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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This may come as a surprise to you. Al Gore, Stephen King, and Jean Gebser are related. How? Let me explain. Al Gore keeps warning us about ecological abuse, which we could ignore if we did not live "Under the Dome." 

But alas, we do. The whole world is a "Chester’s Mill." Whatever we do with earthbound substances, incorporating them into our bodies, using them as raw material; discarding the bodies, throwing away or reusing matter over and over again, the weight and composition of atoms remain unchanged under the dome; i.e., in the Terrestrial Sphere.

The economic process does not live on sunshine alone. It sucks free energy from telluric structures, and the swelling human biomass, along with its feverishly intensifying economic activities, is slowly but surely depleting its ecological niche. Free (accessible) energy turns into bound (latent) energy. Their sum remains the same (law of conservation) but not their ratio: bound energy gains at the expense of free energy (entropy law). And the transformation is irreversible. Gasoline fumes and dispersed copper ashes are the harmful leftovers of irremediably lost chemical potentials.

Orthodox economic thought is thermodynamically ingénue. It shrugs off this problem by maintaining that, thanks to science and technology and man's entrepreneurial drive, it is as good as solved. Future generations will marvel: What were brilliant scholars thinking? But then they may remember that Aristotle (a bona fide genius) thought that the Earth was stationary and he argued cogently why it could not be any other way.

Mainstream economists and the politicians in their tow pretend that when the world economy grows by four percent per year, global society is or moves toward a sustainable equilibrium. It does not! A 4-percent annual growth doubles output in less than two decades. (Even-paced growth over time means acceleration.)  Could the planetary economy double its size by the 2030s without turning "Chester’s Mill" into a realm of Pluto? Hardly! And in respectful disagreement with our former Vice-President, vigorous global growth and the simultaneous transition to a "green economy" via the profit motive is a quixotic proposition.

The current world order cannot deliver long-term sustainability on a planetary scale. By design, it is incapable of recognizing humanity’s thermodynamic reality. A new form of global self-organization is needed and it is probably waiting in the wings.    

What does all this have to do with Gebser? Wait, we’re getting there!

According to him, each consciousness structure coincided with distinctive socioeconomic conditions: The archaic, with primitive hunting, fishing, and gathering; the magical, with more advanced versions of the same activities within increasingly complex social schemes centering on the horde; the mythical, which was characterized by agriculture; the mental by industry coming to dominance.
The collision between our civilization and its ecological constraints, along with a likely historic crisis of epic proportions, may be regarded as the struggle of integral-arational consciousness (Gebser’s “fifth structure”) to deprive overblown rationality (the deficient phase of mental consciousness) from its current preeminence.

What will the parameters of the new global system be? Regardless of how correctly or incorrectly one may characterize it, any consistent attempt to find an answer must conclude that a radically new social, economic, and political organization will be needed. The precondition of saving the world from itself is a mutation of the average individual consciousness. It will favor cooperation over competition; acquiescence over indifference; responsible sociability over isolation; integrative open-mindedness over stubborn, perspectival dogmatism, altruism over extrasomatic hedonism.  

This is the subject of my new paper, which is maintained at University of Munich's (ungated) e-archives of econ lit:    

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