Optimism Resources

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chenda
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by chenda »

He does rather skim over climate change and just assumes decarbonisation will inevitably happen.

daylen
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by daylen »

Zoom out a little more and the universe is booming into a fertile expanse of possible worlds. Humans and other organisms tend to be quite near-sighted, but they (heightened or extended species included?) have the potential with technology to expand the collective awareness towards including more of the abiotic-producer-consumer-decomposer cycle and coordinate between incompatible interests. Technology may be capable in the future of mediating the collective interest of the planet and avoiding various prisoner dilemmas, races to the bottom, tragedy of the commons, etc.

On the other hand, the expanse of the universe and uncanny universality of computation may be the carrot on the stick that cannot ever be caught. God may be teasing itself out of boredom.

Cam
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by Cam »

white belt wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2023 3:47 pm
Reading that article makes me want to vomit, so I suspect I’m not the target audience. You can substitute God/faith for every mention of optimism in that article and everything still flows. Optimism is really the religion of the technologists.
I felt the same way, which is funny because I'd say in 2018 I would have loved that article. Jacob mentioned how the optimistic articles rarely mention anything beyond the economy and progress. The costs of this progress are many and it is in viewing all the effects of it that changes one's perspective from "to the moon!" (or to Mars?) to let's try to build something that enhances human life while also recognizing our deep and utter dependence on natural systems. It's about seeing Nature as a greater Thou instead of an It to be exploited, to pull an idea from the late Michael Dowd.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Cam wrote: let's try to build something that enhances human life while also recognizing our deep and utter dependence on natural systems. It's about seeing Nature as a greater Thou instead of an It to be exploited, to pull an idea from the late Michael Dowd.
Yes, and the concept of eco-sexuality takes this one step further in the recognition that viewing Nature as Mother can also lead to belief that her love is ever-bountiful, when the more functional perspective is the mutual nurturance and recipricocity found in a peer love relationship. Maybe the reason why the Kevin Kelly article makes white belt want to throw up is that reading it is like discovering some old first world man in your acquaintance is drinking the breast milk from 10 young third world women in desperate magical-thinking attempt to extend his own longevity.

zbigi
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by zbigi »

I feel like the techno-optimism is the way people maintain their sanity. The belief that technology can save us from multitude of problems in itself has created is soothing, and allows people to get on with their lives.

I personally am a deep pesimist, as I don't believe that a catastrophe can be avoided - it's only a matter of time. Scaling back on technological development is just too inconvenient for most people - nobody wants to go back to middle ages. And no, ERE is not a solution, as it would not work if everyone adopted it [1]. So, we'll basically continue on a path of progress until it blows up in our faces.

BTW, latest Daft Punk video beautifully portays that belief:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imBlPXbAv6E

[1] Almost all pre-modern people were ERE badasses, and yet their lives were miserable due to terrible living standard, as they couldn't mooch off of an advanced technological society.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@zbigi:

ERE is a solution because if everybody adopted it, it would default/emerge as Eco-Anarchism*. Primitive humans did not have the advantage of The Knowledge.

*Returns on capital investment would approach the solar growth rate of timber.

zbigi
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by zbigi »

@7Wannabe5

Wouldn't Echo-Anarchism lead to a radically lowered standard of living? Can any technology beyond what was available in Middle Ages (maybe including Rennaisance stuff like printing press, although hard to tell who and why would run the presses in non-capitalist society) be developed in such society?

7Wannabe5
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

zbigi wrote: Can any technology beyond what was available in Middle Ages be developed in such society?
Yes, there are infinite possibilities. There has been a great deal of contingency in the history of invention/innovation. One thing the Kevin Kelly's don't advertise broadly is that it has been shown time after time that you can't buy innovation. IOW, a system which is based on conversion of everything into $$$ and vice-versa is utterly dependent on something that can't be directly purchased with $$$.

