Why not just light a match to the fossil fuels and we can be done? Because we have to bring the fuels up where they can mix with oxygen and that takes complexity. Channel fuel into complex tools so we can access more fuel so we can build more tools……… Humans – the RNA (complexity agent) at the fossil fuel scale.
Humans are a functioning part of the technological system, spending most of their time within industrial cells performing various activities. The separation from nature is incomplete, yearnings to get outside, go hunting or fishing, vacation at the beach still draw people beyond the boundaries of their cells for the express purpose of “feeling alive” or “refreshed” before returning to their superimposed technological habitats. Many cannot tolerate the densely packed urban cellular environments where most signs of the ecosystem have been eradicated, even though the density does have associated economies. Our food is the product of cellular factories where all anxiety associated with killing and dismembering animals can be hidden behind plastic packages and attractive No need to envision a slaughtered cow when eating a hamburger. We are technological and eat what is served to us by various processes which start with the economies of scale livestock and grain farms. The plants and animals that are fed into these processes are not even “real” or “natural” things any longer, but developed, bred and genetically engineered specimens captive to the all-consuming cancer.
It is fascinating to observe that there still exist populations that live within nature even though possessing primitive tools that resemble technological humans in every aspect except they haven’t converted to systematic cancerous growth. So why have some humans gone completely rogue, cancerous, while others have remained relatively benign? I believe what the benign humans lack is a written alpha-numeric language for recording information, the DNA of modern civilization, which can be worked upon and which can convey complex information for the evolution of tools and processes. The development and spread of an alpha-numeric language must have a threshold of criticality related to energy flow through the society and coalescing forces (religion) which focus energy into information recording activity and later to the education of broad populations in the use of that language. This new language and the recordings must also be maintained within protected environments to avoid being consumed by environmental forces, such as within monasteries or other protected environments.
Fire has been used by proto-humans and modern humans for hundreds of thousands of years for cooking and for heat. The full potential coming from the combustion would await metal smelting and then the building of more complex tools complex tools into which the combustion could be channeled to derive mechanical energy. A growing body of recorded information had to exist to worked upon by subsequent generations of educated minds to arrive at complex tools able to harness the power of the combustion. Eventually the combustion could be channeled into all types of tools doing a myriad of work including running of printing presses, keeping lights on at night, etc.
The fateful discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels using newly developed technology meant an explosion of information and complexity which continues today, but which shows signs of slowing as the energetic returns on complexity begin to slow. The existing state of complexity will begin to diminish as the prodigious fossil fuels that gave birth to it and fed it, become inadequate to its needs. Wages to human RNA workers worldwide will fall as wage arbitrage by international corporation bleeds the wealth away from the RNA of every nation. The final result will simply be energy exhaustion, that is, the net energy obtainable by the existing state of technology will be unable to pay wages to the RNA adequate to keep them warm/cool, clothed and fed.
Add to this the negative effects of climate change on the ecosystem and ability of industrial civilizations to grow adequate amounts of food at the same time it is otherwise becoming unaffordable and you have a catastrophe in the making. The suffering could be mitigated, but those in power will continue operating the system into default while improving their own relative positions. The process is obviously well-along with the middle-class being stripped of wealth while putting faith in leaders promising a return of the good times and continued growth. Wealth has increased in places like India and China but at the expense of the wealth of the Western middle classes which have been seen as just another wealth gradient to be exploited.
In the final analysis the entirety of civilization will only have been a process for releasing prodigious amounts of pent-up energy over a very short period of time followed by collapse. A long-lasting civilization would have to be based upon solar energy with 99.99% recycling efficiency. Once the cost of solar panel production, operation and recycling costs are considered, there probably wouldn’t be a great deal of net energy remaining. if any. The production and recycling operations are likely to be rather complex, requiring a substantial array of production and recycling facilities, higher education, engineering and so forth which consume massive amounts of fossil fuels in support of the production of solar energy arrays.
The cells of any organism basically take care of themselves. Large rents or tears, large parasites and pain signals may be noticed by the organism, but overall the cells are maintaining their own living conditions. The mentality is charged by evolution with obtaining significant and sufficient amounts of resources to be fed through the alimentary canal so that cells may work upon it and obtain nutrition. For land-based animals obtaining water is also required. The mentality is also charged with obtaining a mate, copulating, reproducing and raising children. Only recently has the human mentality evolved towards systematic participation through the use and manipulation of information, tool-building and tool-use. It seems that many humans today are confused as to what their true purpose is, finding a job in the “cancer” or reproducing themselves with children. In most cases it’s both. Unfortunately the human movement towards systematic technological growth and ecosystem consumption, supercharged with fossil fuels, is most definitely a dead-end evolutionarily. Some lesser, more controlled system may be possible, but not with the extant human behaviors which lionize competition and the bankrolling of as many rewards as an organism can possibly obtain. This is the path of terminal cancer.
Sometimes it’s a drag being a “mentality” whose strings are constantly pulled by dopamine/opioid pathways to send us along a path of repeatedly hitting the pleasure lever again and again to our own disadvantage, as does the drug addict. The flip-side of pleasure being pain and suffering, repulsing us from “bad” stimuli and eventually having us endure inevitable systemic deterioration and collapse. Even though cells are able to process stimuli, it is unlikely that there is a well-developed pain and pleasure focusing mechanism within them. They likely come and go without a shred of feeling or awareness. Instead, well-developed sensing organs have been invested at the macro level – in neural tissues and organs where, in humans, approximately 30% of glucose consumption takes place, just to invest within the neurons a model of the world, communication, movement, planning and various accessories to seeking and obtaining rewards and avoiding dangerous stimuli.
For the “mentality” pursuing rewards has been the primary activity for billions of years and to equate this with destruction of the ecosystem and terminal cancer is not easily accepted. How could something that provides so many rewards be bad? But many humans no longer identify with the ecosystem at all and are unable to see the cells beneath their own skins and the reliance of those cells on a healthy, functioning ecosystem. The technological cancer is seductive and the mind almost powerless against partaking in the temporary rewards. It seems the forces of this universe have used us to release the energy and now it will dispose of us along with all of the tools we’ve used to accomplish the task. Job well done. It’s over. You’re fired (and extinct as a technological organism too.)