Fast Thinking, Slow Thinking or No Thinking At All

A few days ago an incident on a local two-lane road made me think about consciousness, free will and the human brain. I was on a local highway, one with plenty of curves and hills, the speed limit being 55mph. I had to stop for a car turning right in my lane and in the opposite direction another car stopped and put on their turn light to make the same turn as the car in my lane. As I sat there waiting for the car in my lane to turn, another car careens around a curve traveling at perhaps 65 mph coming towards the car in the opposite land waiting to turn.  At 65mph and with approximately four seconds to impact the driver slammed on the brakes and began skidding, impact was imminent. Instead of impact though, with about two seconds to go and traveling perhaps 55mph, the car flew onto the grassy shoulder, which fortunately had a gradual slope, zoomed past the stationary car and then jumped back onto the highway as if it had been done on a Hollywood set. Obviously, the driver could only react quickly without “thinking”, or without conscious thinking. I will define conscious thinking as turning one’s attention inward to the analog world for various examination and planning. In this case the driver’s attention was split between two or more things which created a failure to see the car ahead.

I think that sometimes we perceive these fast reaction behaviors as being in a class of their own, but what if most of our behaviors are of this sort, automatic, learned and happening without conscious thought (looking inward). It seems that as we walk around doing our daily routines, we rarely engage in any conscious thought about them, we just do them, perhaps with a little prodding by the appetites. Daniel Kahneman (“Thinking Fast and Slow”) would consider this real world engagement as “thinking fast” whereas I would not label it “thinking”at all, although much subconscious processing must be occurring.  Kahneman’s “thinking slow” refers to deliberate explorations of the analog mind. This type of thinking tends to fall victim to distractions. I will just guess that the subconscious “thinking” is similar to that occurring in other animals that move through their environments reacting to stimuli, but without engaging “slow thinking” which simply doesn’t exist for them. The “fast thinking” occurs in the real world without being distracted by mental cogitation. Consciousness may survey its own analog world and the subconscious also likely models the world and thinks, especially when reality is turned off and dreaming begins. Often, nice nuggets of wisdom can seemingly appear out of nowhere in the “slow thinking” brain.

Here are some features of Kahneman’s system I fast (subconscious) and system II slow (conscious, logical, rational) from Wikipedia.,_Fast_and_Slow

In the book’s first section, Kahneman describes two different ways the brain forms thoughts:

  • System 1: Fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious. Examples (in order of complexity) of things system 1 can do:
    • see that an object is at a greater distance than another
    • localize the source of a specific sound
    • complete the phrase “war and …”
    • display disgust when seeing a gruesome image
    • solve 2+2=?
    • read a text on a billboard
    • drive a car on an empty road
    • come up with a good chess move (if you’re a chess master)
    • understand simple sentences
    • connect the description ‘quiet and structured person with an eye for details’ to a specific job
  • System 2: Slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious. Examples of things system 2 can do:
    • brace yourself before the start of a sprint
    • point your attention towards the clowns at the circus
    • point your attention towards someone at a loud party
    • look out for the woman with the grey hair
    • dig into your memory to recognize a sound
    • sustain a higher than normal walking rate
    • determine the appropriateness of a behaviour in a social setting
    • count the number of A’s in a certain text
    • give someone your phone number
    • park into a tight parking space
    • determine the price/quality ratio of two washing machines
    • determine the validity of a complex logical reasoning


The “School of Athens” by Raphael. Plato is in the center with orange robe.

Plato had a similar model that is referred to as the tripart soul.

Plato’s tripartite theory of soul is a theory of psyche proposed by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato in his treatise the Republic. In Republic, Plato asserted that the ψυχή (psyche) is composed of three parts; the λογιστικόν (logistykon, logical), the θυμοειδές (thymoeides, spirited) and the ἐπιθυμητικόν (epithymetikon, appetitive). These three parts of the ψυχή also correspond to the three classes of a society.[1] Whether in a city or an individual, δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosyne, justice) is declared to be the state of the whole in which each part fulfills its function without attempting to interfere in the functions of others.[2] The function of the ἐπιθυμητικόν is to produce and seek pleasure. The function of the λογιστικός is to gently rule through the love of learning. The function of the θυμοειδές is to obey the directions of the λογιστικός while ferociously defending the whole from external invasion and internal disorder. Whether in a city or an individual, ἀδικία (adikia, injustice) is the contrary state of the whole, often taking the specific form in which the spirited listens instead to the appetitive, while they together either ignore the logical entirely or employ it in their pursuits of pleasure.

In Plato’s model the logical would be the slow thinking system of Kahneman, the spirited would be the fast thinking and the limbic and/or hypothalamic would be the appetitive.

I would divide them a little differently. The one that evolved last would be the logical, symbol using one that explores the analog world and plans, giving names to each feature, item and relationship. The next oldest system would be the subconscious which operates the body in real time and which also operates in an analog world, but with few symbols or logic. The subconscious system thinks, processes information from the environment constantly, but the logical system above isn’t aware of the activity. The third basic system would be the appetites originating in the hypothalamus and in the dopamine reward centers that tend to encourage the body to do the appropriate things.

I begin to wonder how much “thinking” in the most evolved, logical system is actually occurring in the general populace whose attention is fought over by so many. The logical thinking system is not necessary for day to day living as the subconscious seems to absorb what is necessary to get along in any culture or environment in which it grows. The medial prefrontal cortex seems to keep human behavior within socially acceptable norms, but this is mostly automatic too. The slow thinking system can spur the subconscious system to move the body in real time and once it is initiated this movement is without conscious thought. For instance, the slow mind may say to itself “It’s time to do homework.” The subconscious system will then begin a series of movements assembling papers, pens, books and need things. All of these motions are already stored in the subconscious. While doing homework a “I’m thirsty” message may come bubbling up from the hypothalamus all the way to the slow conscious system which then gets the body moving to obtain something to drink. The body already know what it needs to do to get a drink and no conscious thought is expended except a brief rehearsal in the mind of the body going to the refrigerator to get the pitcher of water.

Sometimes a person may direct the body, through conscious thought, to not eat the sugary cake and exercise. But the subconscious refuses the directive. It likes cake and hates exercise, which doesn’t have an immediate reward attached to it and it simply says “NO”, even thought the slow mind has arrived at the logical conclusion that weighing 400 lbs is not a healthy state of being. This is certainly not free will because the fast system is vetoing the slow systems logical directives. Additionally, the fast system, having been around the block in an evolutionary sense, may want to do some naughty things even though the logical system, mediated by the social brain, implores it not to. The medial prefrontal cortex may elicit a voice that says “Don’t do it, you’ll get in trouble.” and at the same time the subconscious is prompting a voice that says, “Do it, nobody’s watching, the rewards are great.” Even thought the subconscious does not have a voice, it can induce a dialog in the logical part of the brain.

The problem may be with what we call “attention”. The brain can split its attention into two parts, sometimes performing two tasks in the real world or performing one task in the real world while daydreaming in the analog world, as when driving and daydreaming. I don’t know of any instances where two inner selves can be exploring different parts of the brain’s internal analog world except perhaps individuals affected by schizophrenia.

The brain is behind all tasks needed for driving: visual, auditory, manual andcognitive. Recent developments in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)now allow researchers to see the brain’s reactions to specific challenges and tasks.

A Carnegie Mellon University study produced fMRI pictures of the brain while study participants drove on a simulator and listened to spoken sentences they were asked to judge as true or false.

The pictures below show that listening to sentences oncell phones decreased activity by 37 percent in the brain’s parietal lobe (Figure 2), an area associated with driving. In other words, listening and language comprehension drew cognitive resources away from driving. This area of the brain is important for navigation and the type of spatial processing associated with driving. Because this study involved listening and thinking of an answer and not actual cell phone conversation, the researchers concluded the results may underestimate the distractive impact of cell phone conversation.

The brain scan on the left is a brain fully concentrating on the road. The brain at right is having a conversation and driving and thereby the activity of the brain that was occupied in driving has been diminished.

The same study also found decreased activity in the area of the brain that processes visual information, the occipital lobe (Figure 2). While listening to sentences on cellphones, drivers had more problems, such as weaving out of their lane and hitting guardrails. This task did not require holding or dialing the phone, and yet driving performance deteriorated. The scientists concluded this study demonstrates there is only so much the brain can do at one time, no matter how different the two tasks are, even if the tasks draw on different areas and neural networks of the brain. The brain has a capacity limit. These fMRI images provide a biological basis of the risks faced by drivers.

What does this have to do with the collapse of industrial civilization? As others have said, ninety percent of the human brain’s activity is submerged like an iceberg (Kahneman System I). Only a small amount is above the waterline in consciousness. The submerged part is the voiceless mind that existed prior to logic and language that still runs the body through prompting from the emotional centers below and with some logical input and planning from above. This subconscious part is largely formed through immersion in an environment or culture and once formed is difficult to access and change by any logic or rationality.  Additionally, “attention” is kept from looking inward for answers and connections while being fully occupied in the real world where only spectacle and routines exist, and even if logic says we need a change, the subconscious, already formed, will likely resist changes. We will  react to global warming and ecosystem destruction like the driver of the speeding car described above. At the last second we’ll “come to our senses” throw on the brakes and swerve, but we won’t sail by the obstacle and keep going, instead we’ll hit a immovable concrete abutment.

