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Putting Life and Energy into perspective

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  • Fri, Feb 13, 2009 - 07:49am

    #1
    sunson

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    Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Here’s an article I wrote up with the aim putting "Life" (as in life forms) and "Energy" into perspective:

http://sunson.livejournal.com/192980.html

Its a long read, so please do set aside some time ūüôā

Thanks!

 

  • Fri, Feb 13, 2009 - 04:36pm

    #2
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

I just finished reading this. I found your thoughts to be very insightful and I agree with everything.

A couple points…

1) The link you provide to a previous article you wrote on Malthusian Catastrophes is broken. Can you provide the correct link?

2) I am a hard core atheist and have read many of the great thinkers in this area. Your comment that all religions guarantee at least one child per male was a new perspective that I am unfamiliar with. Can you elaborate or provide a link to more information?

 Thanks, Rob

  • Sat, Feb 14, 2009 - 09:32pm

    #3
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    Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Hi cedar. I found the same trouble but if you cut out the first part of the link and just use the second http it works.

Hi sunson. excellent thinking and links. Looking forward to your next post on your blog. 

Thinking about selfish behaviour being innate while community behaviour is learnt by culture; May explain why older people hold out more hope for our future. Also makes our decimation irreversible?

Your link to http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3386 is also excellent although I haven’t read it all yet. Loved the stuff on Internet addiction. I’m off to do something real.

great post

Next Day: read the oildrum post and found it profound. One of the few works to place our present circumstances into a meaningful perspective for me.The brief mention of time interests me. Have had a few opportunities to spend months in wild places and have noticed time (temporal) slow very dramatically. Also noticed eyes not focusing quick enough after getting back to modern transport. Not only are we addicted but we are living shorter lives in our heads which is where it matters.

Now Another day: Am beginning to assimilate this learning with what I have already understood. 

I get a picture of voracious hedonism (addiction) held in check by a culture of community. Government(s) have spread the abandonment of this culture, perhaps were always going to, with the rise of individual wealth and in the name of individual ‘freedom’ (game theory).

So is real community (even family) now out of reach? Are there any ways, other than dire consequences, to break our addictions?

Thanks again

Don

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  • Sun, Feb 15, 2009 - 10:45am

    #4
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

[quote=cedar]

1) The link you provide to a previous article you wrote on Malthusian Catastrophes is broken. Can you provide the correct link?

[/quote]

Ah, thanks for pointing out. Fixed now. The correct link is http://http//sunson.livejournal.com/171551.html

[quote]

2) I am a hard core atheist and have read many of the great thinkers in this area. Your comment that all religions guarantee at least one child per male was a new perspective that I am unfamiliar with. Can you elaborate or provide a link to more information?

[/quote]

Ah ūüôā same here.To me, it was an understanding of evolution that made me a real atheist. What about you? ūüôā

Okay… about religion’s role in reproduction:

Let us first establish some basic facts about evolutionary reality first:

1. Mate selection is a very vital process that ensures every participant (whether male or female) ‘combines’ their genes with a person of the opposite sex who seem to exhibit certain characteristics that indicate how successful they have been with survival. In essence, its a ‘filter’ to ensure one doesn’t invest their precious resources in making a child which will not survive. In other words, don’t combine with folks who seem to be ‘mutants’. Some mutants might be ‘good’ (ex: bigger brain or faster running) but they never become a selection criteria until they manage to ‘prove’ the point. For all practical purposes, it can be said, mate selection ensures status-quo. All this makes sense only when mutants are _really_ unfit for survival. This is not true for humans ever since we left the wild and freed ourselves a bit more from the clutches of Natural Selection.

2. Females are more selective about their mates because they ‘invest’ a lot more (in terims of body parts specially designed to give birth to, feed and nurture young ones _and_ a lot more of their own energy and time (see point#3 below) due to how things work)

3. Males exhibit an interesting dilemma that results in them trying to be more ‘frivolous’ and less focussed on upbringing a child than the females due to the fact that males can never be sure if the child on which they’re spending their precious energy on is really their own child!.¬† (Read more about Extra Pair Copulation if you’re interested in this behaviour – http://faculty.vassar.edu/suter/1websites/bejohns/mateselection/files/monogamy.htm – basically, the female is damn confident that its her child, while the male can never be so sure)

4. The world is competitive – more so when it comes to mating and doubly reinforced due to point#2 above. If you’re not successful, you better be looking for opportunities elsewhere. As an example, let us say that¬† Arnold Schwarzenegger is the alpha male in a given region. What good will I be against him today? What good will I be against someone who _overthrows_ him tomorrow? (Overthrower must be more stronger than Arnold!). So there is a natural tendency for migration of males to look for mates. Who knows, maybe I’ll land up in a place where the alpha isn’t that strong? Simply due to this migration and risk-taking behaviour, most males go without mating… (they die on the way? they ‘fight’ with a new male and die)… some females also go without mating.. but that’s very very low. Typically the ratio of male failures to female failures is higher because females have some inherent value (their ‘equipment’) while males contribute mostly only via their ‘genes’ and partially via baby-care (which, again, is uncertain as mentioned earlier in point#3).¬†

Whenever an alpha is overthrown, there is chaos and resulting loss of life (ex: typically an overthrowing male lion kills all the cubs born off the previous male, this is again because you want to spend _your_ energy in bringing up _your_ children and not someone else’s – I’m not sure what humans in the wild used to do, but I’d expect that the so-called ‘step motherly / step fatherly’ treatment must have been very cruel, pre-religion).

