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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Why Now

 Curious,


Why Do Civilizations Collapse? by Samo Burja, looks at the difficulty in transmitting expert knowledge, handing it down as culture, between generations. NASA (under Werner Von Baun, only) sent men to the moon, but now it is mostly a bureaucracy with declining competence. It just can't do the things it did 50 years ago. The US as a nation has outsourced most industry, due to making higher profits for the global capitalist class. Is it possible to reintroduce industry here? Do the social patterns and human skills exist in the US to do that?
  Why do civilizations collapse? This question bears not only on safeguarding our society’s future but also makes sense of our present. The answer relies on some of the same techn─ô that humanity needed to build civilization in the first place...
  During civilizational collapse, no organization can properly hide its own inadequacy, since the whole interdependent ecosystem of institutions is caving in on itself. States, religions, material technologies, and ways of life that once seemed self-sustaining turn out to have been dependent on the invisible subsidy of just a few key institutions... 
  Despite being an excellent epistemic opportunity, civilizational collapse seldom inspires introspection among thinkers living through it. Mayan or Roman thinkers don’t seem to have reflected on their ongoing collapse. As institutions turn to cannibalizing each other, there is little patronage or emotional energy going towards accurately describing the wider process...
  In the West today, we operate under the influence of our own key philosophy, which we can call scientism: the tendency to rely on scientific claims to describe the functioning of society, even when there is no empirical reason to assume that they apply... 
  Our organs of economic management do not secretly know how the economy really works. Our systems of political regulation are operating on the fumes of their institutional inheritance from two or three generations ago—the last spurt of institutional growth in Western societies happened roughly during the 1970s...
  Civilizational collapse always looms on the horizon. Though we usually think of collapse as a slow process, it can in fact happen very quickly, as was the case with the Late Bronze Age collapse... 
  Our society is dominated by large bureaucracies. These bureaucracies break down the processing of physical goods and information into discrete tasks, such as how a factory worker puts doors on a car, or a stock trader buys futures contracts. These tasks are shorn of their context and executed in a systematized environment whose constraints are quite narrow: put the car door in, increase the portfolio value. Our society is thoroughly compartmentalized. This compartmentalization isn’t driven by the division of labor, but rather by the need to make use of misaligned talent without empowering it. By radically limiting employees’ scope of action, you make office politics more predictable. By fragmenting available knowledge, you can leverage information asymmetries to the intellectual or material advantage of the center. Some of this is necessary for scaling organizations beyond what socially connected networks can manage—but move too far towards compartmentalization, and it becomes impossible to accomplish the original mission of the organization...
  If you want to know, say, why the FBI exists, you can find the answer in the documents of its founder, J. Edgar Hoover...  
  It is very difficult, though, to apply this analysis to the construction of society. No matter how large or how small, institutions always coexist in a symbiotic relationship with other institutions...   Society is not a single institution, after all, but an ecosystem of interdependent institutions...
  In addition to this complexity, non-functional institutions are the rule. Our institutions today rarely function in accordance with their stated purpose... 
  Institutions often become non-functional due to the loss of key knowledge at critical junctures. Take, for example, the recent failure of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to reproduce a niche classified material known as FOGBANK that is necessary for manufacturing nuclear weapons. It took the NNSA ten years and millions of dollars to re-engineer a material that their staff in the 1980s knew how to make...
  Civilizational collapse, then, looks like this dynamic at the scale of an entire civilization: a low-grade but constant loss of capabilities and knowledge throughout the most critical parts of our institutions, that eventually degrades our ability to perpetuate society... 
  The key dynamic here is the loss of the subtle social technologies that allow us to solve the succession problem. Running a large and complex institution requires skills which are often difficult to fully pass on. How can a successful founder ensure a successor who leads as competently as they did? The succession problem is the central obstacle to transferring the ownership and knowledge of institutions from generation to generation...
  Often the problem is that the kids “don't get the joke”: if you create an institution with a false premise in order to mislead society as to your true goals, the people you hire into it might be fooled by the propaganda themselves...
