Home » Posts tagged 'complexity'

Tag Archives: complexity

Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Post Archives by Category

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLVI–Peak Oil, Complexity, Psychology, Magical Thinking, and War

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLVI

Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Peak Oil, Complexity, Psychology, Magical Thinking, and War

Again, some sharing of my comments and others’ on a couple of recent FB Group posts.

First, a post from the Peak Oil Group I am a member of where some great conversations happen. In this particular situation, the comments were in response to my last Contemplation.

SH: I was with a group of technical people recently, engaged in conversation about a very wide range of issues, and when I pointed out that almost no one among engineers and entrepreneurs are striving to address future energy and resource needs, rather, the vast majority exhibit a myopic fixation toward devising increasingly complex ways to use up fossil hydrocarbons. Well… Some folks interrupted and pretty much drowned me out with a kind of “hear no evil” mantra, extolling the virtues of technology and human ingenuity. I don’t even think it was a conscious response, but a kind of unconscious impulse, an eruption of vocal energy resulting from cognitive dissonance. It seems apparent that humans are not psychologically equipped to handle large scale existential threats or crises. I guess what I’m suggesting is that it isn’t just elites who will kick the can down the road to maintain their status quo, but that pretty much everyone will respond to things like Peak Oil in a way that’s unquestionably irrational or egocentric in relation to the magnitude of the challenge. That’s my take on it anyway…

Me: SH, I completely agree. I suppose that’s one of the reasons I find the impact of our innate psychological mechanisms/processes so fascinating to explore and try to understand. I think a big part of our blindness to limits and the consequences of chasing the perpetual growth chalice is our ‘trust/faith’ in our various complex systems (and those who ‘control’ them). This has us engaging in significant magical thinking and believing that we can ‘adapt’ (via our technology and ingenuity) to the various predicaments we face. We cannot fathom that recent adaptations have run their course and we are on a dead-end trajectory. Psychology suggests our minds protect us from such anxiety-provoking thoughts regardless of the evidence to the contrary. It doesn’t matter what reality/facts/evidence demonstrates; it’s what we believe that rules.

PW: Steve Bull, Yes, extreme compartmentalism.

JR: Steve Bull, I started listening to a Derrick Jensen interview last night (suggested by a post here by Alice Friedman.) What I took from it is that it’s not human psychology in a vacuum. Different technologies have their own built-in ideologies that influence human ideologies. It was a bit esoteric, but it sort of made sense. Very interesting.

PW: JR, Yep, they have their religion, their science, their family, their whatever.

SH2: SH, what I’m wondering now is why is it possible (for governments, or anyone) to convince people en masse that it’s necessary to go off to war and likely be maimed and/or killed, and endure all the other hardships of war………… but it seems completely impossible (for governments, or anyone) to convince people en masse to put up with seemingly much milder forms of deprivation (like less luxurious lifestyles) in order to stave off collapse (and famine/death and eventually war leading to more famine, death, etc). ?

Me: SH2, The State profits from the war racket (and all the other growth rackets) but not economic contraction. They have no interest in convincing the masses to live more ‘sustainably’ since that would kill their golden geese.

SH2: Steve Bull, Agreed, but I think it must go deeper than that. Do soldiers signing up (not counting conscripts) not have any idea of what war is like? Assuming they do, why does the motive of sacrifice for the good of their society/country not apply in anywhere near the same level of commitment to non-war actions?

Me: SH2, It’s obviously very complex but perhaps part of it is the State’s ability to leverage our innate tribal instincts (i.e., sense of patriotism) and ramping up of the ‘othering’ that goes hand-in-hand with that, which influences a sense of ‘sacrifice for God and country’ that gets most to support war and the atrocities of it. When times are ‘tough’ there’s always some ‘other’ that can be dragged out to blame for things and our in-group versus out-group instincts drown out the critical aspects of such manipulations.

As for ‘sacrificing’ for the planet’s health and our long-term survival, these are minimised via the mainstream narratives about human ingenuity and technology being capable of countering such degradation, you know — we can ‘science’ our way out of any ‘problems’.

The forces of propaganda/marketing by the ruling elite are significant and impactful. They profit from war and from continued economic growth. They have zero interest in curtailing either of these insane and destructive pursuits and perhaps even less concern for our ecological systems — greenwashing everything to give the appearance of concern.

The ‘average’ person’s tendency to defer to authority/expertise leaves most following whatever trajectory a society’s ‘rulers’ set, and for the 10,000+ years of complex societies, these ‘influencers’ have prioritised that which sustains their revenue streams…war and expansion.

