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.

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201507/the-neuroscience-recalling-old-memories

http://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/21/8333

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3789138/

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.

Who’s the Boss?

 

Competitive body builders. The billionaires of Davos could strike a similar pose but instead of muscular toning, they have accumulated wealth to impress the world. Photo from Wellcome Trust.

I’ve noticed that humans spend an inordinate amount of time gossiping, reporting on others behaviors and actions, guessing at their motives and assigning moral judgments. It almost seems that network news has become exclusively a forum for denigration of the competition. I can’t imagine that people really find this interesting, so why do they watch? If you can make the assumption that historically, in a pre-technological setting, the only way to improve ones standing in a social hierarchy was to constantly make positive statements about oneself and allies while denigrating all others, it becomes clearer why humans still do this much of the time, to gain advantages in the power structure of the political hierarchy. They seem to do it naturally without involving much conscious thought. They are stuck in a behavioral groove cut for them by evolution and continuously engage in the monkey politics even as devastation is preparing to make a surprise visit.

Brain circuitry involved in social dominance. A lot of fear involved with the amygdala (see photos below). Left prefrontal cortex (LPFC)  inhibits inappropriate social behavior. There’s a lot of dopamine at the striatum that may encourage alpha-apes to cruise around in their limousines to display their social dominance.

For a social, hierarchical ape that finds socializing unavoidable and perhaps desirable, the common objects of discussion are rarely anything of substance, but rather socially salient information. This gossip is not innocuous and is not meant to be, rather it is yet another mostly unconscious behavior that humans participate in, given to them by thermodynamics, to establish hierarchy and resource distribution. The gossip you hear every night on the news channels, night after night, is nothing better than social warfare, where moving oneself and one’s tribe into a brighter light is always the objective and casting other individuals and tribes in darkness is the primary goal.

Nancy Pelosi (or is it Elizabeth Warren) of the Democrat tribe vocalizing displeasure with the election of strongman, Donald Trump, of the Republican tribe.

Interested humans watch the battle, day after day, anxiously awaiting the report of some social faux pas that will sink the reputation of some luminous ape. Republicans and Democrats in the United States are competing coalitions intent on putting their hands on as much power, money and perks as possible. The dupes at home are made to feel like they are a part of the tribal competition as seen on TV, and if their leader comes out ahead, they have the misapprehension that they will share in the rewards. Instead, when the feces throwing contest is over they’ll find that climate change is making continued existence a dicey proposition while their 401ks and pensions are being stuffed with worthless promises-to-pay in exchange for underwriting a sick economy sputtering on the dregs of oil extraction.

Even though we inhabit rapidly evolving technological systems, the systems cannot alter the basic mental attributes of the human RNA that have underwritten human success for millions of years but which now, as part of a new systematic configuration, move us ever closer to collapse and extinction. Humans are dissipatives and will always hunger and compete for energy and resources and will use their tools to access and protect scarce gradients. There is a natural impetus towards growth in fulfilling the Maximum Power Principle and in the particular case of humans there is an impetus to growth, not only to gain a minimum of nutrition, but to accumulate wealth as a signal to others of a dominant position in the social hierarchy. No matter the level of wealth achieved, the competition requires vigilance in continued acquisition lest some other ape gain a decisive advantage.

The stalemate in the competition for resources at the national level is not a result of a heartfelt moral imperative, but rather the terrifying prospect of mutual assured destruction from nuclear war. As hunger mounts, the mutual assured destruction may be inadequate to prevent resource grabbing behavior and nuclear war.

Soldiers wrestling. No snowflakes here, just a raw dominance contest among members of the same team. They’ll cooperate later to fight the “bad guys.”

Wildebeests doing the same as the soldiers above.

Just as an afterthought, how is it that hierarchical position is established in modern societies of strangers? Does everyone seem to be competing with their clothes and friends and hairdos and vacations and …………… It almost seems automatic that upon meeting a seldom encountered friend that they will bore you with a list of recent lofty accomplishments, victories and acquaintances.  It does get tiresome.

Hey Dude, Where’s the Party?

In an evolving near equilibrium thermodynamic (NET) system the Maximum Power Principle (MPP) is adhered to, shaping competitive dissipative structures into successful acquirers of energy and resources for growth, maintenance and reproduction. Those structures that are most successful in a given environment will grow in extent and number and their evolved structures and behaviors will predominate and be conserved.

