Monday, December 8, 2008

The Truth About Global Warming?

The sun for some reason is getting hotter. Much hotter in fact than it was to be expected. Across the globe children today paint a white sun - we were painting yellow suns back in my youth.

According to the New Scientist (will look up article for reference) warming over time enormously increases CO2 in the atmosphere as it has done several times over in previous geological eras. It had likely become a feedback already. The output of this circuit is presently small but may grow rapidly. On this both deniers and Global Warming supporters agree.

Another point of agreement it seems is that a huge amount already in the atmosphere has been caused by human activity. Where the two party don't agree is what may be the primary cause of runaway CO2 increase. Warming of the sun - as the entire solar system moves onto higher energy plains in our galaxy - or the industrial level output of humans.

My take is that this Warming - however inconvenient - comes at a crucial point. For years, we have ignored that Earth resources have been over consumed. (Check out my other blogs on the subject.) If we don't stop that practice, we will surely keep adding to the warming feedback circuit by the virtue of unmitigated economic growth. And again, this feedback circuit is directly coinciding with major climatic changes in Earth weather system -- a point that both deniers and supporters agree on.

So the truth about Global Warming is that no matter how unpredictable the final outcome may be, that one of the very first steps of intervention should aim at evening out consumption between nations of the opposing ends of the production chain. Out of mutual interest, these nations will likely be willing to agree on similarly mutual CO2 targets. (See my other recent post on forced Population Reduction - the planetary alternative that has a different approach to life altogether.)

Population Reduction?

Population Reduction to counter Over Consumption? Think of it this way.
According to Nick Bostrom on TED Talks , today 90% of all humans who have ever lived have already died. This means that through selection and inheritance the human civilization has progressed to a point when the 6 billion who lives today is in fact only the 10% of us -- we are the incredibly few left who carry forward the legacy. You may not think of it this way, but every single one of us is a winner and carries irreparably important traits carefully advanced and nurtured throughout countless generations.

So in this light, if some were to say that the cure to over consumption is population reduction - what they mean to say is this: let's cull down that remaining 10%. It doesn't make sense; not if we consider life to be precious, and who doesn't. What would make sense is to even out consumption a bit so that polluting countries from the opposite ends of the development spectrum would be a little more interested in cooperating then just paying lip service.

And, as an aside, perhaps make it another planetary effort to populate other planets with our most pioneering spirits. A population boom on Mars some day, would mean that the 10% remainder of us today can some day start to grow instead of whittling further away. This would enormously improve the gene pool for further successful planetary endeavors.

Encouraging signs? The international space station (ISS) is already a fantastic International effort. And during the sinister years of the Cold War, no one would have thought this to ever happen. Today, many nations move into the multi-trillions of dollars in national debt thanks largely to a global credit crisis.

Economic stabilization between competing nations of continuing vast populations will point to forgiving large amounts of this gigantic debt. This way, future widespread debt forgiveness for nations with great productive population capacity - such that the ones were done for Mexico and Poland in modern times - may be inevitable.

But such moves could create a very favorable environment for the kind of planetary endeavor that really respect life now and into the future.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hobson's Choice?
Results in the The Tragedy of Commons

This logical behavioral problem is a great illustration why only collective action can work in fixing climate change.

There is a much better description to this, but I can't find it just now. Hope this will still suffice:

It's essentially a huge prisoner's dilemma problem. If you studied the prisoner's dilemma, you know that the rational decision for the individual absent of some external enforcing mechanism is alway not to cooperate even though both prisoners would be better off if you did cooperate. Same with global warming, but on a huge scale. My lot would be a lot worse, but the earth would be no cooler for me, if i personally cut my emission without demanding the same from everyone else.

In fact, it's arguable that if a significant proportion of the population cut down their usage absent of any other change, that's merely going to make oil cheaper for the remaining population who will then burn more of it.

The only way out is collective action in a problem such as this.

[Via: BattlePanda to Ezra Klein]

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Nature's Republic Research - The Trap of a 'Realist'

Echo and Narcissus
by John William Waterhouse
By "realist" in the title I mean elected pragmatic leaders. As nature has it the most successful ones are not just gentle bullies, but also closet narcissists.

Now, for all of you who think Nature's Republic is a neat idea, you know I am a Nature's Republican, here is an interesting adage.

Give a bunch of self-absorbed (or narcissist) folks a replenishable forest as their livelihood and the task to lop enough trees to make it both a living and a success. And they are all faced with the same dilemma:

Act selfishly and cause collective disaster - even your own livelihood will be finished. Or act altruistically and aid someone else who is acting selfishly. Either way, selfishness wins. And the very tangible result: the forest is erased in no time.

This tragic dilemma is called the "Hobson's choice" and the result is the "tragedy of the commons."

To paraphrase the social psychologist W. Keith Campbell talking about the 2008 US Presidential primary: the political system is biased toward the narcissist. This is to say that the more-selfish person has a higher probability of winning. I am convinced, most political systems are such - in this they are most certainly perfectable.

But Campbell also devised an ingenious way to spot the narcissist. Just ask this questions and see what the answer will be out of the two available ones:
Q: Which of the two statements describes you better? Think about it carefully.
  • If I ruled the world, it would be a much better place.
  • The thought of ruling the world frightens the hell out of me.
Edella Schlager, political scientist from the University of Arizona puts the dilemma in another way:

"Rational individuals are trapped. To act rationally, to pursue one's self-interest, leads to collective ruin. To act irrationally, to place the collective interest above one's self-interest, exposes one to exploitation."

According to Schlager, their is a natural way of reasoned regulation:

Lorenz Strange Attractors.
Courtesy: Wikipedia
"The way to prevent tragedies of the commons is to set up structures in advance that reward long-term thinking and punish short-term selfishness. This happens mostly among competitors who share long-term interests and have social relationships of trust: If you and I are Maine lobstermen, we are likely to agree to set up limits on the overall catch each year because we see our future, and our children's future, inextricably linked. In the absence of trust and long-term relationships, the only way to prevent these tragedies is to have an outside regulatory agency step in to establish - and enforce - limits."

Now, I am not much of an enforcer - too bad. In fact, I am convinced that politics is managing complex systems of people and resources. So what I believe in is setting up a transformational framework that sets the basin and the attractors. Those are dynamic limits towards which the system will then naturally converge.

----------As an aside
An example I found for a complex system applied to people realm: - The notion of media enforced public relation reputation could be viewed as a non-linear complex system where attractor basins are the "adjacent realms that contain both distinct and separate topics as well as those that mutually influence one another." I'd be barking mad if I understood exactly what this meant, but if you are a mathematician with this kind on knowledge I respectfully agree that you probably do.
Update on this:
I am still not much wiser, but it could be close to George Lakoff's framing problem. The impossible terms "liberal elite" or "tax relief" might just be such starge attractors.

In Australia this would certainly involve a Constitutional reform and an infant Republic. In the US it would require more than a few amendments on the Constitution. These new instruments would then become the necessary social wherewithal to stock bipartisan policies for the long term. -- Emanate and reinforce a transformational change toward Nature's Republic acceptable to both major parties would likely have the support by the public as well as replenish the forests that be. The first question then: what kinds of amendments, what kinds of transformational reforms on the Constitution. The second: what kinds of policies?

But in the very first instance: we need to imagine it possible.


Clinton, Obama and the Narcissist's Tale

McRae, James J., 1978.
Optimal and competitive use of replenishable natural resources by open economies, Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 29-54, February.
Note: this publication is available to subscribers only.

George Lakoff's Rockridge Insitute: An introduction to framing and its uses in politics

What is an attractor?

Attractors Everywhere
Order from Chaos: