preptip: Save Your Sole

Bedwell Trail, Strathcona Park, British Columbia, July 2020

Walking in nature is one of the best things to do,

because our genetic memory makes it very enjoyable,

and it’s good for your body’s respiration and motility,

and it calms your soul in times of stress,

and it requires little money, fossil energy, or equipment,

except a good pair of boots,

and assuming your food and shelter needs are met,

you can continue to enjoy walking in nature,

long after SHTF,

and after you’re too old for other activities,

so you can depend on walking in nature,

provided you have a good pair of boots,

and in addition,

after fossil energy is scarce,

and when you need to earn a little money,

doing physical labor,

because that’s the only work that will pay,

or you need to grow a little food,

because you need to eat,

you can use those same boots to help,

and given the mind boggling complexity required,

to manufacture and deliver a pair of boots,

they will never be better quality or more available than today,

and given the trillions of dollars being printed,

to pretend and extend the impossible,

they will never be less expensive than today,

and given they don’t go bad,

and will be valuable to trade for other necessities,

there is no good reason not to have a few spares,

of my personal favorites,

sitting at the sweet spot of price, utility, comfort, and durability,

for everyday walking,

the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX,

and for overnight hikes with heavy loads,

the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX,

both of which are among the most popular boots in Canada,

and which almost never go on sale,

except today,

perhaps because the virus is hurting suppliers,

and they need to juice their year-end revenue,

when I noticed they are 25% off at some retailers,

like Valhalla Pure Outfitters,

which is why I wrote this preptip.

Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX

What News Outlet Doesn’t Deny Reality?

ZeroHedge, the successful bad boy financial news reporting site, is shifting to a subscription model.

I might subscribe if ZeroHedge knew what the fuck was going on in the world, but they’re as much in denial about human overshoot as the mainstream news outlets.

Granted, ZeroHedge is at least willing to report on the daily insanities of our monetary and financial systems, which everyone else conveniently ignores, and I do value some of their observations, but they assume some evil cabal of elites is plotting to enrich themselves, rather than understanding that we’ve hit limits to growth caused by non-renewable energy depletion (and soon other non-negotiable constraints like climate change), and central banks are desperately printing money and using every slight of hand they can think of to extend and pretend a little longer our system that requires growth not to collapse.

Basically ZeroHedge doesn’t have a clue, and they make a living by feeding the conspiracy hungry crowd that congregates there. Not only do they not make the world a better place, they foment social unrest to make it a worse place.

So no, I won’t be subscribing.

Where can you go for intelligent apolitical reality based news?

It’s very hard to find.

Nobody important talks about what matters, and I guess they wouldn’t be important if they did, because most people don’t want to know the truth.

It’s 24/7 tribal fluff and denial everywhere.

And they’ll say no one saw it coming.

A pox on them all.

https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/introducing-zerohedge-premium

INTRODUCING ZEROHEDGE PREMIUM

BY TYLER DURDEN

THURSDAY, DEC 10, 2020 – 23:35

When this website launched 12 years ago, little did we know – or expect – that it would grow to become one of the most popular and trafficked financial blogs, let alone websites, in the world. Since then, ZeroHedge has expanded from being focused on purely esoteric concepts in finance and capital markets to covering geopolitics, social, political (and recently, healthcare) matters (if for no other reason than the central bank takeover of markets has made discussing centrally-planned “markets” borderline absurd and often painfully boring).

In those twelve years we have had the pleasure of sharing hundreds of thousands of notable news items, events and market absurdities with you, our readers, creating a magnificent support base of millions of fans who – for one reason or another – come to this site daily, sometimes dozens of times. In that period we have, of course, also spawned countless critics and haters, and that’s perfectly normal: that’s what free speech is all about – the ability to exchange opinions, often in a less than glorified manner, in order to reach a consensus or optimal conclusion. After all, that is one of the anchors that made America great.

Which is why what troubles us most, far more than the Fed’s vain and futile attempt to control the business cycle and plan markets (for the eventual outcome, see USSR), are the creeping attempts by various multinational entities and corporations to quash free speech, both elsewhere and here. It started with Facebook, which in May 2019 became the first “social network” to ban ZeroHedge, only to reverse shortly after (admitting it had made a mistake); this was followed a little over half a year later by Twitter, which “permanently” banned our account, only to admit 6 months later that it had “made a mistake” and reinstated us. But barely had the digital ink on these “mistaken” attempts to censor free speech dried, when the world’s biggest online advertising monopoly, Google, took the unprecedented step of demonetizing the website (following a similar step taken by PayPal). Why? Because it disapproved of the language in our comments (how or why it picked on this website’s comment section as opposed to millions of others, we will never know). To avoid a shutdown, and against our wishes, we were forced to implement comment moderation as the alternative was insolvency. Also, contrary to occasional laughable rumors, we don’t and have never had access to outside capital – be it political or financial – and have been reliant on the same advertising model we have used since inception.

