Clown Fest

The continued expansion of the internet has brought with it a surge in information, analysis, opinion and insight. At the same time the vast mental and social freedom in cyberspace has manifested an exponentially growing forum for self-expression – which ends up serving as virtual playgrounds for the human ego. This complex cyber landscape exists concurrently with accelerating real crises in energy, the economy, and the environment. Thus at the same time that the overall fabric of our social arrangement is shifting, the internet has become an odd melting pot for scientists and preachers, altruists and hucksters, knights and clowns alike. Perhaps I've been slow to notice it, but it seems to me that as time passes, on the discussion topics that really matter, the clowns are starting to dominate. Of course, as the goings on in our country more and more resemble a circus, it is no wonder that clowns are rising to the top of many discussions. Why is this? Is there an underlying phenomenon at work? This short campfire looks at what this might mean.

Clown Fest

Ive gotten 95% of my information from the internet over the past 5-6 years. There exists a special mix of intelligence, altruism and collegial respect that can unite to make internet forums worth much more than the price of admission. As such I've become habituated to a variety of sources, bloggers, websites, and internet personalities. Of late it seems these forums have become more shrill and predictable in their aggregate coverage of real life. Recently the signal to noise ratio is so low that I find myself using the internet for learning less and less, and when I do, with increasing occasion shake my head at the content. Buzzwords such as 'fiat currency', 'fractional reserve system', 'banksters', 'hyperinflation' and even 'peak oil' are prevalent, though the analysis and understanding of these concepts seems shallow and repetitive. Worse, the denizens of particular forums (not surprisingly) all seem to drink their own particular form of kool-aid. Given the prevalence of high quality content and thought of a few years ago, the blending and parroting of the major themes that a casual perusal of the resource/energy/finance blogosphere reveals today reminds one of the time shift in the movie Idiocracy. A psychiatrist might label this phenomenon ‘information anhedonia’. An economist would say we’ve reached ‘decreasing informational returns from the marginal blog entry’. I'll just call it ‘clown-fest’.

We evolved to favor the ‘in group’ over the ‘out group’, for resource, defensive, and ultimately reproductive advantages. The internet has spawned millions of ‘in-groups’ – peak oilers, tea-party evangelizers, deflationistas, gold-bugs, Austrian economics followers, anti-abortion activists, and myriad less controversial groups such as ‘Claremount High School Boosters", "Kerr Jar Enthusiasts", “Earthworm Snack Creators” and the like. People gravitate towards groups they identify with. And they usually stay there. (After all, a room full of clowns feels a lot less clown-like).

Achieving status is a primary driver in the biological kingdom and remains a key driver in our human social groups. But today, for the first time in our species history, the same ‘feelings’ we get from moving up in a real life social hierarchy can be attained cheaply and easily online. Being the most vocal, most persuasive or most interesting in a small group of dedicated/interested followers engenders the same neural reward as being the head of a small business, or a Mayor, or a high school basketball star. Our brains don’t really know that being the head of the “Morel Foraging Society” or “Nudists for Nader 2012” with several hundred members online is different than being County Treasurer in real life – we receive respect, positive feedback, deference etc. from the people in our ‘in-group’ (the fact they might be just anonymous mushroom pickers or passionate nude people is not relevant to our brains).

Human ethologists liken this phenomenon to 'dispersal phenotype' prevalent in nature:

Dispersal is important in biology. Often a species will produce two forms:

1) a maintenance phenotype (the outcome of genes and the structures they produce interacting with a specific environment) that is adapted to the environment in which it is born, and (2) a dispersal phenotype that is programmed to move to a new area and that often has the capacity to adapt to a new environment.

According to the present theory, humans have developed two dispersal phenotypes in the forms of the prophet and the follower. The coordinated action of these two phenotypes would serve to disperse us over the available habitat. This dispersal must have been aided by the major climatic changes over the past few million years in which vast areas of potential human habitat have repeatedly become available because of melting of ice sheets.

The dispersal phenotypes might have evolved through selection at the individual level, since the reproductive advantage of colonizing a new habitat would have been enormous. They would also promote selection between groups. Factors that promote selection at the group level are rapid splitting of groups, small size of daughter groups, heterogeneity (differences) of culture between groups, and reduction in gene flow between groups. These factors are all promoted by the breaking away of prophet-led groups with new belief systems.

Cult followers have been studied and found to be high on schizotypal traits, such as abnormal experiences and beliefs. They have not yet been tested for the sort of selfish attitudes and behavior that characterize free-riders. If a large cohort of people were tested for some measure of selfishness, it is predicted that those who subsequently joined cults would be low on such a measure. Predictions could also be made about future cult leaders. They would be likely to be ambitious males who were not at the top of the social hierarchy of their original group. If part of why human groups split in general is to give more reproductive opportunities to males in the new group, it can also be predicted that leaders of new religious movements would be males of reproductive age. Female cult leaders are not likely to be more fertile as a result of having many sexual partners, but their sons might be in an advantageous position for increased reproduction.

From THE BIOLOGY OF RELIGIOUS BEHAVIOR, Edited by Jay R. Feierman (bold added my me)

[pp. 184-186] DISPERSAL

Most people are both reasonable, and passive. Some people are either unreasonable or assertive (or both). In a free form forum one unreasonable or assertive person will drown out 10 or more who are either reasonable or passive. Especially for those whose assertion or unreasonableness in real life leads to fewer social opportunities, the internet has been a godsend. Either anonymous or in their own name, they can easily accumulate a following by articulating what people already believe or like to hear. Given the self-selected audience, there doesn’t exist the normal social checks and balances. As such, due to the myriad different categories, those assertive and/or social acceptance seeking souls who find their niches online dig in hard and ‘feel’ as if they are true celebrities. Combine that with the iterations and scale that come from long time periods, little or no barriers to entry and an apathy/lack of interest from those not spending time on the internet and these folks have become ensconced at all sorts of cyber guideposts on topics that cover the map. Dispersal phenotypes.

Basically, since people believe in authority figures, and nominate their own authority figures based on their own belief systems, it is no wonder that time and numbers has by circa 2010 amassed an internet army of 'clowns'. We see increasingly hysterical caricatures emerge on the internet/media that undergo some perceived status/ego boost that they wouldn't/couldn't have gotten in normal situations. The feedback from the true believers (of whatever tribe they communicate to), then locks these personalities into an utterly confident belief in their own position as an expert, and their actions become considerably (and understandably) clownlike over time to people not in their sub-group, especially magnified in those cases of borderline mental illness (which I suspect are not few). I notice this dynamic in numerous areas of discourse but its particularly prevalent in the the peak oil, finance and climate change circles where I have spent alot of time.

Midway through this post I am forced to acknowledge the possibility that “I” am such a clown. Maybe my being editor here for so many years has given me an exaggerated sense of my own understanding of things. It’s feasible that the signal to noise ratio I see deteriorating on the internet is just fine. It’s possible that what I perceive as signal is noise, and vice-versa. (And, its possible, as my girlfriend says, that its all noise). But why do I hear from friends (who are not clowns) of increasing apathy and disinterest in reading blogs for information? Why is the 'information deficit model' dealing with energy and environment failing? Why do mainstream people roll their eyes when 'peak oil' or 'fiat currency' or 'runaway climate change' come up in discussions? It's reasonably clear to me that honking the squeaky red clown nose on these issues is not only ineffective, but becoming obnoxious. Something else is at work. And that something is our belief systems/cognitive biases. Is it possible that as humans we are ALL delusional? And just some of us less so?

When Greshams Law trumps Dunbar's Number

One (major) way to combat ignorance, nihilism and divisiveness is with education. But education in forums where the noise to signal ratio rises higher and higher makes civil, informed discourse impossible. With increasing occasion I see Greshams Law, where the 'bad drives out the good', evidenced in internet forums (such as this one). Our brains only have so many cc's of grey matter, and so many neurons/synapses etc. Evolutionary psychologists state that we are able to handle about 150 relationships effectively at one time, before quality deteriorates or someone on front end gets bumped off (Dunbar's Number).

This dynamic is manifesting in resource depletion forums right now. As the signal to noise ratio declines, I find myself spending less and less time at sites I once frequented for information and high quality discussion. Part of the reason for this is that the medium (blogging, the internet), in many ways has itself become the message. Frenetic, living-in-the-moment stimulation junkies interacting in a way that has become socially accepted, and conforms to our evolutionary neurotransmitter hot buttons. Over time, more and more people gain the skills, and confidence to enter discussions online where there is little to no social status downside, especially when they can write/comment under a pseudonym. Combine this with large numbers, and the existence of human ego, and the upside of becoming a big fish in a small pond, and we have a clown uprising in the comment sections around the blogosphere. (and many of the clowns are nasty!). In effect, blogging (for education, and impact) has been marginalized by its own success.

The Decoy Effect

Peak Oil would have been better termed 'peak benefits from cheap fossil labor to society', as the invisible slaves we extracted from the ground have been asking for annual pay raises since 1999, and since we substituted 2-4 orders of magnitude more units of fossil labor for each human task we performed in earlier times, our wages and profits have declined and our cost of goods have gone up. But the PO demographic, over time, has spawned numerous sub-groups advocating or predicting very specific and deterministic outcomes for the immediate future which freezes policy folk in their tracks. The word "Peak Oil" is already socially burned as its mention shuts down meaningful discourse on energy in polite circles. Ergo Peak Oil is a simple concept but the vocal and shrill have carried its implications too far from the mainstream to be recognized as helpful by the facts alone.

But is it possible, that with highly polarized issues like Peak Oil, (and finance, climate change etc), that some of the leading 'clowns' may act as decoys on the way to (positive?) change? As Dan Ariely wrote about in Predictably Irrational, there is a concept termed asymmetric dominance effect where the existence of a third, extreme value causes what was originally an extreme option to be preferred. The example in the book was (something like) the choice between buying a $250 barbecue grill or a $1000 grill. Ceteris paribus, most people chose the cheaper grill. But if the grill manufacturer put up a super stacked $5,000 grill next to the other two, then people would start to prefer the $1000 grill as next to the $5,000 version it didn't seem so outrageous. This practice, known in professional marketing as 'the decoy effect' may inadvertently apply to what appears to be a clown uprising among the energy/environment/economic tribes. Options for change that at first seem extreme might not seem so extreme in the face of a carnivale barrage. Ergo, writing on peak oil may on the surface seem clownlike but is performing a service in that less extreme energy concerns automatically carry more weight.

Clowns -Wrong Facts, Right Side

As critical as this post may seem of the unproductive direction of content and personalities on the topics of our time, those making claims about the demise of our currencies, the peak of oil production or the end of growth may have inaccurate bits in their stories and have predicted 5 out of the last 1 calamities, but these well intended errors of omission pale in comparison to the errors of commission by those in leadership positions who rely on assumptions of perpetual growth that would be laughable if they weren't so ill planned for. The damage from our leading institutions conflating resources with reserves, energy with dollars, and debt with real capital is an order of magnitude greater for our societies than some friendly prophet phenotypes. At this carnival then, the clowns may seem annoying and repetitive, but at least they are on the side of change, something that the snake oil salesmen are not.


If this post has sounded a bit harsh on the status of blogging/education on the major topics of our time, it is meant to be. Those glorifying dystopian futures, with the only action plans involving Kruggerands and/or ammunition etc., are probably getting their status/ego boost at an ultimate cost to society (as in a vacuum these storylines -true or not - either come across as looney or scary to the average person). A hijacked pursuit of status and novelty gets firmly in the way of real education and change. Just like time and greed and entropy have caused our political system to become a ‘one dollar one vote’ monolith, the blogoshphere has become a ‘one neuron one vote’ system. Those who have free time and are vocal, novel, confident, and possessive of short memories drown out the less clown-like, more reasonable folk in their forums - Greshams Law. “Democracies” cease to work in these circumstances unless there exists a strong republic/framework of rules. The watershed moment comes when clowns have become the scout team for the civically minded, rational systems-thinkers who find their voices. Or maybe that already happened years ago and we're mean-reverting.

Send in the clowns. Just not all at once.

Social critic Neil Postman contrasts the worlds of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World in the foreword of his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death. He writes:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.

In regard to democracy, I believe, as Al Bartlett has pointed out, and even as Aldous Huxley pointed out, that it has been degraded and is on the brink of becoming defunct, however passionately the people extol and defend it. Overpopulation has reduced the value of each vote and over-organization has made people fragmented and one dimensional, incapable of decisions pertaining to the future of the world. We suffer from the "tyranny of the majority." Nations everywhere are drifting without any real direction, blown hither and thither by the winds of economics. In the real world of today, the votes of philosophers, scientists and those possessing statesmanlike qualities are equal to the numerically superior population of morons. In the virtual world, there isn't even such a thing as an age restriction. There are just cybernames, blogs and posts, no faces and no responsibility.

Good to see Nate is as petulant as ever. Yet another long winded and pointless post, entirely devoid of otherwise useful information, which seems to serve no other purpose than to obsequiously trumpet how much smarter he thinks he is than everyone else.

Maybe this post is some sort of sick joke, but I must say, it takes a special kind of arrogance to reduce the entire human experience down to "what a bunch of clowns". I, for one, sincerely hope the the Human-to-Nate ratio stays extremely high.


I personally happen to think Nate is one very sharp guy-but maybe that is because I tend to agree with him on so many things. ;)

Otherwise of course I would think of him as being as dumb as a fence post.:)

Nate is apparently one of the few people here who can grasp the big picture from the view point of the mechanistic ,scientific mind as well as the artistic, humanistic mind.

There are days I am convinced that most of the regulars could not pass a college literature class except by parroting the professors words, that most of us are not able to read a novel and extract from it the nuances and subtleties of the human experience;and this in spite of the fact that many have a great deal of advanced training in very tough subjects.

You want a mechanistic explaination-we are doing exactly what might be expected , given an in depth understanding of evolution in general and evolutionary psychology in general.

This science has as much explanatory power in relation to people as Newtonian and quantum mechanics have in respect to the physical universe.

Nate gets it, and he has stated the same case in other terms on other days.Today he is simply allowing the other side of his brain, the literary/ humanistic/ cultural side to do the talking.There is another whole audience out there who will appreciate what he says tonight who would not comprehend a discussion of lower, mid, and upper brain psychology-which he has posted in the past iirc.

Nothing in the physical sciences matters very much, except as to setting outer limits on the possible;what is going to happen is going to be located on the continium of the physically possible by the largely unpredictable actions of a few millions of high status apes pursueing thier own personal ends.

Nate has just painted a portrait of a world of naked apes each pursueing his or her own ends, compelled to behave as they are by programming optimized for apes living in small groups on a savanna.

Like OFM, I think Nate is one of the sharper tools in the box.

But Nate, is this post about being "clownish" or being a "doomer" ???

It seems like you focused on specific traits:

If this post has sounded a bit harsh on the status of blogging/education on the major topics of our time, it is meant to be. Blind faith in certain outcomes, particularly those involving Kruggerands and ammunition, certain dieoff, and $300 oil, can become both self-fulfilling, and counterproductive to society...

As critical as this post may seem of the unproductive direction of content and personalities on the topics of our time, those making claims about the demise of fiat, the peak of oil production or the end of growth may have inaccurate bits in their stories and have predicted 5 out of the last 1 calamities.

I did notice you made a distinction between "clowns," and "those in charge who rely on assumptions of perpetual growth..."

I am not sure if you should be more angry at the clowns or "those in charge."

... But why do I hear from friends (who are not clowns) of increasing apathy and disinterest in reading blogs for information? Why do mainstream people roll their eyes when 'peak oil' or 'fiat currency' or 'runaway climate change' come up in discussions? It's reasonably clear to me that honking the squeaky red clown nose on these issues is not only ineffective, but becoming obnoxious.

Maybe they roll their eyes because they no longer trust either political party, or the tea party, or the mainstream media, or the Fed, or the Markets and just do not want hear any more bad news.

Maybe they roll their eyes because they are overwhelmed already in their every day lives and do not want to think about those horribly scary issues. Maybe they trust "those in charge" are taking care of everything and do not want to have to face other possibilities.

Maybe Doomer clowns should stop making you angry ?

obviously touched a nerve there? Personally I find Nate's pieces to be a welcome relief from too much Tech-talk or doomerism.

"obviously touched a nerve there"

Throw a stone into a pack of wolves and the one that yelps is a clown ;)

The ones that don't yelp, or who pick up more stones to throw, might not want to be mistaken as clowns?

Stew, how much tech talk or doomerism is too much?

I would like to flag you post as inappropriate. I'm surprised Gail let it though.

Thank you for providing a superb example of a clown making noise.

"I, for one, sincerely hope the the Human-to-Nate ratio stays extremely high."

Please don't try to elevate yourself by degrading someone else.

I think Nate makes a great case that the incidences of blog trolling (or clowning) to either confuse the discourse or promote an anti-discourse is running rampant all over the web.

I think one step further. Some of this is paid for by political organizations and/or companies. It is brilliant if it is true. It is also dangerous if it is exposed.

I notice this noise in product ratings and customer comments, where Brand X gets on Brand Y's forum to say that Brand Y is not good but when I used Brand X it worked great.

Yeah, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but I am convinced that some of this so-called noise and anger are signal from a source of money. People are not troll blogging at these levels for no good reason. There is at least an energy source -- which is money and a funder -- at the beginning of the rant chain.

It is not a conspiracy theory, paid posting is a well known fact and acknowleged. It is actually cheap advertising.

Unfortunately I agree with Jerry. This post is just a rant. Tell me something I don't already know, or keep it to yourself.

thanks Shox - I've never read Brave New World but will order it. Obviously I fall on Huxleys side of the debate you highlighted..

You should also make sure to read a couple of the real McCoys if you can find the time-the Gulag Archipelago, and something by somebody who made it through the Holocaust.

