surviving progress

Michel Bauwens (@mbauwens) tweeted at 6:52 AM – 24 Aug 2018 :
Surviving Progress (2011) A Mind Expanding Documentary via @YouTube (

Surviving Progress (2011) A Mind Expanding Documentary – 1:26

inspired by book a short history of progress by ronald wright

exec producers: martin scorsese and emma tillinger koskoff

3 min – (ronald): in defining progress.. i think it’s very important to make a distinction between good and bad progress.. things progress in the sense that they change..  both in nature and in human society there appears to be a clear trend toward increasing complexity as change proceeds.. we tend to delude ourselves that these changes always result in improvements from a human pov

4 min – (ronald): we’re now reaching a point in which tech progress at increasing econ/numbers.. threaten the very existence of humanity

what is progress

6 min – (colin beavan) – (@colinbeavan)( seems like we’re stuck in this trap for the last 200 yrs.. since the industrial revolution.. where we think progress is more of the same.. like.. we should make our machines better and get more machines.. but we’ve been doing that for 200 yrs.. so doing more of that is not progress.. we’re like stuck in this.. like a record

7 min – (ronald): things that start out to seem like improvements or progress.. these things are very seductive.. seems like there’s no down side to these.. but when they reach a certain scale.. they turn out to be dead ends or traps..

(ronald): i came up with the term –progress trap – to name human behaviors that seem to be good things.. seem to provide benefits in the short term but which ultimately lead to disaster because they’re unsustainable.. and one ie would be.. going right back into the old stone age..  the time when our ancestors where hunting mammoths.. they reached a point where their weaponry and hunting techniques got so good that they destroyed hunting as a way of life through out most of the world.. the people who discovered how to kill 2 mammoths instead of one had made real progress.. but the people who discovered they could eat really well by driving a herd of 200 over a cliff at once.. had fallen into a progress trap.. they’d made too much progress

8 min – (ronald): our physical bodies/brains.. as far as we can tell.. have changed very little in the past 50 000 yrs.. we’ve only been living in civilization for the last 5 000 yrs.. at the most.. which is less than .2% of our evolutionary history.. the other 99.8 we were *hunters and gatherers.. and that is the kind of way of life.. that .. made us.. we are essentially the same people as those stone age hunters.. what makes our way of life diff from theirs is culture has taken off at an exponential rate and has really become completely detached from the pace of **natural evolution..

*h & g ness

**undisturbed ecosystem

9 min – (ronald): so .. we are running 21st cent software.. our knowledge.. on hardware that hasn’t been upgraded for 50 000 yrs..  and this lies at the core of many of our problems.. all of this is because our human nature is back in the h/g era of the old stone age.. whereas our knowledge/tech.. in other words.. our ability to do both good/harm to ourselves and to the world in general has grown out of all proportion

(gary marcus) – (@GaryMarcus)( one thing to remember about the human mind is that it’s not that fundamentally diff from say the brain of a chimpanzee..


10 min – (gary): most of the human brain.. the basic structure of the human brain is much older than the human species.. some of it goes back to bacteria.. some of it goes back to worms.. some of it originated in the first mammal.. some of it in the first primates.. some of it in the first human beings.. very little of it however.. changed in the last 50 000 yrs.. so most of what we do.. we do w hardware components that are much older than any of the problems that we face

(daniel povinelli) – ( when i first began to study chimps.. i thought the task was just to map out more an more similarities.. to find areas of cognition that hadn’t been study yet and simply show that chimps were just like us

11 min – (daniel): you can imagine teaching a small child to stand up a block just right.. and you can teach a chimp to do the same thing.. when intro a small subtlety.. to where block won’t stand.. the chimp will try again and again.. because they know what is supposed to happen.. but they have no understanding/inclination to ask why.. what unobservable part of the situation is causing that block to keep falling over

12 min – (daniel): the young child will try again.. and maybe again.. but very quickly .. they’ll turn it over.. feel the bottom of it.. shake it.. try to discern what unobservable property of that block is causing it to fall over.. that’s the fundamental core diff.. i believe.. between humans and chimps.. that humans ask why..  we’re constantly probing for unobservable phenom to explain the observable.. it’s what’s driven us to discover gravity.. the to probe into the mysteries of quasars..  and to probe into the mysteries of each other.. in our everyday lives.. why.. does she/he keep doing that.. she/he must think/believe this..  i don’t understand.. why why why why why

13 mi – (daniel): so the upside of the human capacity to ask why .. to continually probe behind appearances .. and to try to find out how the world really works.. is .. we develop fabulous new medicines/techniques/techs..