Needless to say, whether due to “mistakes” or overt attempts to demonetize us, the writing on the wall was clear: while they may be entirely within their rights to do whatever they want as “private” companies, pardon monopolies, the ‘social’ and ad-based gatekeepers of online content – the twitters, the googles, the facebooks of the world – had launched an overt crusade to upend the uncensored internet, to snuff out independent thought, contrarian views, and inconvenient opinions and create one giant echo chamber of consent straight out of George Orwell. To do that they would use any and every tool they have access to, and unfortunately we had to comply with the whims of these monopolies which nobody in Congress has the guts to challenge directly and to strip them of their too-big-to-question powers.

Until now.

When Google suspended us in June we said that a standalone website was in the works, one which is funded not by advertising – and is thus beholden to the biased internet titans of the world – but by you, our readers.

We are launching that website today, call it ZeroHedge Premium for lack of a better word.

Here’s what will happen next.

We will maintain the traditional zerohedge.com website as is, without a paywall and with ads… but since it has ads, it will also maintain the comment moderation – that, as we explained in June, was a prerequisite demand by Google. But parallel with that we are launching a “premium” website, where subscribers will not only never again have to see one more ad but more importantly will have access to a fully unmoderated comment section.

Our hope is to eventually have enough subscribers so we can do away with advertising altogether – call it a real-time experiment in media for the censorship age. Because “mistakes” and events in the past several years have made it clear to us – and we hope to you – that there is no such thing as free speech any more; if you really want “free speech” you have to pay for it (in the case of ZeroHedge, the premium subscription will be $1/day – less than the proverbial cup of coffee). We also hope that enough people sign up allowing us to aggressively grow our team and expand our coverage, both thematically and geographically, so we can provide you with better content, better coverage, better everything.

On Drunks Flying Planes

We don’t allow drunks to fly planes.

Because we understand that alcoholism is common, partly genetic, and very dangerous at 30,000 feet.

We therefore screen pilots to keep ourselves safe.

And alcoholics support this policy because they also want to fly safely.

Why do we allow our leaders to deny reality?

Reality denial is common, mostly genetic, and very dangerous.

Many key government policies are rooted in reality denial, and will cause much more harm than a plane crash.

Why don’t citizens demand we screen leaders for reality denial?

Because most citizens can’t see reality denial, and are not aware of Varki’s MORT theory.

And faster than you can say WASF, we’re back to denial of denial being the key impediment to making the future less bad.

On Fabric (aka Fossil Energy is Indistinguishable from Magic)

I recently purchased a 6 piece queen sheet set for my bed and marveled at how something so useful, and so difficult to make myself, could be so inexpensive, costing only $30, or about 2 hours of my labor at minimum wage.

I did a little digging and found this video on how fabric was made before fossil energy:

And this video on how fabric is made today with fossil energy:

A podcast I monitor serendipitously had an episode today on the history of fabric making.

https://www.econtalk.org/virginia-postrel-on-textiles-and-the-fabric-of-civilization/

Author and journalist Virginia Postrel talks about her book The Fabric of Civilization and How Textiles Made the World with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Postrel tells the fascinating story behind the clothes we wear and everything that goes into producing them throughout history. The history of textiles, Postrel argues, is a good way of understanding the history of the world.