Not many people read her lesser known stuff, but Any Rand's Anthem or We will keep you awake at night.

The Holocaust-related book that made the biggest impression on me was written by Terence des Pres: "The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps." He read testimonies of prisoners who lived through either the Nazi or Stalinist death camps, and came up with this conclusion (quote from Amazon review):

... survivors felt an obligation to the dead to bear witness; survivors lived by maintaining their moral sensibilities and by cooperating with one another and sharing in each other's tribulations and successes; to survive in the conditions of extremity found in the death camps was, in itself, an act of resistance. Humans are social by nature of their very biology, says Des Pres, and this is perhaps our main hope in this century.

I read just about everything Ayn Rand wrote when I was late teens. I thought it was great stuff. I tried to read Anthem when I was quite a bit older and I thought it was really dopey. So I went back and tried to read The Fountainhead again. Not anywhere near the level of writing, or thinking for that matter, of anything done by Aldous Huxley.

I think that Rand, like Edward Teller, had such a bad experience with the Soviet Union that neither could bear the thought of collective action of any kind. Extremists by any measure.

I've never read Brave New World


IIRC, it was Alvin Toffler of Future Shock fame who predicted correctly that the tools of deception will overwhelm the tools of verification and correction

Basically: The Clowns win

Example: The Climategate "trick"

Basically: The Clowns win

1) The use of the word 'clown' is misplaced. People like Edward Berneys would be a 'clown' in the context of Nate, but his books on propaganda and its rebranding - public relations are examples of misdirection/lies/.024567'ths of truth. Others in the job of yanking your chain - or telling others how to include people like Tony Robbins via NLP - Neuro Linguistic Programming.

As to different clowns:
2) The historic position of the Jester in the court of the King was a way to speak truth to power.
3) Gallows Humor - the idea of telling jokes/making fun of a bad situation has a long enough tradition that the words 'gallows humor' exist.
4) Even on this site - there is the 'discredit the one statement, discredit them all' method of (attempted) persuasion.

One Man's "clown" is another man's actual base fact.
That one day oil will peak - either in production/consumption or price is a base fact. Where one goes from that point - well that has been the 5+ year trip here.
Same goes for the fact that the money system is fiat and based on fractional reserve.
To call 'peak oil', 'fiat money' and 'fractional reserve' "clowns" ignores that all of these have a base layer of truth.

That is a very thought-provoking quote from Neil Postman.
Huxley seems to have accurately predicted what has transpired here in North America in the past few decades.

I do not understand why you would feel so negatively toward Nate's post.
Nate is an eclectic, insightful thinker.
I had little exposure to Nate's talents until his wrap-up presentation at ASPO-Denver last October, which was one of the most amazing presentation I've ever seen... a superb finale to a very effective three-day conference.

Thanks, Nate... please keep up your fine work: many of us appreciate your wide-ranging observations on human nature and the resource realities which lie before us.

-- Rick M

Well, yes ... but isn't that obvious? The internet is mostly about entertainment, not abour serious information. Computers are about games. If anybody wants to get to the real thing, the only way is:

1. Read post online about new scientific discovery
2. Look whether any real information is offered (who did the study? published where?)
3. Hunt down e-mail address of author
4. Get the peer-reviewed paper for free

Blogs that could pass for real information are extrememly rare. Derek Lowe, Paul Krugman and some Oil Drum posts have bits and pieces that could lead to something real, but else? Who for example would expect anything more than links to fantasy novels and some cultural commentary from Jim Kunstler?

Don't worry about it - the experts will find their links to real information on the web (and much faster and easier than in the old times) and the others don't care about that anyway.

In fact I was going to write something along those same lines. I would add some alternate advice however.
A couple of Internet knowledge sources that I have found indispensable in the last year are Google Scholar and Wolfram Alpha. Scholar has most of the PDF's that you will need for basic research and Alpha does some interesting analysis.

The one time I really wanted to get an article that didn't have a PDF, I e-mailed the author and politely asked him if he had an electronic version. He wrote back and said to give him a call "so we can discuss". Never pulled the trigger on that one. The paper was on widespread contamination and for some reason I got the impression that he thought I was a terrorist or something. Who else would be asking about an obscure paper?

Just like everything else 'modern' both good and bad. Editing is up to the 'user'. No need to blame the medium as it becomes the message only if you let it.

It's hard to get to the real future from here, it is on the other side of a (diminishing) keyhole. Maybe we won't get to it at all. In the long run we are all dead. The only constant is change, that includes discontinuities. The day after tomorrow may well be the 14th century. Nobody can predict which is not a flaw on the part of the predictors.

Dude wrote that 'Black Swan' book had the right idea. That 'black swans' are all over the internet isn't anyone's fault.

As for the clowns, ignore 'em unless you need a laff.

Step 4 sometimes works. I've got papers on various insect/invertebrate breeding but bupkis on thinks like the sand+urea+calicum+bacteria processes.

Third! (Clownish attempt referencing Kunstler's respondents) Thought I might be first but then I had to login.

"Isn't it bliss... "
This is just what humans do, in the short run more attention is given to the brightly colored, red nosed personas.

In the longer run, that changes to the people who can provide the nourishment required of the tribe or whatever. We still live in an energy rich environment at the moment. This too shall pass.

On a more serious note...

My thoughts are colored by the NOVA special on Darwin I just got done viewing... highly recommended.

Forgethabout the clowns, their adaptability will be lacking soon,

While the clowns can be aggravating, soon they will be revealed for what they are.
I too struggle while watching the circus as your post illustrates Nate. I think, as most well intentioned people think, that if I could just get people to see what I see, then we as a collective could just decide to try a path that is more sustainable. But as I visited my folks today and a brother happened by, and the discussion turned to politics and the economy, I was reminded that my own family, which in reality agrees on 99% of things in general, that the variation in the 1% is what makes the clowns attractive - in this case it was a governor race. We all share the same curse, if everyone else would just see it as I see it, then.... Now I will grant you that some views are more informed, enlightened, and just plain closer to the truth than others, but the diversity of communications and audiences I think insures that the clowns novelty factors will gain them their Warhol 15 minutes of fame until the next crop comes along.

So what do we do to paraphrase the old enemies turning of the screw?

I think the transition movements and the adapting in place efforts are a reasonable attempt.
Back to the Darwinian thinking, its the individuals that mutate and have the more successful adaption strategies for the environment they find themselves in (clowns and non-clowns alike), that will have the best chance for success going forward. Remember, there is still a successful species called the clownfish, and as I re-learned watching the Darwin program, all 4 limbed land dwelling animals evolved from fish.

Remember, there is still a successful species called the clownfish, and as I re-learned watching the Darwin program, all 4 limbed land dwelling animals evolved from fish.

To extend the analogy then, perhaps we can look upon the various internet sites and blogs as the virtual anemones among whose stinging tentacles some of us clownfish can find shelter and safety.
This is after all a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship since once an anemone or coral has been adopted, the clownfish will defend it.

Of course it remains to be seen which virtual anemones will prevail and whether or not their nematocysts contain sufficient neurotoxins to neutralize and paralyze some of the more virulent and destructive memes that currently infect our collective consciousness.

The TOD anemone, for example preys on the meme of infinite growth on a finite and resource restricted planet. To have a few orange and white stripped clown fish darting around in it may not be such a bad thing especially if it makes the TOD anemone stronger, at least in my opinion.

TOD is the one place I do keep coming back to when I want to talk about things, or read what others have to say about a certain topic or the day's news.

Not all sites are fluff places, but like a good book store you have to steer away from some sections because all you will get is good coffee table books without anything in depth in them. I go to the space information sites that talk about real happenings in space and science, I go to the NWS for weather, I browse the news sites and mostly pass most stories by for the fluffly clown pieces they are.

In 5 years will TOD still be a safe harbor? I hope so.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

Remember, there is still a successful species called the clownfish, and as I re-learned watching the Darwin program, all 4 limbed land dwelling animals evolved from fish.

And I find it interesting that a number of these land dwellers returned to the ocean, evolving into arguably some of the most intelligent species on the planet (The Cetaceans of course), possibly leaving evolutions preeminent clown to dominate the land.

Yep. Largest brains, largest neocortex. Many able to directly communicate in broadband in their primary sensory modality (sound). Some of these huge brains live to 200+ years old.

We've used them for dog food.

Anyone whose priorities don't include consideration of how 'peak everything' and human overpopulation will affect cetaceans isn't really interested in the welfare of intelligent life on earth.

Hi Greenish

Question about cetaceans. Any idea about how they keep at a healthy level their feel good neurotransmitters.

The never-ending struggle to increase our feel good neurotransmitters seems to be a major forcing factor dictating human behavior. Learning healthier/less-sociopathic ways to do this would seem to be a big step forward for humanity.

Can we learn something here?

Presumably the way any aboriginal does; through social support, sex, sensuality, play, etc. (of course 'cetaceans' is a varied group, including tiny porpoises up to huge whales, and a large range of brain size and social complexity.)

When speaking of the mid-sized dolphins, they are attracted to novelty much like we are, but the realities of their streamlining and ecological niche mean that they can't easily carry things around with them for long periods of time. Still, they use tools opportunistically, and captive dolphins taught themselves to use a computer to alter aspects of their environment, or to play "video games" much as a human would.

They are remarkable, but if they had the means they would likely be subject to the same traps we are. Hedonic rachets have evolved because animals who go around unusually stoned and happy all the time probably wouldn't survive as well. You couldn't use a monkey trap to catch a dolphin, but that's because the physiology and learned behaviors are different.

All complex animals seek to optimize their "feeling good", which is why the mechanism evolved. Our problem is the confluence between being bipedal, having grasping hands, having well-developed mental modeling abilities, having stable exosomatic information storage, and becoming fire symbiotes in a world where a lot of things haven't yet been burned.

It's interesting to be a part of it all, but it won't end well. If the cetaceans survive us, one wonders what the legends of humanity's overshoot and dieoff might be. Their own dieoff is well underway, of course.

The Internet originally approximated Marshall McLuhan's "global electronic village". It was a village populated almost exclusively by relatively educated and well-mannered computer scientists and engineers.

However, by the early '90s it was obvious that the Internet would become a "global electronic urban area" with a highly diverse population having all the social variations and pathologies you might find in a great city.

In the real world, people tend to limit their interactions to small, village sized groups. This is true even in cities, where the people one knows are relatives, co-workers, and people with similar interests, e.g. in religion or politics. The circles of acquaintence stay small, they are just not limited to people in the same apartment building or neighborhood, who may not be known at all.

In the electronic world, it is more difficult to erect the equivalent of spatial barriers, although some sites are more picky about who they admit and who they let stay. They range from secure, invitation-only sites to sites that admit almost anyone. Thus, interactions can range from polite discussion over dinner to striking up conversations with random strangers in the subway or neighborhood bar.

The jarring quality people experience from Internet interactions reflects the fact that most people haven't gone around and talked to random strangers, frequented coffee houses filled with revolutionaries, walked through skid row, visited a mental health facility, or been to the red-light district recently.

The only thing that is very worrisome is that with broadband communications and high-resolution displays, the medium has become "hot" in McLuhan's terms. Analog television was a "cold" medium in that the visual fidelity was poor and the brain had to fill in the missing detail. According to McLuhan, such "cold" media are inherently less believable than are "hot" media, which provide high fidelity.

So long as the major communications medium was "cold" analog television, the ability of broadcasters to control the masses was inherently limited by its poor believability. This was in contrast to radio, a "hot" medium, which had been used by the great dictators of the early 20th century to spread their message.

So will the "hot" medium of the Internet (and high-def TV) enable the rise of a new generation of autocrats, or will the interactive, pluralistic nature of the Internet prevent their rise?

If you want one theory of how online communities evolve, look into the cognitive science behind Dunbar's Number. This number establishes a limit to the number of active members of a group to around 150 or so. Beyond this social groups tend to fractionate. The more a specific site wants to encourage higher participation, the stronger the chance that the group will splinter. You can see that principle in action with the Macondo threads. The size of the group is hitting the rails because it is the goto place for discussion and the TOD editors have to wisely lock the threads daily. It quickly hit the Dunbar Number, while the rest of TOD has reached some level of stability.

If you want one theory of how online communities evolve, look into the cognitive science behind Dunbar's Number. This number establishes a limit to the number of active members of a group to around 150 or so. Beyond this social groups tend to fractionate.

I see that operating in my own usage. The McCondo threads are a good indicator. Once the number of coments passes a certain limit, then the ability to comment intelligently (which for integrities sake means you have read most of the comments, skimming perhaps those that look like junk), vanishes. Also the chances that your comment will actually be read go down if it is one among many hundreds. I think there is an optimal number, and it is probably in the twenty to hundred range. After that the effort required to keep up overwhelms.

Dunbar's Number is an interesting concept. One of the challenges in management of corporations is to keep the employees per profit center down to roughly Dunbar's Number.

It is also about the size of an Army company.

There's another, smaller, number I thought interesting in the same way. Army squads are 10-12 guys. I remember reading somewhere that primitive hunting parties invariably matched that number. It may be about the size of close, trusted, individuals that is manageable in extreme situations.

Jj -- My company is at the other end of the spectrum from the BP’s et al. There are 4 of us at the level reporting to out President (an engineer) who reports to our owner. That’s the complete chain of command. Our owner is a very successful individual how owns dozens of companies in addition to our oil/NG drilling group. We have our consultants we use to help with the work load but each of us VP’s are personally responsible for the results. Obviously we each feel a big responsibility towards each other. Not exactly the same as watching each others back in the bush but it’s there with us every day. Our owner’s last O&G company was structured along typical corporate lines. Not very successful except for management which pocketed big bonuses not proportional to the results. So he decided to go to the other extreme. FYI: we’ve spent $90 million in the last 12 months. I’ve never kept the stats on it but I’m sure our capex per employee is many times greater than the typical O&G company these days. We'll see in several years how this experiment works.

You can see that principle in action with the Macondo threads. The size of the group is hitting the rails because it is the goto place for discussion and the TOD editors have to wisely lock the threads daily. It quickly hit the Dunbar Number, while the rest of TOD has reached some level of stability.

Yeah. Paraphrasing the inimitable Yogi Berra, "No one goes there anymore 'cause it's too crowded." (now I'm being the clown...)

As a person who was there at the founding of the Internet, I'd also say that there were two other dimensions of those scientists and engineers: 1) they did get together face to face on at least two continents for many years, and 2) they both respected and participated in peer review publications. Some even were funded by "external agencies", for instance I was both an NSF and DARPA co-PI, which further organized the community in subtle ways.

A parallel comes to mind, as a very early user of video conferencing (conference room style), we always felt this technology was useful if we knew the people before in the flesh, meetings with (unmet) people always seemed about 10% effective.

btw, minus the red-light district, I've done and do, all of your places talking to random strangers

I guess I'm just too tired to give clowns much thought tonight, but what you have to say about people finding identity, acceptance and status as bloggers definitely rings my bells, loud and long.

I hang out here on this site way too many hours because I have found it to be the best single source of serious thought and intellectual companionship available to me, surrounded as I am by a few old people who are wonderful human beings but not much in the conversational dept for someone of my personal tastes and accomplishments.

Now as to whether we are obsessed with some particular ideas here, ranging from peak oil to "Kruggerands and ammunition", I see things the same way you do-the time for conversation and discussion is over.

I would like to see more analysis of what can be done, and what might be done, than further dissection of the problems;but I expect that most of us have not accepted thiosw reality yet.

I believe in little boys who cry wolf, because there really are wolves out there, figuratively speaking;and it only takes one wolf to do you in, again figuratively speaking.

I don't have any Kruggerands-I can't afford to hoard them, and am not sure that I would ever be able to spend them anyway,if the circumstances arrive where I could spend nothing else.

I do have a substantial amount of ammunition;do I believe my guns will save me and mine?

Maybe-maybe not.But my technical training as an ag guy (most of my courses were in the biological and physical sciences) plus my extensive own studies, lead me to believe that there is a very real possibility that ts will htf before too much longer.

Logic tells me that as a rational being I should never give up an option of any sort for no reason.The odds are the chances of my surviving any mayhem are almost certainly higher as an armed than as an unarmed individual or community member.Therefore I will remain armed.

Maybe I'm a gun clown;but I might also get the last not very funny laugh.

All that is necessary to seperate signal from noise is the intelligence, combined sufficient background information, to know the difference.Here on TOD there are some members who are all noise;I learned long ago to pay little or no attention to thier remarks. Some including all the staff and regular keypost contributors, are all nearly signal, to whom I pay very close attention. Most fall in the middle, and I gain a useful insight or learn some new fact from them occasionally.

All that is necessary to seperate signal from noise is the intelligence, combined sufficient background information, to know the difference.

And the time to sift through it.

Gold is where you find it, someone once said to me. And in that sense, satiation is where you find it on the internet. Just as there are every mental motivation or abberation of thought possible, it can be found on the internet. Does that equate with clowns? Only if you view the sheer plethra of odd and amusing distractions that are possible deriving out of the human psyche as being clownlike. Sure it's easy to pass judgement on humans - odd creatures with odd interests. But what else can one expect from an overachieving ape that can talk?

Average IQ = ~100

Therefore as the number of participants in any meme increases, eventually it has to tend to the discourse level of the average. These are your clowns.

Not only that, the more complex and nuanced the argument, the more difficult it is to grasp, and the lower the percentage that are capable, over time. It's pretty lonely and thankless saying something that's new and others just don't quite get. Better to sing to the choir; its much easier. So the short term memes and highest regarded members end up being those with the least new to say.

It's always been like this, if a group is easy to join eventually it won't be worth joining. Even the coffeehouses of the eighteenth century gave way to the gentlemen's clubs as the higher orders sought to distance themselves from the general rabble - which was a pity considering the way they bought together all strata of society, and kickstarted so many of the organisations that make-up today's world.

