Yes, we’re part of an energy-eating global superorganism, but you still have our own volition, creativity, and ability to impact the future in outsized ways.
No 2564 Posted by fw, December 28, 2019 (Set 3: The Big Picture – No 8 of 8)
To access links to other posts by Nate Hagens about The Human Predicament, click on the Tab titled Teachings of Dr. Nate Hagens about The Human Predicament – Links to Posts
“Hello. Freshmen. Honors freshmen. University of Minnesota, honors freshmen. We’ve reached the end of this long video series. Thank you for spending the time to watch these videos. So, we’ve arrived at this cultural transition time when we know where we came from, how our brains work, how energy and materials underpin our modern civilization, where we’re headed, what we’re doing, what the possible trajectories are. We know all this stuff. We know we’re functioning as a superorganism, as a global society. So does all that matter? Does putting the whole picture together change the possibilities of what we can do in the future? I believe it does, which is why I designed this class – Reality 101 … So this video [series] had some intense stuff. And I would like to finish by giving you non-exhaustive, but a short list of recommendations of how to take this stuff onboard, how to integrate it into your college studies, into your life, into your career, and into making an impact in our society. So here’s a very short overview of some “what to do” suggestions.” —Nate Hagens
Dr. Nathan J. Hagens teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar — Reality 101: A Survey of the Human Predicament — to students at the University of Minnesota. Nate Hagens is a familiar name to anyone who tracks energy and resilience. Nate was a successful Wall Street trader. He left all that in 2003 to probe more deeply with his students into the human predicament.
Below is my repost of video 8 of 8 in Set 3 of The Big Picture series of 34 videos. This video also completes the full set of 34 videos.
But first, here is a sample of some of Dr. Hagens’ “What To Do” suggestions for his students as they prepare to venture out into a world “currently on a runaway train with a superorganism shovelling fuel into it.”
My repost, below, of Hagens’ video 8 of 8 in Set 3 of The Big Picture series of 34 videos, includes the embedded video, my text highlighting, minor editing changes, and my full transcript. Alternatively, watch video 8, without my transcript, by clicking on the following linked title.
Hello. Freshmen. Honors freshmen. University of Minnesota, honors freshmen. We’ve reached the end of this long video series. Thank you for spending the time to watch these videos. So, we’ve arrived at this cultural transition time when we know where we came from, how our brains work, how energy and materials underpin our modern civilization, where we’re headed, what we’re doing, what the possible trajectories are. We know all this stuff. We know we’re functioning as a superorganism, as a global society.
So does all that matter? Does putting the whole picture together change the possibilities of what we can do in the future? I believe it does, which is why I designed this class – Reality 101 – and this short version of the course that you all have [had] a little exposure to.
So this video [series] had some intense stuff. And I would like to finish by giving you non-exhaustive, but a short list of recommendations of how to take this stuff onboard, how to integrate it into your college studies, into your life, into your career, and into making an impact in our society.
So here’s a very short overview of some “what to do” suggestions.
01:33 – Okay. What to Do? You’ve heard five hours [six, actually] about human behavior, energy, and the environment – all of this together informs our understanding of how these things fit together. But that’s just the first piece. We also have to know how to think about this stuff. How do we live with this knowledge? We also have to know what to do with all this knowledge. Viewing this video series, you might now look at the world differently with respect to your own brain and behavior, your own view about energy, your own view about the environment. You have new lenses with which to view things.
Here’s a brief list of suggestions on how to maybe use these new lenses – in your studies, in your career and in your life. (Shown here is a model for these lenses is my student, Miranda).
Okay, first. Appreciate the huge advantage you have in life because of being born in this time, in this country, and because you understand these things. You’re one of the very few, so far, who does.
Next, if you learned anything from this five-hour video series it’s that things are not always what they seem [to be]. And that we are extremely susceptible to social pressure. Use logic, reason and critical thinking skills. Think for yourself and avoid the consensus trance.
Try to accept [that] you can’t shift things too much before the concepts from these videos become more well-known to other people.
Don’t step out of society. Live a normal life. Advance in a job that you like in today’s world. But know it will probably change at some point. And at that point, consider being a sleeper, a leader, an anchor for the future.
Be ready to engage when the world needs your knowledge on these things.
3:21 – Okay, Energy Lenses. How does looking at the world, understanding that energy is very important relative to money and technology, change what I might recommend?
First, our culture is chock full of complicated, expensive and ultimately unnecessary stuff and expenses. And they’re unsustainable. Simplify first, and beat the rush.
Recall the cow-milking example, illustrating the massive labor-saving benefits that we get from cheap fossil carbon. And, that higher energy costs, in turn, impact the super high energy intensity processes, manufacturing products etc., like aluminum smelting or air travel. This same dynamic is going to apply to individuals who organize around energy-intensive activities. So, perhaps, don’t take on unbreakable commitments which will be tougher and impossible to maintain in a physically, energetically poorer economy.
Seeing the break lights of two cars ahead of you gives you advance warnings in a snowstorm. In the same way, using this knowledge about energy and materials in the economy to contribute to a massive list of societal transition projects and campaigns tackling pieces of these challenges – You can’t do it all. Find something you’re passionate about in agriculture or engineering or social work or teaching or conservation.
