freshening up my page today, and updating my blogroll, and realizing that the whys and wherefores of that constitute some interesting stories in and of themselves. If I mean to continue, then it helps to reflect on why some of my peers and influences don’t, can’t, or simply change. It’s good to internalise feedback and the lessons of others, and several years into the initiatory crisis that more and more looks to be mutating into an open-ended crisis transition-to-nowhere , there’s more than enough room for some tweaking of assumptions and course corrections.

More than anything, the toll taken in my little corner of the blogosphere is down to what I have come to think of as doomer fatigue. Seeing one sickening lurch into the abyss after another, from 911, to katrina, to bush’s second term, to 100$/barrel oil, to the 2008 market crash, and now the parade of helplessness and absurdity of the obama years, deepwater horizon, fukishima, endless churning chaos in the euro zone, the breaking upon the rocks of occupy, soon to give way to the Mormon yoke of Mittens Romney in the US, inevitable default of some kind in europe, and the ongoing reign of a tinpot thug with all the personality of a plastic doll in canada, PM stephen harper ( imagine bush, but even more of a blatant oil crony, and even less of an interesting target for ridicule)… but the fabric never quite rips completely, and the ongoing nervous exhaustion of hoping/wondering/fearing what’s next just burns people out from both ends and the middle. There’re sound technical reasons why the real life crisis never seems to quite match one’s intuitions about it, and sound reasons why few people ever assimilate the perspective needed for the long game. For a lot of people this genre of analysis is a kind of escapism, wish fulfilment, or ongoing bellows for rage and misanthropy, and making it your daily bread with no real outlet or catharsis is eventually toxic. It exposes some very dark and twisted things in certain personalties and even if you can keep your own demons at bay, seeing lots of others who can’t takes its own kind of toll, as does the other end of the spectrum which is blatant denial of what is going on, for lack of insight or a adequate attention span. I have had enough of people who are actually waiting on the crash of the global industrial economy and the ensuing mass starvation of 75% of the human race, just as I have had enough of picking over the gothic horror show of failed institutions pretending they can still do something, to maintain their illusion of legitimacy.

matt savinar, creator of the life after the oil crash website really kicked a lot of my thinking off on these subjects, but his last nerve eventually gave out under the parasitic needs of chronic doomer headcases, and now he’s made his peace and preparations, folded up shop and is evidently doing astrology, of all bloody things. He’s either lost his shit completely, or gone somewhere I cannot follow. Godspeed.

jeff wells of rigorous intuition is probably the biggest influence on my style of writing. he likes to tell a scary story, in an interesting way. Alas, he never learned the secret of magick: write your stories carefully, because they might eat you. At least have an exit hatch from your reality tunnel. wells doesn’t seem to have one, and his audience never rose to the task, sadly, and he has mostly gone under the waves. This kind of writing is like tibetan buddhism: you need to be able to bind demons and turn them into benevolent spirits. Nobody can pull you back out of that hole against your will, once you’ve gone in.

There’s an interesting kind of thing that happens when you develop a large disconnect between people’s psychic condition, and the environment they live in. I talked before about ‘the psychic apocalypse’ that has to precede the temporal one, the kind of revolution of the mind that has to take place before upheavals in the physical world take hold. I think you have increasingly large numbers of people cluing in that the, for lack of a better word, psychological moorings of our civilization have been terminally compromised. But when the outer world doesn’t reflect your inner condition, when you see this weird aimlessness and blithe accommodation to stagnation and ruin everywhere, and no sense that anything can or will or even needs to happen…this can fuck up your mind.

The flipside would be hysterical optimists, particularly of the techno variety. The thing to always remember, and I have failed to do this a number of times, is that all trends occur in a whole system. Peak oil, moore’s law, the maps of insight progress, the kabbalistic tree of life, climate ‘change’, whatever, these all are subject to various negative feedbacks, because a system could only sustain itself if runaway positive feedback loops didn’t blow the whole thing apart during its formation. A runaway train is not a system, at least not for long. Whole systems require homoeostasis, and homoeostasis requires buffers, sinks, and negative feedbacks to dampen accelerating positive feedbacks before they explode or plunge the system into chaos. This explains why we are unlikely to accelerate straight into a singularity, nor dive directly into the maw of malthusian hell as we traverse hubbert’s curve. What’s interesting to consider is how much things can actually change without triggering negative feedbacks or overwhelming the buffers altogether and flipping over into some new condition. I spent a day or two thinking that ‘the singularity’ is not likely to refer to some godlike AI tipping over the applecart of human history, but rather the point where the planet becomes essentially a telepathic hivemind stitched together out of ultracheap mobile devices and ubiquitous computers of other sorts, powered by little more than background radiowave radiation. What does a singularity of social media look like? I think we are basically living it. Pretty soon the phones will be smarter than you are, if not singly, than collectively. Think about it. That by itself, combined with the fact that these things will be running on almost no power at all, tells me that we will never see the deleted scenes from ‘The Road’. The function of information in evolutionary terms is that it makes energy expenditure more efficient and forestalls entropy. That level of ubiquitous information transfer and connectivity will be the king buffer of them all against system disruption due to resource depletion and at the same time a driver for changes we cannot really forsee from here.

basically, extreme optimism and pessimism are not adequate to the level of weirdness we are likely to see. They are ways to not grapple with the real issues at work. I have no time for that anymore.

to be continued…

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2 thoughts on “broken links I

  1. Good stuff Zac. I consider myself well versed in the collapse narrative. Doomer fatigue is an apt diagnosis. You are dead on re: the impact of the lack of a catharsis, closure. Dawns in trouble, must be Tuesday.(sorry another Buffy ref, your gf will get it) Except no hero, just slow creeping reality revealing no one driving the bus.

    My personal apocalypse was 911. I held on at every turn until Baraks election at which point I grabbed the only victory I could see and pulled my periscope down, all the while still expecting (wishing?) a quick final plunge into the abyss. I’m just now re-emerging and surveying my bookmarks.

    Even with (or maybe even because of) my limited media distractions its been so hard to find any solid footing. I regularly have to accept and surrender to the fact that as fucking certain as I feel about an assumption or a narrative I’ve created inside my head, there is a relentless reality out there to face. Its humbled me greatly. But I’ve got an open mind with no position or brand to defend. I imagine it would be tougher to let go or to battle demons if I was vested.

    Re: trends – I really like your analysis here. The conclusion I keep arriving at is both/and. System homeostasis found through a bifurcated singularity/malthusian path. What is to prevent an eventual class of singularitarians and one of dog food eaters? Either a Financial Singularity or a secular change of heart is all I can see.

  2. yeah, it’s sort of embarrassing to do a number of podcasts and articles on systems theory and yet to fail to incorporate that into my view adequately on a number of occasions. probably the two main things are peak oil, where you see that a lot of people simply stop driving or a lot of industries just shut down and the economy continues at a lower level, yet no one can figure why we can’t get out of the ‘recession’ even though we supposedly have an endless supply of this bullshit tar sand up here. or, even if moore’s law turns out to keep holding, that doesn’t mean the computing power will go into AI per se. you just end up with ever more powerful and compact phones, because that is what people want to buy. it still turns weird either way, but not quite the way you envisioned. you get random calamities as the weaks links in the economy snap under energy strain, but not just flat out mad max, plus you have obscene computing power in the pockets of the poorest of the poor. what bruce sterling calls ‘favela chic’.

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