In a post here two weeks ago I discussed the disastrous failure of imagination on the part of the industrial world’s governing classes. Since then—well, let’s just say that for connoisseurs of elite cluelessness, it’s a target-rich environment out there.
We’ll choose one such target more or less at random. Last week’s news was briefly illuminated, if that’s the word, by yet another claim that fusion power is racing to the rescue of the industrial world, bearing “near-limitless clean power” to solve the climate crisis and bail out the otherwise unsustainable lifestyles of our society’s privileged classes. The handwaving this time emanated from the Joint European Torus (JET) in Culham, England, where scientists managed to sustain a fusion reaction for a little more than twice as long as any previous fusion device. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? The excitement may flag a bit if you read the fine print and discover that the new record was around five seconds.
The scientists boasted that during that five seconds, the reaction produced enough energy to power one house for a day. If this seems impressive to you—I have to say it doesn’t do much for me—keep in mind also that the energy they’re talking about is raw heat. They didn’t factor in the inevitable losses that come in when you take that heat, convert it into electricity via steam turbines or the like, and send it out into the grid. Nor did they subtract from their machine’s output the very considerable inputs of energy that had to go into making the reaction happen—fusion only happens at extremely high temperatures, and a tokamak-style reactor like the one in Culham also requires fantastically strong magnetic fields to confine the hot plasma. Both of these take gargantuan amounts of energy—as, of course, does building, maintaining, and operating the exceedingly complex hardware needed for nuclear fusion.
Oh, and having achieved that record, the JET will probably have to be scrapped, because the titanic heat and pressure needed to get a few seconds of fusion energy out of it have caused so much damage to the hardware that the machine won’t be able to do the same thing again. How will the same technology stand up to the 24/7 demands of generating power for the grid, so that fossil fuels can be retired and carbon emissions can start to decline? You can read the adulatory stories in the corporate media all day and not see anybody addressing that.
Plenty of useful lessons can be drawn from those same news stories, but the one that strikes me just at the moment is the remarkable mismatch between what’s being said about the imminence of climate-driven disaster and the very sedate pace at which fusion research is progressing. The first tokamak-style experimental fusion reactors were built in the 1950s, after all, and the fact that they’ve only just gotten to five seconds of sustained fusion isn’t exactly comforting. Let’s set that aside, however, and speculate that they can set a new record double the old one every single year from here on. Even at that rate of improvement—a rate that no fusion research program has ever been able to reach so far, much less sustain—they won’t be able to run the thing for a full hour at a stretch for another nine years and change, and 24 hours of sustained power isn’t on the schedule until somewhere toward the middle of year 14.
And the uninterrupted flow of power for months and years at a time that a modern power grid needs? If you’ve got a calculator, why, you can do the math as well as I can. Equally, if you note that it took them 70 years to get to five seconds of sustained fusion, and look at the actual pace of fusion research over that lifetime of labor, you can do the math too, and it’s not pretty.
All these dates assume, furthermore, that a society racked by the impacts of climate change can afford to pour effectively limitless amounts of money into building brand new fusion plants, and replacing them promptly with others when the damage from the heat and pressure render them inoperable. It also assumes that no technical difficulties worth noting will come up in the process of scaling up five seconds of fusion to continuous service over months and years, and a galaxy of other far from minor issues of the same kind, but we can let those go for the moment.
One conclusion that might be drawn from all this is that the managerial aristocracy is far less concerned about climate change than it likes to pretend. If in fact we only have a few years to prevent global catastrophe, as pundits and the corporate media insist so loudly, then it’s far from clear why we’re wasting time and resources on a potential power source that won’t be ready to supply power to the grid for decades to come, if it ever does reach commercial viability. There are plenty of other news stories just now that suggest the same lack of concern. I’m not sure how many of my readers are aware, for example, that the EU has quietly exempted private jets and luxury yachts from the carbon restrictions it’s planning to impose on the modes of transport that the rest of us use, or that US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—during the same period in which she was lecturing everyone else on the dangers of climate change—dropped $500,000 on travel in carbon-spewing private jets.
This sort of mismatch between words and deeds—yes, that’s spelled “hypocrisy” in plain English—has convinced a great many people these days that the climate change narrative is hokum deployed by a kleptocratic ruling class to justify the ongoing consolidation of power and wealth in its own grubby hands. Reasonable as that theory seems at first glance, I can’t agree with it. It’s a mistake to think we can dump billions of tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere without causing changes in climate, not least because the evidence from the past is clear: greenhouse events driven by CO2 releases in the prehistoric past are well documented in the geological record, and the mere fact that the CO2 in question came from volcanoes rather than smokestacks and tailpipes doesn’t change the impact of the gas in question once it gets up into the atmosphere and starts soaking up infrared rays. Nor is climate change purely a matter of abstractions. I’m writing these words in the middle of a New England winter, for instance, and outdoors it’s a bright, warm, sunny day and the thermometer says 58°F.
So why the glaring lack of consistency between words and deeds? Why are our politicians, pundits, and corporate flacks talking as though global warming is going to kill us all in a decade or so if we don’t give them everything they want, and then acting as though there’s nothing to worry about—cheering on fusion projects that might (but might not) pay off fifty years from now, and pursuing carbon-wasting lifestyles as though that couldn’t possibly be a problem?
This is where we cycle back to the theme I began exploring two weeks ago: the catastrophic failure of the imagination in contemporary industrial society.
Let’s start once again with nuclear fusion. It’s not a new idea. When Jules Verne decided to come up with a nifty new power source for Captain Nemo’s submarine Nautilus in his 1870 science fiction bestseller Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, he had it powered by nuclear fusion. Once 1901 came and Albert Einstein published his famous equation E=mc2, physicists started trying to figure out how to take Verne at his word. The first prototype fusion reactors were on the drawing boards by 1930, and by the 1950s the tokamak design had already been invented. Since then, entire generations of nuclear physicists have repeated the same failed efforts over and over again, resolutely refusing to learn the lessons of failure.
The failure that matters here, by the way, isn’t technological. It’s quite possible that sometime in the next century, someone will actually manage to get a sustained fusion reaction going for more than a few seconds at a time. If that happens, however, it won’t make an iota of difference for the survival of industrial society, because of the cost. Seventy years of fusion research have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that fusion can’t produce electricity at a price that anybody can afford to pay. Even if they can be made to work, fusion power plants will be hopelessly unaffordable white elephants. In a future of inescapable economic contraction and resource scarcity, the chance that they will do any good at all is too small to worry about.
These same two points are equally true of the rest of the imaginary hardware that clutters up the notional landscape of the future. Space travel is another good example. As a feature of our canned Tomorrowlands, it’s well into its second century, and as a reality, it’s more than sixty years old. That considerable experience has shown that it’s hugely expensive, it requires gargantuan inputs of energy and nonrenewable resources, and it can’t cover its own costs–every attempt to make it pay for itself has consistently fallen flat on its nose cone. You can make a profit putting satellites into orbit—well, until the available orbits get too crowded and a Kessler syndrome happens—but people? A pointless stunt with costs vastly exceeding its very limited benefits. Yet it stays stuck in the collective fantasies of our age.
Another example? Let’s consider socialism, which is in its third century now—it was invented in 1809 by Charles Fourier. Even more than fusion power and space travel, socialism has been surrounded by a thick cloud of self-aggrandizing ballyhoo, and it’s crucial to clear away some of that in order to make sense of socialism as a historical phenomenon. Though its rhetoric makes a lot of noise about giving the means of production to the people, in practice “the people” always means the government, and “the government” always means a self-perpetuating bureaucracy of middle class functionaries carefully shielded from the consequences of failure. That’s why socialism in practice has turned out to be one of the few systems of political economy in history that’s even less viable than corporate capitalism. Yet an embarrassingly large number of people are still obsessed with trying to reenact this particular two-century-old flop.
If you want to see total failure of the imagination in practice, in fact, one of the best places to do so is a socialist website. Their arguments for socialism reliably consist of claiming that corporate capitalism is awful and that socialism is the only alternative. I freely grant the first point; so did Adam Smith, for that matter—the author of The Wealth of Nations, the founder of capitalist economic theory, argued that joint-stock companies (the term used for corporations in his day) were the worst possible way to run a business, and an even worse way to run a society. The second point, by contrast, shows not merely an utter lack of imagination but a stunning ignorance about the history of political economy.
The point that’s missed by these arguments is that corporate capitalism and bureaucratic socialism are far from the only games in town. Businesses can be owned and operated by co-ops democratically run by their own workers—that’s syndicalism. The means of production can be gotten into as many individual hands as possible—that’s distributism, and in another key, it’s also Gandhian economics. (Did you know that Gandhi worked out a detailed economic theory? Most people don’t.) Most business can be left in private hands but banking can be made a public monopoly, with every citizen receiving an annual dividend out of interest payments to the national bank—that’s social credit. Corporations can be abolished or stripped of their legal personhood, so that each entrepreneur is personally liable for the debts and criminal acts of the business he or she runs—that doesn’t have a name yet, but don’t be surprised to see it become a significant force in the years ahead. There are more options—many, many more—but they don’t have a place in the imagination of our time.
I could provide a baker’s dozen of other examples, but why? The point has, I think been made: what counts as “the future” in the collective conversation of the modern world is a collection of clanking, shopworn fantasies that people have been trying to put into practice over and over again for a century or more, and repeated experience has shown that all of them cost vastly more than they’re worth. We’re long past the point at which all of them should have been put out to pasture; at this point it’s time to start talking about the route to the nearest glue factory. Only the feeble imagination of the modern era leaves these geriatric daydreams stuck in place, and keeps fusion researchers and their many equivalents forever pushing on a door marked “pull.”
It’s all very reminiscent of one of the crucial problems that writers of fiction have to contend with on every page. No matter what kind of story you’re writing, there’s a stock of clichés—characters, situations, plot twists, turns of phrase, you name it—that’s been done to death by previous writers. They’re all secondhand goods, well worn by previous owners, which is why they come to mind so easily. What you do with these depends on what you’re trying to do. If you’re content to write the kind of popcorn fiction that makes money and then gets forgotten, your job is to deploy these clichés in some new constellation, so readers can snuggle down comfortably with your book in the serene knowledge that they won’t encounter anything that will make them think. If you want to write something that makes a difference, by contrast, your job is to chase out the clichés, and present the readers with characters and situations (and the rest of it) that they’ve never encountered before.
A genre of fiction becomes senile when it consists of nothing but clichés. A society becomes senile, in tur, when its vision of the future consists of nothing but clichés. It’s precisely because our society is entranced with a pair of shopworn, secondhand futures that it blunders mindlessly ahead, slamming into one preventable crisis after another, because too few people can imagine any future other than the Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber of perpetual progress toward the stars and sudden apocalyptic collapse back to the caves.
There’s an alternative to this. It doesn’t consist of holding up some other canned future as the one and only future we can expect. It consists of developing our imaginations until we can see that there are many potential futures, spanning a dizzying range of untapped possibilities, and we can all play a role in choosing which ones (not “which one”) come into being.
Try the following exercise sometime today when you’ve got half an hour or so to spare. Sit down in a comfortable chair, relax, breathe slowly and deeply for a while, and set aside the concerns of your day. Now imagine that you’re sitting in the laboratory of a friendly mad scientist, who rubs his hands together, cackles in glee, and shows you his latest invention: a device that opens a portal into different futures. There it sits in front of you, the portal like an open doorway made of some strangely colored metal, with cables and oddly shaped protrusions all over the outside, the machinery that makes it work a profusion of weird shapes, flickering lights, eerie low-pitched sounds, and a shimmer like the air over hot pavement in summer filling the space inside the portal, while the scent of ozone tinges the air. Imagine the mad scientist beaming at you and telling you to try it out.
Imagine yourself getting up from your chair and going to the machine. You see that it has a control panel with three buttons on it. One of them is labeled GENERIC TOMORROWLAND FUTURE. The second is labeled GENERIC APOCALPYTIC FUTURE. The third is labeled SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
Go ahead and push the first button. The space inside the portal shimmers, and all at once you can see through it into the canned future we’ve been talking about: the one with flying cars zooming through the skies, spaceships taking passengers to orbital cities, fusion reactors churning out limitless cheap energy, and all the rest of the notional future of our time. Step through the portal if you like, and check it out, or simply take a good look, before returning to the control panel. It won’t take you long, since you’ve been fed all the details from childhood on.
Now go ahead and push the second button. The space inside the portal shimmers again, and all at onde you see through it into the standard apocalyptic wasteland that fills an equal and opposite role in the collective conversation of our time—you know, the horrible thing that’s sure to happen if we don’t let the managerial aristocracy do everything it wants. Once again, step through the portal if you like, and check it out—your friend the mad scientist can hand you a portable oxygen mask and other survival gear if that’s needed. Then go back to the control panel.
Finally, go ahead and push the third button, the one marked SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. The space inside the portal shimmers again, and you see—
I’m not going to tell you what you see. It’s not the Tomorrowland future and it’s not the apocalyptic future, but beyond that, it’s up to you—and of course that’s just it. No law of nature requires us to go stumbling blindly ahead into a future consisting entirely of tired clichés from the early twentieth century or before. More to the point, no law of nature requires us to keep on trying to act as though those tired clichés are innovative new solutions to the problems of our time, when they’ve all been tried repeatedly and none of them work well enough to bother.
It’s time to say no to another warmed-over serving of secondhand futures. The little exercise of the imagination I’ve offered won’t accomplish that on its own, of course, but it might help some of us make a start. Give it a try, and see where it takes you.
Well friend, this needed to be said clearly – success for you….
I make my living getting companies “unstuck” from the conventional – finding that 3rd way or combinations of other established ways – depending on what the project is. I am loved and hated, depending on which door I enter.
Looking forward to reading the comments for this one!!
Thanks for this reminder. It appears that we are approaching a time when new visions of the future might rapidly spring into being. I look forward to being part of the imagining…
With regard to fusion, it’s worthwhile to note here that we’re not just “replicating the Sun on Earth”. At the immense temperatures and pressures at the center of the sun, the rate of heat production from fusion is still less than that of a human body and comparable to that of a well-tended compost pile. Keep in mind that the Sun is burning at a rate that will last ten billion years with no refueling. In order to speed up the fusion process to resemble a blast furnace rather than a warm kitten, it is necessary to achieve temperatures and pressures far in excess of those that exist even in the core of stars, or to use rare isotopes of hydrogen the extraction of which is another energy-intensive step.
I see, you have slyly introduced to technique of scrying, which is an important ingredient in systems of ceremonial magic like Golden Dawn and some others.
The fusion news is also a scientific fraud in that they are quoting Q_plasma, not Q_total.
See this great post for an explanation http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2021/10/how-close-is-nuclear-fusion-power.html
If culture is downstream from imagination, this is exactly the kind of exercise we need to be doing.
I’ve been wondering too, how much the culture wars of our day, are a holdover pattern from the Age of Pisces as we get further into the Age of Aquarius, with a little help from that Grand Mutation not so long ago. The cognitive dissonance conflicts with the projected images dominant within the spectacle which holds so many hypnotized.
As actual reality leaks through the simulacra of reality (the finger pointing is not the thing pointed at) people cling to their idols. Such as fusion, socialism, corporate capitalism, and the many others you didn’t mention.
People are also stuck within their own reality tunnels, and for many this is shaped by the dominant narratives present within the spectacle of mediated reality. Getting out of the trance requires willpower, and people are addicted to the spectacle. When they see gaping holes in it they get scared, cling to what they know. There are tools for breaking this however. Some of them often discussed here.
Yet if within those gaps people could start looking to those other futures, we can then experience a variety of them downstream.
I think as events in the world continue to not compute for some, hopefully those gaps created can be used for exercises like this, and opening a number of different doors into a variety of summers.
“Corporations can be abolished or stripped of their legal personhood, so that each entrepreneur is personally li
able for the debts and criminal acts of the business he or she runs—that doesn’t have a name yet, but don’t be surprised to see it become a significant force in the years ahead. There are more options—many, many more—but they don’t have a place in the imagination of our time.”
Good to hear you identifying the joint stock company as the hidden vehicle by which the modern sociopathic ceo/tyrant can organise themselves (in fact they are the most organised group – naturally as they run the world – closely followed by academia and media. The least organised group – surely the wise, or philosophers in the original sense – just the ones that are needed to be the most organised)
It also relates back to what you say about socialism – as you have pointed out since 1800 there were many socialism – so why did Marx’s socialism survive? could it be that it served a purpose for the corporate capitalists? Because Marx didn’t identify the joint stock company as the problem, rather for him the Business Owner – the tycoon – the rich, means-of-production-owning class was the villain. This oversight allowed the real villain to hide – so of course this Marxism served the need of the current system, and so was the dominant Socialism that was allowed to survive…
Thank you for these blog posts. They have the unusual effect of uplifting my spirit and thoughts, my thoughts not being very light these past two years. Wishing you all the best from Northern Europe! BTW, do you think that we are headed for darker days in Europe with regards to the declining freedom and liberties of the people in the next 10 years?
I peer through the portal and see a total collapse of legitimacy in every nation that pushed vaccine mandates. The whole western world comes unglued with mass protests, presidents and prime ministers fleeing their capitals, and more or less looks like a reply of the fall of communism… only this time its considerably more violent because the people feel more betrayed after literally being poisoned by their rulers. Reporters and scientists also flee for their lives. Some don’t make it; the lucky ones die quickly.
Then I focus on my own nation and I see a miracle happen in the United States. Well, it looks like a miracle to those who have not been paying attention, but in hind site it makes perfect sense. People are scared and confused. They look for the first ideologically consistent rhetoric they can find. Normally we would expect Lenin or Hitler or what have you to step up to the plate and then bodies to begin piling up. But something different happens. People fall back on libertarian principles that restrict government and corporate power. The natural rights of each human being are confirmed, the Declaration of Independence which places the government under natural law is dusted off and declared the highest law of the land. The troops come home. Centuries old racial tensions relax as the labor class closes ranks and rejects the managerial class’ propaganda as a new aesthetic called MAGA rap grips young people everywhere. Laws forbidding free speech in medicine, law, and finance are removed and people are again free to give advice to their friends without fear of arrest. Social media giants are finally considered public utilities. Instead of a bloody French revolution we have a semi smooth transition to a new administration that puts many of the old criminals behind bars or in front of firing squads. People even come to agreement over “the most fundamental question of our time”… namely, just how many genders are there?
Most importantly, people no longer expect a wealthy, progressive future anymore. The whole myth of progress shatters into a thousand pieces. When you challenge that future people no longer assume you are talking about moving into a prepper colony and living out the rest of your days underground and drinking your own, recycled urine. Instead, everyone just knows that the before time was filled with gaudy prosperity and that time is over. Families will tolerate owning just one car. Kids want to learn to grow gardens, raise chickens, hunt, sew, and do other, useful things. The universities crash not just because there is no public support to fund them but also because people are finding ways to directly contribute to society without years of gender language reassessment training.
In short, we come out of it as one single, geopolitical entity unified in our respect for each other’s diversity. This process is complete by the end of the current decade, perhaps a little sooner. Neither Russia nor China press their new found advantage because the post progress age makes it clear that rampart imperialism is too costly, so we never see Chinese or Russian troops in Mexico or Canada. We move to a militia based military, just like what the Byzantium empire did, and instead of undergoing a 95 percent population decline we instead undergo a 50 percent decline until 500 years from now when we begin building a new high culture with most of the old one preserved. We also find a way to use religion as a stabilizing force without falling into dogmatism during these centuries.
This is probably a best case scenario but I do think it is a viable option. We could reasonably make this happen if we just play our cards right over the next several years and dodge the several bullets coming our way.
@ JMG – I know how much our society loves using Latin or Greek to express something that the living languages could probably handle just fine on their own. With that said, I’d like to submit the term ‘revelcorpus’ as term for an economic movement to strip corporations of their ‘personhood’. I’d say it rolls off the tongue just fine, and may not even need an ‘-ism’ tacked on to the end. Of course, ‘stripperism’ may be just as effective at conveying the idea, as long as is doesn’t get confused for a, um, different sort of economic activity that involves ‘revealing’.
On a related note, I’m working on a novel about a meteorology professor who gets slowly driven mad by the tenure process. His initial idea, to use cell phone tower signals to provide better severe weather forecast data, gets routinely rejected. Finally, he decides to troll his university by claiming he can remodulate the waves put out by cell towers to freeze a tornado in place and harvest lots of free electricity from it, with the caveat that anything on the ground under said tornado will be utterly destroyed. The money people who write grants to the university, love the idea, the NSA gets involved, wackiness ensues, the eastern Oklahoma power grid gets destroyed in the process. I’m about half way through the rough draft, and hope to finish it by late summer.
While this project is not ‘futuristic’ sci-fi, it definitely falls under the ‘mad scientist’ rubric, and hopefully provokes some thoughts in readers beyond “well, that was funny.” Beyond trying to entertain (and make some money off it), do you think such a story could throw some spanner wrenches into people’s canned imaginations?
Lack of imagination is nothing new, either. The second part to the Road to Wigan Pier has a bit about people’s reactions to questioning the path of (inevitable, beneficient) progress where their mouths move up and down, saying ‘you can’t turn the clock back’.
I have had this phrase jabbered at me at various attempts to talk to people 70 years later, along with cautions about wearing hair shirts and living in caves. Nasty, Brutish and Short is added, or Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw. The person then walks off shaking their head, thinking I’m a communist.
I think a combination of diet, schooling, and media has killed the imagination of most people, and they run scared from dreams, back to Netflix.
In regards to alternative frameworks to consider for the future, I cannot recall where I encountered the thesis that in America social change receives the greatest support when framed as a return to the first principles of the Revolution, and so the most successful social movements are the ones that are (small c) conservative of at least the spirit of the nation’s founding. In that vein I offer this piece by B. Duncan Moench,The Producerist Manifesto, which hits many points that come up here regarding alternative economic and class arrangements, but outlines how they tie back to earlier stages of the American Experiment that may increase collective acceptance and uptake by a more mainstream audience.
It seems that CO2 can’t be that important in climate, given the historic record…https://d33wjekvz3zs1a.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Global-Temperature-2500BC-2015.jpg. All the more reason not to believe in electric car fleets and fusion power, both about equally improbable given the laws of physics…The vision I have had of the future is quite pleasant… small, local, largely agricultural, with much weaker and smaller governments….
Thank you! For my part, I see only one detail clearly: super efficient masonry heaters hand made by local masons, burning only local wood from coppiced and pollarded trees that are not killed for fuel, but carefully managed by hereditary Woods families. I’ve read that properly done, coppicing or pollarding doubles the maximum lifespan of the tree.
Few have the insight to see the commonalities between fantasies of nuclear fusion power and fantasies of socialism. Its why I keep coming back to your blog. Thanks. Whenever you read about a fusion research project, always ask about the plan for materials for the walls of the planned commercial reactor. They typically replace large sections of the walls after each “shot” since the plasma erodes it and neutrons make it radioactive.
It is a paradox that many people can’t hold in their head: the future is going to be completely different than the simplistic extrapolations of our wishes and fears, and it is also going to be reached by an ordinary process of bumbling humans doing what humans have been doing on earth for centuries. Another closely related paradox is that technology will continue to transform human society but it will not escape from the laws of thermodynamics nor from the laws of unintended consequences. I would be on the watch for the populist revolts of today against corporate lackeys who run our politics and media to shift to include more revolt against the techno-future we don’t want. Neo-luddites of the world unite! It will take strong minds that are able to run out of the intellectual ruts to be able to take the best of modern science and engineering and build a social movement that can apply it to modest goals like sustainable human communities in chaotic times.
As this pandemic winds down, I wonder if there is a new opportunity to win converts to the view that science based policy (get good PPE, testing and vaccines out to people that want them) is a good way to go, but without the control freak tendencies and the fanciful overpromising (“centers for disease control”). But I guess that is kind of like trying to convince the fusion lobby of the wisdom of gravitationally confined fusion. (Everyone should try it…take a huge ball of hydrogen which naturally compresses due to gravitation to sustain the fusion reaction. You collect the energy from orbit with photosynthesis for food and materials and solar PV when you need electricity.)
Speaking of flying cars, the NEW and IMPROVED Tesla Roadster will be able to fly. Well, sort of. “Albeit briefly,” according to the article. (Again, nothing new; I remember the General Lee flying “albeit briefly” back in the 1970’s.)
Maybe it’s just a quirk in my personality, but were I a Tesla engineer, I would spend more time figuring out how to prevent the cars from bursting into flames and incinerating the passengers. But that’s just me….
In other Tesla news, Tesla was forced by the Feds to update the software so the cars will no longer be able to emit amplified fart noises while the car is being driven. I presume the car can still make fart noises while in Park.
The worlds “most valuable” car company is run by a nine-year-old.
For comparison of time lines, the first fission reactor started up in December of 1942. The S1W prototype reactor started up in March 1953. It did a 100 hour test run at power in May of that year. The Nautilus went to sea in 1955 with an S2W reactor.
I was a trainee at the S1W prototype in the late ’70s. 25 years of abuse by trainees like me and it still worked. The boat I was stationed on had an S5W reactor. At the peak there were 100 submarines with that reactor plant. Reliable, safe, and built on time and on budget. Practice did help.
but , but Polaris dawn! https://polarisprogram.com/dawn/
curious about the claim — they will go higher than ever before, for an orbital mission.
I saw some earlier reporting saying they were going farther than anyone since 1972 (which I assume was a moon mission).
talk about lack of imagination — I feel more embarrassed than inspired……
Can you go into just a little more detail about Gandhi’s economic system? Do you think it’s viable (not just more viable than these two ideas, since both have failed in practice, but actually viable? I know it’s impossible to say for sure without trying it).
What about a future, an experience WITHOUT a physical body?
Does that count or do we need absolutely to imagine a future on Planet Earth with a physical body and a so-so brain…
As far as I’m concerned, my little life of roughly 100 years on Planet Earth is sooo small in this billions of years Universe, I can imagine( cannot imagine with my so limited pea brain) the INFINITE POSSIBILITIES that we forget when we take this physical body…
That is… if we believe there is something else other than physical/material reality.
Thanks Michael for all your inspiration and teachings and I’m ONE with everyone who follows you…
Love and Joy,
the seagull… looking from a very different point of view than humans. 🙂🙂
JMG, about climate change:
I noticed that even people that honestly believe that AGW is a real and present danger – even these people tend to dismiss my down-to-earth approach.
This approach is simply to ignore AGW completely because it’s used as a tool for manipulation and more importantly I cannot do anything about it (I already collapsed to beat the rush).
Instead I only focus and talk about local issues: water and soil pollution, destructive forest practices etc. I never had people disagree with me on these local issues – and I live in a small town full of truck driving republicans.
As a couple of examples, did you know that in US corporate forest owners spray herbicides on the forests? This is done to kill all competition for the firs and pines. So all those people hiking to enjoy the “fresh air” get nothing of the sort.
Another example – the official policy on wildlife “management” is to kill the WHOLE herd if an animal is found with a bad disease (in my area elks with hoof disease). This reminds me strongly of the coflu policies – instead of trying to support natural evolution of disease resistance, they are trying unsuccessfully to remove any and all infected!
I hope more people will give up on abstractions and focus on the real living systems that surrounds us.
I would read that!
Fusion isn’t the only process with prohibitive energy investment. Conventional nuclear is very expensive with lots of energy involved in the construction, operation, and retirement of power plants. Petroleum extraction has a greater energy overhead as all the easy stuff has been burned long ago.
Ethanol is not a great miracle either. Natural gas is used to make fertilizer. Corn is plowed, harvested and transported with diesel fuel. Stills run on natural gas, and ethanol is transported by diesel tankers. Net energy harvest is pretty slim. Still, ahem, with proper subsidies, one third of the corn crop in Iowa goes into a still and corn fed beef are eating dried distillers grain.
Energy is invisible and we always underestimate how much we use.
may I offer my short vision of a possible future? I agree this is quite utopian but I hope some parts of the world can make it.
This vision is based on my life as a child growing up in Eastern Europe. There were great things about it: everybody had a place to live and most people had food. Travelling by train was cheap (slow though) and the pace of life was slow enough that most people had time to enjoy the small things that make life worthwhile.
I remember sitting around the table with friends and family, the old people saying the traditional wish (“whenever the worst comes, let it be like this!”).
There was widespread poverty but that was more than compensated by the availability of many commons: from the natural world to good schools to basic healthcare.
Surprisingly (given the oppressive nature of the society) there was a lot of innovation, done by passionate individuals despite any chance of a material reward.
Someone create an automated assembly line to produce brooms. The assembly line was completely made of wood!
Another person built a small car powered by a homemade engine in order to increase fuel efficiency.
On a more funny/tragic note, a worker at a gun factory was stealing pieces, assembling them at home and selling the guns illegally. When he was caught the police was surprised to see that unlike the factory guns, which were famous for refusing to fire and unable to hit any target – the homemade guns were great!
Of course, there were the bad things – JMG mentioned before the problems with socialism. From an individual perspective the worst were the Kafkaesque bureaucracy and the complete lack of freedom of speech, travel and political representation.