And to minimise the cognitive dissonance of the significant machinations and manipulations we are constantly exposed to, most go along to get along and parrot back the stories and help to cheerlead us over the impending cliff…

PW: Steve Bull, Very well stated Steve. I copied two sentences because of the clarity and preciseness of the logic. ……you know — we can ‘science’ our way out of any ‘problems.

PW: SH2, Part of it is the play on their testosterone, their need to be a hero outweighs many other considerations. I think that, yeah, they don’t know what they are doing.

PW: One play of the recruiters ‘they can sign up and join with their friends, they can all serve in the same unit. Well, no, as soon as they join they are split up with some never seeing their friends again. I watched one video of recruiters trying to sign some guys up and implying they could be like their favorite musical artist who had served in the military. They could join the musical military band like he did. The recruiters will lie about anything to get the signature on the line.

LM: SH, I’ve come across the same as this. Maybe it’s their fight mechanism in their brain. I suppose if you don’t know how to mitigate it with nature and low fuel consumption, you use the tools you think you have, even if you don’t really understand those tools. It’s laziness, ignorance and fear. Problem is, those responses adversely impact my daughters and their futures, along with all other children’s futures. So what are we to do? The only two ways to mitigate all this, infiltrate the political system or revolt against the existing system.

We don’t seem to be able to get past the leaders and elite. The ones that openly advertise that going back to a low fuel economy would take us back to the dark ages. Well yeah, maybe we’d have to go to bed the same time as birds mostly because of low fuel, there’s nothing dark about that, other than the dark night!

So so distant from nature. Crazy

Second, is this question/statement posed in the Degrowth Group I am a member of. I include it as it relates to issues raised above:

PJ: Do you think the worlds ‘elite’ might view climate change as being caused by having far too many slaves consuming ‘their’ planet’s resources? ( It seems strange how they really seem to be promoting world war three rather than attempting to promote peace) I bet most of them have their own nuclear bunkers. Do any of the worlds ‘leaders’ and elites actually see themselves as being ‘enemies’ or is it something they like to pretend to the people? To maintain their ‘system’ and their positions? They certainly like to keep telling us how other countries and people are our ‘enemies’.

Me: I don’t pretend to know what our ‘elite’ think or believe. I can only guess based upon some statements, their behaviours, and pre/historical evidence as to what others in their place seem to have done.

They don’t seem to agree on much and oftentimes disagree vehemently on things. This often makes them more concerned with their in-group and how to manipulate events amongst that restricted population as opposed to the masses. This is perhaps especially so across borders, and particularly with respect to regions rich in resources (mineral, labour, and capital).

They don’t appear to be overly concerned with the symptoms of ecological overshoot (anthropogenic climate impacts being one) except to leverage them in expanding their revenue streams and societal control mechanisms.

They appear to believe in the magical thinking weaved by ‘free’ market economists and infinite substitutability for declining resources, and that technology and human ingenuity can solve any pressing issue.

They do not appear to give two shits for the unwashed masses except as tax donkeys and labourers, but do attempt to appease them somewhat with bread, circuses, and soothing narratives (despite having the various protective services of private and public police/security/military, they do still fear reprisals from possible revolution by the masses — thus increasing mass surveillance and narrative management).

Perhaps they do fear a nuclear exchange, but many certainly (at least amongst the higher ups of the political and military classes, and possibly some other very influential individuals) have access to safe spaces where they believe they could avoid the worst of such an outcome.

But we need to also consider that war is a VERY profitable racket as Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler reminded us. And THE primary motivation of these people probably since the beginning of complex societies 10,000+ years ago has been control and expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige.

Again and again throughout human pre/history our ruling elite have sacrificed their citizens and the environment to meet this important motivation. I see little evidence that our current iteration of elite is any different than the many that have preceded them and expedited their society’s collapse, especially through overreach in many areas.

And when haven’t the weapons of the day ever sat idle once things have gone sideways?

Homo sapiens are very intelligent story-telling apes, just not very wise.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIX–Fossil Fuels: Contributing to Complexity and Ecological Overshoot

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIX

June 7, 2021

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Fossil Fuels: Contributing to Complexity and Ecological Overshoot

Andrew Nikiforuk is an author and contributing editor of the online media site The Tyee. He has been writing about the oil and gas industry for close to 20 years. In his most recent article he writes about the lies being told by the Canadian government regarding its attempts to reduce carbon emissions. The Canadian government is certainly not alone in its misinformation (propaganda?) and one of the issues I believe is contributing to the lies is a (purposeful?) misidentification of our planet’s fundamental existential dilemma. Below is my comment on Andrew’s excellent discussion.

