TED Conversations

Jake Maddox

Field Service Engineer,


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How can we sustain infinite growth on a finite planet?

Human population growth is a serious problem that is growing by ridiculous geometric progression. Everyday approximately 200,000 people die, and in contrast 450,000 are born. That is a staggering 250,000 new mouths to feed everyday! We cannot support infinite growth on a finite planet! We're running out of land. Thousands of square miles of rain forest are gutted every year for palm plantations to produce palm oil so that masses can be sustained. Fresh water supplies are in limited quantities. Polution and contamination abound. Why do people ignore the realities of where we're headed? It frightens the crap outta me. It appears as though the discovery of oil is when things really took off. Oil ultimately led to the internal combustion engine so that huge amounts of land could be cultivated. Pesticides and fertilizers were also made possible via oil to enhance production yields. As well as affecting the pharmeceutical industry to produce vaccines. It's not natures way.

Check out this human population growth chart: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://worldhistoryforusall.sdsu.edu/images/Popn_Graph2.jpg&imgrefurl=http://worldhistoryforusall.sdsu.edu/themes/keytheme1.htm&h=324&w=524&sz=49&tbnid=YSJSr0mYU4gonM:&tbnh=77&tbnw=124&zoom=1&usg=__kIp3FdU9ydMckYq62HCWmiEmqXc=&hl=en&sa=X&ei=2nk9UOvmL8vsigKdhIGwDg&ved=0CCUQ9QEwAQ&dur=655

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    Sep 19 2012: We cannot. Period. Infinite growth is a consumer economy bubble that has burst already but it seems we know no better. The effort is now how much we can delay the Malthusian collapse by squeezing out the dwindling resources of earth using more advanced technology.
    About a decade ago Humans, as a single species were appropriating close to 40% of the total terrestrial photosynthetic produce - I do not dare to know the current statistics. The linear growth paradigm is a mass insanity just like praying for a miracle cure of a cancer patient without resorting to therapy.
    I do not want to sound overtly pessimistic by saying that even the natural cyclic growth-decay-growth is also an entropic slide down to an eventual stop.
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      Sep 20 2012: Yes;
      It is the "invalid happiness" to be blamed.
      Humans need only valid happiness to keep their DNA alive.
      They use their instincts out of the valid scope formed 10,000 years ago.

      So, just quit the invalid happiness and everything will be OK.
  • Aug 31 2012: A World Hunger Education Service report (http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm) "revealed" that "the world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day according to the most recent estimate that we could find. The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food."

    The root problem seems to be our current socioeconomic system and not natural resources itself. It's the way we allocate our resources, through the money/price/profit system, which causes all the human suffering and poverty. We actually have the technology today to provide technological abundance of natural resources and material, IF we choose to declare all of Earths resources as the common heritage of mankind and intelligently manage and allocate the resources based on peoples needs.
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      Sep 1 2012: Declaring Earth's resources as common heritage property?

      Sounds like a good idea.
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      Sep 22 2012: And
      Let people know it is silly to have invalid happiness.
      Be happy validly!
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    Aug 30 2012: even a 3% growth rate as the basis for economic growth is non sustaiable..we must strive for not just a sustainble but a thriveable equilibrium.

    A country like china whose economy is premised on a growth rate of 7% with one of the largest populations in the world already, is committing a crime against humanity, a crime against earthh and other nations should not in any way be feeding or fostering this growth rate.
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      Aug 30 2012: Here's what I'm seeing in my neighborhood. Home prices were 225k to 350k in 2006. They are now 125k to 150k with everyone underwater on their mortgages.

      Things settled down for a year or so after 2010

      Now, My neighbor next door was laid off as well as the neighbor across the street (they just had baby #3). Three neighbors up the street who all live next to each other just lost their jobs. I might add, these white collar jobs. Two members of my family have to trek all the way to California, hardly ever seeing their families anymore, just to keep their high paying jobs, which barely pay the bills. They are both under water on their mortgage.

      All three of the former millionaires in our family are struggling to keep from selling off their equipment. They have already sold all their property.

      There is no growth rate. It is a falsehood It is a negative value. and moving in the opposite direction.

      The only reason I can keep my head above water is because I sold my home in 2006 (foreseeing all this) and the fact I'm retired from the Military. But wait, congress (mostly republicans) are looking at my benefits and suggesting that we are getting too much. They want to cut it back a bit, actually a lot and it's really not that much.

      I say game over.
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        Aug 31 2012: Yes devastating and the story of "every man" in America. Real wealth has diminished by did I see 30% or something like that with no hope of reforming that unless we radically correct the banking system back to the business of banking and radically correct the entire basis of our economy from one that is growth based to one that is in balance and sustainable..

        That means all of us have to stop buying into this idea of owning more, having more, earning more, consuming more and re orient ourselves to having enough for us to live comfortably, eat well, be healthy and have access to quality health care, to have good work for fair wages and decent housing.

        We have to radically shift from an economy of consumerism and credit which requires continual growth to an economy of production, thrivability and balance that offers comfort and security and a decent standard of living. We can go a long way towards that by the choices we make as individuals every day in our lives but we cannot get there all the way until our governance also shifts clearly and radically to what is not just sustainable but thrivable. We have to push for our governments to make that choice.

        It is just unacceptable that nearly have of all Americans live at or below poverty level with no expectation of ever rising out of that unless something dramatic changes. It is just unacceptable that our government allowed student loans to be privatized and that an entire generation of young people are saddled with huge debts and no prospects of wage earning that can retire that debt . It is just unacceptable that millions of Americans owe more on their homes than they are worth because they were victimized by a profiteering scheme of banks. It is unacceptable that we have a chronic unemployment rate of above 8% ( of just those looking for work..more if you include people who needed and hoped to work 10 or 15 more years and just will never find work again.

        It is going to take a very very longtime.
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          Aug 31 2012: Yes we are going to have to do something "Drastic".

          Have you ever heard of the word "Boycott"?

          Check this out: http://www.ted.com/conversations/13581/let_s_bring_back_the_boycott_a.html

          The Occupy movement brings up the idea that some people are a bit upset but it puts people in harms way. Most people don't want to be arrested and put in Jail or pepper sprayed. I have a saying "Keep your money in your pocket", Note my profile picture. I also believe that the pen is mightier than the billy-club.
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        Aug 31 2012: Hi John,

        I'm seeing and hearing that story a lot at the moment - and not just my American friends.

        National governments do not have solutions. Community itself will have to stand up to fill the gap.
        It is just about time for town-hall meetings to comence in order to start building local infrastructure for local people. You could begin by establishing a neighborhood currency or barter system and have it prepared before the wheels totally fall of the international banking racket.
        As has been observed, in the great depression, nothing had changed - all the food production was in place, all the machinery still worked, but it was the money that failed.
        Some communities during the great depression understood this and implemented their own trading systems - this will have to happen again - only, we have a little more warning this time. Hopefully, more communities will be able to make the transition before war solutions start being the only way forward.
        It is plain that doing nothing and waiting for governments to save us is no longer an option.
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          Aug 31 2012: I agree Mitch. We have to switch to local economics and food growth while at the same time, spending less on products that are not locally produced. The short term problem is with housing. In my area, it's much cheaper to rent than to purchase a home.
          I also live in a neighborhood where when people lose their job, they lose their home.
          We also have an HOA that is not interested in changing the rules to allow people to have chickens for eggs and landscape with vegetables instead of worthless shrubbery.

