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What does a steady-state human culture and economy look like?

That's the question we should be answering but we can't. And once we answer that we have to worry about how to get there from here.

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 14th, 2010 at 06:58:23 PM EST
R selected or K selected?  R or K?

one's easier -- just live it up, have a nice boom, and hope that the bust happens to our kids and grandkids instead of us.  yippee, party hearty, discount the future, damn the torpedoes.

one's harder.

might call it the Yeast Party vs the Redwood Party:  we can grow like blazes, pig out on any bonanza of nutrients or energy with no thought for tomorrow... or we could aim to be a climax anchor species whose activity provides -- rather than destroying -- habitat for many others... unfinished thought... gotta run...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Apr 14th, 2010 at 08:07:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DeAnander:

one's easier -- just live it up, have a nice boom, and hope that the bust happens to our kids and grandkids instead of us.  yippee, party hearty, discount the future, damn the torpedoes.

one's harder.

now, now with yer binaries!

conceptually, it's easily that stark, but down in the real world TM too much hairshirtism leads to atrophy of the will.

as for partying hard, that can be more or less sustainable...

 i think of those african tribes out in the desert, barely two sticks to rub together, but still doing a boogie round the fire under the stars.

get too far out and no-one but the already initiated can relate to you.

sometimes you have to let it all hang out, or the efforts to be exemplary can cause a nasty stress of its own.

both/and. this era is tragically funny, and horribly hilarious.

still something good to celebrate there, for want of better choice...

the very meaning of the word 'growth' has to change, from that of a (once-benign, but now metastized) tumour to intellectual growth, since that's what makes us different (if not yet better!) than the rest of mammalia.

that might be your cup of tea, De.

drunk out there rocking on the water under the banshee moon.

;)

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 05:51:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
intellectual growth,

I dunno from definitions, but I call that 'whole-brain-use', or own responsibility for 'personal growth'.  IMHO, all human 'capacities and potential' reside in the brain including feeling, creativity, imagination, emotion, intuition,... besides rational thought processing, and the endless combinations.  If any of us had had a 'sane' upbringing, we would have developed the neuron discipline to find our 'best mix', guided by basic social values, but I think most of us got blocked, shorted and conditioned in many areas.

So we live trying our best to grow and develop:
the best balance of all of them in ourselves and
the best place to put them to good use.  

Dreamer (;  


Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 06:53:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes i dream, that's why i have accomplished so little during my years here, but that's also why what little i have accomplished has proved to be enduring to me.

i loved your comment, mv, because it reminded me how male this insistence on the word 'intellect' is, like the mind is some kind of rocket probe to go higher and higher into the vast firmament of the unknown.

while i do want to help celebrate the intellect, i am very aware that the very term falls into a (very male) trap of separation.

and i'm aware that intellect is historically value-neutral, without respect and wonder, humility and proportion, it can lead us into hell and drop us off there with no ride home.

intellect for me can be found in an illiterate bedouin shepherd, it's not a product of academia, though western education can burnish it, notwithstanding the cultural conditioning.

maybe we have to discover the intellect in order to transcend it (another male obsession, btw), or better celebrate it equally with energies from the other pole, a sensuous use of the brain for pure art-delight, seeing its use also in say figure skating, distinguished from its ivy league, ivory tower
connotations. the term has become so loaded, it can be compliment or epithet depending on pov.

i think we need it to comprehend abstract notions, a castalia in which to ponder issues of weight and great nuance that can be lofty enough to leave the gritty everyday world far behind, and therein lies the trap.

intellectual freedom, the bugaboo of tyrants through history is what i think we crave, yet, it's an not unironic truth that ultimately the intellect must get in line with all the other faculties we master and possess, or it will warp and become bent.

...as will a character whose will to intellectualise has been devalued, perhaps by an anti-intellectual parent or peer pressure.

once grown there can be a huge resentment at people who have developed their brains while still flexible enough to do so, a stoking rage that they missed a bus, and now it would be unimaginably hard to correct, like taking up violin at 90!

this bloodlust is what i see blazing in the teabagger movement, fr'example. they look at a leader like obama, and the realisation that the very (self-)education that they eschewed when they could have made something of it is personified in a black(ish) man, who three generations ago they could have called 'boy' and sent to the back of the bus...

you're so right though, it's much more about wholebrain-thinking and balance than mere garlanding the intellect, which without moral grounding can be devastatingly destructive, though it's hard to not see equal capacity for destructivity in power-without-intellect, such as was hallmark of hitler, pol pot, stalin and mao.

when you want unthinking followers, slaying intellectuals who may invite freedom of thought in the lumpenproletariat is a .....-no-brainer', lol.