Thank you, Andrew. You’ve laid out the case for some very, very difficult decisions/choices/discussions that lay ahead of us.

I’m not convinced we will make what I consider to be the correct choices or even engage in some meaningful and productive dialogue since the changes that I believe are needed (degrowth) would be viewed as exceedingly painful to many as it challenges not only some core beliefs but what could be considered rights/entitlements/expectations regarding living standards (and it doesn’t help that we are genetically predisposed to avoid pain and seek pleasure). The brakes that need to be applied to some social practices/policies (perhaps most? all?) would also be challenged by some because I would contend the fundamental dilemma we are having to address is not necessarily carbon emissions, which I would argue is one of the consequences of the underlying issue, which is ecological overshoot.

The finite, one-time cache of easy-to-retrieve and cheap-to-access energy provided by fossil fuels has ‘fuelled’ an explosion in human numbers and sociopolitical/cultural/economic complexities unlike any other time in human pre/history. With this energy resource at our disposal we have constructed a complex, global, and industrialised world with technological wonders that would certainly appear magical to past generations.

Perhaps one of the most important consequences of this finite energy reserve has been our creation of exceedingly complex, fragile, and energy-intensive long-distance supply chains, especially for food, that have allowed us to expand and occupy quite marginal lands and completely ignore consideration of a land’s carrying capacity and ability to ‘sustain’ a local population; but also created a complete dependency by many on these systems. I use my home province of Ontario as an example. We have a population of about 15 million (and growing) but less than 9 million acres of arable farmland (and lessening), suggesting (based upon an estimate of the need of 1 acre of food production per person to supply adequate caloric intake) we are well past our natural environmental carrying capacity. It’s even worse than these numbers suggest since about 70+% of our ‘food’ production is dedicated to corn and soybean for animal feed and ethanol production. As a result we import about 80+% of our food. And many, many regions of the world are in a similar (or worse) predicament.

One of the ‘memes’ I have often used over the past few years has been ‘Infinite growth on a finite planet, what could possibly go wrong?’ We live on a finite planet with biophysical limits. These limits impact what we can and cannot do. Human ingenuity (i.e., science and technology) has allowed us to push on the boundaries of some of these limits to a certain extent but physics and biology can only be ‘delayed’, not vanquished. The energy-averaging systems we have in place (i.e., long-distance trade) to support occupation of marginal lands and expand beyond a region’s carrying capacity require huge amounts of energy to sustain. This has been possible via fossil fuels. In fact, fossil fuels have allowed us to push the apparent carrying capacity of the planet well beyond the biophysical limits imposed by a finite planet.

So what happens when this finite energy source begins to decline in not only actual physical quantities but in the amount of surplus energy it can supply us with due to diminishing returns?

The two extreme and relatively polar-opposite responses are simple. We could curtail our dependency on this resource and greatly reduce our complexities (something that was probably needed to begin decades ago). Or, we could create stories about how our ingenuity will provide us with a scientific/technological solution to avoid the tough path of degrowth — primarily through the magical thinking necessary to believe that there is a ‘green/clean’ energy source that we can tap into to sustain our energy-intensive living standards and global complexities.

I am increasingly convinced we need to take the first path but it seems quite apparent we are taking the second, a path that not only avoids the ‘pain’ that would be perceived by many as we reduce our complexities but one that weaves comforting myths to reduce our cognitive dissonance. The unfortunate thing is the easier path also puts us further into overshoot leading to an eventual steeper and calamitous decline that we cannot mitigate or manage at all. It is well past time to have the tough discussion (especially about how to do it equitably), if we are to have any hope of avoiding a future that will be much, much more challenging if we don’t.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh VII–Science: It May Not Be All You Think It Is

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh VII

Oct 12, 2020
Pompeii, Italy (1993) Photo by author

Science: It May Not Be All You Think It Is

Ha! It’s poetry in motion
Now she’s making love to me
The spheres are in commotion
The elements in harmony
She blinded me with science
(She blinded me with science!)
And hit me with technology
-Thomas Dolby, 1982 (She Blinded Me With Science)

Science, it turns outs, is a process not an answer. And, it usually has many answers from various sciences, each having their own methods and standards. When someone tells you, “the science says,” be skeptical. They are usually being paid to say what they are about to say or at least have been thoroughly indoctrinated by others who are paid. There is never just one answer to any supposedly scientific question.
-Kurt Cobb (Why am I feeling so anxious? The end of modernism arrives)

