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The Limits of Human Scale


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#81 DJKhalid

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 02:20 PM

Quote

the question is why don't more people do it?

because jews

#82 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 02:39 PM

When you present the hypothetical couple you skip several places ahead.  How did they meet?  Certainly not in a small town with a median age somewhere in the late 40s.  How do they afford a house on Walmart wages?  The transformation of the economy from the 50s through the 90s completely removed many types of work from towns under a specific density.  If we are really talking about small towns, and not satellites of large cities, there are few opportunities, which is why you've seen massive flight from rural to urban environments throughout the 20th century.

Moreover, the couple isn't self-sufficient.  They will want to live somewhere they can form social and work relationships with others, and a low density rural town hardly fits the bill for the majority of people.  The nature of work and social habits will draw young people into the orbit of cities, and keep them there once their careers are established.

By the mid-20th century, towns were faced with the imperative:  grow or die.  Without growth, the lack of hierarchy slots to move into would drive most of the youth to leave whether they wanted to or not, and this left towns in a state of gradual decline and death, unless they were favorably situated to draw population from the surrouding rural area.  The people most likely to stay would be those in service jobs and those lucky enough to get into one of the small number of slots in the upper hierarchy (a few lawyers, doctors, teachers and similar professionals needed).

Even in cities you have a problem, because we can't actually have infinite growth--for example, not all or even many of the lawyers minted every year can find jobs in that profession, much less jobs which have any hope of paying off the debt accrued.  Since there is nowhere else to go, people face decline in living standards instead, but it is less of a decline than they would face in low density areas that offer even less opportunity for them.

Of course the people at the very top of the economic food chain do have the prerogative, and they exercise it--they gravitate toward sparsely populated suburbs and exurbs that afford them more space, or extremely expensive urban districts with low density residential areas--although even these people do not entirely escape the pressures of high population density if they must commute to more crowded spaces to work (assuming they are not independently wealthy or retired).  Assuming that everyone else decides not to make this choice is like assuming that women enter the workplace because they want careers--for most women it's not a choice, it's an economic necessity that they feel from an early age.

Finally, most people now come from urban rather than rural settings, so by the time they are adults prepared to assume full control of their lives they are already tied to urban centers in numerous ways, and have already begun to develop some of the dysfunctional behaviors that make urban centers more appealing (gratification of hedonistic impulses, for example).

#83 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 03:26 PM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 19 May 2013 - 02:39 PM, said:

Even in cities you have a problem, because we can't actually have infinite growth--for example, not all or even many of the lawyers minted every year can find jobs in that profession, much less jobs which have any hope of paying off the debt accrued.  Since there is nowhere else to go, people face decline in living standards instead, but it is less of a decline than they would face in low density areas that offer even less opportunity for them.

That's what I'm talking about.  Professionals are not going to be working for a Wal-Mart salary even in rural areas.  If you're a general practitioner doctor, or even a business manager, you're going to be earning 40k+, and if you add two of those salaries together even in Redneckville it will keep you in a decent sized home, pay for a couple of kids, etc.  The commute may be rough as you might be traveling to the nearest town of size, at least on average for say one of the two earners, but a few years of that will let you get a nest egg that should pay for at least one kid as long as you don't spend lavishly.  Like I said, I've known a couple of couples that have done that, and unsurprisingly they're the ones that have the least marital troubles, the only ones actually that seem to have a totally healthy marriage.

Quote

Of course the people at the very top of the economic food chain do have the prerogative, and they exercise it--they gravitate toward sparsely populated suburbs and exurbs that afford them more space, or extremely expensive urban districts with low density residential areas--although even these people do not entirely escape the pressures of high population density if they must commute to more crowded spaces to work (assuming they are not independently wealthy or retired).  Assuming that everyone else decides not to make this choice is like assuming that women enter the workplace because they want careers--for most women it's not a choice, it's an economic necessity that they feel from an early age.

Finally, most people now come from urban rather than rural settings, so by the time they are adults prepared to assume full control of their lives they are already tied to urban centers in numerous ways, and have already begun to develop some of the dysfunctional behaviors that make urban centers more appealing (gratification of hedonistic impulses, for example).

Like I said before, it's understood the fact that job security and socialization are going to be less fulfilling, so let's get that out of the way.  Is it not worthwhile to be a bit of an island socially if you don't have to deal with the stresses of city living and the marriage stress that comes with it, culminating in putting off or not having a child?  Even if it means you can't have an iPhone, cable television, and you have to eat out only a couple times a week?

