I watch for evidence that supports or contradicts Varki’s MORT theory.
With average citizens it’s hard to distinguish ignorance from denial. The only way to know for sure is to explain the facts and associated evidence about human overshoot to someone and then observe if they still deny our predicament and what needs to be done about it.
It’s much easier to detect denial in polymaths because almost always fossil energy driven overshoot is the only important topic they are completely blind to.
I’m therefore on the lookout for smart polymaths, especially those with physics degrees, because with a physics background it is impossible to be blind to energy overshoot without denial of reality being in play.
I recently discovered Eric Weinstein via an interview on the Joe Rogan podcast. Weinstein has a PhD in physics from Harvard and hosts a podcast called The Portal in which he discusses big picture problems facing society.
Weinstein has been quietly working for a couple decades on a theory to unite general relativity with quantum mechanics. There’s no consensus yet on whether he’s onto something promising, but he’s clearly a really smart guy, as this recent unveiling of his theory demonstrates.
I’ve listened to several of Weinstein’s Portal podcasts and he demonstrates an impressive command of many disciplines. This one is a good representative sample covering a wide range of topics:
Weinstein is thus the perfect polymath poster child for testing Varki’s MORT theory.
On the important issues facing our species, this is what I think Weinstein is saying:
- Economic growth and scientific advancement slowed in the late 70’s which is a big problem, but he doesn’t know the cause. He thinks we should invest more in physics research, we should make higher education more effective, and we should encourage innovation. He’s apparently blind to the effect of rising energy costs. I wrote about our stagnation after the 70’s here.
- Economic growth today is faked with debt which is a big problem that threatens democracy. He doesn’t know the cause and makes up crap like all the other pundits. He’s apparently blind to the relationships between energy, wealth, debt, and growth.
- He thinks that we need to return to 3+% economic growth to avoid a zero sum game and the human violence this will unleash. He’s apparently blind to the implications of 3% exponential growth on a finite planet.
- One of the new technologies he thinks has promise is radical lifetime extension in which people will live many more years before dying. He’s apparently blind to human overshoot and the need to get our population down quickly.
- He thinks non-carbon energy is a feasible solution to climate change, and is thus just as wrong as all the other famous polymaths.
In summary, Weinstein understands everything except what matters. Given his impressive intelligence and education this is impossible without strong reality denial.
I’ve added Weinstein to my list of famous polymaths in denial.