Unfortunately, there are many other misconceptions about science. One of the most common misconceptions concerns the so-called “scientific proofs.” Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a scientific proof…all scientific knowledge is tentative and provisional, and nothing is final. There is no such thing as final proven knowledge in science. The currently accepted theory of a phenomenon is simply the best explanation for it among all available alternatives. Its status as the accepted theory is contingent on what other theories are available and might suddenly change tomorrow if there appears a better theory or new evidence that might challenge the accepted theory. No knowledge or theory (which embodies scientific knowledge) is final.
-Satoshi Kanazawa (Common Misconceptions About Science I: “Scientific Proof”)

In short, we can never be 100% that our perception of reality is accurate, and scientific experiments are virtually impossible to totally and completely control. Further, science often uses inductive logic, and it relies on probabilities to draw conclusions. All of this prevents science from ever proving anything with absolute certainty. That does not, however, mean that science is untrustworthy, or that you can reject it whenever you like. Science tells us what is most likely true given the current evidence, but it is a skeptical process that always acknowledges the possibility of being wrong.
-Fallacy Man (Science doesn’t prove anything, and that’s a good thing)

The answers you get depend on the questions you ask…What man sees depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual-conception experience has taught him to see…Observation and experience can and must drastically restrict the range of admissible scientific belief, else there would be no science. But they cannot alone determine a particular body of such belief. An apparently arbitrary element, compounded of personal and historical accident, is always a formative ingredient of the beliefs espoused by a given scientific community at a given time…Because scientists are reasonable men, one or another argument will ultimately persuade many of them. But there is no single argument that can or should persuade them all. Rather than a single group conversion, what occurs is an increasing shift in the distribution of professional allegiances…The competition between paradigms is not the sort of battle that can be resolved by proofs.
-Thomas S. Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions)

Science! That is the refrain from some to argue for what IS and what IS NOT ‘true’ or ‘factual’ in this world of social media edicts and memes (and associated self-created echo chambers), especially regarding fake news, climate change/global warming, pandemics, politics, and life in general.

The idea that science provides us with ‘objective proof’ about issues is a common error I’ve encountered time and time again. It is held for many reasons, primary among them may be the ‘politicisation’ of the notion; that is, the use of ‘science’ by politicians and others to reinforce what are for all intents and purposes desired goals/policies/actions/narratives/etc., and their insistence about science providing definitive support. We are certainly seeing this more and more with competing narratives regarding Covid-19 and what should and should not be done to address certain concerns.

My enlightenment, as it were, regarding scientific ‘proof’ and associated beliefs came in two parts during my university education. First was a poignant discussion with a professor providing feedback on a paper I had written and used the idea of science proving something to support my conclusion. He stated rather bluntly that “‘proof’ is only relevant in mathematics and jurisprudence, not science.” He then went on to explain the concept in greater detail, but it was that short statement that has stuck with me and altered my view of ‘objective science’ as ‘proof’ of various beliefs.

The second tipping point for me was during a presentation on human intelligence by the psychology department of the university (I had become interested in the subject as I explored human evolution via physical anthropology classes and sat in on a presentation by a guest speaker). As I recall, the visiting professor asked somewhat rhetorically what was the definition of intelligence we could use to explore the concept. After entertaining a few responses (all of which were different) he stressed that if we were to ask 100 psychologists such a question, we would get back 100 different answers: there was no agreed upon definition. One’s particular perspective ‘coloured’ what was important and observed.

There were also a handful of texts I read that impacted my beliefs. Some of the most pertinent ones were: The Structure of Scientific RevolutionsThe Mismeasure of ManEver Since DarwinThe Interpretation of Cultures.

The two experiences described above and the books I read impacted my interests at the time and I set off exploring other ideas and perspectives, getting into deconstructivismphilologyhermeneuticsdialecticsepistemologyobjectivity versus subjectivity, and skepticism. More recently I’ve explored the somewhat related subjects of complexity and cognition.

All of these ‘colour’ my belief system and my arguments regarding ‘collapse’. Do I know for certain some of the things I pontificate about. Absolutely not. And I hope I couch my rhetoric in words such as ‘likely’, ‘evidence’, ‘probably’, etc. to demonstrate my uncertainty. Because when we get right down to it, not one of us can be certain about the future and our beliefs about it. As several people have been credited with stating: It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. We live within complex systems made up of complex systems that, because of the nonlinear feedback loops that exist and emergent phenomena that arise from them, can neither be predicted nor controlled. Of this, I am fairly certain.

