Monday, May 02, 2005

sober or hysterical

I won’t name any names.

I'm tired of lazy skepticism at a distance when it comes to the peak oil, often due to people’s distaste of the die-off scenario. And a scenario it is; not a set future, or a genocidal position; simply a possible result of our current action and inaction. We could very well find a way around or through it, with technology or re-ordered society.

By lazy skepticism, I note some people who don't know much about peak oil take potshots at those who discuss the die-off; drawing hoary yet predictable comparisons to the Y2K hysteria, as if you could compare those who were afraid running out of bytes to those who are afraid of running out of energy. Or, they will literally decry discussing the possibility as being in itself a genocidal act.

Just for today, I am going to quote from Jay Hanson, a whipping boy of some of the conventional thinkers described above. He would disagree with my statement in the last sentence of the first paragraph above.

While I don't not disagree with some of what he says, I think his scenario has more current basis in reality than those who rely on tokamaks and corn, or perhaps 1000 new nuclear reactors, to puff up the flagging sails of our future industrial society as depletion proceeds, sowing chaos. Ideal solutions that should have been set in motion ten years ago. (Not ethanol; fusion, maybe.)

Also, Jay Hanson is smart and certainly fallible. And fallibility is a cornerstone of his philosophy, through which Jay Hanson has convinced himself of the inevitably of a die-off.

So, dim the lights.

Jay Hanson -- j@...

I developed an interest in "sustainability" about fifteen years ago when it became clear to me that our present economic system was totally unsustainable and self-destructive. It seemed little more than a well-organized method for converting natural resources into garbage.

With great reluctance (because it has worked so well for me), I was forced to conclude that our present system of capitalism is incompatible with energy laws and can never be sustainable. My only hope was that some new form of sustainable society might be possible. So I began studying human nature, intending to discover what kinds of sustainable societies might work...

Contrary to the received wisdom, people do not think and then act. They act and then rationalize. New data from the environment is routinely plugged into existing mental hardware (like entering a number into a spreadsheet), which is then followed by an appropriate thought. Since people have no wiring for "peak in oil and gas production", news of the present energy crisis cannot generate the appropriate thought. Only prolonged eflection can grow the required mental hardware to place this critical piece of news in perspective.


At 6:55 AM, May 02, 2005, Blogger Big Gav said...

Have you ever had a chance to ask Jay any questions ?

I was a bit disappointed when i was writing my recent rant to find that he'd been posting for a month and I hadn't noticed - then the window shut again...

At 9:33 PM, May 02, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Never asked him any questions.

His philosophy has a lot of heft to it. Most of his detractors never bother to attack it, instead acting to increase what he would define as their "inclusive fitness".

So we get lots of hitler blah blah genocide blah blah technology etc etc and nobody looks in the mirror.

I am not a hard core materialist like him, and I also disbelieve in the die-off as a given.

But I don't dismiss it. It is what it is.

At 11:10 PM, May 02, 2005, Blogger WHT said...

What gets my goat in the die-off scenarios relates to how specific they can become. I might perhaps try to write about it at some point, but probably include the mathematical concept of "chaos", and then essentially show by comparison that no one can predict what will happen or how it will transpire. And how many ways can someone explain the mathematical chaos concept before it becomes boring beyond belief?

At 12:37 AM, May 03, 2005, Blogger Big Gav said...

Yes - he's certainly misunderstood - I posted the link to that interview of his so that people might get a more balanced view - he's just a fatalist at heart.

As for how chaotic the future might be, I think it depends on how much planning has gone into the end-game - and call me a conspiracy theorist, but I'm starting to think there may have been quite a bit.

I'm also starting to think that maximising your inclusive fitness in Jay's vision of the future may be based on your choice of geography, culture and position in the hierarchy - in that order.

At 12:48 AM, May 03, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

I think it is fair to be concerned about people with specific ideas of the future that come across as a narrative. Them with the crazy eyes.

On the other hand, chaos in the details doesn't mean overall trends cannot be spotted.

Climate modelers are able to model the globe because despite all the variability and chaos, there are regulating factors, such as the thermohaline cycle, and (mon dieu!) greenhouse gases.

For us, depletion is the major regulating factor, and Jay Hanson might say human nature will take care of the rest.

At 8:12 PM, May 03, 2005, Blogger WHT said...

Agreed. We can predict the macro-effects of chaos (due to the strong underlying positive feedback effects) much better than the micro-effects (individual behaviors). The latter talk drives me crazy -- "well, I will need 5 guns and 10 buckets of lard, that should cover me for die-off"


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