          It's a challenge.
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        Aug 31 2012: Well .. recruit policemen. Can't see the state being able to pay them - they might like food in return for helping some folks stay in unoccupied houses - along with some feathered guests. .. I think that when the money goes off, the rules go off with it.
        People organise very quickly - but they need to know where to put their faith.
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          Aug 31 2012: We see news reports of that happening here in Georgia from time to time. :)

          The police (our brothers, cousins, fathers, mothers, sisters, etc) are just as affected by the down turning economy as any other.

          People do organize quickly but they organize around leaders that can solve their problems. We are becoming a leaderless world, with a complacent society.

          already there is a call within the Untied States to bring the troops home from around the world. Have you given any thought as to how that will affect individual countries on this planet. If we bring the 6th fleet home, China will seize on the opportunity and who would blame them?

          Like it or not, we are all tied together in one way or another.

          What have you done today to join the boycotting idea? focus on something and strip it from your lifestyle, never use it again. Use half the electricity you use everyday. Eat mor wholefood and less processed food. Never touch soda pop again.
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          Aug 31 2012: Hope this lands in the right place in the reply chain.

          I found a Canadian site that has a link to the cCitigroup plutonomy memo

          A must read!!!

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        Aug 31 2012: John,

        The "backlash" it will take to end the plutocracy and bring about conviviocracy can come in many forms from silent personal choices to live within one's means and make responsible sensible choices to the public demonstrations of Occupy and the anarchists to organized boycotts.some of my favorites on the boycotts list are all bottled water, all plastics., all genetically modifiied and non organic food products.., and training ourselves out of chasing every new app and every new device put out on the market..

        In Michael Moore's eyeopening documentarry, Capitalism: A Love Story he refrred to a Citibank bank to its richest clients basically about the survival of the plutocracy. It has since been removed by citibank from all websites but I have a copy I am glad to send anyone. In it the anlalyst advises that the plutony is safe as long as there is no backlash..as log as people believ ein the myth f upward mobikity.

        So yes, we the people do have the powoer to create an entirely differemt economic premise for our country and to have it driven by inclusion and equal opportunity. So many of the modern constitutions are doing that . See my earlier TED Conversation "Is democracy synonymous with capitalism"

        Interestingly, the first democracy in Greece arose from straight out rioting , looting, and violence by a 99% fed up with income inequality..fed up with working hard to support an economic elite and being poor generation after generation.. I am not an anarchist and I agree there was unfocused and entirely avoidable harm from many protests but it did awaken people and it did rattle the cage of the plutonomy.
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          Aug 31 2012: I'll be spending some time reading on your website. It is interesting stuff. You have a keen eye for detail and organizing the facts.

          I've studied the Greek story. I often wonder what would be the worlds reaction if the united states exploded in such a manner.

          While globalization is a growing idea, separationism still controls our cultural identities. So many little frogs in many small ponds, united together to increase their wealth and play their games.

          Look at Greece today. Does anything last in the world? What is our true destiny?
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          Sep 1 2012: HI LIndsay,

          Thanks for the citi link.
          Assuming that plutonomy should be cancelled, may I suggest a method once published by a former ultra-right wing Australian prime minister?
          (I believe he was drunk at the time - these are the times to listen very closely to what politicians say).
          Here is teh method:
          "If you want to bring something down - anything, regardles of its merit this is what you do:
          All things political and social are supported by those who agree with them by means of defined support structures.
          The trick is to find the most rotten structure - there is always one - it will be the least defensible pilon beneath the platform.
          So you identify the most rotten one and just keep kicking at it until it collapses.
          This weakens all the rest - so you go and find the one that is under most stress and start kicking at that.
          After a few of these have fallen,m the rest are under great strain and it's a simple thing to make the whole thing topple with a littlle push."
          SO - according to your link these are the 6 pillars of plutonomy:
          1) an ongoing technology/biotechnology revolution,
          2) capitalist friendly governments and tax regimes,
          3) globalization that re-arranges global supply
          chains with mobile well-capitalized elites and immigrants,
          4) greater financial complexity and innovation,
          5) the rule of law, and
          6) patent protection.
          AS an anarchist and Luddite, I find all of these rotten - but which is the most rotten?

          Let us not dissipate our efforts - let's get onto that most rotten pilon and get our steel-capped boots into it - en-mass.

          (Edit: but I'd like to dissagree with the analyst in the link - all his charts demonstrate the exponential growth line in plutonomy - it is set to burn itself out.. But a little gasoline might make it more entertaining)
          PS - do you have a link to the Michael Moore peice?
          PPS - I think it's the rule of law pilon - income disparity is lockstepped with crime rates - .. what do you think?
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          Sep 1 2012: Oh BTW .. the NATO attack on Libya - absolutely.
          I didn't know they were looking at a gold-backed currency - but from the work I did for my Greek neighbourhood economy guys, we configured it with new economic rules that were designed to drive the Euro down and subsume all currencies/economies that came into contact with it.
          Such is the power of currency.
          I completed that design, but did not divulge the key features that grant total power of life and death to the currency issuer.
          I assume Libya would have planned to exclude usury from their new currency - and that is the reason Qadhaffi is dead now.
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        Aug 31 2012: HI John,

        Yes - leaderless. But as a devout anarchist, I don't mind that too much. The oportunity arises to fill the leadership vacuum with self-actualisation and self perpetuating social models.

        What have I done?
        Well, when one's eyes get opened it's a bit hard to watch television, drive a car, eat meat, allow your kid to go to a school or participate seriously in official politics. It's difficult to endorse religions or spiritual movements, engage with corporations or believe any of the rubbish being spouted in the media. It's difficult to pretend that any human not engaged in the production of duarable goods, food or essential services has really earned the right to cast a shadow.
        But this is all the passive stuff - apart from the boycotting I do.
        For active stuff:
        I make my living producing durable goods, I designed a neighborhood currency for some Greek friends, I have designed a world view that de-mystifies life and strips garbage from communication, I am designing a series of non-hierachial self-perpetuating social and value exchange systems. I fund and support non-hierachial activists such as wikileaks and support open-internet protests, I write to ministers - particularly to protest the treatment of asylum seekers. I endorse and promote the concept of social capital. I promote all these things in places like TED discussions and forums elsewhere.
        In a leadership vacuum, you would be surprised how easy it is to demonstrate a better way. But it takes a serious collapse of the facade for people to look away from the glamour that blinds their eyes.Just such a collapse is under way right now - and don't be so afraid of the Chinese. They are going to be busy with the same things as us - and then some.
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          Aug 31 2012: Sometimes our eyes are opened but not focused. That is how we awake in the mornings. :)

          You do much stuff. What I need of you is some buttons that have the message "Keep your money in your pocket" Just a few. I'm such a poor man with many family members to help.

          When it's all said and done, "You are what you do."

          I've have the same notions about the Chinese. I don't fear them I just think if we adopted their form of Capitalism, it would take even longer to reach the node of termination and reconciliation. Some are worried about their military build up but, they have to put people to work and keep control of them somehow. Hey! That's what they do in the military and they have a large population to be responsible for. The last thing you want is 3 billion people peeved off at you.

          I studied the rise of Communism in China and read first hand how the poor were starving. I read how the young intellectuals took it upon themselves to live with those people and help them rise above the poverty that most of the population was cemented in.

          While young intellectuals in our Country are looking for a cushy job with air conditioning, the smartest and brightest in China were/are digging ditches, breaking stones with hammers and living on dirt floors with the villagers. The rise of China was/is a tough road to travel. They deserve every moment of comfort they can manufacture.

          I never got to realize my dream of traveling to Australia. Maybe in the next life.
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        Sep 1 2012: Hi John,

        hmmm - you are not dead yet ;)

        I totally agree - we are what we do.
        This is one of the foundations of my world-view.
        There is only one thing that a person truly owns - his/her agency.