But if the amount of energy per capita decreases enough, maybe instead of a faraway tyrannical despot, we’ll get a local enlightened warlord.
Seems to me that accessing the wisdom buried in the collective unconscious/superconsciousness by way of asking for wisdom and inspiration from whatever god-type you have access to might be a brilliant idea. Tried and true, works for most humans. Potentially makes the unconscious conscious, too. And, like good old CG Jung, if you’re smart enough, you can take your entirely new old magical process and hide it in plain sight of the prevailing culture…if only just barely.
I’m for it, suggest more people get tried by it. By which I mean, sometimes the god(s) choose you rather than vice-versa. They choose you as much as the opposite, which is why I say “tried by” rather than “trying.” It’s philosophically and theologically a bit messy almost like real life. Oh, wait: for most of the human past, this WAS real life.
Perhaps we can imagine more of this kind of thing informing our expansion out of the ruts our society has determinedly resisted leaving. Imagination being the parent to the deed, in many cases. My guess is that whoever Odin represents (or whatever) is not averse to alternative high/low tech innovation, anymore than, say, Freya is. Pick a god, any god (or let them pick you). A JMG “WOH” or a Neil Gaiman or similar future.
OK, not to quibble JMG, but Einstein first formulated the Mass-Energy equation in 1905, and published it in the form used today in 1911.
Loved the portal-to-the-future exercise. It reminds me of the guided exercises of Tom Brown’s Tracker School. One thing that strikes me about today’s social environment is it seems to me like the average person’s time horizon has shrunk to almost nothing. Is it Covid? The official response to Covid? The perceived precipitous descent of society into authoritarianism? This strikes me as a good exercise to combat that, and perhaps to allow people to begin building a personal roadmap into a worthwhile future.
Thanks again for your posts! They are hugely valuable in helping me stand back from the fray and gaining some sorely needed perspective.
“This sort of mismatch between words and deeds—yes, that’s spelled “hypocrisy” in plain English—has convinced a great many people these days that the climate change narrative is hokum deployed by a kleptocratic ruling class to justify the ongoing consolidation of power and wealth in its own grubby hands.”
This is why I no longer want to hear anything about burdening the poor being necessary due to climate change. I don’t pretend to understand if it’s natural or manmade, and I no longer care either way: climate change is happening and the cause really doesn’t matter. (Climate change is a does happen thing, see the history of glacials and interglacials. Climate is not static.)
Tell me how your scheme will not put the burden on the poorer parts of your country and other countries if you want my support for it. Emissions testing on cars? Fracking over the poor. Banning older cars (but not classics, of course)? Fracking over the poor. Knock it off. Sell me that your scheme will make life easier, better, cheaper, for the poor. If you can’t do that? Forget it, I’m against whatever it is.
My simple starting suggestion is that we change the legally allowed terms of property insurance to ban requiring rebuilding on the same lot for payout after a natural disaster.
I imagine a future where Fauci is made a symbol of epic medical malpractice, where all the death and damage that was done to society and children not by Covid but by the official response, is aired out in the public, and all those who have turned medical care into a political and economic excuse to put power and profit before the health of people, society and the earth, and have made this Pandemic response an exercise in authoritarianism are not allowed to be decision makers in Health Care ever again.
With a similar accountability for the Military, Education, Media, Law Enforcement, Entertainment, Big Tech, Big Banks, Corporations, CIA et al Institutions of surveillance and every level of Government.
And then we can get busy with the work of healing those damaged by Covid, the vaccines and Official Health Care, and healing society and ecosystems.
Oilman2, thank you. I expect it to be colorful, especially once the irate socialists show up.
Mark, that’s an excellent point, and the warm kitten is a great image!
Booklover, yep. We’ll be talking about that in detail later on.
Derek, thanks for this. I’m not a physicist, so am not familiar with the distinction — I see I have some further reading to do.
Justin, excellent! Yes, just as politics is downstream from culture, culture is downstream from imagination, and it’s high time that those of us who understand it get to work on that.
Davidjones,yes, I’ve been talking about the problems with corporations since 2011 or so — one of the details in my novel Retrotopia, for example, is that corporations have been stripped of everything they’ve gained since 1800 and turned back into temporary expedients to raise funds for public works. Be careful of fixating on “real villains,” though — that kind of projection is never helpful.
John B, thank you, and I’m delighted to hear this. As for what the future holds, that hasn’t been decided yet. What kind of future do you want, and what are you willing to do to make it happen?
Stephen, good! In a few days, step through the portal again into another future, different from that as well as the two boring ones. Then do it again. In two weeks, we’ll talk…
Ben, hmm. “Revelcorpus” to me sounds like having a revel with your body, which is fine but not necessarily what you had in mind. “Revocationism” is the label that comes first to my mind — the process of revoking the exorbitant rights granted to corporations, but also re-vocationism, creating more jobs by breaking up excessive concentrations of economic power. The novel sounds great, and yes, I think it could have an impact. Finish that puppy and get it into print!
Benn, ’twas ever thus. I’m quite sure in ancient Egypt you’d see scribes getting together to drink beer and shake their heads in despair over how little imagination most people had. My goal just now is to talk to the people who are willing to imagine different futures, and encourage them to start messing with the collective trance. More on this as we proceed!
Buzzy, the example of the Revolution may be more than usually timely right now, as we’re coming up on the 250th anniversary thereof. I remember the Bicentennial back in 1976 rather well, and it might be interesting to see what can be reimagined as that comes closer. I’ll take a look at the manifesto as time permits; most of what I’ve seen on Tablet so far has been very unimpressive, but we’ll see.
Pyrrhus, that’s highly oversimplified — and did you notice that “peak Spanish empire” and “peak Ottoman empire” both happen in the middle of the Little Ice Age? That said, you’re correct that there’s a huge gap between the media hoopla over climate change and the reality — it’s just that there is a reality. More on this in a future post.
Pat, I’d welcome that. Take another walk through the portal sometime and see what else you can see.
Ganv, you’re welcome and thank you. I don’t think you’ll get very far trying to get new converts to “science based policy,” though, since science is all about control freak tendencies — ahem, “control the variables” — and it’s also brutally vulnerable to corruption via money and power. Science deserves to have a voice, but all of science — not just whatever set of scientific claims supports somebody’s bottom line — and not to the exclusion of other, equally valid perspectives.
Debricfrost, now, now. Most nine-year-olds I’ve met are more mature than that!
Siliconguy, exactly. Nuclear fission is viable, in certain niche applications; it only functions as a power source given gargantuan ongoing subsidies, which is why the nuclear power industry is still dead in the water, but if you want to vaporize a city or run a ship that doesn’t have to turn a profit, it’s technically a good solution. Fusion? Well, it vaporizes cities effectively, but that’s about it.
Jerry, all this reminds me painfully of a middle-aged guy lumbering about his backyard basketball court, shooting hoops, and trying to pretend that he hasn’t lost it.
The concentration of CO2 in the air is now around 400 ppm. If every American were an air molecule, 132.000 of them would be CO2 molecules. That’s the population of New Haven, Connecticut. It seems like a weirdly low amount to worry about.
But CO2 emissions are an exact measure of how much fossil fuel you burn. If you look at it that way, CO2 targets are identical to fossil fuel rationing.
Like you write, the EU exempted private jets from CO2 targets. I also remember they exempted private jets from Covid-19 travel restrictions. If you link these two together…
What are the chances Covid-19 passports will be used to implement fossil fuel rationing?
Lack of imagination? For sure. Watching just a handful of commercials during the Super Bowl was evidence that the Religion of Progress is still healthy, based on the numerous ads for all electric vehicles.
As for the slow progress in fusion, that is absolutely true. Back in 1989/1990, a co-worker’s spouse headed out to the University of Utah, Salt lake City, to work on their cold fusion approach, which made quite a big splash at the time. It didn’t turn out so well.
In the mid 1990s, my younger brother worked in the field of fusion, getting his PhD in Nuclear Engineering. After 10 years of academic research and tired of the politics and chasing funding, he left for the private sector. Just the other day he mentioned one of his peers still in the university world is now working with new grant money and a new set of undergrads on one of my brother’s proposed experiments – 25 years (plus) in the making….the first thing needed is some hardware to be refreshed…
Yeah, it’s a money pit.
In reply to Mark L. (post #2),
So, are you saying that if we could only assembly a large enough pile of kittens, we could thereby power industrial society? That is a proposal that I could really get behind! I mean, who could possibly be against sustainable and eco-friendly Kitten Power?
(As long as I wouldn’t have to be a part of cleaning all the litter boxes.)
Hi John, many thanks for this serie of post about the logic of the Dominant Minority
The existing Dominant Minority have a new toy: Biotechnology. I is the new “Frontier”, much cheaper than the Space Frontier, and the future that it will provide to us is, of course, much much “better” than the “old” space dream.
This is the proposal of the WEF:
Always with the “public-private partnership” (theft) in mind to finance the new developments in Genomatics and Biomechanics, because, as everyone and their mother knows, Life is Mechanic in its fundamentals…
Of course bioengineering is the solution to all the health problems of the Human Being and the Planet, it is even better and safer than nuclear fusion.
They will kill us all
Hi John Michael,
It’s funny you mention this, but the other day I was reading about the history of solar panels and their development. What fascinates me is that as efficiency increased (i.e. conversion of the suns radiation into electricity), the devices became more exotic – and beyond the realms of even the most well stocked laboratory. But go back to the early days, and things were different, and the devices were simpler to make. The same is true for batteries, and probably a whole host of other technologies.
Had the notion last week, that with only around 1% of the population involved in agriculture, and most of those folks in industrial bonkers scaled agriculture, there really aren’t a lot of people with dirt under their fingernails at the small holding level. A bit of a problem that given the future we will all face – eventually (a return to the historic mean, before dropping further and then rebounding). We’re trialling things, plants and systems on the ground here and then simply re-doing them over again based on what we learned. As a method of learning it’s not efficient, but hey, at least it works (as do we also have to work here).
Oh, the fancy name for switching off grid tied solar panels is known as ‘curtailment’. Sounds like something you’d see on a formal dinner jacket!
It’s 58’F here right now… What a cold and damp growing season. But we’re learning how to produce stuff in those conditions, and adapting. That Tongan volcano a few weeks ago might ensure that the next growing season is the same as this.
Was Ghandi’s economy with every family having a spinning wheel (if I’m remembering this right) just to resist the British Empire or was it supposed to carry on after independence? I thought they went to mega projects pretty much as soon as they could.
Very interesting post, thanks. It reminds me of a book about imagination that I read a year or two ago: ‘From what is to what if’ by Rob Hopkins. There’s also a podcast on his website. He always starts the podcast with a time machine not all too different from the one in this article (although it only has button 3). I really enjoyed the book, podcast is not really my thing but others might like it: https://www.robhopkins.net/
Seems the world’s climate scientists are now mostly all admitting they were wrong about the Climate Emergency.
They didn’t understand clouds, and now think the climate is self regulating.
Warmer temps = more clouds, and clouds reflect sunlight.
@JMG: “One conclusion that might be drawn from all this is that the managerial aristocracy is far less concerned about climate change than it likes to pretend”. Our leaders act like this because they believe technology will allow the Industrialized World to have its planet and eat it too.
I apologize for this level of pedantry but I cannot help myself:
Although the point is clear, the Nautilus worked on Mercury-Sodium batteries, not fusion.
There. It’s out of my system. 😅😅😅
When i went up to the portal, i did not see images of a different future, i saw words but i am not sure what they signify:
Self-replicating Oneida colonies (sounds perfect 🙂
Armed Ravens (sounds scary)
Spirit quest way stations
The Last Supper funeral services
The collective conscious temple of the imagination
An Odin Storm
A super-straw home
Z lander pirates
Sorry, off-topic… can’t wait for magic Monday… what would be a good planetary hour, numerology, or constellation, to deliver your resignation, if you want to remain in good terms? Thank you
Safe, reliable fusion power is just 25 years away.
And it always will be. – old physics joke.
Buzzy @ 11 I read the Tablet article. Mr. Moench has some good ideas, and I am heartened to see him referring to Lasch, Mumford and Veblen. I have to say that whilst I was reading, I kept being reminded of JMG’s earlier, a year or so ago, essay about a recent book by Michael Lind, in which our host characterized the book as a white flag peace offering on the part of the privileged classes. Now, I am a fan of Lind, who does also write for Tablet, but I do think his best days were in the 90s. I doubt, don’t really know, if Mr. Moench writes on behalf of the privileged, but I do suspect he has a point of view with which I can’t entirely agree.
What I would like to see happen can be boiled down to four points, which are:
1. A foreign policy of armed neutrality and non-intervention. Yes, that does mean mind our own business in the Near East and elsewhere. I remain convinced that Bernie Sanders would have won, even given the fraud against him, with a strong anti-interventionist, anti-war policy.
2. Restoration of the American System of national development.
3. Audit and then nationalize the Federal Reserve. We need a publicly owned national bank.
4. Restoration of the Constitution and reaffirmation of the principle of national sovereignty and, yes, that does mean control of our national borders. Immigration is neither a “human right” nor a moral issue; it is an aspect of national policy; sometimes you need it and sometimes you don’t. I can think of several amendments to our constitution I would like to see, such as one 6-year term for presidents and strengthening the 13th Amendment to outlaw not only slavery but also the buying and selling of human beings as well.
When I was about five years old, I categorized all mammals as either cats or dogs. There were no other alternatives, so a bear was a dog, and a sea lion was, naturally, a cat. Some animals were tricky to categorize. It amused my parents greatly!
I feel that most people never got past this stage of cognitive development regarding Capitalism vs. Socialism, Progress vs. Apocalypse, or other binaries. It’s sad to see.
Co-ops, syndicalism, distributism, Gandhian economics—would you consider writing some day about how regular people can start experimenting with these economic systems in the real world? Kind of a “Greenback” Wizardry… 😉
Thanks for the helpful mind experiment! The non-hackneyed future portal reminded of this experience:
Decades ago, back my mid-80s office job, a Native American sometimes-co-worker was deciding what to do with her vacation. She wanted to go and do music projects with her boyfriend, but her grandmother, back on the reservation, wanted her to come and dance at the annual get-together. My co-worker told me that this is how you demonstrate you are a member of the tribe. The primary requirement is dance with us! Just show up.
I thought, but didn’t say, are you nuts?! That is ALL they ask of you? Go! You are so, so lucky. My family demands my utter conformity to their entire worldview, especially religion. In spite of their efforts to be inclusive, I know that I’m on the second tier until I “see the light”. They are willing to destroy relationships over this, and feel like THEY are the ones who are wronged. (Of late, politics around The Science stands in for Church.)
My desired future? Accept people for who they are; understand that agreement beyond certain basic social good behavior is utterly stultifying. The individual, and certainly the broader community, suffers when total conformity is the guiding value.
To help this future along, I’m focusing on my odd interests, and relaxing what’s left of my grip on expecting others to share them. And, I will endeavor to not judge them.
I can certainly be guilty of what I mentally accuse them of. Face, meet mirror.
I always feel tempted to ask people who believe in communism as a model why it’s called “the people’s party” when it’s patently obvious it’s not about the people at all. Communism is always a pyramid whose apex is the supreme leader. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Un/Il. They might as well call themselves feudal god-kings for accuracy’s sake. A system designed to benefit the people should not recognize any supreme leader, let alone venerate him with statues, buildings, and other wastes of the people’s money.
A minor point really, but the Nautilus in Verne’s story wasn’t nuclear powered, rather it was powered by sodium-mercury amalgam Bunsen cell batteries. Not only that, but the sodium for the batteries had to be extracted from seawater by mining seabed coal! Captain Nemo knew in 1866 what Elon Musk’s acolytes are still learning – it’s hard to extricate yourself from the grip of fossil fuels.
Draft animals will no doubt be making a come-back over the next century, so I think I’ll imagine the submarines of the future powered by pods of domesticated dolphins.
Churrundo has already said it, but as a lover of scientific romances (sci-fi before there was sci-fi), I do have to point out that Verne’s Nautilus ran on massive, impossibly powerful wet-cell batteries. Walt Disney’s Nautlius ran on a power source best described as nuclearesque, which is probably where the confusion come in.
Interestingly, this doesn’t at all invalidate the point. If you read Verne’s fiction, it becomes clear that he fully expected hugely efficient batteries with energy densities to make gasoline blush to make an appearance any day now. They power most of the fiction in his science fiction. Super powered batteries: the nuclear fusion of the late nineteenth century?
Ben (no. 9), if you are going to destroy some part of Oklahoma in your novel, may I suggest Oral Roberts University? That has definite comic possibilities.
Ecosophian (no. 43), have you considered a career in Creation Science? (Possibly at Oral Roberts University.) The mixed-species groupings you concocted are known as “baramins” (Heb. “kinds”), and explain such mysteries as to how all the species known to science could have fit on Noah’s Ark.
In my youth, I discovered the Baha’i religion (no, I never joined), which teaches the emergence of a new, global civilization characterized by world peace under a world government. Furthermore, they believe that this development has been desired and ordained by God. While their positive view of the future seemed refreshing–and not unlike some of the futures depicted in the scientifiction of the day,or Soviet Communism for that matter–there was also a less-advertised expectation of some sort of “catastrophe” that would precede world unity, demonstrating the hollowness of our current world order and the need for a new civilization. The notion that there might be no global future at all is not even contemplated in Baha’i circles, even though, on reflection, most of them will recall that certain previous prophecies of theirs have failed to pan out (often having to do with leadership succession).
Anyway, it has often occurred to me to imagine what the world would be like if their expectations came true, and how this might most plausibly come about (once we were determined to concoct this sort of timeline). I suppose they have in mind a situation similar to Christianity in medieval Europe, where the barbarians converted partly out of admiration for its Roman imperial past. Rather than imagining a Trantor or a Coruscant (or a 1984), I imagine something more along the lines of what one hears from the partisans of a certain Australian gardening cult–a very localized, low-tech, and post-collapse future, whose inhabitants nevertheless cooperate across larger regions to whatever extent they are able. They might think of themselves as more globalized, even while having far less contact with people from other regions.
Jessi, it’s been a while — I read up about it when I was first studying E.F. Schumacher. I’ll see if I can find something and do a post on that and other alternative economic systems.
Gabriel, you’ll be out of your body soon enough, if the teachings I follow are anything to go by, and in due time — once you’ve learned the lessons of material incarnation — you can expect to go onto all kinds of other experiences. It’s a big cosmos with a lot of possibilities. Right now, however, each of us is incarnate for a reason, and I’m quite sure I haven’t yet done all I can with the the extraordinary potentials of three-dimensional space, linear time, and a material body…
NomadicBeer, this is one of those places where a bit of camouflage helps. Nod and smile when people do their climate change virtue signaling, and then bring the discussion back around to what needs to be done here and now. It’s a much more effective way to get people thinking.
John, no argument there. Lacking the gargantuan energy subsidies from our remaining reserves of cheap fossil fuels, most other energy sources are no longer affordable, and so doing more with much, much less is the crucial requirement of our situation.
NomadicBeer, that’s a pleasant future! Now ask yourself: what can you do to help make it happen?
Clarke, and that’s also an option.
Helix, hmm! The source I looked up said otherwise — a good reminder that the internet is well stocked with misinformation.
BoysMom, I’ve tended to assume that burdening the poor is the whole point of it — partly so that the well-to-do can maintain their lifestyles in an age of contraction, partly because the inevitable blowback from the compulsory niceness of today’s society is an unmentioned and unmentionable craving, on the part of the would-be nice, to find some excuse to be really nasty to somebody.
William, I hope the people who’ve been hurt by the vaccines don’t mind waiting until you finish with all that vengeance.
I’m late to the party, but this is just the sort of imagination I’m interested in!
For those who aren’t aware of it, I run New Maps, a magazine that publishes short stories set in SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT futures. If you take JMG up on imagining that kind of future, be aware that if you find yourself writing a short story as a result, you can send it in and it may see print.
And if you’d like to find out what some of the most imaginative writers out there have been seeing when they walk through the mad scientist’s portal, get a subscription or an issue and enjoy!
There are a lot of great futures being spun right now, even if you won’t find them in your local theater or the New York Times book reviews. When imaginations are as gridlocked as they are right now, it’s an excellent time, it’s really high time, for some exercises in thinking outside the shopworn old boxes.
Editor, New Maps
Data point, with the caveat “But I love them anyhow”……
My oldest daughter, now Head of Psychiatry at the University of Florida, and her husband, also a high-level professor in Environmental Toxicology, just spent a 4-day “Her birthday” vacation flying from Gainesville to Idaho in order to spend two days skiing. That’s one entire day in the air each way. But they’re very, very green: they both drive electric cars, as does their oldest son.
Their sprawling, heavily window-walled house leaks energy like a sieve, but recoil in horror at the thought of even putting up drapes, blinds, or shutters on any of those windows. It seems to be an aesthetic judgement, but I do wonder: is the PMC adoration of uncovered windows a subconscious signal that they can afford it? Or is it merely a deep-seated feeling that Coastal California is the One True Standard to go by? Rather like the insistence of Victorian colonizers on wearing three-piece suits and/or corsets and multiple petticoats in the tropics, because that is how civilized people do it? But they’re very, very green: they keep their property in the wild state, interspersed with as many food plants as they can grow (enough to provide the occasional addition to the food they buy), and they do recycle.
And like Otter Girl, they don’t just demand conformity to their entire worldview, they can imagine no alternative to it other than descent into pure Yahooism. Example, “DeSantis is anti-vaccination, but his wife has breast cancer. Doesn’t he love her at all?!?!? Because if he did, he’d protect her….” Direct quote, said in outraged bewilderment.
But, but, but… they really do try to be resilient according to their lights, and they really would never, ever be rude, mean, or condescending to those who do the work of the world. Except, of course, when they vote for Trump or DeSantis or indulge in truck convoys, or, or, or…. but not just for being workers, though.
As much as the govcorporatists like saying “think outside the box”, they really don’t. Everything is incentivized to think slightly off center but still in the box. Edgy but not too edgy. I think the reason is fear of losing control. You let imagination run wild, who knows what could happen next.
We’re in one of those in-between moments in history where the old stuff no longer works but getting new stuff to work hasn’t yet been imagined yet. First the incentives have to go.
#33 Chris at Fernglade Farm—were these the home made solar panels you meant?
Turtle, small amounts of gases can have a significant impact if they absorb infrared, as carbon dioxide does. As for carbon rationing, why should they bother? They can simply ration it by price, as they do everything else of value.
Drhooves, typical. I prefer the term “subsidy dumpster” myself.
DFC, I tend to see the current mania for biotechnology as a reflection of the failure of so many other technological sectors to bring the millennium on schedule. I wonder what they’ll do when it turns out that biotechnology, too, is an overhyped white elephant that costs far more than it’s worth…
Chris, that’s the history of every technology in Faustian times. Get something that works, and then push things so far that you’ve got a dysfunctional, elaborate, hypercomplex mess.
Yorkshire, Gandhi — the h goes after the d, not after the g — was dead by the time the new government got going, and they listened to advisers from their former colonial overlords rather than following his advice. A bad idea, but a common one!
Rutoka, thanks for this. Rob I have had complicated interactions in the past, but I may take a moment to see what he’s up to now.
Oregon Bob, yes, I saw that. It’s something of an overstatement — the models were exaggerated, as many of us realized, but with the corrections included, it works out to a slowing of climate change rather than a complete erasure of it.
Stellarwind, of course. They literally don’t have enough imagination to be able to conceive of a situation where they can’t get what they want.
Churrundo, hmm! It’s clearly been too long since I read the book.
Skyrider, sounds like a theme for meditation to me!
Njura, Friday during an hour of Venus.
Tod, I’ve always thought that was a bit too optimistic. 😉
Ecosophian, spot on target. And they’re walking up to a hungry tiger saying “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty…”
Blue Sun, I’ll consider it.
OtterGirl, thanks for this. I’d like a future like that.
Kimberly, good. Socialism pretends to be about the working class, but it’s actually the extreme form of rule by the managerial aristocracy — they want to get rid of the capitalist class so they can be at the top of the social pyramid. Scratch a socialist activist and you’ll find a two-bit dictator obsessed with the idea of telling everyone else what to do.
Blackthorn and Thepublicpast, duly noted!
Nathanael, thanks for this.
Patricia M, par for the course. I really do wonder about those uncovered windows.
Owen, bingo. “Outside the box” for them means “come up with some new way to rearrange what’s already inside the box.”
Your definition of ‘socialism’ makes sense in a North American context. In my country we don’t use it that way, that’s reserved for Marxism or communism. Perhaps it is because many of the policies enacted under the ‘socialist’ banner for over a hundred years have achieved lasting success and support in society, as well as something of a political consensus – basics like old age pensions, public health system, modest unemployment benefits, and perhaps the biggest, universal accident insurance and few people running around suing each other. One day I will do the energy analysis of these to see if they can be afforded or downscaled for the future we all face, but I believe they can. I don’t think the US has experience of those largely positive things under the banner of ‘socialism’, or maybe you wouldn’t like them to begin with.
I am pretty sure that Gandhi got his economic theory from the Catholic Church, in particular, Pope Leo XIII Rerum Novarum, which argues for distributism. If the Church wanted to dust that off, they’d do pretty well. It rejects socialism of the form as you describe it 🙂
There’s a few scatterings of other ideas out ther, which have all been largely forgotten. Silvio Gesell pushed for demurrage (negative interest) on money, so that its function as a store of value didn’t override its more important function as a means of exchange. You have argued elsewhere that hyper inflation does much the same thing, albeit with a far higher social cost, but I think his ideas make substantial sense in a society with less energy to go around. Gesell’s theories deserve another look in the context of the mess we are in.
M. King Hubbert pushed for energy-backed currency, but then stuffed it up by advocating for an energy bureaucracy called technocracy to implement it.
Somewhere in there is guidance for future systems.
What do I see through the portal…
some small white houses with colored roofs, big gardens full of food and laundry hanging out to dry. And electric cargo trikes with the basket full of assorted things, including bags of produce. There are palm trees and geckos on the walls of the house.
Well, it’s a bit more likely and definitely tastier than tomorrowland at least.
On the climate issue, I’m wondering about the combination of the (massive) exaggeration of the energy inputs into the IPCC models, plus the new issues around the effect of clouds, will make most of the scenario predictions redundant. Well, some of us thought that they were wrong to begin with, but maybe a few more people might listen, right up until the planet decides to do something completely different, like shutting down the Gulf Stream 🙂
It won’t really help crisis culture, but I do laugh when reading on the thermohaline circulation shutdown/slowing issue, one scientist got rather angry and insisted that ‘this cannot be allowed to happen’. I am not sure that the planet was listening 🙂
I have a hunch, that after the whole Uber and Theranos (et. al) tech startup debacles, some of the hype behind fusion nowadays is just the latest scam for startup entrepreneurs to extract money from venture capital funds.
Strangely enough, the Future of 2022 sounds exactly like it was 1992. Back then all the pop science literature were gushing over fusion, hydrogen, virtual reality, and the information superhighway (the latter two we now call “The Metaverse”). It’s like these things come in cycles, or something.
I have a vision of a future in which our technologies are powered entirely by the hot air expelled so gustily by managerial aristocrats. Jen Psaki alone could doubtless power a small city with just one of her daily press briefings. Finally, our tax dollars will go to productive use!
David Chapman has a term I quite like that seems useful here: “timeworn futures.” He says:
@Nathanael: I really enjoyed, or rather re-enjoyed, your essay that I got in my inbox today via the Dark Mountain project. Readers of your fine deindustrial quarterly will recognize it as a version of your essay from the first issue of New Maps. I was really glad to see your work represented over on the Dark Mountain.
For those who want a taste of some of the imaginative thought behind New Maps, you can give Nathanael’s essay a read here:
Then I encourage people to pick up a subscription and increase the circulation of these kind of imaginative futures.
I forgot to mention that I’ve had a physical copy of the following book checked out from my library sitting on my stack of “to read” books since last week:
Mad Scientists: An Anthology of Fantasy and Horror
edited by Stuart David Schiff. It’s full of goodies.
…gotta get back to the laboratory now before something bubbles over…
BoysMom, I like the idea of people being able to take the money elsewhere to rebuild somewhere safer. That makes so much sense!
We had discussion about the state of things over a beer today. During this, it occurred to me, and I stated it, that MONETIZATION is part of the problem. Nobody sitting around the table could think of anything that was not currently monetized by corporations or the rich. Honestly, from religion to science to politics to gossip – the internet has even found ways to monetize speech and opinions. As another of my friends is so fond of saying, “everything is a business model”.
We came up with the loss of “the commons” as a possible reason for this, but I need to think on this a bit more. Perhaps we need a invigoration of “the commons” to clear out a lot of the current clutter that business has become?
Hmmm, what other future snippets do I see:
There’s a private jet exploding into pieces. I think someone stuck a bomb on it.
-some defunct private jets being taken to pieces for parts and materials because they’re too expensive to run/have been banned.
