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George Mobus
Associate Professor, Computer Science & Systems, School of Engineering and Technology (was Institute of Technology), University of Washington Tacoma, author: Principles of Systems Science, Springer, ISBN: 978-1-4939-1919-2
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
Three Books You Should Read and a Big Question First the question. How did we get here? Here, of course, means the impending collapse of global civilization, of technologically-based cultures, of the majority of the human population, of the great... Continue reading
Posted 3 hours ago at Question Everything
There Is a Technical and Feasible Solution to Reducing CO2 - But... This is not a claim that we can solve the climate change problem. It certainly isn't a solution that will allow us to continue BAU. I cling to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2019 at Question Everything
Dear Readers, A quick note to let you know that my book on sapience (ideas first explored in this blog), "A Theory of Sapience: Using Systems Science to Understand the Nature of Wisdom and the Human Mind", has been published... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2019 at Question Everything
My thanks to Paul Chefurka for his comments that have prompted me to share some of my more recent thinking. As with Paul's thinking, mine has been evolving. So for what it might be worth... The hope of which I... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2019 at Question Everything
@Frank, Several years back I reported in this blog about my research in the psychology and neurology of sapience, or the brain basis of wisdom. The starter page is here: and you can search the archives for pages related to "sapience". Basically I argue that we evolved to pass a threshold of cognitive capacity that makes us humans unique animals. It isn't intelligence, but the capacity to develop wisdom over a lifetime. Except that the average human being is just above that threshold, so their capacity is yet weak. The series of chapters try to address your question directly. ------------------------------------ @Karl, Exactly so. The evidence of collapse is all around us. ------------------------------------ @Norris, Thank you for this and what you are doing. I have posted, in years gone by, suggestions for a social system based on localization and reductions in materiality. As per my comment above, these are based on a society of eusapient individuals. I would suggest that what is needed is more than just the abandonment of FFs. What is driving the destruction of civilization as we have known it is capitalism and the belief in profits and growth. It has succeeded in taking over the zeitgeist because it appeals to our less-than-sapient selves. But it is capitalism that drives an insatiable need for FFs to drive industry and commerce. ------------------------------------ @Molly, Good to hear from you. I am working on some projects that address the issues I just mentioned to Norris. When I have some results I will likely write them up for the blog. A major paper is being presented in June to the ISSS conference. So it is coming together. ------------------------------------- @Raquel, Very unsustainable. But that doesn't mean some kind of life for humans and society needs to be unsustainable. We just need a better design for living and a lot fewer people! That is what we are facing and, it seems, sooner than later. ------------------------------------ @Fred, Thanks for the heads up on Wilson's book. Putting it on my list right now. He is one of the most eusapient people I have ever encountered. George
I honestly did not expect to be a witness to the end of civilization when I started blogging those many years ago. Though I thought I could clearly see where the trends (energy, climate, social) were heading and tried to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2019 at Question Everything
To all commentators: Sorry for delays. I am deeply enmeshed in a few projects aimed at still trying to understand our predicament and a systems approach to minimizing harm. These are absorbing my time completely. I will try to summarize in my equinox post in a few days. George
Toggle Commented Mar 15, 2019 on Happy (sic) New Year at Question Everything
Heading into the New Year - 2019 As we prepare to welcome a new year, some of us with hope that things will improve compared to 2018, I'm afraid I have some sobering news to share. I've been tracking the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2018 at Question Everything
Folks, Ugo is Ugo Bardi who's blog is listed in the side bar - Cassandra's Legacy. Check it out. ------------------------------- @Shawn, I suspect you didn't read the papers at the link I provided. In fact we have gotten all kinds of new communications technologies over the past 100 years, linking lots of minds together and look where it has gotten us. Tools are only as good as the minds that use them. George
Toggle Commented Dec 28, 2018 on Winter Solstice 2018 at Question Everything
Happy Solstice everybody. I don't know what else to say. I had started a piece taking an inventory of beliefs and ideologies that underlie the major pathologies in our socioeconomic system, things like belief in free markets. But it was... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2018 at Question Everything
