Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Thoughts on biology - We aren't the first

Western civilization is not the first to alter a bioscape. Though we are the latest.

American Indian -
Though we like to romanticize the American Indian, their migration to North America had a big effect on the wild life. Shortly after they arrived the population of large mammals in the continent dropped steadily and caused the extinction of many species.

Of course, Indians didn't affect the whole planet. This is true, but western civilization isn't the first in even that respect. When plants first came about there were many different kinds of microbes floating around in the carbon dioxide rich atmosphere. When the plants started pumping out oxygen many of them couldn't cope and left us forever extinct.

This is what I have gathered from the scientific community. My suspicion is that every time a new species climbs to the top of the food chain there is a shift in the network beneath it. Like the sand on a dune as you climb.

There is a moral in noting that not all kings of the hill firmly established their presence on the planet. Most notably the dinosaurs. Another suspicion tells me there are still others who left us due to their own vices. Sometimes standing on top of the dune changes it in such a way that you can no longer stand on top of it.


As it has been often noted in a geological frame humans haven't been on Earth very long. This seems to raise great pride that we managed to rise to such esteem so quickly.

I'm not so sure there was another choice. Well, other than extinction.

There was some novelty, perhaps the opposable thumb, perhaps a neurological reconfiguration, that caused us to outgrow our biological niche. From there we would have been looking for another niche; another place to secure a livelihood and with it our presence. But we didn't find it. We kept innovating and looking, and innovating and looking but eventually we ran out of places to look and we had to make our home at the top of the food chain.

As we are finding this can be a very tenuous place to hang your hat. The sand is shifting beneath our feet and we don't know what it will look like when it stops. Equilibrium will be restored. That is what nature does. It will stop eventually, perhaps with us still on top and perhaps not.

Perhaps unfortunately that is not the end of the story. Assuming we are still on the dune when it stops moving we will be but another grain of sand. We will have established practices, cultures, relationships with places, things and other species. We will eventually stop innovating. There will be no more reason to, and we will be another grain of sand on the dune.

There will be another late comer to the planet, probably terrestrial, perhaps extra-. They will try to position themselves on top of the dune and find it shift beneath their feet. Our established relationships will be stressed, our innovative muscle will be weak, and we may be fed upon.

We may then, for the first time, be depended upon on this planet.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Tony Robbins Curve

I was reintroduced to Tony Robbins recently. I caught his presentation on TED and found some of the ideas interesting, and even useful. I did some more poking around on him and found his site. Not being one to pass up a freebie I put my specs in for the free coaching session.

A few days later I got a phone call from Steve Becker. He's one of Tony Robbins' life coaches. Firstly, I was a little taken aback since I wasn't expecting anything at all to happen; well, maybe a few extra emails a month. I wasn't expecting a phone call. But Steve seemed like he was mostly with it and explained the process to me.

The theory seems sound. Under pressure people are capable of some pretty great things. I know I can surprise myself under the right conditions. So one thing the life coach does is keep some pressure on you. Another way of looking at it is that everybody likes to have a good answer to whatever question might be asked. What I do is tell Steve the questions to ask, and knowing that he is going to ask them I am going to work to have a good answer for them.

After our last conversation he left me with the homework of figuring 3 falsifiable goals. I chose to make them about my social life, Academy of Learning and the Reserves. Steve is going to call again tomorrow to discuss them with me. I'll tell you how it goes.


Even with the bit of information and contact I have had with the organization and the ideas I have started to think about a few things differently. I have been considering how as we gain resources the marginal effectiveness seems to drop steadily.

Consider our income. The first few dollars we all probably spend pretty productively on things like food, shelter, clothing and such. After that things start to get less economical. We start eating out more; we buy cigarettes and alcohol; we order cable and start paying 18% on our credit cards. Things seem to go down hill very quickly. When you put it on a graph, income v. marginal effect, I am coming to call this the Tony Robbins Curve.

This curve seems to matter. It is changing the way I look at a lot of things. Apply it to the graduated tax system... and the different strata on the food chain. I'm going to have fun with it.

Friday, February 9, 2007

First Time for Everything

Most times I have a pretty good idea of what I am doing with respect to very large scopes and very small scopes. I've usually considered the costs and benefits, local effects and long term ramifications. As far back as I can remember whenever I left this road something happened that was unpleasant in one way or another. With women it was dispair, jobs it was money, society it was outcast.

Of course I made some thought-out decisions that hadn't worked out, but that meant I had to tweak my model. Give more consideration to this, reprioritize that, recognize that pattern.. you'll see that one again. And to date my models are pretty well honed. Since all the work has gone into the policy less work has to go into the decisions. And so things have gone.

And then today. Today I lost it. A bit. But it seems to have been a good thing. I go to the Academy of Learning and as with most places I tend to keep to myself. There are no classes or group homework so it is easy to keep to yourself. I'm finding that a relationship can be built entirely on nods, smiles and 'Hey's.

As I am nearing the end of a major project and I am trying to lunge toward the finish. Only it isn't coming out so much as a lunge. It is more of a scamper up a mud slide against gale force head winds. It's hard. But it's retardedly hard. Unnecessarily hard. Wasting my time hard. Previously I took the conversation into private before I started critiquing the courses but this time I didn't have the wherewithall. I made a few articulate points and a few less articulate. Eventually I got the information and latittued I needed to lunge to the finish without going crazy.

Turns out that I did something else. I seem to have articulated some of the frustrations others were having too. I got a distinct feeling of acknowledgement and gratitude from the other students for the rest of the day.

So the amazing thing here is that had I put any thought into what I was about to do I would never have done it. And yet it seemed to work out well. I'm not going to try to make a habbit out of thoughtlessness but I am going to keep this in the back of my head if something similar happens again. A few more times and I may try to work it into my considerations.