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« An Autumnal Equinox and A New Human Society | Main | A New Human Society - Part 3 »

September 29, 2016


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Don Stewart

Thank you for this thoughtful post.

I do have one thought, perhaps a mistaken thought, but also perhaps some kernel of truth. Japan apparently has a virgin problem:

IF we simply take your statement at face value about Nature giving us powerful reinforcement to engage in sex, it is hard to explain how Japan has a virgin problem. But suppose that we assume that there are two clocks in people: an approach clock and an avoidance clock. (Clock being 'what makes something tick'.) Psychologists are familiar with approach and avoidance systems:
'Approach-avoidance conflicts occur when there is one goal or event that has both positive and negative effects or characteristics that make the goal appealing and unappealing simultaneously. For example, marriage is a momentous decision that has both positive and negative aspects. The positive aspects, or approach portion, of marriage might be considered togetherness, sharing memories, and companionship while the negative aspects, or avoidance portions, might include financial considerations, arguments, and difficulty with in-laws. The negative effects of the decision help influence the decision maker to avoid the goal or event, while the positive effects influence the decision maker to want to approach or proceed with the goal or event. '

Back to me:
If more people are exhibiting avoidance behavior, (such as remaining virgins), then we can look for reasons why they are doing so. Perhaps the answer is that approach behavior involves both physical and psychical costs, and they perceive that they are not likely to be successful, so avoid the expenditure.

If we think about the approach-avoidance psychology of millions or billions of people, we might think that we would never be able to reduce it to a system which we can actually manage. However, we can find historical examples of just such successful management. For example, in Edo Japan most people were either farmers or small merchants. Since social mobility was nearly non-existent, the family had to feed its own children. In practice, birth rates were fairly low and infanticide was common. The people spoke of ‘sending infants back’ into the eternal cycle of reincarnation. Population topped out at about 35 million and remained stable.

In a more modern setting, we might expect something like Michaelangelo Antonioni’s 1982 movie Identification of a Woman. A movie director is seeking a female lead for his next movie. He is divorced (his fault), but involved with a woman who is becoming disenchanted with him. In seeking her out, he goes to a swimming pool where he sees a very attractive young woman who he had seen with his girl friend. He strikes up a conversation with her. He asks if she has a boy friend. ‘No’. Are you frigid? ‘Absolutely not!’ What do you like to do? ‘Masturbation, especially when helped by a woman…women don’t have the complicated egos men have.’ I see this as an example of managing to get one’s sexual urges scratched without the pain involved in approach behavior with someone of the opposite sex. We would expect the birth rate to be pretty low if this behavior became common.

On the 'two clocks' theme, we know that human decision making consists of a 'fast' system and a 'slow' system. (Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow.) Almost all of our decisions are a result of fast decisions...meaning we don't really exercise much reflective brainpower before acting. A minority of our decisions follow some considerable exercise of brainpower. The slow thinking typically involves the decision to forego immediate gratification in favor of a longer term plan (e.g., saving instead of splurging; being quiet rather than blurting out a harmful accusation). Humans can increase (modestly) the percentage of slow decisions by practicing mindfulness, which is simply paying attention to our bodily state and the state of the world before we act.

I don’t pretend that some combination of slow thinking and deliberate collective action can easily solve all the world’s problems. Nor that ‘automatic governors’ will activate to slow down our train wreck. What the examples do suggest, I think, is that some small groups of people, and perhaps some larger societies, will be able to exhibit more rational behavior. If they are able to survive the social and economic collapse, then they may do OK.

Don Stewart


George, I look forward to this discussion not because I disagree but because it is a fascinating way to comingle life and the universe”
“I will not go into it in the present discourse but the increase in free energy for a system is related to, in fact is due to, the only legitimate form of growth in the Universe, in the context of evolution — the growth of knowledge.”

I see evolution and extinction as the frequency of the Universe both animate and inanimate. A black hole produces expansion as a cheap example. Increasing knowledge is increasing stasis because knowledge becomes self-reflecting and once self-reflecting it becomes dualistic. Once knowledge is dualistic it has lost itself in itself. As this process of growing knowledge increases to the absolute then paralysis occurs. Paralysis solidifies and “it” becomes brittle and eventually dead. If a higher power (?) is all knowing it is also paralyzed because it would already know growth so no growth would be needed. It is the eventually loss of knowledge from the dualism of self-reflection that reinvents knowledge and the growth of knowledge. Unity does not have frequency. It is the process of the tension towards unity and away from unity in dualism that produces frequency. It is the extinction process that keeps the frequency of evolution functioning. Of course this state is quantum and nonlinear. I other worlds beyond a linear discussion meaning time takes on many dimensions. Time becomes linear in the circular.

