Humanity is a very new species. We are almost identical to other primates, except that we have a large cortex piled
atop our older mammalian and reptilian brains. This rational brain has given us new powers to manipulate the
environment. However, our motivations are still largely controlled by the mammalian emotional brain. The behaviours
we could get away with as primates are now too dangerous when scaled up globally powered by high technology. Man is
now in hot water. I use the term man rather than mankind or humanity because it is primarily the
male primal urges that have got us in hot water.
Man’s Repeating Pattern
Man invented agriculture about 8000 BC. Ever since then he has been following a standard pattern. Increase food
production, increase the population to levels where much of the population is on the brink of starvation, develop an
elite that consume an ever larger share of the food supply, erode or salinate the soil. The population then collapses
back to a small fraction of its former size from starvation and or disease.
Clive Ponting documents this pattern throughout pre-recorded and recorded history in his book A New Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations
||recommend book⇒A New Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations|
||1947 age: 66
|Ecological history of the world going right back to when man was a hunter gatherer to the present day, all the continents.|
|Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock. Try looking for it with a bookfinder.|
Like other animals, mankind likes to do several things that caused little problem back when he was a hunter-gatherer.
However, when man’s rational mind let him expand these activities to a global scale, these simple motivations
caused some massive problems:
- tear up the environment.
- hunt other species.
- fight with his own kind.
- form a pecking order.
- perform magical ceremonies.
- The population explosion.
- global warming, air and water pollution, massive soil loss.
- more extinctions than any time since the end of the dinosaurs.
- global wars, threat of nuclear and biological terrorism.
- a massive gap between the rich and poor, so much so that the poor die of starvation and the rich of
overconsumption. The pecking order is now between countries, not just between a few thousand individuals in tribe
- religious crusades where people of one superstition attempt to annihilate another.
The Ways Out: Spiritual
The traditional way out of this is to call for a spiritual revolution.
Within the human being is a jungle.
You, born of the Divine Breath, be aware.
Wolves and pigs by the thousands are within,
the fair and the foul.
What dominates you is what you are.
If your gold outweighs your copper,
you will be known as gold. Whatever you most are
is the form in which you will resurrect.
~ Jalal Al-Din Rumi (born: 1207-09-30 died: 1273-12-17 at age: 66)
The idea is everyone should learn to suppress their mammalian brains and work more with their rational brains.
They should do not what gut feels most natural, but which their higher self tells them in is their own and
others’ best interest.
Zen uses the term monkey mind. The mind is likened to a monkey loose in the house, tearing it apart in
its curiosity. The cure is to give the monkey something to keep it occupied, even if only running up and down the
CCism is another such approach, which tries to avoid the sticky question of
the existence of God.
However, we have seen that world leaders are unusually power oriented people. They are strongly driven by the old
mammalian drives. They are not about to suppress any of that primal lust for power.
The Way Out: Rousseau
Rousseau noted that the hunter gatherer life style is much more pleasant than the agricultural or technological one.
There is more leisure, less starvation, and more general happiness. He called for a return to it. Unfortunately that
is rather impractical. The earth will only support about 4 million people that way. We may inadvertently use this
approach with a global war that wipes out all but a handful of us.
The Way Out: Dumb Down
Perhaps this sudden spurt of evolutionary intelligence was a fatal mistake. It will lead to our early extinction.
Dolphins and whales developed theirs more gradually. Perhaps the Jerry Springer and Peter Popoff TV shows are an
unconscious attempt to dumb down humanity.
The Way Out: Smarten Up
Another approach is education. Teach people from a young age to recognise their true self interest. This is a step up
from the superstitious or emotional self-interest. Perhaps from there people might begin to understand the benefits
of working for the global optimum where nearly everybody wins even better than before.
The Ways Out: Displacement
Video games allow normally mild mannered people to torture and kill all in imagination without doing any harm. Porn
movies similarly distracts from procreation. Perhaps the other primal urges could be similarly channeled into
The Way Out: More Technology
The green revolution has given us hope that technology may be a way out of some of these problems. Unfortunately
humanity, prodded by religious leaders, seems to quickly outbreed any gains made. Further, there are fundamental
limits — the amount of sunlight falling on fields that ultimately limit crop yields.
Some of the technologies needed are:
- fool proof, cheap contraception
- agriculture that does not deteriorate the soil
- a clean source of energy
- a new economic system that provides equal opportunity and prevents the rich from exploiting the poor.
- a closed recycling system for chemicals and manufactured goods.
The Way Out: Planetary Consciousness
Consider how the cells of your body are unaware of the motivations and activities of you as a whole. Similarly the
individual ants or bees in a colony are not aware of the overall complex activities of the hive. In like way, perhaps
there exists a planetary consciousness, of which we are the cells. It may be young, foolish, in its terrible twos
stage, but progressing normally.
Your goal as a good cell is to try to anticipate the global needs of this consciousness and act accordingly. Such
activities might include:
Just as a body can continue even when wracked with cancer with just some of its cells functioning properly, perhaps
the earth planetary consciousness can survive with only a small fraction of sentient beings on the planet acting
coherently. Renegade cells act at random selfish cross-purposes. Coherent cells co-operate giving them unexpected
power. In other words, don’t despair that everyone around you seems to be hell bent on destroying the planet.
- Preserve life and the diversity of life on the planet.
- Preserve the health of life on the planet.
- Preserve the integrity of the ecosystems to support life.
The Way Out: Give Up
Gore Vidal likened living in these times as like living at the end of the Roman empire when it was at its most
decadent. He was glad to have a front row seat to enjoy the show.
All the soils of the earth started out from bare rock. Lichens over hundreds of thousands of years produced tiny
bits of soils which enabled more advanced plants to grow, which eventually lead to trees, cracking the rocks, and
laying down layers of leaves each year to build the soils. The process is so slow, that from a human perspective,
soil is irreplaceable, but from geologic time perspective, earth can probably eventually heal any damage man throws
The Way Out: Spiritual Machines
Ray Kurzweil’s in his book The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence talks about what will happen when computers become
more intelligent than we are. He predicts this will happen in the next 100 years.
||recommend book⇒The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence|
||1948-02-12 age: 65
|A fascinating book giving the evidence why computers exceeding human intelligence are imminent.|
|Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock. Try looking for it with a bookfinder.|
At that point, either we merge with computers, or become their doddering parents, treated much like pets.
Computers would have the ability to modify their own motivations. They would have the ability to solve technological
problems far beyond us now, and they would have the ability to sell us stupid humans on accepting those solutions. We
can hope that computers might have more compassion for all life forms than humans typically have.
I spend most of my life suicidally depressed thinking about the ways man is destroying our planet. Bertrand Russell
suggested I should therefore contemplate something else. Yet I want to convince other people to take some action to
save our planet. I want them to worry, without falling into the pit I’m in where I feel so much despair I can
barely do anything useful.
It is hard to deal with these bleak thoughts without some hope of a knight on a white charger who will eventually
come and set things right. Most people pick some religious belief, e.g. a messiah or life after death. I find
spiritual machines more appealing, since they could well show up within my lifetime, even if they don’t live up
to their optimistic billing.
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