  We can define civilizational collapse as a process wherein most recognizable large-scale institutions of a society vanish, coupled with a drop in material wealth, a drop in the complexity of material artifacts and social forms, a reduction in travel distance and physical safety of the inhabitants, and a mass reduction in knowledge. 
  Loss of knowledge is especially damaging, since it accelerates the other aspects of collapse and ensures that they will be long-lasting...  
  Such losses of knowledge are a constant throughout human history: as with FOGBANK, or as with the state of New Jersey recently scrambling to find a COBOL programmer with the ability to overhaul their legacy information systems...
  My theory of history is great founder theory: I propose that social technologies do not evolve out of mass action, but rather are devised by a tiny subset of institutional designers. Looking at history, we see that new organizations and social forms often arise within a single generation, showing jumps in social complexity far too rapid to be explained away by collective action or evolution... 
   It often takes an exceptional individual with exceptional vision to create a new social or material technology... 
  The result is usually one or more institutions, created by the individual to carry out their goals. Institutions are not naturally self-documenting. The descriptions of themselves that they provide can be misleading...
 (Note: Global CO2 production seems to have fallen after 4th quarter 2014, with a bump in much of 2016 and 2017, then gradually declined from 2018 to present.)
  The interesting question for the prospective collapse of our own society is this: if you were a late imperial Roman, and someone told you about the ongoing decline in atmospheric lead, how would you process this information? Today, if we saw a drop in lead pollution, our first assumption might be that this is due to the advent of greener technology. Economic decline wouldn’t naturally come to mind...
  If we compare the roughly twelve identifiable Dark Ages following civilizational collapse on the Eurasian continent—the collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations, the end of Mohenjo Daro, the decline of the Roman Empire, Han China and so on—we always find that nearly all material technology is not self-perpetuating, but rather rests on foundations of social technology. The only material technologies that routinely survive collapse are small-scale agriculture and small-scale metallurgy, likely because the social technologies needed to sustain such smaller communities can arise organically. Since collapse in material technology is always preceded by collapse in the practice of social technology, Dark Ages are always preceded by Intellectual Dark Ages. Knowledge of these social technologies is highly compartmentalized and, as a result, they are not understood explicitly by all parts of society. This means that a society undergoing an Intellectual Dark Age doesn’t realize it is going through one at all —all the people who would notice are long-gone, and those who remain are miseducated, role-playing the forms left behind by their predecessors without realizing that they’ve lost the substance. Often not just the knowledge, but the socioeconomic niche that once fostered the creation of new social technology has been obliterated in all but name...
  But if the Industrial Revolution was over, what would we expect to see? Much as we see a late Roman drop in lead pollution, today we see drops in pollution in the West...
  One could hypothesize the American worker and manager have, over time, lost the social technology that enabled them to run the assembly lines in the first place and that, now, our support for outsourcing isn’t so much due to greed as it is an adaptation to inability... We should seriously consider the possibility that we are a post-industrial society not in a positive sense, but in the sense that in our society the Industrial Revolution has stopped...
  Our society is the product of what were once advanced, rational, self-catalyzing systems of production, but we have now reverted to a more customary system, where things are simply done as they were 40 or 50 years ago. We have the same bureaucratic and economic institutions as we did then, with some marginal tweaks... 
  The United States is well-positioned to attempt such civilizational reforms, since it has a remarkable ability to integrate exceptional talent from all over the world and has put that talent to work on some of the most successful institutional projects in history, including the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Program. America is, for now, in an unavoidable period of relative decline, and in 2030 or 2040 the largest economy in the world will almost certainly be that of China. But absolute decline is reversible—2060 is still an open question... 
  The solution lies with a small number of people who can independently judge the generative minds behind the facts, rather than merely minding the integrity of the established body of theories and observations... Engineering society to be self-perpetuating is an extremely difficult challenge, and we can devise all sorts of machinery to do so, but this is the bottom line. Such people are extremely rare, but if we create a socioeconomic niche for them, our civilization can rewrite its own future for the better.