-people taking apart computers, fixing some of them and selling them. A lot of it goes for recycling though, because it wasn’t designed to be repaired.
-a company making simple farm machinery based on out of copyright designs from the early 20th century. And they’re making a killing. John Deere tried to sue them but got struck down and is now scrambling to produce competing machinery of the same sort. But the farmers are angry with them over the right-to-repair scandals and overly-complex, overly-expensive machinery, and they aren’t doing as well as the new company. John Deere’s stock tanks.
I see myself, and I’ve got chickens of my own!
“William, I hope the people who’ve been hurt by the vaccines don’t mind waiting until you finish with all that vengeance.”
I suppose it would turn into that. I was being naive, imagining accountability, or accountability as a part of healing, but that is a lot to take on, too much to expect and yes a distraction from actual healing. It’s hard, thinking there may be so little accountability about all this. But then my consumption of covid news is distracting from my magical practice. I’m going to take a step back and meditate on forgiveness.
Chris @ Fernglade
there may not be many people involved in formal agriculture, but there are a lot of people growing food at home or in community gardens, and the number of food producing gardens, chickens etc. I see in my local neighborhood has gone up substantially in the past few years. Sometimes we lose some to something or other, but new ones pop up and there’s a lot more than when I arrived here in 2011.
I bet some of them can and will make the jump to selling to others, and that’s where a lot of the new farmers we desperately need will come from.
Maybe before we spend much more on fusion we could work on cleaning up some of the 85,000 metric tons of “spent nuclear fuel” (i.e. incredibly toxic waste, which will remain so for 10’s of thousands of years) left over from fission in this nation alone?
Anyway, I pushed the 3rd button and ended up in an Andre Norton novel. I think I may stay….
We get the future that actually arrives.
Tell someone, yourself even, twenty years ago that people will be forced to wear masks to go out in public, be forced to inject toxic vaccines into your body or lose your job, or that the media would become the sole propaganda arm of the government, no one would believe you. Add in everyone carrying a cell phone, a machine that also lets you take professional portraits, has a build in video camera, lets you send images and video to anywhere on the planet without a hard wire connection. The device also will give you the news and weather, and it will be like having your wife and your boss in your pocket twenty four hours a day, and yet it will fit in your pocket. People would be equally astounded and in disbelief.
I honestly can’t imagine twenty years from now, it will likely be a mix of both good and bad that no one can predict.
Correction (to no. 49): Baha’is say “calamity,” not “catastrophe.”
Sure, kitten metabolism is about eight watts, so it would only take 2.2 trillion of them to satisfy the 18 terawatts used by industrial civilization :-), assuming we could magically convert the low-grade heat into useful forms and feed them around 20% of the total energy captured by photosynthesis.
This is basically the premise of The Matrix, with humans instead of kittens, except that it fails to fill the plot hole of how exactly in a darkened world there is enough digestible energy to feed all of those energy-slave humans. And no, feeding the dead back to the living doesn’t cut it.
Back to fusion though, it’s true that a 50-pound parcel of plasma in the core of the sun produces less energy than a 50-pound dog. It’s just that the sun is incomprehensibly big, so that the energy that reaches us is produced by a cone of plasma 432,000 miles deep stretching from the surface to the core.
Irate socialist here! 😉
I think the world would have been a much better place if corporate capitalism and Soviet-style socialism had been replaced by Social Democracy in the Western world and some kind of Bukharinite-Titoist socialism in the rest of the world.
I don´t think those systems “failed”, sensu stricto. They were abandoned (sometimes by their creators), presumably because they in some sense still had to cater to the real needs of the people, something the “PMC” apparently didn´t want to do…
The present bizarre hybrid between corporate capitalism and increasingly oppressive bureaucracy (plus “woke” ideology) seems to suit the PMCs better. I´m beginning to suspect that they really do admire China!
If real Social Democracy/benign socialism can be recreated is, of course, an entirely different topic.
Hmm, what’s some more future possible glimpses?
-empty storefronts and residential for sale signs all across Vancouver, when the housing bubble finally busts. But asking prices are not that low by today’s standards, because high inflation hasn’t run its course yet.
-poor people’s morning coffee is mostly not made from the coffee plant. It’s either from other plants, or artificial ‘fake coffee’ flavor.
-cultured meat turns out to be too expensive for the vast majority of the population, resulting in skyrocketing popularity of dried legumes and soybean products when meat production doesn’t keep up with demand and the price of real meat rises dramatically compared to incomes.
-the PMC drop veganism like a hot potato when the working class and poor in the developed world can no longer afford to eat meat most days of the week. Eating meat is healthy don’t you know (and a status symbol).
much further out:
-tall sailing ships with masts of hollow metal, shepherded in convoys against pirates by warships running on biofuels. Fuel is too expensive for running cargo, but being a becalmed sailing ship in the middle of a battle against ships that don’t need the wind will lose you the battle badly. As some people who fought Caesar’s galleys once found out to their destruction.
-mixed armies using human foot, human pedal, liquid fuel, and animal power as they can scrape together, with an ultralight aircraft of wood and cloth doing reconnaissance overhead.
Peter, I know the term “socialism” has been spun in any number of ways. I think it’s important to keep in mind distinction between socialism on the one hand and social democracy on the other — the difference being whether the mechanisms of representative democracy are abolished as “bourgeois” so that the managerial class can reign unchecked, which is socialism in both its pre-Marxist and Marxist forms, or whether those mechanisms remain in place to limit the managerial class, which is social democracy. The difference isn’t small; quite a few nations have been able to function tolerably well under social democracy without turning into totalitarian nightmares, unlike socialist nations. Here in the US, btw, we have old age pensions, unemployment benefits, and quite a few other government benefit programs, though we’re too lawsuit-happy to put up with universal accident insurance!
I’ll want to look into the interface between Gandhian economics and distributism at some point. I hadn’t encountered Gesell’s theory before — thanks for this; in an age of contraction, that’s a useful option to keep in mind. As for Technocracy, that wasn’t just an energy bureaucracy, it was an entire ideology with its own organization, very active in the US from the 1930s to the 1950s; there was still a Technocracy storefront in Seattle when I was a teenager. It’s still got a website at https://www.technocracyinc.org/ .
Pygmycory, it is indeed.
Peter, funny! I think a lot of people in the interface between the sciences and public policy have forgotten that the universe doesn’t hop to it when they yell orders.
Carlos, that seems very plausible to me!
Mac Datho, a case could doubtless be made. 😉
Slithy, I saw that essay! He’s got a very good point.
Oilman2, that’s a good point, and worth exploring. How would one pursue the deliberate demonetization of life?
Pygmycory, I like it.
William, please note, I think that it would be a very good thing for justice to be done. I’d like to see the people responsible for the Covid-vaccine debacle arrested, tried, and punished to the full extent of the law. It’s just that a lot of people are being hurt by this and many of them didn’t go out of their way to invite it — and to my mind, giving them what help can be given has to come first.
Twilight, uh, yes. Which Andre Norton novel? I read her books obsessively back in the day…
Workdove, the only reason those things came into being is that someone imagined them, and then took action to make them happen.
Tidlösa, I have no objection to social democracy — it’s not my preferred system but it seems to work fairly well. As for the managerial aristocracy, of course its members admire China; they drool over the thought of being able to do whatever idiotic things they want, without anyone being able to vote them out of office.
Pygmycory, hmm! Thanks for these.
The core of the sun is about twice the diameter of Jupiter:
“The central core, which is the only place that nuclear fusion happens, extends to a radius of 138,000 kilometers (86,000 miles). ”
Twice the diameter is 8 times the volume. And it’s degenerate matter, (some of the electron orbitals have collapsed) so it’s about 10 time denser than gold.
Most of the sun by volume is just hot gas, like a politician, but more useful.
From wikipedia: “The Sun’s core fuses about 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second as a result.”
The sun is considered a small and puny star. Deneb in the constellation Cygnus is 200 times larger, and 60,000 times brighter.
Doulas Adams said of the Total Perspective Vortex:
“The Vortex is now used as a torture and (in effect) killing device on the planet Frogstar B. The prospective victim of the TPV is placed within a small chamber wherein is displayed a model of the entire universe – together with a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot bearing the legend “you are here.” The sense of perspective thereby conveyed destroys the victim’s mind; it was stated that the TPV is the only known means of crushing a man’s soul.
And on that cheery note I’m going to have a cookie 🙂
Time to tell the stories and create the images of possible desirable futures (or at least relatively palatable ones).
I’ve written the script for a fantasy GN that I still want to create; it’s been sitting in a drawer for years. It needs revision anyway, so maybe the time for a rewrite is drawing near. I think even fantasy may serve here. You once speculated on the likely presence of water heating coils on the backs of hobbit stoves (wood burning, no doubt), even though Tolkien does not mention them; that is the sort of thing I have in mind.
I think a story might even be made from the futuristic city whose image you’ve posted. It looks gleaming from a distance, but up close it’s a different story. It’s been abandoned, infrastructure has broken down; the cannibalization of materials hasn’t yet gotten underway for some reason, but there’s nobody living there except a few vagrants like the homeless people currently living in tunnels under Las Vegas; and anyone who talks to them soon learns that the place is full of evil spirits…
The last time I wrote about an imaginary future was 20 years ago, and it involved a rather run-of-the-mill commune in the woods where everybody took turns tilling the ground, washing the dishes and writing literature or performing music. I also liked the future of the Glasperlenspiel, but the scholars of Kastalia cannot marry nor have a family, which I always knew I wanted. Your challenge of imagination is a good one, and I will spend some time on it.
Over at “A collection of unmitigated pedantry”, the third and final part of “Rome: Decline and Fall?” is up, with a thoughtful and equilibrated essay and a wide-ranging discussion featuring true believers in fusion power and in the indefinitely dropping price of solar power saving us from the fate of Rome.
Speaking of fusion power, I know that you know that your examples of clichéd futures are only three out of many, and these are examples you have used before. There are other clichés, such as the future that is exactly like the past, where “nobody thinks driving cars is a bad thing, and a used car is a solid investment”. Or the future that is like the imaginary past of universally acknowledged family values and “work ethic”. Or the future where everybody goes back to their countries of origin. There are so many futures that are never going to happen.
Again, your challenge is a good one, and I will think a while if I can imagine a future that is not a cliché.
As an aside to experimenting with zero input/deindustrialised agriculture that produces more than it consumes in our anthropocenic atmosphere, I have spent the last year writing a series of novellas set in just the kind of “other” future you describe. Whether or not anyone likes it, time will tell, but I have tried to follow the threads of the two truly renewable resources we have left on the planet- biology and human tinkering. Even without so much as glass and metal on hand those two ingredients can lead to a startling new way for people (and other agglomerated organisms) to live, given sufficient time.
Lots of interesting comments here!
As for the religion of Progress coming unglued in the Western world, I think it will likely be around for a bit longer before all it’s manifestations are gone.
I say this because it’s very easy to spot people opposed to Progress in its social aspect, but much more difficult to spot people opposed to social as well as scientific-technological progress. I’ve seen quite a few conservatives online, who call out wokeism, etc. but fall for the same nonsense of nuclear fusion and other Tomorrowland fantasies. Maybe the deindustrial Dark Age to come will finally take every vestige of Progress with it…
As for Gandhian economics, someone I know pointed out to me that Gandhi’s economic ideas were influenced by Henry David Thoreau, John Ruskin and Leo Tolstoy. As for Gandhi’s ideas on technology, he likely came up with them on his own, but he wasn’t the first. These ideas (as regards technology) were first expressed by the British art historian Dr. E. B. Havell working in India in a book (don’t remember the name but it’s on archive.org) published by the Theosophical Society in 1912. Interestingly, Dr. Havell not only recommended these ideas, but remarked that he had seen them being successfully practiced in Bengal, and that it had been going on for a long time. Another example of convergent evolution…
Coming to why Gandhian economics wasn’t put into practice, the answer is simple – our first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a Fabian socialist, and had a strong infatuation with the Soviet Union. That’s how our strong ties with the Soviets (and later Russia) came to be.
Some random imaginings…
Perhaps advertising copy, particularly from the mid-20h century magazines, will be regarded as a cousin of erotic poetry; in this case, poetry that arouses the desire for material tings. The reader (or listener) should imagine themselves back in a time when one’s grandparents grew up in a Midwest farm without electricity and indoor plumbing, and when one’s parents endued the rigors of the Great Depression and WWII. And now they–and you–are in a shiny, post-rationing, postwar suburb with sleek cars, TV’s, washing machines and any number of things that had been a part of the Tomorrowland of the early 20th century.
What if sign language were a “poetic gesture?” Hula dancing would be a close relative, but with sign language, the words and the motions signifying them could be more closely related. You could even have a sign-language dialect deliberately deliberately designed to translate into beautiful gestures, or even a dance–“poetry in motion.”
Mathematics–both the patterns and the proofs–come to be widely regarded as a fine art, with the laws of logic and other axioms providing structural rules, like rhyme and meter schemes do for certain kinds of poetry. But this would suggest there may be other rules that could be adopted, like A and not-A. Example: Where does invention end and discovery begin?
A deliberate succession of scents or tastes could be a form of poetry.
Q: When is a dot that seems to be “inside the box” actually a dot outside it? A: When the dot is in the 4th spatial dimension, and is actually the tip of a 4-D pyramid. If we’re going to escape the box, why remain in the same plane as the box?
How dare you take my apocalypse! Lol. OK. I see a future where you are the sun. It emanates from within you. It is your light and your heat. It is your energy.
There is no sun above anymore, at all. The atmosphere has an eerie reddish glow. The stars above look different now, I don’t know why, I know it happened in “the change”.
The land is barren. All the structures I recall are gone. We woke up from our fugue state in the bunker and walked out to this strange new world. It is neither hot nor cold, we see tiny shoots of new growth popping up near the river, but the forests are no more, at least here, in our camp.
The water is delish. We filtered it at first but not now. We see minnows in the shallows, scoop and drink them down, straight up. We have planted a tenth of our seed. The earth seemed already plowed. We have seen birds and deer, but have not killed any yet.
We have stored a prototype of a kind of hovercraft or drone. One of the new kind whose plans were released by nasa to the commons before “the day”. The drone uses a battery on its underside, the battery itself curved into a groove like space time and the leads placed to catch that flow. I don’t see it ever winding down. We sent it out twice so far, on recon, all the same for miles, maybe 500 in all directions.
Everybody’s quiet still. Getting used to this new world, so much cleaner, quieter than the old. We don’t come out at night yet, sleep hard, well. Lately we’ve stopped eating our rice and beans too. Seems this gardening and exploring is fed well enough with the river water and the tiny fish. Nobody is down or freaked, the peace is palpable, as is relief.
We look forward to what comes. We are hopeful and thankful.
Not really something to add but flat on its cone was great.
” I remember the General Lee flying “albeit briefly” back in the 1970’s,”
I read that in the seven year Dukes of Hazzard production run, the crew destroyed 321 Dodge Chargers. Toward the end they were using miniature models.
Most excellent posting, JMG. The only quibble I have is that not only is imagination missing in today’s human world, but thinking seems to long gone as well.
Before retirement, I lectured in an Irish university School of Education in sociology of education. One session (this was in an art college) was on imagination. The first question I asked the students was: what IS imagination? It truly suprised me that I rarely received a coherent answer (from art students).
The class session sought to make the point that, in order to begin inserting imagination into schooling, two things were required: 1) anarchy; and 2) utopia. The rest of the 90 minute class was defining those terms and reviewing the small (but most interesting) academic literature in the areas.
The number of students who subsequently wanted to write an essay on either anarchy or utopia, RATHER than imagination, was shocking to me. The point of the class was how those terms (defined) could not be separated.
I am much, much more satisfied with life now that I no longer engage in academia, but spend much of my time with dogs and donkeys (oops…some braying outside as one of them sees me typing this reply) and working in the soil in the vegetable beds. What I learn from dogs, donkeys and soil every day is the most solid education I will likely ever get.
Keep strong, John, postings as these are most vital to your readers’ thinking and imagination!
It is a fact that we (not only our leaders) suffer from imagination deficit disorder, as you outline so well. Regarding the fission headlines, I did indeed see them a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t give them the ad revenue of my click-through. I merely recognised this was THE moment (rising energy costs) to secure funding for such projects in a world heading towards increasingly tight budgets.
“Turtle, small amounts of gases can have a significant impact if they absorb infrared, as carbon dioxide does. As for carbon rationing, why should they bother? They can simply ration it by price, as they do everything else of value.”
Thanks for your reply. The science of light absorption by molecules is part of “photochemistry”. Many photo chemists (the kind that works in a lab and measures heat absorption) think CO2 heat absorption is not significant. For example:
“For a benchmark contextual comparison, the combined radiative forcing of CO2 and methane is barely 0.5% of the Earth’s solar energy budget of 340 W/m2. And of which the human-made portion of this CO2 radiative forcing increase is a miserly 0.008% and methane a laughable 0.005% of the Sun’s total radiative forcing budget.” https://www.cfact.org/2021/08/13/methane-madness/
These opinions are outside the Overton window, but I’ve heard many, and no longer doubt them.
It’s a good question why you could not ration by price. Our current monetary system assumes there are infinite resources and how much we produce is limited by human labor. Money is used as a mechanism to optimize production per labor hour.
If you are right and there is now resource scarcity the monetary system is no longer a proper way to optimize production. The allocation should change to how much you can produce per resource used instead of per labor hour. A CO2 based currency might do just that.
While I feel confident in the first part of my reply, the second part of this reply is just speculation.
For those who can stand videos, physicist Sabine Hossenfelder – whose channel is excellent throughout – explains the difference between Q(total) and Q(plasma) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ4W1g-6JiY
If you want to see just how many technical challenges there are to getting fusion power to work – including one major one that was new to me and I’ve been casually studying it for years – look at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JurplDfPi3U
JMG: You mentioned Rob Hopkins and at the moment his Transition Towns seem to be dead in the water – not dead, but smaller ones seem to have folded and larger ones are not really going anywhere. Even Totnes, a few miles from me where it all started is very quiet.
The time required for the commercial viability of nuclear fusion, and for addressing climate change, is ten years. The only reason we aren’t working on both, is our inability to multitask 😉
I believe the managerial elite’s imagination is focused on survival. They intend to survive, in as much luxury as possible. Why would they want to imagine anything else?
Interesting essay, I can see you’re sticking to your favorite themes which happen to be also mine 🙂
I’d like to second Derek about the overall physics, engineering and economics of a fusion plant. I’ll try to be the less verbose possible but it’s important to grasp certain materialities about this topic.
I don’t mean to be an expert in fusion but the basic principles and constraints are all simple.
Nuclear fusion reactions can only be triggered when the soup of particles (a.k.a. plasma) in which they should happen is hot enough that positively charged nuclei (hydrogen, deuterium, tritium) don’t repel each other as it is normally the case when they are ionized. And by hot enough, I mean several millions of Kelvins (for instance most metals melt at around a few thousands Kelvins and the average températures most humans deal with are in the range of a few hundred Kelvins, that’s for order of magnitude).
The problem I’ve just hinted is that not physical material can withstand a temperature of several millions Kelvins. Everything melts, then vaporizes then is turned into plasma a.k.a. particles soup.
So clever soviet physicists came with the idea of magnetic confinement: isolate the particles soup from fragile materials that melt with a magnetic field that makes the soup inside a donut-shaped invisible container. That was easy. That consumes also tons of energy under the form of electrical current and must be accounted for later.
The first problem arises because confined plasma is naturally unstable and tends to get colder as time passes (in the order of the millisecond). So, the plasma has to be kept hot, this is done with electromagnetic accelerators that put the plasma donut in rotation whose speed can be more or less controled. These contraptions also use energy input in the form of electrical current.
The second problem is when actual fusion occurs. The “coldest” fusion reaction available is that of deuterium + tritium -> helium. The former are hydrogen nuclei with 1 and 2 neutrons, the latter is a nucleus of element helium 4 with 2 protons and 2 neutrons. Because of a pesky symetry involved, there is one neutron who gets loose and runs away. Being a neutral particle, the little fellow is impervious to electromagnetic field, escaped the donut shaped confinement field and goes kaboom toward the wall of the reactor. What happens there is a little bit complicated but in most of cases, the neutron is absorbed by the atoms that form the lining of the reactor’s interior changing the nature of these atoms. Such changes range from benign (iron turn into cobalt) to rather annoying (cobalt turns into radioactive cobalt). Consequence? The inner lining degrades slowly and becomes radioactive waste and must be handled as such regurlarly. That’s the main issue with ITER design so far and it’s been solved by a lining made of lithium which when bombed with neutrons produces tritium by fission to replenish the soup of spent tritium.
The other products of the fusion reaction are one helium nucleus which with a positive charge remains within the magnetically-confined soup.
So far, what a tokamak achieves is just messing around with nuclei from the periodic table and nothing more while sicking a great deal of current from the grid.
A conventional fission nuclear reactor works at lower temperature and allows the kinetic energy of produced particles to be harvested as heat as neutrons are “thermalized” i.e. slowed by the surrounding atoms of the nuclear fuel. Nothing such happens in the fusion soup because its density is lower and the soup is constantly accelerated. So, how on earth can we harvest the kinetic energy from the particles? No one knows for sure and that was indeed the reason to build that ITER monster reactor. The most promising way to get energy out of the soup is by using induction. The plasma is itself an electrical current loop that produces a variable magnetic field that can induced another current. Easier said than done to me.
As a side note, the Sun radiates because its density is much higher and its modes of fusion don’t produce neutrons so fusion products are slowed down and the kinetic energy turns to heat and electromagnetic radiations.
As you wrote in your essay, it’s been 70 years and counting. Some people I know in the field are all convinced that JE, ITER and the like are just gigantic scams to drive more grant money into the big science industry at the expense of other experiments that could work better (I do not eschew fusion as a potential energy source altogether) like the stellarator reactor or the Z-pinch induced fusion. And I come to the conclusion just as you did that such programs are just white elephants cluelessly engineered by the PMC.
Thanks for clarifying the different definitions of socialism and social democracy; that’s an important distinction. I wish every Bernie voter got a chance to live in a social democracy for a short time.
We had a corruption scandal here that dissolved the government, as well as the political party at fault, and prompted a reelection. I was chuckling and muttering “How quaint!” the entire time, because that level of corruption not only happens every day in Washington DC, it’s actually legal.
Ultimately though, I don’t think social democracy is possible in America, or if it is, only locally. It’s too difficult to work with the level of consolidation, centralization, and corruption in DC, plus there’s a decent chunk of Americans that genuinely might not want it and would vote against it.
I think the answer for young people in the US is what you termed distributism: localization, individual skilled craftsmen, small farms, unions and co-ops, etc.
Since we are talking about leaving the ossified conventional fantasies about the future behind us, a question came to my mind: Has it actually happened during the decline of a past civilization that new, fresh ideas were thought and implemented? If so, which new ideas and practices were they, for example? I know already that in such times sometimes new religions came into being which differed markedly from older religions.
So you’re saying the Steampunks aren’t so crazy after all. 😉
I was interested to see you mention Distributism, is this something you’ve explored in the past or would consider exploring in the future?
Pymgory, I agree with all your scrying, just noting that some are near futures and some are quite far. I would participate in your doing this on a blog or podcast as are pretty common on yahoo-tube. Not everyone is good at reaching into the future.
I knew there was something wrong with how I spelled Gandhi but didn’t see it until after I posted.
You ask for something completely different, I shall provide: the Occult New Deal. Gather together every capable and ethical mage, shaman, spirit worker, psychic, etc, and put them to work on magical mega projects. I have an image of them systematically clearing out every area of spiritual contamination, like in a grid pattern – however far they can project a banishing ritual. Then move on to the next one. Cross over every ghost, make contact with every local spirit. Natural magic cocktails deployed from spray tanks on aircraft. Instead of just a couple of monster hunters running around in the woods – a multi-skilled task force. Open it to multiple skill levels so if someone can just do hoodoo cleansing they do that, leaving the rarer skillsets to do what only they can do. It’d probably have to be limited to things like cleansing, investigation and communication, as it’s probably impossible to get such a diverse crowd of people to agree on a national talisman that would affect a whole nation. Even without that aspect, once it was all done the country would be left spiritually fresh and squeaky clean. Imagine the heroic WPA-style murals. 🙂
pygmycory (no. 65) “a company making simple farm machinery based on out of copyright designs from the early 20th century”
Technology would be protected by patent, not copyright. Patents last 20 years.
With respect to fusion, the most damage to the reactor is likely caused by the neutrons released by the fusion reaction. Not only do they weaken and embrittle the structure, they make it radioactive, so one must also deal with disposal of radioactive material, perhaps not as nasty as that produced by fission, but still toxic and dangerous. And no one has a good solution for the permanent disposal of nuclear waste.
I saw this today:
This is 100% straight out of scifi, I just can’t remember which novel.
“The concepts require a gigawatt-power laser array on Earth…” Note no mention is made of cost nor feasibility. The entire Mars thing puzzles me since perchlorates are prolific across the entire planet – what possible purpose is there in spending billions to go to a planet rife with poison?
I read another site, turcopolier.com, which is written by a retired colonel. Good for many things, but the colonel fancies himself a space buff, and is thrilled with every ‘advance’ he sees, usually linking and posting relevant articles about anything resembling a triumph, without analyzing cui bono…
It’s almost like the word “scientists” needs to be replaced with the word “technopriest”, and maybe “scientific publication” replaced with the word “sermon”? And I do think this is quite a fine example of science riding along on old imaginative fiction – this is certainly nothing new or novel, and then there is the ignoring of perchlorates lodged firmly in the illogic foundation of the entire enterprise.
What impresses me is that they’re still building tokamaks. Few engineering designs have received as much funding and research as the tokamak. Governments around the world have poured enormous sums into tokamaks and people with lots of letters after their names have dedicated their lives to building better tokamaks. And so far we got bupkis. It’s like flying cars on steroids.
I’d say there’s a faint possibility that we will be able to create controlled and sustained nuclear fusion here on earth.* But if we do, it will involve a technology that is radically different than tokamaks. And the simple fact that they’re pouring so much money into a doomed design makes it clear this program is a wealth pump, not an energy breakthrough.
*n.b. “create” and “capitalize from” are two different things, and that any breakthrough will involve some scientific principle that is currently unknown i.e. we’re in “they’ll think of something” territory.
Still working on my ancient history podcast/Youtube channel, and found yet another example of overlarge empires relying too much on their most spectacular technology. If Hannibal had used the resources they expended on elephants on buying more human mercenaries, the Carthaginians would likely have conquered Rome and organized a Carthaginian Italia.
Elephants are big. Elephants are intimidating. Elephants are great for breaking apart an enemy line. But elephants require lots of food and care, and can easily be neutralized or turned against you once your enemy learns how to deal with elephant charges. Because the Carthaginians couldn’t envision a war without their Biggest Weapon, Hannibal wound up spending an enormous chunk of their allotted funds on big beasts that never really played a role in the subsequent raiding.
I can see a few possible futures:
– buildings made by people using machines, but not big cranes and readymade parts from concrete. Not sure if I will see it in my lifetime given how the real estate market is going strong nowadays
– businesses running on paper and pen, using all kinds of fancy words for those processes as a legacy from the IT mythology age. Again, not sure if I’ll see this in my lifetime
– not a future I like, but instead of working on complex IT systems based on abstractions, I’ll have to work on actual machines, or caring for actual animals/people or tending to actual fields… Or just working in a store moving cans around shelves. I don’t like that future at all! Unless it’s with actual animals which I kinda like.
All of this I could see before, I didn’t really need the machine. But the device brings it one little step further. It all depends on the structure of the economy, and how fast that could change.
This essay on the failure of imagination reminds me of an experience I had back in 2013. My father had died suddenly, and so you know how the cliches roll in a time like that. Someone offered the weary words, “He’s in a better place now.” To this, my maternal grandmother tearfully replied, “Well, I can’t think of [imagine] a better place for him to be than right here with his family.” Both statements are the ridiculous and sentimental sort we always hear. My interior response to my grandmother was, “Well, maybe you’re just not very good at imagining.”
I think about that scene often. When the only given imaginary options are cliche A and cliche B, it’s time to ask where the problem really lies.
It occurred to me that if someone had no interest in cinematography, film-making or 3D animation, they may have little interest in watching multi-colored pixels jerking across a flat screen.
Similarly, a misanthropic hermit who has no interest in the survival of the human species, may have little interest in imagining future societies. He or she may choose to write about a planet where there are no humans. If their passion were limited to botany, they may choose to dispense with the animal kingdom altogether. Imagine the popularity of a work of fiction depicting such worlds. Imagine the acclamation if such literature were written from a non-anthropomorphic perspective. Imagine the critiques and condemnation.
So I doubt there can be a revolt of the imagination. Futurists will remain within the realm of their peculiar obsession with technology and social engineering. Organically oriented humans will devote their lives and imaginations to topics that revolve around physical survival; ranging from luxurious to no-frills. Doomers and nihilists will focus on sagas of epic destruction, albeit from different perspectives.
