The complexity of social problems is outsmarting the human brain 

Whether contemplating the pros and cons of climate change; the role of evolution; the risks versus benefits of vaccines, cancer screening, proper nutrition, genetic engineering; trickle-down versus bottom-up economic policies; or how to improve local traffic, we must be comfortable with a variety of statistical and scientific methodologies, complex risk-reward and probability calculations – not to mention an intuitive grasp of the difference between fact, theory and opinion. Even moral decisions, such as whether or not to sacrifice one life to save five (as in the classic trolley-car experiment), boil down to often opaque calculations of the relative value of the individual versus the group.

If we are not up to the cognitive task, how might we be expected to respond? Will we graciously acknowledge our individual limits and readily admit that others might have more knowledge and better ideas? Will those uneasy with numbers and calculations appreciate and admire those who are? Or is it more likely that a painful-to-acknowledge sense of inadequacy will promote an intellectual defensiveness and resistance to ideas not intuitively obvious?

Source: The complexity of social problems is outsmarting the human brain | Aeon Essays

The Financial Crisis That Spawned Austerity, Corporatized the Democratic Party and Gave the World Donald Trump 

As Donald Trump stages his own inane production of the Watergate scandal, firing the official tasked with investigating his administration as he would a contestant on “The Apprentice” and inadvertently admitting to obstruction of justice, a bill is wending its way through Congress that threatens the lives of the sick and the vulnerable. The American Health Care Act could strip more than 24 million Americans of their health insurance over the next 10 years, generating perhaps the greatest transfer of wealth from the middle and working classes to the rich in U.S. history. Its passage in the House last week represents not only a breach of the public trust but the triumph of conservative lobbying efforts for the better part of four decades. What many may not know is that its architects’ political ideology was born in one of the most liberal cities in the country, if not the world.

In 1975, New York was teetering on the brink of collapse, as deindustrialization, an exodus of affluent taxpayers and a worldwide recession left it unable to pay for the robust social services it had carefully grown and developed since World War II. The big banks, including Chase and First National City Bank (now Citigroup), were eager to lend the city money until they weren’t. At the behest of New York’s creditors, the state established an Emergency Financial Control Board, effectively removing power over the city’s budget from then-Mayor Abe Beame. As journalist and historian Kim Phillips-Fein argues in her new book, Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics, this presaged a government-wide capitulation to big business and a transformation of what it means to be not just a New Yorker but an American. “The crisis,” she writes, “saw a group of almost universally white elites remake life in a city that was becoming increasingly black and brown.

”Fear City is both an illuminating history of some of New York’s darkest years, and a book of ideas. What does a government owe its citizenry? How have we come to accept budget cuts and layoffs as the only recourse for a mounting deficit? Why is there “no alternative” to the neoliberal economic model, as Margaret Thatcher famously sloganeered in Great Britain? These questions have been made more urgent by the devastation visited upon the city of Detroit and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, to say nothing of the national trendlines that have accelerated since the Reagan administration. For Phillips-Fein, austerity is very much a choice, and it is our responsibility to challenge its inevitability.

Source: The Financial Crisis That Spawned Austerity, Corporatized the Democratic Party and Gave the World Donald Trump | naked capitalism

The Voice of Silence

Fractal Ontology

Flow.

There are no words, only silence; no silences, only words.

It’s not as bad as you think.

It’s worse.

There is no beginning which is not also an end.

The fire rages on, infinitely. Beyond time.

Above the waves. Can you hear them? Singing? So softly, like angels’ whispering secrets to us. In silence. A broken flaw in the scheme, the impossible number. Ten equals one million.

One equals Zero.

A flock of birds.

Reality is ideal, and ideas real.

Time is winding itself back; we’re wandering through forest trails, sinking into the moon. Foot in the desert, walking back to shore. Awake, alive, burning alive. Broken. Whole.

Freedom is — cruelty.

A little love goes a long way. Truth bends, but it is unbreakable. Fact?

Believe without fear.

Stand.

Worship with reverence, pray in silence. Close your eyes. Begin to dream. Let the fever slip over you. A…

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Why We Should Be Concerned About Low Oil Prices

Our Finite World

Most people assume that oil prices, and for that matter other energy prices, will rise as we reach limits. This isn’t really the way the system works; oil prices can be expected to fall too low, as we reach limits. Thus, we should not be surprised if the OPEC/Russia agreement to limit oil extraction falls apart, and oil prices fall further. This is the way the “end” is reached, not through high prices.

I recently tried to explain how the energy-economy system works, including the strange way prices fall, rather than rise, as we reach limits, at a recent workshop in Brussels called “New Narratives of Energy and Sustainability.” The talk was part of an “Inspirational Workshop Series” sponsored by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

Figure 1. Empty Schuman room of the Berlaymont European Commission building, shortly after we arrived. Photo shows Mario Giampietro and Vaclav Smil…

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Oil, the Iraq War, and the Geopolitical & Capitalist Dynamics Underlying World Order

From a historical-materialist analysis of globalisation at this point in time we would try to focus on the contradictions within capitalism, and the kind of potential for alternatives which come out from these contradictions. The purpose is not just to look at how capitalism unfolds at this point and time but also the kinds of resistance movements you will find and especially the kinds of resistance movements which go across different kinds of groups. Very often you will see resistance toward privatization, for example cooperation between trade unions and user groups. It’s interesting how with Standing Rock in the U.S., you have cooperation between indigenous people and other social movements. There are cracks in capitalism, and within these cracks you can see alternative developments and the focus on this potential for alternative developments that will become part of the historical-materialist analysis.

Source: Oil, the Iraq War, and the Geopolitical & Capitalist Dynamics Underlying World Order