Hat tip to Tim Iacono.
Consider this a follow-up to Politics Makes You Stupid (The Flatland Version)
I want to apologize in advance for putting up the second video below, but before you watch it, watch this one. Let's establish some context.
Hat tip to Tim Iacono.
Consider this a follow-up to Politics Makes You Stupid (The Flatland Version)
I want to apologize in advance for putting up the second video below, but before you watch it, watch this one. Let's establish some context.
I'm still working on a long essay about the probable non-existence of technologically advanced aliens. (I'm not working hard lately ) So you'll have to make do with this short post for the time being — Dave
A few years ago I told you that "politics makes you stupid," an observation which is readily available every day in every way if you're paying attention. (Most Americans now tune it all out.)
I am always delighted when research in "cognitive science" delivers a luke-warm version (the Flatland version) of what I've already told you, so let's take a look at that. Thanks to reader Brian for the heads up.
Everybody knows that our political views can sometimes get in the way of thinking clearly.
But perhaps we don’t realize how bad the problem actually is.
There will be nothing this week as I work on a follow-up to my first "where are the aliens?" article. Here's an astonishing story about the oceans for you to consider instead. On a related note, if we're talking about how humans work—and of course we are — the Magic Kingdom is celebrating its 90th anniversary this month — Dave
As I was working through the gigantic piles of human bullshit which must be tossed away if one wants to get a fleeting glimpse of the current state of the Planet's Health, I found a gem at The Guardian called Yachtsman describes horror at ‘dead’, rubbish strewn Pacific Ocean.
Even I was taken aback because it is hard to gauge just how degraded the oceans are.
On March 21, 2013 I wrote a post called How About Just Leaving The Moose Alone? Among the many things I've written these past four years, that was a personal favorite of mine. When I wrote that post, it was obvious to me that these North American moose were in Big Trouble, especially here in the lower-48. Hence it was only a matter of time until we heard about the moose again.
And that time has come. The Christian Science Monitor reports the story in Moose die-off is massive, and a mystery to scientists. A mystery to scientists? Fuck Me!!!
I have wanted to write this essay for a very long time now, and, finally, relieved of the pressure of daily publishing, the time has come. Even if you don't care about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, I still think you'll enjoy this essay — Dave
Despite many years of observation with ever-more sophisticated instruments, humans have failed to find any signs of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI). Physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies calls this The Eerie Silence.
If there are extraterrestrial civilizations out there, they don't seem very interested in us. They don't visit, they don't phone, they don't even send radio signals. Not a peep. It is easy to feel start feeling neglected once you become aware of this cosmic cold shoulder. As the eminent physicist Enrico Fermi once put it, "Where is everybody?"
It is not as if we haven't been looking out for them. This year marks 50 years since the founding of SETI — the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. In his new book celebrating this anniversary, Paul Davies explains that SETI isn't some confederation of UFO-spotters, but a group of serious scientists who scour the skies for any sign that somebody is trying to get in touch. They have deployed every modern technology in search of unusual radio signals, laser pulses or electronic beacons. But so far they have come up empty-handed. There is nothing to hear but an eerie silence.
The "eerie silence" is more generally known as Fermi's Paradox. I wrote a brief introduction to the subject in Are We Alone In The Milky Way? This essay is the first of two on the ETI existence question, and how humans approach that question.
Some knowledgeable people don't think ETIs exist, or occur very rarely (are thinly scattered) in time & space. I will describe the views of these "pessimists" in Part II. This essay is about the optimists.
From Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker.
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — In an escalation of the stalemate gripping Washington, House Republicans voted today to shut down the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls reasoning and impulses.
The resolution, which passed with heavy Tea Party support, calls for a partial shutdown of the brain, leaving the medulla and cerebellum, sometimes referred to as the “reptilian brain,” up and running.
The Tea Party caucus cheered the passage of the bill, which was sponsored by Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who called the measure “long overdue.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) offered no timetable for restarting the prefrontal cortex, telling reporters, “It will most certainly remain shut down during any negotiations with the President. That’s the only leverage we have.”
