Citizen Action Monitor

Hagens says initial reaction to his narrative is either ‘denialism’ or ‘nihilism’ – Nate Hagens (37)

Both extremes have one thing in common – They obviate the need for individuals to act responsibly.

No 2319 Posted by fw, June 28, 2018

To access links to all other posts in this series, click on the Tab titled “Where Are We Going? by Dr. Nate Hagens” in the top left margin.

“… people dislike uncertainty. When we hear about all these energy and environmental scenarios we typically either a) reject or deny the implications using rationalizations along the lines of ‘technology will solve it’ / ‘we’ll think of something’ etc. or b) ‘it’s too late – there’s nothing we can do, might as well enjoy the day’. … The reality is that the future is not yet determined and exists as a constantly shifting probability distribution based on events, technology, wisdom, risk and the actions of individuals and communities. We need more people to avoid the two poles of denial and nihilism and stay in the center, own a bit of dissonance, and engage.Resilience.org 

Today’s post, Pt.37, continuum 36, is Dr. Hagens’ first entry in his category titled “The Individual”. Hagens notes that initial reaction to his narrative of emerging energy and environmental issues are, at the extreme ends of a continuum, either fatalistic — “We’re Doomed” — or denialist — “There’s No Problem.”

Rather, he suggests, the future will manifest as a Certainty versus Probability continuum, with the latter as a probability distribution, a normal curve with lots of different events and options. What we desperately need, he says, are more people in the middle of the distribution, ideally a collection of more responsibly informed people who will take action to ensure a sustainable future.

Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 37, continuum 36, runs from 47:39 to 49:22.

Alternatively, a video of Hagens’ talk, along with a “loosely related” essay on the talk, are available by clicking on the following linked title. This version, published by Resilience.org, also includes excellent readers’ comments, including responses by Hagens.

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Where are we going? by Nate Hagens, Resilience.org, May 8, 2018

TRANSCRIPT (from 47:39 to 49:22)

[THE INDIVIDUAL] –

47:39[Continuum 36: Certainty vs Probability] So, moving on to The Individual and then The Conclusion. Certainty versus probability. All of you, by virtue of being human, dislike uncertainty. You like to have certainty in your brain. Why? Because it resolves uncomfortable dissonance [mental anxiety].

48:00 – So, when you hear this story — which I’ve just really skirted around the edges because I wanted to tell a story without a lot of facts – your reaction, if you’re like most people, is one of two things:

No, no, no that can’t be right. There’s no problem. Technology’s going to solve it. We’re going to have flying cars and renewable energy. And we’re clever, and we’ve had this before, and humans have always figured something out. There’s no problem.”

Denial! Or…

“Oh my God. Really. That sounds horrible. I’m going to go play Overwatch in my basement and order some chicken wings. We’re screwed. There’s nothing we can do.”

And so I call this “denialism” – denial and nihilism.

48:40Both of those poles have something in common – They obviate any need for personal response and engagement in these issues.

48:52 – So, looking at [the graph] on the right, the future, in reality, is a probability distribution. It’s a normal curve with lots of different events underneath it. Most likely, the future that manifests in Salina, US, is going to be between “We’re Doomed” and “There’s No Problem.” And we need more people in the middle.

49:17 – So, it’s okay to have a little uncertainty on these things.

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[Resilience.org Supplement]Certainty vs Probability – The future exists as a probability distribution of: very bad, bad, so-so, benign and very good futures.  But people dislike uncertainty. When we hear about all these energy and environmental scenarios we typically either a) reject or deny the implications using rationalizations along the lines of ‘technology will solve it’ / ‘we’ll think of something’ etc. or b) ‘it’s too late – there’s nothing we can do -might as well enjoy the day’. These reactions seem the opposite on the surface but have two things in common: 1) they create dissonance resolving ‘certainty’ in our minds and in turn 2) they obviate the need for personal response and engagement (which would be uncomfortable emotionally and physically). The reality is that the future is not yet determined and exists as a constantly shifting probability distribution based on events, technology, wisdom, risk and the actions of individuals and communities.  We need more people to avoid the two poles of denial and nihilism and stay in the center, own a bit of dissonance, and engage.

*****

About Dr. Nathan John Hagens – Hagens, 51, worked on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers for 10 years before closing his own hedge fund in 2003 to develop a systems synthesis approach to the human predicament. At present, Dr. Hagens is a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament. The readings and lectures cover literature in systems ecology, energy and natural resources, thermodynamics, history, anthropology, human behavior, neuroscience, environmental science, sociology, economics, globalization/trade, and finance/debt with an overarching goal to give students a general understanding of how our human ecosystem functions as a whole.

Visit Nate Hagens’ personal website at The Monkey Trap.

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