        It is our agency that generates abundance, it is our agency that ensures our survival, it is our agency that releases the absolute joy of life, But it is our agency that is sold as labour and IP.
        When sold, we lose our abundance, we lose our joy and we constrain our survival options.
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          Sep 2 2012: No, not dead yet but there is this perpetual smell of dirt. I can't fathom where it's coming from. I distinctly remember putting on my deodorant this morning. :)

          Now as to that last sentence you wrote, If I hire you and you lose your abundance, your joy, I will have to fire you so you can get it back again. I call that compassion. :)

          So your saying that agency is about being poor and out of work but full of joy and abundance. What happens to your agency when you pass on?
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        Sep 2 2012: Hmm smell of dirt? Do you have a cat?
        Or are we talking "nos habemi humus"?

        If you have abundance - how can you be poor?

        Yes compassionate - my absolute best friend on this planet once fired me. It was the only time I'd ever been fired, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
        I discovered my work. But before I could, I had to let go of the high-income "job" that was preventing me from seeing the difference between "job" and "work".
        If only one other on this plannet gets to see this through my words, I will have not wasted my agency ;)

        The magic thing about social animals is that they can transfer their fields of perception to each other.
        In this way, one's perception transcends death.
        If that perception enhances another's agency - then it will be imortal - so long as there are others to share it with.
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          Sep 2 2012: In the Nam, we were sitting around smoking pot, about 12 of us. We were pretty well wasted. One of our scouts (a north Vietnamese solder who gave himself up and worked with us), came in very upset and was spouting off in Vietnamese, something we couldn't understand. After becoming totally frustrated by us not understanding him, he said something in a dramatic voice, as if he was conjuring up some mystical force, hit each of us on our forehead then said in perfect English, "The other scout has taken off. He is a spy and has a camera and some documents".

          Of course we all jumped up and caught the scout and you don't want to know the rest of the story.

          Anyway, the points is: we were very high on a drug that can induce hallucinations and all other manner of mind tripping. The scout who was also a Buddhist monk in his village near Hanoi, did something to our brains that caused us to understand what he was saying because later (after we all got buzzed up again) we discussed the fact we all heard the same message, in English, even though the scout could not speak English. There was never any suspicion that the scout could speak English and was holding back on us.

          I would say he had the ability to transfer his perception of the situation, in English, to our brains in some Buddhist manner that transcends our understanding of communication. Had he not done this, it is very possible I would not be here writing this post.

          There is a lot of strange stuff going on in this reality and I've seen some of it with my own brain and it is, most of the time, associated with humans, in some form of Heightened state of mind.

          I was implying I was "old as dirt". :) Yes, a cat and small dog. Merlin the wizard puppy and Arial the Lion of God.

          So, are we soul-agents of a sort -you and I? :)
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        Sep 2 2012: I get that impression John.

        After a good deal of time exploring the mystical world, I decided to trash all the writings and customs surrounding it and go off into the materialistic side to exhaust "explainations". That is important to incinerate any dross floating about in religions and such - then what you are left with is the true spirituality.
        So far, I'm down to reconciling the Budhist no-thing with the core "self" as described by Damasio and other brain scientists.
        It is clear that many unknown phenomena are accessed through the no-thing. And the trick is to transcend "Maya".
        This gives me deep understanding of the problems and wonder in the nature of perception.
        There are 2 distinct fields of perception - one is tied to the senses, and one is tied to language.
        Perception and senses are still within the domain of Maya - separated from reality which is the "no-thing".
        Joining all this with neural net theory helps a bit - one discerns "topology". That all is shape and structure arising from shape.
        If one were to graph the synaptic potentials in our brains and lay them out, they would look like river systems, or river-deltas. They look like trees or ice-crystals except they are expressed in "potentials". The neurons in our brain are also organised in this way - particularly the cerebellum.
        There is a fractal quality to it all, and it indicates a harmony of shape.
        WHen you add chaos dynamics, you can see that chaotic systems are inherently resonant - they influence each other and produce self-similarity.
        And this is exactly what our brains are doing - they are matching synaptic topology with reality - making maps. But it is all Maya - the map is not the land, I cannot pour coffee into the word "cup".
        ANd yet, Maya is necessary for life.
        What are these places where the no-thing reaches out to touch us?
        Are there harmonies that bridge all in the infinite fractal turbulence ever-shrinking beyond our measurement?
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          Sep 2 2012: I too was enticed by the siren voice of destiny to fore-go all rigor and fame, to learn well beyond the D of ph. Maya you call it. I call it Ayam.

          They are spit in two separate directions from the beginning, hence are opposite of each other. One extends in the negative way the other along the positive path. Though their directions are away from one another they are still related within the two parallels of absolutism.

          Absolutism, you may recall tries to bring opposites together so they form some value of meaning; like the Yin and the Yang but with negative and positive consequences.

          I became lost when I learned that the line extends, not along a diminishing prospective solution, but disappeared over the horizon. I was perplexed and had no resolution of such things. I decided travel a bit further. Coming upon a place to rest. I looked behind and saw that not only did my direction of travel disappear over the horizon but behind me also took a turn below.

          Absolutism, it seemed, was a paradox of sorts, a parallelism that can sometimes lose it’s meaning if not applied in the proper sequence and order. I found myself back from where I started, as if I traveled nowhere at all. What was the worth of things, I asked myself, to travel along a journey where all things are each, greater than one another, move in opposite directions and yet have equal positive value when brought between the bars of absolutism.

          It was then I stumbled upon Eternity. I closed my eyes and thought to myself:
          If in the beginning there was nothing would there be nothing still?

          For how can something be derived from nothing?

          Further; if something can only be derived from something,
          does that not imply that something has always existed?

          If this is true then there was no beginning and and surely no end. There is just a joining together of all things that repeat themselves differently each time until the one true path is traveled then it all starts over again. So is the truth of all reality.
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        Sep 2 2012: Thus the journey is all things, and all things are the journey.
        This is our work - and our joy.
        Each step - easy or difficult reveals .. what good are words for this?
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          Sep 2 2012: You are correct. Perhaps personal inflection of the world is the real only way to experience it. Words only introduce distortion and create contention.

          I like that: "The journey is all things and all things are the journey" You can see my perspective of circular repetition being the only possibility we have in this configuration. I always see something differently when I see a movie more than once.
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        Sep 2 2012: It kinda doesn't matter whether things are circular or infinite.
        I see it as one of those "it is becasue it is" things.
        It is only the ego that seeks answers to such things.
        My take on the Ego is somewhat different to the Budhist or Freudian definitions.
        I prefer to see it as the "autobiographical self".
        In that definition you have the freedom to see that we create many autobiographical selves.
        In fact, it is the autobiographical selves that perform the essential code/de-code functions of language.
        I equate the Zen practice of departing from the ego with returning identity into the core self.
        The autobiographical self(s) is concerned with the secondary field of perception - the core self with the primary field.
        Probably, what your Buddhist guide did was to knock you into your core self.
        The event suggests that a core resonance expressed by the monk found its way directly into your primary field of perception - which dressed the primary maps with the appropriate words as it entered the secondary field.
        The secondary field of perception is a perrilous place - it is full of noise - assumption and false maps. It is populated by hundreds of variants of your core self. It is useful for running simulations of the self(and others) in communication/social scenarios. but it is too easy to confuse one's true identity with this rabble - and this is the goal of the Buddhist or Zen master - to realise identity is in the core self and participate only in primary perception. Primary perception is much less noisy and is not cluttered with noise and inter-personal projections.
        Bringing identity back into the core self does not stop the secondary field and autobiographical selves from operating, but instead of feeling you are in there, you see it as like a "consultant's department" and only pay attention to it at need. By not participating in the autobiographical stories generated in secondary perception, it tends to become a quieter realm.

