "educated" professional middle class whose job it is to reinforce unconsciously the mass-social deception, to be rewarded disproportionately, and to keep the bottom 90% in check within the hierarchy of power relations.

Some readers will respond to this as some elitist delusion or whacked-out "conspiracy theory". However, self-preservation and desire to retain power and privilege is not a "conspiracy"; it's a natural survival response to competition, resource scarcity, and the will to power, if you will.

George Mobus


... the coming crash in China-Asia, eventual war with China, and mass die-off are not accidental or unpredicatble events; they are integral to the metanarrative of "globalization", i.e., empire, which can't be said.

What is planned for the next 20-30 years...

I'm sorry but this is now starting to sound like ranting and conspiracy theory. If you really understood the nature of nature and evolution you would not make comments like this. You leave me little choice but to filter your comments and possibly sequester them. I think you have provided some insights in the past, and some things to think about, but now it seems to me you are going over the edge. Evidence, not mere speculation. That is what you will need to bring to further discourse.


@Bruce - I am now thoroughly confused by your argument. Part of what you say is a reasonable summation of the way in which the current US-led empire has functioned so as to enrich a small number of power brokers. But the future events you say this elite will precipitate (for which you claim you have a special insight) do not seem to be particularly sensible, let alone sapient, if they create enormous friction with China, Russia, Iran, etc. We would have world war, not a clinical culling of the unneeded c.99%. Such a major conflict would hardly be comfortable for wealth owners, as the outcome would be messy to say the least, with the balance of probability that nuclear weapons would be exchanged, particularly in relation to the bun-fight for oil.

More importantly, a vast proportion of these elitists' wealth would evaporate in the chaos, seeing as currencies, company stocks, commodities and bank deposits have imaginary values that are currently propped up by every financial market refusing to admit that the emperor is naked. Control of the oilfields and other resources would be far less enriching if there's a collapse in general purchasing power and if China stops buying from Western controlled supplies.

So ... what are you really trying to say? That there is a megalomaniac international banking cartel trying to get richer and richer by impoverishing everyone else? (Sounds about right) Or that this 'power elite' has an intelligent master plan that will involve destroying every power base outside the Western cartel before establishing a thinly-populated utopia? (Unlikely, verging on implausible)

Aboc Zed


Nobody argues your narrative for the present and near future.

Of course there is no choice in electoral process and of course the top of the hierarchical human organism-whole is shielded from the vagaries of life more than the bottom of the pile.

Nobody argues that.

All of what you say is perfectly natural and is the reflection of the thus-far biological, intellectual, cultural and what not evolution of the genus homo.

But what we all here try to discuss is not where we are now or in next 10 or 50 or even 100 years. I should be more precise and say "genus homo is" because we know where we all will be in 100 years - dead. :)
The genus homo will continue to evolve. And there is a certain trajectory to that evolution.

From less sapience to more sapience.

If you declare the top to be sapient then your definition of sapience is something different from the one we discuss here.

Because sapience would go hand in hand with sustainability or least impact on the resource/environment for the human organism-whole. Sapience would husband the resource/environment and use its tinkering or non-tinkering with evolutionary process in such a way as to move towards best optimizing continuous existence of organism-whole over EVOLUTIONARY long horizon.

You yourself mentioned that top 0.01% look for self-preservation and preservation of their children. And that is not sapience. Sapience would look for best optimizing the organism-whole well-being and the well-being of individuals would come into play only as the element of and the result of that optimization task for organism-whole, not the other way around.

We are not there yet. Our brains form over the intellectual and cultural milieu that is NOT sapient and even if some of us may have more pronounced inclinations to sapience or understand sapience more than others NOBODY can say he/she is truly sapient or declare others to be so simply because that would betray wishful thinking.

Our institutions have to evolve sapience and our brains would have to evolve in tandem with our institutions.

The momentum of our non-sapient human condition is such in magnitude that it would take not one generation of EXPLICIT experimentation with socio-economic system to put it onto the path towards sapient self-organization.

You are trying to say that the top is ENGINEERING the sapient institutions and will "pull the plug" when they are ready.

Sapient institutions cannot be engineered. They need to evolve. Together with evolution of our brains. Yes it is already happening as we speak but I doubt it is happening among top 0.01%.

Sitting atop of non-sapient pecking order pyramid and not doing anything to slow down the momentum of the evolution out of ignorance is not sapient. Engineering new world order (even if it was possible in principle) is not sapient either.

George Mobus

Dear readers,

I apologize for this action but I have relegated Bruce's comments to the spam filter. I have tried to be patient and offer him an opportunity to bring evidence to whatever his arguments have been. He has failed to address my requests re: explain his own (apparent) definition of sapience. The last post he made was next to unreadable.

This is the first time I have felt it necessary to take this action in all the years I have been blogging. But I am committed to maintaining a scientific-based discourse on this blog. This is not a blog that allows unsupported claims, especially those based on personal knowledge that is never brought out into the light of day.

I hope this action does not offend any of you. I promise that it is not something I wanted to do. I hope to keep an open forum for discourse. Nevertheless, goodbye Bruce.


The comments to this entry are closed.