The Oil Drum has benefited from many who think and write at the very big scale, but its noticeable that most have now left. That's basically because the reality of peak oil is now so obvious, what is there to discuss? Not much point defining the size of KSAs reserves when its really not going to change the shape of the future much. Realistic discussion of the downslope, and the characteristics of the social system response hasn't really got off the ground here (still to much in the survivalist/pastoral idyll phase), so it ends up with most talking about the BP spill as if it mattered in the grand scheme of things.

The solution? Well communities have to be guided and marshalled. While things can run organically for a while, they tend to run offtrack if there's no guiding hand (see the Teabaggers for an example of that). I'd suggest that requests for targeted articles is about the only way the signal to noise can be improved. After all, journals do such things...

Average IQ = ~100

Therefore as the number of participants in any meme increases, eventually it has to tend to the discourse level of the average. These are your clowns.

There is that angle, but not at all what I intended to write about. I meant clownlike in the increasingly hysterical caricatures that emerge on the internet/media that undergo some perceived status/ego boost that they wouldn't/couldn't have gotten in normal situations. The feedback from the true believers (of whatever tribe they communicate to), then locks these personalities into an utterly confident belief in their own position as an expert, and their actions become considerably (and understandably) clownlike over time. I notice this dynamic in numerous areas of discourse but its particularly prevalent in the the peak oil and finance circles where I have spent alot of time.

(Clearly I didn't write too clearly in the post).

I meant clownlike in the increasingly hysterical caricatures that emerge on the internet/media that undergo some perceived status/ego boost that they wouldn't/couldn't have gotten in normal situations.

If I may, I think what you are saying is that we have our Glenn Becks and fans of the Beck style everywhere, including among those who think peak oil is a serious issue.

I get really annoyed over how volatile people can be on the Internet. My problem is that I can't let things lie, and when someone comes after me in one of those bombastic attacks, I am prone to respond. Not an especially good use of my time, but I don't like to see my positions misrepresented, and those things happen fairly often on the Internet.

An example. My Peak Oil interview was reposted at a site called

What was the 1st commenters response? He accused me of making things up and then went on a Global Warming rant about environmental fraudsters and said he can no longer read TOD.

It is pretty easy to deal with people in person who make comments like that. On the Internet, they hang out there forever, and may end up in influencing a lot of people. That's why I am more prone to respond (as I did in the above example).

I've always thought that people's true character comes out when they are driving a car alone. They think they're anonymous.

I was behind an aquaintence for about thirty miles one day, travelling home from a job. I always thought he was a bit of a bully, very type A, but he was generally a polite, poised bully in person. Watching the way he drove; tailgating, intimidating, blatantly disregarding trafic laws with no consideration for other drivers, confirmed my opinion of him as a bully a'hole. I'll never do business with him. He thinks he's above rules.

Perhaps blogging is a bit like driving a car.

And how did you keep up with him for thirty miles?

It's a Tortoise and Hare thing, here in our mountains ;-)

The analogy to driving a car is good. In both cases you are stuck in a box. One has wheels and the other is a monitor. Both create emotions while you are sitting passive. This creates all kinds of irrational behavior because you are sitting on your energy. Adrenalin can fly but there is no physical response. Those that drive the fastest are the ones who really have no where to go. Those who are loudest clowns have the least to say content wise.

Get out the box as much as possible.

I don't think I got my point across too clearly either...

If you are intelligent and forward thinking, it's likely that you got and get your 'validation' through other means. Maybe you head up a department, have published papers or books, have created something new. You don't feel the need to shout 'here I am' to the world. You are quite likely to feel comfortable holding unpopular views and defending them - even if it is something of a thankless task.

You are likely to have identified and got engaged with peak oil early on. You aren't afraid of unpopular views, remember?

However as a meme grows, it comes to the notice of a much larger number of people, and on average NOT as intelligent or forward thinking. Maybe they are cubical slaves, maybe middle managers. Many probably don't get that much validation in their lives, so they actively seek it out. When they hit a community forum a repeating pattern emerges. They talk loudly and don't really like to question their preconceptions too much. They form a group, vying for validation, and someones emerge naturally. It's these you hear as clowns. They use antics to draw attention, since that's what they crave. Trolls are their alter-egos.

What I was trying to point up is that this isn't an Internet phenomenon. It's been happening for centuries; from Greece and Rome, through coffeehouses, up to and including instances of local 'community' groups like HoA.

Actually their involvement CAN be a good thing. It's symptomatic of greater acceptance of peak oil, and allows the forum to be a melting pot of larger swathes of society. For a start, it will shift the perception of what a valid solution looks like - because what this group will accept is different to the early adopters. However it does need management if the forum is not to degenerate into a clown show. Requiring that you substantiate your position with data and logical argument is one way, as are timeouts for trying any political argument techniques to avoid facts.

Therefore as the number of participants in any meme increases, eventually it has to tend to the discourse level of the average. These are your clowns.

I want to disagree with this. At least concerning assymetric forums, where a few do most of the content broadcasting, and the many passively recieve the content, clowns may come to dominate. But, by and large these are professional clowns, as opposed to amateur clowns. The distinction is that professional clowns know much more than their persona signals. They enjoy being in the spotlight, -either for the ego-trip, or for the money. They are more dangerous than the amateurs, whose clownishness is not a well calcultaed act, because they have the potential to lead large numbers of people down dangerous paths.

I think a good example of such a professional clown is Glen Beck. He knows how to play a particular audience, and does so regularly. Because of the human desire for novelty, and the enjoyment we get when a truly absurb attack is made against our percieved enemies, we've seen these echo chambers rapidly evolving further and further from reality. At first a claim is simply a joke, no-one actually believes it, but it is fun to tell and re-tell. Then it becomes sort of a required bit of conversation, required to show that it's holder belongs to the tribe. Then it starts to sink in as recieved wisdom. Goebbels, a lie told often enough becomes the truth, even if the original intent is slightly less sinister.

Average IQ = ~100

Therefore as the number of participants in any meme increases, eventually it has to tend to the discourse level of the average. These are your clowns.

Actually, for groups of more than 10 the difficulties of communication increase, so a better approximation would be:
IQofGroup = AverageIQ / Log N
where N is the number of participants in the group.

So if the AverageIQ of a Senator is 120 (giving them the benefit of the doubt), then the IQ of the Senate in session is 60. Estimating the IQ of the House is left to the reader.

This explains why all the work gets done in committees, behind closed doors, in cloakrooms with lobbyists, etc, where small groups can actually do something more or less intelligent.

Groups smaller than 10 have highly variable group IQs depending on the intellectual ability, social skills and interpersonal dynamics of the individuals, which is why they must be assembled with care.

Note that juries of 12 will have group IQs tightly clustered around an average of about 100, particularly since during jury selection the judge and lawyers will dismiss prospective jurors having too much or too little intelligence.

Very interesting. This insight is a big help in understanding the behavior of modern mass culture. When the topic at hand requires intelligent discussion, mass media like TV and the internet create virtual groups that are way too big for their own good. On the other hand, when it comes to pure entertainment, the more the merrier. Send in the clowns.

What I notice most is the anger. Even the most beautiful music video will be followed by remarks so full of hate that people have learned not to read or even post the comments. One can watch personality disorders at work with those seeking to embroil others in any heated exchange. The laity of Proselytizing self-perpetuating hierarchical organizations are now everywhere strident. This becomes a steady drumbeat of emptiness in every forum, especially the scientific. I was attracted to TheOilDrum when the mainstream media ignored, the right wing radio stupefied, and the left declared the end of the world relative to the undersea oil gusher. In this forum, an informed discussion was available in rational, rooted in unforgiving reality, engineering terms... nestled amid the publicly strewn wreckage of the human condition. And that is the final fact: the human condition.

I think we're all Bozos on this bus, and none of us really knows where it's going. The only thing we know for sure is that we've never been there before.

Ever since the internet, all the world's a stage, and anyone can be a star.

From an entertainment perspective, the fact that some of us know what we're talking about and others do not is quite irrelevant, because the web is a perfect role-playing environment. The quality of the performance is what matters most, not the content.

If you are one of those seeking rational, civilized discourse and enlightenment on the web, it's there, but the responsibility for filtering out the noise is entirely up to you.

I appreciate the rational core of the 'Oil Drum', but am unsurprised and undismayed by the irrational antics and attitudes that have been drawn to that center like bugs to a incandescent bulb. It's only natural.

Please keep the light on.

The only thing we know for sure is that we've never been there before.

That statement is what keeps us on our steady course to destruction.
We've been there before many times. We have only one problem, everything else is noise.

That one problem is overpopulation. Every civilization crash owes its demise, locally, then continentally and now world wide to that simple fact.
From the time humans settled down to agriculture, farming and building cities the reaction to a growing population has been complexity and everything that that entails.

There is only one problem to solve. Solving other problems which do not address that root cause is just blowing froth. Although I love this blog site, it too most of the time skirts the essential problem of overpopulation.

Just musing out load but maybe Peak Population would be a good name for a blog. Everything discussed under that banner including, peak oil, renewable energy, collapse and complexity could be discussed in reference to what it means in relation to our over-population problem.



Bandits, on the subject of over-population, the question is who should live and who should die, as well as who is to decide. I suspect those most seriously concerned with the issue, generally do not consider themselves as candidates for "who should die". However, if we were to apply Darwin, I suppose the cronically ill, the elderly, the weak, the mentally deficient, etc.(useless eaters), should make a good beginning in order to improve the survival of the species. As I recall, some guy in Germany started such a program about 70 years ago.

What are you going on about?
I am referring to the fact that we should know what our problem is. There have been numerous examples in the past which should have prevented re-occurrances. The consequences of settling down to live, is our animal nature to breed and pollute, use and permanently reduce resources to further that capacity.

Accepting and understanding the problem is the first step to devising a plan to deal with it.
And no you (dare I say clown) I don't consider myself a "candidate" for what ever you are insinuating. That "guy in Germany" was after lebensraum, what do you think he needed that for?

Stupidly denying and ignoring the problem of over-population will have far, far more dire consequences than anything you can think of which prevents the over-population in the first place. need for a new Hitler firing up the furnaces - every living thing dies sooner or later, after a fairly predictable lifespan. That part is ok, we just need to work on not producing so many replacements. There aren't really any good historical models that come to mind, as we have been on a very long and sustained increase, but it is possible for societies to choose to limit their numbers by not having so many babies.

On the other hand, there are numerous examples of attempts at forcing limits failing pretty badly.

On the other hand, there are numerous examples of attempts at forcing limits failing pretty badly.
War. It does serve the purpose of population control very well and not just by shell and powder. It is more likely in a scare resources situation. War is the 'invisible' hand that controls population. War, disease and famine. Sometimes exposure or natural disaster but that one does not get its own horse.

One thing the internet does is damage our interpersonal skills. The anonymity gives people the equivalent of an immunity shield where they can let their dark side out. That's where the trolls and haters come from. And as a whole generation of people are growing up on the internet, they apply the rules of conduct (or lack thereof) of the internet back in the real world. You see this all over the place, but most alarming in politics, and so the internet has in great measure destroyed the civility of political discourse. And the tail is wagging the dog insofar as conservative political forces exploiting the rage for its own ends. Say what you want about Obama, but Hope & Change at least was a more constructive slogan than the slash-and-burn rage of the Tea Party. The reason the Tea Party is gaining momentum goes beyond the state of the economy. It's because it plays to the general sentiment of the country which is to tear down rather than to build up, the sentiment which is formed by internet culture.

Since war is the continuance of diplomacy by other means, if we're no longer capable of making representative government work, then we will surely proceed towards war.


If you taker a look at both population growth rates and the raw numbers, WW's I and II caused hardly a blip; if anything they were points of acceleration. Look at the Gaza Strip or Afghanistan for other examples of the long-term effects of war and deprivation - they have two of the highest growth rates on the planet.

There is little hope of an end to war against a populace that is illiterate, is average age 16, and has no memory of what peace is.

I offer the following counter. I tired to find the US numbers but did not have much luck. Notice the WWI and WWII dips.


Edit: There is a limit to the birth rate of the undeveloped worlds. Death by war OR deprivation and disease related to war. You do not have to remember anything to die from a bullet, disease or famine.

Admittedly, that is a good counter-example, though the "blip" seems to immediately self-correct and return to the same long-term trend.

Here are the USA numbers, showing the same (smaller) blip and then correction to the pre-existing trend:

The interesting thing to me is the absence of a negative "war effect" on the overall population numbers, particularly as it seems counter-intuitive to the intent of those waging war. Short of thorough genocide (of which there are good examples as well), birthrates tend to compensate or over-compensate for population losses. In another way again: we all die sooner or later, but war seems generally to increase the birthrates. If you are concerned about over-population, war is no solution; education is the solution (if there is one).

What I interpreted was a decrease during hostilities and an increase when losing the war became inevitable. The death losses did not include uniformed war dead. What did the German's lose 10 million? Almost a million with the Stalingrad operations in 42-43. The numbers also exclude Holocaust deaths.

Edit: + uniformed.

edit2: Also what would have happened if the US and even the Soviets did not feed to razed?

The interesting thing to me is the absence of a negative "war effect" on the overall population numbers, particularly as it seems counter-intuitive to the intent of those waging war.

I think that has frequently been the case. In the old days some of it was the raping of subject populations. Generally I think ex-soldiers want a normal life, including kids.

joe that is rubbish. We all die. If you can't see the difference between not breeding and death, what information can you give?

its a amazing how you can go from a comment about "over population" to death panels!!

If every woman had just two children the population of the world would decline in time. I think most people who talk about over population( you clearly are not one of them) think in terms of reducing birth rates not in terms of actually culling human beings. I am trying to say this as respectfully as I can - what does it say about your thinking that you would believe that anybody would even be thinking of culling human beings as an answer to over population?

True dat Bandit.

we're all Bozos on this bus


But just remember, "all" includes you too (and me)

None of us will beat the ultimate joke

Nate, usually I don't tend to agree with your conclusions, ideas, and concepts straight across the board. But I loved this particular article.

Down with cocktail party level internet conversations, clear the amateurs off the decks, and lets ramp up the peer reviewed science across the board, any topic. Count me in.....

Mr Hagens,

If by clowns you mean average Joe who doesnt give a stuff about Peak oil, or perhaps even someone who has a vague idea but has just started on their personal journey in resource depletion and can only see catatstrophe rather than decline? We need to have patience with them: No-one knows the future: we only know the past. The past has examples of both collapse and gradual decline. Rapid collapse seems most unlikely to me but it is still possible, and thus worth discussing as a risk. Even the more rosy scenarios are pretty scary if one wants a comfortable retirement.

Lets take a look at what the uneducated, non-aware clowns do?
They grow my food, they fix my car, they teach my kids, and they run my hospital. They keep society, and my life running against the odds. So if the clowns annoy you when they first cotton-on to the problems, cut them some slack... We need them on our side if we are to change our oil dependence successfully.

If they never participate, how will they ever stop being clowns?

And sometimes those uneducated are not un-aware. They may not understand the specifics but they are often more aware that things are falling apart than the better educated who after applying their education to their field of study and making good money, spend it on big houses that will be totally inappropriate in the years to come (unless they are willing to share space). The better educated have an often clownish belief in technology as the great savior of mankind. My recent issue of Discover where various scientists look to the future would have been hilarious if not so sad. Each wrapped in their specialty they cannot see the whole.

clowns mean average Joe


Look in the mirror

I think this is the droid you are looking for

the internet has this issue covered

What I really meant to convey ...


that we (meaning ME) are all clowns

we are all "sheeple"

we are all Average Joe

and we each "feel" we are "The ONe", the special Neo

The "Clown in the Mirror" hits a sensitive nerve.

What you see if you face the reality is not what you always imagined you would see.

Stated in other words,

Mr Welsh Wizard (up thread) assumes there is an "us" (wise TOD readers) and a "them" (the CLOWNs)

He does at least acknowledge that the "clowns" include:
1) our Doctor (health provider)
2) our college Professor (education provider)
3) our Food supply workers (farmers, truckers, etc.)
4) our other infrastructure support workers

My point is that "we" are "them".

Reading TOD doesn't make us special, doesn't make us immune,
...doesn't make us any different.

I think the correct response you were looking for was

dont worry the kids have it all in hand and are busy cataloging every variety of USI there is.

some sort decaying fractal of cyclical bullshit will in most circumstances now ensue.

there is a remarkably sophisticated culture of expressing all of these clownish or otherwise behaviors into well identified sub categories of mirth and the issue Nate talks about is in fact old news to most of the population under the age of 20

I am impressed about how quite complex ideas have been reduced to image macros

there is the old expression

"he who knows that he knows not is teachable- teach him,
he who knows not that he knows not is a fool shun him,"

I don't think that being an average Joe equates to being a clown and I certainly didn't read Nate's comments to suggest that. I think he was talking about people who don't know what they are talking about but assert that they do. You can have an IQ of 160 be a very successful person or be an average Joe and display that behavior.

Put another way- just because you have a million frequent flyer miles doesn't qualify you to sit in the left hand seat.