The end of the line for a civilization that could not follow rationality and logic. Someone was distracted.


Birth, Growth, Death

It is sometimes difficult to visualize the complexity which can arise in complex adaptive systems, systems that preserve information generationally so that tool specifications may be preserved. I found this chart named “Biochemical Pathways” which gives a good idea of the complexity happening within cells. Other dissipative structures, like hurricanes, are quite different, having brief lifespans moving heat from warm ocean surfaces to the high troposphere. They’ll usually be cut-off from their source of warm water after passing over land. If there were no land, one could imagine a storm with a much greater longevity, even without information storage.

The details are too small to see, but it does give you some idea as to the complexity of reactions happening in the cell. A lot of ATP is required.

This is an enlargement of the metabolic cycle you can see at the center of the previous illustration. Even at this enlarged scale details are not discernible.

Now imagine that the Biochemical Pathways illustration above represents the technological complexity of the processes within a nation. In the biological case, a constant supply of inputs must be fed into the metabolic processes. For convenience let’s say the left margin is the cell membrane which must bind and let pass all of the substances necessary to keep the biochemical clockwork ticking. On the right margin is another cell membrane where waste is excreted back into the blood plasma. Everything is in motion. DNA is being transcribed and RNA is being translated into protein tools. Mitochondria are making the ATP with  their high-energy phosphate bonds from ADP, that upon breaking impart energy to processes within the cell. The ATP are made with the sugar glucose which is brought into the cell by active transport (requires ATP) or by facilitated diffusion (ATP not required, accomplished by membrane protein.)

In the both the biological and technological case, energy and resources must constantly be fed into the left margin of the complex dissipative structure to keep things in motion and moving towards the right margin where waste will end-up in a waste dump or be allowed to diffuse into the environment. All along complex metabolic paths waste heat is produced which also diffuses into the environment. (The biological cell is more properly compared to the technological cell which is also often highly complex, but for this example all of the cellular complexity of a nation of cells is exemplified in the illustration above.)

On the left margin we have coal, natural gas, oil, mined metals, biomass and other resources coming into the system. They are processed and fed into the many complex metabolic pathways, many of which are involved in repair of structures, building new structures, refining energy (ATP), shipping goods here and there and  simply for human entertainment. On the right margin, the trash trucks pick-up waste and haul it away to an area where it will not impair the continued functioning of the metabolism. Additionally, the waste water and sewage are piped outside the cellular confines and CO2 is released into the environment.

In order for all of this movement and metabolism to work, resources must constantly be fed into the left margin of the system, metabolic activity will occur and wastes will be eliminated at the other end with heat released as a by-product. This is much the same on the biological and technological levels. In the case of humans, if the glucose levels become too low, hunger will result and often the hunger is for different things the body needs, like sugars, protein or salt. We have built-in sensors that tell us when we need to eat so that the resources are available in the blood plasma for absorption into the cells. If glucose levels are inadequate and cannot enter the metabolism, then there is a chance that complex components within the cell will stop working and the cell will die. We avoid this fate by getting something to eat and drink.

Humans have built themselves a complex dissipative structure much like the cellular one. The glucose of oil, natural gas and coal must continuously be showing up in the blood plasma to be taken-in by the cells. The resources are then fed through the highly complex metabolism and waste is removed at the right margin. Undoubtedly there are control mechanisms for limiting the amount of energy that comes in at the left margin, the operational speed of the cellular metabolism, the growth or fissioning of cells through adjusting the number of receptors and enzymes  controlling the metabolic rate. One can also see within the technological dissipative structure, the nation, mechanisms for control of overall growth and metabolism. With adequate food coming in at the left margin, the central bank of a nation will adjust interest rates to manage the rate of growth. The growth must be coordinated with the provision of energy, higher interest rates putting a brake on metabolic activity and inflation and low interest rates encouraging more metabolic activity. The build-up of wastes is hardly addressed, if at all. The bankers are all about maximizing growth, but doing so in a balanced manner so that high unemployment of high inflation does not occur.

But what happens if, at the left margin, there isn’t enough glucose in the plasma to maintain metabolic activity, let alone create more growth? What is a central bank to do? First, it can lower interest rates. This can, in normal times, encourage consumption or put a negative pressure on the right margin of the cell to get the metabolites flowing through the system. If the economy overheats, it can raise the discount rate. But what happens if the extra stimulus of low rates and ample credit doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect? At this point you might want to look at the left margin of the metabolism where the resources are taken from the environment or plasma. A steady flow of material must pass through the metabolism the keep it in motion and maintain the complexity. The banks have been providing ample debt for a long time to maximize GDP  (the combined total activity of the metabolism) and now the debt receptors are saturated (debt cannot be retired fast enough to allow additional debt).  At the same time that debt cannot create more activity in the metabolism, the concentration of glucose in the blood and cells are falling. Each enzyme is now transporting less and less glucose across the cell membrane and into the system. The answer is to increase the number of enzymes or wells drilled, to keep the minimum operating level of energy flowing through the system. The system becomes more sluggish and profits disappear as net energy decreases.

In the meantime many human RNA are sitting in their home cells along with their children who have recently graduated from the nucleolus. Jobs are scarce or pay so little so as not to motivate the humans.  Fuel storage in the form of fatty acids are converted to glucose just as there are draw downs of the strategic petroleum reserve. This is certainly not enough to keep the economy alive. More debt is provided, but his has very little impact on metabolism as glucose levels are still too remain depressed. Messages are sent to the brain – eat, eat, eat, but what there is to eat provides inadequate energy to support the overly complex metabolism. The brain knows that if it doesn’t find another high-grade source of energy and resources, the outcome is certain, falling below the minimum concentration of glucose in the blood resulting in the metabolism screeching to a halt and death occurring soon thereafter.

There is only one thing to do, predatorily search the globe for new sources of highly concentrated hydrocarbons and eat them. Revisit old sites to lick the last of the hydrocarbons from the ground, eat bark and grass (shale and tar sands), fight others for the last few meals of high-grade hydrocarbons remaining. Then what? Plan an escape to Mars? 🙂

No, next the system begins to starve and unravel as various little tangents of metabolism shut-down. Things become more simple and basic. There is much cognitive dissonance as Muskovian propaganda doesn’t seem to match the surrounding reality where the metabolism has become increasingly idle. The central banks can do nothing but provide credit to the energy producers that increasingly provide less and less net energy to the system.


In the end, this overly complex system becomes idle as it has successfully exhausted the resource gradients. Roads and technological cells are empty of their formerly busy human RNA and the infrastructure begins to slowly decay. It really is too bad it grew so fast before it knew what it was doing, not that knowing would have impeded its progress that much. Solar was the only long-lasting source of energy, but the flow rate of net energy is much too low to meet the needs of an overly complex fossil fuel eating system. Harsh adaptation is necessary but the  energy required for change is being consumed to temporarily enrich those that have interests in the existing, soon to be dead,  metabolic machinery and pathways.

Punctuated Disequilibrium – Bigly

The emergence of self-organizing, complex adaptive systems has occurred twice on this planet. In the first instance, an independent, competitively reproducing molecule, RNA, because of its unique structural and bonding characteristics, became the first entity that could pair symbolic information (base pair sequence) with materials for making tools – amino acids, matching three base pair codons to specific amino acids for protein chain assembly. The information inherent to the RNA sequences would later be transcribed into more resilient DNA libraries. The amino acid tools, including enzymes, were much more capable of breaking into energy and resource gradients existing at that time and facilitated the development of information and cellular structures like nuclei, cytoskeletons and mitotic spindles. Once cells were prevalent and capable of deriving molecular and particulate nutrition from the environment. It was only a matter of time though before evolution would find a way to break into the next great energy opportunity – whole, living cells.  To consume individual cells it became necessary for previously single cells to form cell groups that could surround and engulf single cells and consume them. Early adaptations led to primitive guts or enclosures where digestive enzymes could be released to digest captive cells. These primitive predators would later become fully developed organisms with various specialized tissues for capturing food, digestion, excretion, immune systems etc. The result has been a continuous co-evolution of cellular forms for hundreds of millions of years, some being capable of using the sun as an energy source while others continued along the predatory path consuming other organisms whole or by ripping the body apart and consuming macerated tissues. The ecosystem emerged with many different competing cellular forms.

Neutrophil consuming Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Phagocytosis is used by many predatory eukaryotes including the amoebas which can become rather large. A successful predatory strategy was to form organisms, vast colonies of cells with specialized functions capable of ingesting and processing the tissues of other organisms. Humans became tribal with coordinating communication in order to access gradients inaccessible to single individual.