 

Now, religions attack this at the root-cause in several places:

1. Prevent overthrowing by allowing every male to stay put by giving him a family. Only when a male has no family, he telnds to wander and cause chaos.

2. Subdue point#1 – ie.,take away the power to ‘choose’ the mate and instead make them focus on reproduction because we KNOW the kids will survive! we got the brains, we got surplus energy and we can _actually_ multiply inspite of the negligible mortality.

3. Additionally, Imbibe "ethics" to prevent aggression beyond the means. This of course is only partially true for some religions like Islam and Judaism where agression is very much advocated in the books.

If you think about it, Mate selection is really pointless for us humans in the modern day world. We have better hygiene, health care and much better disease control than ever before. But it is important for us to understand the role of energy in all of this. 

Think about it Рthe complex social structure in monkeys to groom each other stems from one basic need Рhygiene. Today, we can afford to have machines and other chemicals that do these things for us. 

As man distanced himself from the ‘wild’, selection had a lesser role to play in killing the unfit ones.¬†

Distancing ourselves from the physical wilderness sure gave us room to multiply better. But mate selection, programmed into our instincts, still had to be supressed… The rules had to be rewritten and religion rewrote those rules.

My whole point is just this: Population growth will happen effectively when all chances of death is eliminated, allowing each individual to reproduce and help their offsprings survive effectively. Removal of predator is one prime factor. But there is a predator within – the animal nature that pointlessly focusses on ‘choosing’ the right mate, which when suppressed, ensures every (even unfit) individual can propel their genes into the future.

I’d ideally like to run a simulation (which is what I hope to do in my next blog post) to elucidate this better. Basically generate off-springs, some smaller fraction of whom are mutants (equally likely to be good mutants or bad mutants). Even if you keep ‘killing’ those bad muants, the resulting population, though might be more conformant and able to ‘survive’ better, will be smaller in size than when you don’t kill mutants at all and allow them to combine and multiply further. The key being, ‘ability to survive’ and thats what changed with surplus energy (and religion sort ‘understood’ it).

  • Sun, Feb 15, 2009 - 11:14am

    #5
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

[quote=pir8don]

Hi cedar. I found the same trouble but if you cut out the first part of the link and just use the second http it works.

Hi sunson. excellent thinking and links. Looking forward to your next post on your blog. 

Thinking about selfish behaviour being innate while community behaviour is learnt by culture; May explain why older people hold out more hope for our future. Also makes our decimation irreversible?

[/quote]

What makes you think ‘community behaviour’ (altruism) is learnt only by culture and not pre-programmed?

Altruism is also evolutionary and Altruism has an ulterior selfish motive ūüôā

http://www.livescience.com/animals/070625_chimp_altruism.html

There are a few books that enlightened me on this topic – all are written by Richard Dawkins:

1. Selfish Gene

2. The Blind Watchmaker

3. Climbing Mount Improbable

[quote] 

Your link to http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3386 is also excellent although I haven’t read it all yet. Loved the stuff on Internet addiction. I’m off to do something real.

[/quote].

Haha! Don’t bother… Internet is unsustainable and you’ll have to quit it cold-turkey if not by choice now… ūüėČ

[quote=pir8don]

I get a picture of voracious hedonism (addiction) held in check by a culture of community. Government(s) have spread the abandonment of this culture, perhaps were always going to, with the rise of individual wealth and in the name of individual ‘freedom’ (game theory).

[/quote]

Sorry, I don’t get you – what is the reference to game theory here for?

Secondly, I wouldn’t put my blind faith into ‘community’.

Thirdly, remember, Governments were also formed with well-meaning intentions.

The problem, as¬† I see it, is that communities are made up of individuals who are inherently selfish. Even if they aren’t, a few bad decisions can have a big bad (unintended) outcome. I believe, there must be a mathematical critical limit to how big a community can get before it gets self-destructive.We once seemed sustainable for those conditions, now we are not. I’d just say what someone else said… "Assumptions are the mother of all f*ck ups!"

[quote=pir8don]

Are there any ways, other than dire consequences, to break our addictions?

[/quote]

I’ve been sincerely trying to follow Actual Freedom – http://actualfreedom.com.au/ I should say, I’m a reasonably harmless being (if not super happy) since then and I’m hopeful, someday, my (self and otherwise) harmful animal instincts will be eliminated to allow me to be a truly happy and harmless being.

