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.