Consumerism, Collective Psychopathology, Waste

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Published on FEASTA on May 29, 2016

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This chapter about the power elite on display and the economics of Thorsten Veblen covers topics like conspicuous consumption and the consumer society, branding and the manufacture of wants. The role of advertisers is explored as well as the way that attention grabbing has become an economic sector that affects the quality of life radically and for the worse.

The Power Elite on Display – the economics of Thorsten Veblen

In 1899 the maverick economist Thorsten Veblen portrayed the power elite of his day in The Theory of the Leisure Class. What he described were extrinsic motivations at work. Success for the business elite was demonstrated through conspicuous consumption, by which he meant display to achieve social status, power and authority:

This growth of punctilious discrimination as to qualitative excellence in eating, drinking, etc. presently affects not only the manner of life, but also the training and intellectual activity of the gentleman of leisure. He is no longer simply the successful, aggressive male — the man of strength, resource, and intrepidity. In order to avoid stultification he must also cultivate his tastes, for it now becomes incumbent on him to discriminate with some nicety between the noble and the ignoble in consumable goods. He becomes a connoisseur in creditable viands of various degrees of merit, in manly beverages and trinkets, in seemly apparel and architecture, in weapons, games, dancers, and the narcotics.

This cultivation of aesthetic faculty requires time and application, and the demands made upon the gentleman in this direction therefore tend to change his life of leisure into a more or less arduous application to the business of learning how to live a life of ostensible leisure in a becoming way. Closely related to the requirement that the gentleman must consume freely and of the right kind of goods, there is the requirement that he must know how to consume them in a seemly manner. His life of leisure must be conducted in due form. Hence arise good manners in the way pointed out in an earlier chapter. High-bred manners and ways of living are items of conformity to the norm of conspicuous leisure and conspicuous consumption.
(Veblen, 1899)

Plus ca change… Contemporary narcissism of this type is visible in the “How to Spend it” weekend supplements of the London Financial Times. Students of narcissism will find the column “Diary of a Somebody” particularly educational. This celebrates people with the message that you will not be a nobody if you have lots of money to spend and are thus able to hang out with other wealthy (and therefore beautiful) people.

If we are to believe economic theory, these “somebodies” are “maximising their utility”. However the word “utility” is an empty concept – it is not information rich in the sense that it does not explain why people of this sort get utility by showing off and profiling themselves in front of all the nobodies. This was a point that Thorsten Veblen made in an essay written in 1909. The idea of marginal utility simply does not tell you very much that can help us understand people like this. (Veblen, The Limitations of Marginal Utility, 1909)

In his essay, Veblen argued that marginal utility theory did have an element of truth in its explanation of people’s actions but that “It deals with this conduct only in so far as it may be construed in rationalistic, teleological terms of calculation and choice.” In their analysis the marginal utility theorists took the institutional framework in which people’s calculations and choices for granted, when it was the very emergence and evolution of the institutional framework, the context, that was the interesting thing. Marginal utility theorists like J. B. Clark were shutting down their exploration and theorisation at the very point at which it scientific inquiry should begin.

It shuts off the inquiry at the point where the modern scientific interest sets in. The institutions in question are no doubt good for their purpose as institutions, but they are not good as premises for a scientific inquiry into the nature, origin, growth, and effects of these institutions and of the mutations which they undergo and which they bring to pass in the community’s scheme of life. (Veblen, 1909)

Marginal utility theory is no help at all if we want to understand where the institutions and practices of a consumer society have come from, how and why they have come into existence and what their consequences are. On the other hand, Veblen’s ideas are helpful, at least as a starting point. This is because he had resources that most economists, in his own time and subsequently, did not and still do not have. Firstly, he was an outsider and no sycophant so was able to view the behaviour of rich and powerful people (and of the poor when they were emulating them) from a standpoint that was uncompromised. Secondly, he had read sufficiently in other social scientific fields. He resorted to sociology, anthropology and psychology without artificially hiving off the subject matter of “economics”. That made him able to recognise that although a market society had its own features that shaped the form in which various social practices took place, many of the features of that society were not fundamentally different from what occurred in supposedly “more primitive” societies. Thus:

Presents and feasts had probably another origin than that of naïve ostentation, but they acquired their utility for this purpose very early, and they have retained that character to the present; so that their utility in this respect has now long been the substantial ground on which these usages rest. Costly entertainments, such as the potlatch or the ball, are peculiarly adapted to serve this end. The competitor with whom the entertainer wishes to institute a comparison is, by this method, made to serve as a means to the end. He consumes vicariously for his host at the same time that he is a witness to the consumption of that excess of good things which his host is unable to dispose of singlehanded, and he is also made to witness his host’s facility in etiquette. (Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)

Conspicuous consumption and the consumer society

Thus it is that Veblen’s theory of “conspicuous leisure” and of “conspicuous consumption”, whose purpose is to make a status display, provide us with a possible starting point for our understanding. It gives us ideas with which we can start to make sense of the motivations and behaviours apparently underpinning a lot of the actions in a “consumer society”. In a consumer society not only the rich but other strata of society are using consumption goods to profile and project themselves. As in the diary of a somebody, jewels, hair, make-up, i Pad, purple couture dresses and the names in one’s impressive choice of stylists or the beautiful people in one’s guest collection are all a means to an extrinsic end.

To a large extent the end in question is to make a status display – status conscious people are pursuing the acquisition of what are called “positional goods”. These goods signal one’s position in society and depend on relative income. It is the fact that the rich can afford them and others cannot that is on display. If and when poorer people were able to afford a Ferrari then a Ferrari would lose its value for the rich people who first bought them. In that case rich people would pursue another status display. ( Kallis G 2014)

In his article Kallis argues that “..positional consumption is not a personal vice. It is a structural social phenomena to which individuals conform to remain part of the mainstream…..” For Kallis there are risks for those who try to exit the rat race especially if they are from less privileged backgrounds in which case there will be loss of respectability and economic insecurity. What’s more “the system can co-opt its dissidents: even back to the land and “eco-life style choices” by privileged educated and artistical groups can become types of new positional goods”.

Perhaps – but is this too “either-or”? Explaining peoples’ actions through ‘structures’ can be revealing but after a point too much emphasis on the structures within which people act implies this explanation for people’s actions: “The system made me do it”. It removes the idea that individuals make choices. It can tend to the view that regards people as automatons without freedom. As Erich Fromm pointed out, and other psychologists have since confirmed, a market society creates particular personality types, marketing personalities – people who put great store on marketing themselves. However, individuals can come to recognise the features of their own habitual responses – that’s a point of therapy after all. Individuals can and do change and not only in the context of broader “system changes” – one of the tasks at hand is to identify when and under what conditions.

The Helbig society

It must be admitted however that things have moved on from Veblen’s day to make marketing far more prominent – particularly the all-pervasive presence of “brands” which work together with advertising to create what I describe as a “Helbig Society”. That is, a society of technicolour appearance and empty narratives designed to manipulate.

To explain: the term “Potemkin Village” is sometimes used to describe a manufactured appearance, designed to impress, which is a deceptive facade. The phrase refers to a tour of the Crimea and the Ukraine in 1787 by Catherine II of Russia in which it was alleged that her former lover, Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin, created pasteboard villages along the bank of the Dnieper River which the monarch was travelling down, with the aim of making an illusory show of prosperity. Recent historical research has shown that this story was largely a slander created by the Saxon envoy to Catherine’s court, Georg von Helbig. The villages therefore ought, with more justice, to be called Helbig Villages.

If the Potemkin Villages of 1787 were a slander, Helbig Villages have existed at other times in history. A number of places designed to deceive are mentioned in the Wikipedia description of “Potemkin Villages”. For example, the Nazi Theresienstadt concentration camp called “the Paradise Ghetto” in World War II was designed as a concentration camp that could be shown to the Red Cross. Apparently attractive, but deceptive and ultimately lethal, with high death rates from malnutrition and contagious diseases, it ultimately served as a way-station to Auschwitz. As is well known, people who arrived at Concentration Camps were sometimes greeted by orchestras playing classical music. An analogous management tool is used today in slaughterhouses. Animals are calmed after a stressful journey before they are put through a process that stimulates their curiosity about what is going to happen just before they are sedated and then slaughtered. If they got upset, the stress hormones would spoil the meat. Or, to put it the other way around – the meat tastes nice to the customers because the animals have been deceived.

Less gruesome, and more like the Helbig Village example, was the PR job done on the town of Enniskillen in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit in June 2013. Large photographs were put up in the windows of closed shops in the town so as to give the appearance of thriving businesses for visitors driving past them. This has now become a common practice for property companies to cover messy re- development or dereliction. (Wikipedia, Potemkin Village, 2013)


Deception is ubiquitous in a modern market economy. We might even call a consumer society a Helbig Society. To get a proper sense of the gulf between the illusion and the reality in this kind of economic system we have to delve into the evolution of advertising and of “brands”. In her book No Logo Naomi Klein shows how the economy has moved a long way from when it was about people selling products to other people in markets that were regulated to ensure that prices were fair. By the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century, adverts were about selling innovations. New kinds of products like cars, telephones and electric lights which producers needed to convince people to use. The advertisements were, as Klein explains, rather like product news bulletins. This was to change as a process began of building an image around a particular brand name. Generic goods like sugar, flour, soap and cereal had hitherto been scooped out of barrels by local shopkeepers. These now had names
bestowed on them, particularly with a view to evoking a feeling of folksiness and familiarity. Henceforth it was the product brand names – artificial images of imagined personalities – that interfaced between consumer and producer rather than the shopkeeper – Uncle Ben, Dr Brown, the Quaker Oats man…

There were those in the industry who understood that advertising wasn’t just scientific; it was also spiritual. Brands could conjure a feeling – think of Aunt Jemima’s comforting presence – but not only that, entire corporations could themselves embody a meaning of their own. In the early twenties legendary adman Bruce Barton turned General Motors into a metaphor for the American family, “something, personal, warm and human”, while GE was not so much the name of the faceless General Electric Company as, in Barton’s words, “the initials of a friend”. In 1923 Barton said the role of advertising was to help corporations find their soul. The son of a preacher, he drew on his religious upbringing for uplifting messages: “I like to think of advertising as something big, something splendid, something which goes deep down into an institution and gets hold of the soul of it… Institutions have souls, just as men and nations have souls.” he told GM president Pierre du Pont. General Motors ads began to tell stories about the people who drove its cars – the preacher, the pharmacist or the country doctor who, thanks to his trusty GM, arrived “at the bedside of a dying child” just in time “to bring it back to life”. (Klein, 2000, pp. 6-7)

As advertisers evolved their techniques of psychological manipulation, they delved into psychology, anthropology and culture while coming to see themselves as the “philosopher kings” of commercial culture. “It took a while for people managing companies to finally get it. They were not in business to produce stuff, they were in business to sell brands. This meant continuous and increasingly intrusive advertising – the problem being, as one senior ad executive explained, that consumers “are like roaches – you spray them and they get immune after a while”.’ (Klein, 2000, p. 9)

The manufacture of wants – the role of advertisers

One of the few economists to take this on board was John Kenneth Galbraith, whose book The Affluent Society, first published in 1958, argued that, for much of the modern economy, production preceded wants rather than, as economic theory assumes, the other way round.