As for:

Quote

When you present the hypothetical couple you skip several places ahead.  How did they meet?  Certainly not in a small town with a median age somewhere in the late 40s.  How do they afford a house on Walmart wages?  The transformation of the economy from the 50s through the 90s completely removed many types of work from towns under a specific density.

Median age or not, there are men and women in their primes of life who grow up in small towns, even if they're a relative minority.  The question is why they then choose to join the majority in urban living.  And it's certainly not "out of habit", as barring family moves or whatever, they grew up in small town America, since most kids don't leave their families until minimum age 18, especially out in God's country.  All my high school friends who moved to urban areas did so solely out of money, but then I'm an old fart and the job markets were better then (and not a lot of them moved lol).  Why are kids today still doing it is the $64,000 question.

#84 Chrome

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 09:09 PM

Even if you come from a small town, you are still part of a massive-scale society. Billy-Bob from the boonies watches TV, goes to movies, reads magazines, watches porn, etc. He still knows the names and faces of hundreds, even thousands, of celebrities. He buys products that come from anonymous corporations and has no idea who made them (or how they work). His job requires him to obey decisions made by anonymous strangers who may be thousands of miles away.

Even if the number of people he sees in person on a daily basis is small, it doesn't save him because his interactions with them are only one part of his life. We are surrounded by strangers even when we totally alone.

#85 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 05:40 AM

View PostFigurative Caucasian, on 19 May 2013 - 09:09 PM, said:

Even if you come from a small town, you are still part of a massive-scale society. Billy-Bob from the boonies watches TV, goes to movies, reads magazines, watches porn, etc. He still knows the names and faces of hundreds, even thousands, of celebrities. He buys products that come from anonymous corporations and has no idea who made them (or how they work). His job requires him to obey decisions made by anonymous strangers who may be thousands of miles away.

Even if the number of people he sees in person on a daily basis is small, it doesn't save him because his interactions with them are only one part of his life. We are surrounded by strangers even when we totally alone.

Totally agreed.  But I don't think it explains the constant exodus, even a little bit.  We have Netflix or the internet or Facebook or whatever to get our daily fix of Jersey Shore and the Kardashians, etc.  Hell we don't even have to pay for movies or drive to see them if we're dedicated enough for that mental candy.

Bear in mind I'm not looking for a definite, X leads to Y leads to Z answer, and I don't know that a single one is possible.  I'm just wondering the trends that explain the trends about why we're still concentrating as a society into smaller areas that cause these stresses, even as we get more neurotic as a society.  Are we expecting big pharma to give us happy pills to countact them?  Does the media play an even bigger role than we thought in societal breakdown?  Is it peer pressure?  Is the poz in the schools the biggest factor?  Clearly the path of the future, due to energy prices, more minorities in urban areas, and a failing and tyrannical government, is smaller and more local.  Why is the temporary trend still going in the opposite direction?

#86 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 05:45 AM

There isn't an "exodus", George.  82% of the population lives in cities and suburbs (this exceeds the global rate of about 50%).  And the rural population that is left is disproportionately dying old people.  There's no one to migrate.

#87 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 05:57 AM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 20 May 2013 - 05:45 AM, said:

There isn't an "exodus", George.  82% of the population lives in cities and suburbs (this exceeds the global rate of about 50%).  And the rural population that is left is disproportionately dying old people.  There's no one to migrate.

LOL they haven't shut down the high schools in my rural town yet for lack of attendees, so obviously there are some youth there.  Try again please.

#88 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 06:20 AM

I don't think that's really a contradiction of anything I've said.

#89 Kevin Wall

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 12:11 PM

View PostGeorge Obsolete Peppard (GOP), on 20 May 2013 - 05:57 AM, said:

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 20 May 2013 - 05:45 AM, said:

There isn't an "exodus", George.  82% of the population lives in cities and suburbs (this exceeds the global rate of about 50%).  And the rural population that is left is disproportionately dying old people.  There's no one to migrate.

LOL they haven't shut down the high schools in my rural town yet for lack of attendees, so obviously there are some youth there.  Try again please.

you're f**king dumb

#90 Chuck U. Farley

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 12:40 PM

I have to agree with Pleasureman.  The scale of our society is now global, and that pulls people into cities where global scale commerce can occur.  It's almost like a disparate group of animals being fused into one living entity: the redundant organs atrophy as the individual beings are subsumed into the body of the larger whole.  The relentless pressure to achieve efficiency and profit forces countries to abandon their unprofitable industries and small towns.  The big cities are the nodes where the transformation is occurring.  The concentration of resources make it more efficient, the large markets there make dispersal of products and services more profitable, the transportation networks efficiently connect it to other global centers.  This is happening everywhere.  The global system is becoming a pyramid, a hierarchy arranged on a global scale.

