Elevated Intellect Required

Existing technology and social structure allows modern man to achieve a higher wellbeing than a hermit hunter and gatherer.   If either support falters, wellbeing drops. Even if both supports hold constant, wellbeing rises and falls due to a feedback loop.  For example, when wellbeing falls, efforts to regain it increase social strains, which increase social conflict, which consume limited resources, which decrease wellbeing.  Because of this loop, barring other forces or limits, wellbeing will continue to spiral downward.  Conversely the same four variables, also within limits, can  spiral upward  -- improved wellbeingreduces social strain, reduces conflict, which consumes less resources, which increases wellbeing.

Even if technology and social structure hold constant, and even if the feedback loop momentarily stops spiraling, any force, that nudges a change in any of the variables in the loop, starts a new upward or downward spiral.   For example, expanding availability of fossil energy nudged the wellbeing cycle upward for most individuals in developed society, until 1975.  Then, competition for energy moved many people into the downward wellbeing spiral. 

“Increasing-conflict” has already replaced the “decreasing-conflict” many experienced in the last 70 years. The transitions in airport security testify to this.  If these trends continue, protection of a small portion of humankind will garner most of the earth’s resources.  Everyone outside this privileged group will sink slowly to subsistence or extinction.

That this view of the human predicament evades most individual’s discovery, and fails to shape most individual’s behavior, testifies to the existence of limitations in the way most of us gather, process, and value information. 

To get ourselves to choose different behavior and destination, we need an elevated intellect; one that recognizes which human behavior changes downward trending wellbeing into upward trending wellbeing; one that motivates us to take that behavior.

The change in the availability of fossil energy was only a small part of what changed in 1975. The gap between  “total human footprint” (population times per capita footprint) and “global carrying capacity”  (the goods and services that can be produced with the labor, resources, and technology of earth) began to narrow. As this gap narrowed, social conflict and environmental destruction increased non-linearly. 

We must find and take behavior that will widen this gap.  A “one child per family behavior” produces rapid population decline, which in turn creates a decreasing total human footprint.  This widens the gap without reducing anyone’s wellbeing. In most cases wellbeing may continue to increase.

While universal one child per family behaviors, taken forever, lead to extinction, taken for the next few centuries establish decreasing trends in both social conflict and environmental destruction.  They allow our civilization to accommodate natural disasters and make transitions from one energy source to another.

Human survival requires, beyond the basics, an elevated intellect that recognizes that two-children-per-family behaviors damage the global carrying capacity and diminish the wellbeing already attained.  Humankind requires an elevated intellect that allows these predicted tragic conditions to affect one-child-per-family-behaviors.


Jack Alpert (Bio)     mail to: Alpert@skil.org     www.skil.org      position papers

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