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George Mobus
Associate Professor, Computing & Software Systems, Institute of Technology, University of Washington Tacoma
Interests: Systems Science: systems science is the science of understanding how the world works. it is at the core of every other science. Given our energy and material consumption, and governance of our systems will we be able to sustain all life for the long-run. The Human Condition: the human brain has evolved , our capacity to share abstract/conceptual information, and our ability to cooperate in complex ways have advanced us to dominate the Ecos. but, should we confiscate nature to our selfish purposes? Do we have the wisdom to find a balance between our own desires, and the good for the whole earth?
Recent Activity
The Semantic Trap It seems nearly impossible for a writer tackling the consciousness problem to avoid a linguistic trap. Ultimately, when we describe consciousness as an act of ‘observing’ ourselves in the act of observing the environment and our physical... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Question Everything
The Multiple Threads of My Interests The last several months have been really exciting for me. The book project is wrapping up and we should be getting the final manuscript draft to the publisher in early June. But several other... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2014 at Question Everything
Scientists Find a 'Hole' in Most Human Brains I thought I would share this with readers. I have been busy working with some neuroscientists to test a hypothesis regarding the lack of sapience in the majority of human beings. This... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2014 at Question Everything
It's good to be alive! Spring is my absolutely favorite time of year. The leaves are starting to bud on most of the understory bushes, the cherry blossoms are bursting out, the days are generally warmer... What isn't to love... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2014 at Question Everything
@Jerry, Indeed this has been my speculation re: the evolution of sapiens coinciding with the evolution of eusociality (some are now using the term hyper-sociality). My further speculation is that sociality that has a stronger sense of WE (the I as part of the whole) is going to be more strongly selected in the future. That would be nice to see. ------------------------------------- @BC, Interesting conversation. I've read Marcus' work and know one of the others from references. Still, I think that conversation clearly demonstrates the difficulties with the subject. But science has tackled many difficult subjects. So.... ----------------------------------- @Cantab, If, by "QE" you mean Question Everything, I'm not abandoning questions. Its just that I have asked the questions I was interested in about the consequences of the human condition. And the answers seem to be pretty well set so no need to rehash old news. -------------------------------------- @~PM, I took a quick look and will pursue it when I have a bit more time. Thanks for the link. -------------------------------------- @St. Roy, I won't swear on a bible that I'll never say another word about collapse. But it will have to take some really new developments to catch my interest again! Sorry. I just want to enjoy doing my research while I can. -------------------------------------- @Robin D. The "meat robot"/zombie arguments have been repeated many times without shedding much light on the subject. I and a number of other researchers are thinking it is a strawman argument. Yes, of course the experience of consciousness is personal/subjective. Nevertheless there are neural correlates with the experience of people that can be understood. Moreover, what we seek is an evolutionary mechanism for consciousness' emergence. I am perfectly happy to experience my own consciousness without worrying about whether others are or are not similarly conscious. The claim is that any sufficiently complex information processing entity capable of adaptation/learning can exhibit all of the properties that would lead me to "believe" they are conscious of their environments and themselves. I don't need to directly experience their consciousness to have sufficient evidence that they are experiencing something like what I experience. ------------------------------------- To all readers, News on the book progress. We got the final green light and have a firm date to deliver the final draft to the publisher. It's been a long haul. I will never write another textbook again!!!! George
Toggle Commented Mar 1, 2014 on Exploring Consciousness at Question Everything
