When I reminisce about the year 2022, I think about noise. The loud white noise is everywhere, and it buzzes in my ears even when I am in a quiet wilderness. For good reason. There is no truly untouched wilderness left in this Age of Anthropocene. Humans have invaded and damaged or destroyed every part and parcel of land and water on this beautiful Earth that is still trying to protect us from our mass extinction. Not for much longer, unless you believe the delirious false prophets of technology who shout ever louder and are getting more aggressive by the minute. They must shout to make their cult followers suspend sound judgement, but they have little appropriate education and no fig leaves to cover their ugly lust for social power.
The cult groupies keep on clinging to a legion of these frauds, e.g., to the Michael Shellenbergers and Elon Musks (here too) of this world. Draw your own conclusions after looking at the linked examples, the famous metal bet between Ehrlich and Simon notwithstanding.
My own conclusion is that the first three links in the paragraph above are the truly frightening demonstrations of ignorance, delirious myopia, arrogance and cosmic narcissism. On the one hand, you have two elderly, gentle world-famous biologists - Prof. Paul Ehrlich and Dr. Jane Goodall -, and on the other, two chest-pounding barbaric fire-apes who would not survive in any of my classes.
Then there is a self-annoited 'energy expert', Alex Epstein, whose arrogance is exceeded only by his innocence (like that of a rambunctious boy, who thinks he understands the words of adults he parrots).
I challenge Alex to a public debate at the Washington DC Press Club. No ear pieces for instructions.
|Jane Goodall observing chimpanzees in Africa as a young scientist. Source: The J.G. Institute.|
Why am I so furious? Well, maybe because I am a teacher and a scientist, who has worked for almost 50 years on the subjects broached by these three fools, and I have taught thousands of students, graduated several dozens of MSs and PhDs, each, and published sufficiently. In short, I am a giver and a teacher, and these guys are mere fame- and money-hungry leeches, who think they have a license to abuse other people. Of the last six PhDs and three MSs I have graduated since December 2020, most if not all refer to me as "father." And this is correct, all students are members of my extended family, and I have been guiding them in science and in life. You have no idea how fabulously rich these young people have made me.
|Here is a US edition of the Age of Anthropocene. The drunken fire-apes in Montana celebrate killing wildlife for sick pleasure. And then you have a Shellenberger slighting and offending Prof. Ehrlich.|
But I already digressed. I could not make myself write for the last nine months. The year 2022 was simply too painful. But a lot has happened and an update is in order. I had a few small personal victories. In March 2022, I underwent a successful CAR T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell) therapy that so far has fully eliminated my deadly mantle cell lymphoma. Thus, I my owe my life to the progress of real medical science, to which my endocrinology doctor and UCSF faculty daughter, Sophie, has dedicated her life. A tremendous scientist, Dr. Andreadis of UCSF, co-created the particular CAR T technology that successfully modified my lymphocytes, which after reinjection multiplied 1000-fold, and over the next six months went on to kill the sick bone marrow cells in my body.
|a | Emergence of tumor cell variants with absent or low levels of the antigen targeted by the monospecific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell. b | Intrinsic T cell dysfunction due to T cell exhaustion results in diminished functionality of the CAR T cell and the growth of tumors expressing the targeted antigen. Exhaustion biology is driven by epigenetic alterations that drive a suppressive transcriptional program. Source: Nature Reviews: Immunology.|
The CAR T therapy wipes out most of the vaccinations in a patient. Thus my three m-RNA Covid-19 vaccines were destroyed. I received a double dose of monoclonal antibodies that protected me somewhat for six months. But then I got three Covid infections after late May 2022, starting from a bad one in Spain, where I was on a sabbatical. One day two, I had to drive with a 40 degree C fever for five hours to escape the 43 degrees C heat w/o air conditioning. Luckily, I had with me a powerful antiviral drug, Paxlovid, that worked like a charm, so well in fact that I never gained full immunity from Covid. In November, I revaccinated against Covid, followed by a booster in December. Then I got Covid number 4, and decided to weather it with no Paxlovid. Let me tell you this, fun it was not, and I still have little sense of taste and no sense of smell. But I have survived without meeting my Creator yet.
|This graph and my survival are dedicated to those of you who stubbornly refuse to believe that the m-RNA Covid vaccines indeed save lives. I am a living proof: 71 years of age, immuno-compromised and a candidate to die fast. Source: How the Pandemic Ripped a Hole in Working-Age America.|
Then there is the brutal war of annihilation the murderous Russian regime has been waging against Ukraine. I wrote enough about it here and here, while I still could write. Then I became too depressed.