I see TOD and Fishfolk, my other list serve, as good places to brainstorm ideas. Isn't this valid? When you introduce the Clown character, aren't you really just saying "I'm a snob?" Do the snobs, the correct and snippy snobs; have the lock on all the good and bad ideas? If so let's grade thee Wizards. We can use a 1-10 system of points. Are the snobs the kings of the ideas? Breaking new ground with an idea is hard because of the snobs, and because of the clowns. Lots of entertainment value is had by list serves, and the primary mission of the list serve or blog is, I think should be, to further the readerships growth. Small doses of snipping and entertainment are OK. Nasty, emotional, irrational, vindictive, ad homonyms are antithetical. What ever that means. Don't kick my teeth out. I think TOD is mostly snobs, pseudo intellectuals, like me, who know a lot but just can't think of it. If a good idea comes along, and often they do, and often good links come to me, then it is only up to individuals to push an idea. I don't really think the system of cloaking identities is too productive, which is why my handle is me, Steven J. Scannell the inventor of a few good complex systems, Such as the Clean Voting System, The Tripe System, The Market Quota System, The New Market rrr System, and some others. TOD people would walk right over a good idea, knot knowing what it was. I'm sure it happens every day. Steven J. Scannell

When lists get to know each other, the claws come out and people scatter. It's like being married but with out the benefits. Familiarity breeds contempt. TOD is a collection of neurotics, same as any other older list serves. I tell you. What a bunch of CLOWNS. Hidden paid agendas tend to irk me, on a list. I'm a welfare bum.


Sounds like Nate and Yeats are in the same mood:

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity”

Like Old Farmer Mac, maybe I'm a gun clown, too, for pretty much the same reasons. I'm more of a precision shooter, working towards passing ten rounds through one hole. Not ever easy, but it's even harder when the gal to my left at the range with a 30 cal. on full auto is spewing hot casings in my face and somewhere down the line a guy with an eagle T-shirt is yelling, "Obama is a Kenyan! Obama is Muslim!".

There are clowns everywhere, some with guns, some with keyboards. You can talk with some of them, some are only part time clowns, and some you just have to suffer. Over on the spill thread I've been honing my skills at turning them or shutting them down, not so much because they irk me, but because they drive good minds away from the site. I'm new to blogs, so I don't know if Nate is right about it getting worse, but I'll trust his experience. I do have a real world friend who has a lot of deepwater drilling wisdom to share, but he's disgusted by all the bs on the BP thread and only rarely comments, and that's a loss to all of us.

It's one thing to recognize that we are all apes, genetically social, given to passivity in the face of challenge. But it's a whole other thing to be smart enough to see that, smart enough to understand the problems it leads to, and then still remain passive. Whether it's fools threatening Second Amendment solutions to political problems, or trolls insulting anyone with a brain, these are bullies. And the only way to deal with bullies is to resist. Suffer and resist, if we flee the debate it will only get worse.

Here is your clown.
I think this more represents where you are going with your thought and I am pleased to serve as an example and agree. As others have pointed out above me, maybe this is the real discussion. When Joe Sixpack can buy off on the 'peak oil' issues and best long term practices, then this place might make a bigger difference. I think it has already made a positive difference in myself in the short time I have been here. Thanks TOD and its contributors.

Surfing the net for relevant and acurate information is a skill that needs ongoing improvement like any learning process if you want to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff.

"Blind faith in certain outcomes, particularly those involving Kruggerands and ammunition, certain dieoff, and $300 oil, can become both self-fulfilling, and counterproductive to society."

Sure, faith in an outcome, especially along the lines of "Krishna told me 6 billion people need to die while I was meditating" as an indicator of cetain die-off is a waste of my time to read. If on the otherhand someone presents a logical argument backed up by empirical facts and figures that a die-off is certain because we know all dynamic systems are subject to the laws of thermodynamics and require certain amounts of energy and material throughputs to maintain stability, and I am able to check and double check these facts with consistent results, well thats another story.

“Morel Foraging Society” or “Nudists for Nader 2012”

Thats a couple of interesting groups you read Nate although I never thought mycology was your thing!

Nothing wrong with a clown as long as he makes you laugh.

Well , you made me laugh (in a positive way) .

Are not clowns a reflection of what 'is' ?

The internet is in fact a magnifier of all facets of existence ,

it does not fundamentally change human nature or the mind ,

it is a new tool to master

you feel a loss of control ,

but you need to adjust to the new show

1. Clowns
I guess we may as well talk about clowns as anything else while we pass the time.

Vladimir and Estragon were ultimately clowns, making the most of the human condition while they waited for Godot. Monty Python's Meaning of Life pointed out quite correctly that the last laugh is on us and its our duty to face the audience with a grin. But I assume that's not the sort of clowning Nate is referring to.

Garyp hit the nail on the head for me when he posted about IQ. Reading Nat's post reminded me of The Bell Curve. 90% of the people interested in TOD issues would gave to be somewhere along the right hand side of that curve, so it's absolutely no use at all to rail against clowns, trolls, or the desperately ignorant because mostly they can't help it.

2. Democracy
As for voting and expecting that to make a difference Churchill got it right when he said The biggest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter.

In addition we all well know that politicians have to pander to a) the lowest common denominator voter, and b) to the myriad pressure groups, business lobbies and fundraisers, and c) that the polarised and totally adversarial party political system will never allow a rational consensus.

3. Orwell v's Huxley
They both got it right; Orwell's competing nation-states are not far away from today's reality and when the panic starts the bulk of voters are going to install whichever of the Big Brother political leaders convinces them he has the power to save them. And the US and Russian major cultural export - pornography - is a delightful combination of Huxley's sex-hormone chewing gum and orgy-porgy.

4. Population
Anyone who's read Dawkins The Selfish Gene would understand implicitly that humankind is destined to keep procreating. "Save the children" works right up until the edge of doom let alone down some benignly slippery "oil slope".

5. It's The Economy, Stupid.
Once you strip away all the talk and fine points of "peak anything" it seems we are left with one certainty:   the numeric difference between "positive growth" and "negative growth" in a national economy is often only in the order of a few percent while the functional difference is prosperity v's terminal decline.

It therefore inevitably follows that as the increasing cost of energy from all sources passes the point where efficiencies and substitutions cannot keep growth positive, we are economically stuffed. A tipping point (either actual or perceived) will occur *somewhere* and the first big domino will slowly tilt and fall against the next one.

Once the dominoic progression begins it's hard to see that there will be any stopping it until all the debt goes away. And the tipping point of financial panic seems pretty close.

6. I can't get Shakespear's rather prescient line out of my head:

Even in the eyes of all posterity, that wear this world out to the ending doom.

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
    So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
    You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes

PS. Apologies for the self-indulgent fun!

Clowns to the left of me, and clowns to the right;and here I am, stuck in the middle with you.(Clowns and more clowns, we are ALL part of the gigantic circus.)

Only a few of us are smart enough to realize that even our pompous titles and academic gowns are not only clown costumes-but often the VERY BEST COSTUMES.

Perhaps we should all come to some agreement as to whom or what we are referring to when we use the term 'clown'. Somehow I suspect this wasn't exactly the definition that Nate meant:

A professional clown not only makes people laugh. He is a true performer with many talents.

Professional clowns are truly one-of-a-kind characters. As an artist and performer, a clown is someone who makes people laugh, smile, and feel entertained. Whether the clown acts silly or foolish, or whether he performs magic or balloon artistry, a professional clown is someone whose main goal is to make people happy.

So a clown is first and foremost a professional anti doom and gloomer. However this doesn't mean that the clowns themselves are not serious or even deeply melancholy.

"Picasso identified most closely with the clowns, those performers who masked their true selves with costumes and makeup. In fact, Picasso portrayed himself as the harlequin in a diamond-patterned costume in Family of Saltimbanques. The jester and the acrobats are lost in their own thoughts and glance toward the woman, who sits alone, while the harlequin reaches out to the child behind his back. In his deft representations of the various figures, Picasso manages to portray not only the lifestyle of the real saltimbanques but also the apparent melancholy mood of his friends and the collective alienation of this group."

The mammalian brain dominates our behavior. We can easily allay our anxiety by believing the next hierarchical adjustment (election) will somehow address our problems. We can declare a war on drugs, a war on poverty, a war on cancer, a war on sex, a war on bacteria, a war on loose morality, a war on atheism, and somehow that will ensure our futures. But all of these wars will be lost as their natural funding is extinguished.

Traversing the divide between what our mammal minds desire and what we must do to support a perpetual technological society may be impossible. The perpetual technological (biomolecular) arrangements and systems of control found in ecosystems may be impossible to reproduce at the human scale. We are already uncomfortable with our mechanistic lives that can only become more controlled as our evolution proceeds.

Eventually I think one experiences diminishing returns on the internet as each additional hour of reading and searching turns up less and less new material. Maybe we should give up on our reality-modeling passions and join the clowns, they cater to the ubiquitous and dominant mammalian brain and make more money doing it.

Midway through this post I am forced to acknowledge the possibility that “I” am the clown.

Ultimately, we must each reflect on our own contributions and the signal to noise ratio we either reduce or raise.

I have found all the contributions which you penned yourself to be ones of clarity, insight, and relevant fact that add immensely not only to our information base but to our far too infrequent cultural introspection as well. Keep up the good work.

Hmmm, the belief that our government might assassinate or assist in assassinating foreign leaders would be so clownish. The belief that our government might experiment with LSD on uniformed people would be so clownish. If not for the Frank Church investigation. The belief that we would sell guns to Iran in order to support (illegally) the Contras in Nicaragua would be so clownish until of course it was found out that we did. Watergate is clownish all around, but true as we know.

Funny how clownish conspiracy theories in fact sometimes turn into the truth. It is understandable then that there is a great distrust about our government and lacking facts people make guesses just as lacking facts about what is stirring in the bushes the hunter-gatherer makes a guess it might be a lion and runs. Sometimes they are wrong, and sometimes even the craziest of theories turns out to be true. It is hard to believe that Nixon endangered his presidency with a clumsy coverup but he did.

Given the behavior of corporations to conspire to fix prices (which is why we have laws to make that illegal) is it any wonder that some think Peak Oil a conspiracy by the oil companies.

The problem in part is not the clowns, but the dishonesty in a large society where the ones who lead us and the ones who run corporations are making backroom deals. Be hard Nate on the deceivers first, the ones who are so corrupt that they evoke distrust and cover their deeds so well that people are left with letting their imaginations run wild.

Well at least one deed of the US that was rumored to be true but hidden has now come to light. Would the US ever target one of their own citizens for assassination without trial? Surely not. Anyone who thinks Bush would do that has to be a clown (and right). Of course now it is announced policy by the Democrat who promised change. Perhaps that is what we should fear. When the government and corporations no longer feel a need to hide things, when we can finally see what they do because of they feel they are immune, some of the "clowns" will be proven right, but more importantly we should shake in our boots. As long as they were hiding we knew they had some fear of the truth being told. Its enough to turn one into a doomer.

You're a clown. You know why? Because it's evident in your post above that you have conceived an attractive but simple "explanation" for the root of all evil: TPTB. Sometimes Nate can be a little too wordy, but he's much closer to getting a handle on the true root of our problems, which is in our heads. The political or corporate elite are not a separate species. They are not congenitally "evil". They are just as much a part of who we are as you or me. As such, directing our anger towards them will only ever address symptoms.

So when it comes to the Huxley vs. Orwell debate, consult "Animal Farm".

I was discussing one facet of humanity. I do not consider TPTB to be the whole problem, I was just addressing their activities that are known. I consider in fact that humans evolved to live as hunter gatherers and are not well programmed to react correctly to the events they encounter in industrial civilization (you did note the lion in the bushes reference). Whether these programs are good or bad by moral standards is irrelevant. Whether they work or not is. They worked for hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousand of years. They appear to be not working so well for humans (clear if you understand global warming, not so clear if you think global warming is a plot by TPTB to make one world gov't. That conspiracy theory is IMO pure bunk).

However at least one author has proposed that by selection the elite may be becoming more and more clever sociopaths. They do practice some level of selection in their breeding by marrying within class. Sometimes with unfortunate outcomes as with the hemophilia in certain royals in Europe. Whether they are more "evil" than common citizens or not is debatable, but the fact that they have more power to do harm I think is hardly debatable. Their plots and ploys therefore are of more consequences to the rest of us than the plots and ploys in an ordinary family.

My own Nasty DOG theory: D.O.G. = Delusions Of Grandeur. People who get into leadership positions in government, are often pushed in by people with hidden private agendas. This is now the rule, and not the exception. For every major corruption case in high government, there are a thousand more in small government. Because many of the leaders in government are pushed people, who got where they are, by being pushed into power, to be used as dupes, our governments are substantially corrupt. For every one good upstanding leader in the US Congress, there are probably two Nasty DOGs. The private agenda people share their dupes, for an economy of scale. The dupes consider that they are great Americans, because they are told this by their handlers. But they are clowns. Ken "Kenny Boy" Lay and George W. Bush were such partners, and the Enron "free market based" crimes committed are still milking America. It's how we are. It's how America is.

I don't like thugs in government. They stop the pure cream of leadership from rising to the top. I have been jailed by the Massachusetts State Police more times than I can count, over a political issue where I didn't get a trial, because the case was nul prosed. My CORI sheet is five and a half pages long. They did the same thing to Dr. Kevorkian. It is basically an infringement of the rights of petition, and an obstruction of justice by authorities. This is due to a political fight, over an environmental issue that goes back to 1692 when Nantucket was a part of New York. Finally the State of Massachusetts played the psyche card against a legitimate political activist, me, and I almost did not make it out of the mental institution alive. This while people watched like the Germans of WWII. I can prove what I say only by getting a DNA test done, and I have a petition at thepetitionsite under Steven J. Scannell asking for this exoneration. The last time I asked for a dna test in court, I was thrown in jail for 4 months. Meanwhile for the past ten years of being a mental patient in a day program, I work on what matters, which is our systems, fisheries, aquaculture, voting, recycling, energy, and I have a body of work to prove it. And I'm tired of the relentless government nasty dogs, who's poop doesn't stink. And more tired of the patriotic suckers who suck up to them. Americans are full of pride. Americans are too full of pride to do a good job at their citizenship duties. Hence, we're broke as a joke in more ways than one.

For every known major government corruption case, There's a thousand more little messes.

Steven J. Scannell With such a corrupt government, aren't we seen as clowns: by the rest of the up and coming world? I'm the welfare bum, with 1. Delusions of Grandeur 2. Delusions of a Jealous nature. 3. Homicidal 4. Hypo-manic 5. Bi-Polar Disorder 6. Scitzo-Affective Disorder 7. Psychosis 8. Paranoid Schizophrenia OR: The Government IS Corrupt as HELL. Let's let the DNA speak the truth.

Clowns are as clowns do.

And I would prefer to be a clown. Because the problem has never been peak oil, climate change, or overpopulation. It's always been the sense of loss, the same sense of loss that accompanies death. Which happens to everyone no matter what, so the problem isn't even death, it's what to do with life in the meantime.

The meantime is perhaps better spent enjoying my limited existence's place in history. The time and effort I don't spend addressing complex social problems, well that's energy I can better spend amusing myself. It's also a good method of energy conservation, and conservation is important in this economy.


Q: What did one doomer say to the other doomer?
A: OMG! We're all gonna f***ing die!
Q: Wasn't that always the case?


How many doomers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
11 to suggest websites that offer ecologically responsible energy products.
7 to argue about compact fluorescents vs. LEDs.
5 to warn about mercury in compact flourescents.
3 to remind us that we all used to wake and sleep with the rising and setting of the sun.
2 Olduvai theorists who shout "we're not going to have any electricity!"
1 to actually change the bulb while everyone else argues in the dark.

How many intellectuals does it takes to change a light bulb?
1, He just holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.

Clowns on the internet are no worse than the clowns in old media. I no longer listen to radio or watch television. Life is too short to have someone else program my media. I decide.

I choose the medium, the internet. I choose the content, some of which I make myself like this comment.

This is a new media world and it sounds like Nate is having a little problem adjusting.

Unlike radio, television and the print media which are pre programmed, the internet is self programmed. If there are clowns on discussion forums, and there are, ignore them or go to a different website.

There are millions to choose from, unlike the old media, or create your own website and edit out the clowns so that you can revel in your own ego.

The various old media are as full of clowns and stupidity as the internet. That is why I no longer bother with them. Before the printing press and writing, there was word of mouth and stories passed down though the ages.

What did that give us? Religion. Perhaps it was an improvement over barbarism, but not much.

The internet is a big improvement over the old media, but it requires creativity.

I like You Tube. Thousands of the best performances by the best artists in the world that can be put on a list and played over and over again while surfing the net. But it takes a little effort to find them.

And I like the weather sites, instant information on what is happening weather wise with no waiting for it like on radio and television.

Market news is the same, perhaps delayed a few minutes. And charts of the action are instantly available, not secondhand analysis by some moron giving a supposed reason for the day's action.

Other news can be had from around the world without editing by the American MSM. But you have to know about the BBC, RT and other international news sources.

And you can virtually travel the world on You Tube but you have to find the videos. It takes a little effort.

The internet is not all about forums and the clowns that inhibit them. True they are part of it.

But the same was true for the old media and before that the word of mouth passed down through the generations. The clowns dominated that too. So what else is new.

People have to decide whether to accept what they are told or search for truth and personal satisfaction on their own. No one else can do it for them since each of us is different.

"People have to decide whether to accept what they are told or search for truth and personal satisfaction on their own. No one else can do it for them since each of us is different."

But they don't realize how little on the internet is actually verifiable, or the procedure to use to separate the wheat from the chaff. People on the internet are doing the equivalent of listening to Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast and they don't even know it. Everything seems so official when it's in written form with a "newsy" layout. Opinion, propaganda, and tinfoil is passed off as journalism because people are fooled by the style of presentation.

The internet is a myth-factory. Just go to snopes and see for yourself. For instance, I can't tell you how often this image has popped up.

That's how you wind up with things like this:

Once you make a video it ups the truthiness scale to the next level.

People have completely lost their ability to discern truth.

I noticed that you responded to X with his comment "People have to decide whether to accept what they are told or search for truth and personal satisfaction on their own. No one else can do it for them since each of us is different."