14 min – (daniel): but the downside is that we invent the whole cascade of modern tech

(jane goodall): arguably we are the most intellectual creature that’s ever walked on planet earth.. so how come then.. that this so intellectual being is destroying its only home.. because we only have the one home..  maybe one day people will be on mars.. but for the moment we’ve only got planet earth.. and we are destroying.. polluting.. damaging the future of our own species..  which is very counterproductive from an evolutionary perspective

15 min – (daniel): this capacity .. that seems so wonderful to us.. the ability to ask why..  the very ability that undergirds modern science.. as a double edged sword.. if humans go extinct on this planet.. i think what’s going to go on our epitaph of gravestone is .. why ..

16 min – (gary): we have the ability to think into the future.. but most of our mechs.. most of our brain mechs.. evolved before we had any ability to think forward to the future.. and when it made some sense for decisions to be short term .. a lot of our brain mechs.. what i call .. reflexive mechs.. are tuned to making snap decisions..  right away.. like fight or flight..  good when we’re stressed about something immediate.. but those very systems that work by reflex are not so good at cooperating w these modern systems .. deliberative systems.. that allow us to make long term decisions.. is this good for me.. my society.. my planet..

not enough planets

17 min – (ronald): between the fall of the roman empire and columbus sailing.. it took 13 centuries to add 200 mn people to world’s population.. now it takes only 3 yrs..  a simple thing like pasteurization.. control of small pox.. things like that have led to a great boom in human numbers.. so over population.. which nobody really wants to talk about .. because it cuts at things like religious beliefs.. freedom of individual.. autonomy of family.. so forth.. is something that we’re going to have to deal with.. we probably have to work toward a much smaller world wide population that.. probably need to go down to half/third of 6-7bn.. if everybody is going to live comfortably/decently

unless we go ginorm small.. & quit trying to control it all..

18 min (ronald): the other side of this problem .. and perhaps the more dangerous side.. is the footprint of the individuals at the top of the social pyramid who are consuming the most.. ie: some 50x more..

19 min – (ronald): if china were to reach the level of consumption of say the us or europe.. it’s very unlikely the world could support the addition of a bn consumers at that level..

(vaclav smil) – ( i’d say in china.. maybe 200-300 mn people are ‘affluent’.. in india maybe 200 mn.. so you add up these affluent segments of population in these developing countries.. and still come up w/1.5 maybe 2bn people.. so there is still 5bn people.. waiting to tap into these bonanzas of plentiful food.. cars.. housing.. higher ed.. so the potential demand for results is immense

affluence w/o abundance ness

20 min – (chen ming) – (self driving club tour guide): i’m like the monk.. leading (newly affluent chinese) .. to the west in search of meaning of life

23 min – (chen changnian) – (chen ming’s father)(professor): the way the world views china’s econ development has changed little over the last 30 yrs.. there have been many problems as well.. ie: environ.. it was very bad in beijing before the olympics.. but it’s improved greatly (father son disagree – whose hurting who)

25 min – (victor gao) – ( for thousands of years.. china has had the longest continuous civilization in the world.. and it is only during the recent period of time when the european countries started to industrialize that china started to lag behind.. therefore.. around 1840 – 1978 .. china went thru a roller coaster of great humiliations.. wars of aggression by foreign nations.. japanese aggression.. civil war.. collapse of dynasty.. great cultural revolution.. chaos in china.. that’s when xiaoping emerged in 1978.. he pointed out the only correct path.. (victor was Deng Xiaoping‘s interpreter when china took the capitalist road).. we need to go onto a path of growth.. and china need to modernize/industrialize.. and i think that’s the beginning of china’s correct development onto a right path

27 min – (ronald): some people have written about natural capital.. the capital nature provides: clean air/water; uncut forest; rich farmland; minerals – oil, metal; .. and until about 1980.. human civilization was able to live on what we might term the interest of that capital.. surplus that nature was able to produce.. food that farmland can grow w/o actually degrading the farmland.. # of fish can pull out of sea w/o causing fish stocks to crash.. but since 1980.. we’ve been using more than the interest.. so we are in effect like somebody who thinks he’s rich because he’s spending the money that has been left in his inheritance.. not spending the interest.. but eating into the capital

29 min – (margaret atwood) – ( the world is this big.. a finite sub.. instead of thinking nature is this huge bank that we can just.. this endless credit card that we can just keep drawing on.. we have to think about the finite nature of the planet and how to keep it alive.. so that we too.. may remain alive.. unless we conserve the planet.. there isn’t going to be any ‘the economy’

30 min – (ronald): the ice age hunter is still us.. it’s still in us.. those ancient hunters who thought there would always be another herd of mammoth over the next hill.. shared the optimism of the stock trader.. that there’s always going to be another big killing on the stock market.. in the next week or two

