September 6, 2007 at 5:39 pm #24242
note: I’ve been reading a dozen different version s of Lao tzu recently, and various commentaries (the Chinese have over 700). The political aspects of the Tao Te Ching (daodejing) suggest he is calling for a similar, nearly anarchist (no central govt., only local community governments) form of political organization. This book suggests there is a political “reversion to the mean ” of some level of simplicityi.
NN has earlier posted extensive predictions about the coming forced reversion to simpler ways of living.
One question in all this is whether simpler society will be enabled at a comfortable elvel by either alien or lost ancient technology that are tapped into cleaner energy systems if run with wisdom by enlightened leaders……and maybe this all connects to what Dan Burishch is taliking about – looking into our future…to download those technologies in time. –Michael
THE COLLAPSE OF COMPLEX SOCIETIES (New Studies in Archaeology)
By Joseph Tainter
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (March 30, 1990)
Average Customer Review: 4.5 Stars
Political disintegration is a persistent feature of world history. The
Collapse of Complex Societies, though written by an archaeologist, will
therefore strike a chord throughout the social sciences. Any explanation of
societal collapse carries lessons not just for the study of ancient
societies, but for the members of all such societies in both the present and
future. Dr. Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews
more than 2000 years of explanations. He then develops a new and
far-reaching theory that accounts for collapse among diverse kinds of
societies, evaluating his model and clarifying the processes of
disintegration by detailed studies of the Roman, Mayan and Chacoan
FASCINATING AND DEEPLY DISTURBING
May 29, 2004
By Chris Stolz
Tainter’s project here is to articulate his grand unifying theory to explain
the strange and disturbing fact that every complex civilisation the world
has ever seen has collapsed.
Tainter first elegantly disposes of the usual theories of social decline
(disappearance of natural resources, invasions of barbarians, etc). He then
lays out his theory of decline: as societies become more complex, the costs
of meeting new challenges increase, until there comes a point where extra
resources devoted to meeting new challenges produce diminishing and then
negative returns. At this point, societies become less complex (they
collapse into smaller societies). For Tainter, social problems are always
(ultimately) a problem of recruiting enough energy to “fuel” the increasing
social complexity which is necessary to solve ever-newer problems.
Complexity, writes Tainter, describes a variety of characteristics in a
number of societies. Some aspects of complexity include many differentiated
social roles, a large class of administrators not involved in the production
of primary resources, energy devoted to different kinds of communication,
centralised government, etc. Societies become more complex in order to solve
problems. Complexity, for Tainter, is quantifiable. Where, for example, the
Cherokee natives of the U.S. had about 5,000 cultural artifacts (things
ranging from recipes to tools to tents) which were integral to their
culture, the Allied troops landing on the Normandy coast in 1944 had about
Herein, however, lies the rub. Since, as Tainter writes, the “number of
challenges with which the universe can confront a society is, for practical
purposes, infinite,” complex societies need to keep on increasing their
level of complexity in order to survive new challenges. Tainter’s thesis is
that these “investments in additional complexity” produce fewer and fewer
returns with time, until eventually society cannot muster enough energy to
fuel complexity. At this point, society collapses.
Consider this example: A simple hunter-gatherer society with limited
agriculture (i.e. garden plots) is faced with a problem, such as a seasonal
drop in food production (or an invasion from its neighbors who have the same
problem and are coming over for food). The bottom line is, this society
faces an energy shortage. This society could respond to the food crisis by
either voluntarily declining in numbers (die-off, and unlikely) or by
increasing production. Most societies choose the latter. In order to
increase production, this society will need to either expand territorially
(invade somebody else) or increase agricultural production. In either case,
this investment can pay off substantially in either increased access to
already-produced food or increased food production.
But the hunter-gatherers of the above example incur costs as they try to
solve their food-shortage problem. If they conquer their neighbors, they
have to garrison those territories, thus raising the cost of government. If
they start agriculture on a larger or more intense scale in their own
territories, they have to create a new class of citizens to man the farms,
distribute and store the grain, and guard it from animals and invaders. In
either case, the increases in access to energy (food) are offset somewhat by
the increased cost of social complexity.
But, as the society gets MORE complex to confront newer challenges, the
returns on these increases in complexity diminish. Eventually, the costs of
maintaining garrisons (as the Romans found) is so high that both home and
occupied populations revolt, and welcome the invaders with their simpler way
of life and their lower taxes. Or, agricultural challenges (a massive
drought, or degradation of soils) are so great that the society cannot
muster the energy reserves to deal with them.
Tainter’s book examines the Mayan, Chacoan and Roman collapses in terms of
his theory of diminishing marginal returns on investments in complexity.