That means that our society is going to be torn apart as it becomes part of this global pyramid.  The people are being drawn into the cities where they hope to offer tradeable services.  The flood of Mexicans and third worlders into the country is part of our global integration.  The massive spending on welfare is just a vestige of our egalitarian past, when white men could not stand to see their fellow white man wallow in poverty.  It is heavily used by blacks and Mexicans here in order for them to achieve some parity with whites, but their free ride will soon come to an end.  Our new global elites will pare that back as much as they can in order to keep the peace or find some equilibrium where they can profit and some middle class proles can foot the bill.

#91 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 04:13 PM

View PostS. O. Terrick, on 20 May 2013 - 12:11 PM, said:

View PostGeorge Obsolete Peppard (GOP), on 20 May 2013 - 05:57 AM, said:

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 20 May 2013 - 05:45 AM, said:

There isn't an "exodus", George.  82% of the population lives in cities and suburbs (this exceeds the global rate of about 50%).  And the rural population that is left is disproportionately dying old people.  There's no one to migrate.

LOL they haven't shut down the high schools in my rural town yet for lack of attendees, so obviously there are some youth there.  Try again please.

you're f**king dumb

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#92 Probably Not Posting Here Anymore

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Posted 03 September 2013 - 11:27 AM

Sailer had a post this week which offers some interesting insight into this topic. Context for the quotations below: the Yanomami tribe are remote South American rain forest pepo. Many years back an anthropologist married one of the tribeswomen and brought her back to Jersey with him. They had three kids, but the tribal just couldn't get into urban living:

Quote

I live in a place where I do not gather wood and no-one hunts. The women do not call me to go kill fish. Sometimes I get tired of being in the house, so I get angry with my husband. I go to the stores and look at clothing.

Quote

It isn't like in the jungle. People are separate and alone. It must be that they do not like their mothers.

In this person we see someone who grew up in a culture and context about as far removed from modern scaled-up society as you can find on Earth (the Yanomami are removed from society scaled up even as far as the early medieval period). This is just one individual, sure, but her reaction is telling. No sense of community, no sense of purposeful effort, negative emotions arising from boredom/frustration, empty consumerism as an unsatisfying substitute (the woman eventually returned to the jungle), and, again, with emphasis: no sense of community. Make of her sense of a lack of motherly affection what you will (the mothers in the Jersey suburbs were most likely women who combined child rearing with a career outside the home).

A key difference between this Yanomami woman and us is that we have generations of gradual acclimation to civilized life, and yet her reactions to the modern city sound a lot like what we've seen in spades from people since the beginning of the industrial era. And increasingly in the past century.

Also, it's interesting to note in light of her comments that references to the "urban jungle" seem to be quite inaccurate: the jungle is in a way more human than the warrens of the great cities, despite showing less imprint of human will. The possibility occurs that there is a point in human control over an environment where it is too extreme to produce a viable habitat for human beings (or real heroes).

#93 Minsky

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 12:41 PM

View PostMarxist Hunter, on 01 July 2012 - 02:19 PM, said:

Dunno if this has been said already, but I see 2 very big reasons for the increase in scale: cheap energy and nuclear weapons.

Cheap and abundant energy, especially oil, has increased farm yields considerably, which enabled the many-fold increase in population since then. Many millions of people live now today because food is cheap. Peak oil is fat approaching, and when it does, there will be war. The wars itself, combined with the increasing scarcity of oil (and cheap food), will lead to famines and death--a two way decrease in scale.
These are the two main drivers of scale (together with transport/food production tech and the managerial revolution).  Past societies either collapsed in war-often after expanding their borders beyond manageable limits, like the Romans-or tapped most of their easily available resources (soil, timber, iron) and settled into comfortable stagnation.  Nukes and cheap energy rule out both options.  Looking at Russia and Eastern Europe a peaceful population decline to a sustainable level seems possible in some regions, if not in others.  Whether continued immigration is allowed to swell populations beyond sustainable levels will be a major factor.