How is it that cells can cooperate to limit individual enrichment in order to maintain an organization that works for all the cells? Even though the cells of a body are clonal and one would not expect them to eat each other, it would be expected that they would pursue the MPP if they were uninhibited by limiting communications and relationships occurring between cells in the body. If they were free-living they would grow exponentially, given the resources. Cancer cells no longer pay attention to the “law” of the body.  Humans have similarly evolved the cooperation necessary to form their own massive and complex structures or societies (encoded in a rather complex accumulation of laws, regulations derived from an evolved sense of morality) where no single human RNA is allowed to behave in a manner that is not in the interest of the whole. Where humans fail is in pursuing the Maximum Power Principle with the technological system while ignoring the pathological effect upon the ecosystem. The quasi-species of nations will not have many millions and billions of years of competition as found in the ecosystem. Just a few more decades and the entire ecosystem should be all shot to hell and the human RNA within the technological cells will be poisoned and/or starved.

Even though humans have different DNA and compete for rewards, they have evolved a degree of cooperation, especially inside  tribal and family groups, that creates a cohesive evolutionary unit, even as inter-tribal competition rages. The differential flow of energy and resources within the cooperating group is determined by the shared adaptive hierarchical behaviors. Cohesion in human populations is accomplished by sharing, albeit unevenly.

Japanese Sumo wrestlers compete for rewards but can remember their common tribal identity if necessary.

Human social behaviors with co-evolved communication can, without further development of technological tools or external recorded information, enhance survival. This also happened in Canus sp., Orcas and other species practicing coordinated hunting. These cooperating species evolved means of communicating and to some degree an analog mind, but were not in a fortuitous stage of evolution to have both a large communicating brain and free hands for bonding with potential tools found in the environment. Only humans could take the next step along the MPP road. Initially the competition among human tribes would have been for the natural abundance within the boundaries of a claimed territory. But the creative analog mind and free hands catalyzed the utilization of external tools. Once the association areas in the human brain had developed, it set the stage for the fastest possible evolution. Instead of having to wait millions of years for organic evolution to provide a novel organ, the proto-human could use images captured from its surrounding to match against seemingly useless objects in the environment. Therefore the sharp tooth of a saber tooth tiger would bear a striking resemblance to a sharp lancet stone found on the ground. The human equipped with the sharp stone acquired much of the effective power of the saber tooth tiger in just a fraction of the time it took the tiger to evolve its dentition. The new fast evolution had begun – technological evolution. Eventually, with enough experimentation and tool development, energy gradients would be opened-up for the new technological human being and technological evolution could progress, slowly at first and then systematically with recorded information and modern science.  A found tool, as long as you don’t have to search too long, is always better than one you have to expend energy creating, but the energy invested in creating some tools could be repaid with a very high energy-return-on-energy-investment (EROEI). Personal risk could also be reduced by creating tools, a spear for instance, that puts combative prey at a greater distance.

Well-equipped pre-industrial man with spear. The idea for clothing also likely emerged from an association area in the brain.

The tribally competitive humans, held together by familial bonds, would proceed to share common languages, common belief systems and often a central, symbolic edifice which could bind together large numbers of humans into a cooperative whole, not only the typical one-hundred humans thought to be the maximum for a stable tribe. Even today vast national tribes exist, held together with common identities, symbols, tribal chiefs (a President usually occupying the biggest pyramid or edifice) as in Washington, D.C. “We’re all (fill in your nationhood) and we believe in…….” and the ideas and symbols fill the mind acting as a social, tribal glue.

Sailor saluting at 2005 presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C.  Humans have evolved altruism and self-sacrifice in response to threats to the welfare of the tribe.

The increasing net energy, beyond the metabolic needs of the body, provided the extra fuel enabling the building of structures and distribution channels like roads. Complexity advanced and humans came to function as cellular RNA, the intermediary between the store of information and the tools that are produced from that information. The level of the complexity depends upon both the flow of energy from the energy/resource gradients and the effectiveness and efficiency of the tools doing the work.  The tools produced must not only cover their own production costs, but they must be good enough to cover the system costs which fosters the production of the tools. There must be energy for the education of the human RNA, building of houses, factories and roads, trucks, cars, medical systems, immune systems…….. If the energy gradients are depleted and/or the total net energy is inadequate to provide for basal metabolic activity (including repairs), the entire system is likely to enter a period of decay and eventual collapse. It remains to be seen if the low-grade energy sources like tar sands will be able to meet the base energy needs of a world civilization in overshoot while growth stops and interest is paid in an ever-increasing tsunami of fiat currency.