The emergence of the second complex adaptive system, the technological one, occurred in much the same manner as the molecular one. The key functionality for human RNA is the ability to create information and then translate that into a sequence of bonding or manipulations of matter in the environment, much like proteins are synthesized from amino acids. For instance, an early hominid could have seen or imagined swinging a club at a predator. The imagery in the brain (information) is then translated into a hand grasping a stout club in the environment and swinging it wildly at threatening predators. Generational transfer of the information could occur by simply watching what others do and emulating them. The ability to “bond” and manipulate tools such as clubs and stones was made possible by the free hands of the early hominids that had been useful in holding branches, picking fruits from trees and nits from fur. Likewise, within the evolving neocortex there was an increasing ability to imagine and rehearse actions, a mutative property of the brain.

Combining information (brain) with an ability to deftly manipulate matter in furtherance of survival goals resulted in a rapid advantage over those organisms relying upon fortuitous genetic mutations. As occurred with the cells, humans tended to form social groups, specialize,  develop tribal behaviors and cooperate to kill and consume organisms too large for a single human to dispatch. It is this nexus between tool symbolism (brain/RNA template) and ability to bond or synthesize the symbolized tool that starts the movement of man and molecular RNA into the intermediate role between symbolic information and tool. Eventually both man and RNA would not be limited to one or a few tools for the individual, but would begin to function within a system capable of making hundreds of different tools systematically in factories and in cells. The success of the new tools at breaking open new gradients, much more capable than the unequipped human or RNA, would guarantee a continued progress in the direction of systematic existence. RNA would go on to become a specialized intermediate between DNA and the tool making process just as humans have become intermediaries between  their own alpha-numeric information and tool/infrastructure manufacture.

Papuan men working on tools and sago.

The hands modify and build tools after consulting with the imagery recorded in the brain. Nothing very complex could be accomplished during mankind’s early history because the emerging complexity requires a fidelity recording of information as found in written records and drawings or DNA. Humans are particularly good at accomplishing rapid evolution by purposefully rearranging and modifying information within the brain to be translated into new tool construction. Homo sapiens used few tools for hundreds of thousands of years until recorded information began to reflect the specifications of various components of tools mined and refined and the processes that led to finished tools.

Not only can hands manipulate matter to form tools, they may also have been used for language before the advent of spoken language and may have evolved their dexterity, useful in building and grasping tools, from the evolved usefulness in conveying ideas.

It is generally believed that the human transition to RNA-like functioning in the assembly of technological tools was a fortuitous event for Homo sapiens. Many tools have evolved, the distribution vessels have grown, the technological cells have been built, the information has been recorded and even speciation (tribalism/nationhood) has occurred. But all is not what it seems for the former vine swinging hominid turned key tapper, lever puller and knob twister. The same ferocity of competition that has existed in the ecosystem for the duration of its existence has been conserved by the various entities within the technological system. A competition to grow and profit in accordance with the Maximum Power Principle (MPP) is still prevalent. Instead of a technological nirvana, we experience a technologically based arms race, nation against nation, corporation against corporation, individual against individual, each trying to win the lion’s share of resources and profit. In the background of this all-consuming technological competition is an ecosystem seen only as a resource gradient and waste sink with infinite capacities to facilitate the on-going evolution and metabolism of the technological system. We’re too busy competing with each other for “wealth” to notice that we’re destroying the system that sustains us.

The human RNA toiling in the cells seem unwilling and unable to break away from the trajectory of the Maximum Power Principle which has shaped their behaviors over geologic time periods. It may simply be impossible to get them to “stand down” even in the face of disaster. Even though they have great intelligence in building and using tools, they lack a behavioral mechanism of restraint, but instead navigate from one reward to the next in joyous celebration of their conquests. Even with a modicum of knowledge about our ill-fated course, we seem as determined as bacteria in a petri dish or malignant cancer cells to continue growing until the supporting system collapses.

Many humans believe there is a great purpose to the technology, but it is simply the stuff of energy/resource gradient consumption and differs little in purpose than what one might find in a cell or organism. Better, faster, more, more growth, more profit – but there is no purpose except to survive the predatory behavior of one’s rivals at any moment in time while gathering enough energy/resources to maintain metabolism and reproduce. Incremental evolution -slow in the case of system one, the ecosystem, and comparatively rapid in the case of system two, the technological system, leads neither to an eventual nirvana nor promised land but simply to more of the same competition to consume gradients and dominate opponents.

House to house combat in retaking Seoul, South Korea. Korean War.

Some things will never be finished on this planet, like the competition between conduits for territory and resources.

Nuclear ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska.

Like a neutrophil roaming the extra cellular matrix, this technological product  intends to defend the integrity of national borders and interests with technological tissue destroying weapons of mass destruction. Like the Megalodon sp. it will some day go extinct, but it’s unlikely it will have the 20 million year run of the shark. Perhaps a few more decades at most since the current state of disequilibrium is in the process of being punctuated – bigly.

Don’t Fall for Enemy Propaganda

Dissipative structures or conduits are not deterred from predatorily seeking additional resources even if this behavior is not in keeping with their intratribal morality. To accomplish this feat, the holder of coveted resources or territory, a nation that thereto may have been friendly or neutral, becomes the victim of the vilest chicanery through false flag operations. A false flag operation is a planned operation to make the target nation appear to have committed a heinous act, domestic or foreign, which then justifies retribution in furtherance of some preordained goal.

See more about false flags here:

The false flag operation is usually accompanied by a preplanned propaganda campaign that goes into effect immediately, calling attention to the wrongdoing, vilifying the supposed culprit and calling for retalliation or elimination of the guilty parties. The propaganda campaign is meant to manufacture consent (Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky) amongst the predatory nation’s population for those actions necessary to gain some resource or strategic advantage and uses the innate tribalism of the population to accomplish its goals. At this point, the truth or facts are not important, but rather impressions are all important. Pharmaceutical companies use the similar tactics in their advertising, providing an engaging and attractive visual impression to viewers while reading in monotone the side-effects and drawbacks of their medicines. Impression is all important in the general population, not facts or reasoning. The faster you can call someone the devil, or evil, or Hitler or a dictator, the better, and repeat it often until the impression is firmly fixed in vulnerable minds. While doing so, provide visual stimuli for additional negative impact. Next comes the moral response to rid the world of the evil influence, sometimes called regime change. Include a few more graphics of dead babies (or throwing babies out of incubators), arrange a Nayirah testimony and you’re almost good to go.

President George W. Bush strolling at the ranch with a special friend Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah

Was it a false flag, an unknown unknown, or simply a known known that got out of hand?

These deceptions are all part and parcel of operating as a predatory nation. After watching the recent episode in Syria with chemical weapons and Tomahawk missiles, and other similar instances, the “evil monster” story is becoming a bit lame. There was Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, the Ayatollah, and now Assad, all evil monsters. Who’s next? Putin? As Forrest Gump might say, “evil is as evil does”. But one does not successively dispose of “evil monsters” unless one has a plan. What is the plan? My guess is that nations, being subject to death without adequate nutrition, are simply securing adequate supplies and routes for future fossil fuel delivery and must not inform the public of the peril of not obtaining adequate supplies. The United States campaigning in the Middle East reminds me of Sherman’s March to the Sea sowing destruction all the way, except this time it’s a march to the oil and natural gas. But not to worry, Europe will absorb the stunned stragglers into their loving embrace.

While emotionless strategic planners (“we came, we saw, he died” – Hillary Clinton in regard to the murder of Muammar Gaddafi), make chess moves, especially to meet personal, banking and corporate needs, the public is fed emotion-laden fabrications which elicit support for the predatory behaviors.

Propaganda can even work at home as with this Newsweek magazine that came out shortly after Donald Trump became President. Just a coincidence?  Hitler was a very effective psychopath and there are many of them in the general population, business and government. I don’t think Trump is a psychopath, but it’s not beyond the media to seek retribution against a President that berated the media executives for broadcasting “fake” news. Of course “it” (war/genocide) could happen again, and be much, much worse as the metabolic collapse gathers speed. Propaganda was being used in the United States long before Hitler came to power and both Hitler and Joseph Geobbels were fans of Edward Bernays that wrote “Crystallizing Public Opinion” in 1923 and “Propaganda” in 1928.


Edward Bernays, The Father Of American Propaganda


Deception is widespread in the ecosystem and there’s no doubt that the human mind has evolved to be adept at subterfuge. The medial prefrontal cortex (social brain) is monitoring the social environment for opportunities to gain wealth without upsetting the sensibilities of other humans, but someone always takes the last cookie (or the whole box of cookies). Recognizing deception is somewhat counteracted in many people by the optimism bias that encourages a sunny view of human nature.

Above is anti-propaganda propaganda poster  from WWII, only today it’s Fox news broadcasting in one ear and CNN broadcasting in the other. The bamboozled citizen remains the same.

Put “ISIS” on that sleeve and you have an effective propaganda for the United States current embroilment within the Middle East. Puppies and babies impaled by a dagger along with flag burning will also elicit strong emotions from the citizenry.

The take away message is that the national systems still strive for growth and assimilation of energy and resources and can clear a path with murder and deceit, all justified by the likely outcome of failing to act (an economy grinding to a halt, collapse of the financial system and starvation of the domestic population). The natural human tendency towards tribalism guarantees that there will be a “them” to take from until the human experiment is over. Governments will create a “them” if it’s necessary as an expedient to maintaining military readiness. Even a one world government with common language and identity, if that were possible, would not overcome the tendency for some individuals to cheat the system and accumulate an unfair share of resources resulting in societal bifurcation and tribal conflict. Eventually, the organism that was promoted to cancerhood and tasked with eliminating the energy tied-up in soil, biomass, fossil fuels and more, will accomplish its task bigley before starving within its own toxic excrement. The earth will be a place of eternal conflict and strife as long as conduits compete aggressively for thin margins of profit pursuing the Maximum Power Principle.