The even more direct link between production and wants is provided by the institution of modern advertising and salesmanship. These cannot be reconciled with the notion of independently determined desires, for their central function is to create desires – to bring into being wants that previously did not exist. A broad empirical relationship exists between what is spent on the production of consumer goods and what is spent on synthesizing the desires for it. (Galbraith, 2001, p. 34)

Perhaps economists rarely venture into these fields because we can see that advertising, marketing and public relations employ methodologies which are all about shaping preferences and the “methodological individualists” are not interested in how preferences are formed. They are content to assume that people have given preferences and then act rationally on the basis of these preferences in the face of prices and a certain amount of purchasing power. To find out what happens in aggregate the economists simply add together the individual market behaviours.

Such an approach obviously devotes no attention to the way that people influence each other. The very existence of a fashion industry shows that, as well as the efforts that marketing departments work to create collective consumption trends. These marketing approaches actively foster disutility because they “work” by creating dissatisfaction. They seek to put in people’s minds the idea that their intended purchasers cannot live without some new product. They are also intended to be disruptive of relationships because they are based on fostering rival status display.

Sales departments, advertisers and public relations companies do not take people’s preferences as given. They are a big part of the economy and mostly, economists ignore them. The sales departments and the marketers do not use ideas from “utility theory”. They take ideas from group psychological dynamics, crowd psychology and approaches from psychotherapy theory which explores the interplay between human emotion and cognition. We need to do this too in order to understand advertising and PR on its own terms – and hence its usefulness to the people who pay for it, and its ability to influence the political process.

Well-being and marketing

Money is made when people “have to have” products and stay on the treadmill of work, spending and debt. Society functions by advertisers ensuring that people feel uncomfortable, inadequate and bereft unless they have the latest product designed for their peer group which is also an identifiable market segment. That said, if buying a product were to make you satisfied for too long you would not keep on buying it…

So how do the advertisers do this? Often it is by an astute manipulation which forms motivations through the use of stories, rituals, ceremonies and culture. The moral of the stories told by the advertisers is that the audience is lacking in something that possession of the brand will give them. For example, to be attractive, to be in tune with the American grand narrative of rugged individualism, personified by the cowboy, one needs to buy Marlboro cigarettes and participate in the social ritual of smoking them. In contrast with identity in an indigenous society, where people have totem identification with a creature, or a plant, based on deep knowledge and loyalty to part of the natural world, individuals in the consumer society define themselves partly through brand loyalty. The consumer “totems” are the designer labels that fashionistas wear – a sign of their discrimination, knowledge and affluence as consumers.

The implications for psychological well-being are profound. The message of the advertising stories is to convey how products will make us a better and more desirable person – mother, father and lover – which means that we are not good enough as we are now. The insights of Sigmund Freud that people think in emotionally associative ways (cf his therapeutic technique of free association) is hijacked to design the advertising message. Metaphorical allusion portrayed in vivid colour in high definition and on the biggest possible screens attempt to create emotional links between brands and desirable episodes or scenes in personal life stories. Fizzy drinks with sugar in them, are associated with adolescent sexuality in blue jeans. Getting the boy, getting the girl, getting the job, your forthcoming celebrity status, the perfect mum, dependable dad, the happy family – all are associated with a product – perfume or gravy granules… Messages of this type bombard us all with attention-grabbing messages from street billboards, newspapers, magazines, television and cinema commercials, on the internet, on the radio. Over and over again, visual and narrative connections are made between sex, glamour, wealth, power, speed, desirability, happy families, and shiny new products magnified and flashing in front of our eyes, dynamically displayed with clever graphical effects.

Attention grabbing as economic sector

Correspondingly a large part of the economy – its institutions, its technical infrastructure – exists solely for the purpose of grabbing our attention. When we are awake we can only focus on so much during a 24 hour day, a third of which we are asleep and a lot of which we are drilled to attend to employment tasks. At other times advertising agencies, market research companies, public relations companies, publishing companies, theatres, cinemas, television companies, newspapers, internet organisations are all trying to ensure that at every available opportunity, every available surface, every available screen, every available shop window, every available stage, and every broadcast, carries something about their product and/or their message. This is not to mention 9 out of every 10 phone calls on telephone landlines when a complete stranger assumes that they have the right to interrupt whatever you are doing with what they call a “courtesy call” – despite “a service” run by the marketing industry which is supposed to prevent this happening if you don’t want it. (Franck, 1998)

Naturally the more power specific people and specific institutions have, the more this “economy of attention” is skewed in their favour. Rather as the passage of light is bent by powerful gravitational fields, so the “information space” used by a society is buckled to massively magnify the concerns and priorities of the super-rich elite and their hangers on. At the same time rendering virtually invisible and unintelligible the suffering, concerns and needs of the large part of the world’s population. In the information space these people are driven to the edges and almost literally do become “nobodies”.

The nobodies are then only noticed in the crowded messages being transmitted in the information space when they get in the way of elite agendas and/or require expenditure and management because they have become a problem. (For example, because “attention seeking” turns into what is characterised as a mental health issue – mania and depression being opposite emotional reactions to experiencing oneself to be a nobody and being unable to cope with that – excitement at the idea that one is about to become a star as a result of one’s brilliant work and thus, attain celebrity status oscillating with depression as one remains in the wilderness).

These are all properly a subject for economics because there are multiple senses in which the attention seeking assault from the marketing sector impacts negatively on well-being now and in the future. We have already mentioned the way that this vast pantomime is about making its audience feel inadequate. But more than this – there is another economic consequence that Veblen realised over a hundred years ago. A part of his argument was that what the Leisure Class consumed as status displays – and also the way in which many members of the poor tried to emulate them – led to a waste of resources. It is stuff that never needed to be produced and is a waste of the time of the producers, a waste of material and natural resources and a waste of energy. And what Veblen could not have known is that the huge pile of garbage which is still being produced today drains depleting fossil fuel and material resources while exhausting carbon and other kinds of sinks. For no good cause other than the need of the “celebrity class” to be noticed, the planet appears to be locked on the road to destruction.

The Facade

Another way of expressing this is to describe “the economy” as operating with a vast deceptive facade.

I have used the example of Potemkin/Helbig Villages to describe the resulting culture that we live in – a way in which mass psychology is manipulated by a culture of appearances that hide an underlying reality that is much more shoddy. We look at a mass of separate products on the supermarket shelves and see a bright dazzling multi-colour array of images and styles – on the boxes and tins. Yet when it comes down to it, most of them are produced by just ten different business groups. The variety is an illusion – at least when it comes to who owns and produces them. The conservative reassuring man on the Quaker oats packet is owned by Pepsico. Yves Sant Laurent, Diesel (that celebration of fossil fuel) and Giorgio Armani are owned by Nestle, Uncle Ben’s Rice is owned by Mars. (See attached graphic) (Bradford, 2012)
Source: convergence alimentaire, 2012, with permission. Click to access original image

There are many other things hidden by the facade. Why else is such a high proportion of world trade and world finance routed through tax havens and secrecy jurisdiction? Behind the gloss, the cute sentimental products on sale at your local supermarket, there are factories producing the stuff staffed by child and slave labour in unsafe conditions; there are oil spills and air and water contamination; there are greenhouse gas emissions; there is military intimidation of workers and there are mountains and mountains of toxic throw away trash.

In her book Klein describes how the American NBC network aired an investigation into Mattell and Disney just days before Christmas 1996. “With the help of hidden cameras, the reporter showed that children in Indonesia and China were working in virtual slavery “so that children in America can put frilly dresses on America’s favourite doll”. (Klein, 2000, p. 326)

Many other examples can be given between the appearance and the brutal reality. However, if you mock and take on these cuddly friendly folksy corporations you see what they are really like. Like the MacDonald Corporation who tried to ruin activists who took them on with critical leaflets which led to a long running court action in the UK.

Although there is nothing at all glossy and high definition about economics, although it is often tedious and dull, economics is a part of this facade. Too often the descriptions of what is happening stay on the surface. The descriptions of markets are about products not about brands. The fact that branding and advertising are about creating product differentiation makes nonsense of the default assumption in the textbooks that most production is from competitive firms producing homogenous products. Textbooks are still describing a world in which shopkeepers scoop flour, sugar and cereals out of a barrel. Into this barrel the shopkeepers have put the identical products of a large number of producers all of whom were obliged to sell at a going market price. But of course if you go to buy some kind of computer, or a car, or an appliance of some kind there are a bewildering variety of non-comparable products and a barrage of adverts as to the advantages of each. While price plays a role in the choice of a product it is often a minor one.

As regards the huge growth and economic importance of marketing, the textbook writers have little to say. Certainly they do not appear to recognise that the rise and rise of the marketing industry demonstrates that the chief constraints on what companies supply are not production conditions, leading to rising internal costs as companies try to expand. Rather the constraints on firms are external market limits if they try to sell more of their brand beyond their market niche. Pierro Sraffa understood this from as early as the 1920s and wrote a paper to explain his alternative viewpoint. This will be described later. Suffice it to say here, that although Sraffa, and a few others, like Joan Robinson, tried to keep up to date, most economists did not. You don’t update the Holy Scriptures – scriptures are true for all time.

The psycho-dynamics of the financial market

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Published on FEASTA on February 19,2016

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Mental health problems and debt finance are strongly linked. People in debt have a higher incidence of psychiatric problems, and there is a higher rate of psychiatric symptoms among the people working in the finance sector too. During a bubble, egos are pumped up with asset values – and, when the bubble bursts, reputational collapse occurs with corresponding psychological effects.