Representative Bachmann agreed: “The President can go ahead and put a gun to our heads. There’s nothing there.”
While the G.O.P.’s decision to shut down the prefrontal cortex rattled Wall Street, the neuroscientist Davis Logsdon said it should be seen as little more than a symbolic vote, noting, “It’s actually been shut down since the 2008 election.”
Still keeping busy — Dave
Changes in the oceans are happening too fast for most species to cope. It’s clear we are conducting a giant experiment on the planet and we don’t know what we are doing.
— ocean scientist Ulf Riebesell
There has been an explosion of new scientific knowledge during the 60 years I've lived on this planet, and that trend continues. One reason I write confidently about humankind's apparently bleak future is due to having a perspective rooted in science's ever-improving understanding of the natural world and how human actions are affecting it. When people discuss the future, there's no reason to trust anyone who is unacquainted with the relevant science, or anyone who cherry picks that science to confirm their own biases. Worse yet, many people simply don't understand the science they're quoting, and use unstated, unsupported assumptions in conjunction with things they don't understand. I see this kind of behavior all the time.
That said, science is not some monolithic truth machine. Progress in understanding is often slow; mistakes are made. Away from the public eye, scientists argue strenuously with each other. There is always some degree of uncertainty in any published, peer-reviewed result. Obviously scientists share the same sort of cognitive biases which all humans have. Science is hard, even for scientists. The beauty of the "scientific method" is that the process of gaining greater understanding—critiques by others in the scientific community, pertinent new data, and all the rest—eventually arrives at something closely approximating objective truth. In the environmental sciences, our approximation of "objective truth" changes (gets better) as human influences on the biosphere pile up over time (i.e. there is observable deterioration).
Following Arthur Schopenhauer's wise prescription, I am keeping busy. Thus I give you this follow-up to my Twilight Zone essay — Dave
Discerning and thoughtful observers of current trends have either concluded or are becoming convinced that humans will do nothing significant to mitigate anthropogenic climate change in the next 10 to 15 years. Most climate scientists will tell you that those years are critical to maintaining the Earth's environmental health, for it seems clear that humanity will commit itself to (at least) 2 degrees centigrade (2° C) of surface warming in that time frame. Climate scientists generally believe that reaching or surpassing this threshold constitutes "dangerous interference" with the Earth's climate.
As I discussed in Your Next Stop, The Twilight Zone, and on a global scale, the issue which defines how things will go must be framed as The Economy Versus The Environment—everything follows from the balance struck between these two overarching concerns.
The last open thread got stale, so here's another one.
To jumpstart the conversation, I see that Bill McBride (formerly Calculated Risk) believes The Future Is Still Bright! He's talking about the American economy.
Early this year I wrote The Future's so Bright .... In that post I outlined why I was becoming more optimistic, even though there might be too much deficit reduction in 2013. As I noted, "ex-austerity, we'd probably be looking at a decent year" in 2013. And of course - looking forward - Congress remains the key downside risk to the U.S. economy...
And then Bill, who has never seen government economic data he didn't believe no questions asked, goes through a bunch a charts, each of which is pretty damn depressing if you really look at it, but in doing so confirms once again that delusional Optimism is innate and thus incurable.
Omitting crucial data is one way to keep your head firmly planted up your ass, so Bill makes sure to leave out charts which might make him look like the hopeless fool that he is.
From CNN's Workers don't share in companies' productivity gains, published in March, 2013. Hat tip to Mish, who wrote about it today.
Bill also "forgot" to note that new median household income data indicates that the American Dream is deader than a doornail. In 2013 GDP terms, in the 2nd quarter "real Gross Domestic Product rose at a 1.7 percent annual rate, up from a 1.1 percent rate in the first quarter." Whoop-de-doo!
For those of you who are interested in understanding confirmation bias, Bill provides a textbook example. Reality having been stood on its head, Bill finishes with a flourish.