Last Roll of the Dice

To answer the age-old question “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”, one must first travel back in time and examine the molecular ontogeny where the conservation of probabilistically unlikely molecular species was accomplished by ribonucleic acids (RNA) in the primordial soup or upon a substrate bathed by the primordial soup. The non-replicating environment of the RNA may have had catalytic and bonding properties (clay substrate?) which could concentrate the necessary nucleotides for strand assembly. RNA are also known to have enzymatic properties, although not as varied or capabable as the enzymatic proteins, but perhaps enough to facilitate self-replication. In any case, the most important condition for reproduction is the accumulation of resources necessary to build a replica. For such a molecule to reproduce successfully a “profit” must first be realized in that components must be concentrated against a tendency to otherwise disperse. These conditions, concentrating the building blocks of life and reproduction, are the foundations of life and have been conserved without exception. Those species, whether molecular, cellular, organismal or technological, behave in a manner to obtain the greatest profit to use in maximizing reproduction and growth. Some building blocks are diverted to defensive measures to thwart efforts at predation. The forms that are best at gathering the components for their own reproduction, which may occur multiple times before the mother form is defunct, will eventually displace less successful forms, unless the less successful occupy different environmental niches that bestow a reproductive advantage.

The freely reproducing molecules were eventually enclosed within cells, perhaps with primitive protein tools that allowed the capturing and sequestration of nutrients within the cellular envelope. At some point, a mechanical splitting process would occur separating randomly distributed populations of molecules. Perhaps not a complex fissioning that occurs with eukaryotic cells, but simply a budding-off due to mechanical necessity. Research continues on these subjects and the entirety of evolutionary steps may never be entirely elucidated before civilization fails to meet its own nutritional requirements. There were numerous steps and refinements leading to the complexity found within eukaryotic cells and undoubtedly it required significant amounts of energy as provided by the mitochondria. But just as a human mind is incapable of retaining large amounts of detailed information necessary for significant complexity, such as the diagrams and specifications for building and tools and related structures, RNA or RNA complexes didn’t do well at retaining all of the information in their populations, especially after the somewhat unpredictable process of fissioning. Much of the extra energy necessary to establish a permanent and replicable DNA library that could be separated with a spindle mechanism, must have been derived from the endosymbiotic relationship with the mitochondria. The increased energy also gave cells the extra energy necessary to form multicellular organsism. Human discovery and utilization of fossil fuels has allowed a similar increase in complexity, but on a temporary basis.

The addition of DNA, a written library of tools that could be transcribed into RNA and then protein tools and complex organelles like the Golgi apparatus, made reproduction more complicated and a spindle apparatus was required to make sure daughter cells obtained a full copy of information., DNA is copied and segregated to both sides of a dividing plate before fission occurs. Incorporated into a cell, the RNA were no longer able to maximize their individual reproduction, but rather had to specialize functionally within the cell to maximize efficiency within the reproducing system. Their controlled reproduction came to serve the needs of the cell whose primary activity was making tools to use in accumulating the profit necessary to enable cellular fission. Humans have been pulled inside a similar structure, the technological cell to function in a manner similar to molecular RNA. Many RNA no longer reproduce themselves, but rather function in the cells to maximize profit and essentially become a “job” within a technological metabolism. If these “domesticated” humans do reproduce, their children will be modified and schooled to also function within the technological metabolism. Some free-living humans continue to use primitive tools to obtain profit from the ecosystem, necessary for their individual reproduction.

Dissipative organisms feeding in order to nourish themselves and larvae back at the colony. Many of these worker ants, like their biological cousins, the human RNA, have lost the capacity or will to reproduce, but unlike human RNA, these ants are not involved in using information to produce tools.

There is a natural “greed” built into life that is difficult or impossible to temper in that the dissipative organism must obtain an excess or profit to reproduce successfully, and for the most part all of its behaviors and forms are built around that necessity. It isn’t enough simply to maintain the fires of basal metabolism, a profit must be obtained and invested in the offspring. Reproduction is the foundation of complex life, but what started as a molecular happenstance has become the sole preoccupation of dissipative structures – the meaning of life (although modern RNA humans may think jobs, businesses and their profit are the meaning of life.) All forms subsequent to the molecular beginnings have followed in the same mold and cannot escape the “greed” to which they owe their reproductive success. By failing to reproduce, you have simply foregone the opportunity to burden a being with the responsibility for at least balancing the books and making a profit for reproduction in what is usually a competitive and vicious world. However, the reproductive sequence usually happens spontaneously, the dopamine/opioid rewards are sufficient to result in reproduction, no reasons necessary. The most recent human additions, 7.5 billion persons, have been born into a world of temporary abundance. Conditions will be returning to normal as soon as the finite gradients have been exhausted.

When you observe the humans, with their lust for accumulating wealth, their reproductive excesses (at least until they’re subverted into a cellular society and become jobs), with their idolization of billionaires and preoccupation with portfolios of wealth, just realize that they’re not different than any other reproducing life, life that must obtain a profit to reproduce. Unfortunately they have drifted from the ecosystem into a technological system that can readily consume and destroy the ecosystem in its natural tendency to accumulate profit and maximally reproduce. Just as organisms gather profit maximally and reproduce maximally, not because they want to, but because they’re programmed to do so, so too does the human in technological society strive to be wealthier and take market share from their perceived competition without any limitations.

Is this why questioning population control and capitalism (growth) are taboo topics for discussion in technological society? Because these traits (reproduction and pursuit of profit) are the basis of life and mentioning their undesirability brings about a juxtaposition in the brain between the idea in the neocortex and the “two commandments” of the limbic system? The strong and fertile survive while the weak and infertile do not and this has been the basis of evolution for billions of years, but to carry the same motivations and impulses into the technological system, the desire to consume, grow, reproduce and produce a profit guarantees destruction and collapse. Under this natural occurring regime, sustainability will never be achieved in the technological system. But seeing that humans are basically automatons following deeply embedded behaviors established over billions of years of evolution, can we expect that they will ever gain control before growing themselves into oblivion.

Model of the human brain from Wellcome Trust.  The egg-shaped area at the center  of the brain is where the “Two Commandments” are written (thou shalt accumulate resources and reproduce.) This area is also known as “(head)quarters” and or the limbic system.

All of the behaviors observable in the ecosystem and technosystem are derived from the need to extract a profit from the environment to enable reproduction. The human is programmed to ring-fence wealth to use in a reproductive capacity and because humans are a social, hierarchical species and the impression is that the more wealth you possess the more successful your reproduction will be, there can be no end to the conversion of the ecosystem and fossil gradients into wealth markers for humans, even though the innate behavior will eventually destroy them.

Throughout history, if resources were not available in the environment, reproduction failed through starvation and/or disease. Under the current circumstances for humans, because the natural areas for accumulating wealth (foraging, hunting and fishing) have been claimed and fenced by the cancer, the modern human must strive to make their own business (cells) succeed just to obtain money to obtain nutrition from other cells, the farms and groceries. The specialized RNA inside technological cells probably have no idea how to obtain nutrition from a natural ecosystem or through simple farming or gardening and are therefore at considerable risk of starvation once the technological system fails. The egotistical class accumulates wealth far above what is necessary for successful reproduction, thereby denying others that possibility. The brain of the multi-billionaire seems to work in much the same way as the brain of a peasant that successfully raises twenty kids in the ecosystem. Both seem to be guided by a limbic autopilot. Human civilization is a cancer whose open-ended appetite for the accumulation of wealth will destroy the ecosystem.

There seem to be many rational reasons for restricting growth and consumption, since technological competition within the ecosystem commons will eventually result in total system(s) failure. It should be sufficient by examining the despoiled landscape and the melting ice to determine that limitations must be observed, but there are very strong biases chiseled into the neurology of every organism’s brain that encourage the gathering of resources, getting rich and provisioning of offspring. Unfortunately we continue to follow the same old algorithms even though things have profoundly changed. For every increment of technological growth, an equal or greater amount of biological growth is damaged or made extinct. Most humans believe that a healthy techno-system is in their interest, but they are mistaken. The inhabitants of the cancer fail to perceive the nature of the malignant system that has captured them.

The human is a collection of minute predatory protists that follow the Maximum Reproduction Principle (MRP) whose combined values and behaviors have been transcribed into a suitable neurology at the core of the human brain. The maximum reproduction and growth tendencies no longer reside within the cells, but these goals have been invested in the neurology of the various organisms. Nations, businesses, humans, cells, and molecules are all a continuation of the first reproducing entity. This goal of dissipative structures, common to all of life has been preserved, passed into the overarching structure of the organism as trillions of cells cooperate to consume large masses of nutrition (individuals of other species) found in the environment. We can refer to this open-ended desire to control and utilize resources, limited only by the time necessary to digest them and turn them into offspring conduits, as greed.