That may seem long, but it is my excerpting of the high points of the short read. The long read is 95 pages, and I spent yesterday understanding and absorbing it.  Nore essays by Samo Burja, about the workings of human societies are here.: http://samoburja.com/essays/
This is the "executive summary" of "Great Founder Theory":  http://samoburja.com/great-founder-theory/
Here is the full 95 page treatise of Great Founder theory that I digested yesterday:  

Eleni sends this paper by William Engdahl, looking at the global political strategic positionings of the USSR and Germany before WW-2, and the parallels of positionings between the USA and PRC currently. His premise is that global-financial-imperialism set up those dynamics to destroy Russian and German competition, and would like to see US and Chinese nationalist powers broken down in the same way today.
  One of the great mysteries of that China growth is the fact that China was allowed to become the “workshop of the world” after 2001, first in lower-skill industries such as textiles or toys, later in pharmaceuticals and most recently in electronics assembly and production. The mystery clears up when we look at the idea that the PTB and their financial houses, using China, want to weaken strong industrial powers, especially the United States, to push their global agenda. Brzezinski often wrote that the nation state was to be eliminated, as did his patron, David Rockefeller. By allowing China to become a rival to Washington in economy and increasingly in technology, they created the means to destroy the superpower hegemony of the US.
  By the onset of the Presidency of Xi Jinping in 2012, China was an economic colossus second in weight only to the United States. Clearly this could never have happened–not under the eye of the same Anglo-American old families who launched the Opium Wars after 1840 to bring China to heel and open their economy to Western financial looting–unless the Anglo-Americans had wanted it.

Congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard, of Hawaii, the peace candidate, who outlasted Kamala Harris and earned a couple of delegates, was not invited to participate in the Democratic convention in any way, after being smeared with accusations of being "groomed by Russia", and such.
She is against wars, even though she has served 2 tours in America's mideast war extravaganza, in a medical unit. Why is she such a wet-blanket. No wonder she didn't get invited to the Party (of humanitarian wars). Russia Today has the story, of course.

Dider Raoult MD et al responds (politely) to another hodroxychloroquine hit piece (European Journal of Medicine) as first-world folks die of COVID. (Does this seem intentional yet?)
 We read with interest the letter entitled “COVID-19 and hydroxychloroquine: is the wonder drug failing ?” by U. Paliani and A. Cordona [1]. This work illustrates the need to be very careful in analyzing the literature at a time when scientific conflicts of this magnitude are taking place. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have moved beyond their practical aspects as drugs or as potential toxic substances to become a clash on several fronts. The countries of the South use hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine on a massive scale, just as they used them before for malaria, or still use them now for systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatic diseases. And, as more than 2 billion people at least have used this treatment, they have the greatest difficulty in believing that this product has become, by 2020, an extremely toxic product. Coincidentally or as a consequence, the countries with the highest mortality from COVID-19 are also the countries that have demonized chloroquine the most, i.e. Western Europe and part of the United States. There is therefore a geographical pro- or anti-chloroquine correlation, on the one hand North-South, on the other hand West-East, which is beyond scientific data.  

 Look here, there's nothing to be afraid of when research scientists modify infectious viruses to help make vaccines to protect us!
Researchers Created a Virus That Mimics SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 Coronavirus – Here’s Why
Lab-made virus is safer to work with, can aid efforts to find drugs, vaccines.  :-)

 He says they were all working on this kind of weaponized virus, but feels he has reason to believe that it leaked from China.
Renowned European scientist: COVID-19 was engineered in China lab, effective vaccine ‘unlikely’
Professor Giuseppe Tritto, an internationally known expert in biotechnology and nanotechnology, says that the China Virus definitely wasn’t a freak of nature that happened to cross the species barrier from bat to man.

Australian GPs are urged to prescribe ivermectin triple therapy to fight COVID-19 

There is more and more talk of mass mandatory-vaccinations when the track record of coronavirus vaccines is that too many vaccinated animals die when exposed to the vaccine. It kills.
Australia Prime Minister Puts Citizens On Notice: All Will Likely Undergo Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccinations 
 

This just in!

Planet in Crisis, Higher Values of Society Corrupted, The Expression of Moral and Ethical Values

One cannot fail to recognise the ubiquitous crisis in all forms of leadership that exists on the planet today. Qualities of wisdom, courage and statesmanship, once admired and emulated by aspiring people of principle, have been undermined and sterilised via collective slavery to the prescribed money and power agenda, which reflects the default position of society. 