Having built a civilization based upon the consumption of limited stores of energy and somewhat renewable natural stocks and being competitive by the MPP in their depletion, it seems that a new massive gradient must be opened with novel tools or the existing, highly complex human civilization must begin starvation with eventual collapse. Pursuing the MPP in an aggressive and competitive manner using warfare in an attempt to acquire more resources will only result in a more rapid collapse and potential poisoning of the environment.

The only other option, and some say the opportunity has passed, is to transition to solar energy through a metamorphosis that leaves much of the current infrastructure abandoned. Due to natural human instincts and the Maximum Power Principle, most owners of the existing infrastructure will resist abandoning it until it is bankrupt and then there will be very little energy remaining with which to adjust. Our task is similar to asking a starving Bengal tiger to rearrange itself into a fern without letting the cellular RNA starve or suffer inordinately. Instead it seems like the tiger is going to eat the last gaur, the last sambar, and then civilization dies. Any process of metamorphosis would likely have to occur simultaneously world-wide, with greatly diminished military budgets, if not a one-world government so that no area undergoing conversion would be vulnerable to those maintaining powerful fossil-fuel fed militaries.

Wax model. Photo from Wellcome Trust.

Humans have one of the largest and most capable brains on earth, the most complex structure in the Universe. I asked the specimen above, “What is the meaning of life?” He responded, “Hey dude, where’s the party?” The dopamine was surging in his brain as he imagined the raucous good times and the lovely girls at the imagined destination. I couldn’t bring myself to inform him that his legs were gone and that it was far too late, that the party was almost over. As the last of the glucose was burned he fell asleep still dreaming of good times and then decay set in.

It may be that the technological fossil fuel ape will burn its last BTU with a bang and the survivors, if any,  be forever trapped within the ecosystem, whatever remains of it, to cyclically emerge, grow, party and collapse until something eventually causes extinction of the species.

Trumpothalamus

I’ve always thought that the brain of the organism was somehow homologous to the governmental structures of human societies. Recently this has only been reinforced as I consider the phenomenon of hunger. Within the human brain there is an old and important structure known as the hypothalamus, a small almond-shaped structure at the base of the brain with many different nuclei, responsible for monitoring key parameters of homeostasis, like glucose levels, blood pressure and libido. That there should be an equivalent structure monitoring societal homeostasis is not beyond reason.

“Wiithin the brain, a number of anatomical regions are recognised to play a role in metabolic homeostasis [3 and 4]. However, the hypothalamus in particular is critical in sensing and integrating signals from the periphery and effecting appropriate physiological changes to maintain homeostasis.”

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1471489213001707

Shown in the picture above is the hypothalamus (Trumpothalamus) in blue with the attached Twitter (pituitary) for sending hormonal messages throughout the body.

The hunger signal is an important one physiologically, second only to signals emanating from a lack of oxygen and lack of water.  I believe that the most recent presidential election in the United States was decided by just such a hunger signal coming from a large geographic area of the country. The hunger was not for glucose in the bloodstream, but rather fiat in the banking account. The human RNA, in their many metabolic operations, are having a hard time making ends meet, maintaining cells, getting the kids educated, feeding themselves so that they may remain healthy and perform adequately and especially challenging has been maintaining all of the various debt payments, taxes and health insurance payments while wages fail to grow. The outcome of the election resulted from  a “hunger pang” that overcame other esoteric considerations. Trump, the new president, is what happens when hunger becomes the overriding signal within the hypothalamus and you don’t mess around when the RNA are hungry.

Trump will make America great again or will at least try to put a little more cash in the American human RNA pockets. (Hasbro’s Stretch Armstrong, but there is a likeness.)

Trump has already made some proposals to alleviate economic hunger in the United States including building a wall between Mexico and the United States, renegotiating trade deals with trading partners, trashing the TPP, eliminating Obamacare, eliminating regulations, opening-up public lands, making NATO partners pay a greater share, supporting the Dakota and XL pipelines and putting pressure on manufacturer’s to move jobs back to the United States.