For those who prefer video:

For those who prefer audio:

Postrel described the process required to make fabric products:

  • get fiber
    • grow plants or breed sheep
    • harvest plants or sheer sheep
    • clean fiber
    • transport fiber to spinner
  • spin fiber into thread
    • align fibers
    • stretch and twist
    • transport thread to weaver
  • weave fiber into fabric
    • set up warp threads
    • pass weft thread through alternate warp threads
    • cut and hem edges
    • transport fabric to manufacturer
  • manufacture final product
    • dye fabric
    • cut fabric
    • sew fabric
  • transport product to consumer

Postrel also provided some interesting data:

  • A single pair of jeans requires 10 Km of thread.
    • The fastest pre-fossil energy manual spinners in the world could produce 100m of thread per hour taking 13 x 8 hour days to produce enough thread for one pair of jeans.
    • A modern fossil energy spinning plant can produce 10 Km of thread in a few seconds.
    • Postrel did not provide data on how long it took to manually weave thread into denim for a pair of jeans, but the video above gives a pretty good idea.
    • A pair of jeans today costs me $15 or about 1 hour of my labor at minimum wage.
  • A basic twin sheet requires 46 Km of thread or 59 x 8 hour days for a fast pre-fossil manual spinner.
    • Again, no data on the weaving time.
    • Linen was, until the industrial revolution, a valuable family asset.

I can’t write a post without drawing a connection to reality denial.

In this case, Russ Roberts, a relative rocket scientist as far as mainstream economists go, never once in the interview drew a connection with non-renewable rapidly depleting fossil energy.

There was a long discussion on the economics of applying “technology” to textile production. But zero awareness of the link between technology and non-renewable energy.

Roberts did draw a connection between food and textiles in that he observed only 2% of the population are now farmers. Again, no apparent awareness of the centrality of natural gas for fertilizer and diesel for tractors and combines.

I’ve added Russ Roberts to my list of famous polymaths in denial, although I probably should have added instead “all economists except Steve Keen”.

https://un-denial.com/2018/09/03/on-famous-polymaths/

Sabine Hossenfelder on Free Will

Sabine Hossenfelder today explained why we have no free will and why we shouldn’t worry about it.

She’s right but she missed an important piece of the story.

A quick summary of her essay is that our brain is a computer made of particles governed by the laws of physics that inputs our current state and calculates a decision for what we will do next. Because we don’t know the result of the calculation before it completes, we interpret this as free will, when in fact a computer has no free will.

What’s the main app in our computer? Hossenfelder says it’s to “optimize our well-being”.

Most students of human overshoot would refine Hossenfelder’s description of our main app as the Maximum Power Principle (MPP), which creates our dominant behaviors like status seeking and desiring sex/children.

Varki’s MORT theory adds an important real-time interrupt handler which terminates any calculation that produces an unpleasant result, especially those results that conflict with what the MPP app wants to do.

How else can you explain that elections never even whisper about the elephants in the room like overshoot, resource depletion, ecosystem collapse, debt bubbles, etc.

Not even a whisper. It’s amazing.

http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2020/10/you-dont-have-free-will-but-dont-worry.html

These deterministic laws of nature apply to you and your brain because you are made of particles, and what happens with you is a consequence of what happens with those particles. A lot of people seem to think this is a philosophical position. They call it “materialism” or “reductionism” and think that giving it a name that ends on –ism is an excuse to not believe it. Well, of course you can insist to just not believe reductionism is correct. But this is denying scientific evidence. We do not guess, we know that brains are made of particles. And we do not guess, we know, that we can derive from the laws for the constituents what the whole object does. If you make a claim to the contrary, you are contradicting well-established science. I can’t prevent you from denying scientific evidence, but I can tell you that this way you will never understand how the universe really works.

The reason this idea of free will turns out to be incompatible with the laws of nature is that it never made sense in the first place. You see, that thing you call “free will” should in some sense allow you to choose what you want. But then it’s either determined by what you want, in which case it’s not free, or it’s not determined, in which case it’s not a will.

Now, some have tried to define free will by the “ability to have done otherwise”. But that’s just empty words. If you did one thing, there is no evidence you could have done something else because, well, you didn’t. Really there is always only your fantasy of having done otherwise.

If it causes you cognitive dissonance to acknowledge you believe in something that doesn’t exist, I suggest that you think of your life as a story which has not yet been told. You are equipped with a thinking apparatus that you use to collect information and act on what you have learned from this. The result of that thinking is determined, but you still have to do the thinking. That’s your task. That’s why you are here. I am curious to see what will come out of your thinking, and you should be curious about it too.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think that people who do not understand that free will is an illusion underestimate how much their decisions are influenced by the information they are exposed to. After watching this video, I hope, some of you will realize that to make the best of your thinking apparatus, you need to understand how it works, and pay more attention to cognitive biases and logical fallacies.

What a relief, I was wrong, we’ll be ok…

I just listened to Michael Shermer’s interview of Michael Shellenberger on his new book Apocalypse Never.