|The Royal Wawel Castle and the Vistula River in the center of Kraków. Source: Patzek.|
In October, I visited Poland and found myself in my beloved Kraków. In the streets of the old city, I could hear Ukrainian voices echoing everywhere. I saw thousands of young Ukrainians of student age, together with their mothers and grandmothers. Men were conspicuously missing. The Ukrainians were generally well-dressed, well groomed, and good-looking. Among the Poles, I found out, there was a cold realization that we are in this war of survival until the very end, and we must stick together no matter what the costs are.
|Each day, a small group of Ukrainians demonstrates in the Old Market Square (Rynek) in Kraków and is seen by tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world. People stop, give money, and reflect. Source: Patzek.|
I left Poland 42 years ago and have had fundamental misgivings about current Polish government for six years. Yet, I have never felt so painfully and hopelessly my Polishness as I do now. Back in Poland, I felt at home as much as ever. I wish I could say the same about the divided, angry US.
|The US Ambassador to Poland, Mark Brzeziński, is giving very strong assurances to Poland and Ukraine in a 40 minute interview at the plenary meeting of the Polish Academy of Arts & Sciences (PAU) in the giant aula of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. I am now a member of the PAU Committee on Threats to Civilization. Source: Patzek, Oct. 18, 2022.|
I have the following observation for my fellow Americans. The courage-deficient people everywhere look for excuses to stop the courageous and feel secure again. So let's not be focusing on Mr. Putin so much, but let's think instead of the courageous people of Ukraine and Poland defending the courage-deficient everywhere. It is not only about money, as the generous Biden administration would have us believe. Americans, again, are in the forefront of global resistance to Evil. We must not forget about this, even when we busy ourselves with electing a Kevin McCarthy to the position of House Speaker.
|The faces of some of the ordinary Ukrainians slaughtered in Bucha by the Russian soldiers. They were mothers, fathers, children and grandparents. Their lives became intertwined by a tragic fate: For weeks in March 2022, their bodies would lie along a single street in Bucha. May they rest in peace, while the world avenges them. Source: The New York Times investigative report, 12/21/2022.|
Thank you, the New York Times, for your service to humanity. World needs to remember the Russian atrocities in Ukraine. If you wonder why Poles have been coping so well with over 4 million of Ukrainian refugees (equivalent to almost 40 million refugees in the US, in one wave), it is because the Poles remember. Today's Russian soldier murderers are the grandsons and great-grandsons of the men who murdered hundreds of thousands of Poles during and after WWII, post September 17 1939, and especially post January 1945.
I am writing these words on January 6, 2023, during the Orthodox Christmas. May all the Russians, who oppose the atrocities committed in their name by the butcher of Chechnya, Syria and now of Ukraine, live in peace. May you have the courage to act and organize, like we did in Poland in 1979. Remember, because of our small actions then communism in Europe perished, the Soviet Union fell apart, and Germany was unified. You too could become a part of the civilized world and have normal lives. But you must act first to better your great country once and for all. Change will take a long time. So please have patience, my quiet Russian friends.
P.S. 01/09/2023. As luck would have it here is a great communication between Dr. Nathan Hagens, who organized our SasquatchJedi forum, and Dr. Jorn Bettin, an Australian mathematician and much more... Dr Bettin, graciously agreed to make his comment public. The highlights are mine. Enjoy.
Many thanks for the continuing stream of educational dialogues. The latest dialogue around the simple story of civilisation should register with many people.
I don't know whether you've had any time to look into the references below on human cognitive diversity.
With your original background in finance the following article may be a good entry point:
I concur with your assessment that the human superorganism has no clue what it is doing, neither collectively, nor at the level of the big corporations and the few individuals who routinely make decisions that affect billions and millions of people. The current social operating model gives a few "culturally well adjusted" people enormous abilities to influence billions of people in a way that perpetuates suicidal paradigmatic inertia.
Your analogy of the brainless amoeba does a good job at conveying the global level of human collective intelligence, i.e. zero, but it glosses over the very real implications of social power gradients.