Complex protist cells whose forms have specialized for independent living. Human cells are also specialized, but work within a system that consumes massive organisms before nutrients are distributed throughout an internal circulatory system.

Greed, the desire to acquire and accumulate wealth cannot be questioned effectively by the human because greed, individual and tribal, is the imperative of reproducing entities. Maintaining homeostasis and basal metabolism are insufficient, a profit must be had until the offspring are formed and then actively obtaining energy from the environment for themselves. It’s no wonder that academics are reluctant to speak of the hazards of unbridled greed as they will be ejected from the company of fellow conduits and be deprived of income and profit. Even for the well-reasoned scientist there is little control of greed or the prime motive of garnering more pay, more benefits, more grants, more power. The greed had to be present in the first reproducing entities, the RNA, then cells, organisms, tribes and technological businesses and nations. It seems that many technological RNA (humans using tools) have successfully thwarted their own natural desires to reproduce, but they have simply been fully entrained by the technological system that prepared them for their role in society. Even the “religious” seek expansion and enrichment for their own dissipative needs. The only “reasonable” question for the human is how to get around the limits to growth through technological innovation so that more resources and energy may be delivered to the insatiable population. Humans are not equipped to throttle their subconscious desires and motivations, and any social barriers to obtaining more than one’s fair share of resources are often breached through lying, cheating and stealing, nefarious behaviors pulled from the Mr. Hyde’s toolbox as opportunities arise.

President Trump, sensitive to the “no-growth” dissatisfaction of his citizenry, almost all of which “know in their heart” that they want more, strives to satisfy their needs by eliminating any impediment to further growth, even though “reason” should lead one to believe that this is suicidal. The rational brain has evolved so as not to question the desires and motivations of the limbic brain and reward systems.

Human RNA walk to and from various cells to make metabolic connections including gaining organic nourishment at groceries and restaurants. If the system is not meeting their needs, they are likely to communicate back to the Trumpothalamus and demand action.

The future appears bleak as humans continue to build more cells and pack them full of “wealth”. Industry profits from this wealth accumulating tendency by periodically offering new and improved versions of products to replace those that have fallen out of fashion or been prematurely deposited in a waste dump. Unfortunately it is unlikely that humans will ever gain control of their behavioral tendencies instead continuing in an automatic mode, converting the natural world and fossil fuels into additional “wealth.” The end result is foretold in the prognostics of the “Limits to Growth”. Humans will march to their demise in a zombie-like state of stunned silence with occasional outbursts of violence, as opportunities to satisfy their greed disappear forever and previous gains are erased.

From the primordial soup of replicating RNA, to the complex cellular eukaryotic cell, to the human technological cancer, evolution shows an unbroken energy and resource flow through conduits which must reproduce before parent structures degrade. Humans have leveraged their ability to be successful predators through the use of technological tools and fossil fuel energy but fail to realize that they consume their own body just as a cellular cancer consumes its own body. In both cases, the biased mind will avoid truthful examination of the predicament as the disease slowly progresses towards catastrophic resolution.

Human civilization is a cancer which grows within the tissues of the ecosystem. It eats, it grows, it kills and its over. From where would it obtain the energy necessary for a second round of equivalent growth, even if the ecosystem were capable of surviving it and a third, fourth…a thousand generations. Will the energy and resources come from the vastly overstated collateral underlying an enormous debt that will supposedly be exchanged for a richness of resources in the future? The currency, bonds and stocks will be worthless in the future, as soon as the system breaks, capitalism, any -ism, will be finished and any reorganization will temporarily provide only meager salaries for a few and zero profit. As soon as a faltering economy induces the liquidation of paper assets, it’s only a matter of time before everyone rushes for the door to convert their paper into something real, only to find the algorithms have already passed through and locked the door a millisecond before them Most will be kept from liquidating in a timely fashion and will watch their illusory wealth realize its full potential – zero, leaving them with little hope of survival. A fully fledged zero sum game will emerge as impoverished masses spur governments to nationalize all assets, out-law hoarding, seize assets and distribute to those clamoring for salvation, a last ditch effort to keep the human RNA populations alive, even though the technological metabolism has ceased to function and cannot effectively restart. As soon as residual metabolites have been exhausted, the RNA will begin to starve and the technological order will descend into chaos and final disintegration.

But go about your business, enjoy your last days, you’re a winner in life, and that’s all that counts in the realm of competing dissipative structures. Make your last roll of the dice. When the game of accumulating wealth and reproduction restarts your grandchildren won’t be playing.




Gatto Got It Right – Human Resources

John Gatto has been a life-long educator in New York City and has garnered considerable acclaim for his skeptical views regarding formal public education. Gatto has observed the natural emergence of industrial strength education beginning with the utilization of coal in Western nations at the advent of industrialization. Destroying the coal gradient in the nineteenth century had to be accomplished with greatly expanded tool and distribution systems along with a workforce capable of building and working with new tools in a factory setting. To accomplish the new technological growth it was necessary to standardize the human RNA that would be synchronized with their tools in the production process. Formal schools at scale, previously unknown in the relatively rural and undeveloped areas came into being as a feeder system for the technological system. A “graduate” would possess the ability to manipulate information, at least at a basic level, allowing functioning within the technological sphere. Like most “good ideas” this was a feature of the self-organizing system that pursues the Maximum Power Principle or Maximum Entropy Principle. It was simply a matter of good “economics” and good economics is simply a matter of growing to do things faster and in greater amounts at a greater profit.


I’ve written on this topic before in the “Nucleolus” post, the place where rRNA go to be built and finished before release into the cytoplasm for attachment to an appropriate organelle to construct new protein tools from various information. Schools represent a finishing area for RNA, not primarily for student edification, but to prepare individuals to function within the economy.

This clip could also be titled “Convert Human Beings into Human RNA.”

As things developed there may have been other motives too, besides just provisioning the industrial process with technological RNA. The public school system provided the fodder for the factories while the private schools up East provided what would become the inheritors of capital with a liberal arts education, not so they could be functional in a factory, rather for managing the overall system to their own advantage. After all, those “workers” can’t be trusted to deploy capital effectively and there simply isn’t enough capital to go around, so they must be kept in their place. “Workers” were sold the American Dream, consumerism and  numerous entertainments including sports to keep them distracted from the real accumulation of capital that was occurring in the upper echelons. It seems that significant capital accumulation by the middle and lower classes never was in the cards.

As time has gone on there have been new ways to recapture wealth once found in the middle-class such as wage arbitrage and putting citizens in such deep debt they could never accumulate much wealth. When the average Joe tries to emulate Warren Buffet they are likely to do so with substantial debt, buying markers of wealth that soon depreciate leaving them with little net worth. It is very lucrative for government to encourage people to become wealthy, but the only ones becoming wealthy are those that have already accumulated significant capital. There is also substantial propaganda thrown around about starting one’s own business and that its “your fault” if you haven’t taken this path to success. The truth, as it seems to me, is that most people are educated and prepared only to become employees, to accept wages for their labor that are largely inadequate while the rich gloat over their good fortunes to have inherited substantial sums which they use to further rake wealth from the middle-class. Jobs are moved to China and India and Pay-day loan businesses sprout like mushrooms.

Perhaps these older students are being modified for a new work assignment. Generally, students must specialize in one area of knowledge and will receive a certificate from the nucleolus to prove they have undergone formal training.

Gatto was correct, the public school education with its ringing bells and whistles, authority and structure, daily attendance, watched closely, is simply factory fodder preparation. And those people that somehow escape the the fate of others by luck or effort, can often then be found striving for acceptance with the wealthy in-crowd, buying horses and farms, a jet, Ivy League educations for the kids and so on. Unfortunately, at this point in our societies, the economic court viziers have failed to read the tea leaves correctly as unbridled exponential growth will soon fall over the edge into unbridled exponential contraction of the most horrendous kind. The grand viziers of capitalism have been giving the impression that they are in control of the situation and undoubtedly much of the political class has believed them. The factory class only wonders why eight people have as much wealth as the least wealthy three billion people on the planet. Maybe they should get some loans, go back to school and give it another shot. That’s what the financiers would like. (Also buy a bigger house and take-out a big mortgage – the price of houses always goes up.)

Portrait of Ben Bernanke,  former Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  With his magic wand in hand (No. 2 pencil) he prepares to conjure-up a few trillion of Keynesian dollars to spur further suicidal growth.

Nothing New Under the Sun

The human imagination. “Wouldn’t it be neat if we could………………” The ecosystem plays that game too, all the time, by throwing out novel combinations of genes to see what they can do. Can they obtain enough energy to survive to reproduce? If you fail, you die and your unique combination of genes goes away. Humans do this too by forming new businesses based upon novel changes in information. The design team is always coming-up with something new that may catch-on in the broader economy. This is equivalent to a mutation occurring within the DNA of a cell and the tools or structural element changing as a result. A new cell line emerges in a body that possibly can do things more efficiently than some previous types, just as technological cells (businesses) may emerge to grow and supplant a less efficient combination.