In the Level Yellow (post-post-modern)section of my neck of the woods, there even exists a $40 million per year business run on anarchist principles. One of the reason I hate Orange (level modern) corporations is that I worked for a corporation that used to be more of a highly intelligentLevel Yellow co-op, and it died in the transition. Like the Library of Alexandria collapsing under stupid-head-warrior Roman reign.
Last edited by 7Wannabe5 on Tue Dec 05, 2023 9:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

jacob
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by jacob »

zbigi wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2023 9:14 am
Can any technology beyond what was available in Middle Ages (maybe including Rennaisance stuff like printing press, although hard to tell who and why would run the presses in non-capitalist society) be developed in such society?
Some technologies can. The reason it didn't exist back then(*) was not for lack of resources but due to tradition ("this is how we've always done it") or lack of a good idea or simply because it didn't make economic sense (e.g. why invent or even buy machines if slaves are cheap?)

I suggest: https://www.amazon.com/How-Invent-Every ... 735220158/ ... the gimmick of the book is that you're a time traveler lost without resources: how long would it take you/what would you need to create various technologies.

(*) This goes beyond Medieval level technology. For example, the Ancient Greeks knew about steam power (the Aelopile). It just didn't occur to them to use it for power generation. The Chinese had the blast furnace possibly as early as 2500 years ago ... but it didn't arrive/get invented in Europe until 2000 years later. How old is the Swiss Army Knife really? https://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/learn- ... army-knife

It's useful to think of things in terms of tech trees. It's entirely possible for a particular branch to remain surprisingly undeveloped. For example, the Roman Empire had a great engineering tradition, but almost no concept of science as we know it. Also, it took a looong time to come up with the mathematical idea of "0"... which requires no technology but pushes mathematical thinking forward by a lot.

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by Western Red Cedar »

jacob wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2023 2:14 pm
Worldcentric perspectives that also include and identify with the rest of nature (recognizes the cost of that progress) tend to be more pessimistic if not neutral. I'll leave it at that.
One of the reasons Kevin Kelly's thoughts about the future and AI have caught my attention over the last couple of years are because of his work with the Long Now Foundation and his collaboration over the last few decades with Stewart Brand: https://longnow.org/about/.

I haven't read Brand's new work, Whole Earth Discipline, but it could probably be added to the list of Optimism Resources as he describes it as a Ecopragmatist Manifesto. Brand has an interesting philosophical shift from his work on the Whole Earth Catalog to the Whole Earth Discipline, in which he focuses less on individual empowerment and more on large-scale corrective actions to address contemporary environmental issues.

-----

@white belt - maybe your response and the discussion here is an indication that the OP is on point with their observation. This is my sentiment as well:
anticonsumerist wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2023 4:23 am
When i’m reading our ERE forums sometimes i perceive a bit of a pessimistic take on where the world is going.
I find value in challenging some of my underlying beliefs around technology, environmentalism, and cultural issues - particularly if those beliefs are pessimistic. It doesn't mean I necessarily agree, but as I've gotten older I try to react less and sit with the ideas.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Yeah, I probably over-reacted to the article due to the ridiculous section on technology applied to education. Technology did such a fantastic job providing education during the lock-down :lol:

Kevin Kelly actually seems to be all over the place in his thinking. If the future is so super-fantastic, why does he also suggest (in Long Now article)compiling a complete library of utility like a seed bank and burying it in a snow bank for whatever humans remain after the collapse? Actually, I get it. He’s probably an ENTP, like me,and he’s experiencing bi-polar symptoms under the stress of the meta-crisis. Like how I would love to see the episode of Primitive Technology where he creates a functional radio from raw nature, even though infinite regress of Pandora’s box results.

zbigi
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by zbigi »

@7Wannabe5

Top-down, hierarchical organizations (the anathema of anarchists) were the major driver of innovation through time - either the state with its military needs, or, later, major capitalist corporations.

But, come to thing about it, innovation wouldn't even be the main problem in the eco-anarchist world. The main problem IMO would be our inability to make more complex things, as top-down organizations based on "wage slavery" (i.e. corporations) or states/armies using straght-up coercon are so far the only ways we've found as humanity to acomplish goals beyond some level of complexity. The only apparent exceptions (the "bottom-up" creation fo Linux, for example) I can think of exist only in immaterial world, where coordination problems are much easier.
Apart from such rare exceptions, I just can't see how an anarchist society could create an organization doing comparable things to say Intel Corporation. And hence, I can't see how in your world we could have computers. Or even much simpler things, like trains.

jacob
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by jacob »

@zbigi - Two points...

