Monthly Archives: April 2015

Reactions to reality; who will believe the coming Death of the Internet?

The Archdruid has a treat for us this week, and a folding chair and popcorn should be procured by all – his next installment will be on the Death of the Internet.   The fireworks should fly on this one. This post isn’t meant to upstage him (not possible, anyway!) – he’s a phenomenal writer, and he’ll do a great job as always of laying out a logical argument on what could happen.

What his, my, or anyone else’s take on the Death of the Internet, the UFO hypothesis (see below), Peak Oil, or the collapse of the financial system might be, the thing that always seems to get me is that so many people are so resistant to change, even when facts have been brought to the forefront, time and time again.   Jim Kunstler has a term “psychology of previous investment” with regard to the ill-thought out massive investment in suburbia, and the same will probably go for the Internet as well.  Ironically, the Internet, that allows us to have so many ‘facts’ on tap so easily, gives us so many different ones to chose from, and that might be part of the reason why accepting things can be so difficult.  If you want to believe X, it is easy to find a site/group of people who believe X – and confirmation bias being what it is, you’ll probably hang out in that corner of cyberspace.

This is why one of some of my main questions to the regular luminaries in the Peak Oil, Climate Change (or any other) field are around trying to fight these biases, and being honest with your audience and self:

  • Could you be wrong?
  • Who is your best critic?
  • What would it take for you to refute your thesis?
  • How have you been wrong in the past?
  • How have you handled new data that conflicts with your worldview?
  • Have you made major changes in your worldview due to a series of new facts?

Last week, it was proposed that folks who live on the edge and the ‘mobile creatives’ might be more amenable to the Peak Oil message.   Will they be more amenable to the Death of the (ubiquitous) Internet message?   My thought is they might, for a few reasons:

  1. Cost – if you are living “close to the ground” (i.e. poor), you might not be able to afford a smart phone, or were a late adopter of one.  So if you haven’t been using it for long, you won’t miss it as much.  Likewise, you may not have bought into things like Netflix, or other bandwidth heavy and financially draining applications.
  2. Used to dealing with collapse and change – For those of us ‘collapsing early and beating the rush’, because of the lack of a day job, or steady income, this may be ‘par for the course.’  We are used to not having a stable base of operations, and are used to ‘outages’, in one form or another.  The Internet will just be another one of those things that goes wonky from time to time.
  3. Awareness – Mobile creatives, because they can use the Internet, also know that it can be/could be a weak link in their entire chain of operations, and awareness of this is no different than looking at their entire suite of income streams/things that they do and saying “Not a good idea to depend on this one thing.”  For those who see the Death of the Internet coming, they may wish to disconnect early.
  4. Too busy surviving – In a world where real unemployment is rising, who do you want to hire – someone who spends their time on a smart phone/surfing the Internet, or someone who is actually doing work?
  5. Job doesn’t require it – For those who work with their hands, the Internet is useful for getting parts, equipment, resources, but you can still do the work without it.  In contrast, a programmer/web developer/social media consultant will be, by their very nature, affected heavily by network outages.

There are some counterpoints to this – for folks who are poor, having a smartphone may be cost effective, as you don’t need a laptop, and it allows you to get information which may save you money.    But according to the Pew folks, poorer folks don’t have as many smart phones, and older folks don’t have them as much either.

Now, the Death of the Internet, if we follow JMG’s general outline (just guessing here), this loss will be a stairstep down affair, so the ubiquitous Internet might go away first, and then devolve the way it came, more towards a R&D and/or government utility, rather than something you get for free everywhere.

If anyone is going to handle this the best, it will be those folks in that previous Pew poll who don’t have smartphones, and who have already lived without the Internet, GPS, Amazon – older people.

More questions (as always):

  • What will be the primary cause of the Death of the Internet?  Government over-regulation and surveillance?  Power outages?  Cyber-terrorism?  Willful abandonment?
  • Who will handle this best?
  • What will the reaction be by the general public?  Politicians?   Businesses?
  • What sort of signposts will will see along the catabolic collapse pathway, as things go south?   Bandwidth limitations?  Paying for previously free services?  Regions without service?
  • The Internet was originally designed during the Cold War to send messages in a wartime environment.  Will this matter?
  • What will people do when cheap Internet gets expensive?  Use less of it, or pony up the funds?
  • Who will be hit the hardest?
  • Which will go first – the cell phone network, or ubiquitous Internet?   My money is on the cell network getting spotty first, but it could be that they are so intertwined these days, that it might be tough to separate them.  Even landline phones are getting routed through cable modems these days.
  • What will replace it?  Private networks?  Will we see a resurgence of the post office?

It would be great to hear more about how people accept change and new realities.  There’s always the ‘nuts and bolts’ of collapse (fast, slow, stairstep) and what to do, but the mental processes behind the response to all of these things may be more important and instructive.