31 min – (ronald): on civilization blazing down pristine places.. then another blaze starting somewhere else.. and now.. we have one huge civilization all around the world.. which we have to confront the possibility that the entire experiment of civilization is in itself a progress trap


32 min – (ronald): faith in progress has become a kind of religious faith.. a sort of fundamentalism.. rather like the market fundamentalism that has just recently crashed and burned .. thinking you can let markets rip.. is a delusion just like you can let tech rip.. and it will solve the problems created by itself..  in a slightly earlier phase.. that has become a belief very similar to the religious delusions that caused some societies to crash and burn in the past

a short history of debt


33 min – (michael hudson) – ( written records go back about 4000 yrs.. and from 2000 bc to time of jesus.. it was normal for all the countries in the world to periodically cancel the debts when they became too large to pay.. the effect was to make a clean slate so that society would begin all over again.. easy to do in a society where most debts were owed to the state.. became much harder to do when enterprise and credit.. passed out of the hands of the state into private hands.. into the hands of an oligarchy..  and the last thing they wanted was to have a king that would actually cancel the debts.. and restore equality

34 min – (michael): rome was the first country of the world not to cancel the debts.. it went to war in sparta and greece.. to overthrow the govts/kings that wanted to cancel the debts.. the wars in the 1st cent bc.. ended up stripping these countries of everything they had.. made a desert out of the land..  and it said a debt is a debt

(ronald): the collapse seemed closely linked to ecological devastation.. which led to all sorts of social/econ/military problems.. in the early stages of the roman republic you had fairly egalitarian land owning system.. peasants had access to public land.. but as the roman state became more powerful and the lords/generals.. began to appropriate public land for their own private estates.. more and more peasants became landless..

h & n property law

35 min – (ronald): at same time.. erosion was a serious problem.. so bad that the roman ports silted up w all the topsoil that got washed down from the fields into the river..  much of italy degraded.. by fall of roman empire.. took 1000 yrs and much reduced population in middle ages for fertility in italy to rebuild

(michael): what was absolutely new in the roman empire was irreversible concentration of wealth at the top of the econ pyramid.. and that’s what progress has meant ever since.. progress has meant.. you will never get back what we take from you.. that’s what brought on the dark age.. and that’s what’s threatened to bring on the dark age again.. if society doesn’t realize that if it lets the wealth concentrate in the hand of financial class.. this class is not going to be any more intelligent long term in disposing of wealth.. than its predecessors were in rome and other countries

36 min – (simon johnson) – (@baselinescene)( while the term oligarchy sounds a little esoteric.. it just means a small group of people have got a lot of political power based on their econ power.. we like to think of the us as much more democratic.. much more spread out in terms of who has the power.. and an oligarchy is something that’s usually associated w relatively poor countries.. but that view has to be updated.. because we’ve got the essential part of that problem/structure.. in the us.. today

37 min – (simon): people have all this econ power.. but in the financial sector is was wall street.. wall st became really powerful.. used that power to buy influence in washington to get more de regulation.. which enabled them to make more money.. more political power.. this went on for a considerable period of time.. until of course there was an enormous crash

michael capuano: basically.. you come to us today.. on bikes.. acting as if you’re helping out mother teresa.. telling us.. ‘we’re sorry, we didn’t mean it, we don’t do it again.. trust us’ .. well.. i have some people in my constituency that actually robbed some of your banks.. and they say the same thing..  they’re sorry, they didn’t mean it, they won’t do it again.. just let em out..  do you understand that this is a little difficult for most of my constituents to take.. that you learned your lesson..?

38 min – (simon): the bankers can’t stop themselves.. it’s in their dna and the dna of their orgs..  to take massive risks.. to pay themselves ridiculous salaries.. and to collapse.. and the more we see this.. the closer we get to constraining.. the out of control financial oligarchs

james dimon (jp morgan): it’s not a surprise that we have crises every 5 years..  so we shouldn’t be surprised..

39 min – (ronald): i read scrolled on a wall: every time history repeats itself the price goes up

(ronald): if you look at the increasing complexity of civilization.. what you can see towards the end of the classic maya period is the enormous amount of effort being put in to build palaces and temple precincts that are controlled entirely by the nobility.. of which one imagines the peasantry was excluded.. as the ordinary folk are excluded from the gated communities in many countries today..  and imagining that people at bottom more and more disenchanted w rulers as they felt the social contract break down.. and the rulers loosing touch.. a patter we can see in modern world now