1) Existing constructs, like trains or Intel Corp, are but a solution to a given problem, which might not even need to be a problem in a different world. For example, the invention and subsequent mass-production of cars bootstrapped its own problem: Lets use our invention [of the car] to move into the suburbs afterwhich we need our invention to keep doing the things (work, connect, ..) that we already did before the invention. Point being, these are not at all inevitable or required inventions for a given society ... just like science was/is not required for effective engineering, see Roman Empire.

2) The strategy of a "top-down corporate hierarchy in which those who are smart enough to climb the hierarchy (like MBAs with a weak sense of morality) leverage those who aren't (like techies with no social skills)" is still only a few hundred years old. It is the currently the dominant approach, but there are other ways. Spiral Dynamics describe this well. Just because some method doesn't dominate (yet) doesn't mean that it's not a potential replacement. New ideas usually make their entry in the [resource-]cheapest way possible. ERE1 solves the resource coordination problem in a single brain (fast). ERE2 is doing the same as a community but instead of letting whoever is best as climbing the hierarchy and "guiding stupid people", the organization is determined by "someone clearly knows better"+"everybody else easily recognizes this and follows accordingly". This is very different from the current way. I mean ... imagine if your CEO was able to recognize AND acknowledge that you knew better for a given problem and proceed to give you full decision power... instead of sticking to the existing hierarchy. This is possible. It happens. It's common in the hard sciences.

zbigi
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by zbigi »

@jacob

Ad.1.
If I'm getting you right, you're saying it's possible that an anarchist society would come up with a bunch of new inventions and ways of living which would allow the life to not completely suck - e.g. to make sufficient food for everyone without modern agriculture and without almost everybody spending most of their waking hours on food production. And those inventions were not somehow yet discovered by one of thousands of pre-industrial societies we've had in our history already? Is this what you're saying? That there's still a large untapped potential for new ways of doing things which don't require concentration of power typical for our society, and which will be efficient enough for life not to suck?

Ad.2.
I'd say that top-down hierarchies are as old as settled civilizations, so probably something like 10,000 years old. Most of those civilizations had some ruling class.
As per "other ways of doing things" - if it's possible, then wasn't it done already? Anarchism (understood as bottom-up self-organization) is way over 100 years old at this point, and yet there are few if any successful attempts of accomplishing anything substantial (beyond immaterial examples such as Linux kernel) by following its principles.

jacob
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by jacob »

@zbigi - Optimism of the will (based on ERE1(*)) to the first one. Patience based on historical observation to the second one. Humankind has been the same for 50000+ years, yet those same humans have constructed very different societies.

(*) The hard part about ERE1 is not in learning it but in unlearning the previous "operating system".

ETA: A framework for thinking about [potential societies] is whether a society with an average IQ (in the way it's currently measured) of 80 would run materially different from one of 100 or 120. I think it would! Just compare the social environment of elementary school, high school, and college. Alternatively, whether a society of Kegan2 would run materially different from Kegan3 or 4 or 5. Since this shift in unlikely to occur spontaneously or genetically, could it occur culturally or socially... by changing priorities? I'm asking rhetorically.

white belt
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by white belt »

Western Red Cedar wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2023 9:36 am
@white belt - maybe your response and the discussion here is an indication that the OP is on point with their observation. This is my sentiment as well:

I find value in challenging some of my underlying beliefs around technology, environmentalism, and cultural issues - particularly if those beliefs are pessimistic. It doesn't mean I necessarily agree, but as I've gotten older I try to react less and sit with the ideas.
Although in general I agree that is a prudent approach, I'm reacting to these ideas in this way because I have lived that life. I have worked as a software developer within organizations that are pushing Agile/fail-fast/startup mechanisms to try to boost "innovation." I have worked with so many Kevin Kelly's and watched as their eyes glaze over when I took about real world resource constraints. And I don't mean discussions in reference to climate change, I'm talking about in reference to their stupid code! They've spent too long living in virtual land and it has warped their world view.

