Ending Dependence on fossil fuels

Cause of the Month, October 2016: Ending Dependence on Fossil Fuels

The issue is much more complex than ending our dependence on fossil fuels, and that is a very real part of it.

There are three very deep issues present, values, connectedness, and human understanding.

How we understand things is in essences at the base of it all.

Science can now give us very good tools for those that are willing to put in the time and effort, that can give us a very good feel for what we are, and how we build our understandings that we have.

The ancients started out with the idea that there was Truth, there were eternal laws, there existed things like right and wrong, and we could come to know some shadow of them.

What science now seems to clearly be telling us is that this universe we find ourselves in is very complex, and contains many different types of systems and complexity.

Some systems are simple, and obey rules that can be known with very high precision.
Some systems are complicated, and have aspects that follow clear rules most of the time, and other aspects that are less predictable and require understanding and judgement, and mistakes must happen.
Some systems are complex, and have certain tendencies to action that we can influence, that we can encourage or dampen down, and working with such systems is a constantly repeating process of probing them a little, seeing how they respond, then working with those result, and repeat.
Some systems are chaotic, and follow no predictable pattern. These systems are almost impossible for humans to distinguish, because our brains come with billions of pattern recognition systems, we are primed to find pattern, even where it does not exist. This is one of the fundamental causes of the emergence of practices like human sacrifice – a search for pattern and meaning where it does not exist.
Computers are much better at detecting chaos than most humans.
When faced with chaotic systems, the best thing is to try and get out of them, as they are, by definition, unpredictable. We are now aware of many different types of chaotic systems. The theoretical basis seems to clearly indicate that there may be an infinite class of them possible.

Some systems have “tipping points”, where activity past a certain threshold tips from complex to chaotic.
It seems we actually have quite a lot of them, including much of our weather systems, earthquakes and volcanic systems, many aspects of ecosystems under stress, and many aspects of human social systems.

Laws and rules only really work well in simple systems.
When the level of complexity present is beyond simple, then human beings can best handle those situations if they have the flexibility and confidence and understanding to take intuitively appropriate action.

In many aspects, our legal systems and our monetary systems and our cultural systems have gone beyond the boundaries where they deliver useful outcomes, and are in many aspects moving into strategic territories where they pose greater risk than benefit.

And the science and logic is clear, that all systems require boundaries to function.

The science of complex systems is also very clear that in any system beyond the simple that if those boundaries are too hard, they become brittle and break. The more complex the system, the more flexible and context sensitive those boundaries need to be. Just look at our cell walls, and the variability they have about what they let in, and what they let out, in what circumstances. These things are hugely variable over very small times, allowing neurons to “fire” many times per second (close to 200 times per second in some cases).

Alongside this, the science is also clear that cooperative systems are always vulnerable to cheating strategies, and there will always be a sort of “arms race” between cheating strategies and detecting and discouragement strategies required to maintain effective cooperation.
And Elinor Ostrom catalogued a set of 8 conditions that will in most cases deliver stability if used.

If those anti-cheating systems are firmly based in human values of life and liberty, applied universally (not as any sort of average, but to every individual on every occasion), then the science is clear that cooperation can be maintained, and can achieve 100% effectiveness most of the time. And such effectiveness can only be achieved where systems are designed to actually deliver on human values in every case. Systems must guarantee high minimum standards of life and liberty to every individual, no exceptions. That is certainly not our current reality.

Living systems are not simple.
If you think our economic system is complex (and it is), living systems are more complex by several orders of magnitude.
All things are connected.
Everything effects everything else.
And mostly the effects are very tiny, but all added together, over time, they become something significant.

Human understanding must start from simple models, simple stories, and gradually build to the more complex.
Every individual must follow such a developmental path, there is no logical alternative.

The logic is clear, that there is room for infinite diversity in the modelling systems individuals use.

Such diversity demands acceptance, tolerance and respect.

So yes, we do need to move away from using fossil fuels, and that can only happen with stability when we move away from using money and markets, and move to delivering universal abundance.

For so long as we retain markets, with their scarcity based value system as our dominant social value system, then the incentives to make profit from fossil fuels will dominate everything else.

Yes we have distributed sources of power available, particularly solar, but it is difficult to monopolise distributed systems, so the meta incentives to profit will tend towards energy sources that are centralised, with high barriers to entry and are controllable (fossil fuels, nuclear, hydro, geothermal). Distributed systems like solar and wind and wave energy (wind and wave are secondhand solar in a real sense) will never be profitable to corporate control, without strict legal systems that effectively remove all individual freedom (and we are seeing moves in that strategic direction with current international moves on the Intellectual Property Law front).

So currently we find ourselves in a strategic situation where human values of life and liberty are under pressure from markets and money from two very different strategic directions, and on many different levels.

Building awareness, building understanding, that the existence and liberty of all of us are at stake, is the only effective counter.
And that must be coordinated with effective technological development to actually deliver automated universal abundance of all essentials.
That comes back to a fundamental individual choice of values.

Do you choose individual life, and individual liberty, and claim your own power, at the same instant that you grant such power to every other individual; or do you blindly accept the rule of others, in the hope that their dictates will be benign in the long term.

I am clear, that the long term security of all of us, depends on the vast majority of individuals claiming both their individual liberty and their moral power as responsible members of the most cooperative species this planet has produced, with associated responsibilities to ensure the existence of all other life forms that are not a significant threat to our survival.

Our individual choices matter.
All those small effects do add up to something significant.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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