Idealist (;

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 08:26:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i loved your comment, mv, because it reminded me how male this insistence on the word 'intellect' is, like the mind is some kind of rocket probe to go higher and higher into the vast firmament of the unknown.

<sigh>

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 09:03:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a data point. As far as I know, the scenarios without collapse presented in The Limits to Growth ceased to be feasible around 2000 since the kinds of (broad, vague) corrective policy directions assumed in the scenarios were not adopted. (This is from looking at the 1990's 20th anniversary book Beyond the Limits to Growth).

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 06:45:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
possible.  

The depth of the crash is still undecided.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 04:10:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
'since we're on our way down, may as well enjoy the ride...'

James Taylor 'Secret of life'

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 08:30:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the yeast can out compete the redwood in the short term.
by njh on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 at 12:13:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
look like?

Migeru: That's the question we should be answering but we can't. And once we answer that we have to worry about how to get there from here.

So you are not satisfied with Herman Daly's suggestions?

(Neither was Georgescu-Roegen, if I read him right.)

The point is not to be right, but to get to right.

by marco on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 12:52:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you are not satisfied with Herman Daly's suggestions?

I'm satisfied with his framework, but you'll notice rdf ends his diary with

Since I've been a big fan of his goals and a critic of his lack of implementation ideas, this seems a good step forward.
It is not clear (though it may be for lack of study on my part) that this is the answer.

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 04:18:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is the central question. If we have the main characteristics of a stable or steady-state way of life then we can construct a narrative that will resonate positively. Currently (in terms of mass communication) we're boxed into the "go back to freezing in caves by candlelight" story. Half the battle of getting there from here lies in persuading people they want what's proposed.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 02:27:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew:
we're boxed into the "go back to freezing in caves by candlelight" story. Half the battle of getting there from here lies in persuading people they want what's proposed.

....preferably without them having to freeze outside a cave without any candles first, before they get it.

it's taken millions of years to get this stupid!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 05:34:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
That's the question we should be answering but we can't. And once we answer that we have to worry about how to get there from here.

i don't find visualising more realistic and sustainable futures difficult, but the second part of your statement completely stumps me. i prefer the word 'concern' to 'worry', as it is more positive, but that's PN.

a combination of chris' ideas and sven's marketing might be a good start!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 05:31:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But there is no such thing as "a steady-state human culture and economy."  If, by that, one is postulating a dynamic system where all State/Condition variables and constants give rise to a dynamic stasis.  The key word there is "dynamic."  It's possible to have a "steady-state" as long as that state is dissipative.  Once any variable is or turns additive a system tends to seek a new equilibrium point.

The greater the affective strength of a variable - such as population growth - the sooner the system will move.

 

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 11:52:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's possible to have a "steady-state" as long as that state is dissipative

And what makes you think a human culture or economy is not dissipative?

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 12:00:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's make sure we're talking about the same thing.  By "dissipative" I mean major and minor changes effectively cancel each other out, leaving the system intact.  

Look at the good old classic example: Chaco Canyon.  They built a system under marginal conditions using a technology that increased population requiring a further deployment of that technology.  For a couple of hundred years they were able to meet and solve adverse weather conditions - no rain - by intensifying the use of that technology.  Then they ran into a situation were the challenges they had to meet could not be met with the level of technology they had developed.  The result was a collapse of the Chaco Canyon culture, the population it supported, and an abandonment of the area by the remaining population.

It's possible to find "steady-state" societies, a good one is New Guinea.  But these can only continue over long periods of time under isolation with minor, non-system affective, technological development.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 12:28:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Right, so with constant technological/cultural innovation you cannot have a steady state. It's like steadily increasing the Reynolds number of a system - it may look steady for a while but then you have a shock and bifurcation. And the shocks happen with increasing frequency.

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 12:34:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's more than one kind of steady state:

  1. Steady-state population head-count.
  2. Steady-state 'science' - in the widest sense of world modelling and practical technology/agriculture.
  3. Steady-state culture - art and politics.
  4. Steady-state sustainable resource use, where resources taken from within the environmental footprint are either insignificant, or they replace themselves, or they're managed so that they replace themselves.