40 min – (michael): every society in history for last 4 000 yrs.. is found that the debts grow more rapidly than people can pay.. the problem is a small oligarchy of 10% of the population at the top.. to whom all of these debts are owed to.. you want to annul the debts to the top 10%.. that’s what they’re not going to do.. the oligarchy is running things.. they would rather annul the bottom 90% right to live.. than to annul the money that’s *due to them.. they would rather strip the planet and shrink the population and be paid rather than give up their claims.. that’s the political fight of the 21st cent

*due to them..?

debt pushers

41 min – (michael): first job there was to calculate how much debt could 3rd world countries pay.. and the answer was.. how much do they earn.. and whatever they earn.. that’s what they can afford to pay in interest..  our objective was to take the entire earnings of a 3rd world country and say ideally that would be all paid as interest.. to us..

simulation: don’t give me a hard luck story.. i hear them everyday.. facts.. in 1973 this bank gave you a loan and you still haven’t paid it back.. admittedly.. you paid back the initial sum.. but not the interest.. which to date equals 9x the sum of the amt originally borrowed.. so you better get your act together.. times are tough..  and we’re all having to clamp down.. and don’t look at me like that.. this is a bank.. not a charity..

42 min – (kambale musavuli) – (@kambale)(friends of the congo)( the number one costs for foreign lending thru (imf, world bank)..  is the death toll on the continent

43 min – (kambale): oligarch rule.. lauded around the world.. what is interesting is.. all the money he plundered.. from all the international debt.. is found in western banks.. so as he was removed from power.. the money never returned to the congonese

44 min – (kambale): the population didn’t have access to medical/ed services.. living wage..  and now congo has a 14 bn debt.. structured in a way where the people do not benefit and the human cost is so high.. in congo we have 6 mn death since 1996

45 min – (margaret): rich countries lend a so called ‘developing country’ a big wack of ‘money’ .. debt is incurred on people who have nothing to do w it.. that don’t know anything about it.. then they’re expected to pay the price by scraping off their livelihood.. turning it into money.. giving it to somebody else..

45 min – (kambale): how could the money given to the congo benefit the people.. use to make sure people protected from human rights violations.. but these funds are not used for that.. because when given.. they tell you specifically what project you have to use it for .. and usually manual project to get access to resources

sounds like school

digging holes

46 min – (kid in class): when i watch the news i see they’re deforesting the amazon.. and i really don’t know why.. (teacher asks): what are the interests behind it .. (kid): economics

(michael): you can relate the destruction of the rain forest in brazil directly to the wall st and london fin sector.. the story begins in 1982.. when countries couldn’t pay their debt anymore.. and the result is that the latin american countries.. generally..  stopped paying because they said.. we’re already paying all the balance of payments surplus we have to the banks.. we don’t have any money in import to sustain living standards.. to build new factories..  to pay the debt.. so the imf at that point said.. don’t go bankrupt.. you have an option..  you can begin to sell of the public domain.. you have plenty of assets to sell to pay us.. ie: water rights; forests; subsoil mineral resources; oil rights; .. and so .. brazil, argentina, and other countries began to sell off their resources to private investors.. and the private investors bought these resources on credit

47 min – (marina silva) – (@MarinaSilva)( a presidential candidate in the 2018 Brazilian elections):until recently people believed that natural resources were practically infinite and the only valued commodities were those transformed by man

48 min – (marina): we are no discovering that nature provides services to human life on earth and that people living in certain geological locations are the keepers of nature’s services.. when i was confronted w a situation that presented a threat to that richness and beauty i had to fight against people who believed that the forest was synonymous w backwardness or that it contravened the idea of progress..

marina widened the campaign against deforestation thru ibama

49 min – (raquel taitson-queiroz) – (environ police officer)( ibama is the fed govt’s environ agency and was created to deal w brazil’s ecological issues.. when i started working at ibama.. i thought that by working as an agent i could defend my ideas/ideals.. but what i can do is very limited compared to what is going on right now

51 min – (enio beata) – (sawmill owner): i provide work for many people.. but the way things are going we’ll have to lay off everyone.. we’ll try to find other work

(raquel): in the amazon.. workers in small towns turn violent against ibama, simply because they are economically dependent on deforestation.. as a result .. there is civil war in our amazonian towns

(worker): this is our life.. the forest is like a mother giving milk to her child.. do you have an amazon forest in your country..? they say the amazon forest is the lungs of the usa because it produces air for the american people..if we destroy it.. everyone in the us will die.. but we poor brazilians will die too.. if we don’t cut it.. we’ll starve.. we’ll all die..