When we look at the financial markets from an emotional and mental health angle, we don’t find optimal equilibrium states and rational people adapting to them. Instead, we come across a large number of unhappy, dysfunctional and disorientated people. Let’s look first at the debtor – creditor relationship from a mental health point of view.

Mental Health and Debt

For a start, there is a striking correlation between mental ill health and debt – on both sides – lenders as well as borrowers. Among other things, it is now well documented that self-reported anxiety increases with the ratio of credit card debt to personal income; that the onset of mortgage debt has a negative impact on mental health on males; that of people receiving debt advice, a high proportion (62% in a UK study) reported that their debt led to stress, anxiety and depression which they are likely to consult their doctor about; that there is a relationship between debt and post natal depression; that debt is the strongest predictor of depression; that difficulties in repaying debts are strongly connected with suicidal ideation and self-harm; that debt is associated with feelings of shame, social embarrassment, a sense of personal failure, negative self-identities and is implicated in isolation, social exclusion and strained relationships. (Fitch, Chaplin, Trend, & Collard, 2007)

Now let is turn to look at the situation on the other side, among the people who lend money, or at least those who manage and direct the credit markets. Mental health problems can be severe in the heat of financial competition. Drugs and alcohol are commonplace on Wall Street.

In a study of 26 men ages 22 to 32, all prestigious Wall Street brokers, researchers at Florida’s Nova South-eastern University examined how work stress affects brokers” physical and mental health. Led by John Lewis, Ph.D., a psychology professor at NSU, the study found that a broker’s average workday was 10 to 12 hours long, and that those earning the most also slept the least. The participants rarely missed work, calling in sick an average of twice a year but suffering from the flu or a virus at least twice as often. And despite being wealthy, the brokers were unhappy. Thirty- eight percent met the criteria for subclinical major depression, while 23 percent were clinically
diagnosed with major depression—shocking, considering only 7 percent of men are currently depressed in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. (Gorrell, 2001 update 2009)

A few years ago, during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, New York newspapers revelled in stories about stressed-out traders reaching breaking point. One broker, Christopher Carter, was charged with assault for throwing a hedge fund manager, complete with an exercise bike, at a wall in an Upper East Side gym. The hedgie’s offence? He grunted and shouted, “You go, girl!” too loudly during a spin class.

In London, a hedge fund manager, Bertrand des Pallières, made news during the time of the financial crisis because he was so busy shorting stocks that he didn’t notice for three months that his £80,000 Maserati had been towed away.

Jim Cramer, a hedge fund manager turned television stock picker, told the New York Times that drugs tended to reinforce traders’ inability to spot a looming downturn: “Prozac and all those other drugs banish the ‘this is the end of the world’ thoughts. Which means you are not as anxious as you should be about an obvious downside.” (Clark, 2008)

During the panic, therapists reported that there was an epidemic of psychological illnesses in the finance sector, while some of the managers used some of the oldest of psychological strategies for coping – avoidance, denial, switching off mentally in the heat of the crisis. An example was James Cayne, chief executive officer of the Bear Stearns bank.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel described Cayne’s work style thus:

“Even in times of the greatest crisis the boss of investment bank Bear Stearns did not let himself be distracted from his hobbies. Last July, as one of his Hedge Funds broke down, the head of the board travelled undisturbed to a several day long bridge tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. While his troops fought for survival Cayne was not contactable. He had turned his mobile phone off. Its ring could have disturbed the many times American bridge champion.” (Die Bank Raeuber, 2008)” – translator author.

Even a cursory glance reveals therefore that, from the point of view of community mental health, the credit system is highly dysfunctional. Of course mental health workers meet desperately unhappy
people living absurd lives all the time. Meeting people trapped in belief systems that, from the outside, seem crazy goes with the job. Normally, to be unlucky enough to qualify for a mental illness diagnosis, the apparently strange belief system that you have, and your strange way of making sense of the world must be unique to you. It will be seen as part of your inability to communicate with others. Then a psychiatrist can damn you with a variety of diagnostic labels like “thought disorder” which are said to be the symptoms of something deeper.

Over the last couple of decades, it has become clear that a lot of these strange thoughts are actually interpretable with a bit of effort. Psychologists, therapists and counsellors who become good at this quickly note emotional response patterns in society at large – the common cultural assumptions that help form collective emotional responses made by whole groups of people. There is nothing new in this. Freud applied his ideas out of the consulting room in observations about the wider world and his ideas were picked up by the advertising industry in the manner already described.

Using what we know about group emotions, it seems to me that it ought to be possible, and would indeed be valuable, to integrate the knowledge of group psycho-dynamics into our understanding of the way that markets evolve, including financial markets.

As explained in the previous chapter, using borrowed money during a boom phase, as long as asset values continue to inflate, it is easy to make money using borrowed money. This is called leverage and the point about leverage on the way up is that it can get out of control. Betting that asset values will go up with borrowed money creates a further pressure pushing those values up even more in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Such self-fulfilling prophecies are common in mental health – confidence leads to success and builds confidence even more. However, where there are no limits to mood enhancement, it leads into mania – and that includes on the financial markets…

Egos get pumped up at the same time as assets values

In the circumstances of a leveraged boom it is not only asset values that get pumped up but egos. Ordinary mortals who, in other circumstances would see themselves as no more or less important than anyone else, suddenly become very rich and acquire the symbols of social success that are so important to “marketing characters”. It is, thus, not only bank balances that swell in size when bonuses are announced.

Trading rooms are fiercely competitive places and the action is fast and furious. In finance, just as in any other branch of life, the more one devotes one attention to the matter at hand, the better one will do. The broader and deeper one’s knowledge is, the more edge one will have over everyone else. However, this has some resemblance to addictive behaviour. In an addiction, everything and everyone takes second place to the addiction. The guru who understands the markets better than anyone else probably understands the other things in life less well – and certainly gives them lower priority. For the finance experts, it will probably seem self-evident, ultimately, that the way out of problems is to buy one’s way out. This will not make for happy relationships. (Kreitzman, 1999, p. 26)

Earlier in the book, I quoted the example of the currency trader whose marriage was wrecked because of the way that he tried to keep track of the 24 hour currency market and woke every 2 hours to keep track as markets on the other side of the world opened. This is the kind of thing that a manic person will do. The fact that other people in the financial markets are living in the same crazy way is likely to mean that it is not interpreted as mania, but it does not change its essential character. The euphoria of mania is like the excitement of a small child the day before its birthday. This child cannot sleep because the next day will bring a pile of presents, a party and lots of attention. The manic person cannot find a way to switch their feelings off and is constantly on an adrenalin high. Often enough, in these circumstances more and more commitments are taken on. What is missing is the idea of a personal limit to one’s practical and work capacities.

In the life of a person who is not wealthy, these practicalities and the urgent adrenalin-charged character of their relationships will eventually mean that they come unstuck. Making ever more commitments means that they over-reach. Complications are not foreseen. Other people do not play ball with grandiose designs. If one does too much one doesn’t have time to wash one’s clothes and do the washing up. Life, practicalities, projects and relationships fall apart as one goes past one’s limits.

A rich person may not have some of the complications of ordinary life which would floor a manic person. Their money can buy servants and, with enough wealth, sex (though not love) is no problem either. Many of the practical problems in life can be solved with money or a credit card – until the crash.

The whole history of the market economy tells us that a crash comes eventually. Euphoria impairs judgement. The overconfidence of rich and powerful people, because it cannot be held in check by the countervailing power of those who are not as strong economically or politically, nevertheless, reaches a point beyond which it cannot go further. As I once argued in a psychotherapy journal:

“The ancient Greeks already knew how to describe situations like this. This was a job for the Goddess Nemesis whose role it was to maintain equilibrium on earth “rebalancing” happiness from time to time. In fulfilment of her role, Nemesis had a tricky relationship with the goddess Tyche – who was irresponsible in handing out Luck and Fortune, indiscriminately heaping her horn of plenty, or depriving others of what they had. In particular Nemesis would wreak havoc on those favoured by Tyche if they failed to give proper dues to the gods, become too full of themselves, boasted of their abundant riches or refused to improve the lot of their fellow humans by sharing their luck.” (Davey, What Future?, 2007)

People who become too full of themselves eventually believe that they can get away with anything in the pursuit of their addiction. In the literature about the financial crisis of a few years ago we could read over and again that the banks did not trust each other. When trust breaks down, we have a very specific kind of psycho-dynamic occurring between people.

A Professor of Organisational Ethics at the Cass Business School, Roger Steare, undertook integrity tests on more than 700 financial services executives in several major firms and came to the conclusion that: “There is a systemic deficit in ethical values within the banking industry. This will not change by hanging a few people out to dry”.

The results of these tests indicate that, as a group, they scored lower than average in honesty, loyalty and self-discipline. Steare compared traders to “mercenary hired guns”, who regularly switched firms to maximise earnings. (Hunt, 2008)

Reputational collapse

Behind the technical language of “liquidity”, is a language that distances us from the deeper reality.
The truth about the credit crunch was that it was a reputational collapse of the participants of an entire economic sector – the people running this sector overreached themselves. The really damaging thing has been that most of them have been able to get away with it because governments feel that they must bail them out. This means that the whole charade will happen again… and again… until society organises a fundamental root and branch reform of this sector.

The road that has brought humanity to this crazy point has been one where there have been, and still are, plenty of illusions. These are little different from the illusions that a manic person would create. Cassandras who try to express the folly of pushing beyond the limits are ignored.

In the case of the financial markets, because the manic process is a collective one, the illusions are repeatedly embodied in institutions and are dignified with words like “financial innovation”.

Rather as a mad person will split off the part of their personality that does not fit their cosy self-image, that is, the murderously angry and hateful self, so the financial institutions split off the financial junk that earns them fees making predatory loans to people who cannot afford to pay them back or are in other ways dubious ethically and financially. The splitting hives securities off balance sheets into “special purpose institutions”. Rather as the mad person will wishfully believe what they want to believe rather than hard realities, the banks have paid other organisations to give AAA ratings to the worthless pieces of paper that they issue so that everyone, including themselves, can believe that everything will be OK.

Such strategies have their parallels in mental mechanisms of avoidance – the pathologies unravelled by clinical psychology. But then, to use the terminology of Freudian analysis, the repressed truth, the reality that has been held at bay, returns. The worthless assets have to be taken back onto the books. Reality bursts through the illusion.