The real problem, however, is the ever-falling net energy obtainable by society from the fossil fuels we consume. There’s not a whole lot he can do about that. The total number of societal metabolic interactions will have to fall as the energy necessary to accomplish them is no longer available and this will result in unemployment. The hunger pangs will grow louder and may eventually result in an aggressive taking of remaining high EROEI fuel reserves somewhere in the world.

Once most of the technological civilization is at standstill and climatic externalities add to the burden, the human RNA will themselves begin to starve and the Trumpothalamus will have become insignificant as the civilizational body breaks down. On an individual human basis, the hypothalamus will still be monitoring the low glucose levels of the body, but the mind will have few behavioral options that produce more energy than they burn. Eventually there’s not enough energy to do anything except hope that someone else with a surplus brings you some food.  It all could have been avoided if humans were rational, but they’re not, they’re guided by the Maximum Power Principle to acquire wealth and reproduce maximally until it’s no longer possible and hope that their fat reserves carry them through the die-off resulting from overshoot. They scramble to eat and pack on the fat (wealth) before it’s all gone and then they hide so as not to become someone’s meal. The rich are busily buying remote outposts at this time.

Starving in India (Photo from the Wellcome Trust.) The fat is gone, the muscle is going and then you just wait. Those in the northern temperate zones will likely never reach this state of emaciation, but will freeze to death first or perish for lack of medical care to treat their industrial disease.

 

 

The Good Life

Putting together a cell is an involved process. First, you must have a product in mind. Then you must employ engineers to design the process that will create the product. Then you must hire an architect and yet more engineers to design and build the cellular enclosure that will house the process. The entrepreneur in this project will be monitoring prices and putting them in a pro forma analysis to make sure the product sales cover the production costs. Next you have to consider the regulatory environment, if there is any – wage rates, work rules, pollution regulation and availability of nearby transport, like roadways, railways, airports and perhaps warehouses. Once everything looks good on paper and your project manager gets the factory cell built, you will rely upon your marketing group to create a negative pressure of want and need at one end of the factory so that a positive pressure of energy and resources may flow in at the other end. Then accounting will monitor the performance of the cell while management fine tunes the operation. The goal is growth and return on investment, the faster, the better.

The investor class.

Most recently, due to comparatively  unfavorable conditions, new companies listed on the NYSE, AMEX and NSDAQ have been shrinking. This is due mostly to the fact that environmental regulations are more lax in other areas and the cost of employing RNA to work in your process is much less, even considering the costs of shipping your product half-way round the world.

You can see on this graph how the number of companies has been shrinking substantially while growth has been much more robust in places like China where conditions for cellular growth are more favorable with few environmental regulations and smart, capable RNA too numerous to count. In fact, recently China used as much concrete in three years as the United States used in the entire twentieth century. Now that’s some awesome cancerous growth. Unfortunately lots of concrete and roads and cells don’t make you rich, they just allow you to burn your wealth. Gradients of gas, oil, coal, soils, fresh water, fisheries and many more will soon be gone.

These RNA, wrapping cigars in a Cuban factory, are not the investor class. They’re simply factors of production that investors want to hire at the least cost so as to maximize profit to themselves. Undoubtedly many of the investor “fat cats” will enjoy the product of this factory as they contemplate the expansion of their portfolios.

If you can get a technological cell or two going, using unwitting and desperate RNA, like the ones above, you can end-up squirreling away enough money to end-up like this guy, also in Cuba. Notice cigar in mouth. Of course it helps to make the right connections to get your start-up money in the first place. Eventually you’re too big to fail and you can party in Davos. Too big to fail? How about too stupid not to fail.

But, isn’t this what cancer is all about? Living the good life, at least as long as the resource and energy gradients exist and the ecosystem/body isn’t too disrupted to continue plundering.  Forget the kids, they’ll have to fend for themselves, and anyway they were just a by-product of mucho dopasexo.  Ondalay! Ondalay!

Energy Doesn’t Flow, Matter Doesn’t Cycle

Symbolic of civilization –  human equilibrium.