In your lifetime, the world will likely become a bigger place, less accessible than today due to more costly global transportation. Consider relocalizing and regionalizing supply chains for key goods and services including food, clothing, materials. This might be costly at first, so will seem weird, but it’s part of looking two steps ahead,
Help to design technology that provides basic human services as opposed to short-term dopamine squirts. Could we design solar panels that last 200 years? We don’t know.
5:20 – Okay. Moving on to the Behavior Lenses. How to look at your own brain and thinking processes after these videos.
First, get to know your modular mind and how it actually works rather than how it feels like it works. Metacognition – being more aware of yourself gives you insights into your primal, less conscious desires, as well as an ability to trump them, which, in turn, gives you an edge in social situations, more empathy for others, and an ability to solve problems in creative ways.
We’re surrounded by supernormal stimuli. Turn the tables. Make the NORMAL, SUPER. Reset the ratchet of your joy for life taking breaks from short-attention-span artificial stimulation. Be in touch with the way your brain evolved to be used. And remember to pay yourself in things that can’t be denominated in dollars. Here’s me last year hiking the Appalachian Trail for a week with my little brother. No internet.
From time to time get away from people, media, news of the world and just reset your mind and thoughts, by yourself. I recommend doing this in nature. For those who are not nature buffs, just being disconnected from other humans is really the key,
Recall the capuchin monkey example with the grapes and the cucumbers.
Instead of constantly comparing yourself to others, which is our default gene agenda and understandable, try instead to personally recognize how amazingly rich our lives can be right now. Cucumbers are metaphorically quite awesome. It does take practice but we can personally redefine our outlook to one of abundance instead of scarcity – which is a good philosophy to have even if your future does result in considerable affluence and abundance. If someone else has grapes, learn to genuinely be happy for them rather than making it about you. And you will be far more content, which is better than grapes.
7:18 – Choose Your Tribe Wisely. We are currently on a runaway train with a superorganism shovelling fuel into it. You might as well find the dining car with people you share life goals and meaning with. And most of you are seeking that anyway so this is just a reminder.
The most important influence on your physical reality will be your physical reality. But the most important influence on your psychological reality is who you are surrounded by, and what they care about. Some of you may even become metaphorical Frodos on some specific issues and thrive.
Keep in mind that after basic needs are met the best things in life are free.
And remember always to be kind to yourself.
8:02 – Okay. The Environment and Ecological Lenses. Consider personally engaging with the big issues and the big problems. We need more facilitators that understand energy and the economy and also care about the environment. This could take the form of direct activism or learning to make bigger changes by playing a longer and more sophisticated game. The knowledge you now hold, the synthesis of these issues is still very rare – so if not you, who?
Consider immersing yourself in the very systems which are the problem and strategically affecting them from within. You can’t save the world yourself but you might be able to cause important change on a larger scale than you might think.
8:45 – Okay. The Superorganism Lenses. How to view the situation with a superorganism lens. We’re each part of an energy-eating global superorganism. But this doesn’t mean we don’t have our own volition, creativity, and ability to impact the future in outsized ways.
We can’t be perfect. And the more we try to be the more impossible it becomes, which ultimately takes away from being effective on the larger prize.
Reducing our wasteful or unethical consumption is a good idea for personal resilience or maybe avoiding hypocrisy. But Good Karma isn’t going to move events.
So, minimizing our impacts only makes us a smaller part of the problem.
Instead, we need some people to aspire to succeed on scales far larger than our own impact. This isn’t easy but it’s possible.
We’re alive at a time when we should consider maximizing our impact on the future, not minimizing it. Maybe find ways to invent, lead, sacrifice, communicate, and work that make a larger impact than your one-eighth billion of an ameba footprint.
One useful way of knowing that what you’re doing isn’t tethered to the consensus trance is to not tell anyone you’re doing it. That is being true north versus your own inner principles and goals as opposed to being seen by others to be striving.
10:02 – Finally, “Who are you?” – Not today, or even this semester, but sometime soon, have a conversation with yourself about who you are living during these times. What do you stand for? Are you your urges? Or your principles? Some combination?
Knowledge of who you are gives you at least some power over your daily life. While the path to profoundly wonderful human futures seems difficult, it remains open. We have powers and abilities that our ancestors couldn’t dream of. And the freedom to use them.
This century will consist of challenges and accelerating changes. Existing social structures, conventions, and rules are also going to change. Any plans and goals which endure through these changes will require the kind of resilience which flows from who you are; from your own ethics and dedication to the things you’ve decided to treat as important or even as sacred.
What our organizations and institutions do will follow from who its people are, not the other way around. Put simply, this will be the century which tests the human potential for destruction against the human potential for greatness.
You, young hominid, are the mind of life on Earth. The things which are difficult for you are utterly impossible for any other being. To the extent the future can be consciously visualized and influenced, it will be done with a mind like yours, which strives to be self-aware, proactive and good, rather than merely self-satisfied, reactive and reward-seeking.
Learn, think, talk, steer the conversation and life’s events towards good. We are all alive at a fascinating, amazing and perilous time.
The stuff in this video series was intense. It’s natural to feel some fear and anxiety about your future, our future, but it’s my hope that armed with a clear picture of what the game board looks like, you won’t view this synthesis as a bummer, but as an opportunity, a chance to be part of an adventure.
Enjoy your life. Live it fully. Treat it as an adventure. Strive to respect and like yourself because you live up to your own high aspirations and what the unique person who is “you” should do.
After watching this video series it should be abundantly clear we are not alive in normal times. I invite you to play a role in the greater story.
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