@Ruben, Thanks for the quotations and link. The issue of "conscious control" is a complex one. There is a lot of evidence that most of our actions are generated subconsciously and only several milliseconds later comes to conscious awareness, giving the illusion of the conscious self having "willed" the action. However, that doesn't mean that conscious awareness does not have a more profound role in behavior control. I will be going into this in a future post. The short answer is that conscious awareness provides a long-term feedback control over learning in the subconscious (tacit knowledge). I don't have an immediate link, however I suggest looking up the work of Hanna Damasio (Antonio's wife and co-worker). She has done a lot of the imaging studies. A. Damasio's book, "Descartes' Error" contains a lot of overview. Strongly recommend it. ---------------------------------------- Everyone else, Interesting comments. I said this was perilous territory to explore. Humans have been marveling at their experience of consciousness, probably since before we were even fully sapiens. And we have inherited many "stories" and conceptualizations about it. There seem to have emerged two basic schools of thought that place the origin of the phenomenon of consciousness. One school considers consciousness as having origin in the Universe as a whole; that is it is a property of the Universes itself and not emergent from biology. The other school holds that consciousness (whatever it is) is a property of sufficiently complex brains or material analogs (e.g. a sentient computer). How to resolve this dichotomy? I doubt that consciousness studies will ever actually resolve it to the "liking" of everybody. This is one of those areas that is guided by belief (ideology if you will). And those who hold a belief are not likely to be persuaded by argument even when backed up with evidence (look at the religious disbelief in evolution). In my future posts I will likely steer clear of these more philosophical musings. I am interested in what we can find out about consciousness by observing how it seems to come out of complex brains and to test those ideas by building complex simulations that might support the "materialist" version. Demonstration of the emergence of consciousness from biology cannot preclude that there is some grander property of the Universe that, perhaps, nudges biological evolution toward the end we see in humans. But that is, as far as I can see, speculation. PS. In my prior post I did say I was done with proselytizing re: the end of humanity. So please, can comments be kept to the scope of the issue I am talking about. There are still plenty of blogs out there that deal with collapse, etc. I've said all I have to say about the issue. George
Toggle Commented Feb 23, 2014 on Exploring Consciousness at Question Everything
Dangerous Territory? Perhaps fools do rush in where wise men fear to tread. The territory we call consciousness studies is fraught with dangers, intellectual as well a professional (for a scientist). Philosophers have never felt any danger (sometimes quite the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2014 at Question Everything
What follows is actually something that has been brewing for a while. I started writing this a little over a year ago. A recent e-mail list exchange with some other people who have been blogging, mostly about things like climate... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2014 at Question Everything
The Formulaic SOTU You know the drill. The POTUS starts by spotlighting some highlights of what s/he thinks is going well in the US. Here are our strengths, as a country - Blah, blah, blah - look at us, we're... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2014 at Question Everything
Joseph Tainter's Thesis In The Collapse of Complex Societies Tainter posits that many historical civilizations have collapsed due to a very subtle phenomenon, one hard to perceive for both those who live through it and those historians who later study... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2014 at Question Everything
@RE, Can't help you further. Got other chores to take care of. My suggestion is that you go to a library that subscribes and read the article further. Besides who said this one model promises to have all the answers. Maybe you could build a model that clarifies.
@Tony, Thanks for the pointer. -------------------------------------- @RE, The article I refer to is the Nature (primary) article, not the HuffPo article. It points out how a dehydration effect, due to warming, at lower altitudes allows solar penetration further into the atmosphere and thus increases heating. Please just click on the link! George
@Tom, I prefer not to think of these as "predictions" as much as simply focusing on the trends as well as exposing the underlying forces. The world, our civilizations, and even all of us as individuals are chaotic systems, inherently unpredictable. Yet we can say something useful about the attractor basin we seem to be caught in. ----------------------------------- @Molly, I STRONGLY disagree here. I am NO mental genius but I have understood… Or, having met you and reading some past comments, may I suggest that you are above average in sapience! Ergo, you can grasp the systemeness of it all. I know several certified geniuses who, in my oh-so-humble opinion can't see the forest for the bark on the single little tree that they study. It isn't intelligence per se that causes someone to step back an look at the whole. It might help when it comes to linking details together. But it isn't a prerequisite for grasping the significance of major patterns. When I claim that people are stupid I also mean that they are so low in sapience that they don't even think to step back. They haven't the