From "jhanson2 <j@...
> Add Sender
Sent Wednesday, January 15, 2003 9:58 pm
Subject BRAIN FOOD: FAREWELL DIEOFF.ORG
Jay Hanson -- j@...
I am turning the dieoff website over to the moderator of
the "energyresources" mailing list -- a fellow named Tom Robertson
. If you are so inclined, Tom could make use of
any support you could give him to keep the dieoff web site going.
I would like to bid you all farewell and present a brief synopsis of
my work over the last ten years or so. Like everything else, it's
all very simple when you really understand it. Unfortunately, I
doubt that more than a few hundred people worldwide (perhaps far
less) would be able to really understand the issues I raise in this
paper. Probably no more than one or two who actually receive this
mailing will really understand it -- for reasons I will attempt to
I developed an interest in "sustainability" about fifteen years ago
when it became clear to me that our present economic system was
totally unsustainable and self-destructive. It seemed little more
than a well-organized method for converting natural resources into
garbage. I studied modern economic theory on the assumption that our
political leaders would work to change the flaws once I was able to
point them out.
I became aware that something was fundamentally wrong in our
political system when I ran for public office. The more I studied
politics, the more bizarre it looked. I finally realized it wasn't
anything like the "democracy" it claimed to be. It turns out that
America is actually a stealth plutocracy
Working full-time for more than a decade, I studied it all: the
history of our so-called "democracy", the fundamentals and history
modern economics, sociology, cybernetics, system theory, biology,
ecology, microbiology, evolution theory, physics, and so on.
After several years of research, I concluded that little -- if any --
of the so-called "social sciences" (including economics) taught in
our universities had anything relevant to say about the real world.
Instead of discovering facts and principles, most social science is
little more than a program designed to "rationalize" (invent
acceptable excuses for) the current plutocracy. Moreover, I was
astonished to find that the global economy is based upon Catholic
religious dogma that I was able to trace back to St. Thomas
! Eventually I discarded social
science altogether because it had absolutely nothing worthwhile to
say about sustainability.
By placing the results of my research in order of importance for
sustainability, I can simplify over ten years' work down to two sets
of physical "laws". These laws place harsh limits on what is
possible for us: #1 ENERGY LAWS, and #2 BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION LAWS.
For purposes of sustainability, nothing else matters.
#1 ENERGY LAWS
Once I was able to understand Odum's "eMergy" metric (actually very
simple, but difficult for old minds), I realized there are only
relevant principles concerning energy: the First Law of
thermodynamics (no creation), the Second Law (always a loss), and
the "Net eMergy" principle ("net energy" converted for "quality")
Once one understands the three simple principles outlined in the
paragraph above, then one understands that the only way our society
could actually be "sustainable" would be to continuously reduce our
aggregate energy footprint -- less consumption AND less people --
until the global population level is back to a couple-a-hundred-
million people swinging through the trees. This is also Georgescu-
Roegen's conclusion http://www.dieoff.org/page148.htm
. That's the
With great reluctance (because it has worked so well for me), I was
forced to conclude that our present system of capitalism is
incompatible with energy laws and can never be sustainable. My only
hope was that some new form of sustainable society might be
possible. So I began studying human nature, intending to discover
what kinds of sustainable societies might work...
#2 BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION LAWS
Human nature is much more difficult to understand than energy laws
for two main reasons: it's not taught, and we are genetically biased
against self-knowledge. In other words, teaching human nature to
someone is something like teaching a dog not to bark
I will reduce several years' research on human nature down to the
essentials: A COMPUTER ANALOG, and A SOCIAL PRINCIPLE. For purposes
of sustainability, everything else about human nature can be
- it simply doesn't matter.
a. A COMPUTER ANALOG
Computer software cannot function before it is enabled by the
hardware. In other words, functioning hardware MUST precede
Human thought is analogous to computer software. Any particular
thought (software) cannot precede the neurons, dendrites,
neurotransmitters, etc (hardware) that make that specific thought
possible. Like all computers, human hardware is the physical
prerequisite to human software -- but that's where the similarity
with everyday computers ends.
Human brains are much different than the stored-program, digital,
binary, single processor PCs we use every day. Instead, human
are wired (not stored-program), analog (not digital, not binary),
multiprocessor (not single processor) "state machines" (program
may permanently modify itself depending upon the data). A human
cannot have a specific thought unless it has been enabled by earlier
brain "wiring" (e.g., pre-programmed, formal education, reflection,
critical thinking). Moreover, older brains are much harder
than younger brains.
Brains are mostly hardwired by age 25. By middle age, people may
need two or three years of hard work to understand something
completely new (grow the brain hardware required to think the
The human brain comes from the factory with a set of empirically
designed pre-programs that have historically (over a billion years)
tended to maximize "inclusive fitness". One of these pre-programs
was specifically designed to inhibit self-knowledge with respect to
social issues. By remaining unaware of our true motives, we are
more effective at deceiving others. We evolved this way because the
more convincing liar has the advantage in sexual competition (e.g.,
In short, people cannot think a thought unless the brain has been
previously "wired" to think it. This is why civilization after
civilization runs out of energy and collapses
. This is also why we are presently
running out of energy and hell-bent for collapse.
Contrary to the received wisdom, people do not think and then act.
They act and then rationalize. New data from the environment is
routinely plugged into existing mental hardware (like entering a
number into a spreadsheet), which is then followed by an appropriate
thought. Since people have no wiring for "peak in oil and gas
production", news of the present energy crisis cannot generate the
appropriate thought. Only prolonged reflection can grow the
mental hardware to place this critical piece of news in
Unfortunately, only a few people can invest the thousands-and-
thousands of hours necessary to see both the energy and evolutionary
aspects of the human condition clearly.
b. A SOCIAL PRINCIPLE
Individuals come from the factory pre-programmed to seek inclusive
fitness in ways that have actually worked in the past. In modern
society, economic growth serves as a proxy for increasing fitness.
This is why we "feel good" when we make money, buy a new SUV, and so
on. Unfortunately, when our pre-program determines that inclusive
fitness is best served by violating social norms, we will violate
those norms and seek a fitness advantage. This explains the higher
crime rates in our lower income populations and why nations go to
Societies can remain reasonably stable as long as their economies
continue to grow -- continue to serve inclusive fitness for the
majority. But when economic growth becomes physically impossible --
as it must -- societies will disintegrate into anarchy and war, as
individuals and groups seek advantage.
Once one understands the three simple energy principles outlined in
this paper, then one understands that the only way our society could
be actually be "sustainable", would be to continuously reduce our
aggregate energy footprint. Put differently, energy laws will force
us to continuously reduce our aggregate footprint whether we choose
to or not.
Once one understands human nature as outlined in this paper, then
also understands that continued social stability requires us to
continuously INCREASE energy use, which we now know is impossible!
It should not come as a surprise that we have been pre-programmed to
overshoot and crash just like other animals
There are absolutely no humane solutions available to the ruling
elite because it is impossible to solve the problem of human
corruption (i.e., the genetic pre-program to violate norms and seek
advantage). Unfortunately, the best the poor can hope for is a
Since human nature is so terribly difficult to understand (I needed
about five years), I am willing to participate in a moderated
discussion group to explain the contents of this paper -- providing
enough people are interested -- and someone volunteers to do the
moderating. There will be no "political" discussions on the list.
Go somewhere else if you want to talk politics.
It will be a few weeks before I can get the list started. Send a
note to me at j@...
if you are interested. Be sure the
word "farewell" is in the title of your email so I won't delete
spam. (I use a "white list" spam filter.)
Farewell and good luck,