Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I think that coupled systems of positive and negative feedbacks "naturally" become cybernetic systems. Any part X of the system that "learns" to react to neighbouring inputs in ways that increases stability of X, logically leads to increaed autonomy of X. Subsystems may "learn" to control their own growths and ocsillations as well. "Learning" may mean just stumbling upon a functional configuration of feedabcks (that then tends to preserve itself), or it may mean development of a cybernetic-mechanical mechanism to copy past reactions in certain distinguishable situations. Once a perception-reaction network is established, the system has a "mind" of its own.

Subsytems with expressive functionality put more structure to the whole system - positive feedbacks will be controlled or exploited by "someone", cooperative and competative feedbacks between functional subsystems will gradually occur. Self-preserving functionality of the whole system may emerge.

In the light of this, we should not assume that our destructive growth can physically continue until it crosses boundaries of its own validity - the boundaries may "come" forward themselves. The positive feedback of our run-away civilization should provoke a reaction of the Earth system. Do we see it? Is the explosion of our civilization so unique that the Earth system, even if existing as a smart self-preserving Gaia, "would not know" what to do with it? Or is human impact already so great that an unmistakable stress signal is already received by a core network of geological/atmospheric processes, but the reaction will take some time (a decade or so)?

by das monde on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:34:30 AM EST
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I think you're ascribing some intentionality to physical processes. The Earth doesn't care about carbon dioxide or about feedback loops.

It's more of a textbook die-off scenario, that - unfortunately for us - is going to be the biggest in history.

Maybe if we're lucky we'll be hit by an asteroid, and we'll be able to blame that instead.

The real problem is that evolution has bred humans to be smart enough to deal with small-scale survivability issues - like 'Whose brain do I eat today?' - but not smart enough to think globally. The predictive horizon of the average human ends at his or her front door. If they're lucky. Thinking far beyond that is too much of a stretch.

And among the humans who are - possibly - smart enough, there's a persistent brain-eating predator class which has no interest in anything except their own immediate pleasure.

We still cannibalise each other economically. And now we've cannibalised most of the planet too.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 09:42:14 AM EST
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It's functionality, not intentionality. I do not prescribe any intention formation, comprehension, and realisation planning. Just a copied perception-reaction cycle.

People can do big scale things, if they have to. But the modern "progress" and conveninece makes things like long-term planning, resourse conservation, child rearing in families unnnecessary. Ideology speeds up the process of unraveling of "obsolete" habits. The canibalism of this scale started recently, and will not last long.

by das monde on Thu May 24th, 2007 at 11:08:01 PM EST
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