zbigi wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2023 2:50 pm
@7Wannabe5
Top-down, hierarchical organizations (the anathema of anarchists) were the major driver of innovation through time - either the state with its military needs, or, later, major capitalist corporations.
Now we're talking my book. Top down organizations are terrible with innovation. Innovation almost always happens from the bottom up. In order to harness innovation, a top down organization basically needs to be able to dedicate resources and then capture lessons learned from those at the bottom who are actually doing the innovating. Capitalism is way overhyped as a driver of innovation. In capitalism, there is little first mover advantage. Instead, it's better to just copy someone else's idea and do it slightly "better" or in many cases just the same. For example, Ray Kroc did not invent the fast food model that made the McDonald's brothers' restaurant so innovative and profitable. Instead he just took their idea and mass produced it. This is a great way to make a lot of money, but isn't a great way to solve complex problems.

Let's compare that to a different field, like warfare (or trading). In warfare, there is a huge advantage to being a first mover. It can be the difference between life and death, between victory and defeat, between your family/home getting maimed/raped/pillaged or surviving. The stakes couldn't be higher. If we invert the classic Upton Sinclair quote, we get something along the lines of, "It is easy to get a man to understand something when his life depends on it." War drives a ton of innovation because the stakes couldn't be higher. I have spent thousands of hours in meatspace trying to optimize how to best kill the enemy. Ambushes, kill zones, engagement areas, defenses in depth, etc. You'd be surprised what you come up with when your life depends on it. This is innovation at the literal bleeding edge. Here is an example from a recent conflict about the fight to out-innovate ISIS drone tactics: https://warontherocks.com/2020/12/how-t ... es-drones/

Having worked in my career field, I suspect the number of people that have an overlapping skillset/experience in the USA similar to my previous paragraph and my first paragraph is in the hundreds. It might be even less than that, and I probably know a lot of them. In general, the people who sit in their padded office with their techno-optimism are not those that have lived with their rucksack and rifle. There is almost no overlap. I have trouble articulating what it's like to live with that level of vulnerability and engagement with the physical world. Again I will reiterate, if one finds himself nodding along to Kevin Kelly's article, then I recommend touching grass.

ETA: I don't think warfare is the only way to achieve a more complete perspective. There are many methods, like perhaps trying to survive off of only crops from your garden for some period of time. You will quickly understand both the fragility of life and feel gratitude for your survival.
Last edited by white belt on Tue Dec 05, 2023 7:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.

white belt
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by white belt »

zbigi wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2023 3:45 pm
If I'm getting you right, you're saying it's possible that an anarchist society would come up with a bunch of new inventions and ways of living which would allow the life to not completely suck - e.g. to make sufficient food for everyone without modern agriculture and without almost everybody spending most of their waking hours on food production. And those inventions were not somehow yet discovered by one of thousands of pre-industrial societies we've had in our history already? Is this what you're saying? That there's still a large untapped potential for new ways of doing things which don't require concentration of power typical for our society, and which will be efficient enough for life not to suck?
Most innovations are lost to history. Humans are resilient in unimaginable ways. Here's an example I like to reference about Cuba: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-XS4aueDUg

I knew eventually I'd find an optimism resource for OP.

daylen
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by daylen »

It is well established at this point that stress decreases creativity.

white belt
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by white belt »

It is also well established at this point that necessity is the mother of invention.* It's just that it feels like a lot of the modern world spins its wheels [creating and] solving the wrong problems.

Now it feels like this thread has really come full circle.

* = After some digging, it appears a better translation from Plato's Republic is "Our need will be the real creator"

Scott 2
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Re: Optimism Resources

Post by Scott 2 »

white belt wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2023 7:24 pm
I have trouble articulating what it's like to live with that level of vulnerability and engagement with the physical world. Again I will reiterate, if one finds himself nodding along to Kevin Kelly's article, then I recommend touching grass.
Humbling post. I agree your background is rare and it offers unique wisdom. I appreciate the perspective.

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