Most people who follow TOD know the regulars on this site. This is related to Dunbar's Number which I mentioned elsewhere in this thread. It's not hard to keep track of 150 or so people in your head.

So we all know that X has kept up his pro-Ethanol crusade in the face of all evidence. He seems to not listen to any arguments about EROEI, always invoking some apples and oranges argument about it violating some rules about comparing energy sources. He has apparently decided to search for truth on his own terms and doesn't depend on anyone else. That is what he is saying with his quote.

But should we consider X totally misguided? Or is he a devil's advocate, useful to keep our arguments sharp and to the point?

This is not Photoshop trickery we are engaged in but pretty refined technical discussions.

So we all know that X has kept up his pro-Ethanol crusade in the face of all evidence.

X did self identify last week (or the week before) as a corn farmer.

Not a farmer. Not a guy who, by government power, is able to engage in an extractive industry of taking topsoil and via a photon powered biological process convert that topsoil into a product....but a farmer of corn.

His identity is the creation of corn.

Is anyone therefore shocked that he has a corn consumption bias?

Before the printing press and writing, there was word of mouth and stories passed down though the ages. --What did that give us? Religion.

And amazingly, in the enlightened age of the Internet,
nobody knows religion any more:

The exception being the boys of the C-Street Prayboy Mansion --read Mother Jones article here

dangerous ground thou..

you have to get the right clowns into the view at the right time of those you wish to decoy. People are pretty self selecting in the domains they construct for themselves online.

assembling the "effect" is probably a bit trickier to stage manage than just flooding the interwebs with clowns.

meanwhile in the real world.


TOD was somewhere that had a good signal to noise ratio

since the spill that era has well and truly gone and I think was in decline since 2007/2008 price spikes fest

remember all those predict-a-price polls?

fun fun fun

Nate - Just one small observation as to how some portions of our society views “clowns”. Last weekend took my daughter to see an animated movie “Alpha and Omega”. About two wolf packs. The Alpha wolves were depicted as you might expect: leaders. The Omegas were constantly portrayed as the clowns: always playing and doing silly things. But not worthless silliness: they were also the peacemakers and relievers of tension. They were the ones who also brought fun and true love to reality (Alphas never mated with Omegas…they followed tradition…not love). In the end it was the Omega male who prevented a fight to the death between the two packs as they were about to battle over a dwindling resource (peak caribou…I kid you not).

Granted I wouldn’t consider Hollywood to be a good cross section of our culture but it does have a history of following trends. Perhaps the writers picked up on a trend in society that you’ve highlighted. Some on TOD are always dead pan serious. Others are just nothing but clowns (intentional or otherwise). Some, like me, prefer to lighten a serious tone with a bit of humor (sometimes dark) from time to time.

But from a personal standpoint any increase in clownlyness doesn’t bother me much. It might burn up some bandwidth but I seldom waste time with the pointless clowns. The library is full of the writings of folks who would fall into this category IMHO. I don’t check their books out so why would I spend time reading the equivalent online. That’s why they made scroll wheels.

Good on you, Rock.

I had to sleep on this one. Is there a difference between a clown and a clown who knows it? Someone above posted that "We are all Bozos on this bus". Perhaps Nate just can't admit it. He may be a "Super Clown", in denial of his innately human silliness, but he's still one of us. Frustrating, isn't it?

"Midway through this post I am forced to acknowledge the possibility that “I” am the clown."

You go, Nate! You're halfway there.


The more one knows, the more one needs laughter.

"The more one knows, the more one needs laughter."

That's why I read Dmitry Orlov - he teaches and makes me laugh at the same time.

Good post, Rockman.

I have also been thinking about 'court jesters' as I read this thread. Today, we've got Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert as pretty active 'clowns' who are pointing to the Emperors fine duds. Are they worthless? Is it NOISE as a subcarrier for its own SIGNAL? How do you tell truths that will invariably make people really uncomfortable, unless you do it through comedy and satire?

The noise that really kills the TOD threads is mean, self-righteous putdowns. I don't think those people are working as clowns, I think they're playing out their emotional distress in an environment that doesn't usually hold them accountable for it. (and so doesn't help them recover from it)

EDIT: (But maybe that's what Nate meant when referring to clowns. I didn't find a really clear indication of who he's really pointing towards. Is it just smartasses, is it knuckleheads? It's kind of subjective, and brings to mind that classic by Carlin..

"Ever notice how anyone going slower than you on the highway is an IDIOT, and anyone going faster than you is a MANIAC?" - Are they both tallied as 'Clowns' in this context?

Many a truth is told in jest...

I have also been [recently] thinking about 'court jesters' ... Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert ...

Ditto here.

Our modern infotainment systems are flooded with clowns and jesters:

Glen Beck
Sarah Palin
GW Bush
Tea Party goers
Rush Limbaugh

I'm wondering if the Roman Empire in its collapse phase was also inundated with clowns and jesters?

They serve as a useful distraction.

Don't look behind the Wizard's curtain folks. There is much grander entertainment in the main tent!

You're sidestepping my point, though.

There are those who are using comedy who actually have a point to make. You're using the idea of a 'Clown' just in the derogatory vernacular, for those you consider a waste of time.

What about when it's making points that are worth making?

.. and if you're saying that Stewart and Colbert are also merely distractions, then I guess we would disagree there.

Doesn't mean I think they'll fix it all with the Comic equivalent of Antibiotics, either.. but I do think they're actually saying something, and just the fact that people find it funny doesn't mean all those people have been lulled into false security by a little release of laughter.

"Blind faith in certain outcomes, particularly those involving Kruggerands and ammunition, certain dieoff, and $300 oil, can become both self-fulfilling, and counterproductive to society."

Blind faith in $300 oil certainly isn't self fulfilling. The more companies think oil will be worth in the future the more they will be willing to invest in drilling for more of it and producing substitutes. You could in fact say that blind faith in $300 oil is more likely to be self-defeating (although it would be a good thing.)

jm -- I can offer first hand testimony to support your assertion. After the embargo/boom time of the 70’s virtually every company/investor had absolute blind faith in a continuous upward spiral of oil prices. In the early 80’s the domestic rig count was over 4,600. I promise you: at least half those rigs were drilling wells that had very little chance of success. The lack of anything close to a proportional increase in production proves this point. The insane assumption of rising prices combined with the actual 70% drop in prices by 1986 devastated the oil industry: thousand of companies, along with 100’s of thousands of jobs disappeared.

Perhaps some of the younger generations in the oil patch don’t share that memory but they’ve had their own mini-busts. Add that to the busts many NG players in the shale gas plays experienced when prices collapsed and I doubt we’ll see such blind faith develop to any great degree regardless of price jumps in the near future. Even when oil hit $148/bbl most companies were just using $70 - $80 in their economic analysis. Funny how that turned out right. Today my company runs at $60/bbl. But then we’ve got enough capital/cash flow to be so optimistic.

The battle of the memes.

If I appear as a clown, perhaps it is because I bring a different perspective to the table.
If I am a clown, then I am a grim one.
I have experienced the collapse of civilisation. I have seen a famine, and read about others.
To deny famine is to deny reality.

I met a man at the bus stop today. His existence is meaningless. He tries to hide this fact from himself by collecting useless bits of information.

My existence is not meaningless.

Esperance is a beautiful, clean little town on a pristine ocean. Walking home tonight I saw rubbish dropped indifferently. I concluded that although some of my fellow apes look like me they are not my equal.
They are the Untermenschen. They are still capable of suffering, even if they do not understand. I will lower my expectations.

Those of us who have the power to accurately describe our predicament must act. To know and not to act is infantile.
What are you doing to further the cause of Civilisation?

Clowns have always served to remind the rest of us not to take ourselves, or life, seriously. Clowns, fools, trickster gods, satirists, scoffers, flea bitten prophets and those who pretend to be better than their betters are just pointing out this one painful fact: The meaning of life is that there is no meaning in life. Kings are just clowns with acceptable costumes, news is narrative and the gods are a clever fiction we invent because the truth burns. In other words, be careful what you wish for. You may prefer a clown filled world, instead.

If Apple invented a new digital device that required the wearing of a propeller beanie, propeller beanies would suddenly become all the rage.

Clowns are OK as long as you remember that they’re just clowns.



If Apple invented a new digital device that required the wearing of a propeller beanie, propeller beanies would suddenly become all the rage.

If someone came out with a propeller beanie that improved reception on cell phones so texting would work even faster and better, then most young people would be wearing a propeller beanie.
Tempting to find one and wear it to the mall and give that as a reason for wearing it to some of those texting youth. See how many of them would run out and buy a propeller beanie?

Dude, a tin foil color propeller beanie that improves reception and increases battery life. A Bill Gates starting Microsoft worthy idea, IMHO.

nice post and thanks

"Our brains only have so many cc's of grey matter, and so many neurons/synapses etc. Evolutionary psychologists state that we are able to handle about 150 relationships effectively at one time, before quality deteriorates or someone on front end gets bumped off (Dunbar's Number)."

In addition to grey matter....add time! That is why I have dropped off on reading TOD, although I am thankful it exists and exists with some of the more regular responders. Some are strident, but it is easy to scroll down. Thanks OFM, Ghung, Todd, PI and a few others for thoughtful [posts, including Nate. Clowns you ain't.

Back to my bread making and have great Sunday.


Nate you and others are way over thinking this. I think what most blogs have demonstrated is that self regulation doesn't work any better on the internet than it does in commerce. You do need a strong moderator/editor to make things work. May I suggest that the TOD should have one thread where all the comments that the editors have elected to delete are housed. People can check whether the comments deleted are in fact "clownish" or whether they reflect the bias the of the editors. That way the readers can decide whether they want to spend their time with a balanced blog or one which serves to reinforce their existing beliefs.

I think what it also demonstrates that ultimately we will have to move to a subscription model because somebody will need to get paid to do the editing. People have a choice either pay somebody to do the screening or spend a lot of time going through "clownish posts". It seems to me that there is a lot of natural selection at work. Those with the least value for their time will populate blogs where there is no screening and as a generic statement those who have little value for their time probably don't have a lot to say that is of any value.

Well said. Both paragraphs.

(and overthinking is part of my nature/curse. I might try underthinking next time, to see whats its like...)

"somebody will need to get paid to do the editing. "

Who selects/pays the editor censor? Isn't this what the MSM does? Slippery slope. Very slippery!

Clowns are the price of free and open exchange of ideas. Can't have it both ways.

The problem with the MSM is that you don't get to see to what has been censored. So there is really no way for somebody to make a determination of the bias of the editor. If you had read my comment carefully you would have noted that I advocated for all deleted comments to be put into a separate thread. Then if you wanted to wade through the comments that the editors deleted you would have that choice. You would be able to make the determination whether you agreed with the editing or not. If you disagreed you would have two choices- walk away or spend your time wading through the stuff that been edited out for nugget of insight.

Kind of like burying stories on page B5 :-/

I ask again, who does the burying? Who decides? Who gets heard first, most? Who draws the line between moderation and censorship?

Moderation is censorship, but as with most things it can be beneficial in moderation.

I'd say that there is something of the clown and something of the sage in all of us. I try not to let my inner clown out too often, but I am definitely not perfect there.

The problem with the MSM is that you don't get to see to what has been censored.

No. You don't get to see the stream of information in its raw form.

When you see a bloody human on federal property with 2 news trucks and THEN don't see a report on the 2 news stations - then you "know" there was something censored. When the child of a 50 year old DUI who's having a relationship with a late 30's reporter at the local paper says she killed the normal reporting of the story, one can jump to the conclusion of censorship. (sorry - that one would be hearsay in a court)

So there is really no way for somebody to make a determination of the bias of the editor

You either have to have access to lots of raw data or try to infer via comparison to other sources.

But at the end of the day - say you find an editor with bias. Now what? Are you going to make money off that info? Convince others? How effective has Media MAtters been and getting biased editors gone?

A lot of comments have user-rankings. Here there is just a flagging feature. In my experience, user-rankings are good at burying trolls and bringing useful comments to the forefront.

I sympathise with nate's dispeptic rant, but he goes astray when attacking armchair economists for presuming to have opinions about "fiat currency" and "fractional reserve banking", etc. the problem here is that much of social science is not science, and defering to credentialed, peer-reviewed experts just perpetuates the self-delusional. In particular economics and public policy are emphatically not science in the way that physics and chemistry are. After a lifetime of peerless omnipotence, Alan Greenspan was left muttering to himself after his finely crafted economy blew up. All of his disciples can think of nothing better to do than to try and reinflate whichever bubble was their favorite. Is this not an engraved invitation for thinking people to read, study, discuss, and even pontificate about forbidden topics like "fiat currency" and "fractional reserve banking". Should we have an empire? Should we have universal health care? Should we manage resources wisely? Reading history, current events, and independent thinking are the only ways forward in non-scientific fields. If that involves trying out clownish opinions in a public forum, so be it, let the refuters have their say as well.

the problem with currencies isn't that they are 'fiat' but that they are leveraged.
the problem with banking system isn't 'fractional reserve' but Basel II

I agree the economic system is fraught with problems and that armchair economists have the spirit of the law on their side - but people articulating whats wrong with finance (for most part) get a bit hysterical and depart from some underlying facts. Which isn't helpful IMO.

the problem with banking system isn't 'fractional reserve' but Basel II

Don't worry. We now have Basel III and ol'chopper Ben is on record saying the 'fraction' in 'fractional reserve' will go to 0.

(do you really want me to dig up the go to 0 quote?)

Row, row row your boat life is but a dream....

In deference to Nate, my use of that particular clip is an attempt to convey my postulation that the possibility of our system of money and our whole economy being based in a lie is no more a threat than our entire reality is 'fiat' and 'life is but a dream' anyhow. Maybe when we die, we wake up.
To the point, maybe folks tend to 'ignore' the possibility of the money being not real in order to avoid asking themselves if any of it is real. Is there such pattern of thinking observed in your world of puzzle factories and study of the human mind, the ultimate known 'fiat'?

Nate, don't despair. Some of the clowns are repenting and becoming intellectuals. One of them has written a piece "Common clowns can muck things up, but it takes an expert clown or so to take us over the edge". I have not read that one, but I really like the archeology white paper by Todd Palin concerning the ancient origin of Bud Lite.

I do think that a word of caution is in order for a myth of a clown-free golden age. I've read up on American political history, and today's "birthers" are, sadly, par for the course. Critics accused George Washington of conspiring to sell the United States back to England, John Quincy Adams of giving a virgin to the Russian czar, and Warren Harding of fathering an illegitimate child with Mrs. Harding poisoning her husband to protect him from the scandal. We've had all manners of snake oil salesman, periodic outbreaks of millennialism, witch trials, and every form of political agitation conceivable. Some periods seem to be worse than others, but today's problems are hardly without precedent.

What people say today about the democratization wrought by the Internet has parallels to the democratization of American society in the period after Andrew Jackson, when property requirements for voting were generally dropped. Political control fell away from the semi-aristocratic federalist class and to those who supporters called men of the people and who critics called demagogues.

In the past, and I'm not sure exactly how far into the past you have to reach, American media was dominated by a relatively small and coherent media class. It was an era when the clowns were on the run. But the drawbacks are readily apparent too. There were topics that the networks chose not to discuss and about which it was very difficult to find the truth. There was propaganda which people accepted as fact, including the growth of the consumer culture.

Where would we be, after all, without Mark Twain or Will Rodgers?

Some of the best clowns we ever had!

('The world would not be in such a snarl,
If Marx were born Groucho instead of Karl')

..some Pinko Progressive I've turned out to be!

I very much regret the occasion and tone of this post. It reminds me of a garden party I attended that was hosted by a senior NASA manager. He was drunk with joy and more than a few stiff drinks. They had $3 billion to spend on a pointless "mission" that made him giggle and brag about it. His victory consisted of scalping Joe and Jane Six Pack, the voiceless slobs of Iowa and Ohio and Oklahoma whose lives and fortunes were being skinned ever so gently to provide a catered garden party in leafy La Canada.

Now multiply that cannibal by 75 million government employees and contractors. Small wonder Joe and Jane are pissed off and prone to conspiracy theories. Their drinking buddies came home from Iraq with incurable head injuries and hair trigger rage. Wages and hours were cut for those lucky enough to have some blue collar work. They experience a sort of dumfounded sticker shock at the supermarket. The bank won't talk to them, except to threaten foreclosure again. They shop at Goodwill for kids shoes and T-shirts. The school district sends their children home with little Care packages of peanut butter, surplus cheese, and canned pig noses labeled Lunch Meat. If it weren't for Food Stamps, they'd starve. Half of these clods need free health care, especially the elderly.

Slightly less than 90% of them graduated high school. About 25% earned a college degree. They are predominantly white, patriotic, Christian, legal gun owners, and appalled at what happened to American cities, popular music, public schools, filmed entertainment, family life and morality.

They are not clowns. Occasionally, you'll see them post an angry comment to a local newspaper site, or one of the mass market meat grinders like Huffington, TPM, Human Events, and Yahoo. What they know about peak oil or finance you could stuff in a half dozen alarmist AP squibs.

Your real beef is with me and others like me. How dare we intrude at TOD?

It wasn't by choice, but rather default. Drillers Club and gCaptain had the best information about Macondo for a while. Then everyone gravitated here. I ignored the regulars and paid close attention to Rockman, snakehead, BigNerd, jinn, Dimitry, rovman, Unconformity and MoonofA, among others. We kept a 24-hour international watch on the ROV feeds and parsed visual evidence as best we could. Some did it better than others. Everyone benefited from the headscratching about flows, caps, craws, saws, pore pressures and mud weights.

Clowns? Absolutely. ComfyChair made a virtue of it. The boys went stupid over blue toenails and ice cream. Too many took BP at their word - or lack thereof when Kent Wells vanished.