52 min – (another worker): the big farm owners.. like the state governor have already cut millions of trees.. but who will pay for that.. we will.. who only cut 1 or 2 acres to plant food to eat.. to be able to feed our families


(enio): the people responsible for destroying the amazon are the big farmers.. the international corps.. the biggest farmers are senators, deputies, colonels.. they’re the ones destroying the amazon forest.. them not us

(raquel): it is very frustrating because we know that the people we catch are not those really responsible for deforestation.. most brazilian politicians are agro businesses.. soy bean producers or cattle ranchers.. so there’s a conflict of interest

53 min – (michael): they’re cutting down the rainforest.. they’re emptying out the econ.. they’re turning it into a hole in the ground to repay the bankers.. that is the financial business plan.. that’s how it ends up.. because the bankers can always take their money and begin digging holes in another country..  and emptying out that country.. that’s the global financial system

54 min – (kid in class): if we don’t take care of the amazon forest.. it will become the amazon desert.. because when you cut down trees in a forest you create a desert

55 min – (david suzuki) – ( the economists say.. if you clear cut the forest.. take the money and put it in the bank.. you could make 6 or 7%.. if you clear cut the forest.. put into malaysian papua new guinea.. you could make 30 or 40%..  so who cares whether you keep the forest.. cut it down.. put the money somewhere else.. when those forests are gone put it in fish.. when fish are gone.. put it in computers.. money doesn’t stand for anything.. and money now grows faster than the real world..

(david): conventional economics is a form of brain damage.. economics is so fundamentally disconnected from the real world.. it is destructive

(david): if you take an intro course in econ.. the prof in the first lecture will show a slide of the economy and it looks very impressive.. raw materials.. extraction process.. manufacturer.. wholesale/retail..  w arrows going back and forth.. and they try to impress you because they think.. they know damn well.. economics is not a science.. but they’re trying to fool us into thinking that it’s a real science.. it’s not..

56 min – (david): economics is a set of values that they then try to use math equations and all that stuff.. to pretend that it’s a science.. but if you ask the economist.. in that equation.. where do you put the ozone layer.. the deep underground aquifers of fossil water.. where do you put top soil or biodiversity..  there answer is.. oh.. those are externalities.. well then you might as well be on mars.. *that economy is not based on anything like the real world

*same too.. about people in schools.. not based on real world

(david): it’s life.. the web of life that filters water in the hydrologic cycle.. it micro organisms in the soil that create the soil that we can grow our food in .. nature performs all kinds of services .. insects fertilize all of the flowering plants.. these services are vital to the health of the planet.. economists call these externalities.. that’s nuts

meadows undisturbed ecosystem

57 min – (jane): unlimited econ progress in a world of finite natural resources doesn’t make sense.. it’s a pattern that is bound to collapse.. and we keep seeing it collapsing.. but then we build it up because there are these strong vested interests.. we must have business as usual.. you know.. you get the arms manufacturers.. you get the petroleum/pharma industries.. and all of this feeding into helping to create corrupt govts .. who are putting the future of their own people at risk

58 min – (michael): you can imagine lilies growing in a pond.. they grow very rapidly..they double every day .. they cover the whole surface and there aren’t any ways of the fish getting oxygen.. and all the life is going to die in the pond.. that’s how rapidly things can grow.. one day you’re half full of lilies.. the next day.. you’re dead.. today we’re in the point where the lily pond is half for.. the life is being snuffed out of national economies and the debt goes on doubling.. how long can it do it.. it has one day to go

59 min – (ronald): all the civilizations of the past and i think our own.. only seem to be doing well when they’re expanding.. when the population is growing.. when the industrial out put is growing.. and when the cities are spreading out.. eventually you reach the point at which the population is over run everything.. the cities have expanded over the farmland.. the people at the bottom begin to starve and the people at the top lose their legitimacy.. and so you get hunger..  you get revolution..

there’s a nother way.. tapping into the energy of 7bn alive people.. in the city.. as the day..

1:00 – (robert wright) – (@robertwrighter)( now one kind of scary thing about the moment we’re in is that for the first time.. there’s kind of only one system.. so .. if the whole thing goes down.. you won’t have what you’ve had in previous eras of epic collapse.. which is that.. even though one civilization goes down .. it may take a while to recover.. there are other robust civilizations that are kind of the guardians of progress.. in that sense.. some of the things that have been reassuring in the past about progress don’t necessarily apply to the current situation .. because once you get to the global level.. you’ve only got *one experiment working..  that’s just the inevitable culmination of its growth ever since the stone age and there were way stations along the way.. like the roman empire.. and now here we are.. and more and more people are in the same boat.. and they face problems.. and either they will solve/suffer together.. and possibly on a catastrophic scale..

but we can make that *one experiment ginormously small.. so that we remain/become antifragile

escaping the trap

1:01 – (stephen hawking): we are entering an increasingly dangerous period about of outer history.. our genetic code still carry selfish/aggressive instincts that were so vital in the past.. but i’m an optimist..