When imagination is limited by individual interests, on top of lifelong conditioning, a revolt against clichés is bound to a small number of bubbles. We can expand those bubbles, and be oblivious to other bubbles of interest. By far the most popular bubble relates to human society, in one way or another. I suspect that only polymaths would be able to synthesize from a wide range of bubbles. I suspect their works of imagination wouldn’t make the top-seller lists. Oh well, there’s always the next issue of Esoterica Monthly.
There seems to be a sort of perverse misunderstanding of supply and demand at play in people’s minds around things like this. In a free market system, pricing signals peoples’ interest in buying something, driving society’s allocation of resources – but that doesn’t mean that if you’re willing to throw an infinite amount of money into a pit that the universe is obligated to give you anything that you want.
As siliconguy said earlier, the path for fission power, from raw theory to practical tests to bombs to power plants, only took about fifty years, and once the great powers of the world saw the potential there was an actual race to the finish with huge sums of allocated money and exciting international spy rings. Right now it seems like the overly-rich billionaire investors of the world literally find Mars colonization, virtual online universes, and underground high-speed trains to be more reasonable projects to gamble on than fusion plants.
@Pygmycory, #57 …. welcome to every Florida retirement village in the state! Only with golf carts, with a handful of trikes, and no laundry hanging out, of course. We’re too far north for geckos, but we have the cutest little lizards you ever saw out on the sidewalks when it’s warm enough. Today’s forecast – up in the 80s. In February.
@JMG #50 — Re: “The source I looked up said otherwise — a good reminder that the internet is well stocked with misinformation. ”
Well, there’s no arguing with that! I’m pretty sure about the dates, however. For physicists, 1905 was a milestone year. Einstein published 4 papers that year, each one a phenomenon. The first on the photoelectric effect, proposed the particle theory of light. The second, on brownian motion, essentially proved the atomic theory of matter. The third and fourth proposed the special theory of relativity and an early version of the now-famous matter-energy equivalence. In physics, it’s hard to think of another year quite like it.
Regarding your response to DFC #32 ” I wonder what they’ll do when it turns out that biotechnology, too, is an overhyped white elephant that costs far more than it’s worth:, I see a caveat. Consider the case of fusion. As a usable power technology, it’s likely to remain a white elephant. But fusion bombs, despite their high cost, are possibly the most economical means of destruction ever devised. In the same way, biotechnology may face headwinds when it comes to useful applications, but Covid has demonstrated to all of us how a relatively small investment can yield a pathogen of enormous destructive potential. Not a pleasant thought.
I don’t know about tomorrowland or fusion, but here in nowland, France is not dependent on Russian gas but Germany is. With a bit of maturity (i.e. admitting solar/wind isn’t gonna cut it), industrial society could be stretched out for a very long time. What “industrial society” means could vary of course. And hether it’s a good idea is another question, but I doubt people will give it up willingly.
@Darkest Yorkshire, my immediate visceral reaction to your scenario is abject horror. I can’t make a specific prediction of exactly how it would go horribly wrong, but I think I do have an inkling of why. Look to history.
@booklover 92, if I may:
The Chinese period of disunity between the Han and the Sui (~200-600 CE) seems to have produced a great deal of literature and art, and also technical advances such as in steel working. Alphabetical writing developed while the Egyptian empire retreated from the Levant after the end of the New Empire, and continued to develop in (first) dark age Greece. As for the second dark age after Classical civilization, Greek fire seems to have been invented at the point when the Roman Empire came nearest to going under (right before the siege of Constantinople in 674 CE). John Philoponus in the 6th century CE went beyond Aristotelian notions of movement. There were also notable works of philosophy and theology, such as those of John Eriugena and John of Damascus, though it hard to define advances in these fields. And of course many epics were either written down or at least germinated in those times – Beowulf, King Arthur, the Nibelungs, Roland…
This challenge is timely and very, er, challenging so thank you for encouraging us to develop the principles of building up a desired position or outcome, eschewing negative opposition to undesirable forces, because it has potent influence on ones` approach to problem solving and frees up energy to actually fix things instead of locking us into conflict.
It’s difficult though. Seeing a thing or concept that is entirely novel seems to be limited by the availability, or lack of, mentally integrated reference points which I guess present as bias or just plain blindness. I’ve had alot of experience of missing a tool right in front of me in a jumble of other tools because I was looking for a yellow something-or-other when the tool was green.
And so I use history to expand my perception of the present. History as remote, foreign and distant as possible can open up a completely new suite of references as can literacy in multiple languages.
Viewed through the lens of history then I’ll do some cherry picking and see an expansive culture connected by broad pathways, mostly walked, that connect monasteries, trade schools, temples, celestial observatories, trade centers, and others not yet conceived that serve and are served by bands of pilgrims and students that quest for knowledge, understanding and purpose.
To put that into practice we as a family have started making the changes in our lives to reform and restore the family farm to a more self sufficient endeavor with the capacity to teach and research ongoing improvements. Interestingly enough we found the farm records from a hundred years ago in an old trunk, and so in part anyway, our way forward begins by looking back.
I grew up in Flint, MI (but I’m feeling much better now…) and we had a big auto show every year at the IMA Arena. One year the big draw was that there would be a General Lee that was used on set. When my friends and I saw it we all cracked up laughing: the car looked like it had been shoved off a cliff. Body panels smashed in then crudely hammered back out; missed-matched paint where dents and scrapes has been painted over; and when you stood back and looked at it, the frame was bent into a U-shape.
And just to bring this back on topic, that’s probably a good metaphor for the USA.
As far as fusion energy goes, I remember there was a wacky idea out of one of the weapons labs to harvest the heat energy of exploding H-bombs underground. Complete with diagrams for containment of the explosions and how you would go about exchanging heat, etc. As I recall, it was moderately cleaver and decently thought out. Uncontrolled fusion does seem to work quite well, it’s getting it to work in a sustained controlled manner that’s eluded the scientists and engineers over the decades.
Like I’ve said before, I’ve soured on nuclear energy in general but more for risk/reward reasons than anything else. Our society is just too dumb and barbaric to be able to handle such things any longer. The Soviet Union couldn’t handle nuclear energy successfully, and I would claim that we’ve become even more dumb and barbaric than even they were.
Some combination of localized, democratic syndicalism and earth-centered enterprise would be my preference (market gardens, small farms, local energy production, community institutions) with only a few large-scale centralized activities where absolutely necessary (heavy manufacturing, staples farming, national defense, etc). So, primarily a locally-oriented life, more practical/physical than today, with a limited central state probably governed on a social democratic/term-limited model. Lots of barter and a very limited financial sector. Hey, an aging gardener can dream, I guess. Retrotopia still seems like a good blueprint to my mind (incidentally, I bought my wife a copy of Retrotopia this Christmas – she loved it, but it first came out she thought the idea completely bonkers. So, change!).
This would just be a temporary base from which to conceive other things that our minds can’t really imagine right now. It’s hard enough (for me) to plan a series of practical moves 4 or 5 steps ahead, let alone imagine future social, political and economic arrangements far into the future. And I’m always troubled by that nagging sense of how much conflict and suffering we’ll all have to go through to break out of our tomorrowland dreams.
Meanwhile, trying to find the right spot to aim for in our immediate current moment actions is challenging enough. In between the tomorrowland and apocalypse binary is another one: too little change and too-much-too-soon. Years ago, around the time of the Bush wars, I traded my SUV for a used Honda Civic hybrid, with a 1.1 liter engine, hybrid drive and about 45 MPG. Too little change, obviously, seems silly looking back on it. But I had three kids and a marriage to keep together and selling the car for 2 bikes and a golf cart would have been too much. So we have to stagger on, compromising. Although as things get more difficult, the necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention principle should help us cut through the mist a bit.
“The space inside the portal shimmers again, and you see—”
Windmills. Not the ugly white giants whose blades are always going through on the local train tracks, but wooden woodmills, the kinds used historically for moving water.
People. Healthy people, strong people, not the commonly obese of today. Someone’s going to yell at them about skin cancer risks and wear hats, and it’ll probably be me. They do a lot of physical labor, they have that look to them, like my almost-ninety-year-old neighbor.
There’s a native stone chapel, I’ve seen it before. The plans right now are in my head . . .
Can’t be a real future here: too green. Must be elsewhere.
Naomi Klein has made a good case that in order to solve climate crises we have to abandon and dismantle capitalism. This – what needs to be done – is the reason for attacking science and for heavily financed continuous lying propaganda which produces the most of denialist pushback.
However, as Slavoj Zizek said, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. So here also the diagnosis for our continuous catastrophic self-defeating collective action is the failure of imagination.
Of course, we are not all equally responsible and guilty, since we don’t all equally influence actions and policies. Mostly it’s the fault of the ruling class and the failure of their imagination. It is understandable as they would have to abolish the system which benefits them the most. So to them it is simply unthinkable.
That is why they won’t be able to produce any effective policy until everything breaks down.
@klcooke #84, re: “The General Lee flying briefly.” Did you know pigs can fly? Just drop one off the edge of the hayloft and watch it! Heh-heh-heh…. it’s the landing that’s the problem. Splat!
ref: WKRP in Cincinnati, when someone released a bunch of turkeys from a low-flying aircraft…. oops!
@David ORN #104 – The Rolling Stones told us that, many, many years ago. “”…..But if you try real hard [and know what you’re doing and are willing to settle for the doable*] you can get what you need.”
“Because the Carthaginians couldn’t envision a war without their Biggest Weapon, Hannibal wound up spending an enormous chunk of their allotted funds on big beasts that never really played a role in the subsequent raiding.”
Substitute Navy for Carthaginian and Carrier for Elephant and welcome to the modern age.
Previously it was battleships. Then they kept getting sunk by swarms of airplanes without the benefit of guided bombs or torpedoes. The Yamato was covered in added-on AA mounts and it still went down before it achieved anything useful. YouTube has a clip from the Japanese movie about its last voyage. It shows just how defenseless it really was against the new technology. Ironic since 5 years before the Japanese were themselves state of the art at killing ships with aircraft.
Re: the future that faded fast:
Siliconguy, I wonder if it would be possible to get the wokesters into an uproar over the phrase “degenerate matter.” I can see it now: “That’s electron-orbitalist! You should call it alternative matter.”
Kevin, write those stories!
Aldarion, glad to hear it. Of course there are plenty of other bogus futures, but the one I want to challenge above all is the one that guides public policy these days, the bogus future of Tomorronland.
Zero, glad to hear it. Do you have a publishing venue?
Viduraawakened, I’m sure you’re quite right. A religion as passionately held as faith in progress takes a long time to die, and there will doubtless still be a minority of the faithful many centuries from now. Thanks for the data points on Gandhian economics! Do you know of a good print or online summary of Gandhi’s economic ideas?
Greg, I like it.
Naomi, thanks for this.
Augusto, thank you!
Brian, of course. Every dimension of the individual’s inner life is inimical to the corporate consumer society and so must be devalued and diminished — and the public schools are a large part of the mechanism for this. We’ll talk about that as this sequence of posts continues.
Brazzart, oh, granted — profiteering from the latest media panic is most of what keeps the economy functioning these days.
Turtle, for every expert there’s an equal and opposite expert; if you look around you can probably find someone who insists that excess CO2 in the atmosphere causes cooling. That’s why I use paleoclimatic evidence of the kind that offends both sides as a reality check. As for rationing by price, again, that’s still the standard method for everything else, and the price of energy is ratcheting upwards — oil’s over $90 a barrel as I type this, and though it’ll doubtless duck back under that figure soon it’s headed higher in due time. This is why I consider arrogant cluelessness more likely as a driver of elite policy than deliberate strategy.
Robert, as I noted back when the Transition Towns hoopla was first being whipped up, it was always going to freeze up on the final step or two. It’s easy to make plans and get compliant city council members to smile and nod; it’s when you actually have to do something about those plans that the rubber meets the road, and (to extend the metaphor) that’s where the lack of traction of Hopkins’ scheme becomes painfully evident.
Wqjcv, and since they’re still stuck in week fifty-something of “two weeks to stop the spread,” they haven’t started on either of those ten years yet!
Sébastien, thanks for this. These are the conclusions I’d come to, and it’s helpful to hear them supported by someone with more of the necessary technical background.
CS2, you’re quite correct about America as a whole. I think if we went back to a federal system, in which each state set its own social policy, you’d see social democracy in some states, but the nation as a whole? Nope.
Walt F #108, the history of what? The New Deal? Widely regarded as one of the best things America ever did and they’re still benefiting from a century later? Okay at the opposite end of the scale is the Great Leap Forward. But note I didn’t include obviously high risk projects like trying to create new ley lines and centres of power, bully any spirits into obedience, or try to exerminate any cryptids discovered. Plus anything you were trying to do – the occultists recruited would have to be willing to do it.
I just did the meditation and what I saw was a few shepherds grazing their flocks on the slopes of mountain amid the crumbling ruins of a ski resort. A river full of salmon and only two boys in a canoe crossing to a trading post on the other side. They had bundles of furs. Simple farms, log cabins and men plowing with oxen. Other plains with almost no people on them but a few shepherds with mixed flocks and tents. A small city at the mouth of a river with chandlers, coopers and masons. People wearing leather shoes or going barefoot. A cellist playing in a factory where people seemed to be doing some handicraft. It all looked like 17th and 18th century technology to me. People were fewer, smaller and a lot thinner. I feel we will be lucky to get to my future in a couple of hundred years.
The details of Gandhi’s economic philosophy was worked out by his disciple and economist J.C. Kumarappa. The original book by Kumarappa “Economy of Permanence” can be downloaded from https://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/economy-of-permanence.pdf
It is claimed that Schumacher’s knowledge of Gandhian economics came from Kumarappa.
Also a recently written biography of Kumarappa is https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-web-of-freedom-9780199460816?cc=us&lang=en&#
The authors are my friends and so I do know that an incredible amount of hard work went into its writing.
“Wqjcv, and since they’re still stuck in week fifty-something of “two weeks to stop the spread,” they haven’t started on either of those ten years yet!”
Week 90 something or 100 something actually, depending ion exactly where you look.
Behind the “something completely different” door, I found:
– people who rediscovered the experience of being a body, not a bundle of risks to be managed
– people who rediscovered that the best stories to live by are those that have a proper role for individual agency
– people who rediscovered purposes worthy of guiding their days
– people who rediscovered satisfactions such as skills well learned, jobs well done, people well fed, conversations well yarned…
What happened next? Well, those people I discovered helped make it happen. 🙂
#JMG- Thanks for asking. I was planning to self publish, but if you have any recommended agents or publishers to query I would take your suggestions very seriously.
Naomi Klein has made a good case that in order to solve climate crises we have to abandon and dismantle capitalism.
Klein is also standing with the Canadian PMC against the working class truck drivers, so I’m a wee bit skeptical of her dedication to the Revolution.
Re: Anonymous (#124)
There was stuff going on in Wuhan the summer before, plus I find it interesting that I (and, likely, many others) only found out about The Military World Games just before they happened in Wuhan in October 2019.
So I could 120-130 weeks of the spread.
Another future we will never get…
A short written summary here:
Sabine Hossenfelder is the scientist who exposed fusion power in another YouTube presentation. Somebody linked to it earlier on the thread. She doesn´t believe in terraforming Mars either…
Actually a quite funny clip! 😉
Booklover, excellent! Yes, indeed it has happened — in fact, it’s a normal part of the process. In the Roman world, for example, the people with new ideas and new modes of social organization were called “Christians.” They were despised by all right-thinking people, but once the right-thinking people finished marching in lockstep to total collapse, the Christians were the only ones left standing. Arnold Toynbee argued that it’s usually a new religious movement that forms the framework for salvage operations on a failing society — he discusses that in Book VII of A Study of History.
Jay, I’ve been saying that for years!
Matt, I haven’t really pursued it, because it’s very closely tied up with Catholic religious beliefs which, ahem, aren’t mine. I may give it a look down the road a bit, because talking about alternative economic ideas seems to be necessary just now.
Yorkshire, that’s definitely something completely different! I’d certainly like to see the WPA (Wizardry Projects Administration) murals..
John, that’s certainly an important factor. I tend to think that the simple fact that it’ll never be able to pay its operating expenses will be even more (metaphorically) radioactive, but your mileage may vary!
Oilman2, okay, that’s way up there in the cerebral-flatulence department.
Kenaz, I’m quite sure it’s because they no longer have the imagination to be able to conceive of anything else. The elephants are a great example of the same process, btw!
Naej-Neiviv, maybe not in Ecnarf, but there’s already some degree of movement back toward less brittle approaches here in the US. I know small businesses that keep their books on paper, precisely because it’s more reliable and less likely to crash.
Jean, thanks for this. That last sentence makes a nice summary of my entire argument.
Wqjcv, or maybe you need to be a little more imaginative about the uses of imagination!
DaveOTN, that’s a very important point. Supply and demand does not mean that every demand is always met by a supply — there’s a huge demand for an antidote to death, for example.
Helix, well, there’s that possibility…
Brian, France has other, equally serious dependencies. Industrial society is by definition dependent on headlong extraction of nonrenewable resources at unsustainable rates. Nor do people need to give it up willingly; since maturity isn’t exactly a common quality these days, it’s quite possible for people to demand inflated lifestyles now even if the cost involves permanent energy shortages and spiraling economic contraction a few decades in the future — and that, as it happens, is pretty much the story of industrial society’s response to the limits to growth.
Gawain, oh, granted. I’ll be talking about that more as we proceed.
Owen, I ain’t arguing.
Mark, staggering on and making compromises has a lot to recommend it as a working strategy — Warren Johnson, in Muddling Toward Frugality, argues that it’s the best option we’ve got. I’m glad to hear that your wife liked the novel! One mind at a time…
BoysMom, depends on what happens to the climate. You’re in Utah, right? Lake Bonneville used to be surrounded by green forests.
Goran, that’s a standard bit of socialist discourse, and it’s just as nitwitted in Klein’s mouth as it is from anyone else. Changing who owns the means of production doesn’t change the ecological context of the means of production — as can be seen with painful clarity if you compare the environmental disasters of socialist countries to those of capitalist countries. That said, I’ve long wondered what was wrong with Zizek’s imagination; I can think of half a dozen ways for capitalism to end and the world to go on existing without even working up a sweat. Thus you’re right about the way the failure of imagination has played out in at least some circles.
Patricia M, I heard about that. Ouch.
Maxine, thanks for this!
Loafer, many thanks for these — I’ve downloaded Kumarappa’s book and will see about the bio.
Anonymous, so noted!
Scotlyn, good. Very good.
Zero, stay away from agents — these days they’re only interested in shilling for the big boys, and if you’re not loading in the clichés with a shovel they don’t want to hear from you. I’ll see if I can spot a small publisher that does ecological fiction. Of course self-publishing is always an option, though marketing can be tough.
Cliff, of course she is. Socialists have zero interest in the working class except as an excuse to seize power. They’re all about unfettered managerial-class rule — “for the greater good,” blah blah blah, but you’ll find out very quickly which animals are more equal than others.
Tidlösa, this is the third time this week that somebody’s cited Sabine Hossenfelder to me. Clearly I need to have a look at what she’s up to.
Hannibals trouble was in the picking of his battles. Instead of losing by winning in the southern territories….for years, he should’ve gone straight to Rome and cut off its head. His scary Ganesh weapons were impressive sound and fury.
Depleted uranium was effectively deployed in Iraq. I have heard or seen a video of stored nuclear waste in salt mines under the Great Lakes or somewhere in Eastern US was rendered non radioactive. The video in question showed a guy with a geiger counter held up against barrels with the radioactive symbol. Maybe the tunnels contained something other or in addition to salt.
To continue my future story, ….
In the morning, or when we awake since there is no “sun” in this new world, it is to tones, or music of a sort. At first we were afraid. Metal started dropping out of teeth, amalgams popped and dropped, whole screws along with deadend teeth found near our pillows, replacement ball and socket hips and hammered femur bits began to poke out of our skin, but there was no pain, and soon tiny seedling teeth were spotted in the sockets. We agreed it was the water, air, this new mineralization out of this new atmosphere within and outside of us.
The music calls us like a shofar, the horn that brings down our inner walls a lattrices of the old ways, like the horns of Jericho.
At first we fell on our knees to this ineffable power, but then some noted that it seemed to come from within, that if we held or listened close to anothers heart or head we might experience their song, and always it differed from our own.
We are the overheated core of universe. Our low tones harmonize and give off effulgent light and heat. It does not deplete us. We sing along with tongues and minds and our very organs sway and beat and effervesce. None have died since the awakening. Our distress is now joy.
We see particles and waves emmanating from each other. Some see the full spectrum and report reactions within themselves and their surroundings. For example, when we bath or drink from the river, a rainbow does not appear, but rather a sphere of indivisible light, that arcs around and enters the crush through skin or mouth.
Some among us have begun to experiment with these speres of the spectrum, surmising that like our drone they could be used to sling shot this energy we have been given to greater effect.
I just got through the first chapter of The Dawn of Everything, a new book from David Graeber and David Wengrow. It looks promising and I wanted to tip off the commentariat.
They spend the entire chapter talking about a lack of imagination in terms of human history and the standard narratives. In particular, how it often gets crammed into Rousseau’s fall from Eden or Hobbes’ elevation from nasty, short, brutish. The authors claim neither is true, that history is much more diverse and interesting, and that our ability to see it as so affects our ability to imagine better futures.
My “imaginative future” would actually be a kind of retro-version of modernity before the 1990´s or thereabouts. Give or take a few foibles, obviously!
No overpopulation, globalization, just-in-time, digitalization, electrification, everything-in-the-Amazon-cloud, la la blah blah. Real jobs, real manufacturing, real food, mass public transit, a stable world population of around 2 or 3 billion people, we could even have some real wilderness! (And cryptids?)
Extremely difficult to actually implement, but *some* of it probably will be “implemented” soon enough, perhaps the hard way (“electrification” of everything to “save the planet from climate change” obviosuly doesn´t work), so why not view it as an opportunity instead?
Now, imagine such a world society for 300 or 500 years, enough to smoothly transition to whatever comes next. Or even in a chaotic world, imagine a single nation keeping internal stability this way.
Not the most dramatic vision, perhaps, but there it is! 🙂
I only discovered Sabine earlier today (local time) when reading this thread. My preliminary take on her is that she is an establishment scientist and Skeptic who is so skeptical of everything “pseudo-scientific” that she sometimes question even some establishment narratives!
#54 I’d read that article a while ago and wondered about the technology. Thanks for mentioning the article as it is interesting.
I’ve been relying day to day with this renewable energy technology for over a dozen years now, and it’s good, but it isn’t good enough. Sadly, it really is that simple. The bottom line is that during the depths of winter when the sun is low in the sky, the city of Melbourne gets on average about two hours peak sunlight per day, and that’s it. Here way north of that city out in the hinterland, conditions are less optimal for all sorts of reasons and it works out to be an average of a bit over an hour a day at that time of the year around the winter solstice. It should be remembered though that an average is just that, a numerical representation of reality. It ain’t reality. Some days, you might get four hours, but some days you’ll only get 15 minutes. Society can’t run on that basis, and we’re at around 37’S latitude. A lot of people reside in the northern hemisphere much further north than a warm 37’N, and they’re welcome to put the technology to the test. Good luck with that!
After all those years the system can deliver 99% of the electricity requirements (and I may have cracked the 1% problem recently) and I’ve had to modify my life in order to accommodate the energy resource. But for folks looking for a return on investment from this stuff, well let’s just say that the cost is bonkers. And there is not enough energy produced by the system to replicate itself, that’s a pipe dream. The whole thing is a long slow one way trip to the dumpster, but then I watch on in horror as society dismantles its base load large generators for ideological and economic reasons. That’s probably not a smart idea.
Still, mucking around with this stuff has been fun.
On a side note, I’m an electronics geek from way back and you can see a photo of me here refurbishing an astoundingly well made FM tuner (one of the best ever made) which I picked up second hand for $100. It sounds awesome too. Total Rubbish. My skills in this area are pretty good, but I doubt I could make the sort of solar panels mentioned in the article – even if the technology was well understood, and more importantly tested – the guy sounded a bit like a natural showman. Hmm.
@ Booklover # 92, Aldarion # 109
There was a great of technical innovation that took place during the post-Roman Dark Ages/Early Medieval period in Europe. Things like the stirrup, shoulder harnesses for horses (which drastically increased agricultural productivity and the efficiency of land transport because horses could now pull much heavier loads and do so with greater efficiency than oxen), the heavy plow, the three field system of crop rotation and the use of windmills and watermills were either invented or came into common use during that era. The widespread availability of cheap and abundant slave labor in the Greco-Roman world acted as a strong disincentive towards innovation while that system still remained viable. The collapse of the old slave-based Roman economy and the depopulation that accompanied the decline and fall of the Western Empire gave people a strong incentive to come up with labor saving inventions and put them to good use.
One wonders what practical new inventions, discoveries and innovations will come out of the decline and fall of our own civilization.
“Finally, go ahead and push the third button, the one marked SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. The space inside the portal shimmers again, and you see—”
I love Maxine’s meditation. That said, the first problem I run up against when attempting the same is, Where am I? Wisconsin? Chicago? Uruguay? The Gulf of Mexico (Where along the Gulf of Mexico)? I could go on and on, but the point is, any future I imagine has first to take place into account. To be realistic and “post-global” about this, first I have to pick a place and ask questions like the following? Do I need to stay warm in winter? What does my access to water look like? Is it mountainous, flat, tropical, temperate, arid? all of which determine my agriculture, and so on. I think that step one in imagining a post-now future is to realistically get to grips with place, something which we are not really doing now, except perhaps as a kind of nuisance to work around (getting water to Las Vegas, for example). This takes me back to Vine De Loria Jr.’s God is Red, and the sense that for the indigenous, place is paramount. In a post-now future, we’re all going to be(come) indigenous, whether we like it or not.
#68 Yeah, well that’s possible that those folks will step up to the plate. I’d like to think so too.
The thing that I’ve noticed over the past dozen years is that scale is an issue too and that takes a lot of experience to manage. Going from small scale systems to larger growing systems is something that I’ve had to navigate, and I’m under no pressure at all if I stuff it up – as I do from time to time. Whether the skills translate from small scale to larger scale is a subject that is of great interest to me.
You see, with more experience under my belt, I often wonder about the longevity of community gardens. Those small plots can be run intensively and have access to awesome systems such as town water and the sheer waste of a city. I’ve run a few raised beds for many years and the rate that the soil drops as minerals get converted into plants, is alarming to watch. And that process never stops. In larger systems you can’t run things as intensively, especially if resources are limited, especially water and mineral additives. It gets down to issues as minor as plant spacing, which can vary from year to year depending upon the climate and availability of rainfall and sun – how does a person judge that without experience? Most people would plant too intensively, I certainly used to.
And the other thing I wonder about with those small community gardens is how much of the produce actually gets consumed? Over the years we’ve had to work out how to consume and preserve what we produce, and then all our manure gets put back into the soil. Very little which was once alive has left this farm for almost fifteen years, and still I reckon there are some soil mineral deficiencies. And the amount of mineral and organic matter stuff over the years we’ve brought in is an eye watering quantity. Do you reckon you could compost your own poop and urine and get it back into the soil? That’s the challenge for our civilisation right there, and as a civilisation we seem to be utterly stuffing it up because it is cheap to do so.
about Sabine Hossenfelder
She seems to be a good science popularizer but of course she is entrenched into the church of progress.
There is a good discussion about her from a realistic perspective here: https://un-denial.com/2020/10/10/sabine-hossenfelder-on-free-will/
#69 Twilight, you said
“Maybe before we spend much more on fusion we could work on cleaning up some of the 85,000 metric tons of “spent nuclear fuel” (i.e. incredibly toxic waste, which will remain so for 10’s of thousands of years) left over from fission in this nation alone?”
I’ve often wondered how advocates of nuclear anything can cope with this huge elephant in the room. In the past year or so, I’ve heard some perhaps somewhat imaginary stories about the unheard-of abilities of various kinds of fungus in speeding the breakup of radioactive fuels into non-radioactive materials. I think they were discovered hanging around in the Chernobyl mess. Did I imagine that? Maybe the “fungiperfecti” guy has something on this sort of thing. I do know that fungi can clean up various kinds of pollution very quickly and that almost no one is using them for that. Same source, I imagine.
On the topic of “we didn’t invent it,” I’ve read hopeful news items about bacteria and also fungi that are learning (too slowly, to be sure) to digest all varieties of our awful plastic waste. I believe Theodore Roszak wrote a novel called “Bugs” about some bacteria that appeared out of the blue that did that quite quickly and we were forced to revert to a pre-plastics age. Another non-binary imaginative mind, although a bit wordy for my tastes anymore…
Hi John Michael,
Crazy days down here, but at least the health issue which dare not be named seems to be rapidly losing its grip. Those folks perhaps are more interested in playing with their war toys these days. Talk about those folks getting easily bored and they seem to be lurching from one disaster to the next! I have an odd hunch that this is what you get when societies leadership believe that strategy is the end point, rather than the merely the beginning. It is possible that this is the downside of employing professional politicians who may have little real world experience, but oh boy can they come up with strategies.