But your sniffy screed against clowns had nothing to do with Macondo or discussions at TOD. It was aimed at Joe and Jane Six Pack, the "little people" who value liberty and law enforcement without carbon taxes that threaten to kill off US energy production and private employment.

My business is finding oil. What's yours?

We can be happier, healthier and more sustainable by consuming less

I have no beef with you - probably alot we disagree on but no beef. And the 'little people' are not the clowns.

This post wasn't a beef with anyone - just an observation that conversations about many important topics have become clownlike - silly/laughable/theatrical - and those leading the conversations are qualified because they have the microphone...

We can be happier, healthier and more sustainable by consuming less

I don't know where you pulled that from but it easily could have come from one of my prior writing - as its what I believe - but we won't go that route other than a)when we're forced to or b)as individuals one at a time, in order to improve our own lives, not 'the planets'.

Being a tad naive mate thinking anything else would happen

The whole point was to try and raise the profile of the issue wasn't it? The numbers have grown you have to adjust to this reality. Making this post will tame some of it for a while to be sure but not for long.

or you can shut them out and redefine your goals?

Hate to tell you this but the world is not full of loads of serious minded balanced individuals willing to question their own biases waiting for good informative discussion. Even discussions back in the day were in many cases only superficially open and civil.

Who has changed their position because of TOD? Well I am less doomer about the overall picture in the long term I guess (but perhaps more doomer in the short to medium in certain ways).

if you want to effect change you have to get political power even if by getting the ear of the powerful.

you have to stop dicking around

maybe thats where you should take it. Bin the little guys like me and take it straight to the movers and shakers

invite only subscription.

guess you were right when you said no one knows what to do.

They are predominantly white, patriotic, Christian, legal gun owners, and appalled at what happened to American cities, popular music, public schools, filmed entertainment, family life and morality.

OK, maybe you just demonstrated some of what Nate was talking about.

There is nothing wrong with being white, Christian, or a legal gun owner. Not one thing.

But you seem to advertise only people of these affiliations (your tribe) to be the true aggrieved parties in the U.S., almost as if people of other affiliations do not deserve to have grievances or perhaps they are even the cause of many or most of the grievances of your tribe.

Then you go on about music, movies, TV, schools, family life and morality...I might be wrong, but TOD is not a forum to rail about family values/'moral majority' talking points as you appear to be doing in a round-about manner; this list is about 'Energy and out future', not whether people like gay people, rap music, atheists, bad words and nudity in movies, history textbooks which teach evolution and tell how the white man devastated the native Americans, etc.

Also, nice job characterizing all government employees as some tribe of corrupt elite cannibals out to pick your pocket and party like its paint with a might broad brush, bub.

I said it before and I'll say it again; let us all lobby our Congress to cut the Federal Budget across the board...before I said 50%%, or 25%, let's start small and do a 5% across the board cut, for everything except interest payments. I am on board with that. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, DOE, DoD, DoJ, EIEIO.

This includes a cut in my military retirement pay and TriCare benefits (I would pay a commensurately bigger premium). I'm in, but only if everyone else jumps in the pool with me.

Enough with the 'morality' stuff...if you want, you can elect not to watch any movies or TV or listen to any music that offends you...I worked with Mormon folks who subscribed to a special mail-order movie service where they could watch most movies and TV shows that had any and all offensive language, sexuality, etc. edited/dubbed out and away. There are products such as 'Veggie Tales' and so forth to provide kids with tailored fare.

You have your morality; I'll have mine, Barb, Carol, Ted, and Alice will have theirs.

I cannot stand folks grandstanding trying to legislate their morality onto everyone; I am a social issues Libertarian; One thing's for sure, Legislating sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll ain't going to do diddly about our energy future.

I don't think if Christine O'Donnell outlaws sex that we will discover 1 trillion barrels of light sweet crude under U.S. soil, or invent Mr. Fusion as a result...and besides, those things would not solve, and in fact would exacerbate, the Limits-to_growth sources and sinks problems...

But is it easier to grandstand on social wedge issues rather than ponder thorny limits-to-growth issues.

There's no way to calculate how much energy is consumed collectively by people trying to control/fix each other, but I'll wager it's significant. A local church group filled three vans with folks travelling to various anti-gay marriage rallies in the South. Seems a bit "clownish" to me, and certainly selfishly consumptive, though I'm sure they would disagree passionately. They claim to have some sort of "mandate from God". (shakes his head, baffled)

I too am baffled by this type of rude busybody behavior...I don't like nib-noses getting into other peoples' personal social issues business...

...but more importantly, those types of issues do not seem to be the core competency of this site...they seem to be big distractions to the 'Energy and our future' theme...

...there are a scad of other sites to cuss and discuss how one feels about social issues that aren't pretty closely related to energy (and other resources) production and consumption.

They are predominantly white, patriotic, Christian, legal gun owners, and appalled at what happened to American cities, popular music, public schools, filmed entertainment, family life and morality.

Energy and our future? More cops, more ambulances.

I do not contest the factual validity of your map.

Nor have I researched it to confirm its validity.

I do keep up with the news and understand that Chicago has had a rash of violence of late.

OK....decades ago New York City was crime central, then its got a lot better.

At one time Miami was a big-time crime haven.

Same with New Orleans during a certain period.

My point is that 'crime cities' seem to come and go.

Here is a crime trends site:

Seems like 2006 homicide per 100,000 person rate is similar to the year I was born, 1965.

Property crimes/burglary rates in 2006 were similar to ~1970 rates.

NYC and LA trends going in the right direction big time.

I have heard news stories that said since the great recession crime rates have not ballooned as some expected given the number of folks who may be in dire straights...I guess most people aren't evil after all.

At one time we had Al Capone and Baby Face Nelson et al driving around with Tommy-guns offing each other, offing cops, feds, and with civilians getting caught in the crossfire...because some very vocal, and very controlling, nib-nosed ninnies convinced Congress to outlaw alcohol.

We have been fighting an idiotic war on drugs' since at least the early 70's...contraband status breed king pins/drug/crime lords by providing huge profit potential, causing a lot of crime.

But the Feds and the States are in on the game...for-profit prisons and their manufacturing (look up FPI, Federal Prison Industries, now UNICOR) are big business. I was ordered to purchase UNICOR office furniture in the military because they were the low-cost vendor...some much for supporting private enterprise and small business. Each piece of furniture came with an 'Escape-proof guarantee' in one of the drawers. Real nice. And we go on about Chinese prison labor.

How much money are we transferring via corporate welfare to the prison industry for locking up and manipulating dime-bag users of a plant?

And I love how some people get apoplectic about swear words and sexual innuendo but are completely OK with scenes of gratuitous violence in TV, movies, other media. Lots of folks worship at the altar of the gun...

But, I don't wish to engage in some tit-for-tat about crime rates...this is 'The Oil Drum, not 'Law and Order'.

Wow, you're in the oil-finding business? Sounds like very important work! Good luck with that.

(OK, was that clownish? 'Cause I felt like he was being clownish first. And though I could've gone WAY more orange hair big red nose, I chose understated snide with a splash of condescending sarcasm.)

What's wrong with a senior manager being happy and proud of getting his project funded? Just becuase you don't approve of something doesn't automatically mean it's 'pointless' and he is taking beer from the mouths of good American Janes and Joes.

Why does 'I disagree with you' have to become a morality play?


That would be Nate's clown in full rainbow-haired, red-nosed display.

Nate is spot on - the Web is becoming less pleasant, and the signal-to-noise ratio is becoming poorer by the day.

Now let's consider Peak Oil specifically.

Each day more and more people are attracted to the topic.

Some will be 'clowns', seeking recognition, praise, conflict, entertainment etc.

Others will be more straightforward, concerned individuals.

The latter will stay for a while and will review the data

Some will decide that Peak Oil is not of sufficient validity or importance to be worth further investment of time & effort.

Others however will be spurred into action and will start to make the most appropriate preparations for their personal circumstances.

Trust me when I say that such preparations take a lot of your spare time - and money - so you will have much less time available sitting in front of a PC screen.

Also, after an evening repairing electric fencing, or changing a tractor battery or collecting chicken eggs the idea of a 'chat' on the Web seems rather less appealing.

Reality beats the virtual world hands down.

The net effect of all this is that the population of 'clowns' climbs whilst the more serious people come and then go.

I know a few people who are making preparations (and I'm not talking about the gun-toting survivalist types) and these people really don't post on the web too often.

Yesterday I felled, cut, split and put in the shed over 1/2 cord of firewood. I also collected eggs, cleaned the nesting boxes, changed the oil in the log splitter, sharpened 3 saw chains, adjusted 4 solar arrays and cooked a pretty good dinner. Along the way I managed to read many posts on TOD, posted a little myself, ordered some reusable canning jar lids, set a grooming appointment and slipped in a nice, short nap.

I also may be the world's worst multi-tasker.

A much needed rain granted me a bit of a break today. Big breakfast, indoor chores, TOD, and time to watch the Falcons beat the Saints in OT. (Sorry Alan)

.......though other clowns may agree with your post ;-)


However some us need full time jobs to pay for the smallholding / farm.

Yesterday was Saturday. I had offers to go fishing or to a Fall Festival.

Some of you have a social life as well. I socialize with chickens and dogs..........and with you ;-)

Yeah, that second comment was kind of snarky. Where were you going with it?

He's cutting wood and keeping his panels aimed up, gathering eggs and maintaining equipment. What do you think that is besides working on the income and infrastructure that keeps his homestead going?

Yeah, that second comment was kind of snarky.


Now to get a bit blunt ...

I was just a tad iritated how on the Web you can make a general point ... and there is ALWAYS someone who pops up to show that they are the exception.

In other words, one GENERAL post based on MULTIPLE observations is effectively cancelled out by a response highlighting a SINGLE case.

The Web is generally too poorly structured to allow balanced discussions - although the WELL and some other fora have implemented 'scoring' schemes and/or heavy moderation and/or strict admission rules which can help encourage balanced discussions.

Jeez, Meme. Perhaps you just didn't get the answer you hoped for.

My point was that there are many regular posters here who have a life beyond TOD and accomplish much. I would posit that some of the most important regulars here are also some of the busiest; busy looking for ways to mitigate our collective predicaments, busy exploring ways to get Average Jane and Joe to understand that they'll need to adapt to limited/no/negative growth, busy working on all aspects of dealing with energy reality; but not too busy to contribute to (and benefit from) a community dedicated to dealing with realities, having their ideas tested and helping others test their own. I've seen several popular "looming change" authors test-post their work here prior to putting it out into the mainstream.

TOD is an exercise in democracy. Unlike our political "democracies", it's fairly easy to find the threads and posts with descent debates, articulate and thoughtful posters and reasonable challenges to ones conclusions.

Often the 'clowns' chime in and provide context as to how our society, it's biases, preconceptions and misinformed 'realities' affect policies and the directions we take collectivly. I choose to find some value in this. As I said, it isn't hard to spot the posts dominated by clowns and trolls who have nothing better to do than challenge those who have spent their lives working to quantify, explain, and solve problems, mitigate predicaments and warn about conundrums. The reality is that many humans don't have the ability or motivation to move beyond their beliefs. They choose instead to validate their beliefs through attempts at conversion to their reality. They deal with their fears by shouting away the monster under the bed.

That said, I'll not "throw out the babies with the bath water". Too many folks here deserve to be heard. If they can find the time to participate, I can find time to read and, sometimes, attempt to respond.

....and yes, I too have bills to pay. To work! To work!

I think that is due to two factors

1. Poor comprehension of the written word. Amazing how many people are unable to comprehend that was being said was a generic statement.

2. It has become so politically unacceptable to stereo type ( even though that is essence of the cognitive process)that some people can understand a binary world - true in all cases or false.

I have noticed the "clown" effect. This sounds like an internet "tragedy of the commons."

High signal-to-noise ratio makes a site attractive. Attractive sites get noticed. Everyone who wants to be noticed goes there to post a comment. Eventually the "resource" is degraded (signal-to-noise ratio goes down). I don't have a solution but I see the problem. There are sites that I go to regularly, but where I just don't read the comments any more (or post either).

There is another Clown Effect to think about as well, however.

At a lot of sites where comments are feeding off of Mainstream Media sources, there is an immense childishness that may be far below the potential of many of those offering comments, as it is primarily fed by the BS that has become all-too-predictable by so much of the MSM. Garbage in, Garbage Out. Vicious Cycle.

It's a bit too easy to blame it on the Dumb Old Hoi-Polloi and the Peanut Gallery, when the standards of Journalism really have been forced down to Lowest Common Denominators for the source material we're given. Of course, we only hurt ourselves by cooperating in this game, but it can be tough to avoid.

I don't know how much Nate might be thinking about some of the 'Noise' that was emanating from this recent 'Fake Fire Brigade' series, in which I and others were more than eager to voice our own discontent at the repeated and insulting framing and assumptions that were buried in its 5 Keyposts.. but I was responding to a situation where some very valid concerns had been left unaddressed throughout this series, and the offending language simply repeated, getting to the point where it's very hard to maintain a respectful tone, because you find you're no longer in a space where reasonable challenges are really being listened to..

"I'm a pretty straight man if you treat me all square, but I'm a Pirut myself at a Pirut-town fair!"
'Abbot B. Appleton , Pirut' - Holman Day, 1901

Nate: Is this thread directed at the people who voiced their concerns over the BP oil spill on TOD? If so, I have a few thoughts to share. If not, I apologize for being off topic.

There was a basis in fact to be worried about the BP oil spill. Millions of barrels of oil were spilt into the Gulf of Mexico. These concerns were valid then and they are valid now. An unprecedented amount of dispersants were sprayed into the Gulf, the effect of these disperesants is still unknown.

You know what the absolute best case scenario for BP is to make this whole thing go away? This bullcrap 'evaporation' theory they are pushing now. It just takes care of itself and goes away, yeah right. The same way that the flow rate was only 5,000 barrels of oil a day, the same way that top kill 1 was working as planned, the same way that there was unrestricted media access to spill sites etc. Excuse me for allowing credibility to enter the calculus of my judgments, but I (and most others) will not apologize for it.

While we are on the credibility issue, let me state another personal opinion of mine. From the start of this disaster, 90% of the reporting on here has seemed to be sympathetic to BP. There has also been an odd divergence from the no-nonsense attitude TOD seems to pride itself on, and it has been directed at all these "clowns" you speak of- regardless of how outrageous the claims are that require no time to debunk at all. That kind of defensiveness reeks of bias.

Another point, it's ironic that a website like TOD can focus so strongly on peak oil, yet disown the founder of that theory- Matt Simmons. It's a bit like the Church renouncing Christ. The critical distinction is that the oil industry has a financial interest in higher energy prices- and TOD is an effective platform to disseminate a rationale to the public for those higher energy costs.

Finally, and I have nothing to substantiate this other than intuition and common sense, but TOD and many of its posters have cozy relationships with the oil industry. Of course the coverage will be slanted in a pro-industry direction, who would expect anything else? Obviously you and some of the other moderators are not on BP's payroll. But I strongly suspect that some of you guys get some nice perks from them and other oil companies. One of those non-business/non-professional "friendship" deals. Exactly the same kind that came to light about MMS and the oil industry, that scandal was not even revealed until after the BP Macondo Well explosion. Now, pardon my ignorance- perhaps you can give me one of these in-depth academic lectures that you and others do so frequently on TOD when seeking a diversion, but I believe that any website which derives its legitimacy/reputation/credibility from insider knowledge about the industry just might have a few connections with the industry. And heck, those connections might have a little bit of influence on you guys.

Of course there are many crazy people on here that post ridiculos theories for a variety of motives. But they do not speak for everyone who has concerns, and for you to paint with such a broad brush like that is disingenuous at best.

You better understand something though. You are generating a hostile environment from people all along the gulf coast with your manipulation and condescension. Don't you ever tell the people along those beaches, the best kept-secret in the world, that they are stupid and don't know what they are talking about. Don't you ever tell them that they are conspiracy loons, gloom and doomers, opportunists or whatever your catch phrase of the week is. Because I've got news for you, BP and those associated with it brought this disaster to everyone. We didn't ask for anything but you damn sure brought it to us. There is a lot of sketchy things going on down there that is not normal at all. The water and the wildlife down there are not acting naturally. There is a lot of dead or dying things down there. I will take the opinion of the countless Gulf residents who are sounding the alarm bells, and the neutral/un-affiliated scientists down there raising major concerns, as opposed to the culprit BP and it's hired-gun scientists.

So spare me your intelectual sermon about the clown-civilian population. Why don't you, BP, and the oil industry grow up and take responsibility for your own actions? We don't need you, you need us- our elected representatives are the ones who decide whether or not you get these drilling permits at all and I hope we kick BP out of the Western hemisphere. To the best of my knowledge, in eyes of the law this is not a strict liability situation. But as far as I'm concerned, and in the court of public opinion, it is. BP was calling the shots on this airplane and they flew it into a mountian. They will reap the consequences, the least of which is hearing people vent about it on internet websites like TOD.


I have a question:

Why do I not hear the 'majority report' signal in the news from the folks living along the Gulf that they are are fired up at BP?

It seems that what has gotten a whole lot of play are the folks who are all fired up at the current administration for imposing a 6-month drilling moratorium affecting some 39 or some ~1% of GOM drilling rigs...folks cussing and fuming over the loss of their industry, jobs, incomes...from the 6-month suspension of ~ 30 rigs, so the experts can ascertain what went wrong and how to better prevent recurrences in the future.

And to boot, I thought both BP and the USG were providing some compensation to folks who are idled during the moratorium.

Certainly Haley Barbour, Mary Landrieu, and Bobby Jindahl, and numerous other politicians and common working folk have been on the airwaves railing against the administration for this minor TV-time-out on a small fraction of Deep Water drilling.