Two-headed calf.  Most genetic mutations add little to the fitness of an individual and they are rapidly recycled after failing to compete in the environment. This is similar to an ill-conceived start-up business going bankrupt and their assets being sold and redistributed.

Humans are technological RNA and can play with information to create new tools, processes and structural elements. Sometimes new products get a foothold and sometimes they don’t and the business goes bankrupt. The energy finding, capturing and digesting organs can also potentially innovate, with the help of designers, engineers and many other contributors. Many different energy producing ideas have been explored including fracking, nuclear plants,  space based solar, PV, wind, hydro and more. But all of the other economic, metabolic activity that’s going on amongst the other cell lines in the body, like medical research and medicine, military, public health, entertainment and more, depend upon the effectiveness of the organs that exist to constantly shovel fuel into the system to be refined to energize the kinetics of the metabolisms.

Technology in the energy sector converts crude oil to finished products, similar in function to mitochondria turning glucose into ATP.

To summarize, a nation, with all of its competing businesses is equivalent to a body with many specialized cell types churning out various products to be used locally, regionally and nationally. The organic body has many different organ systems to help maintain homeostasis including ones for immunity, waste removal, oxygen acquisition, energy acquisition, water distribution, coordination and control of movement and more.

If a technological body’s energy procuring organs and behaviors become inadequate, the body begins to starve and all of the downstream metabolism begins to falter, businesses go bankrupt and people lose jobs. This is never a problem in the ecosystem since combinations that can’t survive are simply recycled and other combinations are given a chance. If none of the individuals of a species are successful, then extinction occurs. Human societies have taken for granted their fuel sources and now must scramble to find adequate replacements. There may not be adequate replacements which means society must change to function with the net energy provided by the new energy source or face extinction. The ecosystem, being run by sunlight, never has had a problem with energy sourcing because it’s always been there. If the sun were to disappear or grow too dim, the ecosystem would simply die and not come back. Similarly for human technological society, when the fossil fuels are gone and substitute cell lines have failed to appear, then irreversible collapse occurs and death ensues. Perhaps the most damning feature of the human organism is its failure to establish limits and a life cycle, instead growing like a cancer. The technological RNA, derived from the ecosystem where limits and life cycles are the rule, somehow fails to recognize their importance and/or are completely out of control of the processes that consume their lives. The industrial system has a hard time with recycling because the failed bodies (building, machinery, tools) to not contribute any energy to their own recycling. Bacteria and fungi can break down and recycle ecosystem waste only because they can obtain energy by doing so.

Vultures eating an expired elephant in Africa. Waste in the ecosystem has a high energy content and can fuel the many decomposers. Human technological waste doesn’t have the same kind of energy content that would naturally favor the evolution of technological waste decomposers and therefore much of it must be hauled to dumps and be removed from the circulation of the economy.

Technological (human form) RNA prototype. This kind of technology depends completely upon a successful energy sector to supply ample net energy.

Humans don’t really know how to set limits to their own growth. I think they’re waiting for external forces, the interaction between the quasi-species to set the limits for them. Let the forces of nature determine what we are to become. Unfortunately, left to nature, they will become extinct, using the limited fossil fuel energy remaining to battle each other into submission. During WWII engineers and academics were working furiously on the Manhattan project to develop nuclear bombs to pound the competition into submission and even found a way to shunt that energy into the economy. What military wonder are they working on now? Soon it won’t matter what they’ve been working on because by placing so much emphasis on military might, the system will soon be (if not already) be deprived of enough net energy to make any kind of transition. Like primitive fungi on a agar plate, a nation’s only concern is with obtaining the nutrients and throwing a few antibiotics towards the competition if they get too close. They don’t see the limited nature of the nutrient medium and the enclosed glass ceiling overhead. Once they’ve exhausted their energy supplies and the externalities of their wastes take their toll, not much will remain.

Humans are very capable in their technological exploits but are not very circumspect regarding themselves, what they are and what’s likely to occur. It is all more comforting to believe that a benevolent God is in control and that God wants us to grow and get rich without end. Very satisfying to the limbic brain, makes you want to get out of bed in the morning as you imagine your own dopamine/opioid filled life with all of God’s bounty. And so they continue to fiddle with their technologies to speed up the flow of good things, striving to make the next big breakthrough, even as the energy flow is falling behind the growth of the organism. They just never stepped back to see themselves, too busy competing for the rewards that flow from utilizing all of that fuel.

The industrial metabolism can be red-lined waiting for a new tool or cell line to appear from the intentional evolution of the designers and engineers, but eventually the fuel gauge reads empty. You can wait and wait and wait hoping that the right innovation appears until your nation grinds to a halt. Evolution is not open-ended like the human mind. Sometimes things are not possible in the “real” world where physical, chemical and thermodynamic limitations scrap what seemed to be sophisticated, complex and enduring.

Here’s to avoiding an epic fail – we’re already more than half-way there.

Some identities for thinking about the problem.

Humans = RNA

Buildings/Homes = Cells

Nations = Species

Roads = Blood Vessels

Glucose = Fossil Fuels

Electricity/Gasoline = ATP

Information/Data = DNA

Hand Tools, Cars, Machinery = Protein Tools/Enzymes

Police Force = Immune System

Military = Antibiotics (Large scale aimed outward).

Collapsed Economy = Death/Extinction

Collapsed Ecosystem = Death/Extinction


Here is a map of the various human quasi-species, tribal areas which arose mostly because of geographic isolation and divergences in spoken language, a form of speciation.

I See Myself in the Mirror, Therefore I Am

I was recently considering which animal species are capable of self-recognition as this probably reflects an image of oneself in the analog world of the mind. It turns out the list of animals with this ability is fairly short and includes humans, apes, orcas, some Asian elephants, dolphins, the Eurasian Magpie and ants. Surprisingly dogs do not make the list, but perhaps they can distinguish themselves and others by the senses of smell and hearing. But these senses do not provide a “self” to occupy the analog mind., at least in a visual sense. All of the above species pass the “mirror test” in which individual self-recognition is accomplished. And why is this important? In order to form a memory of oneself within the mind, it is necessary to first recognize oneself as distinct as opposed to some other individual of the same species. Some species like the common house mouse likely have a rudimentary analog mind, especially with the use of hippocampus place cells so that paths to rewards may be remembered along with qualia like color, smell, shape. But the mouse brain is likely skewed on the sensory scale towards olfaction and perhaps mice can distinguish each other with this sense. But in my view this is inadequate for elaboration of the analog mind which is mostly a visual phenomenon. Therefore, your average mouse does not rehearse itself moving in its own mind or do any planning.

List of Animals That Have Passed the Mirror Test

Humans can recognize themselves in a mirror and distinguish themselves from other humans. This ability is linked to the social nature of the species in that the most important factor in living socially is the ability to form memories of faces and forms of the individuals with whom you co-exist and upon which your struggle for survival is dependent. An unusually large portion of the human memory is given to facial recognition which allows us to populate the analog mind with the faces of acquaintances and our own. The only reason we became self-aware is because our social nature required that we be aware of others and be able to link memories to various faces. A mouse perhaps does not know one mouse from another visually, but may use the olfactory sense to remember different individuals although they cannot populate an analog mind. The evolving social hominid, and the other social species listed and perhaps more, had to know and remember the characteristics and relationships within their respective social hierarchies. The faces of the other members of their groups were the most important memories that could be formed including the apparent submission and domination relationships. The “self” that now populates the human mind as a self-perception likely began as a necessary adaptation among the individuals of social species. Many species have some degree of analog mind, but what they lack is an area of the brain that can distinguish themselves from others of their species and therefore, for all cerebral purposes, they don’t exist. The evolution of the analog mind and behavioral control mediated by the medial prefrontal cortex likely evolved together as the “self” began to act in a less impulsively, lest they insult an alpha-ape that would let them know of their trespass. “Self” was preoccupied for millions of years with the social environment, knowing the members of the group and their characteristics, the hierarchical order, so that cooperation and competition could be managed with the co-evolving medial prefrontal cortex which places limits on our social behaviors, depending upon the environment of cultural mores and values in which we find ourselves.

After making faces in the mirror for several minutes, President Obama finally determined it was indeed himself in the mirror and thereby passed the mirror test.

President Trump had to be pulled away from the mirror by three secret service personnel and then took this selfie. He too passed the mirror test.

President George W. Bush aka “Mona Lisa” didn’t show-up for his mirror test but was found later at the Louvre. Authorities decided the mirror test would not be necessary.

There is no reason to possess a “self” in an analog mind when the social context is missing. Other organisms can do quite well without themselves in their minds, behaving in a more algorithmically controlled way, with some degree of analog mind but without a picture of themselves within their own minds to plan and rehearse future actions.

The human mind and its social preoccupation doesn’t seem to have changed much. People still spend most of their time socializing and competing with other humans, trying to pick behaviors that will elevate themselves within pertinent hierarchies. There is much grooming, talking, gossiping and fighting just like chimps under the banana tree. Washington, D.C. Must be the chimp capitol of the world and this has led us to our likely future, banana republic, led by venal chiefs and ton ton macoutes. Your brain will allow you to recognize them and your prefrontal cortex will plan the proper etiquette before you make a hasty retreat. Current leaders are not using their lofty thought processes to address the problems of the cancerous growth of civilization. Instead, they are acting like apes, fighting for the highest position in the hierarchy so they can receive the most sex and food (wealth) while deceptively pledging fealty to the Gods that keep the underlings in line.