wisdom. They can still be clever but definitely not wise. In my mind, "willful" ignorance implies that they actually do know the reality but are stubbornly ignoring it for some other purpose. Or they might suspect there is some truth to what is being said, but refuse to look at the evidence for fear of discovering that truth. Either way the cause is a lack of wisdom. And it is that lack that I have claimed all along is the reason for our situation. Furthermore, what I am saying is that lack is not a willful act, but the result of coevolution of our cultures and our species resulting from the advent of agriculture. Ergo, I cannot "blame" people like Inhofe or Dimon for their stupidity any more than I can blame someone with an IQ of 60 for not learning calculus. We need to be careful in assessing blame by projecting a supposed attribute (like stubborn refusal to accept a scientific model as possibly correct) without actually testing that attribution. Take Inhofe for example. I have read some of his correspondences with a former aid who was in charge of orchestrating the testimonies of several global warming deniers, about six years ago. In those he earnestly laid out his strong belief that god's plan was at work and that humans simply were too puny to cause it. Since these were supposedly private communiques I suspect he was being completely honest (but who can really know, right?) My point is that a more parsimonious (and in my view more likely) explanation is that the vast majority of people are really like Inhofe in that they simply, as a result of being low on the sapience scale, fell victims to early ideological (religious and political) beliefs and are inherently unable to extricate themselves no matter how much science you throw at them. At least that's my take. -------------------------------------- @Tony, Referring to your article: First thanks for the referal! And thanks for introducing Kahan. I will have to follow up there. To other readers, if you haven't already done so, I recommend you take a look at Tony's link. My problem with this idea of scientific literacy (or sufficient scientific literacy) comes from my own experiences trying to teach computer and systems science. My general impression is that the majority of minds I encounter are really not capable of obtaining what I would consider sufficient literacy. I have not completely ruled out the possibility that this incapacity is inherent, but neither am I convinced that it is instilled via our education system, which teaches subjects in disciplinary silos as opposed to holistically. Perhaps it is a combination of both. But the fact is that the vast majority of people coming through the American education system do not either voluntarily or mandatorily get exposed to a sampling of all of the natural sciences. Moreover, they never get exposed to systems science which could actually help them integrate the other sciences into a holistic picture of how the world works. I have come to accept the likelihood that naught but a handful of people in this world are able to, on their own recognizance, pursue an education sufficient to allow them to treat all of the sciences as an integrated whole of knowledge. And by knowledge I mean "understanding", not just an accumulation of facts and figures. BTW: I don't think this is a Republican vs. Democrat (or associated ideologies) thing, or as you characterize them, as Hierarch Individualists vs. Egalitarian Communitarians. Liberal minded people are more willing to accept what others, especially scientists, say where conservatives are generally skeptical of anything said that goes against their ideology. But in my experience neither mind-set is really cognizant of the actual science. That is, neither is truly scientifically literate especially. I hang more with liberals than conservatives, and I assure you that does not mean they are broadly educated in the sciences. --------------------------------------- @Robin L. Good sentiment, nicely put. But to me the issue isn't one of merely accepting what good people say, it is understanding what they mean. The issue of scientific literacy isn't just about understanding the efficacy of science as a way of knowing, but of being able to make legitimate judgments about science-based claims. Science, and scientists, are not automatically right about every claim. When new claims emerge (like my hypothesis about sapience), the public needs to be able to judge for themselves or be skeptical until more evidence is provided. This is especially true in fields that have political or health implications. The public should not act on a mere conjecture just because a bonafide scientist claims it (and this is especially the case for claims communicated through the media!) With adequate scientific literacy comes tacit knowledge to apply to judgment of such claims. The conservatives were skeptical of global warming for the wrong reasons. They reacted against the issue because they did understand the implication that shutting down the burning of fossil fuels would put an end to their precious capitalism-profit-growth economy -- the basis of their wealth production. They translated their beliefs into the rhetoric of skepticism but not because they were judging based on