Do I believe ‘collapse’ of our current globalised, industrial world will occur? Yes. The evidence, to me, seems overwhelming; particularly all the experiments involving complex societies that have been carried out before us and ended with decline/collapse (see Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies and Diamond’s Collapse) and the ‘fact’ that we live on a world with finite resources but are pursuing perpetual growth (see Meadows et al’s The Limits to Growth and Catton’s Overshoot).

Will, as some argue, our technology and human ingenuity save us in this current trial in complex societies? I’m doubtful; in fact, I’m fairly certain these things will simply expedite the fall as we rush into them to try and solve the problems we have created, bumping up against the real biophysical limits imposed by a finite world in the process and creating even more problems and dilemmas.

Of course, because I cannot predict the future with certainty, only time will tell…

Feedback Loops and Unsustainable Systems

Feedback Loops and Unsustainable Systems

Mountains as seen from Tennessee Welcome Center

I have brought up feedback loops (both positive and negative) many times in this space. I’ve also brought up unsustainable systems in one way or another in practically every article, since they are endemic in human society and at the root of every predicament. It would be very simple for me to tell you that if we just eliminated every unsustainable system and replaced them with sustainable ones that most all our troubles would be resolved. Aaahhh, if only it were that simple. While there is much truth to that statement, the physical realities of replacing these systems would be a massive transformation that is prevented by the Limits to Growth – not enough energy and resources to accomplish the job due to self-reinforcing positive feedback loops which would only add fuel to the fire of the existing ecological overshoot that we are already in. Understanding how we got to this point is key in comprehending why
options on dealing with overshoot are so limited. Several different ideas revolve around the same concept of creating a “new civilization” that humans could embark on to reduce overshoot and live happily ever after. I’ve pointed out one concept known as The Venus Project which is really nothing more than pure hopium. I’ve spent the last several articles detailing the Degrowth Movement and why degrowth in and of itself isn’t enough to actually accomplish much, mainly due to a lack of acceptance from corporations and governments, which would suffer greatly as a result. Of course, we’re all going to suffer from the implications of overshoot anyway, which makes that fact more or less irrelevant in the first place. I’ve pointed out why the MEER concept is unrealistic and more fantasy than reality…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Ramping up wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles can’t solve our energy problem

Ramping up wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles can’t solve our energy problem

Many people believe that installing more wind turbines and solar panels and manufacturing more electric vehicles can solve our energy problem, but I don’t agree with them. These devices, plus the batteries, charging stations, transmission lines and many other structures necessary to make them work represent a high level of complexity.

A relatively low level of complexity, such as the complexity embodied in a new hydroelectric dam, can sometimes be used to solve energy problems, but we cannot expect ever-higher levels of complexity to always be achievable.

According to the anthropologist Joseph Tainter, in his well-known book, The Collapse of Complex Societies, there are diminishing returns to added complexity. In other words, the most beneficial innovations tend to be found first. Later innovations tend to be less helpful. Eventually the energy cost of added complexity becomes too high, relative to the benefit provided.

In this post, I will discuss complexity further. I will also present evidence that the world economy may already have hit complexity limits. Furthermore, the popular measure, “Energy Return on Energy Investment” (EROEI) pertains to direct use of energy, rather than energy embodied in added complexity. As a result, EROEI indications tend to suggest that innovations such as wind turbines, solar panels and EVs are more helpful than they really are. Other measures similar to EROEI make a similar mistake.

[1] In this video with Nate Hagens, Joseph Tainter explains how energy and complexity tend to grow simultaneously, in what Tainter calls the Energy-Complexity Spiral.

Figure 1. The Energy-Complexity Spiral from 2010 presentation called The Energy-Complexity Spiral by Joseph Tainter.

According to Tainter, energy and complexity build on each other. At first, growing complexity can be helpful to a growing economy by encouraging the uptake of available energy products…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The Simple Story of Civilization

The Simple Story of Civilization

The stories we fashion about ourselves are heavily influenced by our short life spans during an age of unprecedented complexity. We humans, it would seem, are unfathomably complicated creatures who defy simple “just-so” characterizations. Animals, or humans tens of thousands of years ago are fair game for simple stories, but not so for transcendent modern humans.

Two major problems I have with this attitude are that 1) we are animals, and 2) we have exactly the same hardware (albeit with slightly smaller brains) as we had 100,000 years ago.

So allow me to pull back from our present age of baffling complexity to outline a simple story covering the broad sweep of the human saga. The result may be a little startling, and, for a number of readers, sure to be rejected by cultural antibodies as “not applicable” (see also my views of our civilization as a cult).