Last year, I said that looking forward, [that] I was the most optimistic since the '90s. And things are only getting better. The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades (links to video below).
Things are only getting better...
I mean, it's impossible to even satirize this horseshit anymore. Still, Clarke and Dawes are still trying (funny).
Here's a new open thread cleverly disguised as post.
NEW — oceans stuff. First up, krill populations in the Southern Ocean.
Atkinson and his three co-authors had conducted the most comprehensive study yet of krill abundance and distribution in the Southern Ocean, gathering data from all the net samples they could find over the previous 80 years, a total of 12,000 summer net-hauls.
This database showed that the southwest Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean—the narrow, productive stretch between the Antarctic Peninsula and South Africa—contained more than half the krill in the Southern Ocean.
[The study] also indicated that krill stocks in this crucial sector had declined by 80 percent in the previous 30 years.
Jesus Fucking Christ!
Below, the future of the oceans, discussed by scientists from the California Academy of Sciences.
Near-total despair, quickly followed by delusional optimism
Sylvia Earle talks about the future of the oceans. She's not a happy camper.
This video has basically the first "structure" as the one directly above (despair => optimism), but Sylvia Earle is much more cautious in expressing her hopes.
FYI, Elon revealed his hyperloop design on Monday, which Those Who Know What They Are Talking About called completely impractical. Score another publicity victory for The Musker!
Euan Mearns, who I knew from my TOD and ASPO-USA days, pounded some nails into the peak oil coffin. That takes some courage doing that at The Oil Drum where the diehards live.
But then again, Euan believes that data and their reasonable interpretation matter, but various Doomers, including Chris Martenson, Jim Kunstler, Guy MacPherson, Dimitri Orlov, Richard Heinberg and their fellow-travelers, do not care about crude oil production data & trends, especially in so far as the principals make a living from sticking to the peak oil story.
Whatever ... does each new day on Planet Stupid feel like Groundhog Day to you? The same bullshit day after day?
If so, you need to do something about that if you want to enjoy the ride among the Hominidae. You want to fit in, right? You're stuck on Planet Stupid, and there's nowhere else for you to go.
Make the most of a bad situation by turning your brain to mush. Rid yourself of that pesky and completely useless consciousness of yours by reading stories at the following internet tabloids—
That short list should get you started. Post additional suggestions here. In no time, your brain will cease to function and you will fit right in.
I'm feeling chatty and bored today, so here's a small post for your consideration.
In this first article, the Wall Street Journal cites a study by the investment firm Bridgewater Associates LP which claims that the advanced (OECD nations, the U.S., Europe, Japan, etc.) are contributing more to global GDP growth than the "emerging" markets (non-OECD, China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc.).
Here's the graph.
That story made me wonder about global primary energy demand, which is a proxy for GDP growth. Necessarily, global GDP growth should not be occurring (in inflation-adjusted dollars) if primary energy consumption (in BTUs, petajoules, whatever) is not also increasing.
Unless some very astonishing, quite unbelievable gains in energy efficiency have been achieved by the advanced economies in the last few years—that story is also remarkable bullshit—we are forced to conclude that the OECD has pulled off a miracle that nobody, including any physical scientist you care to name, would have guessed possible.
Although global primary energy consumption has been rising along with global GDP, are we supposed to believe that the dominant OECD subgroup is an exception to formerly unbreakable laws of physics?
I guess so, and that's certainly good news for all of us. It's a great day for the Earth's biosphere and humans in particular—we have finally defied the laws of thermodynamics.
The advanced economies grow, but their primary energy consumption contracts!
The current global economy (measured by GDP) according to Bridgewater Associates now totals $74 trillion.
However, with this astonishing breakthrough in the advanced economies, we can now envision a future global economy many, many times larger in which primary energy consumption has fallen to nearly zero!
And won't that future Utopia be something to behold?
Here's another place for you to vent.
In a disappointing but not wholly unexpected twist, Elon Musk has admitted that his Hyperloop — a proposed mode of transport that will get passengers from LA to San Francisco in 30 minutes, traveling close to the speed of sound — is “extremely speculative.”