This is the fascinating part of the book; the disturbing sections are
Chapter Four and the final chapter. In Chapter 4, Tainter musters a massive
array of statistics that show that modern society has been facing
diminishing returns on investments in complexity. There is a very simple
reason for this: we solve the easiest problems first. Take oil, for example.
In 1950, spending the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil in searching
for more oil yielded 100 barrels in discovered oil. In 2004, the world’s
five largest energy companies found less oil energy than they expended in
looking for that energy. The per-dollar return on R&D investment has dropped
for fifty years. In education, additional investments in programs,
technology etc. no longer produce increases in outcomes. In short,
industrial society is looking at steadily fewer returns on its investments
in both non-human and human capital.
When a new challenge comes, Tainter argues, society will eventually be
unable to muster the necessary resources to deal with the crisis, and will
revert — in a painful and unhappy way — to a much simpler way of life.
In his final chapter, Tainter describes the modern world’s “arms race of
complexity” and makes some uncomfortable suggestions about our own future.
In an age where, for example, the U.S. invasion of Iraq has yielded net
negative returns on investment even for the invaders (where’s that cheap
oil?), and where additional investments in education and health care in
industrialised countries make no significant increases in outcomes, the
historical focus of Tainter’s work starts to become eerily prescient.
The scary thing about this deeply thoughtful and thoroughly researched book
is its contention that the future, for all our knowledge and technology,
might be an awful lot like the past.September 6, 2007 at 7:58 pm #24243
>>This book suggests there is a political “reversion to the mean ” of some level of simplicity.<>NN has earlier posted extensive predictions about the coming forced reversion to simpler ways of living.<>One question in all this is whether simpler society will be enabled at a comfortable elvel by either alien or lost ancient technology that are tapped into cleaner energy systems if run with wisdom by enlightened leaders……and maybe this all connects to what Dan Burishch is taliking about – looking into our future…to download those technologies in time. –Michael<<
Yeah but whatever happens I believe there will be a massive shakeup. The thing is too that it could already be happening. This is why I'm working up to a new series of OBEs, I want to take a look around. I am certain alot is happening that doesn't get taped for youtube. For some reason it fills me with no dread only a kind of excitement. I possibly am stupid, this has been pointed out to me before. jSeptember 6, 2007 at 10:59 pm #24245
I personally accept the likelihood that the Big Shakeup could reduce earth population by a third. That will radically shift all current models/projections….my favorite theory is that a Black Hole (local garden variety, nothing too mean) will be opening up a portal within our solar system, and help us speed up the download humanity so desperately needs…..
Of course, most will not be able/willing to see this black hole, their minds will reconfigure it as a comet, etc….
mSeptember 7, 2007 at 1:53 am #24247
“…a Black Hole (local garden variety, nothing too mean) will be opening up a portal within our solar system, and help us speed up the download humanity so desperately needs.”
It seems those currently practicing Star Alchemy might help facilitate this process…he said, eyes wide, smiling 🙂 …September 9, 2007 at 8:26 pm #24249
… just to say, one’s experience does definitely depend on who one is in my opinion. And in my opinion ‘a philosophical world in which every position is of equal value and therefore no position is of any particular value’ sounds pretty cool. You’re giving the new age movement alot of credit for completely dissolving intellectual hierarchy, something zen masters took decades to do one by one!
How about a ‘world where every person is of equal value and therefore no person is of any particular value’? Or ‘thing’ or ‘animal’ or ‘country’ or ‘language’… why stick only with philosophy? You’re on a roll! jSeptember 9, 2007 at 8:56 pm #24251
so… if its true that each individual is in fact their own little universe unto themselves with their own experience, all you can really do is choose a path and see what your own experience is, or what you feel from it. If its not what you want then try another one.
I’m sure that for every person saying “I’m the one true master”, there are several more that aren’t saying anything. If someone claims something there is no requirement for you to believe it, whether scientific or spiritual, and even if you experience it, it may be a case of “in these circumstances it worked, but in others it won’t”.
I think the true test of effectiveness is the abitlity to transmit experience, and to have enough discernment to gauge that experience with other ones to see if it is worthwhile or not.
About black holes and comets, we won’t know unless it really happens will we? Even if it does happen, we won’t know if it is a black hole or a comet unless we experience it as one or the other. So if information before or after says it was this or that, is that more important than the experience?September 10, 2007 at 1:24 am #24253
At the end of his book he should had said and if you like this stuff you should practice chi gong and internal Alchemy daily to acheive what I have been talking about. 🙂 or did I miss that section. I think it could have made for great advertising for the cause.September 10, 2007 at 2:54 am #24255
“Not only is such thinking philosophically bankrupt and undeserving of professional respect, it is dangerous. It closes debate before debate can get started: “I experience this for myself, baby, so shut up!” Only the converted can participate — one at a time. Each “theoretician” inahbits a self-contained, monadic capsule from which he determines the authenticity of his own experience, and by extrapolation the truth of the world or the nature of reality, without logical or epistemological or informational criteria beyond his own subjectivity, without intermeshing social, communicational, observational materials, without rigorous discussion and dialogue — in short, without any standards for judgement.”