Don Stewart

A couple more thoughts about the subject of this post. Particularly focusing on the 'We' that is doing things wrong.

Plant biologists have studied the different strategies that plants use to survive in a competitive and stressful world. Norbert Kuhn has categorized plants as follows:
Conservative Growth
Moderate Stress Adaptation
Stress Avoidance
Area Occupation
Area Coverage
Area Expansion
Niche Occupation
Gap Occupation

For a little more detail, follow the link below and and scroll down to page 169.'s+plant+types&source=bl&ots=UiJwIU68-5&sig=xh7Xc0hHkGHT6rAFoG85Cl0PqSU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwinv8rVvrfPAhUESiYKHTyvDBIQ6AEINDAD#v=onepage&q=norbert%20kuhn's%20plant%20types&f=false

Now, let’s review the human condition to see to what extent humans may be captive to a single strategy, or instead may be able to shift from one strategy to another.
*Humans have big brains, capable of scientific thinking
*Human have two separate thinking systems: Fast and Slow
*Humans have the equivalent of engines and also governors on many of their motivational systems. We know that 'more is not always better', and we understand ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained'
*Humans are social
*Pre-industrial humans tended to live in groups of 150, with fairly extensive trading of materials and mates between groups.
*The current dominant global system MIGHT kill most all of us with nuclear war or ecological destruction
*Thermodynamic degradation MIGHT bring the current system to its knees, thrusting us back into something that resembles the pre-industrial system, but avoiding yet more ecological destruction

In my previous comment, I mentioned two examples of Stress Avoidance: Japanese Millenials and the young woman in Identification of a Woman. Many Doomers describe humans as ‘weedy species’, making lots and lots of seeds, but having little resilience in the face of stress. In short, a Doomer might say that humans create a Gap by killing off competitive species and by using their big brains to concoct poisons which kill off just about everything else, and then occupy the Gap and reproduce with abandon. Certain religious groups spread similar to clonal reproduction (Area Expansion) while Survivalists exhibit Area Occupation (stand your ground) type behavior.

Do you think that everyone is foreordained by their genes to exhibit one kind of behavior or another? Do you think that humans will overwhelmingly demonstrate one kind of behavior, purely by choice? Or do you think that, if humans are allowed or forced to form groups of about 150 again, that each of those groups may migrate to a different kind of behavior, and that selection pressures will determine which groups tend to survive? Do you think that migrating one’s behavior in some particular direction is a good idea or a bad idea or simply irrelevant?

Don Stewart

George Mobus


Almost anything that is said about behaviors today must be qualified by recognition that all of our overcrowded societies show signs of non-fit (in the biological sense) anomalies. This has been observed in a number of colony and herd-based species when the population densities and extent of territories get too high. All kinds of weird behaviors start to emerge.

As far as this two-clock theme you bring up, i.e. approach-vs-avoid behavior, this is exactly what my robot experiments in the 1990s were about (see: for a sample of my work in artificial brains - MAVRIC).

As for your final set of questions, you are, in effect, asking me to write a book! But, also asking me to repeat a great deal of what I have written over the years in these blogs. Put simply, human beings are extremely adaptable and are capable of any of multiple strategies, both biologically ingrained and mentally learned. I have no idea how the story plays out for groups or the whole population. What I do know is that humans are constrained by the architecture of their brains to have limits on the scales in time and space of what they can perceive and hence understand. My thesis has been that there are human beings who are less constrained than most and that I expect them to be able to best adapt to the coming bottleneck situation.


Don Stewart

I'm really not asking you to do anything. I understand that you want to get on with other priorities.

I am really just talking to the people who read the blog. You say:
'human beings who are less constrained than most'
and I believe that is the way most of us usually frame the question. BUT, if we are social animals and if we are a lot more likely to survive as part of a group than as Lone Rangers, then asking the question in terms of being one smart guy in a herd of not very smart guys is probably framing our situation incorrectly. We may need to find our tribe. Which may be harder than being smart.