Where is the march on Washington and the Gulf State houses to impose tighter regulations (better/dual BOPs, mandatory pre-emptive relief wells, better/bigger stockpiles of oil skimming equipment, etc)? How about marches demanding stricter CAFE standards and electrified rail lines?

Jobs not owls.

BAU over all.

If you want to go through this, it is late so fine.
1. Yes much petroleum and dispersant has been mixed into the Gulf.
A. Natural seepage dumps as much in five years. Runoff from civilization dumps as much in the GOM in 5 days. Yes, pollution exists.
B. Corexit is hard to find and the mainstream majority still say dispersant is less toxic than oil.
C. Yes it appears much oil has been degraded, eaten, evaporated, sunk, broken down, even missing.
2. BP 'wants this to go away.'
A. You betcha.
3. The 'media' is sympathetic to BP.
A. What media, BP web site? New Orleans media? Name the media please.
4. BP, the government, even us, suck at flow estimates and even have ulterior motives
A. Yes, so what.
5. Matt Simmons was being portrayed as his conclusions being unlikely and even crackpot.
A. Sorry, it happens. Yes, guilty. Mountains of evidence. Search Matt Simmons in the search box.
6. Some are paid by BP or industry.
A. I drank on Feinburg today. I usually work. I filled out the forms and waited. WTH do you do for a living?
7. There are crazy people here with ridiculous theories.
A. Guilty. You and I. Face it, your stuff and my stuff is often considered crackpot by the mainstream. You did not use your real name either. There is a reason. Who cares?
8. TOD creates a hostile environment down here.
A. TOD helped solve my oily waste problem. BP, TO, MMS, oil, dispersant, bad press, injured and dead animals, an already bad economy are my problems. What about you and your parents?
9. BP flew the plane into the mountain.
A. Sure they definitely were all over this one. One question though, what if this is just a minor blip compared to what is coming? Ask your parents about the oil embargo of the '70's. You curse BP now. When you have to push your parents old BMW 300 that you drive to the out of fuel BP station you will see how much you dislike the way BP does things. When was the last time you rode a bike or walked to the store? This is so much bigger than BP, TO, MMS, You, I, TOD, and the ghost of Matt Simmons.

At least you are working on your manners. Keep it up and start using your head and accept the good science out there or at least evaluate it.

The reason TOD became "BP Spill central" is because peak oil still hasn't reached critical mass. TOD was able to embrace the BP spill as a sort of cheap substitute for peak oil doom. Since the spill was front-page news, it gave peakers some sense of relevance while oil remains steadily under $85/bbl.

That's not to say the BP spill wasn't a disaster, but the amount of doomer hyperbole trying to spin it into a mass extinction, from Matt Simmons to Ruppert and the peanut gallery here, is a clear signal of cognitive bias. We are all waiting for "the big one" and are quick to predict doomsday whether the data supports it or not.

TOD will be a laughing stock if it doesn't try to clamp down on some of the apocalyptic opportunism.

There will always be one disaster after another (check the flooding in Wisconsin for instance). Each of these are merely a single nick on the death by a thousand cuts. It's not necessary to portray any of these by themselves as the kill-shot.

Oh and MBP54, you really need to cleanup your information. Your name and age might be floating around in the cloud. GM and 24?

Seems like a lot of people misunderstood Nate's post. He was discussing internet forums specifically, not the media at large. And a lot of people got sidetracked by the choice of the word "clown" to describe the type Nate had in mind. Not so much a prankster but a loudmouth, one with a lot of time to post on internet forums, with an agenda he wants to advance (my favorite are the buy-gold's ALWAYS a good time to buy gold!!).

It's funny how this process can lead to disparate ideas getting conflated together in the public mind. So you believe in [political] conspiracies? Then you must also believe in the conspiracy to suppress the reality of UFOs! Granted, that particular conflation was more a media creation than one hatched in internet forums. But what is peak oil being conflated with? Is it getting conflated with a survivalist viewpoint? (not necessarily, IMHO) Is it getting conflated with a particular financial critique? Maybe. There seem to be different groups that want to graft a peak oil narrative on as support for their particular financial story (hyperinflation! deflation! end of fiat currencies! end of fractional reserve banking!), and they're working hard to accomplish it.

Another factor that I think has allowed the loudmouths to gain a position is that the subject has matured. The body of knowledge surrounding peak oil is such that it's much harder to write groundbreaking posts, the kind that really introduce new understanding. Those generally knock the loudmouths on their heels, shoo them in the corners like light scatters healthy palmetto bugs. I think Nate among many others on this site has strived mightily to advance the discussion in positive directions beyond peak oil itself, in an effort to break new ground, towards solutions, mitigation, and so forth, and now he and the others are running up against some pretty dense intellectual blockades (or dead ends?). Maybe what's left is reporting the unfolding reality as opposed to doing research.

Nice post. I've been drifting away from many of my old favorites like TOD, Chris Martenson and Zero Hedge due to the effort and time required to separate wheat from chaff.

My preferred use of the internet these days is to get concentrated doses of opinions via downloaded books, audiobooks, and lectures.

Sounds good. From which sites???

Posts such as this one of Nate's can be interpreted in many ways and at many levels.

A number of the people capable of the deepest insights into the human experience have come to the conclusion that life itself is nothing but one giant theatre of the absurd, all of us but bit players strruutting or crawling across the stage.

A lot of them commit suicide.My favorite among them is Hemingway.

After finding myself hung on the horns of the dilemna poesed by the religious versus the scientific world view as a child, I have spent most of my life searching for something that has some sort of cosmic or moral significance in and of itself.

I have unhappily concluded that there is absolutely no evidence for any such thing or entity or principle, concrete or spiritual, material or abstract.

We are simply trapped inside the mind space delineated by the brains provided to us by evolution, and are therefore compelled to search for meaning where none exists, in and of itself.The meaning we seek for is an artifact or emergent property of the brain that is searching for it, a sort of cosmic constant that would, if it existed, tie everything together.

In other words, nothing is either good nor bad but thinking makes it so.

It seems rather likely to me that various species have arisen in on various worlds and evolved far enough to think abstractly;thier sacred values would in some or maybe all cases be profoundly different from our own.

I wish I could remember who wrote the satire of the intelligent termites and thier rituals involving the sacred meaning of eating dung;maybe somebody can post a link to it.

But in every case, it is likely that if they aren't extinct by now, they will be , sooner or later, and that thier achievements and dreams will count for exactly zero in the cosmic scheme of things.Thier very worlds will one daay be reduced to gases blowing in the cosmic winds of thier suns.

This is not to say that we shouldn't try to do as well as we can in executing the fuzzy and bug filled programs running in our organic computers stored in thier stone hard shells;doing so generates signals that are interpreted as indicating all is well, and that the happiness hormones levels can be turned up, and the stress hormones levels turned down.

But anybody who truly understands what Darwinian biology is all about should never be suprised by anything that happens;saddened, yes, gladdened, yes;suprised, not if you get it.

Fortunately, it is possible to understand all this and still see it all as one big joke and enjoy it.

It is also possible to understand it and still root and fight for one's in group.

It is even possible to expand one's definition of the in group to include the entire planet we live on, as it serves as the species support system.

I for one hope this farce we live continues to run for a good long while yet.

If there are gods, and they are observing us from a suitable istance through thier opera glasses from the good box seats, I am sure they must be mightily amused by our antics and pretensions.

We indeed share many of the same philosophical foundations.

We are simply trapped inside the mind space delineated by the brains provided to us by evolution, and are therefore compelled to search for meaning where none exists, in and of itself.The meaning we seek for is an artifact or emergent property of the brain that is searching for it, a sort of cosmic constant that would, if it existed, tie everything together.

+100 Excellent.

Except I would strike out the word "simply".

I look at the evolution-provided brain as sort of a half-programmed computer.

The other half is programmed by "culture" that is passed from one generation to the next.

The quest for the "meaning of life" is a cultural one that is passed on to each succeeding generation.
It loses value and focus due to science discovering that we are not (warning: a shocker) the center of the Universe but merely some accidental speck in an insignificant corner of the galaxy.

click on image for more

'If there are gods, and they are observing us from a suitable istance through thier opera glasses from the good box seats, I am sure they must be mightily amused by our antics and pretensions."

Ha! Mac, reminds me of the end of MIB:

The just-another-marble meme in the Men-In-Black (MIB) closing makes a whole lot more of rational sense than the idea of "gods" who are obsessed with the doings of our one over-shot population of clown critters as opposed to the doings of other species of critters on this isolated spinning pebble in the sky.

If a clown fish prays deep under, do the gods listen to its gurglings too?

If a little mermaid sings, do they listen then?

Intelligent clowns can figure those deep questions out for themselves.

The other clowns? ... well just keep honking their noses. They like that form of "sound" logic.

Well said. I get it but struggle to enjoy it. Will work on your suggestion to treat everything as one big absurd joke. Thanks.

Gravity cat says we are all just aimlessly drifting through space trying to figure out what the hell is happening.

Nate, you might find the following musings to be of interest. They may relate to crazyv's comment. Oh, and I am interested in obtainting a copy of your dissertation -- I could not find it on the school's web site. Could you please e-mail me a copy or a link to it?

To paraphrase one aspect of the drumbeat article: the basic assertion is that the world, as represented by the on-line community, is becoming more clown-like in that the apparent number of misinformed, biased, and less thoughtful people is increasing.

I suspect that the global viability and connectivity of the internet is enabling the fringe community to become more connected, and that the very small minority of those people who are proactive are able to express their viewpoints in discussions outside of their group. Add in a basic tendency of people to give equal credence to alternative opinions (at least until such time as those opinions have been evaluated and rejected). Then add in the basic response of people to increase the credibility of any given viewpoint based on the number of people expressing it. The result is a global systemthat, when operating without censorship, is more easily swamped by the marginal viewpoints. The outsider approaching the group will have difficulty determining the core or central viewpoints held by the community.

I assert that social groups normally impose a level of censorship on its members that tends to suppress the marginal viewpoint in favor of the consensus opinion. The censorship is very firmly applied to outsiders who attempt to introduce marginal viewpoints. The end result is a consistent set of viewpoints espoused and supported by the group.

When censorship is lacking and a permanent record of all expressions is maintained, then the marginal viewpoints can have the appearence of beingas important as core viewpoints held by the group. Moreover, the global visibility, enabled by internet search engines, provides for othes who adhere to the marginal viewpoint to locate and contribute to the marginal discussion, even though the group consensus does not support it.

As for social networks, I suppose that those who care and who may be able to effect real change in the world (contrast with those who simply like to express opinions without changing the world) are willing to invest effort in situation that have a genuine chance of gain, economic or otherwise. There is a high cost, in terms of time and cognitive effort, to social networks. Time is required for reading and thinking. A greater amount of time is required for participating and composing well formed response to issues raised in the textual forums used for social networking.

I feel that many of the social networks found on the internet are oft not connected to those people who can effect change. Effective people, the shakers and movers, initially approach social networks and invest resources in participation. Relatively quickly, the effective people realize that the chances of obtaining a gain from participation in those social networksis low. Consequently, they move on to smaller networks of connected effective people that can achieve gains for the group. These networks are often far more closed and less visible than the typical on-line social network. Those left participating in the open, more visible networks eventually trend towards a large population of clowns.

I suspect that the shift to closed, highly effective networks is nothing new. Consider, if you will, a simplified view of the American political process as an example. There are small, closed networks of highly effective people, the power players. They interact and establish the group norm for viewpoints (and stances in this case). In the American system, there is a need for far larger groups to be established that are capable of obtaining a sufficient number of votes required for continuance of the closed social networks. A new open and far larger social network is established, driven by the core closed group.The large network is unwieldy. Initially the espoused viewpoints are focused and closely adhere to those of the core group. However, because the group has too much connectivity, visibility, and an inability to apply censorship (keep in mind that censorship means the groups ability to deemphasize the marginal viewpoints and to emphasize the central ones),over time the clowns will come to predominate. Post election, the American system disbands the large network and, if the group was successful, the core, more closed group remains.

The on-line groups suffer from the inability to reject the marginal viewpoints by self censorship and from being too large. Most can not prune the network, remove evidence of the marginal viewpoints, and select who can be a participant.

Amazing it is ... the power of the "clown" frame.

It seems that the one word
... and a couple of pictures
sends people here into a frantic circus spiral.


Well Step Back, it's like most other generalizations that are left poorly defined, or with opposing interpretations (Technology, Terrorism, Renewables)

Still, I didn't see anything that got all that frantic. The Circus Spiral is self-explanatory.

Isn't it rich?

The concept of "clown" is both real and surreal at the same time and admitted by most people to be so.

After all, most of us have seen a real clown in a circus. And we understood it was just "an act".

Aside from "clowns", we have many other concepts or "frames" we deal with on a day to day basis that some people say are totally surreal and an opposing group of others say are very real.

Take the concept of "Peak Oil" (oh, just a random pick from the hat).

Some in society consider it to be a totally surreal concept and simply part of the clown act of a bunch of circus clowns (i.e. TOD fanatics) when they are acting "in character".

Others (a minority) in society consider PO to be a totally real thing and such believers enter into a surreal state of bewilderment when members of the disbelieving majority stare back at them as if looking at a group of circus clowns. (OMG. Why don't "they" understand the "seriousness" of the situation? This is not a circus joke! Why can't they see that?)

Hence the communication problems, and even among people who accept the premise there is considerable disagreement over what can be done, what should be done, and what shouldn't even be tried.

I have found myself in a couple of merry circus spirals on those topics, and even looking back it would be hard for me to say if I was the clown in any of them.

.. and yet, as I was sort of saying to Step Back just there, (below?).. one of the classic turns we take into those vicious circles of Sniping and Vitriol (making any of us into 'Clowns for a Day').. is when there is a chance to read someone's post looking for what they might mean, and trying to tease it out and get ideas flowing, as opposed to the familiar responses that simply try to find whatever fault they can with a statement, and act as if the whole process is going to be solved by elimination.

It becomes a self-righteous debunking-fest, and any 'possibility' that's presented is immediately trashed if there is any flaw that can be targeted in it. It's self-defeating.. but that seems to support some folks' philosophy, and so it is also championed..

I still would like to know which kinds of posts Nate is looking at as Clownish, and which kinds of Clown he means. Sure, the terms can fly all over the place, and the perceptions can multiply the possibilities.. but we do have the option of narrowing some of our terms as we speak, for the sake of having a clearer discourse.

Somebody just told me her husband is a Jazz musician last night.. it left me still with VERY little idea of what kind of music he plays, when it's not really that hard to clarify that overly vague Category.

In a raw-text format, such nonspecific speech is a Bozo-No-No, as far as I'm concerned..

I think this type of service says it all. Paid blogging comments:

It is sick but it is the current problem. People are paid to be clowns and act anti-intellectual. There is too much of it in my view.

Here is an eHow explaining the process of getting paid to comment on forums.

Can anyone verify this type of thing and whether it is real?

When I discover a new musical genre or maybe just a new artist, then I find all this exciting new stuff and I spend a lot of time listening to it, learning the lyrics, etc. After a while, then maybe I still like it but it is not new anymore, and it does not hold my attention anymore - it isn't so much that it's become noise, but that it does not stick out from the noise so much anymore.

In other words: you're bored. Quit whining about it and go get into something new.

I've known for a long time that the internet as we have it today was going to get odd to really strange for a long time now, but I have been online for over 20 years. Back in the day it was a telnet text site, where you chatted on a BBS or even via IRC( Inter Relay Chat ), nothing was pictures, unless you later decoded them on your computer from the source codes they were written in.

Then along came the World Wide Web and HTML coding and all the newer and newer bells and whistles.

Years ago we had cordless phones and that was the big thing, then pagers, then cell phones, and today you can't go anywhere without seeing someone with something attached to their heads and them talking into it. I have often wondered, where I wandered in from, was I gone while all this silly stuff was going on, or what!

But I met my first wife online, and my second one as well. And I was online when I met my thrid wife, but we were just sitting next to each other at library computers. So in one respect I have been here all the time, I just never fully jumped into the pool and got all wet, or have I?

I try not to get all my information from online, as I trully can't trust some of it as much as I could from books, not that I have the books handy to get half of the things I want to know about. I've known that people online aren't real until I see them face to face or at least hear them on the phone for some time now, but maybe that is my own paranoia talking, or the knowledge that I have in the past been able to create fake people in the days long ago in the world far away, or knew of it happening in the hacker gatherings of old.

What has happened it seems is that the Internet is the TV of the 50's, where if it was on TV then it must be real. If I can put a You tube video up of something, or other that I did, or post pictures of things in my house, yard, or hand I become famous for those 15 seconds and then again and again with each veiwing.

In 1994 my then first wife, taught herself html coding and created a webpage on Betta speices, mostly about Betta splendens, the species that you see in pet stores in the little bits of water in jars or cups. At the time we were breeding them and a member of IBC the small group of international betta breeders. Over the years we answered thousands of people's email and online chat questions via that website and others, and I just got tired of seeing the same child like cluelessness over and over again. I got jaded rather faster than I expected too, now over 15 years later, trhe clowns of the online world just remind me of those days long ago.

15 seconds of fame and it is over till the next wave of people show up to get their pat on the back and told that if you press button 3, you'll get a candy treat.

I know people who have grown up with the internet, and don't even know what live TV is, people who have never known a hardline phone plugged into cables under the house. The world is only going to get worse in this respect and not better.

I'd be willing to bet in some places falling back to not having the ability to talk to someone right this second will be a shock to their systems so great they might have to sit down and cry for a while.

Sunday morning the power supply on our modem died, about 3 hours ago we finally got around to fixing it with a new modem. For over 36 hours we did not have internet, and I did not worry about it, nor did anyone else. What would happen if you lost your cell phone for a week? (I did about 4 weeks ago, only had the new one for 2 weeks) I didn't worry to much, I have lost a lot of people's phone numbers, but I figure they still have mine, or can get it from the places they got it last time, if they want to call me they can, if not, oh well, no worries.