Oh! I noticed another large generator has been scheduled to shut down. This one is the biggest of the lot: Exit of coal-fired power station Eraring ‘unlikely’ to hit prices, but grid stability’s a concern. That headline is a classic chunk of understatement.
Look I’m entirely happy to see other people put this renewable energy technology to the test, but you know if they stuff it up, it takes a long time to build large replacement generators – like many years. And what are people meant to do in the meantime?
The thing is, you’re talking about failure, but I also tend to believe that failure – if big enough – can also sweep aside the leaders and elite who are pursuing such unusual and risky policies. Like you, I’m an old school conservative who believes that we probably should conserve what we have achieved and then slowly test new ways forward, but this is an unfashionable perspective. We seem to want to run full speed ahead into the future! I do wonder at what point all the climate change concerned people change their tunes when their refrigerators and air conditioners don’t work. And like you, I believe it is a very dumb thing to muck around with the composition of gases in the atmosphere. The thing is, it seems a bit mean to me to sell the dream, and then do something else entirely, that is the road to social disaster and the backlash will be huge. I wouldn’t go down that path, but real conservation is a hard sell.
#JMG- Thanks for that advice! It is biology focused hard sci fi, not really like anything in the market. My inspiration was imagining me trying to tell a hunter gatherer in the ancient fertile crescent that shortly there would be a stone city of thousands on the river, where people spend all day growing grain descended from blending these three humble wild grasses at our feet, where the people would press their thoughts into clay and turn stone into metal. From the hunter gatherers perspective that might seem like a kind of sci fi fantasy (if they could have those concepts). I’ve tried to create a future world that has undergone similarly dramatic changes, not through the power of scientific analysis and machinery, but by simply harnessing ways to tap into the potential of living matter. Humans become the universal cross pollinator, shuffling DNA and symbionts between species, causing an explosion in diversity similar to what the insects did with the flowering plants. I’ve worked hard to make it character focused, and with a biology focus there is loads of sex and death (though I hope from a very unusual perspective most of the time).
Self publishing is my first instinct and I am prepared to put in a lot of time for self promotion (another puzzle game I find interesting to experiment with) but I am very open to querying a few small presses, but only if someone recommends them to me. Otherwise I wouldn’t know where to start.
Another Wednesday at Green Wizards, more things to read.
This week there will be no main blog post. Due to a few personal things here locally I wasn’t able to get it finished in time. I’ll try for a two-fer next week.
No problem, the Green Wizard forum has been hot this past week. Check these out.
First up, check out “An Experiment in Living Poor” which paints a stark picture of just what its like for the majority of the World’s people living in poverty. Two young men try it and its an eye opener for them.
Next, writer or reader check out “Women With Swords” for an interesting Youtube channel which looks at bladed combat. The discussion continues into some predictions for warriors and their armament in the coming Dark Age. Sword and pistol may be returning as the go to accessory for the dashing young person to wear about the land.
Third, the way too many people live in huge homes with just a few people is unsustainable now and even more so in the Long Descent. Getting more people together under one roof will save resources and money. It’s not without its problems though and this week’s post “A Cautionary Tale On Cohousing” looks at one experiment that failed.
And finally Green Wizard temporaryreality posted a link to their article on “Papermaking (washi) with invasive paper mulberry”. As the Internet gets priced out for too many people, I expect that writing letters will become the new chic. Maybe a future way to earn some income will be to facilitate that with good writing supplies?
As always to read the posts and comments on Green Wizards is open to the public but to post your own, will require a free account. Contact me via email (green wizard dtrammel at gmail dot com) or via Facebook Messenger.
@Darkest Yorkshire, I have no problem with a magical WPA employing mages for public works projects. I’m horrified by the proposed goal of clearing out spiritual contamination as the objective. How reliably have past large-scale organized efforts to clear out some kind of contamination (doctrinal, genetic, criminal, etc.) managed to target the contamination without ending up blaming and victimizing human beings for causing or abetting such contamination? How has the recent concerted effort against viral contamination been going; have only viruses suffered?
I’ve been thinking about your statement “A genre of fiction becomes senile when it consists of nothing but clichés” in connection with your earlier post on the era of innovation vs. the era of performance in an art. I suppose just as the youthful era of innovation ends when an art has exhausted its possibilities and new attempts to innovate produce incoherence and absurdities, the mature era of performance ends when there is no room for further improvement, and attempts to do so increasingly wallow in cheap nostalgia and sentimentalitsm?
Or do I have the timeline mixed up somehow?
“Which Andre Norton novel? I read her books obsessively back in the day…”
Yes, so did I. I think I discovered them in the library in middle school, and read every one I ever came across for many years. It’s been so long though and I don’t remember the tiles very well anymore, other than I few I downloaded and re-read more recently (like Breed to Come).
Still, there were many with a somewhat common theme of worlds in which the ruins of a past advanced society were all around, with some of the relics and ruins still partially operational and/or powerful. I always imagined these were the remains of our civilization, although in most of her books there was clearly an element of magic to the powers of that past civilization, not just machinery.
So it’s easy for me to picture a world where new kingdoms exist, with some strange mixture of old tech and a smattering of high tech – but no real access to anything other than real-time solar energy flows. Dangerous wasteland where the NPPs were are known hazards. Perhaps strange mutations still happen as a result of our playing with things we don’t fully understand. And some adventurer begins to discover something about that past….
I really don’t know why that’s what came to me when I read your exercise, but it did. I hadn’t thought about her works for a long time, but now perhaps I will find some to read again, and see what new insights they provide after so many years and changes.
Cool, chapter 11 of Retrotopia in real life (Janice’s early work)…
Another failure of imagination in the news (warning: semi-paywalled/”nag-walled”)
Not that I’m opposed to investigations into corporate collusion – indeed I think there should be more of them – but of course the supply chain could never just be broken, because this is This Year and things like that Can’t Just Happen. There has to be collusion involved.
(Mind you, there probably is, at least somewhat. But it’s probably a lot less than they’re anticipating.)
I’m hoping to write some future fiction later this year; for now I’m finishing writing the last few chapters of a fanfiction epic because I was most of the way through already. I am also writing posts on GreenWizards. https://greenwizards.com, though so far I’ve stuck to more practical, how-to articles. Thank you for the vote of confidence.
good point. Which means John Deere really ought to stop trying to prevent right-to-repair before someone goes and does this right now. Sooner or later someone’s going to try it.
Kyle, interesting. The library just got me a copy of that same book, so I’ll be interested to see what they do with the insight.
Tidlösa, excellent. Now, if you haven’t already, think about what you can do to make it more likely. Thank you also for the comments on Hossenfelder.
A Reader, by all means pick one and go from there.
NomadicBeer, finding people who aren’t entrenched in that cult is rare enough that I’ve had plenty of practice extracting the useful bits.
Chris, I really don’t think they’ve ever considered the possibility that they could fail. That’s perhaps the most dangerous of all habits, because it leads to stunningly stupid moves and extreme disasters. They’re convinced that since they want something, and go through the motions of getting it, the universe is required to give it to them. (I keep on thinking of Cromwell’s famous plea: “Gentlemen, by the bowels of Christ I beseech you, conceive that you may be mistaken!”)
Zero, fair enough. Do you know of anyone else who’s doing biology-based hard SF?
David T., thanks for this.
Slithy, the crucial step that makes an era of performance possible is that people stop trying to innovate and settle down to perform. It’s the effort to innovate when innovation is no longer possible that generates kitsch. Think of any really mature civilization — its social forms, its political forms, its arts and sciences, have all settled into a repetition of familiar forms, but that can be extraordinarily elegant because it’s done as a performance of existing themes rather than a charade of innovation. Ancient Egypt is perhaps the supreme example: once it got over its failed era of religious-political kitsch under Ahkenaten, it settled into a steady state and kept on thriving for another millennium, doing the same thing over and over again. Even when novel challenges came up — the invasion of the Sea Peoples, for example — Egypt triumphed by paging back through its own history and using tactics out of the past.
Twilight, gotcha. Yes, one of the things I adored about Norton was the way she used the aesthetic of ruins so skillfully in so many of her works. Do you recall the final scenes of Uncharted Stars, where Murdoc Jern and Eet find their way to a planet that’s all dead cityscape from pole to pole?
Quinshi, I saw that. There’s something profoundly revealing in the fact that Disney, our culture’s supreme manufacturer of fakery, is building these things…
Brendhelm, funny. Of course nothing can actually get in the way of the ever-ascending arc of progress and prosperity! (In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, “what a bunch of maroons.”)
Oh my gosh, Naomi’s future as well … This stuff’s great.
Did any of the people involved in the giant laser thing stop to think about how much heat it would dump into the atmosphere? I see the failure of imagination here extends to the downsides of technologies as well…..
you’re right that scale is a huge issue. I doubt very much that I’d be able to run a farm by myself, given my physical issues. Using humanure to grow food inside a city is likely to hit major regulatory hurdles at the moment, too, and some hurdles in terms of people not doing it right and making themselves and others sick.
I did run a small community garden at my church for some years. it was very difficult to get others involved, especially in more than the planting, and some stuff did go unharvested. I think a lot depends on how a community garden is run. But I’ve only ever really been involved with the one community garden.
In my home garden, I find myself running around on my kickscooter in the fall and collecting big piles of leaves, which I use to mulch things and stick in the compost. Plus the kitchen scraps, the yard waste, my landlady’s kitchen scraps, next door’s yard waste – I share the compost with next door. I always wish we had more compost. There never seems to be quite enough. I haven’t tried urine or humanure, given that I’m pretty sure my landlady would hit the roof. And I really want chickens, but I got told no when I asked. I use a little organic fertilizer, but haven’t used manure or the like in years because it’s too hard to get bags of manure home without a car, and I’m too embarrassed to ask someone else to carry manure in their car for me.
Thanks for the clarification. That comports with what I’m seeing in the TTRPG scene: mainstream companies like Wizards of the Coast are producing increasingly ridiculous (more warhol than kitsch, but still) content as sales decline, while the new hotness in the Old School Renaissance is a game that’s just the old Basic/Expert rules with the serial numbers filed off and presented in a more organized and coherent fashion.
About the plastic eating bacteria: it’s a slightly mutated version of the bacteria that breaks down beeswax. It’s not too unexpected. There is a lot of energy locked up in plastic, something was going to figure out how to eat it.
But before you get too happy at the thought, remember every electrical wire in your house is insulated with plastic. Before plastic wires were worked out they used waxed cloth coverings, and before that it was called tube and knob. Bare copper wires on ceramic insulators going point to point inside your walls and above the ceiling. There were a lot of house fires back then, and electrocutions.
If you’ve read Ringworld you might rememeber a legendary event called “the Fall of Cities” when a bacterium ate the organic superconductors that suspended the cities in the sky.
If you want a quick collapse of civilization, a bacteria that eats electrical insulation will do it.
pygmycory (no. 150), this doesn’t seem to involve IPR issues, but trade secrets, alleged monopolistic practices, and government regulations. According to an article in The Register, “Deere has deliberately monopolized the market for repair and maintenance services of its agricultural equipment with ECUs [engine control units] by making crucial software and repair tools inaccessible to farmers and independent repair shops.” Deere in turn raises the possibility that if “right to repair” laws are passed, owners might not only repair their tractors, but illegally modify them in violation of environmental regulations.
Thank you for your reply. I think a neat summary of Gandhian economics is there in the book ‘Gandhian economics: a supporting technology’ by Ram Swarup. You can download it here: http://library.bjp.org/jspui/handle/123456789/558
#JMG. I’m certain I can’t be the only one trying to do biology based hard sci fi, but usually it is either peri-apocalyptic (eg Oryx and Crake, and the science there is a bit flimsy), or absurdist (Borne), or blended with star trek level technology (Children of Time was fun, plus more titles than I care to consider, many under bio-punk). Many books I find focused on biology tend to do so with alien biology (so space travel level human tech is usually included in the deal). Le Guin focused on biology only so much as needed to construct thought experiments around gender/sex/society (might be wrong there as I can’t stand her style and haven’t read her work much).The back catalog is vast so I wouldn’t be surprised if I am missing some gems. Brave New World is probably a stand out example. I am hopeful someday, someone reads my book and says it makes Brave New World look old and timid.
Funnily enough I have stumbled on a handful of other aspiring writers working along somewhat similar lines to swap critiques, so maybe the zeitgeist is calling us all out. The tricky thing is such stories tend to read superficially as fantasy/dystopian (and my fantasy writing critique partners often like my drafts more than the more sci fi ones). Without the robots and rocket-ships clogging up the scenery what exactly is sci fi left with?
An addendum to Einstein’s theory of relativity:
Regardless of velocity, the goalposts shall recede in direct proportion to player’s forward motion, and remain 10 years, 2 weeks, or any arbitrarily selected unit of time, into the future.
@Oilman2 second post on MONETIZATION and always Chris@Ferndale noting actual soil under actual fingernails, and everyone hear who I just wag my tail with delight to be in conversation with, laughing outloud about the kitten matrix, digging up references…all the best, and many thanks to our host. Ok, so, I work at a conglomeration of enterprises aimed at making money from farming in order to model ways forward, to empossible more working farms and farmers starting in the current economic poopstorm of misplaced incentives. The model that has worked in Kentucky for generations is production of weed, liquor and meat. So now, its CBD, moonshine from a legal distillery w/restaurant, and parture-raised beef plus some commodity corn/soy production (uncompetitive historically w midwest but non-GMO/some fully transitioned organic land pays some premium). Actually, place doesn’t go under because mother, last time she started on this farm, made batch of money by creating corporate structure to produce “all natural” “no hormones or antibiotics” (this was claim made pre-organic-standards) beef and distribute nationally). Now, this is round two for her, and I am returned and involved, and it is far more local to the farm we started from, and it is conscious of soil-carbon-sequestration, climate change and general ecological collapse (nod to NomadicBeer#20 who encourages focus on locally visible and possibly locally-addressed toxicity as better means to engage folks towards less-destruction and who sees a future from the past that I yearn for too!). Soil carbon in agricultural systems is made up of stocks and flows in and out and will be quite hard to quantify, and yet, this is what petrochem biz + financial speculators NEED in order to create tradeable carbon credits and to offset continued burning for petrochem production. There is a new much-hyped USDA grant “Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities” which Commissioner Vilisek carefully says (in so many words) “cest ne pas un carbon market” while it does the prefigurative representation work needed to build a carbon market. According to press release, proposals must provide plans to:
Pilot implementation of climate-smart agriculture and/or forestry practices on a large-scale, including meaningful involvement of small and/or historically underserved producers;
Quantify, monitor, report and verify climate results; and
Develop markets and promote climate-smart commodities generated as a result of project activities
My conundrum is whether/how to write this grant and help mom’s young guys who have been building the distillery and CBD business and helping run the farm get some equipment and network east kentucky farmers and get USDA their underserved hillbilly points and greenwashing face (while most of the money goes to Cargill and the like) and team up with American Farmland Trust or Rodale or similar who want to count organic matter as a way to save the world with regenerative farming and then watch the whole thing get co-opted by wall street to create another commodity market that siphons money to the superrich and destroys the world. Part of me says I’m playing a hand against myself, part of me says you have to board the ship to pirate it. Thoughts?
@Steven De Rose, John Michael Greer
“They look for the first ideologically consistent rhetoric they can find. Normally we would expect Lenin or Hitler or what have you to step up to the plate and then bodies to begin piling up. But something different happens. People fall back on libertarian principles that restrict government and corporate power.”
That would require the identification and neutralization of the evil human beings with the Dark Triad Anti-social personality disorders of:
Machievilianism- In the field of personality psychology, Machiavellianism is a personality trait centered on manipulativeness, callousness, and indifference to morality.
A 1992 review described the motivation of those high on the Machiavellianism scale as related to cold selfishness and pure instrumentality, and those high on the trait were assumed to pursue their motives (e.g. sex, achievement, sociality) in duplicitous ways. More recent research on the motivations of high Machs compared to low Machs found that they gave high priority to money, power, and competition and relatively low priority to community building, self-love, and family commitment. High Machs admitted to focusing on unmitigated achievement and winning at any cost.
The Personality that will do anything for Power at all costs.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder characterized by a life-long pattern of exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive craving for admiration, and a diminished ability to empathize with others’ feelings. Narcissistic personality disorder is one of the eleven sub-types of the broader category known as personality disorders.
Personality disorders are a class of mental disorders characterized by enduring maladaptive patterns of behavior, cognition, and inner experience, exhibited across many contexts and deviating from those accepted by any culture. These patterns develop early, are inflexible, and are associated with significant distress or disability.
Psychopathy, sometimes considered synonymous with sociopathy, is characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits. Different conceptions of psychopathy have been used throughout history that are only partly overlapping and may sometimes be contradictory.
This evil trinity of personalities in both sexes have been responsible for the rivers of blood. And the nightmares of the suffering that they inflicted on humanity.
Their attraction to and effective manipulation of people in order to worm into power and use of power has amplified that destructive predatory effect of humanity for many ages.
No matter which button I push, I end up in geriatric tomorrow land:(
@ Kimberly “I always feel tempted to ask people who believe in communism as a model why it’s called “the people’s party”
I cannot speak for “people who believe in communism”. 🙂
Nevertheless your question prompted a line of thought, and it is this. Parties (it seems to me) are generally organised by people who “need” (or think they need) to take charge of other people, or of what other people have built up, or of the power to steer policy, or some other kind of “taking charge.”
Do regular people need parties? Not any more than regular people need thrones.
Regular people mostly just aspire to be in charge of ourselves, and mostly find ourselves getting involved in politics strictly as much, and no more, as seems necessary for the purpose of setting some limits on the ability of other people to take charge of us, or what we have built up, or of policies that affect us… (although, it seems, throne-seekers will always be with us…)
As much as to say that the concept of a “people’s party” is inherently suspect.
“To hell with the future. It’s a man-eating idol.”
― Ivan Illich
(which is to say, I enjoyed this post, but have nothing intelligent to add)
@ JMG (#28) – You win. “Revocationism” is a much better term. We can reserve “body reveling” and “stripperism” for sectors of the economy that never fall out of fashion….
Similar to Zero’s question, do any small presses come to mind, that might be interested in such a project?
We’ve got a regional press here, that focuses on Oklahoma writers and/or stories set here, but they aren’t taking submittals right now.
My instinct is to try to find an agent, but your advice to Zero echoes advice I’ve read elsewhere; an agent is looking to sell you to a big publisher, so if they don’t think your work is marketable, they won’t be interested.
@ Jessi (#21) – Thanks! I’m working away on the rough draft. I’ll definitely post here if/when it gets published.
@ Bei Dawei (#49) – Ahh yes, the prairie jukeboxes. Proof, if ever there were proof, that there is no omni-benevolent god. At least, not one that graced Oral Roberts with any semblance of architectural good taste. The whole place almost (key word), falls into the category of ‘it’s so ugly you kinda like it’.
Fun side note – that area almost got hit by a decent strength tornado in the mid-70s, but the funnel touched down further east and trashed the area that would become Woodland Hills Mall.
About the lack of imagination. When I was at the Fed, I sat in on meetings where various economists would forecast the economic future for the next year, next two years, and five years. Every month, they would run their models. (I helped in constructing these forecasting models.) Meet and discuss what the numbers came up with. It was a wonderful sort of divination (at least for me). However, then everyone would mess with the numbers saying – well that can’t be — or imputing their “judgement” to make the numbers conform to whatever orthodoxy was on-going at the time.
At the end of all these elaborate discussions, elegant models, mountains of data stretching back a hundred years…. everyone decided that the future looked like the present or what the orthodoxy demanded. My personal view was that “why even bother.”
One old grizzled economist told me about when they forecasted during the Vietnam War. She said that they threw darts at a board, and provided that number to the powers that be. She said they were more accurate.
OT: but worth noting. From Ruben Navarette Jr: “My parents’ generation suffered real and overt discrimination, and so it made sense for affirmative action to give them a leg up. But it makes less sense to transfer that privilege to my children, who were raised in a wealthy suburb by parents with master’s degrees.” This excerpted from an article in The Daily Beast.
I think people should talk to squirrels and listen to what they have to say. It takes a completely alien mind to prompt thinking beyond these four human walls. I disliked Star Trek because their aliens were all human. In a vast universe, really? And they were supposed to be the presentation of the future.
Yesterday, I found myself talking to my socks. I found my missing sock in the laundry room and was telling it how much I missed it. And how its mate would be happy to be reunited with it. Then I realized that people lack whimsey. Why not talk to your socks or toaster? Why not imagine a world full of wonders of dancing leaves and pondering snails? Why is everyone so serious?
Back to the squirrels, they certainly understand whimsey and squirrelliness. More squirrel thinking, less scientific thinking.
@unfo re” personality disorders…. “Maladaptive?” When these are the characteristics that get these guys to the top? Maladaptive … for whom?
Larry Niven once had a story set in a future space-going culture that had gone totally pacifist and had actually bred out the “wolves” in the human species [never mind how possible that might be.] And then predatory aliens, as yet unknown, attacked.
It turned out that a fair number of “sleepers” had been created, who had the wolf streak well buried, to be released in case of unprovoked aggression.
I just finished reading the Saga of the Volsungs, set in a chaotic period in history. What’s noticeable that the sociopaths came out of their killing sprees with lots and lots of gold. (Which changed hands very quickly as one warlord killed another, took the gold, and was killed in return… you talk about wealth circulation.
@ Ben…”body reveling” and “stripperism”???? My mind must work a lot differently than those on this blog, because the image it conjures up is a wild party at a large dive bar in the local Sin City. Which actually sounds like fun.
That’s real rich! Thank you, for it though.
I guess that may be Disney’s PR answer to the following book, which is on my too read list:
Sunbelt Blues: The Failure of American Housing by Andrew Ross
“”Today, a minimum-wage earner can afford a one-bedroom apartment in only 28 out of 3,140 counties in America. The single worst place in the United States to look for affordable housing is Osceola County, Florida. Once the main approach to Disney World, where vacationers found lodging on their way to the Magic Kingdom, the fifteen-mile Route 192 corridor in Osceola has become a site of shocking contrasts. At one end, absentee investors snatch up foreclosed properties to turn into extravagant vacation homes for affluent visitors, destroying affordable housing in the process. At the other, underpaid theme park workers, displaced families, and disabled and elderly people subsisting on government checks are technically homeless, living crammed into dilapidated, roach-infested motels or even in tent camps in the woods. Through visceral, frontline reporting from the motels and encampments dotting central Florida, renowned sociologist Andrew Ross exposes the overlooked housing crisis sweeping America’s suburbs and rural areas, where residents suffer ongoing trauma, poverty, and nihilism. As millions of renters face down evictions and foreclosures in the midst of the COVID-19 recession, Andrew Ross reveals how ineffective government planning, property market speculation, and poverty wages have combined to create this catastrophe. Immersive and compassionate, Sunbelt Blues finds in Osceola County a bellwether for the future of homelessness in America”
I did listen to a fascinating talk he gave on his book.
“Chris, I really don’t think they’ve ever considered the possibility that they could fail. That’s perhaps the most dangerous of all habits, because it leads to stunningly stupid moves and extreme disasters. They’re convinced that since they want something, and go through the motions of getting it, the universe is required to give it to them. ”
Having just finished reading Shattered Storm (Parshall and Tully) that is a really concise description of the Japanese going into Midway.
I actually felt sorry for the Hiryu. Nagumo is charging the US task force intending to avenge the other three carriers with a night time gun and torpedo fight and he’s taking along his last carrier which has no armor, no big guns, and no torpedo launchers? Seldom do I yell at academic works, but I did for this.
To expand on @kyla’s comment … Yes, Graeber & Wengrow’s “The Dawn of Everything – A New History of Humanity” is a wonderful book that can help us imagine a something other than “a pair of shopworn, secondhand futures”.
Just as the religion of progress points forward to a false set of choices, it is grounded in a mythical version of human history.
In “The Dawn of Everything”, Graeber and Wengrow disassemble these historical myths; that civilization is an arc from bands to tribes to chiefdoms to states, that as society gets more complex it necessarily gets more hierarchical, and that there was an idyllic garden of Eden state of pure, somewhat unconscious equality from which this all emerged. This cartoonish historical foundation of the religion of progress gives us a false choice about human nature (Rosseau vs. Hobbs) that parallels the false choice JMG writes about between Tomorrowland and Apocalypse.
Graeber & Wengrow also suggest that if our species future now hinges on our capacity to create something different, then “what ultimately matters is whether we can rediscover the freedoms that make us human in the first place”, and ask “What if instead of telling a story about how our species fell from some idyllic state of equality, we ask how did we came to be trapped in such tight conceptual shackles that we can no longer even imaging the possibility of reinventing ourselves?”
The book provides a wonderful foundation exploring this question, drawing on a wide range of current anthropological research, grounded in an approach that treats people, from the beginning, as “imaginative, intelligent, playful creatures who deserve to be understood as such.” As they point out the “weird way we read the evidence […] that for countless millennia we had modern brains but for some reason decided to live like monkeys anyway …”
This insistence on treating humans as people far into the past provides a basis for understanding that societies have been organized by self-conscious political actors making considered choices about how best to live for tens of thousands of years – not just since the enlightenment thinkers discovered coffee house conversation and philosophy. It allows the authors to unpack the many ways societies have been organized and the fluidity with which they often move from one form to another to meet the demands of changing contexts.
It is a fun book in this regard, reawakening a sense of possibility, as we look at all the ways our playful species has thought to weave a society together, the creativity and colorfulness involved, the many ways we collectively express our humanness.
Examining the the long history of how we got stuck, how this rich set of possibilities got narrowed down to a false binary choice is a great foundation for imagining what’s in store when we hit the button labeled “SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.” I highly recommend reading “The Dawn of Everything” as a way to do so!
Hi John Michael
Speaking of cliches and failure of the imagination –
I recently spent a couple of minutes listening to some clips of Elon Musk talking about the absolute necessity of achieving a space-spanning humanity before the sun destroys the Earth.
It sounded eerily similar to Westons argument for progress In Lewis’s Perelandra, so brilliantly rendered into pidgin by Lewis. IIRC “We are better than you because we can move heavy objects faster than you can.”
“Without the robots and rocket-ships clogging up the scenery what exactly is sci fi left with?”
The Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold went for biology. Genetic engineering of humans in Falling Free and Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. The consequences of the arrival of uterine replicators on a society that hadn’t had them. The legal status of clones.
And there was even a display of the tactics of a stunner fight. With non-lethal weapons the combatants might be willing to take more risks. And against a large enough mob a stunner will not save you.
The consequences of technology are more interesting than the technology. Social media allowed unofficial information channels which the All-Glorious State is now trying to corral. As I write this on-line banking is allowing the Canadian Government to freeze the accounts of anyone it decides is supporting the “illegal” protests. Does a Canadian have to kiss Trudeau’s ring to show loyalty, or is registration in the “correct” Party sufficient?
I’ve been rewatching the Babylon 5 series. It’s been somewhat eerie in seasons 3 and 4. One episode had the concepts “goodfact” and “realfact” as part of the the plot. That is right up there with the CDC redefining “vaccine” to cover up that the Covid ones don’t actually work. Newspeak baby. 1984 was too an instruction manual.
JMG and William,
about what should come first: justice or helping the foxed.
I would go even further than William.
Helping the foxed first is equivalent to starting to repaint while the house is still on fire.
The correct thing to do is to put down the fire, check the structural integrity (is it worth repairing?), look for the cause (electrical? arson?) and only absolutely last thing to do is to repaint – if the house is still standing.
It might sound callous, but what’s the point to help the foxed if the perpetrators convince them again and again to do stupid things? “You can’t fix stupid”.
More importantly, given the costs and the risks, it might be best to do nothing for the foxed – after all half of US population has no insurance and nobody seems to care.
In our society the only ideas, dreams, and futures that are given away for free from the powerful to the masses are ones that have already had all the potential and utility extracted from them. If they had potential and utility they would be monetized and guarded.
A vision of magical futures: ( for all, in reply to @Darkest Yorkshire & @Walt F)
What about a decentralized network of initiates in training, mages and not a few adepts as well, of every stripe of practice, as you envisaged, each working on their own short term and long term magical workings and projects? Each of these individuals would in turn be working under the guidance of their own tutelary spirit, and whatever powers they are called/choose to work with. They would do lots of divination in regard to their projects to make sure they don’t blow themselves or other people up, and also make sure they are even necessary.
Yet they could share their work with each other in journals devoted to the various subdisciplines of magic and the occult. They could sometimes come together to form a temporary lodge for the purpose of executing a particular magical goal, and when that goal is reached, allow that lodge to dissolve and the members to go on to other work and groups, all while maintaining friendly relations as possible in this human world, where sometimes people come together, do some things, and then go their separate ways.
Some solitary types would labor al-One for years only ever maybe exchanging letters with some few others and receiving various correspondence courses in the mail. Others are chatty types and get on their radionically empowered ham radio sets and talk late into the night on magical nets even though separated by vast distances. Others prefer sending dream messages to each other by telepathic post.