To conclude, it would be valuable to integrate into our theorisation of what happens in the course of the credit and other economic cycles and events, the emotional changes of the people involved as they act and live through these events. Very often, people live with their emotions but barely notice them. They have no language or concept systems to describe their emotional responses and we may describe them as emotionally illiterate. Not having reflected deeply on their own emotional responses and those of others, they may act in ways which are unconscious, lacking in self-awareness. As explored in other chapters, this kind of person lives through what the therapist Erich Fromm called a “marketing personality”.







Collapse Personality Profiles: RESULTS!

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on November 3, 2015



Discuss this article at the Doom Psychology Table inside the Diner

…and now, the moment you have all been waiting for…the RESULTS of the Diner Collapse Personality Profile Survey TM! 😀

YOU CAN STILL TAKE THE SURVEY HERE genesis of this survey came in a very long and deep thread inside the Diner that one of our Diner Admins Eddie began.  It was on Enneagrams, which attempt to finger various personality types with their own particular taxonomy and descriptions.  Enneagrams aren't  alone in this effort, the Myers-Briggs system also attempts to categorize personalities.  There are endless others as well, but for this survey these are the only two personality indices we surveyed.

In the OP on the Diner Forum, only maybe 6-8 Diners or so reported their Enneagram results, so when I constructed the survey, I wasn't entirely sure I would get a decent enough sample size to draw any statistically valid conclusions.  To do the survey, you have to take at least 2 tests, the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs.  Then, to be really complete here, you also need to do an IQ test.  Although the tests I found to use are relatively short for this kind of thing, each one does take 10-15 minutes to do even if you are pretty quick with thinking out your answers.  Then the Survey takes another 10-15 minutes.  So you are talking a good hour time commitment to do this, and I'm certainly not paying anybody for their time spent at it!  lol.  Contrary to some comments made, none of these tests cost any money or require any registration either.  I did all of them for FREE! 🙂

So I figured maybe I would get 20-30 Respondents of real dedicated Doomers to do the whole thing.  With that, I could at least get a good article out of it, even if it wasn't very statistically valid.  Boy, was that assumption wrong!  LOL.  As of now when I am compiling the initial set of full stats (I did a brief recap of Demographic Stats last week), we have 121 Respondents (update 127).  Is this statistically valid within the Population of Doomers haunting  Collapse Websites?

To determine this, I first need to know how big this population actually IS.  I know this number within reasonable bounds because I am an Admin of not just my site but some others, and I observe what the total readership is of collapse sites which publish this number. I also observe traffic and popularity numbers on various sites that track these things, like Google Analytics. Alexa and Revolver.  I am a Stats FREAK!  LOL.  It is around 30-50,000 people right now best I can determine haunting collapse websites, although increasing in number as time goes by.  After that, I need to decide what my Confidence Level and Margin of Error should be for my Survey.  For this survey,  I picked an average population size of 40K, I set my Confidence Level at 95% and my Margin of Error at 10%.  For this combination of factors, I need 96 people to respond to the survey.  I already have 121 (actually 127 now, but I compiled results at 121).  So I am reasonable confident of these results.  I used the Survey Monkey calculator to determine the the number of respondents necessary for this Confidence Level & Margin of Error.

Now, where did I get this sample from?  Well, many from right here on the Diner of course, but I also went out and PLUGGED the survey on quite a few other sites, including Our Finite World, Nature Bats Last, r/collapse and r/samplesize.  So respondents mostly come from these websites, and with the exception of r/samplesize (a general survey site) all are collapse oriented sites.

So, what we are surveying here is NOT the general population, it is MAINLY the population of people who haunt collapse oriented websites.  Within this population, the survey has a high degree of confidence and reliability. next issue you need to consider is Reliability of Reporting.  In other words, are the respondents being HONEST about their results?  The survey is self-reported and you certainly could LIE on any question at all.  However, what would be the point of doing that?  Anyone who does spend the necessary time to do a survey like this is genuinely curious how the pattern skews out, and it doesn't behoove anyone to say they are one thing or another.  IQ is the only area where I could see respondents outright lying or cheating the test (which is quite easy to do) because nobody wants to admit to being STUPID, but again, it's ANONYMOUS!  So I don't think there was too much lying in the responses.

What about the accuracy and reliability of the tests themselves?  Again, the biggest question here is in the IQ Test, which is rather short for this kind of thing.  However, anecdotal reporting to me in email since I initiated the survey says results are more or less consistent with results they have had from taking longer tests at other times in their lives.  For myself, I pegged lower than in the past at 140 this time, but I attribute this to the fact that I was 3 sheets to the wind drunk when I took this test. lol.  I can't repeat it validly sober, because the same questions are presented.  You only have one chance to take the test and get a valid result, so do it sober!  LOL.

OK, now let's delve into the RESULTS! 🙂

First a synopsis before I drop on the tables with the actual numbers.

As mentioned last week, the main Demographic of Doomers are White Males from North America.  In the early returns, Females were running at around 20%, higher than expected by my experience haunting Collapse Websites.  I estimated this at 10% prior to doing the survey. As further numbers came in through Week 2, the percentage dropped to around 16%, closer to my original estimate.  Either way though, this is a Sausage Fest.  lol. are by and large very well educated.  The majority have a University Degree of Baccalaureate or above (~69%), with 6.72% coming in with a Doctoral level degree, compared to around 2% for the population at large for that level of education.  I will say my experience has been you find many Medical Doctors in the Doom Community, much higher than the percentage for the total population.  Also many University Profs with Ph.Ds are Doomers, folks like Guy McPherson, George Mobus and Ugo Bardi, etc.

Doomers also have an ASTOUNDINGLY high average IQ.  I attributed this at first to the possibility the test is skewed to the upside, but now I am not so sure of this.  I got anecdotal reports from a couple of people who have taken longer more "official" tests who told me that the score this test gave them came within 5 points of the official tests they had taken.  Also, the vast majority of people who took the test self-reported that the score they got back was accurate.  For myself, the test showed that I am stupider than I used to be, coming in this time at 140, but I attribute that to being 3 Sheets to the Wind drunk when I took the test.  LOL.

As mentioned before, there is also the possibility people would LIE when self-reporting on this, but there is no good reason for that with an anonymous survey.  So I am going to take the survey results at face value, which indicates that around 75% of Doomers have an IQ of 130 or higher.  That is compared to only 2.1% of the general population!

The tiny percentage of population with IQs over 130

DOOMERS ARE SMART! LOL. least as measured by this IQ test anyhow.  A solid 1/3rd of respondents don't think IQ tests are a valid measure of intelligence, but most respondents did think the test accurately reflected their IQ.

According to the survey also, 3.77% of Doomers are GENIUSES with IQs 150 or above!  That IQ over the general population should come out at just .04%!  My guess here is that for really high IQs, this test just doesn't work too good.  It's not discriminatory enough, not enough questions.  I don't think that great a percentage of Doomers really have IQs this high.  If there really ARE that many Geniuses surfing the Doom-o-sphere, WTF don't you drop in here and SOLVE all these problems?!?!?!  This would be a good time to exercise your Genius!  lol.

I will conclude however with the determination that Doomers are generally smarter than the typical J6P. 🙂

In terms of the Taxonomy of Doom going from Cornucopian to Doom Lite to Full Doom to Extinction, the vast majority of people who surf Collapse Websites fit into the Full Doom category at 69%. Basically this means they think things will get real ugly, lots of DEAD PEOPLE, but Homo Sap won't go EXTINCT at least inside the next century. Doom Lite at 17%, Extinction at 12% and just 2% of DENIERS are Cornucopians making a nuisance of themselves in the Commentariat.  lol.  Why do  people with this attitude show up at all on Collapse Websites?  Because they are contrarians who like to argue, that's why.

As you might expect, Doomers think about doom on a daily basis, and knowledge of oncoming Doom has affected their relationships and choices.

Now on to the MEAT of the survey, Doomer Personality Types! 🙂

inteligencia-sexualThere was decent speculation in the OP on the forum about this, what types might be prevalent and so forth, and also a decent amount of questioning whether these type of indices really have any meaning or "scientific" underpinning.  Whether they do or not, they clearly are showing SOMETHING, and again most respondents who took the Enneagram and Myers-Briggs thought both of them accurately reflected their personalities.

Starting with Myers-Briggs here, as guessed on the Diner and has been shown on a few other blogs that have surveyed this index, INTJs are the most prevalent type amongst Doomers, followed by the INFJs, INTPs and INFPs.  All together, the IN** quadrant had more than half the respondents.

(Note:  In constructing the survey, I neglected to include the ISTJs, so they didn't get counted.  My apologies to the ISTJs out there in Doomerville.  Hopefully not too many.  I always screw up something on these surveys.)

What are the Personality Traits of an INTJ?

People with the INTJ personality type are serious, analytical and perfectionistic. They look at a problem or idea from multiple perspectives and systematically analyze it with objective logic, discarding things that turn out to be problematic, and evolving their own understanding of something when new information turns out to be useful. There is no other personality type who does this as naturally as the INTJ. They are natural scientists and mathematicians. Once given an idea, they are driven to understand it as thoroughly as possible. They usually have very high standards for their own understanding and accomplishments, and generally will only value and consider other individuals who have shown that they meet or surpass the INTJ's own understanding on a given issue. INTJs value clarity and conciseness, and have little esteem for behaviors and attitudes that are purely social. Social "niceties" often seem unnecessary and perhaps even ungenuine to the INTJ, who is always seeking to improve their substantive understanding. INTJ's highly value social interaction that is centered around the meaningful exchange of ideas, but they usually dismiss the importance of being friendly or likeable in other social contexts, and they are likely to be uncomfortable with interactions that are primarily emotional, rather than logical. INTJs value structure, order, knowledge, competence, and logic. Above all, they value their own ideas and intuitions about the world. An INTJ's feeling of success depends primarily upon their own level of understanding and accomplishment, but also depends upon the level of structure in their life, and their ability to respect the intelligence and competence of those who share their life.

The fewest Doomers come from the ES** quadrant, in fact in all 4 of those Personality Types there was only 1 ESFP, the other three were all ZERO.