        All living things have a self.
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          Sep 3 2012: "Bringing identity back into the core self does not stop the secondary field and autobiographical selves from operating, but instead of feeling you are in there, you see it as like a "consultant's department" and only pay attention to it at need. By not participating in the autobiographical stories generated in secondary perception, it tends to become a quieter realm." ~Mitch Smith

          I understand.
          Just when you get really deep into the center, your stomach grumbles and you realize the center of self is just one on many functions of personality comprising the Ego and it's goal to satisfy the Id. In other words, we can turn the noise volume down but never turn it off.
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        Sep 3 2012: Actually no.

        The core self is not the ego. In many ways it is the ID .. but that definition is probably shared with the proto-self .. which is, essentially, the state of the body.
        You can see it here:
        The proto self has a set of senses that are not counted in most models.
        These are the senses that monitor our critical body states. They get loosely labeled "feelings and emotions". But they are just as distinct as sight, touch, taste, hearing and tactile.

        It is my suspicion that there is more than just body regulation here in the proto self - that there are much subtler senses being monitored, besides blood pressure, temperature, heart rate etc etc - we just haven't measured them yet.

        THis is from the access point of the physical sciences and the material perspective.
        The observations of the spiritual lead to conjecture on the structures of things not yet explained, but having the material perspective helps to debunk the rubbish in spiritual writings and customs that have purely materialistic origins.

        I extrapolate beyond Damasio that there is more than a single autobiographical self - I extrapolate that we create self-pairs in our brains (one for self, one for other) and that this self-pair is the mechanism required for communication code/decode necessary for language.
        Theh dynamics of these self pairs are noise-reducing due to the convergence that happens between the pairs between one person and another - the 4 selves (one pair for each individual in a communication) they all converge to close similarity after a few iterations of transaction.
        These selves are then neither self nor other, but we tend to forget this.
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          Sep 3 2012: Do you have any research to support your suppositions or is this just free range thinking?
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        Sep 3 2012: It's research.
        At one time I was a forecasting systems consultant and statistical analyst.
        For about 4 years I experimented with neural net systems and basic synaptic AI models.

        I left it alone for a few years then came this work on the Bayesian nature of neural forecasting:
        This in conjunction with Damasio's work (and others).
        Then you add the work on AI by Marvin Minski and you have a picture of resonant topologies.
        And it all has to do with adaptation.
        The Bayesian forecasting method starts with a premise - a "belief", then tests it against observation in a temporal framework and adjusts the "belief" which becomes a functional causal map - that can predict patterns over time as well as static shape. It also has the property of detecting self/not-self in observations (as Wolpert demonstrates). Wolpert also points out the basif noise-reducing property of this method.
        With the resonant self-pair model I am merely describing what happens - and you can observe it in yourself. For everyone we meet, we have an image of them - their face, name, voice, and manerisms. Over time we also gain understanding on their behavioural differences to ourselves.
        With experience, we learn to turn a specific face towards them to facilitate cooperation - to enhance our advantage (mutual or personal). Each "self" starts as a snapshot of our core self and then converges - not with reality, but with the self face that we show each other. FOr all intent and purpose, the 4 selves become the same. The "snapshot selves" are abstractions of the real core self, but they retain the capacity to connect with actual body feelings and responses - in this way, if we envision(predict) a harm occuring to either self or other, we can get a real body reaction as if teh harm actually took place. This is called empathy. Empathy by way of real body connection to fictitious selves is the centring factor that drives convergence.
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    Aug 29 2012: It can't. There is only so much stuff.

  • Sep 22 2012: By completely reconsidering our concept of growth.

    Instead of economic growth, what about the growth of the 'sustainability bubble' (not in the perjorative economic sense, but in terms of what the bubble grows to encapsulate)?

    That is, the more energy and the more materials and technologies we are able to bring under the banner of 100% sustainability, the more real growth we have.

    At this point in time, we're in a negative growth phase in those terms - because we're making things less sustainble through our actions.

    Another angle to consider growth from is experiential and information growth. Imagine high quality VR technology... essentially a maturation of visual/sensory computing technology found in games; it's a system that will provide experiences independent of material consumption.

    And ultimately, that's kinda what the human experience boils down to - a series of interlinked and interconnected sensory experiences. The experience of conspicuous consumption can be easily replicated in virtual space - and in doing so, it can reduce the importance of real conspicuous consumption.

    How much value is there in a boat, a big house, a fast car... when all these things are difficult and expensive to purchase and maintain - and there's an alternative where you can experience all these things and better at next to full sensory fidelity in VR?
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    Sep 19 2012: That depends on to whom the term "we" is referring. You and I cannot do diddly one way or the other, Jake Maddox. Let's suppose that "we" are 100% of the human family. Now which direction we take depends on what on this planet we agree is worth sustaining. Some would have us wait for a war or plague or rampant starvation, judging by some of the entries here. Actually everything we need to know is what we all should have learned at Kindergarten age. Share. Don't fight or keep things to yourself. Hold hands if we are going somewhere uncertain. Celebrate each person as another you. Don't purposely hurt people. If you accidentally hurt people, say you're sorry and mean it. Get and give hugs every day. They're free and good for you. When there is not enough of something to go around, the sensible thing to do is take turns.

    Every day there are billions of people trying to pass on these ideas. We need to revisit this lesson and practice compassion. Compassion equals health from self to community. Empathy is not a long lost art. We can always at least copy the behavior we think is good. Mirror neurons trigger mirrored emotions. If you watch Schindler's List, follow Schindler's approach, not the Nazis.
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      Sep 20 2012: Yes.
      If we do symbiosis right, we have to quit invalid happiness
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    Sep 15 2012: Perhaps infinite growth can be maintained virtually. Virtual economies, virtual identities. In the physical world, our 7 billion number seems not nearly enough to achieve our enormous potential. We have 7 billion minds that are just beginning to become networked to the point of critical mass. Our institutions and corporations are networked, our minds are connected with low latency.
    We have the capability to distribute handheld devices to every family on the planet that will provide connectivity to the virtual. We have the ability to grow food in abundance including meat. We have the ability to print housing. We have the ability to use energy to manufacture water out of air.
    The more minds that are connected and sustained, the more power we will have to sustain the Earth. Our society starts with self. We must take care of ourselves and our society and our planet will do just fine. Our jobs should be to increase connectivity and facilitate the growth of our own thought so we can figure a way out of this mess.
    To do that , I suggest we default monetarily and allow central banks to default and distribute the debt, the currency around the world, and increase the median. That will allow for more volatility and facilitate critical mass.
    Compassion is the capital of humanity. A network of humanity is its own economy.
    We must not be afraid of compassion.
    • Sep 17 2012: That is a good way to use the Population or we can say the human resources when they are working together as a team to accomplish a huge target/goal.
      But there also arises a need.
      For Ex : If we have a person to bring water for us (Easy Task). Why would we need more than one? And if we have more we have to use resources for multiple in place of one.
      I guess you can understand my way Sir!
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        Sep 17 2012: After years of innovation, humans have developed a robot that with bring you a cup of water filled with a drop from every well on the planet.
  • Sep 14 2012: "How can we sustain infinite growth on a finite planet?"