As is apparent in the current culture, most people are preoccupied with the lives of the rich and famous and their Facebook and Twitter tribes and don’t seem to have much time or ability to think about anything else. This preoccupation with other apes goes back a long way as it was the most important knowledge one could have, other than recognizing the right berries to pick and where to kill and antelope or two. Most of reality was the reality shared by tribal members under the banana tree with a few good shared myths or stories to otherwise occupy the mind. As most of the remainder of reality is being ignored or candy-coated in favor of ape politics, it is likely that civilization will fail and we will return to a condition in which there is little else than social status to occupy ones’ mind.

It is apparent that human bonobos have risen to the top and will march towards the cliff, backs turned, as they hurl insults at each other and fight for ape supremacy, providing ample entertainment for the lesser apes whose attention is split between quarreling alphas and the awe and spectacle of technological shamans. The best solution is perhaps to load them into Elon Musk’s spaceship X (do they always have to use a Z or X in these names. I guess it came out of marketing.) and blast them into intergalactic space, but let’s be reasonable, they’re just doing what apes do. Too bad.

The ability to recognize others goes along with the ability to recognize oneself. The planning ability of the prefrontal cortex likely emerged to calculate and evaluate the potential effects of various actions within the social hierarchy. You, as an individual, are in your brain because you had to recognize personally all of the faces and personalities of your tribe. Without that necessity, it’s really not necessary that you exist. Most organisms exist very well without knowing they exist. And now that “you” or your image shares space in an analog mind with the specter of death, there can be constant fear allayed only by elaborate religious rituals and beliefs. Long gone are the days of being a mindless automaton without a “self” in the mind to fear death which has made a deep impression in the analog mind.  Elephants have also been known to perform death rituals.

Humans like to think they’re very special, and they are in a pathological sense, but when humans with their analog minds and self-perception have passed, there will still be the ants which, although social, will likely never function as RNA. Hard to guess what the cetaceans like orcas or dolphins are thinking, but they’ll probably pass if the ocean environment changes too rapidly.  The rules of evolution are written in thermodynamics and cancer has always been a possibility for the ecosystem just as it is for many organisms.  But little modular cells will stick together again with the potential for millions of different combinations, but will a brain large enough to create an analog mind, and a social living arrangement that requires perceiving individual differences and by consequence self-perception ever happen again? I doubt it, not like the humans. Perhaps it will be the time of the ants whose social arrangement seems to have given them some self-recognition, although I don’t expect much of an analog mind in their diminutive neural ganglia.

Ants, somewhat self-aware? Be careful where you step.

Many things that humans are motivated to do stems from their self-perception and imagined perception by others within the social group. Having moved from living beneath the banana tree to functioning in technological cells, the impulse to gain power or relative position within the hierarchy promotes growth and wealth accumulation beyond what is necessary for bodily survival. Humans are continually at war with each other in a never-ending quest for dominance. With the apes at the helm the cancer will grow until it collapses and/or the supporting environment no longer favors hominid existence. If they should survive, sometime in the future the self may be lost along with any desire to achieve dominance in a hierarchical structure. But instead of living freely like most organisms they may simply function as human RNA with each functioning human unable to recognize any difference between self and co-workers. Instead of people with names we will be RNA with job descriptions. The future is here. It is called political correctness.

Human RNA work on maintaining a major artery of the technological system.



Wired for Stage IV Success – Extinction

The brain of industrial Homo sapiens perceives the civilization it inhabits as something with long-term prospects, something that will deliver wealth during one’s lifetime and then be left to the kids for further conduiting of energy and resources. That the technological system is pathological to the ecosystem goes mostly unnoticed. If some recognition harmful effects creeps into the mind, it is easier to come to terms with dispatching the ecosystem and its collection of often malevolent organisms rather than considering any scaling-back of the humanity-serving malignant growth known as technological civilization. It’s not surprising that humans forsake their cellular ecosystem family in pursuit of maximal returns to the striate nucleus because they are not aware that further evolution of the technical system will eventually see them replaced by mechanical equivalents.

Who are they that make such a profound mistake, and is it really a mistake? If Homo sapiens had remained exclusively within the ecosystem, there would not have been any need for a brain capable of creating an elaborate analog world, nor the need to create tools and store information beyond the DNA within the cells, but man has evolved to become the reducer of gradients at the human scale. Couldn’t this have been accomplished by organisms from the ecosystem without involving a second macro-scale system of tool-building and use?  But the tiny protein enzymes could not accomplish the task and it is because none could metabolize the large gradients, that the complexity of the ecosystem emerged. Any organism that becomes too successful will devour completely its prey species and more, just as humans have, and thereby eliminate itself. Instead of creating novel enzymatic tools to digest the gradients, DNA had to rearrange human cellular organization to create the organs necessary for the emergence of a new information/RNA-human/tool system. It would take massive tools to effectively attack and consume the gradients. Organisms like termites, with the help of gut protists that produce specific enzymatic tools capable of digesting cellulose, were able to attack the dead wood gradient. The biomass gradient remained because not a single arrangement of cells could be good at consuming more than one or a handful of other species, until man’s new adaptations allowed him to become systematic.

The build-up of energy gradients created an energy potential awaiting release. Humans slowly evolved into the role of gradient destroyer, slowing prying open the energy rich prizes as tool making abilities advanced. When the energy flow became sufficient, man became more systematic, with specialized roles building tools and storing, modifying and using information. Humans began to build their own concrete, steel and pavement corpus with the nutrients derived from those gradients. Thermodynamics gladly led Homo sapiens along the path to the destruction of the gradients and much of the ecosystem.

Even though humans entertain a self-perception that can rehearse actions within their frontal cortices and can then realize those reward seeking behaviors through activation of the motor cortex, one has to wonder if there is any free will within the brain to control the evolved circuitry which has led the species close to the edge. The reason for existence as a dissipative structure is the acquiring of energy and other resources motivated by regular jolts of electric dopamine and opioids. Even though humans do have an analog mind which can be developed to varying degrees, their actions to this point seem to be mostly unexamined and uncontrolled, automatic behavior leading them to unfettered growth, consumption and associated neural rewards. Is there any hope that some part of the human brain will say, “Enough is enough, we’re going to do some unrewarding things just so we can survive.”, or will they simply continue their reward seeking behavior until nothing remains?

The hedonist (reptilian brain) hides beneath the neocortex which will preferentially remember rewarding situations and motivate the body accordingly. Later the neocortex may communicate that it was all a matter of freewill, unwilling to admit that the primitive hedonist is whispering from down below.

Reptilian Brain: “I’m hungry (a feeling).”

Neocortex: “Yes master, (the neocortex retrieves a well-worn memory) I’ll go to the kitchen and get you something to eat.”

Motor Cortex: ” Legs swinging, arms flailing, tongue wets lips, hand grasps door handle and opens refrigerator door.”

Neocortex:”Apple?” Reptile Brain: “No”.

Neocortex: “Left-over meat loaf?” Reptile Brain: “Hell No.”

Neocortex: “Ice Cream?”  Reptile Brain: “Yes, yes, yes”.

Once the pesky reptile brain is satisfied, the neocortex can go to sleep or think about how to satisfy the master’s many pending requests.

Part of the prefrontal cortex has been removed from the brain above. The white areas are axonal wiring connecting various areas of the brain. The hippocampus, the cartographer, essential for memory formation and recall, can be found on the sides, nested within the temporal lobes. The analog mind is not constructed as an artist would paint a mural, instead a stimulus such as a word can activate the lighting-up of previously connected and stored information from various areas of the cortex to create a schema or memory. An observation, odor, sound, or flavor may be enough to pull together a memory or schema. Simply mentioning the word “car” produces not just a mental construction of a single car, but can begin the process of an almost infinite number of schema involving cars. By paring down the recall to just “the car I drove when I was sixteen” can help the cartographer wander less broadly. Each time you reach for something in your memory, it must be assembled from separate areas of the brain. The retrieval and assembly can sometimes be faulty as when years later, recollection of an event witnessed by different individuals, no longer completely meshes, although they may still fully agree on its emotional content. The out-of-body experience also likely occurs completely within the memory recall system in which the cartographer has assembled a scene looking down upon oneself in that scene.

Human brain wiring, or connectome.

On its surface the brain seems rather dull, but inside there is an almost infinite potential for storing experience and novel connections. The cartographer ventures into this space daily, pulling up maps, eliminating some and remaking others. The ones that provide ample reward are likely reinforced to make sure we pay attention to the things that keep us alive. When John Lilly enters an isolation tank and cuts himself off from external stimuli, the cartographer is free to roam about unconstrained which undoubtedly can provide some rather fantastic experiences. Those that have not bothered to sample the real world can also have fantastic ideas, even though fully awake and not under the influence of any mind-altering substances.

Mind explorer John Lilly – to go where no man has gone before. For my own experience of the mind unleashed I’m going to stick to dreams while I sleep, especially since I don’t remember most of them.