1:02 – (stephen): if we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy .. we should make sure we survive and continue.. if we can avoid disaster for the next 2 centuries our species should be safe.. we have made remarkable progress in the last 100 yrs..our only chance of long term survival is not to remain only looking on planet earth but to spread out into space..

imagine if we focused more (chomsky) serious things .. ie: humanity.. rather than outer space and black holes and dna and tech

rowson mechanical law

mufleh humanity law

1:03 – (craig venter) – (@JCVenter)(human genome) ( i was at a conference a few years back w george lucas and he came up and said.. there’s only two hopes for humanity.. 1\ find another planet to colonize after we’ve destroyed this one.. or perhaps 2\ your tech.. meaning.. what we’re doing w the genetic code.. might be able to allow us to transform ourselves.. or other aspects of the planet where we could continue to live here

let’s go one better than changing code.. let’s change (rather awaken) 7bn people..  ie: self talk as data

(b clinton and ?): announcing today.. first time our species can read the chemical letters of its genetic code

1:04 – (craig): for the last several yrs my team has been sailing around the world collecting all the species in the ocean.. the micro species.. on filters.. and we isolate all the dna.. all at once.. from all of them..

imagine if we focused more (chomsky) serious things .. ie: humanity.. rather than outer space and black holes and dna and tech

rowson mechanical law

mufleh humanity law

(craig): i have a novel way of looking at these genes.. i view them as the design components of the future..

let go

this is why we haven’t yet gotten to global equity.. we can’t let go of control

(craig): it’s a mind boggling concept .. even though we’re doing it everyday

nah.. what is mind boggling is that we won’t let go..

(craig): that we can simply start w 4 bottles of chemicals.. write the genetic code.. and change the genetic code of species.. basically developing new species

oy.. let’s just restore the one we have

(craig): and we can try and find ways to make fuels that people haven’t even imagined.. we can do this w novel sources of food..  we’re limited only by our imagination..

indeed.. let go..

(craig): and whatever biological reality is.. when we consider trying to replace oil.. we use bn’s of gallons of oil a yr.. i can’t even.. i think i have a pretty good imagination.. envision what a bn gallons of oil is.. and making a bn gallons of oil from invisible microbes is a certain leap of faith.. but in fact.. that’s how we proceed in science..

let’s leap here: undisturbed ecosystem.. toward the energy of 7bn alive people

1:05 – (craig): instead of writing software for computers.. we can now write software for life..

rather.. what we need is to let go of the control aspect of ie: writing/designing..  and leap to a nother way to live.. where the focus of the tech (writing/designing/coding/whatever) is in listening.. rathe than controlling/coercing/manufacturing.. et al ie: as it could be.. 2 convers.. as infra

(craig): by changing and taking over evolution

that’s actually what’s got us into this mess.. we need to let go and get back to our undisturbed ecosystem

(craig): changing the time course of evolution.. and going into deliberate design of species for our own survival

that’s what we thought we were doing.. but rather.. we got to the science of people.. ness..

(craig): at least give us some points of optimism that we have a chance to control our destiny..

no.. we need to be alive..antifragile.. not in control.. we can’t be in control..  we can only be controlled.. and that seems to happen best when some of us think we can/should control our destiny..

1:06 – (craig): we’re here today to announce the first synthetic cell.. the first self replicating species that we’ve had on the planet.. who’s parent is a computer

why self replicate..?  rna bad rna bad rna .. until we get to..  wilde not us law.. we’ve already tried that..  and so now we want to speed up that process.. ie: via computer

gods r us ?

(gary): one of the challenges that faces the human species.. is.. we are more and more in a position of acting like gods.. this has been true for a while because we’ve had the ability to change the climate for ie

and the people.. ie: black science of people/whales

(gary): this is going to be even more true w genetic tech’s


(gary): we’re going to be able to manipulate other species and eventually ourselves.. we’re going to be in a position of controlling our own fate in a way that no creature has ever.. a bn years on the planet.. had an opp to do..

1:07 – (jane): i once wrote a poem in which a mad bishop said: ‘and man became god.. became greater than god.. in the godhood of man’ .. i do not see anyone living in this materialistic society as being anything like god.. i don’t know what god is.. but in my wildest dreams i would never conceive of god or a god as being like a modern human being in a materialistic society

(craig): we’re anything but godlike.. i think the challenges are so overwhelming to all of us.. that we’re all trying to just use whatever new tools we can to try and change the future..

