It’s rare to encounter a new and constructive idea for addressing human overshoot that is not fatally flawed by a lack of understanding of either thermodynamic and geophysical constraints, or the strong genetic behavior to deny unpleasant realities that enabled the human species to emerge and dominate the planet.
For anyone still looking for technically feasible solutions that have a non-zero probability of success for reducing harms from human overshoot I recommend the most recent Planet: Critical podcast in which Rachel Donald interviews Joseph Merz.
There are no easy solutions to the climate crisis—most governments admit their hope lies in technology which doesn’t even exist yet. Science and “visionaries” propose increasingly mad ideas, like refreezing the Arctic, or sending humans to live in Space. But given the urgency of the situation, would we be mad not to consider these mad ideas?
Joseph Merz thinks we’ve run out of time to ask questions. He founded the Merz Institute to combat the climate crisis, gathering some of the world’s best scientists to establish what is going wrong and how to fix it. He says the answer is behavioural change—and they’re developing a programme that would manipulate mass behaviour on a subconscious level.
How? Well, using the same techniques as the advertising industry.
Key points made include:
- It is too late to avoid suffering caused by human overshoot.
- There may still be time to make the future less bad.
- All actions we might take to reduce future suffering require changes in human behavior to consume less and have fewer children.
- Information and education to date have proven completely ineffective at changing human behavior in a positive direction, and we are out of time to try new methods of education.
- The advertising industry has developed technologies that are very effective at manipulating people to desire and acquire things they do not need to be happy, and in many cases cannot afford.
- Merz proposes to redeploy these proven marketing technologies to manipulate people to desire happiness associated with lower consumption and fewer children.
Neither Rachel Donald or Joseph Merz appear aware of Varki’s Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT) theory but I’m thinking that Merz’s proposal might sidestep the fatal flaw in most other overshoot harm reduction proposals that require humans to first acknowledge the reality of their predicament, which appears to be impossible because of MORT.
The beauty of Merz’s plan is that it does not require reality awareness because it will manipulate humans at a subconscious level.
It will be interesting to see if the marketing technologies are powerful enough to override the Maximum Power Principle (MPP) which is another powerful genetic behavior that pushes us in an overshoot direction. I’m thinking (without any evidence or data) that it might be possible to override the MPP because we are such a strong social species.
Godspeed to Merz and screw the ethics.
P.S. I doubt it is true, but I observe that if you assume the WEF Great Reset has good intentions grounded in overshoot awareness, it is possible they are thinking along the same lines as Merz with their “you will own nothing and be happy” campaign. The WEF campaign does seem rather clumsy compared to say associating happiness with a Corona beer on a high-carbon long distance vacation. I think it is more likely the WEF is trying to prepare citizens for a Minsky moment in which much asset ownership will transfer to the state.
P.P.S. It’s fascinating that so many overshoot aware people are active in the small country of New Zealand.