Civilization is no more than an accelerator of gradient reduction. Unfortunately, because everything is seen as a gradient to be reduced and armed with our new arsenal of technological tools, we are consuming most everything in our omnivorous metabolism. Energy has flowed, but mostly through fossil fuel gradient reduction which will soon be over. The matter in the nutrient cycle of civilization never has flowed, it has been dispersed in an entropic manner. Soils and phosphorus have ended-up in the oceans while most everything else has ended-up in a landfill.  Mature ecosystems have been consumed and replaced with monocultures whose days are limited. Your average farmland has had the life squeezed out of it and depends upon technologically produced additives to be productive. Additionally there’s no way to render harmless most of the technology relatedl pollution which accumulates in the biosphere. Each city is building a waste mountain, like giant cellular waste vacuoles that will fester long after the technological organism dies.

Some say the answer is to filter the oceans for uranium or capture CO2 from the air. This is ridiculous when we don’t even have enough net energy to maintain the existing infrastructure and human populations. And by the way, world governments want more growth, obviously a well-considered plan for the future. Dissipative structures require a cold-sink so that high grade energy may flow through them and be exhausted into that sink. The two largest sinks on the planet apart from the cold blackness of space above our atmospheric blanket, are the Arctic and Antarctic and they are rapidly losing ice mass. The difference in temperature between the tropics and poles are what create the dissipative structures of our weather, the winds and currents. When they’re gone and the heat doesn’t move as effectively, then many ecosystem and technological structures will be unable to adequately exhaust their metabolic waste heat and will perish as when nearly 15,000 people died in a heat wave in France in 2003. It’s a small step from near-equillibrum to equillibrium when things get too hot.

Dissipative structures require energy to continue living. If, during famine, parents are willing to eat their own children, and it has happened many times, what is a technological dissipative structure willing to do? I would be willing to guess it might do anything to stay alive, including stealing and murdering other technological organizations, like cities or nations.

Hiroshima Aftermath

You may think that more energy simply awaits evolution’s process of discovery with new information resulting in new tools that can crack open a new cornucopia. That’s the exception, not the rule. We’ve already tapped into so many gradients, how many more can exist? In truth, those dissipative structures that can’t find a new gradient as conditions change or cannot acclimate to biospheric changes end up like the trilobite, a dissipative structure left in the sands of time.

Trilobite Fossil

I really can’t say much for our leadership, captured by their evolved passion for the accumulation of power and wealth. They’re basically running on evolution’s auto-pilot with a compass that always points them in the direction of more power and wealth, damn the consequences. And there will be consequences. What more could you expect from a dissipative structure? In my opinion, don’t expect much, they’re captured and don’t know it.

We’ll continue working on the gradients until there’s nothing remaining and then, if not already, the middle-class will become the gradient of choice to be consumed by those able to manipulate the energy and resource flows in their favor.

A complex machine working on a coal gradient in Wyoming. The small human RNA pulling levers inside machine cannot be seen. Coal bond energy will be released in combustion with oxygen to run giant electrical turbines to animate parts of civilization. Human civilizations it’s a one way street  to nowhere as waste heat flows into space and  technology’s nutrients do not recycle.

Two human RNA miners hold a machine that works away at a coal gradient. Most of  the extracted fuel has already been converted into infrastructure and/or been reduced to waste heat. The growth has truly been phenomenal, occurring almost instantly like Rayleigh-Benard cells in a fluid medium with a source of heat at the bottom and a cold sink at the top. The reduction of non-living gradients has allowed the emergence of structures (civilization) that, because they have a human RNA component, feed like a cancer on the ecosystem. But even if humans were replaced by mechanical equivalents, the ecosystem would still  be consumed or succumb to pollutants and/or heat.

Nucleolus

The red spot above is a depiction of the nucleolus inside a eukaryotic cell nucleus. It is the area of ribosome assembly.

The most active part within the nucleus of a cell is the nucleolus, an area where ribosomes are assembled from rRNA transcripts from DNA and protein. In essence this is the area where the cellular machinery is made. The ribosomal machinery is all pretty much the same and when exported into the protoplasm, is charged with assembling various proteins from the amino acids and messenger RNA delivered to it. Other parts of the nuclear DNA, less active, will code for RNA messages to be sent out of the nucleus to be read at the ribosomes for assembly of the various proteins.