Some fellowships only meet in certain hang out spots on the astral plane according to complex rules found in a few rare almanacs scattered around the globe, by the founder of the group. Even though she finished her last incarnation, she still hangs out on the inner planes and acts as a contact and guide for those who seek her out.
A culture of pilgrimage exists. Groups spontaneously form on the road to the shrine of the Salamander Lake Lady to share resources. Some of the older pilgrims have many different companions over the course of the grueling 484 octoad trek. Many do not return, as for some the end is voluntary immolation. Families worry when young ones join this cultus and got caught up in the fire and fervor of the pilgrimage!
There are other pilgrimages though, to old trees, old streams, to the sites of old nuclear missile silos where a continuous peace vigil is held by a rotating coterie of hermits from the nearby caves.
Some groups still fear magic and it remains verboten for them. Yet they still believe in miracles, yet do not ask for them, but only watch and wait.
Many shops exist in the cities, little tents on the streets where herbs and beads and stones, and the unrusted stainless alloys of yesteryear are traded for in the use of little charms, along with scripts and sigils and candles for their casting.
The Mentat Mnemonicist Guild has regular meetings at Herbert Halls in many cities, and small Rotary Groups in rural areas. They maintain an HQ on the island of Majorca where one of their legendary founders hailed from in the wayback machine. They study logic and cryptanalysis. They even make a number of new types of mental maps, and are often hired for voyages and expeditions.
In Kurten in what was once Germany the Harmonic Science School of the Seven Rays teaches musical glasperlenspiel according to their founding patriach Stockhausen, and the Law of Silence according to Cage, and the Law of Space Bop according to Sun Ra. Many of their members are also astronomer priests who listen closely to the harmony of the spheres.
One curious group of post-chaos mages made up of former advertising executives continued to influence folks even after billboards and certain types of ideological-heavy public art had been outlawed. They kept up the razzle dazzle in small press ‘zines heavily lade with wordplay and visual stimulation. Yet these they tailored to peoples needs instead of towards creating artificial wants, and were thus tolerated in the media ecology of the time.
Slithy, no argument there. The Old School Renaissance is the wave of the future. Let’s hear it for plain old dungeon crawling!
Siliconguy, many years ago there was a fun little SF novel called Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters which had a global catastrophe caused by bacteria figuring out how to eat plastic. So the idea’s out there!
Viduraawakened, thanks for this! I’m glad to see the BJP paying attention to it.
Zero, this is sounding more and more entertaining, the more you describe it! Let me see if I can find anyone interested in publishing it. As for science fiction without robots and rocket ships, back in the 1960s and 1970s there was an enormous amount of that; the narrowing down of SF into an endless parade of dreary space operas in the late 20th century is, I’m convinced, one of the main reasons the genre has shrunk to such a tiny niche market during that time.
Wqjcv, hah! I like that.
DenG, stretch your imagination more!
Ben, the standard advice for publishing is to find books like yours, note down which publishers publish them, and look up those publishers online to see if they’re taking submissions. It can be a real slog! One piece of advice I’ve found very useful is to look for a small press that’s willing to take chances; there are a lot of those just now, since POD publishing technology has lowered the bar on price.
Neptunesdolphins, that makes perfect sense to me. Quite a few years ago Bertram Gross pointed out that economic indicators were being transformed into “economic vindicators,” meant to support official policy no matter what the facts said.
Patricia M, good heavens. Common sense breaking through at last!
Neptunesdolphins, that’s a pervasive flaw in science fiction generally. Most “alien species” in SF are not only people in funny makeup, they’re also middle class American or European people in funny makeup. You can encounter more strangeness by visiting the nearest immigrant community.
Siliconguy, a good comparison. It’s remarkable how often human stupidity falls into familiar patterns.
Willrobb22, fascinating. Well, it’s next on my book stack, so we’ll see.
Lurksalong, it’s the same argument. Lewis was parodying the standard party line from the scientific community in his time, and it hasn’t changed a single word since then.
NomadicBeer, there are people who were caught in the fire and burned. Are you going to treat their injuries, or shrug and tell them to wait until the fire’s out? A little compassion, especially toward those who were bullied and browbeaten into it, or had no choice in the matter — children got foxed, you know — strikes me as a more useful idea.
Glasshammer, which is why paying any attention to anything that’s given away by the corporate state is a really, really bad idea. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution.
Justin, thanks for this! I like it.
Back on the topic of the essay, I suspect when I look out on the apocalyptic wasteland this is what I’ll see.
For those not minded to click: it’s the music video for “Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians” by The Sword, and features a postapocalyptic death cult (lead by a guy in an N95 mask, no less — spooky considering the video was made in 2008) gaining access to a nuclear weapons silo. From the lyrics:
Our legends tell of weapons
Wielded by kings of old
Crafted by evil wizards
Unholy to behold
We seek the fire lances
That slew the ancient race
The world where they were masters
Now lays in waste
It’s a pretty bleak picture, but at least the soundtrack is decent. (The Sword have an old-school metal sound, clearly inspired by Black Sabbath.)
@Tidlösa #133 My future is quite similar to yours. I do hope we can preserve at least part of the Internet though.
I’m thinking there’s a possible direct correlation between imagination and individuation. After all, how could anyone become a distinct individual from their culture and upbringing if they can’t imagine themselves being different from their culture and upbringing? I don’t think such a thing is possible.
Another person to check out in imagining alternative futures is Gar Alperovitz and the Next System Project. He has been advocating for a system he calls a Pluralist Commonwealth, including things such as public or state ownership of banks and utilities, worker owned cooperatives of many types, and promoting more commons. He has a free book outlining the ideas on his website.
@ Oilman2 – “We came up with the loss of “the commons” as a possible reason for this, but I need to think on this a bit more. Perhaps we need a invigoration of “the commons” to clear out a lot of the current clutter that business has become?”
Yes. I think this is certainly a productive line of thought, and dare I say, imagination. Although, using the active word “commoning” will, I think, help to break through some of the baggage that hangs around the idea of a “commons”.
To prompt this thinking, may I contribute the following quote:
“Consider the difference between common rights and human rights.
First, common rights are embedded in a particular ecology with its local husbandry. Human rights are not. That is why they can so easily be rendered universal….
Second, commoning is embedded in a labor process; it inheres in a particular praxis of field, upland, forest, marsh, coast. Common rights are entered into by labor. They belong to experience not schooling.
Third, commoning is a collective endeavor as depicted, for example, in the many paintings of gleaning the harvest.
Fourth, commoning, being independent of the state, is independent also of the temporality of the law and state. It’s much older. But this doesn’t mean that it’s dead, or pre-modern, or backward.”
This quote, alone, has served me for much meditation fodder.
This quote comes from a review of a book entitled “The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All”, by Peter Linebaugh. The review is here: https://bostonreview.net/articles/peter-linebaugh-secret-history-magna-carta/
@ xrebelky7758 RE: thoughts…
What I see happening in the younger generation at this point is complete abhorrence in existing government entities. Everything requires a permit, special regulations and equipment, a license for every operation, ad nauseum. They are very weary and wary of these items, and are choosing NOT to build giant businesses and sell them on, but rather to build lifetime businesses and limit their growth so as to procure more free time rather than more money.
It isn’t everyone, but when I talk to my 20-30 somethings and pals, they are majority against the current MBA model of business management (you know – get a loan, build it and sell it for X-time EBITDA). They are more prone to family businesses or ‘friends businesses’ than corporate madness of growth. Many of them see and grok the coming long descent – they are thinking differently. Better to have some used, cranky equipment than to leverage the business for more shiny, newer gear. Better to grow slowly than all at once on the back of OPM (other peoples money).
There may be opportunity sooner, as in existing generations, as many of them are simply being quiet and flouting the existing strangulation of permits and regulations. As economies shrink, less and less bureaucracy can exist – so many of these regulators and enforcers will go away for budgetary reasons. Always remember that politicians will lay off everyone save themselves – every single time.
So while I may not be here in 30 years, I am betting that the future will be less regulated (outside of the internet, where access will be monetized in future) simply due to monetary restraints in actually being able to enforce the rules. Read up on Prohibition and how things were done back then – a great example of government overreach and illustration of how powerless government is in the face of people simply wanting beer!
I am also thinking that buying a small newspaper operation might just be a good idea if you don’t leverage the entire deal. I am thinking when internet access gets prohibitive, might be a good thing.
Two more SF works featuring apocalypses brought on by hydrocarbon-consuming microbes or nanobots that destroy plastics and liquid fuels: Ill Wind by Kevin J. Anderson & Doug Beason, 1995; and the Daybreak trilogy by John Barnes, ca. 2010. An additional mention should go to Slow Apocalypse by John Varley, 2010, in which a virus solidifies the world’s remaining oil reserves underground, making it impossible to pump. (By our standards the resulting apocalypse is quite rapid, contrary to the title.)
I read Ill Wind when it came out. It was entertaining but the science was very shaky for plot convenience purposes. Whenever a bit of the mutated organism gets into a fuel tank, a few hours later all the fuel is just gone, leaving the tank empty except for a musty smell. Um… where did all the mass and chemical energy go? It would be more plausible for the tank to explode partway through the process from fermentation gas pressure or heat buildup or both, assuming the organism could somehow metabolize all that fuel without inputs of air or water. Or possibly, the tank would end up full of a microbial supercolony (i.e. slime) that would still burn almost as energetically as the original fuel; that would at least respect the laws of physics if not those of biochemistry.
As I understand it, in Barnes’s trilogy it’s nanobots instead of microbes, which by the current conventions of SF can do anything.
In the real world there are any number of organisms that have evolved over eons to break down cellulose, but that doesn’t mean wood and paper and cotton rot away in our hands in seconds the way plastics do in these SF scenarios. Present and future plastic-eating microbes will be similarly self-limiting, especially under dry conditions. If they optimize for the most promising niche, consuming plastic particles in water, they could do the environment a lot of good without doing much harm to our stuff.
@JMG, I think you might have missed DenG’s point (or joke). “Geriatric” was not a typo or accidental autocorrect for “generic” in this case.
Your advice in response still applies, but it might be worth mentioning that some of us are imagining futures well beyond our individual present lives, while others (especially with fewer elapsed years) are thinking more in terms of actually getting there.
I wonder if Graeber and Wengrow read your blog. They specifically reference the Myth of Progress. Was that an idea that you coined, or did you get it from an earlier source?
Chris at Fernglade, the scale thing is hard, hard, hard, I agree. I bungled it up badly when I went from apprenticing on a 20-acre vegetable farm to doing a lot more hand work on a 1-acre market garden, but I was at least able to collapse back into a desk job when my farming went under. If you try to go the other way you really risk taking out a lot of debt and then not knowing how to manage a bigger farm.
The real differences seem to lie in fertility and in cultivation. At a bigger scale you have to rely on cover crops for more of your fertility – you just can’t spread enough compost on a big farm to cover your nutrient needs. And you need to rely on some form of mechanical cultivation, from wheel hoes at the small end to tractors or horses as you get bigger. You can no longer just pull weeds or add enough mulch to keep them down. The net effect of both changes is that your planting density goes way down – because a cover crop rotation makes your cash crop less dense in time, and then being able to till means planting in wider, more spaced-out rows.
Either way you go, you can end up at a scale in the middle where you’re inefficient…too big to be biointensive and too small to take advantage of economies of scale. Just sharing in case it helps someone else avoid my own mistakes.
@DaveOTN “In a free market system, pricing signals peoples’ interest in buying something, driving society’s allocation of resources”
Might you consider the following [amended] statement as demonstrating more accuracy?
“In a… [money] market system, pricing signals peoples’ interest in [and, more importantly, capacity to afford] buying something, driving society’s allocation of resources [towards those who have obtained the price of admission to the market].”
Obviously, admission to a market is never “free”, and those who cannot obtain the price of admission – ie a quantity of money to spend – will perennially experience desires and interests that are utterly invisible, and actually “unspeakable”, in the quantitative language of price, however real they are to the people in question, who remain outside of a “market society’s” allocation of resources. Real to themselves, they remain invisible to a market in which they have no market-communicating tokens.
I can certainly imagine markets that are free, or at least transactions and exchanges that are, but I find it very tough trying to picture “price” (which is strictly a quantity measure) featuring, as I cannot picture quantitative measures being at all useful to those who are free to make quality their primary consideration.
“Price”, expressed in monetary quantities, strikes me as the first distancing “statistical” move, which inevitably introduces people to the wonderful world of abstractions in which we have become so tightly enmeshed.
SiliconGuy#118 The military mindset and the love of Big Gadgets is tied together in a rather Freudian fashion. And because it’s easier to get big bucks for the Latest Unstoppable Fighting Technique than for unspectacular things like grunts on the ground, you see endemic money waste until the printing press runs dry.
Naomi #131 If Hannibal had pressed his victory and done to Rome what they did a few years later to Carthage, he could easily have won the support of the surrounding Italian city-states. (As liege lords, the Carthaginians were a much more relaxed lot than the Romans ever were). But as one of his critics said, Hannibal knew how to win a victory but not to take advantage of it.
Everyone knew the Carthaginians would leave sooner or later, and the Romans would remember any city on the peninsula that cooperated with the Carthaginians. So they had no chance of getting local support so long as Rome remained a credible and enduring threat. And when you can’t win local support, you can’t keep a region pacified for any length of time.
Carthage was also a plutocracy run by people who had no idea what kind of threat the Romans really posed, but who knew exactly what kind of threat a Hannibal dictatorship would propose. They never provided Hannibal the resources and manpower he needed to win a decisive peninsula-wide triumph, and so he frittered away fifteen years with nothing to show for it. (Shades of Vietnam and Afghanistan… ).
Finally, it didn’t help that Carthage traditionally crucified the general in charge after a bad defeat. Lots of great generals have a couple of foul-ups under their belt. Killing your generals for a mistake means you have generals who have never learned from their mistakes.
@ Kyle re: 132
I read the article a day or two ago and it sounded so interesting that I ordered the book. I guess it should come as no suprise that lack of immagination with regard to the past, and the development of key features of culture, leaves us w/o immagination with regard to the future. I suspect as we find more about our mulitvariant past we’ll have less trouble seeing alternate futures.
@JMG This article reminded of a chapter of your book Dark Age America
Slithy, I could definitely see that. Me, I tend to see a mashup of early Andre Norton and the original Planet of the Apes movies, but that’s mostly just a product of when I was born.
Youngelephant, ding! We have a winner. Jung’s focus on active imagination is worth keeping in mind in that context.
Kwo, so noted!
Walt, oh, granted, but a nice lurid apocalypse is fun. The gas tanks should have filled up with water and CO2, I’d think. As for DenG’s post, I didn’t think it was a typo; Tomorrowland is geriatric at this point, as I noted in my post. Of course I may have missed a joke; I do that fairly often.
Kyle, I’d be amazed if no one else had ever thought of it, but I coined it independently. If Graeber and Wengrow got it from my blogging, more power to ’em.
Stellarwind, I bet the author gets crucified by the pundits for saying this.
It’s a common event in my life for a narrative to spring into my head fully-formed, and with a decided “mode” (i.e., it’s a TV show, or a book, or a movie). This morning I saw a music video, animated, perhaps to be shown at some indie festival. It was inspired by this post, so I hope you will oblige me.
The music video begins with an incongruously cheery and old-timey tune in the background, talking about how its subject “brings joy to my life”. The animation comes into focus on a Costco on a sullen gray day, the parking lot crammed with cars. Inside a new father, unshaven, in sweatpants, is wrestling a box of formula into his cart. He looks down and the colors of the production warm up slightly as we see the big smile on the face of his infant son. Reverse-shot to the father smiling in response, his furrowed brow smoothing for a moment.
We see a flash of their home – a suburban prison; the father with a headset slumped over a screen in a bedroom upstairs, home crowded full of the IKEA furniture and markers of faux middle-class prosperity, the mother scrolling anxiously through her phone at the kitchen counter while the child laughs and plays on the carpet in front of a talking head on the TV. Colors remain gray and dismal.
Fast-forward in time; we see the child playing by skipping rocks across a parking-lot puddle, still with the same huge smile. The mother is queueing in front of the Costco, with a list and a worried expression. No one is shopping freely anymore – your “papers” are scrutinized at the entrance, and someone brings out an allotment. His mother’s smartphone has a gigantic crack across it that is causing trouble with the scanner. She is arguing with the checker in the background but the camera zooms in on the child jumping for joy when he skips the rock three whole times across the puddle. Another kid breaks away from his own mom and grabs a rock to try for himself; the first kid starts to show him how to do it.
Fast-forward in time; there is a stern face in a military uniform in front of a flag splashed across the flickering TV screen. Troops stand in the Costco parking lot, which has become their base of operations; one holds out his hand to receive the father’s car keys, which he hands over with a pensive, cowed expression. Meanwhile the kid, about 12 now, same big smile, is laughing and talking to other troops standing around nearby. They smile back at him as if they can’t help themselves. One of them picks the kid up, shoving aside his M-16 to do so, and balances him on a motorbike. He laughs out loud.
Cut directly to his joyous face a few years later, colors starting to brighten as the wind blows in his hair, driving the motorbike sans helmet down what was once the local freeway, in a pack of other young men the same age, “owning the road” as teenagers do and dodging potholes that would have crippled the car the family no longer possesses. Some of the pack have guns; he doesn’t, but the local troops posted by the freeway exit wave the whole group by. They all pull into another parking lot next to a shabby but operational church and lean against the wall watching for the girls to get out of the service. The girls come out, most waving off the boys who catcall them, but one of them looks over her shoulder at the kid we’ve been following, who flashes her that same huge smile.
Cut to her perched on the back of the motorbike, exhilarated expression on her face, as he drives then down the potholed freeway at sunset, the metal of the bike gleaming. They pull up on a freeway overpass and watch the sun go down. They kiss while the last rays slip beyond the horizon.
Fast-forward in time; now we are at a wedding, in the same shabby church. The girl is heavily pregnant, and her wedding dress looks more like a summer maternity dress awkwardly fitted. The boy’s hair is combed, but not perfectly, and he is wearing a clip-on tie with a corporate logo on it. Her relatives and his “pack” fill one side of the church, loud and colorful and lower class, while only the boy’s parents are on the other side, their faces frozen in a rictus smile. But we zoom in on the young couple, who only have eyes for each other. He takes her hand and slips on a ring his mother hands him, which doesn’t quite fit. He laughs when he realizes, goes down on one knee, and brings the finger to his mouth for a kiss.
Fast-forward in time; we return to the father, much older but still hunched over his screen in the same dark bedroom. The cords to his screen have multiplied in a DIY fashion. The screen blips and goes off. The father clicks every button on the the keyboard, fiddles with the cords, then slumps back in defeat. Walking down the staircase, the camera zooms out to show every door and window open – the TV is dark now and awkwardly stuck in a corner. The boy’s mother, his now-wife, and some neighbors are in the backyard determinedly planting a vegetable garden in every available space. The father readies himself for an announcement, but his son interrupts him with the usual smile, holding up his new daughter for his father to hold. The old man sits in a chair in the garden with the baby on his knee, flowers blooming behind him, and slowly his back straightens and his lined face smooths back into a smile.
Fast-forward in time; it is summer now, brutally hot, and there are now tanks in the parking lot of the (former) Costco. The young man is working with a pick-axe, alongside others deemed strong enough – being ordered at gunpoint to chip away at the asphalt of the parking lot, back-breaking work. The wires laying underneath it are the goal – their metal sparkling in the direct sunlight, the men with guns pulling it out and hauling it away. The camera leaves him gasping and wiping his brow and focuses instead on the form of the Costco, wavering in the distance through the heat.
Now we are at the musical interlude part of the background track. The sun rises and sets and rises and sets over the Costco, day and night spinning and spinning. The remaining asphalt cracks a little and the parking lot lights sputter out. As the music crescendos, an explosion blasts through the side of the Costco – its flames light up the night, and flashes of gunfire scatter here and there about it. Then the sun rises again over its husk, and then sets, and then rises, day and night spinning and spinning. A stream begins to run through the middle of the parking lot’s ruined asphalt, and trees start to sprout from the side of the blackened, half-collapsed building.
As green grows over the screen, we cut away to the young man – not so young now, with a few gray streaks in his hair – knelt in prayer next to the neatly-kept graves of his parents and a few others, buried on a hillock next to what’s left of the freeway. A burnt-out tank is almost taken over by blackberry vines not far away. He stands up and his usual smile returns as he sees his teenage daughter waving at him from the road, standing next to his old motorbike loaded down with packages. He lovingly makes sure his daughter is wearing a helmet as she gets on behind him, though he zooms off with his own hair blowing in the wind.
They bump their way over DIY gravel repairs on one lane of the former highway as they make their way to a former city – the husks of deserted skyscrapers loom above them as they travel, but soon they are carefully threading their way through a crowd. They get to what was once a touristy riverside promenade – there are boats tied all up and down it now, from repurposed yachts to rowboats, as trade has resumed along the waterways. As the man cheerfully haggles with one ship-owner over a package, his daughter catches the eye of the man’s son–who is tying their boat to a signpost pointing towards a half-dismantled Ferris wheel–and they smile at each other.
Fast-forward in time; the daughter and the shipowner’s son are now getting married. The custom now is to set up a huge bonfire and a feast after the ceremony for all around to come and celebrate; the camera spins about from the joy of the young couple to the loving exasperation of the wife and focuses in on the father of the bride, huge smile on his face and hands thrown in the air, a few sheets to the wind and trying to get the (much less drunk) father of the groom to come and dance with him. The flames of the bonfire whirl and dance up towards the stars.
Fast-forward in time; the man, now with hair completely white, is crouched next to the stream – greatly widened into a meandering small river now – running through the former parking lot of the former Costco. Willow trees are growing up on the bank, and there is no more than few lengths of rebar sticking up where the building used to be in the background. He is holding a stone in his hand, and a few boys are watching him carefully. He skips it across the surface of the slow-moving river. They line up to try it themselves, and he smiles brilliantly as he crooks back their arms to show them how to do it. The camera pans up into the blue skies above as the old-timey music fades and crackles out in the background.
Well, that took significantly more time to type out than it did to see it flash by my eyes… I hope it serves as another “third option” to add to the many great ones above! 🙂
Scotlyn, oh certainly. I was using free market to mean a sort of Adam Smith-like ideal system but your corrections are certainly valid. There are a lot of starving people in the world who would prioritize food very, very highly, for instance, but still can’t act on that preference in the market without money.
I should really come up with an alternate future if I’m going to keep posting this week though!
@sardaukar: Yes, I was thinking of all that agricultural innovation, but I think much of it happened outside of the old borders of the empire, so I am not sure how much of it can be defined as “happening in times of decline”. I seem to recall from reading “Naissance de l’Europe” that many of the agricultural innovations happened in the Vistula basin (modern Poland). But you are doubtless correct that some occurred within the (former) borders.
@booklover: Re-reading your original question and JMG’s answer, I see I slightly misunderstood it as “happening in dark ages”. Of course, our current situation is still very far from a dark age. If one is thinking about the slowly accelerating decline of a civilization, then in addition to all the religious and philosophical fermenting that happened in the “Graeco-Aramaean compost” of the first centuries CE (Toynbee’s expression from book 10 of his Studies in History, I think), I can also think of some material changes, such as the adoption of codices instead of scrolls and the increasing trade between the Mediterranean and India (and even China).
The possibility of change during decline is indeed reason for hope, though it does seem that change, even change for the better, accelerates after a breakdown, like Sardaukar suggested.
The managerial classes indulge in many luxury beliefs, none of which are remotely affordable to ordinary people in their implementation, all of which have a highly adversarial relationship to the world of the real.
Belief in socialism is one of those luxuries, so is globalization, so is abolishing the cops, and there’s a long list, most of which are associated with so-called progressivism. Maybe this fusion energy qualifies as one of those luxury beliefs because for one thing, to anyone with eyes, this is a highly expensive technology whose viability has been decades in the future since its conception and always will be.
So why bother with it? Money for one, people have been making a living burning wads of cash in fusion R&D for a long time now. But expressing belief confers an aura of high intellect and high optimism and a spirit of can-do-ism, all of which are attractive qualities.
But most of all it’s one of those beliefs that confers status on believers in the higher socio-economic castes who support blowing money on such nonsense while inflicting the costs on people down below.
And wasting time and resources on that which can’t be done comes at the expense of that which CAN be done. Energy shortages will be a massive problem but temporarily a smaller problem for the wealthy who will rig markets and legislatures and break legs to ensure themselves a fat slice of what’s left.
Re: Third Portal: This is a blast from the past! Nearly 50 years ago*, I was part of an informal group that studied Jungian symbolism and archetypes, and how these related to the tarot. At one gathering, after discussion, each participant was asked to silently meditate on a vision of ‘the future’. Following this exercise, each participant shared their vision. I wish I could remember what the others in the group shared, though my overall impression is that none were techno-glitzy or earth-huggy or outer-spacey; a few visions tended towards the apocalyptic, others more occult in nature. My vision was two-fold: a nearer term (50 years or so**) and then further out in time 100 to 1,000 years (not sure). The nearer term vision was near apocalyptic: destruction and ruins – and single sapling emerging amidst desolate landscape. Further out in time, the vision sees a peaceful, thriving, verdant village with people going about their daily tasks, including one figure walking along path; an image of order (a proper channeling of energies rather than stifling conformity), simplicity, harmony, individual expression in balance with community spirit, wisdom, etc. Not utopia, rather a vision of people working together because of historical memory.
* I was in my early twenties. ** Time has certainly flown by! That 50 years is nearly here, and the world a powder keg. And the-virus-that-must-not-be-named is probably just an appetizer.
After 92 years of progress, rocketry has finally developed…
Speaking of imagining different economic systems, I would like to give a shoot-out to Paul Grignon’s Producer Credit proposal. http://www.moneyasdebt.net/
In a nutshell, money is currently created out of thin air by private banks as mortgages whose global amount is indirectly controlled by the central bank through interest rates to more or less follow the growth of the economy.
Grignon’s Producer Credit proposal is instead to have producers of *actual products and services* create credit for themselves, that then circulate as money for the rest of the economy. A simple example are organic farmers in Community Supported Agriculture pre-selling baskets of vegetables at the beginning of the season, with buyers redeeming their credits for actual baskets later in the season. If the local mechanic and the organic farmers start exchanging their respective credits then we have money.
In a high-trust and small community, the system can be done with only pen-and-paper. In a larger but lower trust community, the integrity of credits could be enforced with a few simple cryptographic primitives, and the real-time exchanges between credits from different producers could be done with simple and affordable computing hardware.
Since each producer can decide how much credit to create, and the rest of the community how much they want to accept from that producer — based on how much trust they have that the producer can honour the credit in the future –, there is no need for central regulation of the money supply. The system can be bootstrapped from a few local cooperating actors and grown organically. In fact the system is already in use as barter credits between businesses, Grignon proposal is simply to extend that to final consumers also.
On a more philosophical note, anyone already has the personal power to create money. Of course no one can force others to accept it! But for those that offer things that are actually in demand by their community, and enjoy trust from their neighbours, money creation can be as simple as agreeing to exchange future production.
Kimberly Steele #46
Communism has not been defined, other than a society with a gift economy. It would not be possible to describe the social and cultural aspects of such a system. Socialism is merely the transitional phase to the unknown.
In practice, socialist countries ended up with new bureaucracies whose relation to the means of production was managerial. In the best case scenarios, they were inefficient versions of social democracy.
The arrival of donation platforms has created a modern gift economy for those producing freely available content. As expected, there is a free rider problem unless the content producer attracts enough followers. Instead of direct reciprocity, which we observe in a transactional economy, reciprocity in a gift economy is diluted among a larger number of beneficiaries. More people benefit from what is produced, and fewer people pay for it. This is only sustainable for the producer when they have attained economies of scale. Until then, they can’t quit their day job.
The arrival of reproducible digital files has fostered an alternative gift economy, whereby someone purchases content legally, then hands out free copies of it.
Therein exists communism as we know it, in 2022. This may well be as far as it goes. I’m not seeing any mass graves so far…
Thanks for sharing your experience, and yeah that’s a bit of a bummer.
As a comparison, I started small and then expanded based on what I’ve learned. And I keep expanding and have plans afoot to create a even larger patch whilst retaining what is already here. As to weeding and thinning, I mainly use a long handled hoe and just walk around from time to time. The plants that get removed are fed to the chickens, who seem to appreciate the constant supply of greens. It has never been that much of a drama, but then overall soils are less fertile down under than pretty much most other places on the rest of the planet.
But I hear you about the 20 acre issue, and have no plans to get that big an operation going. It’s too much for us. And a truck with a dog trailer can bring in about 70 cubic metres of compost stuff or whatever, and that would barely make a dent on 20 acres. You wouldn’t notice it. I have no doubts over the years that I’ve brought in at least 10 times that amount (it’s 1.3 cubic yards to 1 cubic metre). And where is it today?
