Seneca’s Gamble

Off the keyboard of Ugo Bardi

Follow us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter @Doomstead666

Published on Resource Crisis on February 2, 2015

Why people can so easily destroy the resources that provide their livelihood? Fishermen, for instance, have destroyed fisheries over and over, and every time they refused to take even the most elementary precautions to avoid disaster. Eventually, I came to think that it is related to a basic miswiring of the human mind: the “gambler’s fallacy“. Fishermen, it seems, see fishing as it were a lottery and they redouble their efforts thinking that, eventually, they will get lucky and strike it rich. Alas, it doesn’t work in this way and all what they obtain is to destroy the fish stocks and create a spectacular collapse of the fishing yields. This way of creating one’s own ruin could be termed “Seneca’s gamble”, from the words of the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca who stated that “the road to ruin is rapid”.

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

Seneca’s gamble: why the road to ruin is rapid

The “Martingale” is a strategy to be played with games which have a 50% chance of winning. It consists in doubling one’s bet after every loss, believing that, eventually, a win will pay for the previous losses and provide a gain.

The Martingale is an example of the “gambler’s fallacy“. Typically, gamblers tend to think that some events – such as the numbers coming out of the wheel in the roulette game – are related to each other. So, they believe that, if the red comes up several times in a row, it is more probable that the black will come out the next spin. That’s not true, of course, and the Martingale is a surefire way to ruin oneself, and to do that very rapidly. Nevertheless, many people find the idea fascinating enough that they try to put it into practice. It is the effect of a bad miswiring of the human mind..

The gambler’s fallacy may explain some aspects of the human behavior that would be otherwise impossible to understand. For instance, in a previous post I was showing this figure, describing the yields of the UK fishing industry (from Thurstan et al.).

Compare the upper and the lower box, and you’ll see that the fishing industry was ramping up at an incredible speed their “fishing power,” just when fishing yields had started to decline. Note also how they still had a lot of fishing power when the fisheries had all but collapsed. How could it be that they kept fishing so much even when there was little or nothing left to fish?Thinking about this matter, we can only come to the conclusion that fishermen reasoned like gamblers at a betting table. In other words, they were playing a sort of “fishing Martingale”, doubling their efforts after every failure.

Gamblers know – or should know – that casino gambling is a negative sum game. Yet, the gambler’s fallacy makes them think that a streak of bad results will somehow increase the probability that the next bet will be the good one. So, they keep trying until they ruin themselves.

Now, consider fishermen: they or should know  that, at some point, the overall yield of the fishery has become negative. But, like gamblers playing roulette, they believe that a streak of bad luck will somehow increase the probability that the next fishing trip will be the good one. So, they keep trying until they ruin themselves.

The mental miswiring that gives rise to the behavior of gamblers and fishermen can create even larger disasters. With mineral resources, we are seeing something similar: operators redoubling their efforts in the face of diminishing returns of extraction; the story of “shale gas” and “shale oil” is a typical example. Maybe it is done hoping that – somehow – the destruction of one stock will increase the probability to find a new one (or to create one by some technological miracle). So, instead of trying to make mineral stocks last as long as possible, we are rushing to destroy them at the highest possible rate. But, unlike fish stocks that can replenish themselves, minerals do not reproduce. Once we’ll have destroyed the rich ores that created our civilization, there will be nothing left behind. We will have ruined ourselves forever.

In the end, the gambler’s fallacy is one of the factors that lead people, companies, and entire civilization to a rapid collapse. It is what I have called the “Seneca Cliff” from the words of the ancient Roman philosopher who first noted how “the way to ruin is rapid”. In the case described here, we might call it the “Seneca gamble” but, in all cases, it is a ruin that we create with our own hands.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

https://image.freepik.com/free-icon/musical-notes-symbols_318-29778.jpg

Support the Diner
Search the Diner
Surveys & Podcasts

NEW SURVEY

Renewable Energy

VISIT AND FOLLOW US ON DINER SOUNDCLOUD

" As a daily reader of all of the doomsday blogs, e.g. the Diner, Nature Bats Last, Zerohedge, Scribbler, etc… I must say that I most look forward to your “off the microphone” rants. Your analysis, insights, and conclusions are always logical, well supported, and clearly articulated – a trifecta not frequently achieved."- Joe D
Archives
Global Diners

View Full Diner Stats

Global Population Stats

Enter a Country Name for full Population & Demographic Statistics

Lake Mead Watch

http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/NA-BX686_LakeMe_G_20130816175615.jpg

loading

Inside the Diner

Quote from: Eddie on Today at 10:00:07 AMI won't offer any further comments on anything Knarf posts, unless he decides to allow reasonable dissent in his comments. But I do appreciate that this is real, original content...

I won't offer any further comments on anything Knarf posts, unless he decides to allow reasonable dissent in his comments. But I do appreciate that this is real, original content......and I have an opinion about it, of course. But you won't get it, K...