Story Timeline

In order to make comprehensible the vast tract of human time on this planet—itself 5,000 times shorter than the age of the universe—I will compare the 2.5–3 million year presence of humans (genus Homo) on Earth to a 75 year human lifespan: a span that we can grasp intuitively. On this scale, we get the following analogous periods:

  1. First 70 years: various species of humans evolve and coexist (sustainably) on the planet;
  2. Last 5 years: the age of Homo Sapiens (about 200,000 yr; mostly sustainably);
  3. Last 15 weeks: the age of civilization (agriculture; then cities) (10,000 yr);
  4. Last 4 days: the age of science (400 yr);
  5. Last 36 hours: the age of fossil fuels (150 yr of increasingly significant use);
  6. Last 12 hours: the age of rapid global ecological devastation (50 yr).

On this lifetime scale, agriculture is a recent, unexpected hobby we picked up, and one that is still pretty new to us in the scheme of things…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Addressing Climate Change Will Not “Save the Planet”

Addressing Climate Change Will Not “Save the Planet”

The dismal reality is that green energy will save not the complex web of life on Earth but the particular way of life of one domineering species.

A boiler tower is surrounded by mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert on August 26, 2022 near Nipton, California.

A boiler tower surrounded by mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert, Calif., on Aug. 26, 2022. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

CONSERVATION BIOLOGY FINDS itself in a terrifying place today, witness to mass extinction, helpless to stop the march of industrial Homo sapiens, the pillage of habitat, the loss of wildlands, and the impoverishment of ecosystems. Many of its leading figures are in despair. “I’m 40 years into conservation biology and I can tell you we are losing badly, getting our asses kicked,” Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under President Barack Obama, told me recently. “There are almost no reasons to be optimistic.”This might explain the discipline’s desperate hitching of its wagon to the climate movement. Climate, after all, is the environmental cause du jour, eclipsing all other sustainability concerns, increasingly attractive as a rallying cry for a public that has canonized it as one of the major political, social, and economic issues of our time. Mainstream climate activism of the Bill McKibben variety points toward a grandly hopeful end within the confines of acceptable capitalist discourse: decarbonization of the global economy, with technologies driven by profit-seeking corporations subsidized by governments. Taking up this banner of optimistic can-do-ism, the environmental movement has convinced itself, and sought to convince the public, that with a worldwide build-out of renewable energy systems, humanity will power its dynamic industrial civilization with jobs-producing green machines while also — somehow — rescuing countless species from the brink.

“But this happens to be a lie,” Ashe told me. “The lie is that if we address the climate crisis, we will also solve the biodiversity crisis.”

…click on the above link to read the rest…

5 Reasons Not to Predict the End of the World

5 Reasons Not to Predict the End of the World

“Everyone, deep in their hearts, is waiting for the end of the world to come.”

— Haruki Murakami

So you want to talk about the end of the world without sounding like a crank?

Rule #1 should be: Don’t predict when it will happen.

A lot of the writing on this site has to do with the collapse of civilization (and what that means). Following Jem Bendell, author of the now (in)famous “Deep Adaptation paper”, I anticipate “inevitable collapse, probable catastrophe, and possible extinction”.

Of course, all civilizations collapse. And all species die. Eventually, everything ends. But we are now in a process of acceleration toward that end. When will this happen? Who knows. The best answer I have read is “sooner rather than later”–which doesn’t really say much.

I have noticed, though, that a lot of people who are in the Doomer and Post-Doom communities are not so circumspect when it comes to putting a date on the end of the world.

Here’s five reasons why you shouldn’t put a date on the end of the world.

1. You’re wrong. (Collapse is complex.)

The collapse of any civilization is a complex phenomenon. Our global industrial-capitalist civilization is incredibly complex. And it stands to reason that the collapse of that civilization will be complex as well. And that makes predicting it that much harder.

I think some of the tendency to over-simplify collapse is driven by an unconscious desire for control. We feel out of control in our lives. Contemplating collapse only amplifies this. Imagining a simplified collapse gives us a sense of control. A false sense. The desire for control is a big part of the reason people deny collapse. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that we would see vestiges of this desire in the doomer and post-doom communities.

When you talk about collapse as something simple, you’re wrong. Because it’s complex.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why Complex Systems Collapse Faster

Why Complex Systems Collapse Faster

All civilizations collapse. The challenge is how to slow it down enough to prolong our happiness.