I can’t till that much as the property is on a slope (volcanic loam soils though and excellent drainage) and erosion could be an issue if tilling went on. So by and large I don’t dig unless it is to establish infrastructure, and maybe an initial churning in of minerals.
Mate, the thing is I don’t expect to make any money from this – any of it. Why play a game you can’t win?
Thoughts: Read the grant word for word. Give them what they ask for. Work towards the outcomes they want.
@Glasshammer – “In our society the only ideas, dreams, and futures that are given away for free from the powerful to the masses are ones that have already had all the potential and utility extracted from them. If they had potential and utility they would be monetized and guarded.”
Are you of the view that “the masses” do not think or dream or plan ideas, dreams and futures of their own? That they depend on receiving ideas, dreams and futures from the powerful?
When I lived in the big smoke, the mechanic I used to take my car to get repaired and serviced used to run the local community garden allotments at the end of my street (it was located on disused land next to the railway line, so it was nothing fancy).
Anyway, I used to take my food scraps for composting down to the community garden which had bins for that purpose, and also some rather healthy looking and unnervingly large rats. One evening whilst doing just that I met the mechanic there by chance and we had a good long chat about the garden.
It seemed well run, but he told me that from time to time, people being what they are, politics becomes an issue – and I could see that pained him a bit. Oh well. They had good rules for kicking people out of their allotments for valid reasons, and there was a wait queue for people wanting to get a spot.
But the thing is, I’d watched that community garden develop from a unused bit of land next to the railway line and you know, it was OK. The beds were from my perspective too small due to limited land size, and people planted them too densely, but were only able to do that because of like I said before: access to compost and plentiful water. But even still planting too close together stresses out vegetables and pretty much all other plants. All of them no matter how small or to the most massive of trees (and there are some huge old ones around the farm). And that’s the thing, people want the produce, but from a feeding other people perspective, I don’t see how it is possible. Just one of those allotments is the size of one of the smaller set ups I have here, and usually I try to just grow one type of plant in such a space in whatever space the plants need. Dunno, but water is a scarce and limited resource here.
Hi John Michael,
The sheer frustration of Mr Cromwell stands out like the proverbial dogs bits in that quote! I’ve loved that quote since the moment I first heard it. And man, we’ve all been there. But yeah, at some level they must know that there is a possibility of failure.
And I might note that our government officially advised your government today that we would not send assistance this time around. That was a strong message given we’ve been in every other endeavour up to our eyeballs. Although now I can’t find the article. Hmm.
It is of interest that of our new quad friends: India; Japan; and the USA, India has of course signalled their intent over the whole Ukraine business which hardly surprises me given their history. That’s the problem with losing control, in that you lose control. It seems obvious from hindsight, but try telling the folks with their hands on the levers that…
Certainly there are plenty of new stories afoot, that’s for sure.
DenG says: No matter which button I push, I end up in geriatric tomorrow land:(
So do I. Must be something wrong with those buttons.
Imagining a future I won’t live to experience pushes my buttons the wrong way as well.
Time for a walk 🙂
In Squirreltown, Nova Scotia, Canada, you can talk to as many squirrels as you want.
But don’t overstay your welcome 😉
methylethyl #165 says:
February 18, 2022 at 10:11 am
“To hell with the future. It’s a man-eating idol.”
― Ivan Illich
This could be the inspiration for my Neo-Carboniferous novel “Return of Meganeura & Friends”
Thanks very much for taking the time to type out your vision/music vid. I think it is wonderful and full of hope!
If I ever find myself in a Grossco again, I will be smiling, thinking of your story and looking to spy children playing games of their own invention.
Woohoo! Can I have a giant stuffed elephant as my prize (I associate any winning dings with stuffed animal prizes)? On a more serious note, if you what you have said about new creative possibilities being exhausted is true, and I haven’t found an example to refute this, then the role of memory becomes very important in using the imagination because we have to work imaginatively with our memories to create new combinations of old ideas which is why history, culturally and personally, is so important. And of course there’s the puzzle piece of will.
Also, I just had a small synchronicity that I have a hunch I should share. I revisited the OSA work today to finally start working through the last lesson. At one time I had used the notebook as a dream journal and I flipped to a page where I had documented a sleep time vision back in March 2021. It was simply a vision of an ecosophia post titled “The Creative Descent”. I also noted some specific idea was in there, but I used short hand and have no idea what I was trying to say. Anyway, “The Creative Descent” seems to jive well using our imaginations to shape the future, and I will keep it in the back of my mind as a parallel description of “The Long Descent”.
Instead of looking forward, I’ve been spending my time looking backward and trying to calculate what happens next based on what has happened before. My thought is that if X has consistently led to Y for 15,000 years, there’s a good chance it will lead to Y for 15,001.
If the current economic crisis follows the Soviet collapse model (bankruptcy and reorganization with comparatively little bloodshed), I would expect about a 40-50% decline in our standard of living over the next 10 to 20 years, with most of it front-loaded into the next decade. I would also look to what happened in Britain after the withdrawal of the Roman legions, and expect an increase in crime and violence as well as greater immigration on our borders. (Both of which happened in post-Soviet Russia, and in both cases marauders frequently wound up political leaders after the smoke cleared).
If we follow the ex-Yugoslavia model, and devolve into ethnic squabbling after the central government holding things together falls, things could get bloody in isolated areas. But the violence would be sporadic and confined to small areas, and since we have much more land area than ex-Yugoslavia that would make it easier to ignore or minimize. For a historical example of the ex-Yugoslavia model I’d point to the rest of the ex-Western Empire, which turned into a battleground between warring neighbors punctuated by raids from outsiders.
We will certainly see plenty of “aid” flowing in from Russia and China in the event of either collapse. Like our aid to the Soviets, and like the “aid” given to any fallen empire, it will mostly involve looting natural resources and selling positions of power to the highest bidders. This will result in a good deal of disillusionment and despair from the impoverished classes, but it will also serve to cement new post-American identities and new alliances and conflicts between those identities. (See the Irish identity under British occupation or Greek identity under the Ottomans) .
We frequently see increased religiosity and the rise of religious movements in a post-empire collapse. I expect the new American religion, should it arise, will look a great deal like Christianity and involve a great deal of Christian symbolism and ideals in the same way early Christianity incorporated a great deal of pre-Christian ideals and imagery. As a contemporary example, I’d point to the Evangelical war gangs that have sprung up in Central and South America. As historical examples I’d point to the development of the Olympian Hellenic religion after the LBA collapse and the rise of Christianity in the post-Western Roman Empire.
I should add that there is also a better-than-even chance that the American government survives this current crisis and lingers on for several more decades or even a century or two. Rome limped on after the Crisis of the Third Century for at least two hundred years, but it was a losing game most of the way. Before that it took three Punic Wars for Rome to finally triumph over Carthage. And, as JMG has pointed out before, the collapse will be sporadic. It’s entirely possible for an empire to go out with a whimper rather than a bang, and for people to believe everything is going to be fine up to and even well after the moment the empire collapses.
you used to say, “spiritual bankruptcy precedes the actual bankruptcy” (I’m paraphrasing).
I want to say – a wasteland of imagination creates actual wastelands.
Have you seen this article?
I don’t think JMG ever announced it on his blog. But it’s relevant to the topic of this post.
Well “Religion of Progress” and “Myth of Progress” certainly serve as a useful signal, both for people who want to credit your ideas but can’t do it openly (like big time professor-authors), and for those who came across them indirectly and may not know they owe an intellectual lineage to an Archdruid!
Yep, to the extent we envision the future as issuing forth from some river of the past,.we can only get something that follows naturally from a river we know. The more rivers we can become aware of, the more interesting the possibilities! I’m hoping the book has a few good ones for me,.but even if it doesn’t, it can inspire my imagination to find my own.
>> “Maladaptive?” When these are the characteristics that get these guys to the top? Maladaptive … for whom?
As one being stupid enough to marry a woman with NPD (was not aware of the thing) I can tell exactly what is meant by ‘maladaptive’ – this is a psychological term to convey that they are asocial and unable to build bonds with people.
Such a person can’t change his/her ways to relate to others in more or less healthy way even if she/he suspects something is missing.
Knowing well only one such person I can’t imagine the condition is curable. The seed of heart in them has dried and died long ago and they just don’t know what it is about – to have a heartfelt feeling for others. At best they can imitate – trying to be nice to look good or to manipulate. It is a scary thing to deal with – lack of natural positive relation, but when triggered – no shortage of nasty emotions (a robot or snake would be probably easy to accept – they would be totally alien, here too familiar ugly human traits are coming straight at you).
They always get into a trouble and are abandoned be everyone eventually, they do suffer too, far from everyone gets to the top and not everyone is a guy.
If it is rooted in childhood people need to be more aware of the issue to pay more attention when growing children.
Could the nervous pushback against the suggestion that history may have lessons that bear relevance to our current predicament (“history is useless”) be a symptom of the malaise you have written about in this essay? I, for one, don’t think it’s entirely necessary to come up with entirely new futures as alternatives to Tomorrowland and apocalypse, because a study of the past could give us options that could be mined for use in the present and the future (after appropriate modifications, wherever necessary), but I may be wrong, so I’d like to hear your views on this. I’m thinking here of the book Corporate life in ancient India by RC Majumdar (available on archive.org), which talks about economic life in ancient India and the corresponding economic systems, which, if implemented, can actually help at least the Third World, when coupled with appropriate technologies.
Also, speaking of history, could you maybe do a future post (or posts) on how you generally go about doing the research as regards history for your books, and also, how to write history? Thanks in anticipation.
That was beautiful, thank you.
@wkjcv “Communism has not been defined, other than a society with a gift economy. It would not be possible to describe the social and cultural aspects of such a system. Socialism is merely the transitional phase to the unknown.”
“Communism has not been defined…” except, as you put it, as the “unknown” to which socialism has been posited to be “the transitional phase”.
Well and good. If so, it can be treated as someone’s imagined vision, no more no less, and as you say “impossible to describe”. Perhaps not impossible to imagine, and, as that is the task set by this essay… in which case (if you get around to describing what your own imagination sees) then it would be of great relevance in the current discussion.
“A society with a gift economy” on the other hand, is not a fantasy. A large number of them, all quite different to one another, together with their social and cultural aspects, have been extensively documented and described in the ethnographic literature, and in the tales of travellers, and in many other places. They have existed in actuality, and they are less a vision to be imagined, as a set of viable (in at least some circumstances) past experiments to be added to the known range of the possible.
It might be worth taking good care to carefully differentiate an imaginary “unknown” with a fully realised and knowable “known”.
Ok – to all I have addressed comments to in this thread. Apologies.
I have realised that I am in a nit-picky mood. I have noticed that there is a category of “thought-stopping” that arises from needlessly conflating two or more terms in order to allow plausible deniability to an ambiguous back and forth switching between the meanings, which forces the other party into an unending “whack-a-mole” effort to make any sense of what is going on.
Having noticed this tendency in current discourse (eg virus/disease conflation, case/death conflation among others), I appear to have begun noticing it everywhere. I shall now interrupt myself before needlessly posting another nit-pick of what looks (to me) like an unnecessary conflation of terms.
Back to your regularly scheduled broadcast… (or as my pre-correction phrase put it… “broadcats”)… 😉
Stephen, just a minor quibble – bear in mind that many people in communist countries and other dictatorships were also literally poisoned or left to live in extremely damaging conditions, often many times over. Western populations are far from being the most maltreated in the world, even if it feels like that right now.
I seem to be all out of imagination myself at the moment. Personal matters have drained my energy and it’s going to take time to recover. So it’s hard for me to tell if my ongoing series of bad dreams about the end of our current civilisation are in any way reflective of an oncoming storm, or simply a reaction to my own temporary mental state. Worryingly though, I’ve dreamed things that I’ve found surprisingly original and I think it’s hard to surprise oneself.
JMG – Have you seen the latest Do The Math essay by Tom Murphy on Human Exceptionalism? He once again comes to some of the same conclusions that you do by a different path.
Shinjuki, thanks for this. Here’s hoping!
Roger, that strikes me as a very cogent analysis.
PatriciaT, thanks for both of these.
Martin, funny! I’m reminded rather forcefully of another iconic rocket ship from back in the day…
Viking, interesting! I’m delighted to see someone doing something actually imaginative in economics.
Chris, I’m delighted to hear that the Australian government has had that much common sense. The sooner your country realizes that the US is sinking fast, and concentrates on building up its alliances with India and Japan, the better the outcome for Australians will be.
Youngelephant, you can certainly have a stuffed elephant, for only a modest handling fee. (This consists of going down to a toy store, buying one, and putting a blue ribbon on it). The Creative Descent! Excellent.
Kenaz, good. I suggest alternating close study of past examples with freeform imagination about the future, letting each of them inform the other; it’s always worked for me. 😉
Ecosophian, a fine summary!
Kyle, that’s a good point. When I made the decision to head for the fringes and exploit the freedom that you find out here, I knew that any influence my ideas might have would be secondhand, and with my name scrubbed off. I’m good with that, but it’s interesting to watch things I invented pop up elsewhere.
Ramaraj, that’s my take on things, certainly. If you look at history, you already know what’s going to happen to the faux-innovative ventures of the present, because they’ve been tried and failed so many times in the past. Thus people refuse to look at history. As for the suggested post, hmm. I’ll consider it.
Andy, so noted. I’ll have some suggestions as we proceed.
Honyocker, no, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in work and haven’t had time to get over to Tom’s site — I’ll remedy that as soon as time permits.
@JMG, Kyle, regarding the phrase “Myth of Progress,”
My understanding is that the phrase has been bandied about since at least the mid-20th century. There is, for instance, this passage from the sayings of Maud’Dib in Appendix II of Dune:
“Religion often partakes of the myth of progress that shields us from the terrors of an uncertain future.”
I’ve had the repeating substituting thought the last two weeks: Collapse now and enjoy the rush.
Well, now, what rush might that be?
I think most of us are experienced enough to know the truth of hunger is the best sauce, though we try to avoid it as best we can. I expect that post-collapse there are lots of fun rushes, just like there will be enough of that sauce to go around and spare. My familiar rushes of performing for an audience, of spotting newly hatched chicks under a hissy broody hen or new baby bunnies in a nestbox, or of the first seedlings poking out of the dirt, would certainly qualify, but surely there will be new rushes, too.
What do you have? What rush will you enjoy thru Portal #3?
(Also, I would really like to think the original phrase again first: this is rather getting annoying.)
Kenaz Filan, We agree. I knew nothing about Carthage though, thanks.
Shinjuku, hope is beautiful.
>One old grizzled economist told me about when they forecasted during the Vietnam War. She said that they threw darts at a board, and provided that number to the powers that be. She said they were more accurate.
It just occurred to me, that’s a form of dowsing.
My exercise was probably more a meditation than a scrying, but I’d still like to share here.
Cliched future #1 is the fantasy of a world fully under human control. It’s climate-controlled, culturally predigested and determined, provides energy on demand (as well as health and wealth and jetpacks), and shows how wonderful everything will be when the laws of nature are firmly bent to our will. We get all the goodies.
Cliched future #2 is our fear of a world that is absolutely out of our control – maybe our tech slipped its leash (kaboom) or, that naughty, naughty nature warmed up and the seas rose (gurgle). When we stop controlling, “we’re all gonna DIIIIIIIIE!!!” Ahem.
My imagined future is simply one in which humans’ energies are directed to that which we ought to control (our own selves), with self-development as a high ideal. With our attention and energy turned toward that end, nature develops as it pleases, cultures flourish, and people work to live in accordance with ecological laws as a way of refining ourselves (it becomes a matter of pride to be of an em-placed culture that has learned to work within (and control itself in reflection of) its given ecology).
No one knows how to get to communism. Imagining that everyone will work for free, giving away goods and services, while obtaining what they desire for free, is utopian. Human beings haven’t been conditioned to view reciprocity in that manner, or to voluntarily participate in such an arrangement. And there is more to society than how we produce and distribute stuff.
Why is there mention of a gift economy among Marxist theorists?
It stems from the desire to replace commodity production.
Why would we replace commodity production?
To remove class divisions engendered by the profit motive.
So the whole vision is predicated upon a series of transitional steps. But there are other approaches to dealing with that problem. Syndicalism, for instance, would purportedly lead to a socialist market economy. There would still be commodity production, but no class divide, since workers would always be co-owners.
“It might be worth taking good care to carefully differentiate an imaginary “unknown” with a fully realised and knowable “known”.
History will not help you, and to believe otherwise is a potentially dangerous delusion.
Past examples of gift-giving are not comparable to the socialist project. Nor is gift-giving of easily reproducible goods a how-to guide for the future. I could advise you to study Marxist theory, but what would that accomplish? You should already know the futility of crystal ball gazing. And everyone should be aware of what can happen when you attempt to supplant crystal ball gazing with social engineering.
JMG, in which of Jung’s works did he discuss Active Imagination?
I see long Sunday afternoons without much distraction, since internet has become expensive and TV consists mostly of rehashed programs. There are children around, but not very many – certainly less than in the 1950s or 1920s. Most people prefer to remain childless.
The continuously increasing price of gasoline for cars and diesel for buses means people try to reduce trips to the minimum. Cars mostly stay in the garage, unless somebody owns the considerable sum of money necessary to buy a new electric car or to refurbish an older one. Some bigger cities have had the foresight and fortune to invest in larger rail transit networks. Those cities that haven’t are disintegrating into smaller nuclei, where people tend to live and work at pedestrian or bicycle distance. Unfortunately, this means live-in maids have made a comeback in some places. Smaller towns have found it easiest to make do with less and less gasoline; a few horse carriages are mixed in between the bicycles.
Huge stores of information digitalized in the heydays of the internet are still available to those who are willing to pay for the access, but people strip out videos and images for faster downloading. Software design increasingly prioritizes robustness in the face of network and also of hardware failure, such as avoiding faulty addresses on slowly failing memory chips. Bit by bit, repairing and retooling make inroads for all products, as the prices of imported goods rise.
Another consequence of expensive gasoline is people seeing their neighbours more often, for better or for worse. People are playing music themselves more often. Games that once seemed quaint have made a comeback. Christians have become less numerous and have lost historical privileges, so those who live in the same neighbourhood tend to join in one church in spite of their differences.
Will there be wars? Certainly, but I won’t try to imagine where.
I don’t know that this future is terribly attractive, but it surely beats the apocalyptic wasteland. And it’s been some years that I simply cannot believe in the fusion and bright green future.
Hi John Michael,
Your Wordfence software running on your website blocked me from commenting… How strange, I thought that I was safe? Perhaps I’m too controversial?
Actually it sounds more like cleromancy where outcomes are determined by such things as rolling of dice, tossing of yarrow sticks or casting of lots.
Hi JMG and others.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windcatcher That is a passive cooling system. Do you think they will be built in the US in areas such as Arizona? Once energy gets too expensive, they start to make sense. There are also other types of desert buildings that feature proven passive architecture.
wqjcv, The following “History will not help you, and to believe otherwise is a potentially dangerous delusion” is but one of a number of sweeping statements you have made here. “Human beings haven’t been conditioned to view reciprocity in that manner…” is another. Which human beings, raised in what culture, where and when?? I am supposed to believe these statements because..you said so? Neither of those statements, among others made by you, is intuitively obvious to me nor do I know of any reason to take your word without any kind of proof or even illustration. In particular, the first statement I quoted strikes me as a rhetorical trick intended to prelimit terms of discussion–no reference to history allowed because I already said history was irrelevant.
I think believing anybody with a mouth, or keyboard, and an attitude of effrontery disguised as self-confidence is actually, not just potentially, dangerous. To make good decisions, one must understand human nature, which is best learned about through study of history IMHO, and, yes, I do reject the notion that Herr Freud and his like have made such study irrelevant.
“Are you of the view that “the masses” do not think or dream or plan ideas, dreams and futures of their own? That they depend on receiving ideas, dreams and futures from the powerful?” – Scotlyn
No, I am of the view that the masses are often given low value/utility ideas to play with from their leaders.
A less kind way to put this is “the powerful give you their garbage to play with” and they do this because we often attach value to the garbage simply because it came from our leaders.
Athelstan, it’s just possible that that’s where I originally got the concept. I read Dune for the first time in 1973, and returned to it repeatedly in the following decade.
BoysMom, hmm! I like it.
Temporaryreality, thanks for this.
LunarApprentice, he didn’t — during his lifetime it was one of the secrets passed on in person. Marie-Louise von Franz has a book titled Alchemical Active Imagination which covers the method in quite some detail.
Aldarion, thanks for this.
Chris, I’m sorry to say that’s going to happen from time to time. I’ve had 240 attempts to hack or disable this website already today, so Wordfence is kind of on edge.
Sim P, if anyone still lives in Arizona once the droughts become permanent, quite possibly. If not, quite possibly in the deserts of Arkansas and Kansas…
It occurs to me that our contemporary societies could equally use both a revolt of the imagination, and also the imagination of revolt!
I really agree with the comments on socialism. The focus should be on reforming and regulating capitalism to make it work for the many rather than chasing chimeras which more often than not is more about concealing a bankruptcy of thought than offering anything positive. Essentially socialism has become a negative concept – a byword for ‘not capitalism’ as exemplified by the anti-capitalist protest at the turn of the century and the later ‘Occupy Movement’.
And as JMG says whenever socialism is given substance it is indistinguishable from communism and revolves around the concentration of power in a bureaucratic elite as once so well described in the book The New Class by the former second in command of Yugoslavia under Tito, Milovan Đilas, which argued how a self perpetuating elite had managed to take more power than any previous regimes.
So while the Tories and their allies put all their energies into making capitalism work for their interests (using misnomers like ‘free market’ which has involved so much state intervention as to make a mockery of the concept) since the demise of social democracy the left has been split into those who accept the ‘free market’ and those who hide behind ‘socialism’.
For as long as this persist the Tories and their backers will continue to set the agenda while the ‘left’ condemns itself to the political margins perpetually reacting to events for the most part influenced by our political and economic opponents. So it is time we got back in the game and relearned the art of harnessing state intervention for the benefit of the majority and not an unelected elite.
In the third portal I see the US frantically battling Dust Bowl 2.0 by commandeering suburbs in better-watered areas and converting them to cropland with ex-Vietnam Rome ploughs. California’s plan to buy northern water from the Democratic Peoples Republic of Canada using pumps powered by decommissioned Soviet nuclear submarines have fallen through as DPRC combats an insurrection by First People and Greenies opposed to the plan.
Pundits speculate as to whether another CSC is imminent. The first Catastrophic Shelf Collapse in Antarctica resulted in an unexpected one meter surge in sea levels. Refugees from the coast are struggling inland in long columns pushing handcarts and carrying loads on their backs. Transport is almost unavailable because fuel is severely rationed, most of it being used in agricultural reclamation. Fuel coupons are controlled by the Mafia with authorities turning a blind eye.** Electricity is also rationed, being needed for emergency pumping stations. Electric vehicles may only recharge during peak sunlight or wind events.
Periodically the night sky lights up with long glowing streaks as another Kessler event takes place. Live contact with much of the outside world has become sporadic. Internet time is rationed as server farms are forced to shut down, but people still watch Real Housewives of Anchorage as they bicker over who has the best outdoor swimming pool.
** In the 1970s South Africa was desperately short of fuel as a result of the Arab oil boycott and apartheid-era sanctions. One of the proposals was to bring in rationing. A family friend who lived through rationing in England during WW2 told me it was the worst thing we could possibly do. He said the “wide boys” got control of the petrol rationing scheme, and the only way to get coupons was through bribery and connections. Rationing basically turned the whole population into criminals.
In distant corners, while the get-rich-quick approach to inner disciplines faded due to its obvious failure to deliver and established religions gradually threw away their legitimacy through rigid dogma or intense politicization, safely out of the prying eyes and devouring maw of social media, decades of simple hard work begin to bear fruit. One of the turning points was the recognition that the inner disciplines that had been borrowed from faraway lands had come with various internal locks that interfered with their healthy development Whether it was because those teachings emerged in an age when it was unavoidable that the overwhelming majority of the population spent its time in drudgery, unable to develop their various capacities, or because various elites had recognized the intensely subversive nature of the deepest teachings, the ones that had survived only in the ruins of a fallen empire, elites remained capable of co-opting the deepest teachings, quarantining them, or crushing them.
Another major turning point was the recognition that in the lands where these teachings were newly arrived, the teachings had been infiltrated by projects of social dominance, whose most significant characteristic was the amount of energy they put into denying that they were projects of social dominance. The sense of global crisis, to some degree grounded in reality and to some degree itself one of the weapons of those projects of social dominance, did create in at least some minds the sense that it was now necessary to tap into a much much larger proportion of the capacities of the entire population.
Some recognized that using the teachings to set themselves up as a new kind of priesthood, a kind of spiritual technocracy, was doomed to fail humanity even if it managed to serve the wannabe new elite. It was precisely when those who recognize the need for a kind of mobilization that could not be accomplished in any previous hierarchical structure – and therefore most likely could not be done in any hierarchical structure – that people began to notice that the powerful teachings they had borrowed contained elements either designed or accidentally evolved to ensure that only the tiniest minuscule fraction of practitioners would ever become full adepts.
It was after this was recognized that the deepest teachings finally began to blossom. The first signs of this stirring were not so much the emergence of an increasing number of full adepts. Their numbers were still small, just not quite as minuscule as they had been. What had the most immediate effect was the spread of a number of core understandings. One of these was the recognition of just how much the ideas and ideologies that controlled people’s minds, not just the corrupt politicians, but the population as a whole, were selfish nonsense. People also began to understand that they could take responsibility for their own emotions. Saying something like “you made me feel such and such” gradually became less and less effective a weapon in anyone’s hands.
Another crucial insight that began to spread was that noone and no teaching has all the answers, but rather everyone and every teaching, however inimicable it might seem, contains a piece of crucial wisdom. Over time, those groups, those cultures that recognized this became more and more effective compared to those that didn’t. The ability to reach in and understand the underlying human goals of even the worst actions of one’s worst enemies and the sincere efforts to find ways to meet those goals, bypassing all of the inevitably corrupt intra-elite ceasefires, made groups and cultures that put in this effort more and more successful. Gradually even those who had not seen the wisdom of these understandings began to imitate them in their own way or they began to lose members to those groups and cultures that did operate this way.
Neither did this create the kind of dramatic events that could be used as news, nor even in retrospect could one point to a date and say this is when it happened, but gradually high-level politics both internationally and within nations cooled off. This was most pronounced at the core of the declining empire where the dissipation of creative energies into waste heat had been most intense. More and more people were able and willing listen to those different from them, in all the many senses of different. In this cooler atmosphere, intelligent discussion became possible and innovative solutions to emerge for problems that were now recognized problems as common.
At the same time, perhaps ironically, precisely because the broader discussions were so much less emotionally charged, there were times when surprisingly broadly, recognitions emerged, as though they had birthed themselves, that had not been produced by any particular person or group, that no one group could claim possession of, that were sufficiently obvious to enough people to generate strong enthusiasm. In short, things actually began to get done.
When obstacles arose, instead of blaming some other group, society, or culture for being too stupid to see their wisdom, those of the enthusiasm were able, even in the midst of their own passion, to stop and listen carefully to the objections that were raised. This avoided many pitfalls, minimized the damage from some that weren’t avoided – if your number one goal is to never make a mistake, you also won’t learn – and added new backing to the projects that had been revised by accepting feedback.
Among the effects of all this was that life seemed much less confined, less constrained. People sensed that they had more options and that they themselves could create yet more options. Most people found this a much more fun way to live.
Quite intertwined with this, people began to value being able to see genuinely think for themselves and for others to do so too. School curriculums were changed accordingly and in some places the very nature of school began to change. It took even longer and there was no lack of die-hard resistance – just because everyone has a piece of the answer doesn’t mean that every last person or group is going to want to contribute its piece to the common good – attitudes also began to shift. Far less respect was paid the people whose main claim for respect and attention was their wealth, including those previously seen as talented but whose talent was revealed to primarily consist of being able to hoover up and hoard wealth. Respect was paid to those who contributed to the common good, both on the large scale and especially in day-to-day life.
One of the emerging recognitions was the need to clean the information sphere, which was at least as polluted as the air and water had been at the peak of industrialization. People paid less and less attention to all the various organs of information that up till then had been rewarded primarily for grabbing attention, with whatever unhealthy means, and for promoting ideas that served a handful of people at the expense of everyone else. New forms of communication were developed whose social support depended on their earned reputation for supporting the universal right to think for yourself.
Thank you to the commenters above who explained the obstacles to nuclear fusion power so well. You have convinced me that the problem is not technology, but science. We simply lack the basic physics to handle fusion. There is no way to know if some not yet known physics will be able to handle fusion power easily enough to make it practical, but current physics surely cannot.
Lee Smolin made the case in “The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next*” that physics has stagnated greatly due to string theory. All previous grand theories were tested and found either false or true (true enough to proceed with) within a few years, but string theory has dominated for decades without it being possible to test it.