1:08 – (jim thomas) – (activist .. author)( synthetic biology is a progress trap par excellence.. biologists have pointed out that this engineering approach is all very well and the engineers can try to treat life as if it were some sort of computer engineering substrate.. but ultimately the microbes are going to end up laughing at them.. life doesn’t work like that

rowson mechanical law

(jim): i think the problems we’re seeing now.. whether we’re talking about hunger.. massive inequity.. climate change.. the loss of biodiversity..  have been driven over the last 200 yrs by a system of over production/consumption of stuff.. and that’s been inflated and inflated and inflated..  to the point where it is not in any way reasonable..

and not in any way us (wilde not us law) .. or our envron (undisturbed ecosystem)

(jim): the co’s and those w/in govt’s who have supported that approach.. are now saying that they will provide new techs to continue that consumption of stuff.. that level of production.. um.. it’s just not realistic

or humane (mufleh humanity law) .. et al

1:09 – (craig): making algae produce energy is not hard.. but doing it on the scale required to have a major economic/environ impact is going to be a huge challenge.. but we have good partner w that w exxon mobile..  to try and get it to the scale that it needs to be of bn’s of gallons a year.. a lot of engineering is required for facilities the size of san fran.. i think they’re serious and we’re serious..


1:10 – (jim): what we’re seeing alongside the development of synthetic bio.. is a massive corp grab on plant life.. literally speaking.. that means a grab on land.. and a grab on (cities? or seeds?) as well.. where people are being moved off the land to make way for the growing of plant life that can be transformed into plastics/chemicals/fuels.. and so forth.. what drives synthetic bio is not an attempt to save the planet.. or help humanity.. but an attempt to increase the bottom line for certain very large corps..

(craig): if we’re going to feed the upcoming 9bn people.. we can’t afford to use our prime crop land for trying to produce the bn’s of gallons of fuel that we use.. what we’re doing.. we’re writing the genetic code.. changing the species.. allows us to use desert land for.. we just need sunlight and co2.. for using these new engineered algae.. for ie

1:11 – (vaclav): synthetic bio.. it would be nice to get a more water efficient plant.. but it would still need water.. great.. we can’t create a plant which needs no water and  no nitrogen.. it doesn’t go that far.. this doesn’t fundamentally change the game.. what fundamentally changes the game.. what people don’t want to hear.. for me this is the only starter.. we have to use less


(vaclav): the poor people need more.. there’s no doubt about that.. no discussion.. these people need more.. period.. but as far as us is concerned.. we certainly could and should use much much less.. people have been conditioned to think things have to always go better.. and immediately you say limit something.. people think this is not getting better.. but it would be

1:12 – (vaclav): people are not willing to go back on these things.. because they have been totally hijacked by this material culture.. let’s not underestimate the persuasion/power of this material culture..  immense.. just so immense.. i’ve seen so many people being so genuinely unhappy that they cannot afford a 50 000 dollar bathroom remodel..  there’s something wrong w that value set.. right.. bathroom is a place where you should spend like 10 min.. this is just on my mind because we are thinking about redoing the bathroom.. it’s very interesting.. so for me it’s a chore.. but for many people it’s got to be a life affirming thing.. people are renting storage spaces .. which they’ll never access the next 10 yrs.. to store the junk they cannot store in the 5 000 sq ft home .. do we need that.. this is very difficult to put the genie in the bottle..  everything is defined in this material thing..

1:14 – (vaclav): i could make it a lot more coherent .. but it is difficult.. because when you make it more coherent.. you make it prescriptive.. and prescriptions never work really because .. i don’t have the solution.. i can’t say.. we should follow this to solve everything.. so i’m making it terribly incoherent.. i lived 26 yrs in communist society.. i’m inoculated against any indoctrinated grand solutions.. this is the must.. the paradigm you have to follow.. i’m just totally set against it so.. i’m making things.. messy.. uncoordinated..  because that’s how life is.. we don’t know what pattern will emerge.. as long as we are living amidst all this sea of affluence and opps.. and material riches.. it’s just very difficult to make these individual voluntary resolute step and say.. enough


1:15 – (marina): i think we have reached the era of limits.. although we are free we must live w/in nature’s limits..

it is impossible to defend models that cannot be universally applied

because it would mean some people have rights and others don’t

so..let’s go for a model for all.. sans rights

as it could be..

2 convers.. as infra

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

(marina): so the problem isn’t technological but ethical

1:16 – (colin): i was walking around pointing my finger at everybody.. you people.. and blaming the culture for its consumption.. finally one day i came home and i had the air conditioners on.. even though there was no one home.. and i was .. wait.. i’m going around blaming everybody else.. but the fact of the matter is that my lifestyle requires a huge amount of resource too.. so how can i blame other people.. and i realized that before i go around trying to change other people.. maybe i should look at and change myself.. and keep my side of the street clean.. so i came up with this idea that i would live as environmentally as possible.. free.. see how that affected us

(colin): so we did this no impact experiment.. we live in the middle of nyc.. which made it unusual because most people can think of environ living as some sort of back to the land thing.. but of course.. back to the land is not the right idea when it comes to saving our habitat.. if all of us in ny were to go back to the land..  we would very much destroy the land..