  • Sun, Feb 15, 2009 - 09:05pm

    #6
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    Re: Corrected link

Cedar

The corrected link still has one too many http’s

http://sunson.livejournal.com/171551.html 

should get it

Don

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7 billion people can be wrong, very wrong

 

  • Mon, Feb 16, 2009 - 12:52am

    #7
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    Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

sunson,

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I have often wondered why religions exist since they are all so incredibly wacky. My main theory has been that religions are required for an intelligent brain that lacks scientific knowledge. In other words¬†they provide answers to questions like origin and death. I had not considered your theory that for a civilization to exist you must suppress biological instincts. This might explain why every known civilization has invented some form of religion. Perhaps a civilization can’t exist without¬†a religion. Also helps to¬†explain¬†why the bible is so paranoid about sex.

cheers, Rob

 pir8don, thanks for the correction

  • Mon, Feb 16, 2009 - 03:26am

    #8
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    Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

[quote=sunson]

What makes you think ‘community behaviour’ (altruism) is learnt only by culture and not pre-programmed?

Altruism is also evolutionary and Altruism has an ulterior selfish motive ūüôā

http://www.livescience.com/animals/070625_chimp_altruism.html

There are a few books that enlightened me on this topic – all are written by Richard Dawkins:

1. Selfish Gene

2. The Blind Watchmaker

3. Climbing Mount Improbable

[/quote] 

"self restraint …empathy…. largely functions of the new human cortex….learned" from American Mania and quoted at the start of are we adicted to oil?¬†

Your description of altruism certainly got a smile. Personally I don’t think it exists but think that behaviour that favours community (see below), self restraint and empathy, favours our long term best interests. Entirely rational and self serving.

I come from a philosophical perspective rather than science. But have read some of Richard Dawkins. 

[quote=sunson]

Sorry, I don’t get you – what is the reference to game theory here for?

Secondly, I wouldn’t put my blind faith into ‘community’.

Thirdly, remember, Governments were also formed with well-meaning intentions.

[/quote] 

One and three go together. I see community as made redundant by government (laws) then itself abandonded by western Governments who adopted game theory (individuals are inherently selfish) as their sole understanding of behaviour (see BBC the trap). Leading to our present unchecked addictions. Only family survives and that is not very stable in our western society.

Second – it isn’t blind (see below)

[quote=sunson]

The problem, as¬† I see it, is that communities are made up of individuals who are inherently selfish. Even if they aren’t, a few bad decisions can have a big bad (unintended) outcome. I believe, there must be a mathematical critical limit to how big a community can get before it gets self-destructive.We once seemed sustainable for those conditions, now we are not. I’d just say what someone else said… "Assumptions are the mother of all f*ck ups!"

[/quote]

Here we are in agreement. Our groups size is too big (not human scale) and that is why we are simply governed. The big picture comes from Daniel Quinn particualarly Beyond Civilisation. Monkeys in troups, whales in pods, humans in tribes. Civilisation is the anomoly in our very lengthy past. He suggest civilisations were previously abandoned voluntarily by participants. By community I mean ‘real’ community = human size group, at most a few hundred. I would choose to term bigger groups as societies but thats just semantics.

[quote=sunson]

¬†I’ve been sincerely trying to follow Actual Freedom – http://actualfreedom.com.au/ I should say, I’m a reasonably harmless being (if not super happy) since then and I’m hopeful, someday, my (self and otherwise) harmful animal instincts will be eliminated to allow me to be a truly happy and harmless being.

[/quote]

I need to understand this more to comment. Will give it some attention.

Was delighted to learn that in having the patience to read 8000+ words I am apparently not addicted. Books must have us off the scale.

Don

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7 billion people can be wrong, very wrong

  • Mon, Feb 16, 2009 - 04:15am

    #9
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    Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

Definitely. Have you read the Selfish Gene by Dawkins? He argues, memes, just like genes, go through its own natural selection process. Ideas that can copy and propagate will do so. Given our brain is happy with ‘good sounding’ answers than realistic answers, even if that knowledge will help us with the future, some memes have more chances of spreading than others.

I guess notions like God and ‘disbelief’ in peak-oil theory or global warming, etc., tend to spread and stay around more than ‘depressing’ answers.

  • Tue, Feb 17, 2009 - 12:31am

    #10
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    Re: Putting Life and Energy into perspective

No haven’t read the selfish gene but just got it out of the library today. His thesis seems very close to Robert Pirsig in Lila where he demonstrates that we are culturally and biologically analogous to the human body. Most of us in the arteries, many in the veins and a few in the capillaries. Each individual subsumed to the biological purpose of the species and expendable. Fooling ourselves that we control our destiny. Although, I am not up to the task of adequately representing his whole book. I think his take is more philosophical while Dawkins may be more science (again). Cultural memes are much discussed in Beyond Civilization

The book that has recently influenced me the most is Taleb’s the black swan¬† which has called almost all my reasoning to account. Applying the learning is challenging after so many years of habit.¬†

You are right. We will argue for ever that technology will save us if it means we don’t have to feed ourselves (yet).

Don

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