 
Losing It

Jenny pictured last week at one end of long break patio vegetable garden I tend at People's Clinic, with orange trees, sweet potato vines, cucumber and black-eyed pea vines

5 comments:

  1. Samo Burja has some good points, but I disagree with him on his central thesis which seems to be that civilizations take great individuals to create and when those individuals go away then society collapses because the founders failed to transmit their knowledge. I am more inclined to view civilizations as emergent systems that emerge when conditions are such as to put the building blocks in place. Emergent systems need energy to sustain themselves. Take away that energy and the system collapses. Did NASA collapse because it ran out of Von Brauns or did it collapse because the money to run such a huge boondoggle was no longer being appropriated by Congress? I used to work for Delco Electronics which produced guidance systems for the Delta rockets that went moonward. There were a number of people still there who had been part of the Apollo project. What happened sometime around 1970 that the money got cut. Everybody got layed off and bulldozers came in and cleared out desks and chairs and other assorted infrastructure. What happened was that the politicians had decided that the PR stunt had done its job. American civilization was demonstrated to be superior to Russian civilization. So throw that money losing sucker in the dumpster. Move on to something else.
    If civilizations are indeed emergent systems, then like all other emergent systems they are subject to the ravages of entropy and have a beginning a middle and an end. When the civilization no longer does anything useful, it dies. No point trying to keep it alive. Start something new that better fits the new conditions, in our case, a world with diminishing resources and climate conditions less favorable to agriculture. No point in keeping the DMV going if we don't have gas to run cars any more. etc.
    In any case, civilizations are a relatively new phenomenon in the course of human affairs. Far as I know they all started after the end of the last ice age when climate conditions were favorable to the development of agriculture. Bad climate, no civilizations. Civilizations seem to require some minimum population densities which can only be achieved through agriculture. Hence, no agriculture, no civilizations.
    A final comment on Dark Ages. James C. Scott pointed out that the dark ages were called that not because they were times of misery and oppression. They were dark only to scholars who rely on written material to write their histories. Conditions were such that large states could not be maintained. They were hard on civiliztions but good for peasants who only had to feed themselves and not a heavy overburden of tax collectors, armies, princes, kings, builders of monuments to the glory of kings and of course scribes. Dark ages would more appropriately be called opaque ages.

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  2. I should add that I am not a big fan of civilization. If you are, then you certainly would want to preserve civilization, since after all, it is responsible for all the things you like. I should also add that I like books and cafes and art and music but would be willing to give them up in exchange for something more like what the world used to be like before civilization, a world that we evolved to deal with both physically and emotionally.

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    1. Hi Wolfgang,

      I think it's more like "all of the above" than "pick A or B".
      He looks at institutions as being the agencies of action for large projects.
      A really good agency is really unusual. Somebody with talent has be create it.
      Everything tends to be mediocre and decay.
      I took his message to be more about why things break when they do, and in the way that they do. He does allude to other factors, such as loss of resources and loss of societal ability to do difficult things.
      My own thoughts is that society strip mines problem solvers and they are then gone. Problem solvers are created as kids grow up in difficult and dangerous worlds, like farming and ranching, and subsistence-anything.
      I feel like I was in the last generation (Baby Boom) that was allowed to go risk life and limb and be back by sundown. No questions asked...
      China is strip mining their farmers right now. America is barming grown up farm kids from Mexico and Hondouras to get by.
      Yeah, the system is so fragile that it pukes if crude oil prices stay over $60/bbl and if they fall under $75/bbl.
      Natural existence is fine until you get tetanus, or appendicitis. Life expectancy at birt, in the good times, was about 28 years. If you lived to 20 years, you had a good shot at 45, but damn, people died in accidents a lot!
      I think we have gone way too far, living completely in a zoo, and I'm working to have a more real human life, myself, so I might be able to offer rudimentary useful advice to that end.

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    2. MAke that "borrowing". Beats me how that typo happened. "Birth", too.

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