their scientific knowledge. In the case of global warming, someone who did understand basic physics and chemistry would have been skeptical in the early days because the open question was still, could the measured increases in warming be due to human-base causes. The models were still crude. Many of my (non-climatologist) scientist friends held back acceptance of the thesis on the basis that the link was insufficiently made at that time. This was, I think, the proper form of skepticism. As Carl Sagan said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence -- too true. So what happened. The scientists (geologists, climatologist, archeologist - you name it) got to work digging deeper, for physical evidence as well as improved models. And the developments of evidence painted an increasingly clear picture of the dynamics of climate and found extraordinary evidence of humans holding the smoking gun. That kind of skepticism is healthy and drives science as a enduring process. But it comes from adequate scientific literacy. And, again, I think there are only a handful of people on this planet who have the capacity to develop it. I am glad that there are many people who are accepting of what science tells us about the nature of the universe and can live their lives without necessarily completely understanding the science. But, as you point out, it really then becomes a matter of politics and dueling ideologies and the Republicans have the bigger guns. ------------------------------------- @BC, Don't get me wrong. I am a big "fan" of Nietzsche. However the claim that crowds and epochs are generally insane must count as a personal observation of his. I know of no scientific study that purports to provide evidence of the efficacy of this observation. OTOH: If the vast majority of individuals are of low sapience (in my observation space) then the aggregate failures of judgment must, in hindsight, make it appear that the crowds of that time were insane. If one parses history carefully they can find evidence that actors carried out what, in the context of the moment, seemed rational, perhaps even just and noble to the beneficiaries. But the end result for the world as a whole was insane. For example take Harry Truman's decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To many Americans this act put a rapid end to WWII in the Pacific and saved many American lives. Not so much for the Japanese. And it put the Soviets on notice resulting in the nuclear arms race. That was truly insane (MAD - mutually assured destruction!) --------------------------------------- @RE, The link was in the post. Remember, that is the thing about science; it often shows our intuitions are inadequate! George
You Are Here It's that time of year again for reflections on the past year, assessment of our current situation, and projections into the new year. The truth is I've grown weary of writing the same thing over and over... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2014 at Question Everything
I've been working on something for New Year's morning. If you want to have a happy day - don't read it until much later. OTOH: if you can handle a bit of sobering reality at the start of what should... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2013 at Question Everything
My Ritual This is one of my four ‘holidays.’ Most years it is cloudy on Dec. 21 (or whichever day the Solstice comes on) in my part of the world. When it isn't, by some miracle, I have a little... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2013 at Question Everything
Of course I am saddened by the passing of Nelson Mandela. In my opinion he was one of the wisest leaders on this planet for a very long time. I am heartened to see the global reaction and broad acknowledgement... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2013 at Question Everything
@RE, The answers you seek are in the reading list I provided. I think you should take a look. George
Toggle Commented Nov 30, 2013 on The Future of Evolution? at Question Everything
@RE, Perhaps a lot has been going on that you have missed! Such as synthetic genomics. Or look at RNA world. No one has created a self-replicating bug just by throwing a bunch of organic stuff into a bottle and sparking electricity in it. But they have created replicating bugs/yeasts with artificially constructed genomes. They have demonstrated the effectiveness of ribozymes in protein synthesis. Most of the pieces of an extremely complex puzzle are in place. Don't you think you should take a look at the literature before discounting something just because you have not seen some final product that you judge as the only viable demonstration? In any case, does the elimination of this one claim invalidate my post? George
Toggle Commented Nov 30, 2013 on The Future of Evolution? at Question Everything