#94 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 03:05 PM

Populations are already exceeding sustainable levels.  We are relying on increasingly fragile networks of resource shipment in order to maintain standards of living, which at any rate rest on an imbalanced economic equation (basically a ponzi scheme).  The West is undergoing a sharp population drop and aging out of social welfare systems.  The population drop makes migration of other groups more destabilizing in a shorter period of time.  As recently cited, European whites are going from 28% of the world's population to under 10% by mid-century, while less feedback-sensitive Arabs and Africans explode in numbers and pour into Western nations in a steady stream, abetted by growth-addicted elites.

Beyond birthrates, European whites seem to be assuming dysfunctional behaviors due to the turbulence of mass society, with declining levels of trust, loss of cohesion, and compensatory materialism and self-isolation.  Even if their numbers weren't falling quickly it would be reasonable to predict collapse owing to the rapidly escalating complexity costs and the palpable psychic exhaustion of the race.  Complex societies aren't very good at adjusting to sharp demographic reversals.  By the time changing conditions reach mass awareness, the society has reached a point where it is collapsing in on itself.

Of course shitlibertarians who are no good at math assure us that Africa is about to become an economic powerhouse (they feel the number of coups is now down to a manageable level).  More likely they'll be rapidly stripped of resources by a world population that is indulging in its last orgiastic feast before nature rebalances the equation.

That's the pessimistic view anyway.  The optimistic view is that, despite or because of the record of previous collapses, our society is resilient and will find a way to devolve in an orderly manner (or parts of it will).  The current situation is unprecedented--we don't know what collapse looks like in a crowded, interconnected world.  Notwithstanding the late Western zeal for universalism, kin preference may reassert itself and migrations could speed up the process of decentralization and re-nationalization.  Instead of leading to extinction, the declining European white population might allow retrenchment and regrowth at a reduced scale while Africa and other parts of the world, no longer sustained by massive Western consumption, are forced into a brutal reckoning (but that's not our problem).

It's both an upside and a downside that mass societies can undergo rapid change.  Certainly people at the beginning of the 20th century expected a very different future from what emerged, as did people in the mid-20th century, and perhaps as do we.  It gets tricky to predict the future when you can anticipate it and alter your direction.

#95 Probably Not Posting Here Anymore

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Posted 22 December 2013 - 12:11 AM

A 2007 article connects IQ and dysgenic population growth to the effects of density: http://www.humanbiol...s 32 (2007).pdf

Since the author is German, it seems he can't help suggesting that nature is having her revenge against mankind for scale:

Quote

If nature is reacting to dramatically reduce the present bloated size of the human population, which is upsetting the normal balance of species and resources, and in this way protect the earth against further exploitation, human capital deterioration would be one way to bring about this end because this large human population has become dependent on high IQ for its survival. Because in a democratic society population pollution is politically non-existent and even impossible by definition, the success of the counter-strike of nature against a species that is intelligent enough to propagate and fill the earth, but not sufficiently intelligent to understand that it must conserve its ultimate resource, the human mind and thus the quality of its population, seems to be guaranteed.


#96 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 24 December 2013 - 01:50 AM

Related to the issue of scale, here is a recent interview with Joseph Tainter where he discusses the overall problem of complexity and increased consumption of energy.



Tainter points out that reversing complexity is not a simple task because complexity always exists to solve problems (often problems related to growth).  This is why I think reducing complexity can only be done by reducing population.  Probably it can't be done globally--that would require its own complex system of managing growth.  Ideally what will happen is that things will "gently" break apart and if we're lucky one of those parts will grasp the advantages of moderate complexity (accepting the problems that would require greater complexity to solve).

And by the way if you haven't read this thread fully, you should start from the beginning.

#97 Kike Hernandez

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Posted 27 December 2013 - 03:01 AM

If you reduce population, you would still have the same sort of complexity, just maybe on a smaller scale.

#98 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 27 December 2013 - 04:57 AM

View PostDynatest, on 27 December 2013 - 03:01 AM, said:

If you reduce population, you would still have the same sort of complexity, just maybe on a smaller scale.

A lot of the complexity we have is there to address the problems that increased population creates.  There are other factors, such as homogenity and technology, but if you look closely these also tend to be connected to population size (homogenity can break down due to the fluidity of human capital that a mass society creates; technology advances at a rapid pace due to high investment made possible by mass economics).  Plus you can identify stages of sociopolitical organization that are locked to population size.

You want less movement, stronger connections between people, reduced traffic of information.  These are all of course the opposite of what we think is a net good (fluidity, individualism, data volume).