Here is the publisher’s summary of the book:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50173134-apocalypse-never

Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All

Michael Shellenberger has been fighting for a greener planet for decades. He helped save the world’s last unprotected redwoods. He co-created the predecessor to today’s Green New Deal. And he led a successful effort by climate scientists and activists to keep nuclear plants operating, preventing a spike of emissions.

But in 2019, as some claimed “billions of people are going to die,” contributing to rising anxiety, including among adolescents, Shellenberger decided that, as a lifelong environmental activist, leading energy expert, and father of a teenage daughter, he needed to speak out to separate science from fiction.

Despite decades of news media attention, many remain ignorant of basic facts. Carbon emissions peaked and have been declining in most developed nations for over a decade. Deaths from extreme weather, even in poor nations, declined 80 percent over the last four decades. And the risk of Earth warming to very high temperatures is increasingly unlikely thanks to slowing population growth and abundant natural gas.

Curiously, the people who are the most alarmist about the problems also tend to oppose the obvious solutions.

What’s really behind the rise of apocalyptic environmentalism? There are powerful financial interests. There are desires for status and power. But most of all there is a desire among supposedly secular people for transcendence. This spiritual impulse can be natural and healthy. But in preaching fear without love, and guilt without redemption, the new religion is failing to satisfy our deepest psychological and existential need.

Key points from the interview:

  • It’s unhelpful, unscientific, and depressing to describe our problems in apocalyptic terms.
  • Doomers are angry depressed people who want the world to collapse.
  • Environmentalism fills a spiritual need within atheists. When you’re living a life of prosperity and you stop believing in god and think you’ll become worm food after you die, you ask yourself what’s the purpose of life?
  • There is no 6th mass extinction underway. We are only causing 0.001% of species to go extinct each year. It is a problem that we’ve reduced wild animals by 50% since 1970 but the solution is to end poverty.
  • People are overreacting to Amazon deforestation.
  • CO2 emissions in advanced countries have been falling for years.
  • Nobel price winning economist William Nordhaus has shown that 4 degrees temperature rise is optimal considering the benefits of burning fossil energy and the costs of climate change; it’s a good thing we’re only going to experience 3 degrees rise thanks to us switching from coal to clean and amazingly abundant natural gas.
  • Nothing bad is going to happen at 3 or 4 degrees temperature rise, nor will it remove the flood control system that protects my house in Berkeley. The only bad thing that might happen at 4 degrees is we grow less food, but that can be solved by providing tractors, irrigation and fertilizer to farmers in poor countries.
  • The Netherlands has proven that sea level rise is not a problem for rich countries.
  • Eating less meat will not help climate change nor improve your health. We evolved to eat meat and CAFO’s have reduced our use of land for livestock by an area equivalent to Alaska.
  • People wanting to lower their impact should drive a used car and fly less.
  • Cheap abundant energy is the source of our well being.
  • Renewable energy has too low power density to support our lifestyle. If you want to reduce climate change you should support nuclear energy.
  • Using more energy is good for people and nature because it reduces the consumption of materials.
  • The solution to environmental problems is to bring poor people up to our standard of living.

To summarize what I think is Shellenberger’s message:

  • A modern affluent lifestyle is good for the environment and is enabled by abundant low cost energy.
  • Renewable energy does not have sufficient power density, we need fossil and nuclear energy.
  • There are serious environmental problems but helping poor countries achieve a similar lifestyle to ours will solve many of them, and if we’re wealthy we can cope with the remaining problems.

I think Shellenberger is intelligent and is correct on many of his points. Unfortunately the points he’s wrong on are fatal:

  • Affordable fossil energy will deplete much quicker than he assumes. Our economic problems of the last 12 years are evidence that power down is underway.
  • If I’m wrong on the depletion rate of affordable fossil energy, our economic growth will be constrained by other non-renewable resources.
  • Nuclear energy was once a good idea, but not now that fossil energy depletion is weakening economies and governments thus making good governance a too risky bet. Nuclear also doesn’t solve our dependency on diesel for tractors, combines, trucks, trains, and ships.
  • The consequences of our current 1 degree temperature rise are already dire due to the loss of ice. The 3 degrees Shellenberger is comfortable with will create a planet incompatible with modern civilization due to the impact on food production and sea level rise. Even if I’m wrong, we won’t have the wealth to cope.