Dennis Jarvis
Temple of the Great Jaguar, GuatemalaDENNIS JARVIS

During the first century of our era, the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius that life would be much happier if things would only decline as slowly as they grow. Unfortunately, as Seneca noted, “increases are of sluggish growth but the way to ruin is rapid.” We may call this universal rule the Seneca effect.

Seneca’s idea that “ruin is rapid” touches something deep in our minds. Ruin, which we may also call “collapse,” is a feature of our world. We experience it with our health, our job, our family, our investments. We know that when ruin comes, it is unpredictable, rapid, destructive, and spectacular. And it seems to be impossible to stop until everything that can be destroyed is destroyed.

The same is true of civilizations. Not one in history has lasted forever: Why should ours be an exception? Surely you’ve heard of the climatic “tipping points,” which mark, for example, the start of the collapse of Earth’s climate system. The result in this case might be to propel us to a different planet where it is not clear that humankind could survive. It is hard to imagine a more complete kind of ruin.

So, can we avoid collapse, or at least reduce its damage? That generates another question: What causes collapse in the first place? At the time of Seneca, people were happy just to note that collapses do, in fact, occur. But today we have robust scientific models called “complex systems.” Here is a picture showing the typical behavior of a collapsing system, calculated using a simple mathematical model (see Figure 1).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Phase Shift — Part 1

Image credit: Pawel Czerwinski via Unsplash

News stories and popular narratives on recent — and not so recent — events like how the economy got broke or why inflation is soaring focus too much on human decisions. As if ‘choices’ leading up to these events were made in a completely rational manner, and as if what would happen tomorrow were completely up to the people making the next round of decisions.

Pundits and politicians tend to refer to events in the age-old framing of good vs evil, people doing the right, or in case of evil folks, foolish things (1). This leads us to the widespread illusion, that all we have to do in case of trouble is to get rid of the wrong people and start doing things the right way (which is always ‘our way’ of course).

It is needless to say how much of a hubris this is. Human exceptionalism at its best. The world, classically understood through the concepts of money, politics and history — all human artifacts — is by definition human centered and thus miss a large swathe of the picture. Stories based on these human concepts naturally focus on the actor and not the scene the actor is playing its role. Just like stories of heroes and kings of old.

Our elites, trained in law schools, history classes and courses on neoclassical economics, however, cannot even think outside this rather narrow framing. Thing is, they do not even need to. Spinning stories masterfully built around money, politics, history and law is more than enough to launch people into power — but it fails exceptionally in driving us through the coming bottleneck.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

This is how civilisations collapse

For neoliberal ideologues such as Milton Friedman, who used the pencil fable to argue for opaque world-spanning supply chains, the beauty of such complex systems is not only that the consumer obtains his product at the lowest price possible, and that the producer can maximise his profits, “but even more to foster harmony and peace among the peoples of the world”. As the historian Quinn Slobodian noted in Globalists, his recent study of the first neoliberal theorists, such idealistic motivations were evident from the very start. Ignoring the fact that the globalised world of the late 19th century failed to prevent World War One, they believed that creating a giant interconnected market would make a repeat of such a cataclysm impossible.

They were wrong. Instead, the restructuring of the global economy into a large web vastly increases the risk of a total system collapse. Instead of one economy failing, a shock in one corner of the world can place great and sudden stress on economic and political systems thousands of miles away. A war in distant Taiwan can mean you’re no longer able to buy a new car; a drought on the other end of the world means empty shelves at home.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is the Future Already Written?

Image credit: Emile Guillemot

Generally speaking the future is impossible to tell. The story of us could take many different paths branching into ever different versions of its current self. There are an infinite number futures, which we shape and select every day, every hour, every minute with our conscious decisions, our actions and deeds. We make our choices based on free will and select the right or wrong path ahead of us based on morals and ethics.

The bad news is, that this is only a myth, incompatible with the laws of physics.

Living in an illusion

Having self-consciousness comes with certain limitations and a good deal of illusions to help us disregard those limits. Through what appears to be a cause and effect relationship however— like having a desire to eat an apple, then grabbing one from the kitchen table — it makes us believe that it is us who are making conscious decisions resulting in deliberate action.

The hard truth is that there is neither ‘you’ or ‘I’, ‘us’ or ‘them’ in this story, nor there was a ‘conscious decision’ in the first place. There is no need for those. We’ve lived without these concepts for many millennia just fine, so do our fellow animal companions we share this planet with. Pronouns are mere artifacts of our language accidentally ‘invented’ together with the story of an ‘independent self’. One, which is free to decide what to do, where to go, whom to talk to. One, which has a free will to do so. The problem is that this idea is fully incompatible with the laws of nature and physics — and thus can safely be called an illusion.