There's also force majeure steady-state where climatic and other conditions outside of immediate control remain stable.

Tribal cultures tend to do all of the above. This makes them inherently sustainable, but very static. You can leave a tribal culture alone for a few thousand years, and when you come back the people will doing the same things, eating the same food, telling the same stories and singing the same songs.

This looks secure but it depends on environmental stability. If the climate changes or if there's a disaster, these cultures have mixed prospects of adaptability. Without a tradition of innovation they may not be able to adapt.

Force-based cultures don't believe in the steady state. Survivability is enhanced through innovation.

But in fact the West is a mixed culture. It believes in force and change in everything except politics and economics (which is just politics with numbers).

There's vanishingly little political innovation in Western history. You can compare the Roman Empire or Greece to the US Senate, and they're recognisably similar. Rome had its redistributive land reform economic populists like the Gracchi, and they weren't any more successful than ours have been.

So in fact rather than looking for tribal self-sufficient nostalgia, a technological fix or a big die-off, I'd suggest that the way to make Western culture sustainable is to eliminate steady-state politics and economics.

This doesn't mean revolution in the Marxist sense, but it does mean making politics and economics more open-ended, chaotic, innovative and participative, and not based on the old tribal assumptions.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 01:18:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Diary.

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 01:22:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
in the first place destructive (of others) and in the second place self-destructive.  When enough self-destruction has occurred, technological development will cease.  

Our real task is to persuade people to give up the technological addiction ahead of the descent into that level of self-destruction.  

But recovery from addiction is a spiritual process.  

If humans remain the center of human concern, recovery is not possible, since in that mindset arguments against the convenience of exploitation cannot be countered.  

If, contrariwise, humans can devote themselves to non-human-centered, life affirming goals and processes, the doorway to recovery will stand wide open.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 09:56:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Technological development is in the first place destructive (of others) and in the second place self-destructive.  When enough self-destruction has occurred, technological development will cease.

I simply don't see that that's true.

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 02:17:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]


The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 03:47:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the elucidation.

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Apr 17th, 2010 at 03:04:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're talking utter nonsense now. Step away from the Internet, get off the computer, stop wearing clothes, living in a house, eating non-wild food, talking (mostly). All technology. Meditation is a technology.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 02:41:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, no, technology is just ominous-looking smoke-spewing factories overlooking a workers' slum, like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 02:52:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I want the Chocolate Factory if no one else does.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 04:20:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
Meditation is a technology.

I disagree with you, Meditation is a state of being, which you can also achieve without techniques. :-)

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 03:11:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Méditation is a symphonic intermezzo from the opera Thaïs written by French composer Jules Massenet in 1893. The piece is written for solo violin and orchestra. The opera was first premiered at the Opera Garnier in Paris on March 16, 1894.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 03:17:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ATinNM:
 If, by that, one is postulating a dynamic system where all State/Condition variables and constants give rise to a dynamic stasis.  The key word there is "dynamic."

intriguingly paradoxical.

it brings to mind a comment someone made to me that there was a long period of british history where not much happened, all the records are there, and inspection reveals a normal, humdrum period of peace in the shires.

meanwhile the continent was knee deep in carnage.

something to do with being an island, i guess.

anyway, i was speculating how to the brits, that period wasn't dull at all, there was plenty to do and reasons to do it, without invaders breathing down their necks, or social upheavals. in fact the everyday might have been much more fully lived in a healthy way, without those unpleasant distractions the history books are so full of.

a steady state society would aim for this, consciously, imo.

in some discussions here, i seem to remember taking away a figure of 4% as annual natural yield resource multiplication, if those resources are stewarded responsibly.

if we learned to be happy with that, we could have our precious growth, just like if banking returned to being boring, they could still live well without scamming us.

looking at the way things are panning out now, 4% seems amazingly generous, but in a global atmosphere where madoff-like profits were touted as the new norm, it seems like....b-o-r-i-n-g.

eating the seedcorn, burning the furniture, all about us, wanna wanna wanna.

what will it take to make us grow up and harmonise our existence with our habitat, instead of cudgelling it into subjugation?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 02:45:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mathematically it's straight forward.  The paradox arises when trying to explain it in English.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 05:42:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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