Let's compare ESTJs to the INTJs

People with the ESTJ personality type have a high value for social order and structure. Throughout his or her life, the ESTJ develops a set of judgement standards that they use to order events and impressions that exist in the world. These standards are essentially social principles. The ESTJ believes very strongly in their principles, and strongly disapproves of any violation. The ESTJ believes that their principles define appropriate behavior and attitudes, and therefore should be followed unconditionally. Just as they naturally create rules, and are therefore natural leaders, ESTJs also believe in following existing social rules. They often lead, but can follow easily if they trust the authority of the system they're following. The ESTJ can be quite harsh about the violation of a principle. It is more important to the ESTJ that the principle is honored than that they consider the position or feelings of the individual who transgressed against the principle. Their harshness of manner may damage personal relationships, until the ESTJ incorporates standards for behavior within personal relationships into their system of social rules. The ESTJ truly enjoys being around other people, and wants to promote traditional relationships. An ESTJ may feel successful if they are able to live their lives within their defined system of principles, but their true and lasting success will come from the ability to create and sustain good and lasting principles, and thus to address all situations in their life adequately and consistently.

Basically, the ENTJs are the conformists, the INTJs are the questioners.  Given the parameters of Doom, this makes perfect sense.

Like the IQ test, I take this at face value and think it is relatively accurate for the sample.

Now, onto the Index that started this whole thing off, the Enneagrams! 🙂

At least based on commentary from the Diner Chief Shrink Uncle Bob, Enneagrams are not taken too seriously by the official Shrink community.  However, based on my own results, the Enneagram fingers my personality more reliably than Myers-Briggs.  I am borderline in 3 out of 4 M-B categories, which means there are 8 out of 16 possible types I could be.  That is not very discriminatory (for me).

OTOH, out of 18 possibilities including the "Wings" (9 types, 2 Wings each) on the Enneagram, I hit the same one every time, and I took 3 different tests on this one. Eddie, the Diner Enneagram Professional who got this stuff started also fingered me correctly before I even took the first test. I am 8W7, with no question.  Here is the overview of Type 8s (I have highlighted important aspects of my personality):

Type Eight Overview

We have named personality type Eight The Challenger because, of all the types, Eights enjoy taking on challenges themselves as well as giving others opportunities that challenge them to exceed themselves in some way. Eights are charismatic and have the physical and psychological capacities to persuade others to follow them into all kinds of endeavors—from starting a company, to rebuilding a city, to running a household, to waging war, to making peace. Eights have enormous willpower and vitality, and they feel most alive when they are exercising these capacities in the world. They use their abundant energy to effect changes in their environment—to “leave their mark” on it—but also to keep the environment, and especially other people, from hurting them and those they care about. At an early age, Eights understand that this requires strength, will, persistence, and endurance—qualities that they develop in themselves and which they look for in others. Thayer is a stockbroker who has worked intensively on understanding her type Eight personality. She recounts a childhood incident in which she could clearly see the development of this pattern. "Much of my tenacity and toughness comes from my Dad. He always told me not to ‘let anybody push you around.’ It was not okay to cry. I learned to master my weaker side early on. At the tender age of eight, a huge horse ran away with me. When an adult caught the horse, I resolutely dismounted without a tear. I could tell my father was proud." Eights do not want to be controlled or to allow others to have power over them (their Basic Fear), whether the power is psychological, sexual, social, or financial. Much of their behavior is involved with making sure that they retain and increase whatever power they have for as long as possible. An Eight may be a general or a gardener, a small businessman or a mogul, the mother of a family or the superior of a religious community. No matter: being “in charge” and leaving their imprint on their sphere is uniquely characteristic of them. Eights are the true “rugged individualists” of the Enneagram. More than any other type, they stand alone. They want to be independent, and resist being indebted to anyone. They often refuse to “give in” to social convention, and they can defy fear, shame, and concern about the consequences of their actions. Although they are usually aware of what people think of them, they do not let the opinions of others sway them. They go about their business with a steely determination that can be awe inspiring, even intimidating to others. Although, to some extent, Eights fear physical harm, far more important is their fear of being disempowered or controlled in some way. Eights are extraordinarily tough and can absorb a great deal of physical punishment without complaint—a double-edged blessing since they often take their health and stamina for granted and overlook the health and well-being of others as well. Yet they are desperately afraid of being hurt emotionally and will use their physical strength to protect their feelings and keep others at a safe emotional distance. Beneath the tough façade is vulnerability, although it has been covered over by layer of emotional armor. Thus, Eights are often extremely industrious, but at the price of losing emotional contact with many of the people in their lives. Those close to them may become increasingly dissatisfied with this state of affairs, which confounds Eights. (“I don’t understand what my family is complaining about. I bust my hump to provide for them. Why are they disappointed with me?”) When this happens, Eights feel misunderstood and may distance themselves further. In fact, beneath their imposing exterior, Eights often feel hurt and rejected, although this is something they seldom talk about because they have trouble admitting their vulnerability to themselves, let alone to anyone else. Because they fear that they will be rejected (divorced, humiliated, criticized, fired, or harmed in some way), Eights attempt to defend themselves by rejecting others first. The result is that average Eights become blocked in their ability to connect with people or to love since love gives the other power over them, reawakening their Basic Fear. The more Eights build up their egos in order to protect themselves, the more sensitive they become to any real or imaginary slight to their self-respect, authority, or preeminence. The more they attempt to make themselves impervious to hurt or pain (whether physical or emotional), the more they “shut down” emotionally to become hardened and rock-like. When Eights are emotionally healthy, however, they have a resourceful, “can-do” attitude as well as a steady inner drive. They take the initiative and make things happen with a great passion for life. They are honorable and authoritative—natural leaders who have a solid, commanding presence. Their groundedness gives them abundant “common sense” as well as the ability to be decisive. Eights are willing to “take the heat,” knowing that any decision cannot please everyone. But as much as possible, they want to look after the interests of the people in their charge without playing favorites. They use their talents and fortitude to construct a better world for everyone in their lives.

My Type 8 Compadres?

Jack NicholsonMartin Luther King, Jr.Ernest HemingwaySean ConneryFidel CastroLauren BacallJohn WayneSir Winston Churchill


OK, there are some folks in there I would rather NOT be associated with like LBJ and Khaddafi, and Pol Pot was probably a Type 8 too, but there are always a few Bad Apples in the Barrel.   LOL.  You can't pick your relatives.  hahahahahaha.

However, Type 8s are not that common in the Doom Community, coming in at 8.85%. What is the most common Enneagram Type amongst Doomers?

Type 5s, by a long shot!  31.6% of Doomers are Type 5s.

Here's the description of the Type 5 Personality:

Type Five Overview

We have named personality type Five The Investigator because, more than any other type, Fives want to find out why things are the way they are. They want to understand how the world works, whether it is the cosmos, the microscopic world, the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdoms—or the inner world of their imaginations. They are always searching, asking questions, and delving into things in depth. They do not accept received opinions and doctrines, feeling a strong need to test the truth of most assumptions for themselves. John, a graphic artist, describes this approach to life: "Being a Five means always needing to learn, to take in information about the world. A day without learning is like a day without ‘sunshine.’ As a Five, I want to have an understanding of life. I like having a theoretical explanation about why things happen as they do. This understanding makes me feel in charge and in control. I most often learn from a distance as an observer and not a participant. Sometimes, it seems that understanding life is as good as living it. It is a difficult journey to learn that life must be lived and not just studied." Behind Fives’ relentless pursuit of knowledge are deep insecurities about their ability to function successfully in the world. Fives feel that they do not have an ability to do things as well as others. But rather than engage directly with activities that might bolster their confidence, Fives “take a step back” into their minds where they feel more capable. Their belief is that from the safety of their minds they will eventually figure out how to do things—and one day rejoin the world. Fives spend a lot of time observing and contemplating—listening to the sounds of wind or of a synthesizer, or taking notes on the activities in an anthill in their back yard. As they immerse themselves in their observations, they begin to internalize their knowledge and gain a feeling of self-confidence. They can then go out and play a piece on the synthesizer or tell people what they know about ants. They may also stumble across exciting new information or make new creative combinations (playing a piece of music based on recordings of wind and water). When they get verification of their observations and hypotheses, or see that others understand their work, it is a confirmation of their competency, and this fulfills their Basic Desire. (“You know what you are talking about.”) Knowledge, understanding, and insight are thus highly valued by Fives, because their identity is built around “having ideas” and being someone who has something unusual and insightful to say. For this reason, Fives are not interested in exploring what is already familiar and well-established; rather, their attention is drawn to the unusual, the overlooked, the secret, the occult, the bizarre, the fantastic, the “unthinkable.” Investigating “unknown territory”—knowing something that others do not know, or creating something that no one has ever experienced—allows Fives to have a niche for themselves that no one else occupies. They believe that developing this niche is the best way that they can attain independence and confidence. Thus, for their own security and self-esteem, Fives need to have at least one area in which they have a degree of expertise that will allow them to feel capable and connected with the world. Fives think, “I am going to find something that I can do really well, and then I will be able to meet the challenges of life. But I can’t have other things distracting me or getting in the way.” They therefore develop an intense focus on whatever they can master and feel secure about. It may be the world of mathematics, or the world of rock and roll, or classical music, or car mechanics, or horror and science fiction, or a world entirely created in their imagination. Not all Fives are scholars or Ph.Ds. But, depending on their intelligence and the resources available to them, they focus intensely on mastering something that has captured their interest. For better or worse, the areas that Fives explore do not depend on social validation; indeed, if others agree with their ideas too readily, Fives tend to fear that their ideas might be too conventional. History is full of famous Fives who overturned accepted ways of understanding or doing things (Darwin, Einstein, Nietzsche). Many more Fives, however, have become lost in the Byzantine complexities of their own thought processes, becoming merely eccentric and socially isolated. The intense focus of Fives can thus lead to remarkable discoveries and innovations, but when the personality is more fixated, it can also create self-defeating problems. This is because their focus of attention unwittingly serves to distract them from their most pressing practical problems. Whatever the sources of their anxieties may be—relationships, lack of physical strength, inability to gain employment, and so forth—average Fives tend not to deal with these issues. Rather, they find something else to do that will make them feel more competent. The irony is that no matter what degree of mastery they develop in their area of expertise, this cannot solve their more basic insecurities about functioning in the world. For example, as a marine biologist, a Five could learn everything there is to know about a type of shellfish, but if her fear is that she is never going to be able to run her own household adequately, she will not have solved her underlying anxiety. Dealing directly with physical matters can feel extremely daunting for Fives. Henry is a life scientist working in a major medical research lab: "Since I was a child, I have shied away from sports and strenuous physical activity whenever possible. I was never able to climb the ropes in gym class, stopped participating in sports as soon as it was feasible, and the smell of a gymnasium still makes me uncomfortable. At the same time, I have always had a very active mental life. I learned to read at the age of three, and in school I was always one of the smartest kids in academic subjects." Thus, much of their time gets spent “collecting” and developing ideas and skills they believe will make them feel confident and prepared. They want to retain everything that they have learned and “carry it around in their heads.” The problem is that while they are engrossed in this process, they are not interacting with others or even increasing many other practical and social skills. They devote more and more time to collecting and attending to their collections, less to anything related to their real needs. Thus, the challenge to Fives is to understand that they can pursue whatever questions or problems spark their imaginations and maintain relationships, take proper care of themselves, and do all of the things that are the hallmarks of a healthy life.