    We can't.
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      Sep 21 2012: You are tight!
      We have to quit "invalid happiness" to stop the growing.
      The growth has exceeded its optimal point too far.
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        Sep 21 2012: Or we can find another finite planet to grow on...
  • Sep 6 2012: One way to address overpopulation is to stop pressuring people to have children. Don't tell people who choose not to have children that they are being selfish or immature or that they owe it to the world to pass down their DNA. Not everyone wants children and it's no harm to the rest of us if they feel that way. Do not tell youngsters that "everyone has children" or speak to them as if being a parent is guaranteed. Change a simple statement of "when you have kids..." to "if you have kids..."

    One of my colleagues was commenting that becoming a parent is a basic rite of becoming an adult. I would like to see this attitude change. Every little way we can think of to stop teaching youngsters and young adults that becoming a parent is expected of them to be normal will help. Over time the many messages we receive that we are destined to have children frames the outlook of many people so that there is no question in their minds about being a parent: they have never considered doing otherwise.
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      Sep 7 2012: To have kids is the gaol of huamn life. It is very diffidult to change.
      But we can easily keep it at its optimal point of two kids per couple.
      Then, no overpopulation any more.
      • Sep 22 2012: Oh wow .. I have been running in the wrong direction if having children is the goal of human life!! Jeeezzzzzzzzzz ... This explains a lot.
        Oh well ... I am sure that someone out there will have my 2 kids for me.

        But I get your point W. Ying. People need to ditch "Invalid Happiness" choose need above greed and wear a condom or somthin' ... please.
    • Sep 22 2012: Good Points Karen. I support my freinds who have kids and those who, like me, choose to babysit ( or NOT.)
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    Sep 6 2012: Well I think overpopulation is a big problem, we´re taking more resources than our plant can give us. But there are many ways to change it, one of them is to tray to improve the sexual education in order to reduce the natal rates and in adition, governments need to change norms, rules, and things like that about this topic. It culd be a little bit utopian in some countries where to have many children, or many wives its ok because is part of their eduacion or mode of government.
    But It will be a good solution, in this scenario governmets coud keep more people, the resources would be sufficient for all, less polution, etc.
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    Sep 2 2012: How can we sustain infinite growth on a finite planet? We can not. We can extend the period of growth with more effective technology, or taking resources from other planets or asteroids, but at some stage the demands will outweigh our ability to supply.

    Beyond our solar system the distances are probably impractical in the time frames we are talking about.

    I guess this will be self correcting if we don't address it earlier. Could be some nasty self corrections.

    Why do people ignore the realities of where we're headed? I guess because we are just smart apes, still stuck with instinct and not enough reason. We favour immediate benefits over long term ones even with costs down the track. And we have a whole system built on growth, and we don't have enough mind over instinct or immediate self interest.

    Global warming is a great example. We don't notice anything immediately. We don't want to pay the price if others continue to pollute. We are just like frogs boiling slowly perhaps. But I guess if things get noticeably worse and there is a more immediate cost to us, we will change behaviour, just perhaps not at the optimum time, with hindsight.

    I note birth rates have slowed in some countries. Although consumption continues to increase in these. And in poor countries people have more babies. I don't think population increase is an impossible problem to address. The economic and systematic ones are.
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      Sep 2 2012: Hi Obey NoOne Kinobe..nice to see you in this iscussion.

      Jake an other commenters..here is a Wikipedia link on "doubling"..how long it takes for a given constant growth rate on anything..debt,population. :


      It gives an example of how even a moderate under 1% growth rate like Canada's could result in a doubling of population.in less than 20 years.

      So applied to a scenario of zero population growth a national economic policy premised on 3% growth in GDP would require producing and selling an astronomically greater volume of goods in a very short time. That is every worker would have to produce more an more and more an every household would have to consume more and and more per capita . and to make that possible people would have to go into debt more and more an more to buy all those goods.

      Overlay that onto our consumer centered economy almost entirely creating a 3%per year growth in GDP out of disposable technology..technology made redundant a not supported by its manufacturer almost from ay one of a purchases research technology upgrade mostly likely financed on a credit card with a balance on the last purchase of the newest product.. And from the supply end..how do you pull that off..well you outsource actual production of your product where environmental and labor regulations are not so "modern" because otherwise people back home couldn't possible buy new technology every time there was a technology change.

      At Occupy Cafe ( www.occupycafe.com) we spent quite a bit of time exploring what makes a "sustainable" economy and in no time it became clear to all of us that it meant. It meant changing everything about what we produce an how we produce it. You can only have a thriveable economy if thing are actually durable,repairable and essential. Buckie Fuller i a lot on these ideas years ago..
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      Sep 6 2012: I think:
      Quit invalid happiness and we can delay human self-extinction 100 centuries at least!
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    Aug 31 2012: I agree Efrain.... but I believe Nature is very resilient and finds ways to survive ...my favorite is the Pelican - it looks a survivor from the Dinosaur time period.....Humans will change as we change our food sources....we don't know the long term side effects of ingested hormones - some hormone therapies we know causes cancer - others may give us a longer life span.... we may become more susceptible - maybe we'll begin to look more like those little green men?!
    ... I have found that the most important thing we are suppose to do right now is enjoy our lives - and as we enjoy living we will find ways to help solve some of these problems - opportunities will arise when we least expect it. When we are in a positive frame of mind we can see solutions to problems faster.
  • Dan F 50+

    • +1
    Aug 30 2012: This topic needs to be front and center, especially on TED. Thanks for taking it on. I'll try to join in later, right now I'm going fly fishing.
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      Aug 30 2012: My pleasure Dan. Catch a Brownie or Rainbow for me. :-) Stonefly Nymph's and Copper John's are some great flies this time of year, at least in Colorado. Going to hit the South Platte in October when the Brownie's are running. Good luck!
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        Aug 30 2012: I find it a little disturbing that you first ask how to sustain growth on a finite planet, and afterwards give advice on how to fish for fun.

        I do not think that there is an answer for us to sustain our current lifestyles (growth and unrestrained abundance). In contrary I think the answer is to change our lifestyles. To put less emphasis on material wealth and more emphasis om psychological wealth. To think of the consequences of our personal actions and act accordingly.
        Don't get me wrong. I'm not launching a personal attack on you. I'm just trying to underpin that we all (me included) have the power to limit our personal imprint on nature... And nature is ultimately what is supporting the existence of the human species.
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          Aug 30 2012: You obviously have no idea how sportsman contribute financially to the Department of Fish and Game and how that is directly responsible for increased wildlife populations. Most fisherman utilize a catch and release policy anyway. If there was any danger to a species, the ability to hunt or fish it would be regulated and enforced. Even though thousands of deer are hunted every year, there is an overwhelming number that exist, which is why many states have authorized hunters to take two or even three. And the food is consumed, deer sausage is amazing. I'm sure your ancestors hunted and fished for sustenance.
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          Sep 23 2012: Yes.

          It is a question of lifestyle.
          We need a lifestyle that leads us happily for ever to keep our DNA alive.
          This style is well proven by our ancestors 1,000 years ago.

          That is, be happy validly!
  • Aug 30 2012: @Jake Maddox "Why do people ignore the realities of where we're headed?"

