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« Some New Year's Observations | Main | The Real State of the Union (and World) »

January 10, 2014


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I am now sensitized to it, but nearly every time I use an Interac machine, I marvel at the total lack of standardization of instructions, interfaces, and buttons, and how much longer it takes than just handing cash to a cashier.

And I bet the cashiers are less happy at work because every customer they have enough time to stand there with nothing to do except think about how bored they are.

Technology is making our life better!


Consider the complexity of running the NSA complex. I suppose its intended purpose is to prevent “breakdown” of law and order within the United States from internal or external forces as net energy and jobs decline. Imagine the complexity of an F-22 fighter and aircraft carrier sent overseas to grab more energy. Is all of that complexity solving the problem or is it buying time until the even more complex fusion reactors are on-line? How about free bicycles, home insulation and double-pane windows for everyone instead?

Many people get a bachelor's degree in a specific discipline and this captures their brains entirely. The pigeon hole effect. The amount of information to be absorbed, just in their specialty, might as well be infinite. Additionally, if knowing 50% more esoteric knowledge in their field returns 0% in the paycheck, then they're not going to make the effort and will turn towards some form of entertainment. There's no need to know about the scientific stuff because, like you say, they're burned-out already.



I would consider a working (i.e. EROI >20) Fusion reactor a sensible type of intellectual investment if one is on the 'spend more energy faster trip'.

If the recipes we invent for energy(/resource) extraction can deal with the future diminished availability of low entropic resources, the impact of waste (cleaning up, ignoring CO2) and limited human capabilities (put more people into the world to get more of the few bright bulbs that can manage the rest/complexity)
then I'm sure the implementation of it will happen.

While cutting energy use might seem like a good idea, you shouldn't forget that the strategic ellipse that surrounds the area on earth that provides 70% of the worlds oil resources lies roughly in the middle east. So I guess the Carter doctrine and those F22s+aircraft carriers won't go away with reduced consumption since you will still mainly get your oil from the middle east.

Given that our current wastes seem to have the capability to easily overwhelm us, I'm wondering whether our future wastes can be any better or whether there is even a law of nature that says that fighting the wastes you created will consume more energy than was liberated while creating them in the first place.


If we could reduce the global birth rate such that population fell faster than non-renewable resources depleted then perhaps our grandchildren could continue to enjoy the benefits of modernity. This would of course require a new monetary system that functioned well without growth.

Reverse Engineer

"For those lucky or smart enough to survive, the world will get a lot simpler and, ironically, in the long run, a lot more humane. "-GM

I think this is a pretty long run prediction George.

Reduction of complexity and reduction of per capita energy consumption translates to a pretty significant dieoff of human biomass on the planet. "Humanely" achieving large reductions in Humanity is something of an oxymoron.

I do of course agree that it's a good idea to try to get out of the way of this NOW if you want to be one of the lucky LOTTO winners to make it through the Bottleneck, but you will be waiting quite some time before you see a more humane society.


Frans Lundberg

How to explain?. Since I took part of Tainter's research, I have given the complexity of the society around me (Sweden) considerable thought. We seem to be heading towards an unsustianable level of complexity. This is frustrating in itself, of course. Also frustrating, is the fact that I cannot seem to explain this to my friends. In a world where people's attention span seem to be limited to a minute or 140 characters, I find it hard to even get started. Any tips? I feel intellectually lonely, not being able to discuss this. Thanks for the blog; it helps.

Aboc Zed


Can I ask you a question?

Have you asked yourself why you think it is important to explain this to your friends?

And what makes you want to explain when others clearly do not share in your opinion that it is important?

And more importantly: if we assume you succeeded with explaining what next?

BTW, great blog you have and the cool video links!

Jan Steinman

Tainter's theories mesh nicely with panarchy theory, which states that complexity and interconnectedness increases until they cannot be maintained, at which price dissolution ensues, and the cycle repeats.

The only problem is if an energy source enables overshoot of complexity and interconnectedness, the next cycle necessarily is at a lower amplitude. That seems to be the way we're headed.

Reverse Engineer

" In a world where people's attention span seem to be limited to a minute or 140 characters, I find it hard to even get started. Any tips? I feel intellectually lonely, not being able to discuss this. Thanks for the blog; it helps."-FL

Join us in conversation at the Diner Frans. Everybody there writes or reads comments going into the 1000s of words. You won't feel so lonesome anymore. :)




Maybe you should try to find a Transition Town initiative near Stockholm. I can't figure out if there is one, but
the following place might help:

My local transition townies have an informal Wednesday evening where you can chat with them. Much like RE and the doomsteaddiner they are more positive thinking. Also its is more local and you don't have to use any totally unsustainable information technology. Even if you feel mismatched somehow the good thing is they don't need any convincing.

Reverse Engineer

"Much like RE and the doomsteaddiner they are more positive thinking."-KT

You know when you run a Blog/Forum called the Doomstead Diner and predict a massive Population Bottleneck with dieoff in the 90% or greater range and are then characterized as a a "Positive Thinker", things have got pretty bad. LOL.

These days, if you predict anything less then Near Term Human Extinction, you are a freaking Optimist! LOL.

On the UP side here, we got up a preliminary version of our Education software for people interested in learning how NOT to go extinct too fast.

Still in the development phase and we welcome suggestions for improvement.



Reverse Engineer

BTW George, you have an Open Invitation to put up a course on Systems Thinking if you would like to do so.

We are reinventing the Education Model along with all the rest of our relentlessly Optimistic endeavors. :)


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