@cowboy, As I understand the physics, particulates from, for example, coal burning, actually absorb solar energy. White ash from volcanoes may reflect if suspended high enough in the atmosphere. But I think it is mostly speculation at this point. We don't have sensors out in space capable of detecting the effects. As for Guy's general thesis I personally think the probability is low, but not zero. We need more observations re: the rate and amount of CH4 emissions to have a sense of run away warming. ------------------------------------- @Roope Bill, I posted this because the IPCC report is the first real kick in the pants regarding something I have been trying to get people to pay attention to for a long time. Thanks for the link. Wait till we see social chaos! -------------------------------------- @Bev, Cantab, and Molly R, As I survey the group of women who are stepping up to run for political office I am seeing (I hope) qualities that are much less contentious and power-hungry than among most men (or Nancy Pelosi for that matter) that currently hold office in the Congress. It is clear that those men have made a royal mess of things and need to be booted. Whether women could do a better job (is there a gender difference that matters?) I don't know. What I do know is that they couldn't do any worse. Time will tell. Or maybe not since according the the IPCC report we really don't have a lot of time! George
As hurricane Michael bears down on the Florida pan handle as a Cat 4 storm, I wonder how many people who are going to be directly affected by its devastation are thinking about anthropogenic climate change. This week a new... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2018 at Question Everything
To be completely honest I am not sure what more I can say; certainly nothing that would really help our situation. Here we are at the autumnal equinox, heading for the darkness of winter, and, frankly, it seems appropriate. The... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2018 at Question Everything
Hi Molly, Thanks for the kind and encouraging words, but honestly I am not sure what else I can offer that hasn't been covered in my years of posting. Basically the world is going the direction I thought it would, but at a pace more accelerated than I had imagined. My writing efforts now are going into my new book on how to use the principles of systems science and the systems methodologies I have developed to try to grasp deep understanding of how the world (and the human species) is working in the hopes that some people with a bit of wisdom and younger than me will be able to have a leg up on the impending collapse of society. I don't know what else to do at this point. This blog has attracted some attention, but it seems fleeting and has't seemed to matter a great deal. After all, to those who are pseudosapient the message that they are in that condition probably doesn't resonate. And I still think there are very few who are really sapient or even eusapient for whom the message would make any sense. I continue to take hope that those who are sapient will already recognize the situation and that what they need more than someone continually pointing out the nature of the problem is someone codifying the way to greater wisdom (or so I imagine). I have been working on a set of appendices to the book that detail the nature of several complex adaptive systems (CAS) and complex adaptive and evolvable systems (CAES) generic model archetypes. They are for decision agents (deciders and controllers), a governance architecture, and a generalize economy. The patterns I am writing about appear in systems starting with the single cell (metabolism is the economy of a cell) and running to the whole human social system on Earth. I am examining major differences between the economy of, say, physiology and an ecosystem as compared with the human social system's experiments with governance and economy. I am trying to point out the deficiencies in the latter with respect to what nature has found to work. But I also point out that the human social system is still in evolution. If we don't completely blow it with nuclear war or global warming, we might just evolve ourselves and our societies into some kind on sustainable balance with the whole Ecos. Needless to say, while this is a possibility, I probably won't hold my breath! Nevertheless, one has to project some kind of hope or else just buy a handgun or a pill that would end it all. I'm not ready to go that route. --------------------------------------- @Fred, Good observation. I guess if I really have any faith in the capacity of eusapience I should just assume they will figure it out for themselves. No need to be a helicopter parent, eh? George