Civilization has taken a slightly different approach. First, the information is more distributed. All machinery/human equivalents are not made in a central information repository like the nucleus. Instead the human is prepared in the equivalent of the nucleolus (schools) until they are ready to engage the protein (tool) component of their productive activity. Schools are the nucleoli of civilization. Even after your mother gives birth to you, as far as civilization is concerned, you are not born until you graduate from high school and are capable of interfacing with the tools of your productive existence. After you are born (graduate) from high school or college (nucleolus), you are ready to enter one of the cells, engage a machine, and start your productive activity. The machinery component, because they are so varied, will come from many different factories and sources, but inside the cell all of the machinery, being identical, are produced on-site. Just being born was sufficient when we occupied the ecosystem, but a long period of education must be undertaken before being born (graduation) into the job market and the technological cells of civilization.

Humans inside one of the distributed nucleoli of technological civilization where they will be prepared to function with society’s tools and build analog mind before birth (graduation) sometime around the age of eighteen. Do these students know they’re being prepared to function within a cancer? Or do they relish the thought of an autophagy that will temporarily make them comfortable before the cancer leads to collapse?

As students today vie to get the highest paying jobs in the cancer cells, they are little aware as to what’s going on. I would have to surmise that no one at Harvard or Yale or MIT or any of those places, the premier nucleoli,  realize what they are or what they’re doing.

“And where do you work?” “I’m a professor in a nucleolus, creating productive citizens for business and government to create growth and prosperity.”

“And what is your job, man on the street?” “I work long hours on the lathe. They (tRNA) bring me materials and I shape them into useful tools (enzymes).”

Very good, yes indeed. All self-organized and mindlessly executed.

Besides their function in factories of various sorts, the human RNA will also reproduce, thereby providing the feedstock to be fed into the nucleoli for shaping into productive members of society. The ribosomal RNA production in the nucleolus is likely controlled by some negative feedback. Some have said that by putting women to work, it will serve as a negative feedback on reproduction. But since we continue to add 80 million humans a year to the cancerous growth, it doesn’t work all that well. Just another example of human delusion.

Nucleolus, dark area inside a nucleus inside a cell. Think of it as the as the equivalent of all schools existing in a single location where students graduate to work within the cell.

Dollar Doobie

The amygdala, part of the limbic system, is involved in the perception of danger, associating various “bad” stimuli with an emotional fear response. The world of dissipative structures can be a very nasty place, with individuals and groups vying ruthlessly for survival. I was thinking that it would not be very conducive to effective functioning to have this fear rattling in the brain all the time just by thinking about what “could” happen. It should only rattle when danger is present and imminent. If it were to go off regularly with just the thought of bad things, the person so afflicted would have a severe case of post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. If a person had PTSD from a wide variety of thoughts, imaginary and real, then they would be unable to function and you might find them in a corner whimpering. These people likely wouldn’t survive. Evolution had to find various means to turn off the fear so the organism could go about getting the energy needed for survival. This is why we don’t have the motivation to react to future dangers like climate change. The amygdala is kept from rattling by defensive measures like delusional beliefs or denial. The organism is therefore not incapacitated by fear and can go about its essential business of gathering resources. And that is what is occurring today as most people eliminate fear of the future and go about their daily lives.

Financial advisers and their clients alike are good at suppressing any fears with delusion, like the economy will grow forever and you will always be able to exchange you dopa-dollars for real resources. The human is well-equipped to not let anything interfere with their primary, day-to-day, resource gathering imperative. They will continue to operate within the technological metabolism in a state of mental torpor as things gradually decline. God is in control. Even as the a tsunami comes ashore it takes the water to reach chin-deep before some people have an adequate fear reaction, then it’s too late. There seems to be very little fear of the climate and economic catastrophes that are developing. God would never let that happen, just as he would never let the faithful truly die.

 

dsc00267

Just relax and don’t worry, smoke a dollar-doobie, U.S.A. is number one. and God is in control. Everything is going to be O.K.

Maybe some of us like the thrill of the amygdala going off again and again as we contemplate what is likely to occur, but for a vast majority, bad things are never going to happen and the amygdala sleeps as the body goes about its daily routines. Eventually the clarion call will be sounded, only many decades too late.

I’ve always wondered why “doomer” sites never get much readership. By the same mechanism that people use to go about their daily lives with thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at them and the possibility of accidental or preemptive launch. People can put so much out of their minds just so they can get up and function in the morning.