Furthermore, Musk also says that he doesn’t intend to build the Hyperloop himself — rather, he will publicly share his plans on August 12, and then let other people build it.
During a Tesla Motors investor call yesterday, Musk said, ”I think I shot myself in the foot by ever mentioning the Hyperloop. I’m too strung out.” Here, of course, he’s referring to the fact that he’s already the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, and is understandably too busy to build a multi-billion-dollar transport link. Musk did say, however, that if no progress has been made by other people/companies in the next few years, he might try to “make it happen.”
Is Elon the biggest, most grandiose, self-promoting asshole of all time?
Rather than stick a note in the long open thread, I thought this story deserved a brief write-up.
Tony Juniper is a long time defender of the natural world who recently wrote a book called What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?
The main theme of his book involves putting concrete economic (monetary) values on ecosystem services. In this way Tony hopes to convince humans to stop destroying the biosphere. For example, see my post What Is The Economic Value Of Healthy Oceans?
Tony gave a Ted Talk of course, something I will never be given the opportunity to do [video below].
I transcribed Juniper's Obligatory Hope speech at the end (starts at the 15:54 mark).
[Our challenge is to see that] the economy is not something which owns ecology, but to see the economy as it truly is, as a wholly-owned subsidiary of ecology and the natural environment.
That obviously is a huge [monkey] wrench [in human thinking], and I think most politicians in this country find it very hard to see what is really quite an obvious set of connections, but I do believe there is a great deal of Hope for us in being able top navigate the tricky ecological crunches which lie ahead of us, not least because there is now so much understanding and so much information out there about the dynamic relationship between ecology and economics, and the extent to which we can now start putting numbers on one to inform the other.
I have spent much of my professional career campaigning for nature because nature is worth protecting for its own sake. It has intrinsic values that go beyond any kind of instrumental values we might place upon it. It does need protecting for its own sake. But I'm also convinced that the new research that's coming out now demonstrating the economic value of nature is absolutely vital for us to put into the mainstream debates.
[ my note: What debates? I dont' see any debates about making human economic systems subservient to Nature. ]
And I don't see that as an alternative to us taking a moral stance, or saying that nature has values that go beyond the prices we can put upon it. I think these two things need to go hand-in-hand. We need to re-build our connections with nature, we need to have a spiritual education in this country and elsewhere indeed to put us back inside the natural world. But we also need to be building a different economic system and I think that economic system will not only come from the provision of good numbers, and putting good arguments together, but it will also come from the different kind of relationships we all have with nature, that profound re-connnection.
If I had one priority that I would put at the top of the national curriculum today, for ministers to thinking about in terms of how we rebuild our society, it would be to [make] natural history [compulsory in education programs for young people], to learn about birdsong, to learn about the names of trees, to be able to identify butterflies, and to see humans in the natural world in their correct place, in the center of it, and not outside it.
Tony says there is now so much understanding and so much information out there about the dynamic relationship between ecology and economics. He believes that if that understanding and information is presented to politicians and the general public, and nature studies are included in school curriculums, there is hope that Homo sapiens will do the right thing.
That was a common theme on DOTE, the relationship between economic systems and the biosphere. I am very knowledgeable about that dynamic relationship, on both sides. I wrote literally hundreds of posts which dealt with that relationship, or touched upon it.
My experience of trying to get that information across to a general audience was in the main dismal, an appalling failure. Outside of a handful of people, humans generally had no interest in the subject. No interest.
By and large it seems that humans are entirely consumed by anthropocentric concerns, for example (to pick just one) whether there will be enough crude oil in the future to power their personal transportation, and what the cost to them of refined products made from that oil will be.
Typically, in my experience, if you tell a human that Nature has intrinsic value, they will stare at you in much the same way as a deer in the headlights (right after they ask you what "intrinsic" means).
So I would like to lodge a protest. To whom do I submit it?
Apparently there is no one to take my complaint, and that speaks directly to the problem.