    Just relax, accept that in long term we are all dead, and live your life the best way you can.
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      Aug 30 2012: Lol, a rather macabre and morose outlook Leszek, but true. "Dust in the wind..........all we are is dust in wind." :-(
  • Aug 29 2012: it cannot be sustained, there is only one ending to this problem.
    There will be widespread suffering and war once we have reached the maximum population the earth can sustain (let us hope we don't completely destroy the biodiversity).
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      Aug 30 2012: Sadly I agree Scott. Whether the widespread drought the U.S. is facing is a product of global environmental changes or due to the Sun being at solar maximum I'm not sure. But if this is a sign of things to come something drastic will take place. We will need more arable land to sustain our ever increasing demands. The U.S. will consider expanding to new areas for agriculture. I think they will turn to Africa. There are millions of acres that could be converted to farmland. I doubt the U.S. will encounter much resistance.
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        Aug 31 2012: If we do "colonize" Africa I hope we do a better job of managing African field laborers than we did 150 years ago.
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      Sep 24 2012: I think

      We can sustain if we quit SILLY invalid happiness.

      Only be happy validly!
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    Aug 29 2012: Hi Jake,

    It is a question that is gaining traction these days.
    Those who say "find another planet" ignore what non-linear growth does.
    At 3.5% growth, by the time we fill this planet, it will take us 20 years to fill another planet, then another 20 years to fill 2 more planets, then another 20 years to fill 4 etc - such that at a certain point, we will be looking for new galaxies to fill.

    But let's not kid ourselves - we won't be filling other planets any time soon.

    Some say that the population will "level-off" at around 9 billion in 20 years or so. But as an ex forecasting analyst, I can say that it's a brave person who believes any forcast beyond 3 months.

    The problem will compound whilever humanity persists in closing off from the open system of the universe.

    If we are to believe the archeology, our logrihtmic growth was initiated by farming about 10,000 years ago.
    The recent correlation with fossil fuel use is entirely consistent with the curve - it is corrollary, not causal.

    "Burnout" happens when exponential growth becomes a vertical singularity. Exponenttial growth happens when systems are closed. Farming is a classic example of closing a system.

    To avoid burnout, we must look at ways of re-opening the system - even if it is a partial controled re-opening. We must start letting the earth share our crops. IF we don't find this principle as a civillisation, the burnout will re-open the system for us.

    Either way, the problem will get fixed.
    • Comment deleted

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        Aug 30 2012: Heya Myf,

        I think the first thing we should do is stop denying our poo.
        Human poo represents one of the exponential problems we face.
        By concentrating it, it becomes toxic. If it was given back to the Earth with a measure of reverence it can re-enter the open system.
        Why do we deny our poo?
        Well - here's a little story:
        A baker made a loaf, a human bought the loaf for one coin and ate the loaf.
        The loaf was turned into poo which the human saved in a tank.
        The baker saved the coin in his bank-account.
        The banker loaned the coin to someone else.

        A bowyer made a bow, a human bought the bow for one coin and used the bow to catch food for the remainder of his life. The human gave his poo to the ground, the bacteria ate the poo, the grass ate the bacteria and brought the sunlight into the earth, a rabit ate the grass, the human killed the rabit with his bow ...
        The bowyer saved his coin in his bank account.
        The banker loaned the coin ..

        Another bowyer decided to get more coins so he made a bow that could only be used once then broke and turned into poo. ..

        The moral of this story is that our bank accounts are, largely, filled with poo - and poo is all that one can borrow. And all that poo is denied from the Earth. The Chain is broken, the poo becomes poison, the sunlight stops entering the earth. All turns to dust leaving only a pile of coins.

        Some of those coins do not represent poo. - but how can one tell the difference?
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        Aug 30 2012: Try this:

        Find a tree.
        Go to it.
        Observe it quietly.
        Grab a branch and feel it.
        Observe the feeling of it.
        Ask it for strength.
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      Aug 31 2012: Are you a pessimist ("any forecast beyond three months" [is probably bogus]), or are you an optimist forecasting analyst ("the problem will get fixed")?
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        Sep 1 2012: Hi Edward,

        I don't take the inadequacy of forecasts to be pessimism.
        I can certainly get the service level of a supermarket chain from 77% to 95%.
        But that's high-volume consumer goods with statistical sample stability from millions of units per time-bucket agregated through 4 levels of distribution..
        Even then, it would be a fool who purchased on any forecast longer then 3 months.
        With long order cycles (anything greater than 2 weeks) I always included strong trend damping on increased demand lines. That might have been a bit pessimistic, but it certainly stopped the warehouse being clogged with 6 months national supply of wheet-puffs - specially after we'd reduced the order cycle to a couple of hours - I presume the cocain and hooker were particularly good in that transaction ;)
        No, none of this stuff can predict what emergent factors will come into play - or when they will arrise..
        The best I could to was to disconnect goods from physical form-fit-function into a demographic-fashion-unit to get some traction on high obsolescence and convergence rates.
        THere is simply no unit demand continuity any more - certainly nothing like the 3 years history you need for a stable 3-month projection.
        I find tarot cards to be just as useful as computers in this regard.
        Will things "fix themselves".
        Only if you truly understand the "attractors" at work in the chaotic systems you observe.
        If things have a self - they will certainly stabilise, but only in terms of that "self" and it may not be human.
        Money and corporations for instance have "selves" and are not at all aligned with anything remotely human.
        But humans have selves, and communities have selves. what good is it that technology rids us of fleas only to replace them with robots, or some other parasitic entity?
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        Sep 1 2012: Forecasting is limited.
        I have reasons for saying that.
        If someone is brave enough to say that the human population on planet Earth will peak at 9billion in 10 to 15 years they are kidding themselves.
        In that timespan there is a good chance that something will come from left-field to make it a joke.
        optimism/pessimism is not a factor of forecasting. That's the domain of gamblers.
        I'd rather see it in terms of:
        an asteroid might hit the planet and wipe us all out in a flash, but on the other hand, each new moment of life is unique - sometimes surprisingly so.
        Until the asteroid hits - enjoy them moments.
        Even between now and when you go to bed are infinite moments.
        That's something to be optimistic about ;)
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          Sep 1 2012: Thanks for translating. I still think the layman can properly label any forecast as optimistic, pessimistic, or neutral. If not forecasting (whether optimistic or pessimistic) what is the basis for your optimism/certainty/belief/conviction/opinion that "the problem will get fixed"?
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        Sep 1 2012: HI Edward,
        That's a good observation!

        Yes, the layman labels these things.
        It's a product of the necessary process of "assumption".
        Assumption is a kind of "gap-filler" in one's world view.
        "One" being the key.
        And, I must stress, that all except the statistician who performed the forecast are laymen unless they have also looked at the data and understand the methods used to extract trends. THe statistician also assumes that the trends identified have a critical role in the decisions of the intended audience of the forecast - and that, that audience has the skills to interpret the trend.
        This is the danger of statistics and the practice of forecasting.

        Take, for instance, the statistical analysis of citibank (given to us by Lindsay in this thread):

        In this analysis the statisticians are analysing wealth disparity by national demographic. It indicates a trend towards greater wealth disparities in plutocratic nations. The intended audience are equities traders.
        THe trends revealed show that equities are a good investment based on the assumption that they are currently under-valued due to risk factors being over-estimated. THey assert that risk factors are being over-estimated due to a failure to distinguish the difference between plutocratic and non-plutocratic nations. They also indicate that investment in toys for the rich 1% is a good idea because the rich dominate more than half the market in plutocracies.
        For the intended audience (equities traders), this might be a basis for optimism, but for those who are not equities traders or part of the rich 1% this is grounds for intense pessimism.

        However, they assert that the trend is stable for the next few years. I dispute that. I dispute it on the grounds that:
        1. many of their trends show exponential growth. Exponential growth lines lead to burnout.
        2. it is growth based - for humans only. (contd)
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        Sep 1 2012: 3. They have excluded emergent economies. Emergent systems are known to be disruptive to trends. But they have admitted that.

