Reality Blind - Vol. 1

production, all created and maintained principally by our fossil carbon armies. Our complex system of nodes, connections and infrastructure, combined with higher costs, means incremental inventions are scarcer, costlier, and no longer happen in somebody’s garage, but in offic e buildings with hundreds of employees wearing lab coats earning six figure incomes. Here’s the problem: our current societal mousetrap of problem -solving and reward-seeking requires continual increases to baseline energy and materials costs and availability. TaaL: It seems, especially of late, that you humans don’t respond to problems with simple solutions. It’s easy to see how reliance on complexity can develop in a culture, because initially a bit of complexity can yield huge returns. Bows and arrows really did work better than spears and created large new opportunities with only minor investments. Guns trumped bows and arrows. Steel plows worked a lot better than wooden ones, and chain saws sure beat hand-axes when it comes to making trees fall over. Specialization in your tribes made this stuff possible and made organized groups more robust and formidable than smaller groups, which couldn’t manage similar investments in complexity. Yet even the notable societies in your past, like the Roman Empire, ultimately bit off more complexity than they could chew, because there are always “net energy” limits. Once complex systems start to malfunction, one either needs to patch them with more complexity investment, or pull back and simplify, abandoning the “fixes.” Human history is full of societies which have attempted the former. In groups of humans, it’s easier to add complexity than to settle on a simple decision which in the near term seems less desirable. As hunter-gatherers there was a limit to the amount of complexity which could exist within a tribe, so there was no way to seriously overshoot it. In large modern societies, adding complexity greatly increases systemic risk (e.g. 95% of the antibiotics used in the US are Made in China). Your fossil slaves have, for the last 150 years or so, seemed inexhaustible, and have helped you pile up a huge number of complexity-layers in contemporary societies. This pile grew, even when the “problem s to be solved” seemed on the surface as manageable as the difference between iterations of iPhones (which are not real problems at all, but whims riding an amped-up globally- marketed hedonic ratchet in search of “newness” and relative status). But you’re well into the “diminishing returns” part of the process: 60 years ago, new scientific discoveries could be made with apparatus on a tabletop. Now you need enormous multi-billion-dollar machines just to discover an extra theoretical particle that may or may not exist. You’re so far past picking the “low hanging fruit” of complexity that


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