@RE, Your description of what we "can do" sounds so 1960s! A lot has been going on since Miller-Urey, et al. Some of the references I gave have some updates. But I will add two more for you to look at and see the evidence for yourself: Schneider, Eric D. & Sagan, Dorion (2005). Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life, The University of Chicago Press. [covers a lot of these hypotheses from the standpoint of non-equilibrium thermodynamics and energy flow.] Morowitz, Harold J. (1992). Beginnings of Cellular Life: Metabolism Recapitulates Biogenesis, Yale University Press. [A bit older than the Morowitz reference I gave, but full of much more details at the molecular level.] There is also a rich literature on RNA-world for the origins of both enzymatic action and autocatalysis pre-proteins. But there is still a gap in understanding the precise mechanisms involved in coupling the origins of a replicable genetic code and the early metabolic cycles. Some recent work on coupling early bi-lipid membranes, ribozymes, and minimal autocatalytic cycles involving polypeptides on pyrite surfaces driven by sulfur REDOX reactions (e.g. deep thermal vents today). If you have recent literature to the contrary please advise. --------------------------------------- @D. Aaron F., I am no expert on nuclear plant operations (though I was on a nuclear sub in the Navy!), but it is my understanding that even in the worst case scenario, where all of these plants fail containment, the ensuing radiation contamination would not be much greater than the Earth has experienced several times in the past due to losses of ozone (for example). In fact, I have read an analysis that suggests the increased radiation (of course at some distance from the source of the contamination) could increase the mutation rates in many species which would provide much more likelihood of beneficial new traits! Our visions of a nuclear contamination meltdown come mostly from conceptions of Armageddon (nuclear winter) scenarios of when the bombs (very dirty by comparison to nuke plants) fell. That kind of scenario would, indeed, be devastating. But if we look at Chernobyl, as an example, we don't see the same kind of simple radiation die-off. In fact the area surrounding (at a distance) the disaster is quite alive. There are, of course radiation-related diseases and mutations have been reported. But the level of harm seems no greater than what we would expect from a natural selection force. For my part I remain skeptical of claims that all of these plants would be left decommissioned and subject to melt-down, for starters. And those that might, I remain skeptical that it will result in annihilation of all life around. I await evidence to the contrary! ------------------------------------ @Paul H., That is the extent of evolution though. There is no plan to produce a super-species of humans. I don't think I implied a "plan". That would imply an intelligence-based teleology. There is no implication of a plan in recognizing a trajectory and pattern (of emerging levels of organization) in universal evolution. Even some evolutionists are getting comfortable with talking about a telenomic purpose without needing to imply a supreme creative intelligence driving the process. ------------------------------------ @Ulises, Thanks for the link and suggestion. Bioquestions and the mechanical answer, by Didier Newman. I read most of the first chapter. I have to say the very first sentence is a less than an up-to-date premise, verging on false. The rest seemed a rambling musing without any clear claims or evidence cited. Put bluntly, I didn't grok his arguments. Perhaps you can elucidate based on your complete reading. ------------------------------------- @Tom, We simply refuse to accept the idea that we're nothing special and have our time on the earth like all other species and then we're "shown the door." Is there really disagreement? I have been making the case all along that, so far as biology is concerned, Homo sapiens is destined to go extinct just as any other species. But extinction does not necessarily lead to the end of a genus. There have been numerous previous species of Homo that have gone extinct but the underlying adaptability of the genus seems quite robust, having produced a species that is able to inhabit nearly every nook and cranny on the planet (except Antarctica) even before technology as we know it. All of the paleo-anthropological evidence points in this direction. My conjecture (science fiction if you will) is that, given the evidence to date, our species, making it through a bottleneck will go extinct but before doing so give rise to a new (or even several new) species that will be more fit for that future environment. Mankind as we have known ourselves (and failed to understand ourselves adequately) will be gone, replaced by a "better" version of the genus. My further conjecture (science fiction) is that what that means is a species that is much more cooperative, empathetic, and communicative than our current form. Those traits will be selected for because it is cooperation and integration that has ALWAYS in the past been the solution to survival in a radically different environment and the emergence of new organization. Since this has been the pattern in the past evolution of life and supra-life on this planet (as we are now coming to understand) it seems perfectly reasonable to me that it will be the pattern of the future as well. Now I make no claims whatsoever that this is guaranteed, only that it is at least as likely an outcome as the complete extinction scenario for Homo. For those who choose to believe (and it can only be in the realm of belief since we've never run this experiment before) that the state of the environment will get so bad that essentially no life forms comprised of more than a few cells will be able to survive, then, of course, no other conclusion than total extinction is warranted. My own view is based on the results of prior die-off events and the resulting post-die-off radiation of biodiversity (c.f. The P-Tr Event). After every such event the new Earth environment was quite different from the prior state. Those species that retained the greatest level of adaptivity and evolvability made it through to give rise to wonderful new biota. So, I argue, the evidence so far suggests a more positive outcome than ultimate gloom-and-doom. In the end it is all speculation, of course. But I have to say, I think my scenario gives us hope that whatever else may come, the representation of sentient life on this planet could very well go on and thus provide a chance for wonderful things yet to come. That is an idea that can motivate positive work in the here and now. I would admit, it is what keeps me going. George
Toggle Commented Nov 29, 2013 on The Future of Evolution? at Question Everything
The Major Transitions in Evolution This last year, having completed work on the systems science textbook, I have immersed myself in the emerging and growing literature on this subject. Evolution as used here refers to the universal dynamic of change,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2013 at Question Everything
All, Well the comments to this post seems to have hit a record number, as have the overall hit counts! Unfortunately it comes right at a time when I am involved in several parallel projects related to the topics above. So I will not be able to acknowledge every comment. Below I do address a few comments that seemed to need doing so. Some comments (and reams of e-mails) suggest that some people interpreted this post as suggesting that the actions I listed would actually save the world and they thus took exception to one or more points (or added their own pet actions). I meant this list as simply representative of the kinds of things that would be necessary (not necessarily sufficient) to lessen the pain of a bottleneck. My main point, however, is to show how impossible that avoidance will be due to the total impossibility of implementing these items. In other words I was attempting (perhaps clumsily) a kind of reductio ad absurdum. If my list contains actions that, if taken, would lessen the pain, but all items are relatively absurd, then the conclusion has to be that we cannot lessen the pain. I hope those who took the list seriously will be able to see this as the point. ---------------------------------------- @K-Dog, Human understanding is primarily affected by social considerations. People stop thinking whenever answers come from authority figures. That authority figures will lie and that what they say may not seem quite right sometimes is totally irrelevant. Social considerations establish beliefs and behavior patterns, not truth. Yet you exist and are thinking outside of the social considerations under which you have lived and learned! There are those who are not as conditioned as you seem to be implying. I would say most long-term readers of this blog are not in possession of beliefs conditioned by social considerations. In other words there really are people who have much stronger sapience than average and who are able to see through the bs that you describe as being the primary influences on ways of thinking. There really is a much bigger role for genetic influence over the kind of consciousness that people have. The evidence for this is building up every day. Nurture is important in terms of allowing a mental capacity (e.g. general intelligence) to achieve its maximum potential. But nature governs what that potential is. And genetic variation in the population is the root of the kinds of distributions (balanced Gaussian or highly skewed, as in the case of sapience) that we see. People on the high end of that distribution can see through the fog of the normal social milieu. That is why we are all here, I think. --------------------------------------- @RE, Seems to me this would cause a demographic nightmare 20-30 years down the line. Yes, of course. But would that nightmare be worse than the one where we don't try to do anything about population? I don't know if increasing death rate is necessarily a BETTER solution. But I suspect both the decrease in births and the increase in deaths (owing to breakdown in the healthcare system as you suggest) will leave our planet and our survivors better off. ------------------------------------ @p01, You are invited to state your evidence and your reasoning as to why you disagree. But you are not permitted to hit and run with an epithet. It serves you no purpose. -------------------------------------- @Zola Akinyi, and others who worry about the looting of pockets of wiser groups, Part of the wisdom of preparation involves consideration of where to hide, how to succeed, and for how long! Many people pose this scenario of aggressors winning the competition because that is a common meme in the Armageddon scenarios, easily