        If you were the trader taking on-board this analysis, your expertise would assist you in making any decision based on it. I would presume that no trader in his right mind would commit to anything beyond 3-months based on this analysis.
        WHat we don't see in this analysis is the publications that preceded and follow it. It is taken in an isolation that is spurious.
        Forecasts are a moving-feast - one does them continually and as you go you improve the quality of the forecast by comaparing older forecasts to what actually happens.
        Forecasts cannot predict emergent factors - they can only adapt to them after they emerge.

        I am not optimistic that things will "fix themselves" I am certain that things that have a "self" will survive until they are killed by something that disrupts that "self".
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      Sep 24 2012: I would believe that

      Human's accuracy is too high to immigrate into space.

      We have to stay on the earth and quit SILLY invalid happiness and be happy validly for 100 centuries more!
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        Sep 24 2012: Energy-->senses-->perception-->self-->potential agency-->decision-->agency-->motion-->change
        All between senses and motion is metaspace. It is resonant/adaptive topology
        Happines resides in metaspace - to persue it is to chase ghosts.

        Well being is to change energy in order to persist.
        Potential agency - this is a thing that Americans call "freedom" but have no idea what they are talking about.
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    Gail . 50+

    • +1
    Aug 29 2012: People should become aware of what is forthcoming. People in the industrialized nations seem to be unaware that hunger is climbing in more places than Africa. In the USA in 2010, 14.5% of the households were food insecure, in that they did not have enough food to last a week. Of those, one third (5.4% of households) do not have enough food for the day. This is a number that is climbing. Global warming - whatever the cause - is making the problem more severe, as is over-population.

    But the part that I think is unconscionable is that the global economic model - which is a strange form of capitalism - is giving incentives to giant agra-businesses who destroy aquifers and topsoil. Oil companies who use fracking to get natural gas are destroying more. All giant businesses are destroying our human nest - whether directly, by those who destroy the air and plunder resources, or indirectly, as in Goldman Sachs that finances such ventures.

    Most people don't know that in the Great Depression, food rotted in the fields because farmers couldn't get crops to market and no one had $ to buy them - and there was real hunger in America.

    Our economic model is soon to crash, and it wasn't until last night (Chris Christie's speech) that I realized that the 2 parties are fighting about who will be in control when it crashes.

    All studies show that our social ills are caused by wealth disparity, and our government stands firmly behind the wealthiest even as they know what they are doing. But people will vote for one of the two parties, even though BOTH parties are the problem.

    A must see 5 minute video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4JsCEYpIUA&list=PL89DA217D574A8362&index=3&feature=plpp_video

    We must get rid of $$$ and political parties, and we must find a way to convince people to educate themselves because they have been intentionally lied to and had important info withheld because an educated people do not serve the corruption. We ARE a "race" of laborers.
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    Aug 29 2012: Not only that we can't sustain mass numbers there's climate change that will affect all low lying coastal cities and the salinating of those areas water tables from rising sea levels.
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    Aug 29 2012: We move to other planets...
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      Aug 29 2012: I like it! Good luck with that however. Mars is really out of the question. Everyone seems to think we can live there, "Just terraform it!". There is that slight problem of no electromagnetic field that everyone seems to forget, or the 1/3 gravity. That's ok, humans can simply evolve into 8 feet tall mutants from the cosmic rays bombarding our DNA on a daily basis. Lol :-)
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        Aug 29 2012: Personally, I think we have a better chance trying to find a way to maintain life on the ocean floor, and then moving to Europa. But, don't forget, we could move to other planets, pick up resources, and then build up vertically on this planet, with another planets ore, food, oil, etc...
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          Aug 29 2012: Yes, I think the oceans will be the next place we colonize. I think that we will have to control birth rates though eventually. Certain demographics, in America and across the globe, continue to have children that they cannot afford. I see 10 starving children huddled around their mother on television asking for food and I think "Why is she still having children? Who would bring a child into such an existence?". It's a huge problem and I know some people will have a problem with what I said but they need to wake up and face the reality of what is happening to this planet. I'm not afraid to say what needs to be said. That's half the problem in this country anyway.
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          Aug 30 2012: @David,

          Has anyone done the mathematics to show what happens to our planet when you increase its mass?
          I know that about 40 tons of space dust and rocks fall on us every day.
          But 40 tons per day is nowhere near the magnitude of industrial consumption.
          What happens when you increase the Earth's mass by 400,000 tons per day?
          (assuming that it's all coming from asteroids or some other planet we are junking).

          Well .. at a guess, I'd say that, for starters, the earth's rotation will slow - days will become longer .. how does that affect the weather?

          Oh, and how does that affect our orbital stability around the Sun?

          Until the math is done, we can't know whether the practice will screw us up slowly or quickly, but mining asteroids is not something I'd like to risk..
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      Aug 29 2012: We will move off of planet Earth, but not to other planets. Space itself has all the resources we need to live, and to expand infinitely. In space, we'll live on some sort of bernal sphere or O'Neill sphere. Please read Mining the Sky by John S. Lewis and The High Frontier by Gerard K. O'Neill.
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        Aug 30 2012: I think you're both right... but if Europa, or one of the other moons with water, recieve enough radiant heat energy from nearby gas planets, or an as yet undiscovered molten center... It is possible that life is actually much easier on one of these moons, than it would be in the vaccuum of space.

        I think we could go the route Lawren describes... but I'd probably rather stay on earth if that was the case, as Myf E suggests.

        Mitch, good question, but, we could just change the composition of the mass of the earth... We could take some earth with us on our way out, to make up for what we bring back. Thus bringing soil to a planet that can use it to create life, and replacing it with precious ores we use to make gadgets and space ships. Just a thought.
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          Sep 21 2012: Yes,
          Let's stay on earth.
          And can stay here happily for 100 centuries more if we just quit invalid happiness.

          It will be very difficult to go in space!
          Humans have ultra-high accuracy.
          To be adapted to space life, humans have to evolve into an animal completely different from humans.

          Is it?
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          Sep 21 2012: Very good idea!

          But how can we adapt to the non-earth environment?
          Will that need us to evolve into a kind of animal that is entirely different from human beings?

          I think the easiest way is to quit invalid happiness.
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    Sep 27 2012: To come back to the original question, Rockstrom et all have shown that at least 3 out of 9 planetary boundaries have been crossed (and the changes are irreversible). For an interesting read on this : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_boundaries

    Kate Roworth of Oxfam International proposes a doughnut hypothesis to tackle the situation and I have difficulties agreeing with her. http://pabitraspeaks.com/why-a-doughnut-now/
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    Sep 24 2012: Do you wonder if the earth will self regulate? That the "natural" disasters that come from global warming will help to remove some of the "blights" on earth. It is scary and seems random- I think if we begin to make some of the changes in our policies and behaviors maybe we can regain some control, but in the end- we have very little. The earth chews and spits out now and then what isn't working for it I think.
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    Sep 24 2012: Fix the loop of sustainability. Finding solutions is not the main problem, but making everyone else to take them seriously is.
  • Sep 24 2012: We can't sustain infinite growth on a finite planet, but I'm hopeful that the population growth will plateau, the ingenuity of humankind will come up with solutions to our resource problems and that all of this happens before we have pushed the ecosystem to its brink.

    I see mentioned below that the average number of kids a family has is diverging to two. This video by Hans Rosling makes a very strong case that population will eventually plateau as the standard of living and eduction is raised for the poor. http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_religions_and_babies.html

    We already have the technology to supply energy without the use of natural resources, but currently renewables are too expensive. We won't truly see them catch on until there is a shortage of natural resources, driving up their costs, or governments start taxing the use of natural resources. People will make decisions that financially benefit them.