Some of the Compadres of the 5s are:

A. H. AlmaasBuddhaMarlene DietrichVincent van GoghStephen HawkingBill GatesAlfred Hitchcock

We have several Type 5s on the Diner I am pretty sure.

What Enneagram Personality Type is LEAST likely to be a Doomer?

Type 2s, coming in at only 1.77%

Here is the description of Type 2s:

Type Two Overview

We have named personality type Two The Helper because people of this type are either the most genuinely helpful to other people or, when they are less healthy they are the most highly invested in seeing themselves as helpful. Being generous and going out of their way for others makes Twos feel that theirs is the richest, most meaningful way to live. The love and concern they feel—and the genuine good they do—warms their hearts and makes them feel worthwhile. Twos are most interested in what they feel to be the “really, really good” things in life—love, closeness, sharing, family, and friendship. Louise is a minister who shares the joy she finds in being a Two: "I cannot imagine being another type and I would not want to be another type. I like being involved in peoples’ lives. I like feeling compassionate, caring, nurturing. I like cooking and homemaking. I like having the confidence that anyone can tell me anything about themselves and I will be able to love them….I am really proud of myself and love myself for being able to be with people where they are. I really can, and do, love people, pets, and things. And I am a great cook!" When Twos are healthy and in balance, they really are loving, helpful, generous, and considerate. People are drawn to them like bees to honey. Healthy Twos warm others in the glow of their hearts. They enliven others with their appreciation and attention, helping people to see positive qualities in themselves that they had not previously recognized. In short, healthy Twos are the embodiment of “the good parent” that everyone wishes they had: someone who sees them as they are, understands them with immense compassion, helps and encourages with infinite patience, and is always willing to lend a hand—while knowing precisely how and when to let go. Healthy Twos open our hearts because theirs are already so open and they show us the way to be more deeply and richly human. Louise continues: "All of my jobs revolved around helping people. I was a teacher who wanted to be sensitive to children and help them get off to a good start. I was a religious education director in a number of parishes. I thought that if people learned about the spiritual life, they’d be happier…The most important part of my life is my spiritual life. I was in a religious community for ten years. I married a former priest, and we both have our spirituality as the basis of our life together." However, Twos’ inner development may be limited by their “shadow side”—pride, self-deception, the tendency to become over-involved in the lives of others, and the tendency to manipulate others to get their own emotional needs met. Transformational work entails going into dark places in ourselves, and this very much goes against the grain of the Two’s personality structure, which prefers to see itself in only the most positive, glowing terms. Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing Twos, Threes, and Fours in their inner work is having to face their underlying Center fear of worthlessness. Beneath the surface, all three types fear that they are without value in themselves, and so they must be or do something extraordinary in order to win love and acceptance from others. In the average to unhealthy Levels, Twos present a false image of being completely generous and unselfish and of not wanting any kind of pay-off for themselves, when in fact, they can have enormous expectations and unacknowledged emotional needs. Average to unhealthy Twos seek validation of their worth by obeying their superego’s demands to sacrifice themselves for others. They believe they must always put others first and be loving and unselfish if they want to get love. The problem is that “putting others first” makes Twos secretly angry and resentful, feelings they work hard to repress or deny. Nevertheless, they eventually erupt in various ways, disrupting Twos’ relationships and revealing the inauthenticity of many of the average to unhealthy Two’s claims about themselves and the depth of their “love.” But in the healthy range, the picture is completely different. My own [Don Riso’s] maternal grandmother was an archetypal Two. During World War II, she was “Moms” to what seemed like half of Keisler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, feeding the boys, allowing her home to be used as a “home away from home,” giving advice and consolation to anyone lonely or fearful about going to war. Although she and her husband were not wealthy and had two teenage children of their own, she cooked extra meals for the servicemen, put them up at night, and saw to it that their uniforms had all of their buttons and were well pressed. She lived until her 80’s, remembering those years as the happiest and most fulfilling of her life—probably because her healthy Two capacities were so fully and richly engaged.

Some 2 Compadres are:

There are no 2's that have been identified on the Diner AFAIK.

OK, that is the broad overview of Doomer Personalities according to the Diner Collapse Personality Profile Survey TM. 🙂


I will update results at the end of the year if many more respondents drop in.

For those of you who have made it this far, below are the complete results from the survey to date, including answers to the text questions.

If you wish to do more Data Analysis of the results, you can download the Spreadsheet to date HERE.  Please let me know if you do any further analysis of the data and what your results are.

Diner Collapse Personality Profile TM Survey Results


How do you categorize yourself as you look toward the future1- Cornucopian- Believes that in the future we will have a high technological society, travel to the stars etc2- Doom Lite- Believes that we will have a crash of our current systems, but will in the future fix these problems and continue living much as we now do.3- Full Doom- Believes that our current way of living will disappear, there will be a large reduction of human population and those who remain will live a more primitive lifestyle.4- Extinction- Believes that the Human race will go Extinct in the very near term of 100 years or less.

  Cornucopian Doom Lite Full Doom Extinction Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 2
30.57 117


My main Enneagram Type from the test was:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 16
10.02 113


My Wing Enneagram Type from the test was:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 12
7.48 106


Optional: Other possible types for my Enneagram were (list like 3W2, 4W1, etc)

Text Responses

Type 1 – 8.3 Type 6 – 7.7 Type 9 – 6.7 Type 7 – 6.7 Type 2 – 6.4 Type 8 – 6.4 Type 3 – 5.7 Wing 1w9 – 11.7 Wing 1w2 – 11.5 Wing 6w7 – 11.1 Wing 9w1 – 10.9 Wing 7w6 – 10.6 Wing 2w1 – 10.6 Wing 7w8 – 9.9 Wing 9w8 – 9.9 Wing 8w9 – 9.8 Wing 8w7 – 9.8 Wing 2w3 – 9.3 Wing 6w5 – 8.9 Wing 3w2 – 8.9 Wing 3w4 – 6.1
5w4, 6w5
1w2, 2w1, 6w5
9w1 9w8 4w3 4w5 3w4 5w4 5w6
1w9 or 5w4
from the report: "Taking wings into account, you seem to be a 5w4 or 9w8 or 9w1. It is not clear from these test results which Enneagram type and wing you are."
5w6 or 9w8 or 9w1
1w2 or 2w1
5W4, 5W4, 6W5
6SX, 9SX
3w4 or 8w7
5W6, 6W5


Do you feel the Enneagram Test properly categorized your Personality?

  Yes No Other Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 80
30.4 113


Do you have any thoughts to add on Enneagram Testing?

Text Responses

Briggs-Meyers is wayyy better
Not familiar with this test.
Too centered on humanity and humans per se.
Mostly right
Pretty nice touch. Yes. I am aware that I come too strong and that I bring too much of cognitive dissonance to pple with mainstream life choices. That is one of reasons I have chosen to live secluded live on the borders of the society. Everybody needs his own time to figure what I figured or find something completely new. I myself found, that I do not have heart to live my free minimum expense livestyle in the midst of car-feeding career dependant mortgage slaves. Both sides suffered for no positive outcome by my mere presence.
Leave me the fuck alone.
Not sure what it all means.
My ideas are closer to Charles Eisenstein's than any I see here.
I took the simplified test first and I got 4w5. I took the extended test second and got 5w6. I feel pretty strongly that the first, simplified test was the more accurate.
not really sure if 1w2 or 1w9, could be either
It's a dynamic system that accounts for whether someone is mentally and emotionally healthy (or not), so it gives a lot of useful feedback to someone trying to do personal growth work for him/herself.
I feel I am more of an 8w2 than 8w9 as I don't fear interaction, confrontation or any of the other things 9's do.
Very accurate and repeatable for me.


My most likely Briggs-Meyers Personality type is:

All Data 4
8.23 105


My next most likely Briggs-Meyers Personality type is:

All Data 4
6.21 92


Optional: Other possible Briggs-Meyers types listed for me were (list like ESFJ, INFP etc)

Text Responses

I have taken the test several times in the past, intj only
did not take
no info without paying
Just got INP listed
my types change over time.
I didn't sign up, so all I got was hints (the above are guesses based on other research)
Don't know
I was shown as 89% INTJ
Intuitive, introvert and feeling. Don't recall the rest.
didn't give a second choice
Half of them are possible choices. Most results of 3 categories came out borderling.


Do you feel the Briggs-Meyers test properly categorized your Personality type?

  Yes No Other Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 86
34.65 112


Do you have any other thoughts about the Briggs-Meyer Personality test?