People like Michael Shellenberger, Eric Weinstein, Matt Ridley, Steven Pinker, and Yuval Noah Harari demonstrate that regardless of how intelligent or well educated you are, if you deny the reality of energy depletion, then most of your beliefs are probably wrong, because pretty much everything depends on energy.

Perhaps this is why Nate Hagens once likened discussing peak oil to eating a bad oyster.

I’ve added Shellenberger to my list of famous polymaths in denial.

On the other hand, if you think Shellenberger is right, then I’ve got just the tune for you.

Eric Weinstein: A Case Study in Denial

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.

Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel Everett

I just finished the book Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Daniel L. Everett. Thank you to Perran for recommending it.

A riveting account of the astonishing experiences and discoveries made by linguist Daniel Everett while he lived with the Pirahã, a small tribe of Amazonian Indians in central Brazil.

Everett, then a Christian missionary, arrived among the Pirahã in 1977–with his wife and three young children–intending to convert them. What he found was a language that defies all existing linguistic theories and reflects a way of life that evades contemporary understanding: The Pirahã have no counting system and no fixed terms for color. They have no concept of war or of personal property. They live entirely in the present. Everett became obsessed with their language and its cultural and linguistic implications, and with the remarkable contentment with which they live–so much so that he eventually lost his faith in the God he’d hoped to introduce to them.

Over three decades, Everett spent a total of seven years among the Pirahã, and his account of this lasting sojourn is an engrossing exploration of language that questions modern linguistic theory. It is also an anthropological investigation, an adventure story, and a riveting memoir of a life profoundly affected by exposure to a different culture. Written with extraordinary acuity, sensitivity, and openness, it is fascinating from first to last, rich with unparalleled insight into the nature of language, thought, and life itself.

I read the book hoping to find some evidence either supporting or contradicting Ajit Varki’s MORT theory. It was an enjoyable and very interesting read. The author is smart, articulate, and an engaging expert on languages and anthropology.

Everett describes in detail the Pirahã (pronounced Pita-hah) which is (was?) a rare tribe whose culture has (had?) not yet been significantly modified or subsumed by contact with modern industrial civilization.

The Pirahã are unusual in that they have no origin myths or well defined religion, although they do believe in spirits, but Everett was very vague on how these spirits influence their culture. The Pirahã have no interest in, and resist conversion to, other religions like Christianity.

I was most interested to learn whether the Pirahã believe in life after death because this is central to Varki’s MORT theory. I found it very odd that the author, a former Christian missionary, would discuss almost everything about their culture except their belief, or lack thereof, in life after death. Everett did say the Pirahã bury their dead with the few valuable items they own, which to me suggests they do believe in life after death, otherwise why not keep the wealth for the living?

I found it difficult to identify Pirahã behaviors that suggested they do or do not deny unpleasant realities. Perhaps this is a side effect of them living in the moment and therefore having many fewer unpleasant things to deny.

In summary then, with respect to support for or against Varki’s MORT theory, I’d say there was evidence for denial of death, but not much else.

The book offered, as a pleasant surprise, some genuine inspiration on how to lead a happier and more sustainable life.

The behavior of the Pirahã suggests that the Maximum Power Principle (MPP) may not be a primary driver in all human cultures, as I had previously assumed. The Pirahã work hard to acquire enough resources to survive, and will fight to protect those resources if necessary, but do not acquire nor desire more resources than required to survive.

The Pirahã live in and enjoy the moment. They do not obsess about bad events in the past. They do not worry about the future. They forgive quickly. They laugh, tell stories, and dance. They are proud of their way of life. Everyone is expected and does contribute to the tribe, unless they are physically unable, in which case the tribe looks after them.

I very much like stories with happy endings and this book delivered. Everett began his work as a devout missionary trying to convert the Pirahã to Christianity. Over time his scientific training that required evidence based reasoning, and the obvious fact that the Pirahã led happy fulfilling lives without Jesus, caused Everett to abandon Christianity and become an atheist. Hallelujah!

I wish the Pirahã would turn the table and send out missionaries to convert the 8 billion lost souls that need salvation.

P.S. Everett did a nice take-down of Noam Chomsky’s linguistic theories, which I enjoyed, because Chomsky irritates me as yet another famous polymath who knows a lot about everything, except what matters.

P.P.S I’ve started another book by Daniel Everett, How Language Began: The Story of Humanity’s Greatest Invention.

P.P.P.S. Here are a few videos of Everett talking about the Pirahã.