On the UFO Hypothesis

On a somewhat related note (about changing your ideological beliefs/ideas), I just finished JMG’s book on UFOs (The UFO Phenomenon: Fact, Fantasy and Disinformation), and as someone who has leaned towards the ETH, his hypothesis navigates well the problems in both the null hypothesis (NH) and the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH).    As he has noted, he’s managed to upset both sides of the issue, which takes a bit of doing!    For anyone who has read the classics from the UFO field, a lot of material is repeated, but for a one volume book, it contains a great summary and compelling arguments.    One of the things that has always bothered me about the UFO field is that if things are so top secret, why hasn’t anyone in the military been indicted/thrown in jail for coming forward with revelations about them?  This, coupled with the recent book/film Mirage Men makes me think JMG’s hypothesis has some serious merit to it.

The question that I do have is that if these advanced technologies are that advanced (and are part of our own stable of home-grown capabilities), then is it possible that the entire Peak Oil issue may be put off for a bit (this may be heresy, yes).   Richard Dolan has discussed this in detail, and refers to it as the Breakaway Civilization, and it might, if that advanced, throw a monkey wrench in the classic predictions of collapse based on the declining availability of cheap fossil fuels.  This of course, is not to suggest that free energy technologies actually exist – the evidence still has to be shown.  Many in the Peak Oil community have always said that if such technologies did exist, it would still cause problems (i.e. thermal pollution).  If something wild like actual antigravity was available, however, this might ameliorate our condition somewhat, spreading humanity in the solar system for a bit, but this probably should be put in the same category as planning on winning the lottery for a retirement plan, and it still wouldn’t unshackle us from the economic model of infinite growth which would still get us into trouble.  If the government is hiding such technologies, it might be just for that reason – cheap free energy/antigravity couldn’t be introduced into a society like ours without making things even worse.   And since our governments and institutions aren’t exactly driving us towards a steady state economy anytime soon, this possibility seems dim.   There still are a few cases out there that really do need some explaining (the Tehran case in 1976, the Japan Airlines case over Alaska, the Stephenville case), and if these are based on terrestrial technology, there’s a whopping, massive gap between what we’ve got in the public space and in the deep classified world.    If something the size of an aircraft carrier is seen flying about, it most likely isn’t powered by petroleum, and either way (ETH or not) that’s a big can of worms to open.

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Learning from others (?)

If you have a nice day job at a large firm or a government entity, or someone with a secure (!) pension, your cosy view of the world will probably be a lot different than those of us (myself included) who are more in the ‘Mobile Creatives‘ class of Charles Hugh Smith.   Yes, you might know about the state of the world and all the unhappy futures we might experience, but the steady state income and predictability of things in your life may make these things seem like science fiction, rather than reality.

As Charles Hugh Smith writes, “mobile creatives… trust the network, not the state…”, That is something I wholeheartedly agree with; time and time again, I’ve gotten work from people in my network, and lots of work has been passed to colleagues in the same ‘mobile creative’ boat.   Also, my repertoire has been expanded a great deal, and my skill set (and client list) is a lot wider that I ever thought possible.   My thought is that because of the need to keep looking for work (one friend jokingly reminds me that ‘you only eat what you kill’), we are more attuned to changes in the financial environment, and are more likely to think about existential threats.  For those who are (for now, for whatever reason) insulated from the slings and arrows of the outrageous economy, talk of Peak Oil, economic collapse, and social unrest are largely theoretical.

Theory, however, can be pressed into practice relatively quickly, as happened time and time again around the world. In America, alas, the idea of things getting personally messy is something we tend to think happens ‘to the other guys’ in the world.    The list of ‘civilized’ locales where things have gone haywire is long, but many seem to forget these places, and think of them as things that happened in the history books.

There quite a few places where the fall from ‘First World’ civilization have happened within recent memory, and, as a bonus, we have people who lived through and write very well about such things (and most importantly) from the regular person’s perspective.  From Argentina, we have Ferfal, and from Russia, we have Dmitry Orlov; both have described in detail what happens when things go bad, and the important of networks in staying alive, safe, fed and sane.   In my own circle of friends and acquaintances,  people from Yugoslavia, Montenegro, and Beirut have told some harrowing tales of violence, societal, and monetary collapse.  If you lost your job in the past few years (say, in the 2008 meltdown), you may have had an inkling of what might happen in a larger collapse, but if you found another position at another large firm, these stories were most likely pushed to the back of your mind.

Why *do* most Americans ignore the possibility of serious, in-your-face collapse, even when it has happened time and time again around the world?   American exceptionalism?    Are small business people/’mobile creatives’ more likely to take the possibility of collapse/climate change/economic disaster more seriously?   How about folks who have lived through Katrina or Sandy?  Or have they all gone back to their zombie view of the world (i.e. “They’ll figure out something.”)?