Hello Gene, Thank you for your interest and questions. RE: inheritance. I think it is likely that eusapience or, at least, higher levels of sapience, are indeed heritable. My research has led me to suspect that there are a few alleles responsible for the development of the prefrontal cortex (esp. Brodmann area 10) that is implicated in higher levels of sapience, and that these are fairly recent mutations. I suspect, further, that these are not necessarily protein coding sequences, but more likely control sequences that affect the development of brain tissues (again Brodmann area 10) that are involved in higher-order judgement. RE: survival in response to ferocity. I have wrestled with this notion for a long time. I can't help reference back to the biblical injunction: the meek shall inherit the Earth! I suspect that eusapient individuals will know how to keep their heads down and avoid confrontations. At least I hope so. RE: Tech and cooperation. I suspect that eusapient individuals will be capable of interpersonal communications that are of a much more cooperative nature than we see presently (my next book will explore this in great detail). I expect Homo eusapiens to exhibit hypersocial tendancies even while maintaining a sense of self. Of course all of this depends on a survival of some eusapient individuals reminiscent of the survival of bird and mammals after the great extinction of dinosaurs! Wish I could be around to see! George
If you feel as if chaos is accelerating you are not alone. I'm sure that most still reading this blog are completely aware of what I mean. The irony to me is that Trump is right to call out the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2018 at Question Everything
Maybe those people in less developed regions will still stand a better chance. They are quite resourceful from what I saw - making do with what they had. I believe they are probably better prepared to adapt than those in developed countries. Time will tell. I had heard from a number of people over the years that going to see Africa, especially places like the Serengeti, does change people. It certainly did me. I came back profoundly disturbed and yet much more hopeful. George
Wishful dreaming. Beats the nightmare of daily reality! George
I just received a call from an associate who lives in Washington DC. He informed me that at noon today, President Trump will resign. The word is that the stress of the Russia collusion investigation has finally gotten to him.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2018 at Question Everything
As I write, a few days before the Equinox, I am on the main island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania (Zanzibar is actually part of Tanzania but with its own president and parliamentary council). We are on the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2018 at Question Everything
@Apneaman, Hope you enjoy Gordon's perspective. He puts most stock in the technology innovation theory of economic growth but seems to have missed the role of energy in powering industry! On the wisdom distribution article: Unfortunately there is an alternate explanation. I will give them that social status might affect how much natural (genetically endowed) sapience emerges, but another possibility is that people in the high end of the wealth/income classes are spoiled! That is, they are also more narcissistic and selfish because they got used to having what they wanted. There is another study that correlates the fact that people in the upper classes tend to not be willing to follow the rules because they feel entitled to not do so! Still it is good to see the interest in studying the phenomenon of wisdom. ----------------------------------- @EnkiAnuna, Will have to take a look. Thanks for the tip. I may be writing more frequently. I have reached a nadir in my next book project and have some interesting new findings to run by readers. ------------------------------------ @Molly, Let's hope the new year is a little more stable than the current one has been. The problem with chaotic dynamics is that you never know what even might happen. The only thing you can say about chaos is that the system is about to flip to a new attractor basin when things get really wild. George
Toggle Commented Dec 31, 2017 on Winter Solstice 2017 - Cycles at Question Everything
The occasion of the Winter Solstice has me thinking about a major fundamental aspect of all system processes. They all involve cycles (which include quasi-cycles or quasiperiodicity, hypercycles, and other variations on the theme of cyclic or almost cyclic behavior).... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2017 at Question Everything
Dennis, My basic arguments against libertarian thinking comes down to some questions about "what kind of animal are we?" and issues of scale and density. The former issue relates to the question of hyper-cooperativity in human beings. We are not merely eusocial animals. We are hyper-social and everything we have ever accomplished has been through cooperative behaviors. That means humans are always faced with sacrificing some of their own self-interests in order to promote the collective interests. Liberty, from a systems perspective, is a matter of how dense and interconnected the system of agents is. If people lived on intervals of one square mile, they can build any damn kind of house they want to, anywhere they want to. Their decisions are not going to subject their neighbors to hazards like fire spreading. When they live right next to each other it is a different matter. You need building codes in order to help prevent disaster spreading through the community. Now I will be the first to admit that governments, occupied with human beings, are not likely to find optimal solutions to coordination problems. They may very well over-step their responsibilities and impose rules and regulations that, to them, seem like good ideas, but, in fact, stifle freedom unnecessarily. The problem is not that we should not be