WHY STEADY STATES ARE IMPOSSIBLE
Jay Hanson, 12/24/2015
The human hammer having fallen, the sixth mass extinction has begun. This spasm of permanent loss is expected, if it is not abated, to reach the end-of-Mesozoic level by the end of the century. We will then enter what poets and scientists alike may choose to call the Eremozoic Era — The Age of Loneliness... The first five spasms took ten million years on average to repair by natural evolution. A new ten-million-year slump is unacceptable. — E.O.Wilson
The human species may be seen as having evolved in the service of entropy, and it cannot be expected to outlast the dense accumulations of energy that have helped define its niche. Human beings like to believe they are in control of their destiny, but when the history of life on Earth is seen in perspective, the evolution of Homo sapiens is merely a transient episode that acts to redress the planet’s energy balance. — David Price
Biological evolution is a change in the properties of populations of organisms that transcend the lifetime of a single individual. Individual organisms do not evolve. The changes in populations that are considered evolutionary are those that are inheritable via the genetic (DNA/RNA, etc.) material from one generation to the next.
“Natural selection” is one of the basic mechanisms of evolution, along with mutation, migration, and drift. Natural selection explains the appearance of design in the living world, and “inclusive fitness theory” explains what this design is for. Specifically, natural selection leads organisms to become adapted as if to maximize their inclusive fitness. The “fittest” individuals are those who succeed in reproducing more copies of their genes than their competitors.
Evolved human behavior follows rules (logic), NOT dynamic-number or Bayes solutions. In biology, people are “adaption executers,” NOT “fitness pursuers.” Behavioral rules in people are physical and wired, structural like computer hardware. Human behavior is NOT flexible like software. Energy and time from milliseconds to millennia are required to re-wire behavioral rules.
In simpler terms, structural fitness rules are almost like relative status maximizing rules, and appear to us like the pursuit of individual social status. In our present society, the pursuit of individual social status is almost like conspicuous consumption maximizing. In other words, our present drive for status and conspicuous consumption are in our genes (see The Handicap Principle).
It is now obvious why a steady-state economy is impossible. Steady states are impossible because our genetic drive for maximum status prevents them!
Although people make political arguments for the common good, those arguments are really nothing but relative status maximizing in disguise. (See all the environmentalists, e.g., Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Post Carbon, etc.). That’s why it’s literally impossible for governments to formulate their decisions for only the common good. The common good may be served but only as an unintended consequence of relative status maximizing by individuals.
One of the absolute key points to remember is that the struggle is for relative status. That’s why if a CEO hears that the whole planet is going to hell, he doesn’t care because his relative status is not threatened. Our rulers only care if their relative status is threatened. That’s why Bill Gates won’t divest from fossil fuel. He would rather have a ruined planet than a ruined portfolio. He can only change his decision if his personal status is threatened. Moreover, all of these decisions are made subconsciously and automatically. We are ALL like this whether we consciously realize it or not. It’s the nature of the human beast — it’s why we cannot avoid collapse.
THE CYCLE OF VIOLENT COLLAPSE
The Second Law of Thermodynamics requires organisms to dissipate energy. The cycle of violent collapse is something like this: first, a new “net energy” source accumulates (oil, crops, prey animals, etc.), and then new organisms evolve that can dissipate this energy. With time, the numbers of newly-evolved organisms become too many, and consume too much (overshoot,) thereby exhausting the net energy so that it can no longer support the numbers of organisms. Without enough energy to survive, the numbers of organisms collapse.
The reason that net energy is so important is because it places absolute limits on a group’s drive for status. Net energy is based on physical law (a law like gravity). In absolute terms, net energy is always limited, and peaks and falls with each overshoot cycle (loop.) Can you see why a steady-state economy is impossible? Steady states are impossible because both energy law, and our genetic drive for maximum status prevent them!
Relative status maximizing put in the context of Paris 2015
“Kin Selection” is the evolutionary strategy that favors the reproductive success of an organism’s relatives, even at a cost to the organism’s own survival and reproduction. The coalitional killing of adults in neighboring groups occurs regularly in humans, wolves and chimpanzees. Life histories and environmental cues cause individuals to form coalitions and kill rivals. Here is the basic outline: genes cooperate to build cells, which cooperate to build bodies, which cooperate to form coalitions and kill competing groups, which facilitates the dispersal of the winning coalitions’ genes into the environment.
As absolute net energy declines (global net energy began declining after 2005), low-ranking-group members are starved for relative status gains while high-ranking members go on to ever-greater heights. The “net energy decline” is seen by low-ranking-group members as an-impossibility-of-relative-status-gain environmental cue that causes low-ranking-group members to seek status by switching tactics (e.g., dispersal, crime, terrorism, political revolutions, wars, etc.). The behavioral rules to seek relative status by switching tactics are encoded somewhere in our genes and will emerge whenever environmental cues trigger them.
Sooner or later, social violence always occurs on the downside of the overshoot “loop” because it has had such an exceptional genetic payoff in our past... (see THE MURDERER NEXT DOOR: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill, by David M Buss )
Can new political or economic theory help? No because violence is caused by the nexus of biology and energy law — not by the sounds that social scientists make: if you switch off the language sound track and observe human behaviour in total silence, it’s all pure animal. — Reg Morrison
A human population [of more than] 7 billion can be maintained only by desolating the Earth. If wild habitat is given over to human cultivation and habitation, if rainforests can be turned into green deserts, if genetic engineering enables ever-higher yields to be extorted from the thinning soils — then humans will have created for themselves a new geological era, the Eremozoic, the Era of Solitude, in which little remains on the Earth but themselves and the prosthetic environment that keeps them alive. — John Gray