Hippocampus cell from rat courtesy of Zeiss Microscopy. Hippocampus “place cells” record spatial memories while other hippocampus cell types are involved in other types of memory.

In a manner similar to the storage of images on your computer thumb drive, all of the images and many details of massive objects in the environment are stored within the microscopic networks of the brain to be recalled later.  Incoming axonal and dendritic depolarization lights-up a network of neurons like the one above. As you read a novel, it is unnecessary for the writer to describe too fully the scenes within the story. Just a few words can elicit a construction from the reader’s memory that will far surpass the ability of any string of written words and also will be custom made for the reader by their own brain.

Each generation of industrial humans has a mind populated with the images and experiences extant in the environment beginning at birth until death. They may not see as unusual the advancement of the growing pathology which has been occurring in the environment throughout their lives but are rather preoccupied with obtaining the most rewards possible within the paradigm of cancerous growth. Where in the brain will anti-growth, anti-consumption sentiment come from when the very basis of life is the acquisition of energy and resources and reproduction. Can abstractions about the future residing within the neocortex control the primitive desires emanating from the reptilian brain when the neocortex evolved to serve the passions? Even the conformity demanded by the medial prefrontal cortex in social situations, adhering to social taboos, may be inadequate to curb the basic  appetites of the reptilian brain. Arranging a culture that condemns being rich and consuming a lot may be impossible since these activities seem to release a lot of dopamine and opioid at the reward centers.

Below are a few links regarding the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, a tandem that along with language centers, helps define who we are.  From the third link “Interplay of Hippocampus and Prefrontal Cortex in Memory”, I found this paragraph to be interesting.

Schemas were introduced to cognitive psychology by Piaget [51] and Bartlett [76] in their efforts to understand how new information is integrated with pre-existing knowledge. Piaget argued that humans possess structured mental representations embodied as organizations of related associations called schemas. During development, new events are interpreted in terms of existing schemas. When those events are consistent with an activated schema, they are assimilated into the mental structure. When new events challenge the existing schema, the interpretation of the events themselves may be modified to fit the schema and assimilated. Consistent with this characterization of assimilation, Bartlett’s study on recall of a surreal story showed that story elements that were consistent with his subjects’ culture were better remembered, and that elements inconsistent with that culture were lost or modified to fit their pre-existing conceptions. Alternatively, Piaget proposed, learning may demand that the schema itself is modified to accommodate new, conflicting information. Assimilation of new information and accommodation of schema structure continuously interact and ultimately reach an equilibration that adapts schemas to be consistent with external reality. Another key element of Piaget’s theory was that organized mental structures support inferences, the ability to make logical deductions about relations between elements within schemas that are only indirectly related.

Casino Carcinoma

Free energy has been a scarce commodity throughout evolutionary history on earth. Even plants and phytoplankton compete for access to sunlight and nutrients. Dissipative structures employ various defensive measures so as not to be an easy target in providing relatively free energy to predators. Free pools of energy have a tendency to be used-up quickly. Much energy is embedded within the organic tissues of ecosystem species which have evolved to consume each other for nutrition. There is great variability in the offensive and defensive attributes they possess which has led to a proliferation of forms.

The Eastern Box Turtle has excellent armor which can make this potential meal more trouble than its worth for many predators. A similar strategy has been taken by the mollusks such as clams, but their thick shells have been penetrated by the rasps of oyster drills, small snails that attach and create a small hole through which soft tissues are accessed. I am unaware of any species that can drill through a turtle or tortoise shell, but mankind’s technology has imitated that found in nature and large rasping drills penetrate thick rock shells covering the black fossil nutrition below ground.

Human ancestors inhabited a landscape of relative scarcity with predatory ability carefully balanced against other species ability to defend themselves. Free energy in excess of that allowing survival of two offspring was not readily had in the environment. There was life, struggle, balance and eventual death, sometimes with more than two offspring, sometimes with one and sometimes with none.

Humans, enhanced by their evolving social and communicative behaviors, began to access more of the energy formerly beyond their reach including wood for fire and large herbivores unable to cope with human/dog pack hunting. What once was adequately protected through co-evolution of offensive predatory and defensive herbivore behaviors and body plans, became accessible energy, not necessarily with tools, but with novel coordinated hunting strategies. Fire was also likely used as a defensive adaptation to be used against nocturnal predators. An increase of net energy within human social groups allowed  human numbers to expand, but success meant decimation of herbivore populations and a consequent fall in human numbers due to being too successful. Lotka-Volterra population dynamics kept any population from rising too high.

The greatest expansion in human numbers and complexity likely took place when much larger gradients were exploited to augment the human diet, including the soils and agriculture. Instead of relying upon transfer of energy from plants to herbivores to humans, it was possible to short-circuit the flow and transfer plant energy directly to humans. At this point the energy flow was great enough to support temple building, primitive information development, some specialization in occupation. These cultures grew and regressed as the conditions for successful agriculture came and went over time. The exhaustion of nearby soils may also have limited population in a manner similar to the Lotka-Volterra dynamics, soils that were not washed away having an opportunity to regenerate following agricultural use.

Even though agricultural civilizations collapsed, the information systems were often preserved and flourished in other areas where new growth emerged. The Latin language and alphabet of Rome was preserved in the priestly class of the Catholic Church which was in the practice of transcribing religious texts and creating illuminated manuscripts.  Eventually, with increasing net energy, those using such language would begin to describe the world in a semi-scientific manner, recording observations along with drawings and artistic impressions. The written language, the emergent DNA of technological civilization, although used for religious purposes, soon found itself describing the secular world and being employed to describe the dimensions and processes in the production of useful items such as tools. Once the information/human/tool nexus had been made, it was only a matter of time before energy began to flow more readily as the written information could be disseminated and populations  be trained to read and utilize it. The craftsman economies soon gave way to the cellular, organized environments of the modern factory where tools could be made systematically. With sufficient energy from fossil fuels, the complexity of the modern factory and supporting society could be maintained to maximize output of tools and related items.

The ecosystem was defenseless against the new tools of man and more areas were annexed for agricultural use. But not until the tools were invented to access fossil fuels and the invention of the steam engine did the human technological experiment begin to snowball into what we see today – an overwhelmingly massive technological malignancy.  The wealth of organic biological molecules, first utilized to feed an expanding population of mankind and then fossilized molecules to feed man’s tools, were pumped and mined and brought to the surface to react with oxygen.  With the advent of the internal combustion engine we could create complex tools that were energized by combustion, not entirely dissimilar to the combing of glucose with oxygen to form ATP.  One of those tools, the chain saw, is pivotal in harvesting the now defenseless trees which were initially hacked with axes and crosscut saws.  Locomotives could also be used distribute the wealth that was now open to human harvest. Having been trained by evolution to struggle and compete for scarce energy, we could use our new fossil fuel energy harvest to invest in tools to harvest the now defenseless ecosystem. Sailing ships and harpoons to kill whales, nets to capture fish, saws to down trees, guns to shoot anything that moves. And so we grew like a cancer, out of control, because we were, and we still are, out of control, harvesting all of nature’s gradients to feed through the multiplying conduits of technological civilization.

Two technological humans with simple tools for harvesting the wood gradient.

Through the mechanisms of capitalism, early surpluses were hurriedly invested in new ventures like the Hudson Bay Company established in 1670 in England to seek opportunities for growth in Canada, a metastatic expansion facilitated by French explorers. Growth and becoming rich with the realized surpluses was civilization’s primary activity.

Stock certificate for investment in the Oil Creek Rail Road Company,  to transport newly found oil in Pennsylvania – 1866.

Plentiful surpluses were reinvested again and again in search of returns and growth. Everyone wanted a piece of the action in building and owning the technological juggernaut which was very effective at conversion of energy and resources into technological products. Eventually the ownership stocks and bonds came to be valued and traded on exchanges. The primary determinants of value were growth, dividends and interest.

Humans at work on the floor of Casino Carcinoma.

Cancer inducing cellular human RNA work at trading floors around the world dealing in ownership of various cancerous cell lines (companies).  The more malignant and metastasizing the company, the more it’s stock is desired because of the energy and resources it can bring the owner.

Various companies advertising at Times Square, New York. Each company or cell line wants to expand maximally and as quickly as possible. In fact, their stockholders demand it and by law management is obligated to “maximize” profit and growth.

Recently, the cancer may have reached the limits of its growth as the amount of debt required to spur growth is greatly in excess of the amount of growth that results from the investment. The surplus returned from investment is not a surplus at all, but a loss. Due to the cost of looking for a needle in a haystack and the fact that most fossil fuels are heavily defended by thousands of feet of water, polar cold, a massive overburden of rock, or are of poor energy content, the fossil fuel predator (oil company) may soon stop spending energy trying to find and develop them at a loss. This means that society is left with what it is already feeding on, which won’t last long. Like a fox eating the last rabbit, things seem fine now, but when the last meal is digested and gone and further hunting returns less than the amount of energy expended finding it, there is a critical problem. Even today in technological societies, the body (society) is being starved to divert energy to finding and retrieving energy, at a loss. Starvation eventually ends with an emaciated body (society)  followed by death and decomposition.