trying to determine reasonable and helpful governance structures. It is that the decision agents that have to do so are incompetent at doing so. So they over-react. Is the question "big government" or "stupid government"? Our society, even out in the boonies, is dense, and complex. Too many different desires competing for too few resources. What you are observing is a system's natural tendency to seek an optimal steady state. Unfortunately the human agents who have to carry out the work of governance are simply incompetent to do so, in most cases. Libertarianism assumes that humans can make rational decisions, or that even if they don't their actions need not harm others. The former is clearly not the case (lots of recent psychology backs this up). The latter is also not the case since societies are so dense. I'm pretty sure sapience means that people are willing to accept that they are not unboundedly free to choose whatever path they think is best for them. Truly sapient beings are willing to cooperate for the good of the social group. That doesn't mean they bend over and accept every decision without appeal. But a society of sapient beings should be able to discuss issues and find resolutions Good luck with the transportation argument. I get your reference to the capitalist overlords, and I am no fan of capitalism, but don't forget that the maximizing of profits is also a libertarian belief. George
Tom S. I'll have to ask Gail about that graph. The units of energy are kilograms which makes no sense. I saw Gail at the last biophysical econ meeting in Montana and we talked about society's diminishing ability to do work. She looks at it from a financial-debt production perspective, but the long and short is that the lagging global economy is evidence that less real wealth is not being produced at rates previously had. There are several things to think about in considering energy per capita. First is that you are actually measuring the 'free' energy or that which is available to do useful work. Total energy production as conventionally reported by those agencies you mention, is in things like raw barrels of oil or energy content of a raw barrel of oil. The net energy available to do real wealth-producing work is quite different, and growing substantially less with diminishing EROI. Another issue is the simple fact of using monetary units in the analysis. This also got some press at the BPE meeting. Data for things like energy intensity, for example, are extremely suspect due to the government's penchant for jiggering GDP, inflation, and other relevant calculations. No one can agree on a $ equivalent to free energy measures, say in joules. Our cost accounting systems use monetary units to measure stuff with, not free energy units. That is what makes the analysis so hard. My model uses only energy measures (work actually). Finally there has been an increasing general malaise in the global economy (in spite of the so-called Chinese miracle, which looks now to be running dry). Growth in real GDP and productivity have not been keeping up with growth in population since the mid 1970s. Read Gordon's "The Rise and Fall of American Growth". He attributes the increasing malaise to the idea that new technologies have not provided the kinds of boosts to productivity that the invention of the radio, trains, airplanes, etc. provided to the early 20th century. I somewhat agree that technology (its kind) is an important element, but it can't explain the whole malaise as well as a decline in net free energy per capita can. That's my $0.02 on that. RE: the Flynn effect you should read what Flynn himself has to say about the epiphenomenon. "What Is Intelligence?: Beyond the Flynn Effect", Mar 23, 2009 by James R. Flynn. IQ has always been controversial as a measure of something we call intelligence. There are now studies showing that people are loosing critical thinking capacity because of modern electronic technology (from calculators to TV to iPhones and GPS). In biological systems you use it or you lose it. And by the Baldwin Effect ( the possibility of future humans being even less intelligent because they are supported by advanced technology is a real possibility. You are correct that 30 years ago voters were just as uninformed and just as stupid. Not because of the so-called Flynn effect but because they have never been adequately sapient to become educated. Education isn't something school does to you, it is something you do to yourself, through work! What has changed is that the modern voter can feel informed because they read something in Facebook! I don't know about 'ever.' I think there have been rare moments in history when a handful of 'citizens' discussed issues intelligently, using reasoning faculties that our current population seems incapable of mustering. George
Toggle Commented Sep 24, 2017 on Anticipating the End at Question Everything
The comments have me perplexed and puzzled. What did I say??? How, Craig, from this brief post do you get that I believe the "official version of history". May I remind you that this blog is called "Question Everything" for a reason! Apneaman, you are welcome but I haven't a clue as to what you are talking about. By the way your response seems like you are particularly sensitive to certain issues. You seem to have read some intent into my comment that was not in evidence as far as I can see.