Text Responses

Didn't get results…as it asked for $29. I marked INFJ for the hell of it.
Too centered on humans and humanity.
This test did not give results without first paying a $29 fee. Therefore, took the test but didn't receive the results.
Declined to register or give them money. So I just guessed
The test was improved by David Keirsey
Tests are more certain than I am
Why did you link to a test that costs money. No one will spend money to take a test just to give you the answer. Search for free tests or build your own.
no free, used sample to get type = seemed close enough
I have gotten a different type result in the past. I think i have changed in my habits a little over time.
These shift frequently over time, probably moreso than personal outlook on the future.
Ad Q.12: I can make very little difference for my individual future but all the necessary difference in my own perception of things. And it happens, that I truly believe two things.: First, from what Ive seen over the world we are hardly the first industrial civilization in our species history. Second at best. The history we wrote for us is either an error or hoax. Second – collapse of current industrial civilization … seen from far enough… appears to be a correct thing. We took too much space. Thats wrong. Its against Live. Luckily and eventually, even when we somehow manage to go extinct, Earth will be Garden of Eden again. It is given. And I am quite fine with that. Personally I do not see that much difference between me, enjoying lazy afternoon sun in a garden, and for example a cat. They are the very same thing we are minus human collection of abstract thought patterns, notions and such. I believe this quite firmly, since I managed to almost die on Lyme disease last year. And as I was sinking and losing myself on a bed in my house for a day or two I lost this human part. And I was like them. Unable to think, to name stuff, to make much of plans. And it was still Me in the bed. Me as always having this usual strange sort of fun. It may be of some interest to you, that the man who had teache me most about collapse, was by some strange way of accident Alan Watts.
Very applicable.
Very accurate descriptions.
It only told me I am IS (complete result is 29 bucks), the rest of the answer I made up.
Often forces a choice between 2 options that can be held simultaneously and are not mutually exclusive. A poor test.
Fuck that noise.
I did several, years ago; didn't do this specific one. Have studied Myers-Briggs (you have the name backward, for some reason) for decades.
Truly amazing result
It's a more static test that gives you a personality snapshot for the moment in time when you take it, but you may score differently at different times.
The Meyer-Briggs test has little scientific backing, especially the categorization into 16 distinct personality types. Other tests like ones for the Big Five personality traits are better supported by empirical data and acknowledge a wider range of personality facets. However, these tests have their own problems as well.
This test does not do well for me in terms of defining my personality. With 3 of categories borderline, I could pick any of 8 possibilities.


Choose as many of these as applies to you

  I think about collapse issues daily I rarely worry about collapse It is important to be Hopeful in the face of collapse Giving up Hope is the best way to deal with collapse My concerns about collapse affect my choices My concerns about collapse do not affect my choices Most people I talk to are unaware of collapse Most people I talk to are aware of collapse I can make a difference for my future I cannot make a difference, doom is inevitable Responses
All Data 102


My attitudes regarding collapse has affected my relationships with others

  Yes No Other Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 73
29.1 118


My IQ based on the online free test is

  <90 90-99 100-109 110-119 120-129 130-139 140-149 150+ Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 0
15.33 106


I feel the online IQ test gave a more or less accurate (within 10 points) assesment of my actual IQ

  Yes No IQ tests are not a valid measure of intelligence Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 61
22.07 104


My maximum formal education level is:

  High School Associates Degree Bachelors Degree Masters Degree Doctoral Degree Other Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 16
12.43 119


My Gender is

  Male Female Other Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 100
43.36 119


My Race/Ethnicity is:

  White Black Brown Red Yellow Albino Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 107
39.14 117


The continent/region I live on most of the time is:

  North America Central America South America Western Europe Eastern Europe North Africa Sub-Saharan Africa Middle East North Asia Southeast Asia Australia/New Zealand Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 83
23.54 119


My age is

  <18 18-24 25-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-69 70-79 80+ Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 0
10.46 119


Survey: Psychological Profiles of Collapse – Results: Future of Energy

survey-says-2gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 20, 2015

Discuss the results at the Survey Table inside the Diner


Internet-JunkieRecently inside the Diner we had a long and involved discussion about Psychological Profiling, centering mostly on Enneagrams, which attempt to categorize the psychological profile of people through 9 different categories. This is not the only such type of profiling out there, the Briggs-Myers system which uses 4 main categories is also commonly referenced for this type of stuff.

Several of the Diners took the Enneagram test, and we have a fairly wide distribution of types recorded from this type of test and the results also seem to be repeatable through different tests for a given indvidual, but I am curious (yellow) as to what personality types defined by these tests and structures are prevalent in the Collapse Community?

To try to get some handle on this, I have created a Survey which you can fill out once you take the Enneagram Test and the Briggs-Myers test.  You don't necessarily have to take the same ones I am linking to here, but the data is going to be more consistent if you use these tests.

I also am including a Link to an IQ Test, which is optional to take, it's not necessary for the Personality Profiling.  However, again I am curious as to what kind of IQ the typical Kollapsnik TM has, so I added this to the Survey.

This is a "fun" survey, not meant to be too serious, the whole psychological  profiling thing is rather nebulous to begin with and the sample size we are likely to get is not going to be that statistically significant.  Nevertheless, I am interested to see how the distribution of personality types is spread out.

The two main personality tests and IQ Test links are:

If you are going to fill out the survey, you will need to take at least the Personality Tests.  The IQ Test is Optional.  Each of the tests takes about 15 minutes to do, and the survey itself also another 10-15 minutes, so if you want to participate this will cost you an hour of your valuable time.  lol.

survey-saysOK, now on to the results from the Future of Energy Survey, which brought in a good sample size and very interesting results overall. 🙂

The big question always posed on all collapse websites it the TIMELINE QUESTION? As in "When will *I* be unable to afford the gas or the pumps will be dry in *MY* neighborhood?  When will *MY* Lights go out?"  If this shit is happening to Greeks or Venezuelans, WTF CARES, right?  LOL.  As long as *I* am still doing OK, everything is PEACHY!  This is a particular problem here in the FSoA with the 20%  or so of still well-to-do Amurkans, who simply cannot fathom why the poor people can't get along, and why they feel the necessity to RIOT all the time?  What's with that #Ferguson shit, why don't these folks just do what the cops tell them to do?  LOL.

Anyhow, at least amongst Kollapsniks TM, we have a very solid consensus opinion on when the pumps will go dry and the lights will brown out regularly.  Very nice Bell Curve distribution on these questions, and if you believe Kollapsniks, then things will be going seriously SOUTH around 2025 or so.  Zager & Evans only got ONE digit wrong! 🙂

Which is the closest year to which Gas/Petrol will either be unavailable or too expensive for most people to buy in your neighborhood?

  Now 2020 2025 2030 2040 2050 Available for the forseeable future Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 4
12.59 147

Which is the closest year to which on demand Grid Electricity will either suffer regular Brownout or Blackouts in your neighborhood 50% or more of the time?

  Now 2020 2025 2030 2040 2050 Available for the forseeable future Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 5
12.95 147

2025 looks like the CRITICAL year to most Kollapsniks as far as availability of gas to do Happy Motoring and keeping the Lights On all the time in your digs.  I tend to agree with this assessment and 2025 was my vote on both of these questions.  What these questions also reveal is an approximation of how many Cornucopians haunt the Collapse Blogs, it appears to be between 15-30% of the readership.  These folks believe that the gas and electricity will continue to be available into the indefinite future.

Can Renewable Energy sources pick up the slack to maintain a technological society once Fossil Fuels cannot be accessed or afforded?

  Yes No Maybe, I'll explain it below Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 24
30.54 147

Overwhelmingly, most Kollapsniks do not think Renewables can pick up the slack here once we drop off the Fossil Fuel based economy.  I tend to agree with this assesment as well.  Quite a few text responses came in for the "Maybe" choice, here they are:

What are your rationales for answering "maybe" to Renewables in Q3?

Text Responses

With farming and return to farm lifestyle. after tribal war and die off.
Low EROI Intermittent
It depends on what you mean by "technological society". I envision one that has – some – technology but only about 10% of our current energy usage.
if we can get around political obsticals and build more nuclear
production continues to ramp up immensely – the only thing preventing american access to cheap imported solar is bad tax policy
We need to drastically reduce consumption and inequality, go vegan, reduce human population voluntarily to about 10% of current levels (a stretch, I know), and put entire society on a "war footing." We probably need nuclear as well. We could maintain technological society but not today's consumption levels.
"Pick up the slack." What do you mean. Solar energy is to some extent suffering from a resource shortage: some rare earth metals. In PVs progress is being made, but then the inter-seasonal, daily and/or spatial production consumption imbalance will have to be overcome by large storage and /or transfer energy systems. In wind energy obviously similar issues play. These require huge amounts of resources (power storage reservoirs, compressed air batteries, huge power transport lines. Energy will never be cheap again, at some prices will reflect production cost (bye bye capitalism.). Our per capita energy consumption will (have to) go down. Living standards may follow. We may have to shrink as a species.
"Pick up the slack." What do you mean. Solar energy is to some extent suffering from a resource shortage: some rare earth metals. In PVs progress is being made, but then the inter-seasonal, daily and/or spatial production consumption imbalance will have to be overcome by large storage and /or transfer energy systems. In wind energy obviously similar issues play. These require huge amounts of resources (power storage reservoirs, compressed air batteries, huge power transport lines. Energy will never be cheap again, at some prices will reflect production cost (bye bye capitalism.). Our per capita energy consumption will (have to) go down. Living standards may follow. We may have to shrink as a species.
Not a technological society as we know it, but a society with some technlogy available to a few wealthy owners.
Not a technological society as we know it, but a society with some technlogy available to a few wealthy owners.
depends on priorities
The BIG game changer is whether or not storage can drop in price. It is disruptive technology. If storage drops to the 100/kwhr range or lower, it can change the whole energy distribution system. Not because of solar or wind, which it will obviously help. But because you no longer need to load follow, and have extra capacity online to meet -potential- load increases. It is a tremendous increase in efficiency. It is more danger initially to the FF industry then wind or solar. 100/kwh batteries also make electric cars the same price as their FF cousins. It allows for off-grid. The question is whether or not we can hit that goal or not, and the timeframe for achieving that goal. GM has announced it by 2022 which is 7 years. The potential is there.
BAU can not be supported by RE but a highly modified technological society can be. We will not have 24/7/365 electric. I expect we will have long distance communication via fiberoptic but maybe not video definitely not cell towers. I expect much lower population 90% less. On #6 below I mean simple tech no 20 billion dollar chip fabs. few or zero airplanes.
I should explain that there are no utilities in my neighborhood now. There are some real problems running industrial equipment on renewable energy sources, air travel will cost too much, and we should produce far less grain-fed meat, so there will be some major changes.
depends on economic and political conditions
All depends on the Hot Rocks – Nuke Puke situation. A different lower energy localized society might be possible. High rise towers could be used for local food production in lower density cities. Good design could minimize heating needs. A local large office building here in Vancouver is heated from the electrical lighting load, solar and occupant's body heat. Designed and built 50+ years ago.
Solar will become the dominant low cost energy as storage technologies (batteries and hydrogen predominantly) evolve.
Answer for #5. Manhattan Project style effort on LFTR research would be good to see. Probably too late, though. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor.
Only if expectations and levels of consumption are radically reduced – basically status quo lifestyle is a non-starter but a reduced expectation reality is.
We can replace 80% of electricity-generation fossil fuels with current technology; transport is probably doable but it requires significant breakthroughs.
Yes… esp if advanced biofuel, biooil, and other biological based fuel sources are utilized (algae, switchgrass, miscanthus, etc)
Fossil fuels won't become unaccessible or unaffordable in my lifetime.
Techincally, it could. The political and cultural changes also required are VERY unlikely to happen before it is too late to build the right technical infrastructure.
Energy from renewables will need to be directed to a smaller selected group of technologies, i.e. infotech, telecoms to continue the availability of knowledge and communication for people. Also continued production of high-tech for renewables themselves. Not on the receiving end. Long distance transportation of food/people/cheap-labour-produced dross, or tech for extracting/refining fossil fuels.
Transition time 30 years without causing problems, less than that and it will stress the system/public.
Sources that are neither fossils nor renewable such as nuclear energy will provide great amounts of energy. Renewable energy sources, solar in particular, will be more developed and produce greater amounts of energy than those sources do today. Also, if there would be a breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology, energy problems would no longer be a problem.
a society capable of limmited electrically powered processes at a ~1920s level, with all else being at an early 19th century level. yes. modern modern. no.
With combined energy efficiency and lower population levels the remaining population may be able to maintain a technological society with renewable energy sources only.
It requires that collapse not happen for any other reason; and while I expect that renewable energy will be able to be produced using just renewable energy, there will be degradation in quality and capacity with every generation, like a xerox of a xerox.
Well, we have to actually start the infrastructure in a big way, then techology has to continue in a non petroleum based power future.
Maybe at some point in the distant future, but why would we want them to, and fossil fuels will always have some advantages.
At what cost. Renewables have displayed the ability to fill the void left by declining fossil fuels. Renewables are expensive and rely on heavy tax incentives.
Technically they could make a HUGE difference but it is culturally and politically UNLIKELY to happen before it is too late.
renewables' foundation rests on fossil fuels.
RE is constantly changing. Innovation is possible. You cannot foresee the future.
technology for the rich, back to 19th century for everyone else
To a certain extent since we have plenty of hydro, nuclear and wind. The problem is, of course, transportation. We have lots of public transportation and plenty of biofuels generated from waste so pehaps it is possible. We cannot overconsume, drive cars or grow the economy but perhaps we could have some form of sophisticated communication (internet)