He also makes the point that a big reason for this is that the way universities have come to be run in recent decades gives the aging dinosaurs of science far more control over what new scientists research. This is one way in which the ossification of the declining empire directly impedes imagination.
*The book also gives a unique history of physics, not as seen from after the great discoveries have been made, but from the perspective of what frustrations and obstacles physicists were facing and from which the great discoveries emerged. The former is useful for glorifying past heroes. The latter teaches how to move forward.
Neal Stephenson’s Anathem portrays a world in which science and the inner disciplines, disgraced by some unnamed hideous past actions, are merged together in a monastic existence and physics research is done not by massive resource-intensive projects, but more by ways that look more like our host teaches, even by exercises like this week’s.
Alan, oh, they’ve got the latter, at least at the upper end. Trudeau’s Kermit-the-frog flailings around the peaceful protest in Ottawa make sense only if you realize that he’s terrified of being thrown out of power by a populist rising. It’s because they can imagine a revolt so clearly that they’re overreacting in a way that, in due time, will make revolt inevitable.
Robert, I’m far from sure that making capitalism work is the only option we’ve got, or even the best. One of the points I tried to make in the post is that capitalism and socialism are not the only options by any means — there are many other options in the wide, wide world of political economy, and some of them (such as democratic syndicalism) have been field-tested extensively on small and medium scales and could be worth trying to scale up further. Certainly, though, we know that socialism works very, very badly, and we know that neoliberal capitalism doesn’t work much better. Let’s try something else!
Martin, I could definitely enjoy a novel set in that future!
Jessica, hmm! I like this a great deal. Thank you also for the reference to Lee Smolin’s book — the public library has it, and I’ve got it reserved.
Hi John Michael,
Far out! You’ve obviously attracted some attention on this here interweb thing. 🙂 Hardly surprising! Actually, I use Wordfence too, and pay for the software. It’s not a bad idea to support such folks. If hackers annoy me badly enough I simply block their IP address (or range of addresses) from getting access to the website. That takes place at the server level, and it’s pretty effective at putting an end to mischief. Easy to do.
One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that the level of administrative activities required just to do simple day to day processes has grown exponentially. And IT is often used to foist physical costs and time costs onto consumers. When I was a younger bloke, that sort of thing never happened. Now it seems to be something of a contact sport. I keep up with that stuff, but far out, you have to be onto everything.
You have to laugh. The, I believe $200m purpose built quarantine facility was opened only very recently – like days I believe. I really do wonder about the competency of our leaders. It’s not a good look.
it’s me, erika- i’m using James’ computer to look up more on Gandhi in the comments and can’t answer you unless you write something on eco dream open post about this but THANK YOU FOR THIS on his economic theories:
i’ve been curious about all this for YEEEEEARS. since before Bad Times but i dug how calm and confident he SOUNDED about this idea when he pitched people controlling the means of production as a form of protest so thank you for this! may it live again and be put into action and tested and refined or riffed on!
and Vidura Awakened
Thank you for this on Gandhian economics!
“I think a neat summary of Gandhian economics is there in the book ‘Gandhian economics: a supporting technology’ by Ram Swarup. You can download it here: http://library.bjp.org/jspui/handle/123456789/558“
I’ve reflected on the current events and I’ve come to a conclusion: The truly defeated do not yet know of it, they in fact think they’re on the winning side.
I thought of the Great Reform of 1832 which was a movement formed by an alliance of the middle class with the working classes. The middle class then cut a deal with the elites, secured suffrage for themselves and abandoned their working class allies. I also thought of Karl Marx description of the final stages of capitalism leading to the proletarianization of the former middle class and it’s fusion into the working class.
Now the truckers revolt has put the elites on notice, we have the power to hurt you where it counts. Any attempts to pressure the working class more will cause revolt.
Now there’s a class that the elites can turn their kleptocratic gaze upon, the professional middle class, the laptop class, the holders of bullshit jobs, they’ve completely mortgaged themselves to the power elites, believed them, took their jabs, blindly supported them, put their hopes in them.
Its been said that you need a very long spoon to sup with the devil, the above class supped without one. Now they’re sheep moving towards slaughter. This class holds and receives a big chunk of the remaining wealth, the lockdowns showed that they could be sent home without undue consequences, they’re unorganized and ready for the picking.
Now I regard the elites as devoid of any principles or loyalties, they have no permanent allies, no permanent enemies, only permanent interests. They’ll throw enough bones to the working class to make sure it doesn’t revolt while they plunder what’s left of the middle classes. The workers will stand aside remembering how they were betrayed.
After all why should being a doctor entitle you to be a millionaire? How about the income of a skilled craftsmen or less? Why a college education? Why six figures salaries for bureaucrats or schoolteachers? After all this good money can go to paying yachts and private jets for the people who really matter…
It appears that we have more than one pandemic. The failure of the imagination is the other, in particular, the failure to imagine an economy that works for the broad spectrum of people.
When I was in high school I took one year of shop class (industrial arts) which consisted of drafting, electrical, auto, machine, woodworking. I had no particular interest nor aptitude in the use of tools, rather, I did it to please my parents who never figured I would become a big city, high rise apartment dweller who would work a lifetime in the bowels of the corporate world. But the experience was valuable because I saw first-hand something that our governing elites seemingly fail to recognize, that human talents come in many forms.
There are two guys in particular, Roy and Larry, that stick out in my memory. Neither had any inclination or ability in traditional academic subjects and Roy in particular was as inarticulate as they come. But I saw Roy in action in machine shop where our assignment was to use metal lathes and milling machines and grinders to build a hammer out of blocks of raw metal. And Roy was a genius at this, quick and with an unerring touch. He was awesome to watch. It was as if he had an intuitive understanding of how metal interacted with cutting tools. In drafting I thought I was pretty darn good until I saw that my drawings came knee-high to Larry’s who was astoundingly adept and artful. I envied them. Even now I wish I was half as talented in my own profession.
How many times have we heard some buffoon from on-high tout university as the answer as if people like Roy and Larry have any hope in hell. Expecting those guys to get a bachelor’s degree would be like expecting a Manhattan corporate lawyer to train to become a high-rise construction tradesman. Any economic scheme that denies the in-born talents of tens of millions is an arrangement without a future as Kunstler would say, essentially shutting down the lives and prospects of an entire class of people, that no matter what, are never becoming coders. And this is where the entire idea of globalization falls on its face, offshoring the livelihoods of so many.
Maybe Trudeau imagines that the recent convoy was all swastikas and racists doing straight-arm salutes. If so he’s dead wrong. This is a generation of discontent among Deplorables both north and south of the border, not at being ‘left behind’, because they weren’t ‘left behind’, rather, they were thrown overboard by a handful of billionaires and their enabling clerisy. This is just the first chapter, the more the lap-top class refuses to smell the coffee the quicker the succeeding installments get written.
MonSeul Desir #250, great points, again a drastic failure of the imagination because if the job can be done from home, it can be done from India. If anyone thinks that the Indians aren’t up to it, I can personally attest that they would be tragically mistaken.
I watched our company’s manager of New Busines Analysis, who led a team of guys with MBA degrees and Masters in Finance, go off to India to train his replacement because all those hyper-educated fellas with the magnificent quantitative skills where I worked were being replaced by equally magnificently skilled Indians in India. Our Sarbanes Oxley compliance team also got located in India. I can testify as to their up-to-date knowledge and competence because some of the stuff I did came under their scrutiny and I can tell you they asked some very penetrating questions. Even seemingly mundane functions like accounts payable got sent there especially because any monkey can do A/P right? Wrong. Any monkey can’t. You need skilled and experienced people to do that stuff especially as that particular department was churning through ten thousand invoices a month amounting to many millions of dollars per year in payments. And the Indian team that took on the task did it very, very well.
North American factory workers lost their jobs over a period of three or four decades. But the lap-top class scoffs at the lessons of history and so severely underestimates its peril. There’s no force as blind or unreasoning as the greed you see in the billionaire. That’s why they’re billionaires. Why six figure salaries indeed.
“Alan, oh, they’ve got the latter, at least at the upper end. Trudeau’s Kermit-the-frog flailings around the peaceful protest in Ottawa make sense only if you realize that he’s terrified of being thrown out of power by a populist rising. It’s because they can imagine a revolt so clearly that they’re overreacting in a way that, in due time, will make revolt inevitable.”
What I find the most amusing about this in a wry sort of way is that this reaction has just told every foreign power unhappy with Canada (which is a lot), or eager to set up a beachhead near the US (which is again, a lot) that our government is terrified of a popular uprising. So the next one could easily get a lot of foreign backing, and easily end up a lot worse for King Selfie II….
Another reason why we don’t have flying cars is that they may just be too dangerous. Accidents at the speeds flying cars would travel at would almost always be fatal. Also, the traffic control systems for flying cars would probably be very complex and expensive and you would essentially need a pilot’s license to own a flying car.
You’re most welcome, hope you find the book useful.
JMG i was hoping more for the jungles or wilderness of arkansas not a desert! I know the shifting prairie longitude line is nearby. Will have to research where it was in the dryas or whatnot. Southern arkansas gets a lot of gulf cycle rain but we get less above the arkansas river. If it gets dry the ozarks will go up in smoke like california
Anonymous #253, oh boy yes. I know we’ve seen this movie before (you remember, that disgruntled WW1 vet with the comical moustache and a liking for armbands and crooked crosses) but imagine a man with a plan to address the many difficulties facing a huge swathe of the population. Just like I did people first imagine a neo-Nazi. But what if instead he has a beard and an age-old book. And what if he presents a helping hand, a friendly face and tells everyone that all are welcome at his place of worship. It’s just that the foreign money is oil money from Saudi Arabia.
A beachhead is not a crazy idea. Trumpism didn’t start in the US. It started with Rob Ford who was voted in by an electorate sick of the towering self-regard of a corrupt and self-dealing elite that was unfussy about showing its disdain for us commoners. And then, just like with Trump, this elite did everything in its power to stymie Ford. He was a drunk? Yes, so what, we have long tradition of howling drunks in politics, many of them highly effective. Exhibit A is Sir John Eh?. Exhibit B is Ralph Klein. I’ve worked with my share of drunks, some of them very bright and great at their metier.
Political movements don’t necessarily obey national borders. My deceased uncle, who saw it first-hand, used to say there were more Nazis outside of Germany than inside it.
Haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if this has been posted. This is a mainstream news source making the same basic proposition as our gracious host: https://www.salon.com/2022/02/19/fantasy-genre-alternative-economics/
JMG, Regarding Chris’s comment at 235, do you see this as a DOS attack? Are they getting more frequent, intense or prolonged?
I recall back in TheArchdruidReport days that you had mentioned moving your blog to print format when internet access became non-viable. Your subscribers would send a SASE and you’d send back your latest missive. Do you have that back-up plan fleshed out now? Do you think Chris’s experience portends an impending loss of this blog?
A different take on why internal combustion engines are doomed was an editorial I read in “Car and Driver” magazine by Brock Yates back in the late ’60s. It went something along the lines of…
Get that big V-8 out on the open road. Mash your foot on the throttle. Ratchet up through the gears. Let that baby roar! And remember the sound, because soon it will be heard no more. The reason? They have discovered a microbe that eats oil and turns it into protein. Yep. The choice will be between your dizzy rush of speed and mass starvation. And you know how that’s gonna go.
(Apologies to Brock Yates who was a far better writer than me.)
@DaveOTN and Chris at Fernglade
A consultant who mainly dealt with peasant farmers in the rural African areas surprised me when he said the limiting factor for these farmers was often not rainfall or fertilizer, it was labour. You tend to think that in these areas where unemployment is rife, labour must be easy to come by. But clearly when the landowner’s existence is marginal, he or she cannot afford even a minimal wage to employ someone else. More children would be one solution to the labour problem, but the preference is to send them to school and hope they eventually get a job and lift the family out of poverty.
Also, I recall that Swaziland (now Eswatini) spent a lot of money developing a low-priced hand-operated motorized plow for the rural areas. It never sold. People preferred to hire plowing contractors. The contractors drove giant John Deere machines fitted with lights and worked 24 hours a day, slurping benzedrines, getting as many fields as possible done in the brief plowing season after the rains.
Jeff Bezos must have been inspired by Flesh Gordon…
Q: What’s the nearest relative to a whale that lives on land?
A: The hippopotamus.
It makes sense when you think about it. A hippo is a blubbery animal that spends a lot of its time in water. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine it migrating permanently to an aquatic lifestyle.
Many Americans are large and blubbery, and they like to spend time in swimming pools. Are they a precursor to mankind’s next evolution? Actually, it might be a devolution. Elaine Morgan’s “The Descent of Woman” makes a persuasive case for an aquatic interlude in humanity’s evolution.
Given how much of our poop and garbage and soil fertility ends up in the sea instead of being recycled on land like it should be, a return to the oceans might be forced upon us since that’s where all the materials for supporting human life have ended up.
On ‘socialism’, I wondered if anyone would find the emergence of ‘Civilisation Practice Centres’ in China of interest ?
‘[The] “New Era Civilization Practice Centers,” hubs from which a vast army of volunteers will host movie nights and vocational education classes, sort trash, visit the elderly, and generally inculcate more “civilized behavior” in Chinese citizens. Their stated mission: to “solve problems for the masses, so that every family can feel the warmth of the Party and the government.”
The great fear of the regime’s chief ideologist, Wang Huning, is that “there are no core values in China’s most recent structure” because economic liberalisation and the eradication of traditional beliefs has left only individualistic nihilism at the heart Chinese society. Or as the Guidance Commission quoted Xi Jinping in explaining the need for the centers: “a nation without spiritual strength will struggle to stand on its own feet; a cause without its foundation in culture will struggle to sustain itself over the long term.”
The hope that these centres will come to “occupy a central position in people’s spiritual lives” may prove elusive — no matter how much they are encouraged to “practice civilization,” it remains to be seen whether people can be commanded by the state to find meaning.’
It’s funny how things keep repea…
In Lyons, our ruling elite ‘Luxury Gnostics’ live in a virtual information exchange and manipulation world increasingly divorced from physical reality. They believe their minds will creates reality. They resent any limits to this, including people and classes that work in and with physical reality, and even, death.
He references Christopher Lasch, who, in the, ‘Revolt of the Elites’ essay, is amazingly prescient. Both reads well worth understanding the current cultural divide. Cosmopolitans vs People of the Soil (PotS term not used in either essay).
Lasch really was able to see the future. Den
Reality Honks Back
About those truckers…
Revolt of the Elites
Sorry. I linked to a PDF file I downloaded. Here is Harper’s article instead of the book.
“Jessica, hmm! I like this a great deal. ” (#244)
Thank you. Your blogs have taught me to appreciate Western occultism, but I don’t know enough of the details to have included them in this, but that could be where this will arise from, in addition to or instead of the teachings imported from The East mostly since the end of WW2.
About Indian socialism, not only was it Fabian, but more importantly, it simply wasn’t socialism. It was monopoly capitalism run by a handful of powerful families, such as the Tatas. Socialism was just an excuse that was dragged out any time someone made a move to build more industry and create more jobs.
Whatever its faults, socialism in most countries managed to build heavy industry and provide higher levels of education and health care.
The education and health care was true even of third-world nations that were Soviet influenced. Just before the First Gulf War, there was a table giving data on all the nations, pro-US and anti, in the area. The pro-US nations mostly had much higher per capita incomes (except Egypt), but the other side had much higher female literacy and much lower infant mortality. Indian socialism did not accomplish any of this.
I am skeptical of the practicality of Gandhian economics. Much of what Gandhi said was morally impressive, but when it came to practical politics, his task was not just to gain Indian independence – that most likely could have been achieved in the early 1920s – but to do so in a way that left the traditional upper castes in charge.
@MonSeulDesir, Roger: We are kind of getting off-track here, but I will take the bait.
I have never understood why US doctors get away with artificially restricting their job market to increase their incomes. In Germany, so many universities graduate medical doctors that their pay has declined and about a third of recent graduates either leave Germany or work in other fields. My mother, who used to work as an ophthalmologist, told me that the master butcher next door certainly earned more than her over their lifetimes (he would start earning at age 16). I used to tell my medicine students in Brazil that in a few years, their (absolutely fantastical) expected incomes would be falling, too, since it was the declared intention of the Labor Party government to open new medicine programs until the demand was more nearly satisfied (and to import doctors in the short term). They seem to have taken the hint 🙂 since the vast majority of medical doctors supported the extreme right-wing candidate in 2018.
In general, sure, whatever can be done from home can be done from abroad. I think what protects my current job in IT from being outsourced is mostly the necessary security clearances.
Coming back to master butchers (and electricians, and roof tilers etc…), the apprenticeship system is one more element to consider for economic theories. JMG once wrote a post on the economics of guilds – I can’t find it now because he used the word “guild” in so many posts… Some elements of the guild system are still alive in Germany, though it was partly gutted in the 1990s by tons of employers refusing to take on apprentices, hoping they could just hire fully trained fellows. Right now, they complain about a lack of candidates for the apprenticeships!
With regard to demonstrations, we just witnessed our second round in Québec City this weekend. There was certainly quite a number of US “revolution tourists” here, to judge by their flags. What sets my alarm bells ringing is that there seems to be no overarching demand right now – vaccine passes will be abolished on March 14 anyway. I saw signing accusing the Prime Minister Legault, a former businessman who cowardly benefits the loudest branches of big business at every turn, of leading the way to “communism”, whatever they mean by that word… Demonstrations without a declared goal remind me of Brazil in June 2013.
OT: but relevant to the larger picture.
Concerning Fusion power, I will put here an article that explains why it is not only too costly and iw will surely come too late, if they come at all.
It explains also why it is outright obnoxious. At this point, the fact that it will be probabily unfeasible, is a blessing.
Have a nice day
I would disagree with most of your assessment. Do you think that if India had achieved independence in the 1920s there would have been a B.R. Ambedkar to write its constitution and extract concessions for its lowest castes? Those concessions and their ramifications continue to be the lifeline for those castes in so many cases.
As regards its economy, I grew up being told that we had a mixed economy – a mix of the socialism of the Soviet bloc and the capitalism of the America and Western Europe. It was actually an accurate description of what was going on, and surely just after India’s independence that was one of the alternatives to committing oneself fully to the ways of one of the global bullies around.
Inside India there were significant forces in favor of full fledged socialism, yet not everyone was on board and India did what it does best – compromise and accommodate as many different ways of living that it possibly could.
About Gandhi, yes there is a cottage industry for finding faults with him. But in my opinion he did not delay India’s independence. He merely wanted India to arrive at its freedom in a non-violent and inclusive manner. It almost worked.
I agree that there can be many complaints about India’s choices and outcomes after independence. Yet there were many things that we got right too. I would recommend Ramchandra Guha to get a more balanced and nuanced view of India.
And maybe this is needless but if didn’t know, in today’s India, one person’s achievement is another person’s complaint and vice versa.
Talking of Rob Hopkins: I wouldn’t pay too much attention to whatever he’s up to right now. Here’s a good article from a blogger friend of mine on his ties to the WEF and others: https://winteroak.org.uk/2020/12/04/rob-hopkins-transition-to-what/
The dude’s been cited by Klaus Schwab for frack’s sake!
>a drastic failure of the imagination because if the job can be done from home, it can be done from India
Something everyone seemed to have known 20 years ago and why working from home was possible back then but nobody wanted to do it. Makes it real easy to fire you too – all they have to do is tap tap tap, leave a voicemail and you’re gone.
I think if you’re going to “wfh”, you had better be working for yourself. Otherwise it makes no sense.
This might be worth a late comment: after several tries with interesting but not remarkable results, I pulled the lever and a torrent of salt water poured green out of the portal. Appropriate enough considering where I am relative to the present and future sea level, but it also reminded me of the quote by Baroness Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke (aka Isak Dinesen) about salt water being the cure for everything.
If U.S. national unity collapses, New England will again look to the sea for commerce and opportunity (and defense of the coastal rivers), the place young ambitious people go to stake their lives against fortune. As always, the sea will take his due.
Buttons 1 and 2 rarely show anything like this, of course, the oceans somehow becoming irrelevant to-be-levitated-over (button 1) or inaccessible/forgotten (button 2).
It occurs to me that there must be, must always have been, occult dimensions of seafaring well beyond all the well-known “old sailors’ superstitions” and the (in modern days) perfunctory sacrifice of a bottle of champagne. Does anyone know of any thorough books on the subject?
Sardaukar at #136: And don’t forget the hurdy-gurdy (invented around the tenth century?). Fantastic invention! The medieval synthesizer.
@Martin Black #262: either that or the Ad Agency that creates the adds for Peyronie’s disease remedies has decided to move beyond cucumbers.
Chris, fortunately WordPress has had the capacity to block IPs since day one, and I’ve made good use of it on spammers, trolls, and people who just want to run endless rehashes of the same pointless noise. WordFence is a new acquisition on the site, and it’s mostly to keep hackers at bay. Yes, I consider the flurry of attempted attacks a tribute to the influence of this blog.
MonSeulDesir, no doubt that’s why the Canadian government is flailing around so frantically, launching reprisals at everyone who supported the convoy. But it’s an interesting question, whether the elites can in fact ditch the upper middle classes — who are, after all the administrators who manage the power and wealth that notionally belongs to the elites. If the capitalist class and the managerial class end up at each other’s throats, the consequences could be…colorful.
Roger, the people who run the economy are serenely uninterested in whether it works for anybody but them and members of their own class. It’s not a lack of imagination, it’s a lack of interest. That may change in a hurry once the working classes start using the privileged liberal parties’ slogans against them…
Anonymous, that’s occurred to me more than once. All things considered, a foreign-funded color revolution against the current Canadian government would be quite easy to manage.
Stellarwind, well, yes, there’s that!
Celadon, I’ve read that during the post-glacial warm period, the western Great Plains were desert, with big sand dunes all over Nebraska. If that’s true, I’m sorry to say Arkansas will probably be desert again.
Larry, hmm! Fascinating. Thanks for this.
Re Aldarion #269:
A few comments on your last paragraph:
There are ~1 million dual citizens of USA and CAD. Provided you are willing to isolate for 2 weeks you can still enter Canada without vaccinations as a citizen. Some of those Americans (assuming they aren’t just carrying the flag) may have come up for the protests in Ottawa but given that it’s now under King Justin’s lockdown with fencing all around the Parliamentary Precinct that’s no longer physically possible. Or they could be vaccinated Americans whom were pressured into the jab and wanting to be part of something that will help them release that anger/stress. It could also be wage class Quebecers (lovers of NASCAR and pro wrestling) choosing a flag that they know will rile up salary class Quebecers!
IMHO Protestors don’t have to have overarching demands. I think a good reason to protest would be to protest the horrible law that King Justin has put us all under. And since you can’t protest that in Ottawa then Quebec city seems like a good candidate. People who’ve invested in custom embroidered “Frack Legault” sweaters aren’t just going to stop because they’re winning.
There’s also very big protests in Calgary (already no pass), Toronto (no pass March 1st) and South of Vancouver near Surrey (I can’t be bothered to check BC’s date). The Surrey protests seems like the most angry crowd from the videos. I’m not telling them how to feel just calling it how it is … glad it’s 4000km away!
Communism obviously means different things to different people, but a safe assumption (I think) is that most would think it means a lot more governmental control over our daily lives, and a lot less personal choice than we have now. I would consider Legault to be more of a Mussolini style Corporate/State-Fascists than a Allende style “Communist” Socialist but still seems like there’s lots of good reasons to yell at him. His record of Covid response is terrible regardless of politics having started off with an inept and slow response, then turning to ham-fisted economy destroying lockdowns and vax passes. No sympathy in my house for any premier outside of Scott Moe!
Lunar, no, it looks like the ordinary background noise of hackers and trolls. As for the backup plan, I’m in the process of finalizing it. More soon!
Martin, I remember that claim. Haven’t heard much about it for the last half century, though. As for Bezos, what do you think — should we start calling him Emperor Whang of Porno, or Dr. Flexi Jerkoff?
Mog, oh, my. That was called “Ethical Culture” in the US a century ago, where we were roughly where modern China is now, and it had no more impact on our society than the Chinese project will have on theirs.
DenG, he was indeed. Lasch is a must read, to my mind.
Patricia M, thanks for this.
Pierluigi, and many thanks for this!
Luke, ouch. I thought better of him than that.
Walt F, I wish I did. I’m sure they’re out there, but I don’t know the literature.
“So it is time we got back in the game and relearned the art of harnessing state intervention for the benefit of the majority and not an unelected elite.”
But its the unelected managerial elite that implements the state for the ostensible benefit of the majority.
They could just as easily do as they please being the true sovereigns as they do nowadays.
Better to have co-op networks than to have a bureaucracy which would naturally create a managerial class.
YouTuber Whatifalthist (alias Rudyard Lynch, who has expanded from alternate history to current events) has just dropped a video predicting the demise of Facebook and other tech giants, based on comparisons with the life cycles of earlier technologies (and also empires):
He expects a big recession or depression within the next few years, due to the gulf between the actual economy and the paper or virtual one, which causes ordinary people to lose faith in the system and tech bros to invest in increasingly bizarre things like Meta or NFTs.
(12:28:) “A major factor here is that there’s a profound disconnect between the tech community, which is always looking for ways to make tech more ubiquitous in society; and most people, who are kind of sick [of it] and hate how much time they spend on social media or their screens [….] Likewise, much of Silicon Valley considers human nature a problem to be fixed by artificial intelligence, neurolinks, and robotic inserts, and the general population largely views this as an evil abomination. […] You can tell that the economy is going to collapse when it reaches a degree of intuitive ridiculousness and general foolishness that means it can’t support its own hype, and you see that everywhere in tech on a regular basis. […] Once our current economic bubble implodes, it means that the money that funds the modern myth of techno-futurism and the foolish degrees of optimism just won’t be there anymore. The amount of money in modern tech is largely driven off myth. […] To be clear, I think that companies like Facebook will continue to exist for decades and will probably be very big companies, but I think their dominant role as the cutting edge of economy, culture, and technology will be over, replaced by some industry that’s yet to develop. American society is already at such a horrible knife’s point of tension that if a recession happens, that radically lowers the standard of living for a bit. It will provoke more political polarization, chaos, and thus change.”
Interestingly, he sees a parallel between the domination (and inevitable decline) of big tech, and that of social justice, since both oppose human nature and biology.
I’m in the beginnings of publishing short pieces under the heading Great Grandparents’ House. Imagining what I can take from my ancestors’ past and build on today. I’m working on getting the domain set up properly but the staging site is here https://greatgrandparentshouse.mystagingwebsite.com
I wrote this morning about compost and the current entertainment culture because those two things certainly go together!
Will be adding some navigation and categories shortly. My plan is to publish small things daily so I keep it foremost in my mind and do a little at a time. Thinking of it like a journal of sorts and to just keep moving.
So that’s the future or present I’m imaging now and working on.
@Stuart Cram 279:
Believe me, I understand the giddy feeling when the population suddenly rises up, invades the streets and demands to change things it has accepted for so long. This headstrong sensation and the absence of traditional organizations at the demonstrations is what reminds me so strongly of June 2013 in Brazil. It occurs to me that people in North America may have only a dim recollection of those events, or one strongly biased by the media. Here is an English-language account by an American who has lived for many years in Brazil. He has a clear political view which differs from many here on this forum, but in my opinion he gets the factual narrative of foreign involvement right. Here is another account, and here an image of the demonstrators occupying the roof of Congress, while parliamentarians were cowering inside.
For my part, I did not participate in the million-strong demonstrations, but I did initially participate in the occupation of Rio de Janeiro’s City Hall to force the installation of an inquiry into the corruption scheme that kept bus fares high and redistributed income from the bottom to the top. In the end, that inquiry led to the imprisonment of the Governor, the Vice-governor, the Speaker of the House, the entire audit board and many top businessmen. Still, Rio de Janeiro state is much worse off now than it was in 2013. I am not there anymore, but my family bore quite a number of those economic consequences.
Those (possible) Americans “wanting to be part of something that will help them release that anger/stress”, by your account, are exactly what I called “revolution tourists”, since if something goes awry, they won’t be here to suffer the consequences…
I was watching a documentary on the treadmill this morning called “How the Nazis lost the War”, it was an episode on wonder weapons. They said that the propaganda regarding technological break throughs was very effective, but hollow in reality. They said that the US army did a study on the V2 that said that more forced laborers died making the V2 than were killed by the V2. The study also said the same resources could have been turned into 25,000 planes. It’s interesting how the need to feed a particular narrative can lead to such bad decisions.
“They said that the US army did a study on the V2 that said that more forced laborers died making the V2 than were killed by the V2. The study also said the same resources could have been turned into 25,000 planes. It’s interesting how the need to feed a particular narrative can lead to such bad decisions.”
Very common. The Germans built the Bismarck and the Tirpitz, 42,000 tons each, if the had put that steel into Type VII U-boats , 800 tons each, England would have starved out.
And the Japanese put 70,000 tons each into the Musashi and the Yamato. The former never sank an enemy ship, and the Yamato sank less than its own weight. And then there was the Shinano, but you can look that up.
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