So...this is a piece that looks at the climate predictions between now and 2050...and what it does is basically take a critical look at some of the science used to make the SRS 1.5 Report and offers a credible revision. It's based mostly on...

This article....just a short bullet point dissection of the IPCCC SRS 1.5 Report....came out shortly after it was written. Kelly Levin is a senior associate with WRI's global climate program. ... Kelly closely follows the negotiations under...

Quote from: knarf on Today at 06:53:31 AM  The best scientists in the world in their field are very carefully working on these crisis. Eventually they will be influential in policy making and responseI am not s...

Recent Facebook Posts
Diner Twitter feed

Knarf’s Knewz

Quote from: Eddie on Today at 10:00:07 AMI won [...]

I won't offer any further comments on anythin [...]

Quote from: knarf on Today at 06:53:31 AM  The bes [...]

Even when he’s losing, Donald Trump wins (and bigl [...]

Diner Newz Feeds
  • Surly
  • Agelbert
  • Knarf
  • Golden Oxen
  • Frostbite Falls

Your tax dollars at work.I thought I'd dose l [...]

Doomstead Diner Daily February 16The Diner Daily i [...]

Quote from: Surly1 on February 15, 2020, 04:55:51 [...]

Quote from: UnhingedBecauseLucid on March 18, 2019 [...]

CleanTechnicaSupport CleanTechnica’s work via dona [...]

QuoteThe FACT that the current incredibly STUPID e [...]

Quote from: Eddie on Today at 10:00:07 AMI won [...]

I won't offer any further comments on anythin [...]

Quote from: knarf on Today at 06:53:31 AM  The bes [...]

Even when he’s losing, Donald Trump wins (and bigl [...]

Scientists have unlocked the power of gold atoms b [...]

Quote from: azozeo on August 14, 2019, 10:41:33 AM [...]

Wisconsin Bill Would Remove Barrier to Using Gold, [...]

Under extreme conditions, gold rearranges its atom [...]

The cost of gold futures on the Comex exchange inc [...]

Time to add my share of Carbon to the atmosphere!I [...]

Quote from: Nearingsfault on January 28, 2020, 08: [...]

Quote from: RE on January 28, 2020, 08:29:30 AMQuo [...]

Quote from: Nearingsfault on January 28, 2020, 08: [...]

Alternate Perspectives
  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

The Decline and Fall of Civil Society Chapter One By Cognitive Dissonance     From my perspective at [...]

Missing In Action By Cognitive Dissonance     As a very young pup, whenever I was overdue and not ho [...]

Politicians’ Privilege By Cognitive Dissonance     Imagine for a moment you work for a small or medi [...]

Shaking the August Stick By Cognitive Dissonance     Sometime towards the end of the third or fourth [...]

Empire in Decline - Propaganda and the American Myth By Cognitive Dissonance     “Oh, what a tangled [...]

Event Update For 2020-02-14http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2020-02-13http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2020-02-12http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2020-02-11http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2020-02-10http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability
  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

Floating Cities, Microbubbles and the Blue Acceleration"The human footprint is very large and there is little that has not felt its weight. "We t [...]

"The scale is building. Three point five percent is 260 million of us."Turns out McKibben [...]

"This is the second of a two-part look at the changes happening to our world that are far out o [...]

"Which would we rather — more electric cars or more octopuses? What do we do when reversing cli [...]

Thugs and Circuses: President Cobblepot's Season Finale"As the world watches, our circus moves to the floor of the Senate next week, pitting a real-es [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

What extinction crisis? Believe it or not, there are still climate science deniers out there. And th [...]

My new book, Abolish Oil Now, will talk about why the climate movement has failed and what we can do [...]

A new climate protest movement out of the UK has taken Europe by storm and made governments sit down [...]

The success of Apollo 11 flipped the American public from skeptics to fans. The climate movement nee [...]

Today's movement to abolish fossil fuels can learn from two different paths that the British an [...]

Top Commentariats
  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

Commenters are right. The Wuhan CDC is close enough to the Wuhan wild food market that the choice of [...]

"The most thoughtful are the oldest with the least to lose" https://m.youtube.com/watch?v= [...]

the tariff war looks like kids with squirt guns compared to the "war" against COVID-19... [...]

If the US and China are at war wouldn't this be the time to strike? [...]

"... the economic decline about to slam the economy..." the big story of 2020... [...]

The collapse of bio diversity is also hard to estimate. There must be a myriad small things, like ce [...]

It's hard to figure out what to do in the face of all of our self-created problems. I have the [...]

It is a done deal. It's just silly when a Wall Street "capitalist" (e.g. Lloyd Blankf [...]

As a pure personal goal I think it’s valuable to try to stay happy. I find that studying peak oil an [...]

What if money doesn’t help very much? [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Simplifying the Final Countdown

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

Off the Keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Merry Doomy Christmas

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Collapse Fiction
Useful Links
Follow on our http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/