I experience the above quote to be arrogant and closed-minded, not “scientific” at all in my view because of the author’s absolute certainty of the correctness of his position (of view). In fact, it seems that he is guilty of the exact form of thinking he berates in his statement.
From my position of view, this person wishes to deny the authenticity of what spiritualists of all kinds always have centered upon: direct experience (not immature fantasizing) based on connection with the source. Anything less is, to me, not holistic and not accurate/complete. He is NOT a scientist. He is a skeptic.
My reading of what Michael said is that because of a person’s ability and tendency to want to exclude data and experience which is threatening to their view of the universe and therefore to their “integrity” he or she will block out or bend into another, more easily handle-able, form those threatening things. I doubt that you can scientifically deny that that is certainly the case with humans who tend to see only what they want to.September 10, 2007 at 9:23 am #24257
I’m glad I could so easily push a button and help you vent some deeply pent up feelings. It suggests you are feeling the need to have your scientific work more deeply valued. But others cannot ultimately do this for you – you have to place value yourself on what you invest into empriical science, and embrace it as your valid world view even if others don’t.
I was merely using language as a cultural tool to express an idea that might help people expand the boundary of their habitual perception. Scientists don’t own word – they invent them like everyone else, and then the collective mind of the culture takes over ownership. I suggest you read up on Wittgenstein’s Private Language argument – the meaning of language only comes from our collective agreement. The reality is, material scientists know very little about black holes, it is all inferred from secondary data, and one thing they can agree on is that a black hole is not black (making scientists liars?), and tha black holes defiy all “known”, ie. currently measurable laws of physics. I.e your vaunted scientific materialism disappears inito thin air at the point of singularity within a black hole.
Given that my comment was made in the context of humanity going through a multi-dimensional shift – a common theme amongst both “big religion” and new age and old age cults and shamans, I think the point I made is very important one: that everyone is going to interpret this multi-dimensional shift in their own language. The shock wave from a multi-dimensional portal opening up in this solar system would have exactly that effect – it would be an experience beyond language and habit that would be interpreted through whateve clumsy cultural or crude scientific tools we have.
Last time I checked, the scientific tools for measuriing multi-dimensionality were very high in theory and very low on the scale of grounded human experience. I don’t really think some scientifist dreaming up Super String theory is very different from a new ager positing their own theory of existence. Both are acts of self-creation, and the only measure of credibility is how many other people can you get to believe in your theory of the moment. Are you siimply protecting the new role of Physicists as the High Priests of the Scientific Religion?
Hope this offers additional perspective to relieve your ire. And I do really value the contribution of scientists like yourself – I just wouldn’t hang my spiritual destiny on your/their measurements.
smilng from the center of MY black hole,
michaelSeptember 10, 2007 at 9:23 am #24259
Relax your anus….
GIANT SMILESeptember 10, 2007 at 9:25 am #24261
Shit, now it happens AGAIN, I did not read your posting because I was posting myself at the same time….September 10, 2007 at 9:29 am #24263
If you read Harold Roth’s Original Tao, you will see that Lao Tzu actually was very clear – his language was well understood by the Taoist meditational circles and longevity seekers of his time. Modern readers are reading from a wholly different context, and often even scholars don’t know the now esoteric references to alchemical processes.
mSeptember 10, 2007 at 10:50 am #24265September 10, 2007 at 11:48 am #24267
Was he preaching to the choir.:) YOu know I have not read any copy’s of the Dao De Jing since I started doing Chi Gong, and internal Alchemy I really should.September 10, 2007 at 9:35 pm #24269
There are value in both main points being stated here (of course imo). Pietro’s quote does point to a weakness in thinking/experience/verbalization of what can be loosely labeled as new age thinking. Without digging deeply and questioning what is being experienced, it can be quite easy to mistakenly interpret reality – yours or anyone else’s. Making that mistake, it is very easy to move into a highly narcissistic worldview – ‘I experienced this, so f___ off.’ A good way to check out what has been experienced is to make a statement that can be verified by others – which I believe is the main point of Pietro’s quote.
The weakness in the statement, and in the current interpretation of what science is or isn’t, is the attempt to eliminate subjectivity, particularly what could be revelatory experience. The vast majority of contemporary science is devoid of courage, with vast amounts of money and time being spent on mind-blowing minutiae or self-serving research. There are many ground-breaking ideas begging for genuine research of the type being described in the quote, but there are no ‘scientists’ willing to risk their careers to validate them.
There’s a lot more that can be delved into, but I will leave it here for now.
I think my anus was relaxed and I was smiling when I wrote this…;-)
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