imagined, portrayed in movies like The Road, and The Road Warrior, etc. But I don't think people quite appreciate that there are still wilderness areas that are largely uninhabited and so remote from urban areas that the chances of marauding armies (or bands) making it there are relatively small. Forgive me for being circumspect on this, but I can tell you that there is a project underway to identify the methods by which small pockets of people can be protected and survive through the bottleneck. For obvious reasons details will not be divulged! On Zola's second point, the problem is not mineral resources, mined, presumably from asteroids. The problem is energy to get there and back again as well as drive the Earth-bound economy. Perhaps a space-bound population using raw solar energy (meaning they would need to be a lot closer to the sun than the asteroid belt) might have some kind of existence. But that would be a very limited group and one without an obvious future. ------------------------------------ @Tom, Seems to me you conflate intelligence with sapience, which is the mistake that we make in thinking about survival fitness. No one here likely disagrees that we are too smart for our own good (as per Craig Dilworth). The point is there is more to cognition than just cleverness, and that something is sapience (which yes I do go on about!) It isn't a magic bullet. It is a documented cognitive behavioral phenomenon called wisdom. And you are right that the vast majority of humans do not possess it in adequate strength to make a difference in ordinary human behavior. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist at all. If you want to catch up on the science behind the idea feel free to download my working papers starting here. --------------------------------------- @Pauline, I just hope Guy is a bit too pessimistic! He spins a believable scenario, I admit. But when I look at the earth as a whole system (as in the Gaia hypothesis) I can't help but notice the negative (balancing) feedback loops that may seem muted at present (where Guy sees naught but positive loops) but invariably are amplified as the positive loops raise the pressures. I wish I could say what those negative feedbacks will be (one obvious one, of course, is the bottleneck itself) but Earth would turn out to be an abnormal non-equilibrium system if there weren't any. That, of course, doesn't mean the world won't look terribly different a thousand years from now. It just means that life will go on and I strongly suspect there is an opportunity for more adaptive members of Homo to make it through to the other side. Bear in mind it is all speculation on all of our parts. No one knows what is going to happen or how it will work out. But my thought is to assume a possible outcome that includes humans and then try to figure out what would be needed to assist that outcome (not guarantee it). ------------------------------------ @John W. Other than initial land shaping like creating terraces and digging retention ponds, such things would be pretty superfluous. Thanks. You clarified the exact point I was trying to make. I have another post somewhere in this labyrinth that addresses this transition from current agricultural practices to permaculture in small communities (made small by the bottleneck!) If you find it you will see what I meant by plows. It was a while back. ----------------------------------- @Paul, If it weren't for tenure this blog wouldn't exist ;^) Or perhaps that would have been a good thing. As for wage freezes, etc. producing harm. Well consider the alternative. The whole point is that we are all going to suffer some kind of deprivations as civilization collapses. Which kind are better than famine, rampant disease, all-out skirmishes - just plain brutal deaths for the majority of people. The ill effects of price and wage freezes would seem to pale in comparison! George
That the Bottleneck is Unavoidable Allow me an indulgence. After more than a decade of searching for answers, and attending to the major trends in our world, I have come to certain conclusions about the future of humanity. I haven't... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2013 at Question Everything
@Joe, Have you read any of the books in the bibliography? My assertions are not based on my opinions formed from either outdated interpretations of evolution (e.g. Stephen Gould's "everything is contingency") or emotional reactions to what looks like mal-adaption of our species. Perhaps you would provide some references of your own that support your "point".
@Joe, I'm not clear on what point you are trying to make. In what sense are you using the word "super"? My use of it did not mean our species is superior to other species. I was using it in the sense of the emergence (transition to) a new supra-biological phenomenon, something that might resemble what happened when multiple bacteria became symbiotic in a way that gave rise to eukaryotes. The latter were super in the sense of being a new, more complex and coordinated kind of life. It is OUR species that is doing the damage. My notion of a super-species would be based on an ability to strategically think, as if by a whole organism, and cease being damaging. George