I will not be invited to give a Ted Talk because I believe there is no hope whatsoever that humans will re-connect with the natural world in a meaningful way as Tony wants them to do. That's not who humans are, nor is it the sort of thing humans can do.
If you listen to the interview Diane Rehm does with Juniper, you will notice that he remembers to say several times during the broadcast—not just once, or twice—that his book "is an optimistic one." I don't know whether Tony is fully aware of the rules governing what is acceptable to humans and what goes on beyond the bounds of propriety, but he makes sure to follow those rules: you can not take pessimistic (realistic) position about how humans behave (and have behaved in the past) if you want them to listen to you now (or you want to get a book published, etc.).
A new re-connection with the natural world lies completely outside the human purview. Aside from my observations of the human-created world, my experience of writing DOTE, and the reception to it, tells me that is so.
I'll put this open thread up and keep it open for any comments DOTE readers might want to make on topics of interest over the next five weeks. If you find useful links, put them here. If you want to complain about the state of the world, do it here. Play nice.
I will make occasional remarks or post links of interest here.
Directly below, the Coen Brothers sum up the Human Condition in two scenes from Burn After Reading.
And here's something serious to watch, Jeremy Jackson's Brave New Ocean lecture (1:28:13)
"...Rachel Carson (an environmental writer in the 1950s) offered solutions but ... the problem is that more than half a century later, the problems haven't changed..."
Naturally, I reserved the last day to say goodbye.
Yesterday I found humanity not guilty by reason of insanity — humans are non compos mentis, which means "not of sound mind and hence not (legally) responsible; mentally incompetent"
Although yesterday's post focused on tragedy, you won't be able to bear the suffering unless you also remember that the human situation is also Dark Comedy. Humor is your best defense against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune on this planet.
First, some housekeeping.
1,612,639 Lifetime Pageviews
1528 Total Posts
8966 Total Comments
Today is the 1288th day since the beginning of DOTE time
You can see that DOTE traffic peaked some time ago. I've been below the average pageviews/day (1253) for some time now. But that's enough of that. Here's what I'm going to do now.
I don't have to reiterate what I've tried to do on this blog. You already know. I am a writer of non-fiction, unvarnished with Obligatory Hope.
To those who lashed out at me for daring to tell them the truth about themselves and the Human Prospect, I have nothing to say.
To those whose generous support, either through supportive messages or donations, helped keep DOTE going, I am eternally grateful. I have friends all over the world, and you have a friend in Pittsburgh, although I will probably never meet you.
Uhmm .... this is hard. Bear with me.
It's always a sad day when something we love or want or need dies. But death is a part of life, and I had reached the end of the line on DOTE. I could feel it. I've had no regrets since I announced my decision to quit my daily writing. I'm addicted to writing, and you know me—I can't shut the fuck up—so you will be able to read other things by me in the future if you want to.
I did this for love of wisdom. I didn't do it for money. I wasn't trying to sell you anything. It was always in the back of my mind that you might be learning something here, perhaps learning to see Homo sapiens with fresh eyes. I urged you to take off the blinders and see the world anew. I hoped you didn't mind.
I wanted readers who were willing to join me on the journey into "consciousness" (for lack of a better word). I did not want readers who were deluded or crazy or wanted to fight me tooth & nail every step of the way. Those people dropped out anyway, or I pushed them out.
Again, words can not express the gratitude and affection I feel toward those who did join me on that journey, who stuck with it right to the bitter end.
Murrow (actor David Strathairn) was talking about television, which was in the early stages of becoming the weapon of mass destruction it is today. The remarks Murrow made in the 1950s also apply to the internet this year, or any other year for that matter.
This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it for those ends.
Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box.
So from me to you, even though it is 9:00 AM in Pittsburgh, but also bearing in mind that it will soon be cocktail time in the UK, I will quote Ed Murrow, a person of real integrity of a type which hardly exists anymore. Murrow lived in a time when it was still possible to take the world seriously.
Good Night and Good Luck