#99 Bixxy Noodles

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Posted 27 December 2013 - 12:23 PM

Complexity arises from increased population, but it also comes from other sources as well. One of the biggest of those is time accretion. Many solutions to social problems have a one-way implementation path: a kind of "trapdoor logic" to them. Once implemented, they can't be easily reversed because of cascading dependencies and feedback consequences. Each new solution changes the fundamental scope, nature, and understanding of the problem itself. After even a few decades of that non-linear problem/solution feedback interaction, you get an accumulation of interrelated and interdependent complexities that cannot be unwound or simplified. This becomes much more rapid when lots of people are involved, but it occurs in all social milieus at all scales.

In the jargon, we refer to these as Wicked Problems. Here's a good primer on the subject: http://cognexus.org/...kedproblems.pdf

#100 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 27 December 2013 - 04:09 PM

View PostBixxy Noodles, on 27 December 2013 - 12:23 PM, said:

Complexity arises from increased population, but it also comes from other sources as well. One of the biggest of those is time accretion. Many solutions to social problems have a one-way implementation path: a kind of "trapdoor logic" to them. Once implemented, they can't be easily reversed because of cascading dependencies and feedback consequences. Each new solution changes the fundamental scope, nature, and understanding of the problem itself. After even a few decades of that non-linear problem/solution feedback interaction, you get an accumulation of interrelated and interdependent complexities that cannot be unwound or simplified. This becomes much more rapid when lots of people are involved, but it occurs in all social milieus at all scales.

In the jargon, we refer to these as Wicked Problems. Here's a good primer on the subject: http://cognexus.org/...kedproblems.pdf

This is exactly right.  Once we have greater complexity it is difficult to let go of it.

Some of it may be psychological dependency--for example, airport security after 9/11.  There are layers of complexity that we could sacrifice if we had the resolve to live with the risk.  After all, we live with the risk of spree shootings because we're not willing to give up the freedom to defend ourselves.  Both spree shootings and terrorist attacks are rare events with a real risk that is neglible (you're far more likely to get killed by a drunk driver, or if you live in the southwest, a Mexican).  (N.B. There is an opportunistic aspect here as well--9/11 presented elites with a chance to increase their control by an order of magnitude, so they were eager to hype the risk.)

One of the benefits of reducing population is that rare events are experienced as even rarer because of course the repetitions needed to get to the rare event take place over a longer time span.  The perception of risk, not actual risk, seems to be more important to escalating complexity (there's little we can do about human perception, which is founded on linear rather than exponential probability).  Other sociological changes happen due to exponential changes in scale--crime for example becomes more of a problem as mass cities create anonymity while also presenting people with criminal tendencies more unrelated and unsympathetic people to target, as well as giving them the awareness that crime fighting must employ triage and hence exploitable opportunities.  You see a similar thing with democratic efforts by specific groups to secure greater government benefits, a form of theft from the commons.

Increased population also increases complexity by pushing resource consumption to limits that require greater technology (or else limited technology limits the population naturally).  We have cities in the desert that can only exist because of large scale management of water resources.  Reduce the population and the level of effort needed to sustain communities drops greatly.

The problem with controlled population reduction is that it means pain now for a happier life later, a choice that becomes more difficult due to scale itself (i.e. we feel less group cohesion and thus less responsibility for future generations, who will reap many of the benefits of our sacrifice).  This is of course even more of a problem as ethnic diversity creates more conflict and an acute awareness of which groups are getting the spoils.

We were discussing in chat last night the idea that the net effect of the Internet has been largely negative.  This is counter-intuitive to mainstream discourse because the benefits to information fluidity and efficiency of operations is so great.  It also provides us with pellet consumption activities that fire off reward signals in the brain.  But on the other side of the scale it reduces depth of social interaction (which requires physical presence), introduces possibly harmful levels of noise to our daily environment, and subordinates local relationships to self-interested transactions.

From a certain point of view, the Internet starts to look like food aid to Africa.  The benefits of greater complexity end up creating need for even more complexity as they allow us to outgrow previous constraints on population and consumption, while exacerbating poorly understood sociopolitical changes.  Even 30 years ago, Joseph Tainter was observing diminishing returns on investment in production and research.  Today we seem to be accelerating complexity simply to sustain current political fantasies, without any benefits being realized.

To change people's minds I think you have to get them to understand the population density problem (which is somewhat easy to understand) and you have to present to them the incentive of richer social relationships that reduce their reliance on continual stimulation.  But it's never easy changing addict behavior.


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