Don Stewart

George Mobus


I've actually been doing that for a long time. First, the behaviors we are seeing today from the majority of people are based on the population density stresses that are affecting them. These are anomalous compared with what are thought to be normal in-group cooperative behaviors. We are social animals but not under the current social conditions.

What I have written about in the past has been the hope that sapient people will find one another and form communities (e.g. around permaculture) that will survive the bottleneck and produce offspring that will be more fit for the environments they will face.


Don Stewart

Not to argue, just observe. Someone has put on a series of webinars over the last week or so on the subject of Alzheimer's. I'm at the age where, if I live 9 more years, the statisticians think I have a 50 percent chance of developing Alzheimer's. So I pay attention.

A Dr. Katz in New Haven describes the Blue Zones, where chronic disease in general and Alzheimer's in particular are only 20 percent of what would be expected in the United States...traditional Okinawa, some Greek islands, and Loma Linda, California (which is heavily Seventh Day Adventist). A Dr. Bredesen describes his newly developed protocol which has now been used to treat 100 people diagnosed with either Mild Cognitive Decline or early stage Alzheimer's. While Bredesen can't prove he has 'cured' the Alzheimer's (that would require an autopsy), he has regressed the symptoms in 90 percent of the people. This is the first generally accepted regression of Alzheimer's ever observed.

Bredesen looks closely at, I believe, 35 or so laboratory measurements to craft a particular program for each individual.

So, as a first approximation, we can eliminate 80 percent of Alzheimer's (along with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, auto-immune disease, depression, etc.) just by living like a Greek or an Okinawan or by following the religion of Seventh Day Adventism, or we can eliminate 90 percent with a whole lot of high tech lab studies followed by expert medical advice.

I find this illuminating....Don Stewart

George Mobus


You are not hinting that I am showing signs of dementia are you? ;^)

I do not fear Alzheimer's or any other form of mental impairment for a simple reason. I decided some time ago that I would use my brain to aggregate information, synthesize concepts, and write as much as I could on my conclusions as long as I could. Exercise of the brain is the key. Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia may overtake me someday. But I will do what I do until it does!



Don Stewart

I wouldn't say you are exhibiting evidence of brain fog...More like maturity and good judgment...becoming an Elder of the Tribe...can be counted on for sage advice in times of trouble.

Only problem is, you are writing it all down. So....why does the Tribe need to feed you in time of famine?

A better strategy, according to my research, is to be able to read the tea leaves or the bones or commune with the West Wind. Then you give your sage advice in person. might want to rethink a few details of your plan....Don stewart

Jordan Olson


You might enjoy this essay from Stephen Jay Gould on the role of cooperation in evolution.

He writes on the Russian criticism of Darwin, put forth most notably by Kropotkin in 1902. The experience in Russia was not one of "nature, red in tooth and claw" with species in fierce competition with each other for scarce resources. Rather, it was species cooperating with each other in their struggle for survival against the harsh Russian environment. Darwin wrote about both modes of evolution, but wrote only metaphorically on the cooperative mode.

Your opening paragraphs call to mind the idea of maladaptive memetic evolution. The success of our past has created a situation where we are now unfit in our material comfort to deal with our current environment - classic shifting the burden system archetype. Of course our predicament is that we've been pursuing symptomatic solutions for so long that we've created a structure that would break entirely by actually implementing the fundamental solution.


Hi George

"The reality of human existence is that the individual does not actually exist!"

Your elucidation of this concept is such a gem George! It has made sense of my fleeting and poorly developed ideas regarding identity, group cohesion, and the porous boundaries between self and non-self.

I would like to shout from the roof tops that "sublimation of the individual is not a negation of our 'specialness' but a reclamation of it!"

For me this particular point you've hit is a lynchpin concept. If I can gush with lyrical delight: The way forward is to grasp the reins we dropped once we imposed a flawed sense of 'selfness'. When we enter into our proper 'systemness' we are the best we can be and rightly part of that grand, billions of years long arc of consciousness raising which being a part of is this species' little contribution to the eternal sublime which gave it everything.


For anyone reading my comment and wondering what "sublimation of the individual means" I have to admit I've used some poetic license to meld several nuances of the word sublimate (including this great one
to give a sense of making the 'solid' individual disappear into seeming invisibility but also a state where one will be 'improving on flaws, attaining a higher consciousness, becoming noble, diverting baser energies to better causes, elevate the nature of to a higher plane, turn a seeming solid object with rigid boundaries into a gaseous object which interacts more readily with the elements around it.

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