Not many people can say that, if they can't find their internet linkage, or their cell phone they'd freak out and faint from the stresses involved. Maybe I am jaded in a good way after all.

I don't know what to do with all the clowns, they were out there all the time, just that now they have a way to express themselves that others have to deal with, just look the otherway like you did when they were on the streets holding up signs.

Charles, jaded in Arkansas, BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world, cell phones and internet aren't in most of the designs I have done, if you want them just let me know.

Never underestimate the importance of absurdity.

I find the most interesting thing about clowns is their ability to get elected to public office.......I much prefer the company of mimes, they won't interrupt you when you are making an important point.

Joking aside.

Like many of you, I never had the internet growing up. Still used manual typewriters, and had a phone that was attached only to the wall. And MTV only had 3 videos.

'Thud'( head hits desk )

When I wanted to learn something growing up, I either : asked somebody who appeared to be knowledgeable ( not a clown ) or I went to the library ( popular with mimes ), but usually both, to check them against each other.

When I wanted to learn something growing up, I ... asked somebody who appeared to be knowledgeable ( not a clown )

You mean your economics professor?

The image to the right is that of a physics professor in the Coen brothers' movie, "A Serious Man", not that of an economics professor. But close enough.

A primary theme of the "A Serious Man" movie is that everyone who appears to be a "clown" (i.e. Larry's "crazy" brother who fills Mentaculus gibberish into a secret notebook) turns out to be correct and everyone who appears to be an authoritative and trustworthy figure turns out to be full of sh*t.

Junior rabbi: "Look out there in the parking lot, God will be there"
(at the very end of the movie we find out the crazy-sounding junior rabbi is right)

Interesting,lol, I have not seen it.

This thread has me in some pretty deep thought..... ..

I think that the internet blurs the line between genius and insanity unlike anything humanity has encountered in it's course of evolution. It definitely puts a spin on intelligentsia.

Mentaculus do exit.

"Everybody Plays the Fool"

Why thank you Mr. Peabody --for that trip in the Wayback Machine to a kinder although not gentler time


For some reason, the oldest and supposedly wisest rabbi in the movie is into Jefferson Airplane

How are clever clowns and the electively mute similar?

That silence regarding the science of human population dynamics has been willfully perpetrated by the mass media is to be expected. But for blogmeisters with environmental credentials and top rank scientists to collude in silence with the clever clowns they openly object to when it is politically convenient and economically expedient to do so, that is sad...and sad to say. Small groups of people who are providing a reality-oriented basis for necessary change need a bit of support from people in public positions of power.....from thoughtful leaders and opinion makers capable of speaking truth as they see it and not effectively killing what could somehow be true with duplicitous clowning or pernicious silence.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

There are those who report that the world has gone mad; that there’s nothing which will be done to overcome the threats to humanity posed by the human overpopulation of Earth. But let us be crystal clear about one thing. The human species has singular collective intelligence and consciousness as well as other distinct gifts among the living things in our planetary home. The best available science appears to indicate that the human family is soon to be confronted with a global predicament derived directly from the gigantic and skyrocketing number of human beings on Earth in our time. Despite the enormity of the human-induced global ecological challenges before humanity, human-driven threats to human wellbeing and environmental health can be acknowledged, addressed and overcome by collective wisdom, moral courage, political will and bold action.

there’s nothing which will be done to overcome the threats [posed] to humanity

No one has suggested that "nothing" will be done.

There is no doubt that all sorts of hand wringing and finger pointing surely will be done.

Despite the enormity of the ... challenges [these] threats to human well-being ... can be acknowledged, addressed and overcome by collective wisdom, moral courage, political will and bold action.

"Can be" and "will be" are two entirely different things.

It should be the duty of all good citizens of TOD to create the non-existent "collective wisdom".

At present, I respectfully suggest that it does not exist,
and worse yet,
current indicators point towards our heading for a collective insanity instead.

"indicators point towards our heading for a collective insanity instead."

Talk about hand-wringing.. whew!

I think we could find some pieces of 'collective wisdom' out there, and also plenty of mass delusions, too. The extremes exist, but usually in the minority. There are people who are BOTH really bright, and also regrettably stupid, depending on what you're asking them about, and how much attention they have to address your question..

Collective wisdom, I'd say is another word for Culture.. and while our current one has many rips and mismatched pieces in it, it is also carrying some very old parts that have been passed along for centuries and proven themselves.

It's simply silly to toss out or aggrandize either end of the spectrum.

I think we could find some pieces of 'collective wisdom' out there

The Grand Challenge question is ...

(and I don't have the personal smarts to solve it)

What new and workable economic system can replace our current system of
"Money equals Value equals Well being"

The above equation is a falsity that "feels" as if it is true.
It is the product of our mass delusion.

But try as I might, I don't see a better system that is "workable" given the human greed thing and all.

Maybe the collective TOD wisdom can produce an answer?

Maybe even you alone can do so?

Any ideas?

(Don't tell anyone.. this is sort of a secret, and I'm not supposed to give it away..)

You don't see ~A system~ that will work?

Of course you don't, and neither does anyone at this point. We're about to go around a corner.. it'll be a change of direction, and there's no sense trying to promise that any of our current ideas will fit after that shift.. but of course I'd say it's useful to know as many tools, approaches and ideas as one can, so as to have some pieces to try to fit in when the new view starts appearing.

What tools? I'm sure a sense of humor will be valuable, in any case.(And being a bit of a clown, I don't think I could drop it if I wanted to)

Money= ?

Value= ?

Well Being= ?

I'd say they each need to be handled separately before they get placed in a common equation. What are the basics? What do we need?

"So what will happen?" Ellie said.
Malcolm shrugged. "A change."
"What kind of change?"
"All major changes are like death," He said. "You can't see to the other side until you are there." And he closed his eyes.

Good point.

Maybe there will be many splintered-off systems after the BBI (Big Bozzo.antic-Implosion).

As for Value=??, I intentionally placed that variable at the midpoint of the equation for a reason.

We humans place relative values on things; we "evaluate".

Under the current paradigm (M($)=V=W), we evaluate things by attaching a "money" price on them. We also assume that higher priced stuff is more beneficial to our Well being.

step back: I think there is a lot of room for improvement, especially in terms of economic systems. Economic systems are often lopsided.

Fisheries systems are lopsided. In fisheries the three main asset groups are Habitat, Stocks, and human infrastructure inclusive of fishermen. Let's say the main values are Habitat at 70%, Stocks at 20%, and the human infrastructure at 10%. If this is true, and if we are devoting all our time and resources to the least valuable asset class in the equation of value, then our math and our results will be way off. On Cape Cod the price of cod is now $11.00 per pound. Not good. But people expect fishermen to know values, and they do know what they want, but it's not public resource management for seafood production.

Recycling systems have value equations that are a mess. The entire emphasis is on the end of the pipeline of materials, and no market based control goes into the manufacture of materials that we can actually easily handle. Some dump, some recycle, which makes for a dual system. We could use a price reference for good and bad. But we can't see what we need.

These are all sort of "money, value, and well being" ideas, but often the multiple sub system economies fog up the thinking. Where did statecraft go? Derivatives; the insurance of risk underwritten by monopoly money
got past us, because of confusion about covering margins, which had it's roots in forgetting the past.
Energy systems (ff, and sustainable) need common (mechanical and economic) denominators to tie them together, but we aren't looking, instead we look for energy creation, what we need is energy storage and shipment, and the answers are in front of us.

Our political systems are such that many industries buy what they want, total lobby spending may be about 3.5 billion a year. People look at this in disgust and then want to cut the pay of congress, which due to low staff pay, and turnover due to lobby mining of the congressional hired help, is losing the battle. Which will drag us under better: Paying our own employees 3.5 billion, or letting a competitor pay our own people 3.5 billion? To me if you don't write the check you aren't the boss. Don't we see compensations or consideration or money must be connected to the proper asset class? And if they are not our assets will go down and lower our position.

Our money is often tied to wrongheaded values: Such as wealth becoming the de-facto government infrastructure.

Steven J. Scannell A tragic clown like figure, with too many ideas.

[Our thinking] systems are often lopsided


Excellent point
(and thanks for keeping the clown discussion alive)

I am well aware of the fisheries collapse problem.

It is a good example of how "money" (M) becomes a wrong-headed substitute in our minds for all values (V).

What is the value (V=?) of removing the next largest of available cod fish out of the waters?
Does the commercial fisherman think about long term consequences? No.
His plastic-wise molded brain thinks only "economically" and in a monocultural way where money (M) alone defines all values (V).

Will removing a genetically large-sized cod out of the water mean that future cod populations become smaller sized and smaller sized? Who cares? It's pounds per catch and dollars ($$) per pound which is all that matters.

Result? Our wild fisheries collapse and we (the human race) starve to death all because of our short sighted valuation system and our single variable greed --in which V (vlaue) is defined only by M (money), V=M and M=V.

These are all sort of "money, value, and well being" ideas, ... [where] economics fog up the thinking.

Excellent point again.

Once we substitute money (M) inside our heads for all values (V), it is all too easy to take the next leap in mislogic by equating W (well being= wealth) with how much money (M) we have.

It is already beyond questioning for most people that "Wealth" (another word for W=well being) is determined soley by how much money (M) we each have. So going back to your example of the fisherman in the collapsing cod fishery area, when he hauls a giant sized cod up in his net; at that moment he feels "wealthy" because pounds per fish equals more money (M) and in his head that automatically equals well being (W).

Very simple, very fatal.

Our money is often tied to wrongheaded values: Such as wealth becoming the de-facto government infrastructure.

Spot on.

Once we get it into our heads that money (M) equals well being (W), then it is easy to fall into the next trap of believing that well being (W) of our government systems should be dictated by well being (W) of our financial systems (F). And in fact, that is exactly how the Obama administration has been running the US government.

That's why we are F'd up.
(because we have convinced ourselves that F=W ... =M)

Dear jokuhl and step back,

Perhaps each of you would responding to what follows.

Each human culture presents its many members with knowledge of reality and also with longstanding, adamantly held perceptions that are illusory. For example, unverified cultural transmissions can give rise to widely shared distortions of the world whenever mistaken impressions are consensually validated as if they represent what is real. In these instances, humans ubiquitously emit culturally biased and scientifically unsupported communications that confuse human reasoning and often promote a certain cortical conceitedness which is not useful in acquiring an understanding of the practical requirements of reality.

Over long time periods, preternatural ideas are passed down from generation to generation, with an unintended result. Distorted perceptions of reality are shared among people, thereby, confounding the efforts of humanity to share an adequate awareness of what it is real.

When novel and occasionally unforeseen science emerges, it is initially disturbing because the new science usually challenges specious, well-established but unrealistic ideas about what it means to be human; the “placement” of the human species within the natural order of living things; and the requirements of biophysical reality. New scientific facts of this particular kind are uniformly difficult for people to see because the unexpected and unwelcome evidence exposes malignant narcissism, pathological hubris, extreme foolishness and outrageous greed of the leaders of a culture to view by membership of the culture. Since humans are shaped early and pervasively by a superabundance of culturally-derived transmissions in our perception of reality, it becomes an evolutionary challenge for human beings to see the world as it is and to gain knowledge of the human species as one of many miraculous creatures to inhabit so wondrous a planetary home as Earth.

When a scientist-practitioner of psychology like myself thinks a patient is suffering from mental illness, that determination is an evidence-based clinical judgment. However, cultural standards of normalcy are not carefully and rigorously developed as are clinical judgments, but instead are casually agreed upon and promulgated as social norms and conventions that include scientifically validated perceptions of reality as well as misperceptions of what is real. Because some distorted impressions of the world, often founded in ideological idiocy, are valued by those who share them, these attractive, dearly held misperceptions are readily passed from member to member within a culture, among both peers and the generations.

In the cases of deeply disturbed mental patients, they distort reality so drastically that their incorrect impressions of reality do not become established by being passed along to other people. By contrast, "normal" people in instrumentalities of governance, social organizations and cultures appear not to misperceive reality so sharply, yet distortions of what aggregations of normal people perceive do remain. A term of art in psychology is useful here, folie a deux. The term means that two people share an identical distortion of reality. This understanding leads to other terms, folie a deux million for a government agency or political party, folie a deux cent million for a social order or folie a deux billion for a culture. These terms refer to misperceived aspects of reality dearly held and commonly shared by many people of a government, a society, or a culture. At least one way to define the highest standard of normalcy for people in these aggregates is in terms of being able to adequately distinguish what is illusory from what is real, based upon the best available scientific evidence.




I find it interesting that you are a scientist-practitioner in the field of psychology.

The question that has plagued me from day one of joining TOD is not: Is Peak Oil real and correct?

Of course it is.
It is a mathematical necessity that a finite non-renewed resource exhausts at some point in time if it is continuously depleted at ever increasing rates (higher and higher rates of "production").

What troubled me instead was this: Why do their eyes glaze over when you tell them?

And by "them" I mean friends and family members whom I always assumed to be rational human beings. That belief about rationality was shockingly shattered by their glazed over eyes.

It quickly became apparent that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is deemed a kook.

That in turn led to an amateurish study of neuro-science, where the self-driven study has shattered yet others of my previously held beliefs as to what we humans are and how our brains are put together.

Some people here on TOD wrongly believe that the human brain, or the alter ego thereof they call "human nature", are "hard wired".

Modern neuro theory instead shows that the brain is "plastic" (as opposed to elastic or inelastic).
Cognitive models within the brain are constantly remolded by surrounding culture.

The surrounding culture can of course be a "folie deux million le' fly heads" as you begin to tilt at.

Sadly, our current culture is just that.

Our fly-like brains blindly accept as solid and inalienable truths, the illusions of "money" and "authority" and the "trustworthiness" of what our leaders preach to us. This illusion is strengthened by the many other flies around us swarming acceptingly toward the same piece of male cow poop.

It is the appeal of herd mentality that makes the poop shine as if it were gold. Herd mentality shapes all of us into the plastic clowns that we all are.

Rationality is relative, and I doubt there are any humans out there with enough brainpower to be perfectly rational.

As our psychologist friend above is doubtless aware, we have to take many cognitive shortcuts to be able to make decisions in a timely manner. These include relying on other people's opinions and our emotional responses when we decide what to believe.

This makes resource depletion a hard sell because you are bucking the wind of popular "expert opinion" (not necessarily actual experts, but if Rush Limbaugh says we have enough oil there are a lot of folks that won't question him), as well as the negative emotional content implicit in telling people that they are wasting a valuable resource that is in short supply.

It's a wonder anyone can see it at all, not that we have trouble persuading them to take it seriously.

Being rational is not a matter of "brain power" but rather of technique and carefully controlled environment.

If you are trapped in a burning house and smoke is flaring up your nostrils, it is highly unlikely that you can be 'rational' at that moment, no matter how high is your IQ.

With that as an aside, the cultural environment that we each find ourselves immersed in dictates part of how our plastically modifiable brains operate.

The more astute political think tankers know how to chisel away at our cultural environs with one sticky sound bite at a time.

It is only the "intellectuals" who are fool enough to believe that a large package of cogent rationality will somehow get through to make others see the light --no matter how plain as day it is.

Yep, I think you just rephrased what I was trying to say there.

Please know that I have a problem with so many clever clowns, talking heads, seemingly thoughtful leaders and opinion makers simply and willfully denying the profound implications of the scale and growth of the human population in our planetary home. Not so many years ago less than three billion people existed on Earth. Now there are 6 billion. We have projections that fully expect nine billion members of the human community by 2050. While I agree with those who are willing to openly comment on conspicuous per capita overconsumption and excessive individual hoarding as being problematic and unsustainable, I cannot appreciate efforts to ignore the significance of skyrocketing human population growth, inasmuch as it, too, is problematic and unsustainable.

We have also to turn our attention toward economic globalization, another problematic and unsustainable activity of the human species. If we were to add "human overproduction" activities propagated by large-scale corporations worldwide to the human overconsumption/hoarding and overpopulation activities now overspreading the surface of Earth, what we have is a reality-oriented view of a human-induced global predicament which looms so ominously before the family of humanity. These unbridled human activities are aspects of "the gorgoneion head" that threatens the human community in our time --- right now.

It seems to me that the predicament presented to the human family in our time needs to be seen for whatsoever it is. After all, whatsoever is is, is it not? Then it becomes possible to take measure of challenges before us for the first time and find solutions to them that are consonant with unversally shared, humane values.

Without trying to assign blame for this global predicament, at least for the moment, I hope we agree that everyone in family of humanity is implicated in the vital work of acknowledging, addressing and overcoming what ails humankind and threatens life as we know it.

Remaining silent in such dire circumstances and, thereby, shirking ones responsibilities to discuss science and ones duties to inform humanity is a sin of omission tantamount to great wickedness, I believe.

Just catching up SEA. You asked for me to point to any previous posts regarding "population dynamics". The new advanced search tool brought up over 1600 references to population, including several key posts.

While you may feel that it isn't given enough attention here, population and its implications are clearly discussed on TOD.

"So, can we have your liver then?"

That actually made me laugh...;-)
(Meaning of Life/Python reference...)

Friends who share your way through school(s) are very precious: In acting, thinking, feeling! and friendship! It is simple and honest and natural. Indivualisation starts not earlier than in the youth. that's why natural energy I'm not sure. Elementary school friends' energy gives you respect and acceptation, that's what I know.
for sure.

they're asocial
they smack you in a hidden
they jump out of the lu and it's locked!
they fetch all the cats in the world from what so ever chimney
and the survive with nearly no food

Nate — I feel your pain bro.