(mental) Resource availability


But thought matters… if the things of the world that matter to us are not machines, why would thinking of resources like a machine be of help? I think it would be better to put our pension for machine-like thinking in it’s place, drop what makes machine thinking demand total control, rather than drop our having feelings.

If everything we see is in our minds how CAN we tell that from anything else??

I mean something very practical and achievable by that. It’s that we can learn to see our thought process and the world’s processes as different, and can separate what’s in our minds from the world, as a way to clarify their connections. Maybe the parallel is how people who are born blind and then regain their sight need to learn the concept of seeing before the retinal lights and shadows have any meaning for them. Continue reading (mental) Resource availability

The mystery of misunderstanding the obvious

for http://www.oneclimate.net

I’ve been studying the puzzles of natural systems, how they all have their own individually divergent behaviors, and individual reactions to their environments. Then I noticed that that aspect of nature entirely conflicts with the idea of ‘determinism’, that everything (except human free will) is controlled by its surroundings.

Last year I read a paper written by one of my great grandfathers, Steven A Forbes, an early ecologist, and it struck me how he tried to describe the amazing stability of predator prey relationships in fresh water ponds. He noted the prey would need to show restraint or the relationship would be naturally unstable if their behavior required them consume as much of their prey as they could.

Any advantage would then precipitate a ‘tragedy of the commons’ for themselves. He was describing the necessity of a learning process to avoid local environmental collapses that would apply to every organism in the system. That’s very odd, that that insight would have been missed by later ecologists.

It does appear when you watch organisms that their main activity is making use of what is uncontested and skillfully staying out of trouble, not destabilizing maximization. Then I found out what seems to be the reason why the need for organisms to learn as they go was lost.

It happened, it seems, when ecology adopted the model of physics.

That was in the 1920’s, treating populations as statistical pressures in an equation, rather than individuals interacting with their own behaviors. Continue reading The mystery of misunderstanding the obvious

What the collapse really means

re: WNYC’s “Tell Me More” 9/22/08


I don’t think you, or anyone else, is getting a good picture of what happened, why, or what effect it will have. I’m not a mystic with secret answers, but a systems scientist who has been studying this kind of collapse in natural systems for 30 years. It’s an odd sort of science, that’s unpopular with most scientists.

Most scientists like to study how things are controlled and this needs to be studied for how things go out of control. It’s a different thing. In my physics research I just happened to get interested in how every experiment always misbehaved a little.

That the things that act independently also include all of the behaviors that we see in life, that science has been unable to understand at all, became one of my main interests too. What we’re seeing in the financial world is the end of the era of “borrow and spend”, our “charge it” approach to everything.

For two hundred years the future always had unexpectedly large surpluses (growth bonuses) and everyone got used to it, and made the mistake of “banking on it”. The actual collapse we observed is mostly being described in the press in terms of the personalities that we want to abuse with stereotypes.

That doesn’t describe what happened at all. I think what happened did indeed include people taking rapidly increasing and unjustified risks, but at the end. That appears to have happened *after* the whole financial system got into a jam, following the historical example and promising earnings the future would provide, that didn’t materialize.

The jam seemed to basically be that institutions needed to keep lending themselves ever more money to keep solvent. I am fairly sure it would have happened one way or another regardless of whether it was bad home mortgages specifically that everyone now says ‘pricked the bubble’.

The system had to have lost it’s resiliency for that to have mattered at all. Where we’re headed in general terms is that everyone, government, business, the public, are going to become more self-reliant, out of necessity.

That’ll be a huge change, but I doubt anyone will quite see it for real until there are other “feet to fall” to shock us into the end of our long wasteful and unsustainable habits. The underlying problem, that only people who study how things go out of control would notice it seems, is that our financial system needs to grow faster and faster to stay solvent.

The economy did that for 200 years so we expected it would do it forever. So, when the physical economy started underperforming and leveling off about 40 years ago the ways to keep the money system growing independently started to multiply.

There were consolidations, globalizations, real-estate inflation, fancy footwork, etc. etc. The fact that looking far and wide for things for money to inflate was running out of options was not generally noticed by people.

That process of meeting natural resistance to economic growth is called “diminishing returns on investment”. When you ask the question you can find the evidence of it all over. So that’s a kind of a sweeping snap shot. Money multiplies, earth doesn’t. Now it’s time to take care of our own business again!

I’m not sure if you can talk about this on air, though someone absolutely should. It’s the hidden real story, but is going to upset a lot of people.



Dept. of Magical Thinking

I think ‘magical thinking’ is apt for what brought down our financial system, but it’s a view from hindsight, not foresight, and altogether too imprecise. I wrote my first comprehensive paper on growth induced collapse 30 years to the day before the Fed called this one to a halt.

The problem now as seen from foresight then is that the difference between a ‘bubble’ and a sustainable system is that both are designed to develop by compound growth, and the bubble is designed to keep growing to end in collapse at it’s growth peak rather than stabilize. Continue reading Dept. of Magical Thinking

Saving Energy Has The Opposite Effect


Actually, it would seem to increase energy use to save energy.  The reason is what you might call the “bottleneck principle”.  If you remove bottlenecks it increases the flow.  The high value we put on some efficiencies is that they are bottlenecks that unleash the use of other resources when made less of a constraint.

You have to study the whole system’s constraints to see if relieving one actually unleashes expansion of the others. It’s basically the idea of a controlling variable for which removing it’s constraint shifts the whole system constraint to other variables.  Continue reading Saving Energy Has The Opposite Effect

T. Boon Pickens plans to take over the wind?

Responding to an Archinect.com discussion:

Hi there! I haven’t read the whole thread, but gather the question is whether we can grow our way our of the impacts of growth, using crafty wind power investments to do it. I’ve been spending this week trying to find out why none of the media are aware of the vigorous discussions of why a financial meltdown happens naturally when finances need to multiply for their own stability in a world that doesn’t.

Even JM Keynes pointed out the problem. Now our whole blithering world of back scratchers seeing it happen acts as if it’s a total surprise.  I pegged the beginning of it 15 months ago, as beginning “the big crunch”, when the fuel/food price war showed the whole system’s resource steering choices running into conflict with each other and fishtailing. Continue reading T. Boon Pickens plans to take over the wind?

A very short novel – A Small Mistake

I think maybe we should believe our eyes rather than make excuses for some old rules that aren’t working.

Maybe what happened, in the beginning, was that God sent the scribe a text message, saying, “…and I give you all this and a wonderful mind with which you can make models to bee the world around you. Have fun! G.” As the scribe gazed into the meanings of the message, silently observing the typographical error in God’s texting, he quickly judged there was an extra ‘e’ in ‘bee’, and to not bother God by mentioning it. Continue reading A very short novel – A Small Mistake

real cause; money multiplies, earth doesn’t

Money will multiply as long as there are profits, because people with money multiply their own profits that way.   As JM Keynes among others pointed out, when real productivity approaches limits, multiplying money will drive profits to zero. Driving profits to zero triggers waves of collapse, providing a means for our responding to our limits on earth.

It takes a little exploration to lead people to just how the present waves of money collapse are directly related to declines in the profitability of the earth, but that’s a major contributor and the first cause.   Correcting the various immediate causes won’t fix that first cause.   None of the other causes would have mattered if profits were still multiplying dramatically as compounding money needs to remain stable.

Do yourself a favor, read my own or other peoples’ writings on it to find better questions for yourself.    Explorers starve or get buried by avalanches for reading to pass judgment.    You can come up with open questions in a blink, so don’t turn any page without finding one.


Phil Henshaw ¸¸¸¸.·´ ¯ `·.¸¸¸¸

The probable, desirable & the possible.


I agree with you 99% philosophically, but note that there is a basic difference between the kind of environmental intervention we’ve gotten into from the kind that we started with. It’s a change in scale.

Our method of intervention in nature includes an automatic multiplier of scale. It may possibly be that there have always been people, even in hunter-gatherer times, who wanted to manipulate the environment that way. It wasn’t till relatively recently that we figured out how. Continue reading The probable, desirable & the possible.

Just curious


Allison, Hope this is responsive.

“! And please not just a theory.”

– The practical tools for measuring total direct project impacts has been the main thing I’ve raised here. The hidden impacts exported to others by making purchases, are regularly not included. To know our impacts and our choices we’d need to include them. As you observed it’s ‘sensitive’ though, and so we’d also need to address the moral dilemmas.

“I am not going to simply stop eating this weekend because my money will help a cycle I don’t believe in. Come on. I might complain, but I am part of this system too. We all are. Even you.“

– Absolutely correct, which means that drastic personal cuts wouldn’t help in the slightest, even if you could make them. Cutting personal consumption or dropping out won’t change how others are misusing your creativity. Continue reading Just curious