The current system amplifies the influence of the opinions and whims of a few people (including algorithms that are designed to act as extensions of these people) by several orders of magnitude. At the same time these people are subject to the same cognitive limits as all humans – if anything they may lack sensitivity and self reflective capacities, not understanding that their influence, amplified to the scale of millions and billions of people invariably causes great harm to large numbers of human and nonhuman living creatures. There is only one conclusion: it is a form of collective insanity to allow such concentrations of social power, and within this system, the only people who are in a position to do something about this state of affairs are those few who currently hold positions of highly concentrated social power – but these people are in these positions because they are hopelessly addicted to be most dangerous drug for humans, namely social power. We have to recognise that these people are addicts, and we need to start treating them as such. Humans have severe cognitive limitations, but once we start acknowledging our limitations, we can at least organise for optimal collective intelligence – a small positive number, not quite zero.
It is delusional to think that any of the addicts in positions of social power will ever voluntarily give up their drug, just as it is delusional to think that any other system of large scale social organisation based on some different form of coercive control or influence would be any better or less corruptible. I have a background in mathematics, and have spent over 30 years of my working life getting paid for surfacing tacit knowledge, ensuring psychological safety, and establishing shared understanding across disciplines and cultures. I am also acutely aware how often misunderstandings accumulate, even between people with the best intentions, and how people quickly become judgemental, and thereby invoke social power dynamics that can get in the way of establishing a basis for de-powered dialogue and shared understanding.
What I loved about the dialogue around the simple story of civilisation was the recognition that all attempts of control at large scale are futile. I fully concur, and we can build on this insight, co-creating optimal environments for nurturing collective human intelligence (https://autcollab.org/2021/01/10/the-social-architecture-of-collective-intelligence/).
We know how to do this. It is not rocket science. It involves what I refer to as "de-powering" everything we do, ultimately including nuclear disarmament. This involves reducing energy consumption, as well as reducing social power gradients by orders of magnitude, and nurturing the evolution of small, human scale ecologies of mutual care. The latter can occur in parallel with offering palliative care to established powered-up super human scale organisations, including compassionate exit paths for the inmates.
What you refer to as the great simplification will occur in two basic ways:
Voluntarily and consciously, by realising that emergent human scale ecologies of mutual care provide an avenue for incrementally phasing out super human scale institutions of power, without needing to come up with an overall grandiose master plan that pretends to offer THE solution. Human scale is small, it is local, it is beautiful, and by definition is compatible with human cognitive limits – it protects us from the grandiose delusions of control that have culminated in the predicament of powered-up industrialised civilisation.
Involuntarily, by forces beyond human control, such as increasingly severe extreme weather events, ecological collapse, and breakdown of brittle energy intensive and under-resourced systems that implode under their own bureaucratic weight.
Given the addictive nature of social power, the second path will play a prominent role. This is the sad reality that has unfolded. We have to face it.
All that we can do is to offer support to the few who are consciously working on the first path, in many different localities, surfacing and distilling locally relevant knowledge, including indigenous ways of knowing that are still accessible. The marginalised people who are working on this path constitute the cultural immune system of human societies (see reference below). Some of us have been on this path for many decades (https://autcollab.org/2022/10/17/repairing-the-cultural-immune-system-of-human-societies/), and increasingly we are collaborating, both globally and locally. In contrast to culturally well adjusted neuronormative people, Autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people are "not culturally well adjusted" from their first day of life onwards. We are anthropologists by birth, and for many of us, attempting to become "culturally well adjusted" to our sick society was never really a survivable option (https://autcollab.org/2022/12/28/healing-from-autistic-trauma/).
If you are interested, at some point we could engage in a dialogue around de-powering, and the emergent ecologies of mutual care that are being nurtured into existence by those who have never been fully "functional" parts of the global human superorganism.
Jorn Bettin, Partner
P.S.P.S. 01/10/2023. The readers' comment section to this NYT article about climate change have seeds of understanding in the chaff of predictably consistent denial that follows the same old 2-3 talking points. The two sets of readers' opinions are parts of the two dominant social narratives: the Democratic and Republican ones. These two narratives are deeply flawed for very different reasons, but here the Democratic one corresponds to the science of climate change. The Republican narrative defined the attacks on Paul Ehrlich and Jane Woodall I linked at the beginning of this post.
P.S.3 01/15/2023 If you want to see the Age of Anthropocene up close and personal, please watch the amazing 2022 Amazon documentary, The Wildcat. This incredibly intense movie about the animal victims of progress left me emotionally drained. When I say "animals" I include the ocelot and other inhabitants of the Peruvian tropical forest under siege, and the emotionally destroyed ex-British soldier who saved the cat to redeem and save himself. The soldier's love for the ocelot is so raw and intense that it burns him and his other relationship. In this proud, biological sense we are all animals.