    Again we have the capability to create clean water, it is just an energy intensive process.

    I'm no ecologist, but I do believe the environment is pretty resilient. I've seen some pretty impressive restoration projects. My only hope is that we can keep everything in check long enough for the population to plateau and for green technology to surpass the use of natural resources. I love the outdoors and I hate to see the damage we've caused.

    I don't like what I see, but I am optimistic...
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      Sep 24 2012: Yes. I think:

      (1) Two kids per couple is the optimal number today according to our instincts.
      (2) There will be more than plenty of resources and energy if we quit SILLY invalid happiness.

      Be happy validly!
  • Sep 23 2012: We are talking about very difficult , sometimes even unimagined techical problems more than political ones. However, if you review the history of the last hundred or so years, we started out with zero airplanes, most people saying it was impossible to fly, and within 60 years, we managed to send people to the moon and bring them back alive. (!) During the same time period, there was this ongoing problem about Palestine, and the Middle East in general. I submit that the absence of ANY significant political progess in that time is a proof that technical problems are much easier to solve than political ones. And by the way, it is not necessary to go 600 light years away to find some alternative habitations. Within our own Solar system we have various possiblities within reach. Therefore I am suggesting that , quicker than getting Arabs and Jews to agree on anything, would be the project of terraforming some planet to sustain humans.
    • Sep 24 2012: I like your comment about flying. Our concerns and fears will be so different 50 years from now. What we can only dream today will be reality tomorrow.

      Do you really think it would be worth the effort of terraforming a planet when we can't even manage the one we have in a sustainable way?
      • Sep 25 2012: Andrew: rmember the "mismanagement" you are talking about is mostly political nonsense. if it were left to the kind of people who managed the moon project, we would be doing a lot better. Examples : going Green is fine, but Ethanol is a political and financial scam. It wouldn't be nearly as hard to convince techno-geeks of that, if indeed any need convincing.. Thorium LFTR power is the answer to a great many of the management problems you are talking about, but the details about it are distastefful to ordinary people, so they just say "Well , if it were that good we would have done it already." About as stupid an answer as could be imagined, but subscribed to by many, some of them with "Colllege degrees". At the very least, Terraforming would be a venture popular with the group that was doing it; sort of like the morale of any group doing somethng new and dangerous. Windmills and solar panels are fine too, but there is simply no way they will solve the energy problem, except theoretically. Try telling that to a Green Luddite liberal arts grad. Then there is the matter of conflict and warfare. I vernture to say that in a terraforming situation, such a waste of time and evergy simply wouldn't happen, not until it had been a success for a hundred years at least.
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      Sep 24 2012: I think:

      (1) Terraforming a planet is almost impossible for the extremely fragile humans of ultra-high accuracy.
      (2) There will be more than plenty of resources and energy on the earth if we quit SILLY invalid happiness.

      Be happy validly!
  • Sep 23 2012: Let me share with you my cosmogony; the way I see this issue. In the past, people used to have many children, it was a part of their "modus-vivendi" for many reasons. First of all, the circunstamces they lived were very different: there was a lot of land to even explore, medicine was very limited and therefore live expectancy was very short, having many children was a way to increase the work force in the typical family business, currents of thought, in those days, said people had to dwell earth and everything in existance was made for the use and joy of humankind.

    Since the industrial revolution until now days, human's life has changed drastically. All the advances in science: medicine, technology, sistems etc. have contibuted, not just to improve human's lives, but also, unfortunatelly, jeopardizing our own supervenience, like the following reasons:
    1) Medicine advances have impulse an exponential birthrate and overpopulation. We have adapted so good to this world that, now, we are a kind of cancer or plague to our planet. I have friends that have known their great-grandparents and have children as well, that is: 5 generations living in a same period of time.
    2) Technology, have create us many needs and thus we have become very consumerist and materialistic society, having to consume huge quantities of resources, sometimes unecesary; some others unificiently, creating ecology devastation and inmbalances in our environment.
    3) Systems like economy have made many injustices. I believe this is the greatest flaw in this issue because it has create a greate gap between societys, countries and people. And the problem with this is that this creates ignorance as there exists a correlation between lowincome - low, inefficient education or non-existence at all.

  • Sep 23 2012: (CONT'D)

    So, just to conclude, I think birth control is definitely a very important part of the solution. But it's missing the how. How can we control birthrate? Let's be reaasonable, we can not imposse people not to have children. It might be, probably, something that future generatioms will have to do as a way of survivance if we keep these birthrates. And, yes, I agree wars are one of the resaults from many of our exesses. Although we can not take it as a solution to control overpopulation. That would made us regress instead of progress as society and as developed beings.

    I believe the answer for many solutions for today's issues is EDUCATION; good education. Education that not just permit everyone have acces to the several fields of knowledge, but also that teaches ethics and good values that can inspire people and society to be be better; a "formative education" that can change the world.

    I know it might sound very naive, but it is a fact that good education change people's way of thinking and way of living.

    Let me put you an example. In Mexico, my country, we can find a huge gap between rich and poor people and we can clearly see the correlation, I was talking you about, good or competitive education - high income vs inefficient education - low income people, and the huge gap in the way of thinking. My parents' made has four children and two grand-children at the age of fourty, this is not an isolated case, actually it is pattern we can observe. Low-income people are more ignorant due they're enable to have goog education what they get is just a rickety education, and we can say it's one of the reasons they have more children at younger ages. If we could help improve the education sistem and let everyone have a formative education, we could help a lot in solving this problem. Another way to improve education are these kind of movements; TED's movement, where people can enrich their criterion and perhaps inspire society to be better.

  • Sep 23 2012: (CONT'D)

    Another way to improve education is by improving the entertainment industry, as this is, every day more and more, the one who educate and transmit values (good and bad) to society. That's the reason I started to write scripts; to make stories that could inspire people to be better and thus contribute to cociety for better.

    If we could convince people to have less children, perhaps one or two; and if we could convince them, if they want to have children, have them at older ages, perhaps at 30's, I'm positive we could save the world and have a green planet again.

    The worst genocide of tomorrow is the ecocide of today.
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      Sep 24 2012: Yes! I agree:

      (1) The “optimal point” of kid number per couple has changed instinctively from many into 2 or less for keeping our DNA alive --- the goal of our life.
      (2) We ourselves consume our own planet INVALIDLY.
      (3) MONEY destroys: empathy --- symbiosis --- peace --- humankind.
      (4) EDUCATION makes people know the “invalid happiness” leading us to self-extinction.

      Be happy validly!
    • Sep 25 2012: I agree with the opinion that education is the answer for many of today's issues. If we can create wide access to high- quality education that not only teaches math, science, and reading, but teaches problem-solving, communication, creativity, and other 21st century skills, we'll end up with a generation of thinkers, designers and innovators that can take on our current and future problems.
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    Sep 23 2012: Increasing populations will eventually force us to act. I guess that's what we are waiting for.

    However, as far as preparing for the future I think we can break it down a bit.

    1) Shelter
    The amount of space needed for each human is rather small. We aren't really talking about a "lack" of anything as we haven't even used all of the available land here in the United States.

    2) Resources

    This "danger" has existed for decades. I don't think we are in any danger of a crisis like you attempt to state here.

    We definitely have problems. I do agree that the environment needs to be our focus. However, how do we pay for green industry? Our problems extend far past "waking up" and almost dive into "how do we wake up"?

    Green industry is not a matter of choice...or something we are waiting for people to accept. It is very difficult to imagine how we plan to maximize industry...and manage environmental damage.

    Let's also note the positive role oil plays in our daily lives.