Last week, the question, “What will it take for everyone to be on the same page with respect to our converging catastrophes?” was raised.  Maybe part of the answer is that we don’t need one catastrophe, but a series of smaller, regional ones.   If easy mobility is still available,  ‘collapse awareness’ might still be elusive (“Oh, I’ll live with my friends in the next town/city/state over if things get bad for a while.”).

Hurricane season starts again soon.  The California drought continues.   Arctic ice coverage keeps dropping.  Will this be the year, or will America continue to sleepwalk into the future?

 

 

 

 

 

 

When do we ALL know (and discuss) that things have really changed?

Each week, you can read great commentary and comments from the usual cast of characters (as seen on my blog roll) that are associated with the darker futures (read: not Ray Kurzweil!) – You can also read the news, and see that cracks are beginning to form in the reality previously known as ‘Standard American Life’.  For example, the California drought situation is one of those cracks that really have been brought to the forefront.

Unless you live in California, however, the cracks seem far away, and distant.   Food prices may rise, but life goes on.   You can still get gas at the pump, and grocery stores are still filled with food, even if those prices have gone up.   Even after the attacks on September 11, 2001, as much as the country was on edge, after a few months, things started to settle in again to a daily routine.   Yes, our civil liberties were curtailed.  Yes, air travel became a lot tougher and full of hassles.   And yes, a few thousand people were killed.   This was horrible, no doubt, especially if someone you knew, even remotely, was involved.  But life went on for most, not changing much.   Many people still went to their day job, still drove to work,  saved for retirement, and planned for a future that didn’t look too much different than the present.

My question is this – when will this mindset change – for all of us?   Jim Kunstler and John Michael Greer have put forth some great fiction on this; Kunstler, with the World Made By Hand novels (and his play Big Slide), and Greer with his Twilight’s Last Gleaming.   In the WMBH, a nuke or two has gone off; in TLG, the US loses a few carriers, and…

[SPOILER ALERT!]

the country goes down a path that few could even conceive of until recently – a semi-polite political fracturing.

These are two very possible and plausible futures.  In both, central governments break down and lose legitimacy, and things get quite a bit hectic real fast.

One possible scenario that has been discussed has been some sort of new financial glitch – think 2008, but a lot, lot worse.   This one seems almost impossible, yet in 2008, we were on the brink (so they tell us) of the ATMs closing down, and the entire financial system imploding.  Now, of course this didn’t occur, at least publicly, and after an infusion of many billions, things appeared to get ‘back on track.’  Even now, our stock market has reached new heights.   But as discussed on Zero Hedge, a lot of very smart and rich people are getting a bit nervous again,  and that should worry us all.

There is a problem, of course, with all of these projections, scenarios, and warnings – Apocalypse fatigue.  This was well summed up by Flagg707 on Greer’s blog last week:

Another aspect of this denial might be Apocalypse fatigue. The people who planned for Bankruptcy 1995, or an economic collapse after the Dot Com bubble, or $400/bbl oil a few years back, or the collapse of the banking system in 2008-2009, etc. have probably warned their “unawakened” family members multiple times over the years of impending collapse, only to see the system recover, though at a lower level of operability for many users. This “proof” that the Man will always find a way to fix things, even if the little people get a few less toys, reinforced by family and friends tired of hearing about “the long run” might be just the kind of excuse for people who know better to ignore what appears to many of us as Catabolic Collapse in action around us. Just a thought.

So, those of us ‘in the know’ have been warning about disasters for a long while now… and your unwashed/unawakened relatives and friends have been going merrily along, doing well in their investments (OK, they had a dip in 2008, but things have rocketed back to even better heights), still using Facebook, and saying things like “they’ll figure something out – they always do,” with regards the realities of climate change and Peak Oil.

My question is then – when do we get a moment where all of us really, really are aware that Life Will Now Be Really Different?   It seems that no matter what happens these days, a good bunch of folks seem to go on oblivious, not realizing that yes, we *are* on our way to hell in a handbasket.   This is seen most in the modern, mainstream media (typically abbreviated as ‘MSM’); headline news, some world events, celebrity gossip, sports of the season, a funny or sad piece to wrap up a broadcast.

Is there anything short of a nuclear weapon exploding in anger over a modern city, or a real zombie apocalypse to make people think and discuss the serious problems we have?

Flash update; PeteAtomic, on JHK’s blog made this point, which is one way to get people thinking about reality:

Wanna effect a shift? Get people ravenously hungry. Then you see precipitous & calamitous social changes ala’ 1917 Russia. The US feds know this and will do (and are doing) everything to avoid that happening.

Yep, that’s one way…