1:17 – (colin): we’re not biologically consumptive.. this is not got to do w human nature.. human nature is to do what everybody else does


human nature

(colin): that’s human nature.. and it’s wonderful.. it’s like.. i want to be with you.. i want to be the same as you.. i want to love you and i want you to love me.. that’s not bad.. so that said.. that’s also part of the problem.. i want to be the same as you and you consume so i’m not going to be the first not to consume..  but it also tells us.. that if we can move from non consumption to consumption..  we can also move from consumption back to non consumption..

yeah.. like this..:  a nother way.. as it could be.. 2 convers.. as infra

(jim): we need to begin by saying.. we’re at the end of a failed experiment.. and it’s time to say good bye to it.. it’s an econ/tech experiment.. been going on for a couple of hundred years..  and it’s not worked.. it’s brought us to this point of crisis.. then we can start to sanely/intelligently say.. how can we live w/in the real limits that our planet gives us and create a safe operating space for humanity..

indeed.. that.. ie: undisturbed ecosystem

1:18 – (jane): admittedly we’ve used our brains in ways that are detrimental to the environ/society.. but brains are beginning to get together around the planet to find solutions to some of the harm that we’ve inflated.. we humans are a problem solving species..  we always do pretty well when our back’s to the wall..

the planetary brain

(robert): it’s easy now to see kind of a giant social brain or planetary brain.. because it’s in the physical form of the internet.. it looks so much like a nervous system you almost can’t miss the analogy.. you might say that there’ve always been a lot of little social brains around the planet.. getting bigger .. starting to form interconnections among themselves.. now more than ever you could say there’s a unified social brain..

not really.. 1\ most of us are not us.. ie: so data not legit   2\ not enough of us are on the internet ie: has to be all of us

1:19 – (robert): even if the overall arch of history is toward an expanded moral horizon.. more and more people acknowledging the humanity.. more and more diff kinds of people.. there’s always the risk of backsliding and it can be catastrophic.. from a pov of strict self interest.. it is imperative that we make further moral progress.. that we get more and more people to acknowledge the humanity of one another.. or.. it will be bad for pretty much all of them.. if we don’t develop what you might call the moral perspective of god.. then we’ll screw up the engineering part of playing god.. because the actual engineering solutions that depend on seeing things from the pov of other people.. ensuring that their lives too bad.. because if they do it will come back to haunt us.. so .. kind of half of being god has just been handed to us.. then the question is whether we’ll master the other half of being god.. the moral half


1:20 – (robert): the bad news is is that the enlightenment is sometimes hard to come by.. because of human nature in some cases.. because we’ve got these kind of animal minds.. designed for a very diff environ.. facing novel problems.. so the enlightenment part is going to require some real education and reflection and self discipline and may not come naturally..

dang man..  we just need to be quiet and listen.. it’s the most natural thing.. if we can let go.. of control..  the way we are now is not natural.. it’s not human nature..

1:21 – (ronald?): i think what we’re up against here is human nature.. we have reform/remake ourselves in a way that cuts against the grain of our inner animal nature.. and transcend that ice age hunter that of us are if you strip off the thin layer of civilization

thin layer..? and i don’t think we are an animal nature

1:22 – (ronald): we always have been the initiators of this experiment.. we’ve unleashed it.. but we’ve never really controlled it.. but now.. it’s more likely that we’re going to come to grief because of environmental problems.. if we do.. then that is really nature saying..  the experiment of civilization is a failed evolutionary experiment.. that making apes smarter.. is a dead end.. so it’s up to us to prove nature wrong in a sense..

or to try something different.. than ie: making apes smarter..

(ronald): to show that we can take control of our own destinies

that’s exactly what got us here.. we need to  let go.. of control

(ronald): .. and behave in a wise way that will ensure the continuation of the experiment of civilization

that’s a very bad idea.. we need to let go of civilization ness

dang.. so many good parts in this doc.. and ending on a very.. ‘let’s perpetuate the broken feed back loop‘ note..

dang.. we keep getting caught up in our hubris/insecurity/not-us ness..

dang.. we keep missing the essence of humanity and how tech/experimentation fits with that/us ie: it’s not about mind expanding ness.. it’s about augmenting interconnectedness


who’s who in surviving progress:


as it could be..

2 convers.. as infra

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

the energy of 7bn alive people

undisturbed ecosystem

in the city.. as the day..

gershenfeld something else law