Sorry to disappoint you, but you neither have free will — and as you will see — nor a separate independent self.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why Complex Systems Collapse Faster

Why Complex Systems Collapse Faster

All civilizations collapse. The challenge is how to slow it down enough to prolong our happiness.

Dennis Jarvis
Temple of the Great Jaguar, GuatemalaDENNIS JARVIS

During the first century of our era, the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius that life would be much happier if things would only decline as slowly as they grow. Unfortunately, as Seneca noted, “increases are of sluggish growth but the way to ruin is rapid.” We may call this universal rule the Seneca effect.

Seneca’s idea that “ruin is rapid” touches something deep in our minds. Ruin, which we may also call “collapse,” is a feature of our world. We experience it with our health, our job, our family, our investments. We know that when ruin comes, it is unpredictable, rapid, destructive, and spectacular. And it seems to be impossible to stop until everything that can be destroyed is destroyed.

The same is true of civilizations. Not one in history has lasted forever: Why should ours be an exception? Surely you’ve heard of the climatic “tipping points,” which mark, for example, the start of the collapse of Earth’s climate system. The result in this case might be to propel us to a different planet where it is not clear that humankind could survive. It is hard to imagine a more complete kind of ruin.

So, can we avoid collapse, or at least reduce its damage? That generates another question: What causes collapse in the first place? At the time of Seneca, people were happy just to note that collapses do, in fact, occur. But today we have robust scientific models called “complex systems.” Here is a picture showing the typical behavior of a collapsing system, calculated using a simple mathematical model (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Seneca curve, from Bardi's ‘The Seneca Effect’ (2017). The intensity of something as a function of time (going left to right). For intensity, imagine it is the value of a financial stock. It grows slowly, then it declines rapidly when the company generating it goes bankrupt.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Great Economic Destruction & COMPLEXITY

COMMENT #1: OK Marty, it is now becoming obvious that not only Trump reads your stuff but so does Obama. Trump bought a $19 million remote island and Obama bought one for $15 million. This is not a coincidence. Your war cycle goes nuts next year and we have the worst crop of world leaders pushing us into oblivion. I think it’s to fess up to all the elites who are your clients.


COMMENT #2: I remember you said you don’t know how Socrates does it. Are you any closer to finding out how it is actually predicting events? Do you think it is connecting to a different dimension/realm? everything is possible!
All the best

ANSWER: Neither Trump nor Obama subscribe to our services, at least under their own name. Just about every government is tapping into our forecasts because the computer has called just about everything in my life to my own amazement. They held me in contempt and desperately tried to have me build it for them. I said we would run whatever study they wanted, but the CIA simply reply that they had to own it. It took many years for me to stand up against that, for it would have deprived my main objective to show that there may be a better way to manage society — living with the cycle instead of trying to suppress it. Fed Chairman Arthur Burns concluded that all the battles trying to defeat the business cycle always failed because of COMPLEXITY.

I believe that the success of Socrates is based upon COMPLEXITY that we as humans cannot fully comprehend, no less see. I believe the world economy is much like a rainforest where there are countless species of insects, animals, plant life, and different components of soil…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is the Future Predetermined?

QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong; it is easy to see why the government wanted Socrates. You said Monday would be the low then a bounce and that is what unfolds. You forecast so many markets and you get it to the day. Others claim this is the guy who called 2008 so buy his latest forecast resting on a single forecast. Your track record is far beyond anyone ever. How can you do this? Is the future predetermined?


Many people have written in to ask the same question, for example: “I had begun settling on the position (with relative comfort) that while technicals provide insights into the market, its the market makers that manipulate conditions to the point of driving it in one direction or the other – unless of course, there’s a significant fundamental reason for the market to be guided by the invisible hand.
However, after experiencing Socrates and learning more about your approach, I find it challenging (mentally) to accept that there isn’t a pre-designed aspect guiding markets the way they roll.”

Others have asked: “Does Socrates foresee the birth and emergence of great teachers to come who have the capacity of overcoming the Deep State and bringing the world back into an economic balance?” Then there are questions such as: “Because Socrates was created by you, does it carry an inherent bias on economic theories about the world that it generates 1000 reports on a day for? Is it not impossible to truly be conscious and to accurately see the global economic landscape without having a fundamental empathy (being truly human to know what human nature is).”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
Click on image to read excerpts

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Click on image to purchase @ FriesenPress