Should more Nuclear Power Plants be built to pick up shortfall in electrical power as fossil fuels dwindle?

  Yes No Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 63
9.5 145

Nuke Puke was a pretty close vote for quite a while, running close to 50-50 in the early polling.  However, in the end the Anti-Nuke Greenies beat the Nuke Pukers, and more Nuke Plants were defeated in this vote.  It's highly unlikely many new ones will be built in any event, snce the end consumer can't afford to buy the electricity regardless of how it is produced.

In the event that we cannot find energy sources to replace fossil fuels in running our industrial economy, which outcome do you think is most likely?

  We will return to 18th century farming techniques at a lower population level We will shrink down to very small numbers and return to Hunter-Gatherer living We will maintain a technological society utilizing just renewable energy sources We will go Extinct Standard Deviation Responses
All Data 68
20.7 145

The overwhelming plurality of Doomers think we are destined to all become Amish people (47%).  A relatively small percentage think we are destined for Near Term Human Extinction (10% of the sample).  A very significant number (28%) of people fit in that Cornucopian slot, believing we will be able to continue onward with a Technological Civilization utilizing Renewable Energy sources.  I fit in the 14% or so who believe we are destined to vastly shrink in numbers and return to a Hunter-Gatherer lifestyle, although I think this will take quite some time to take place and we probably will do the Amish thing for a while.

All in all, this was one of the more enlightening surveys so far, in terms of getting a feel for what the attitudes and beliefs are of people who haunt the Collapse Blog-o-sphere.  Next up, we need to determine the Psychological Profiles of these Doomers.


Everyone I Know is Brokenhearted

coffee-clip-art-bTyEkgeecA Collapse Cafe Video Interview with Josh Ellis

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on August 10, 2014

Discuss this article at the Doom Psychology Table inside the Diner

Josh Ellis is a Web Designer and Author who publishes the Blog, Josh published an Essay titled “Everyone I Know is Brokenhearted“, which has Gone Viral on the net.Above, you will find the Interview we did with Josh discussing this blog, as well as the numerous underlying causes for the Heartbreak so evident now in many people.Below, an excerpt from the Blog.

For the full article, visit

All the genuinely smart, talented, funny people I know seem to be miserable these days. You feel it on Twitter more than Facebook, because Facebook is where you go to do your performance art where you pretend to be a hip, urbane person with the most awesomest friends and the best relationships and the very best lunches ever. Facebook is surface; Twitter is subtext, and judging by what I’ve seen, the subtext is aching sadness.

I’m not immune to this. I don’t remember ever feeling this miserable and depressed in my life, this sense of futility that makes you wish you’d simply go numb and not care anymore. I think a lot about killing myself these days. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do it and this isn’t a cry for help. But I wake up and think: fuck, more of this? Really? How much more? And is it really worth it?

In my case, much of it stems from my divorce and the collapse of the next relationship I had. But that’s not really the cause. I think that those relationships were bulwarks, charms against the dark I’ve felt growing in this world for a long time now. When I was in love, the world outside didn’t matter so much. But without it, there is nothing keeping the wolf from the door.

It didn’t used to be like this when I was a kid. I’m not getting nostalgic here, or pretending that my adolescence and my twenties were some kind of soft-focused Golden Age. Life sucked when I was young. I was unhappy then too. But there was always the sense that it was just a temporary thing, that if I stuck it out eventually the world was going to get better — become awesome, in fact.

But the reality is that the three generations who ended the 20th century, the Boomers, their Generation X children, and Generation Y, have architected a Western civilization that’s kind of a shit show. Being born in 1978, I fall at either the tail end of Gen X or the beginning of Gen Y, depending on how you look at it. I became an adolescent at the time Nirvana was ushering in a decade of “slacker” ideology, as the pundits liked to put it. But the reality is that I didn’t know a whole lot of actual slackers in the 1990s. I did know a lot of people who found themselves disillusioned with the materialism of the 1980s and what we saw as the failed rhetoric of the Sixties generation, who were all about peace and love right until the time they put on suits and ties and figured out how to divide up the world. I knew a lot of people who weren’t very interested in that path…


Coming soon on Diner Podcasts, Part II of the Interview with Ron Patterson.

Also don’t miss the latest High Grossing Rants:

Bombs of Democracy: A Failure to Communicate



Exploring Consciousness

Off the keyboard of George Mobus

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Published on Question Everything on February 17, 2014


Discuss this article at the Psychology Table inside the Diner

Dangerous Territory?

Perhaps fools do rush in where wise men fear to tread. The territory we call consciousness studies is fraught with dangers, intellectual as well a professional (for a scientist). Philosophers have never felt any danger (sometimes quite the opposite) because their job is to simply raise interesting questions about the phenomenon. They don’t have to explain how it comes about. René Descartes was content to just declare, “Cogito ergo sum,” and call it a done deal.

Nevertheless the subject cannot but intrigue the scientist who contemplates how the brain works. After all, the brain, working, produces mind and minds experience consciousness (at least I, like Descartes, think I do; the rest of you may be zombies for all I really know!)

Having touched on consciousness in my explorations of sapience (Part 1 with links to subsequent parts), and feeling like I have a good working theory of how wisdom comes about from that brain basis, I am thinking this is a natural turn to take. This is the first of a more in-depth exploration of that devilish hard problem of what is consciousness. I guess you could say I’m feeling foolhardy.

The So-called “Hard Problem”

Philosopher David Chalmers introduced the idea that consciousness is the hard problem, or rather, that some fundamental aspects of consciousness are too hard to explain by mechanistic models.

It seems we need our “mysteries.”

According to Chalmers there are “easy problems” associated with consciousness. For example the mere processing of external stimuli, recognizing what they are and where they come from is easy enough to explain from mere brain theory. For Chalmers and many other philosophers of mind the real problem is subjective experience. That is, how do the stimuli evoke subjective experiences such as “redness”, what are called qualia, or “phenomenal experiences”.

This is where we run into significant rhetorical problems. As soon as we say an experience is subjective we are making a claim about our own experience, not a claim about another’s experience. It is impossible to say that Carl experiences redness when looking at an object that I experience as red. At best Carl and I can agree that whenever looking at an object that I experience as red, he reports that he also experiences something he calls redness. We agree that some kind of visual experiences are consistent across objects. We both use the same name for it. And when I tell Carl that the object I just saw (which he did not see) is red, he understands what I mean in terms of his own experience. It is because of this property of consistency across shared experiences that we might readily conclude that redness is not actually a subjective experience only. There is some physical quality about the way a human brain interacts with reflected light waves to see the same basic quality as almost all other human brains. I submit to you that while the issue of qualia may keep philosophers up at night it is not a real problem when considering the nature of and brain mechanisms for producing the phenomenon we call consciousness.

There are, however, significant semantic issues involved in grappling with the idea of consciousness. When I write, “I saw a red object,” what exactly is the I (in both instances in this sentence)? There is a symbolic referent, I or me, that is used linguistically to identify the agency of a biological system. But more than that, and what is for me the truly hard problem, is that there is a locus of experience and thought that feels an identity and ownership of those experiences and thoughts as well as of the body in which it seems to reside. I can talk about “my body” as if it is a thing that does my bidding and is used to interact with the world. The I inside seems to be unique and, in a sense, somewhat isolated from the body. You will recognize this as the ancient mind-body problem so often argued by philosophers.

Famed neurologist and author, Antonio Damasio (2000) tackled this problem head on in his work, The Feeling of What Happens. Rather than ponder what consciousness must be from an armchair, Damasio has been examining the brain, its functions, and their correspondence with reported subjective experiences as well as behaviors. I have found his arguments (paraphrased below) quite convincing as far as they go. They do provide a more solid ground to start from than introspection alone. My own approach is, in a sense, similar to Damasio’s but working from a kind of reverse engineering process. My work on autonomous agents starts by attempting to emulate the brains of vary primitive creatures such as a snail, paying particular attention to the critical role of memory trace encoding in neuronal synapses (Mobus,1994). It is my contention that this is the first problem to be solved before attempting to emulate whole brains. It is absolutely essential to understand the dynamics of this encoding in order to solve certain critical problems in memory trace behaviors that we know affect long-term behaviors in all animals. My immediate goals are to build brains that are progressively closer to mammalian capabilities (not necessarily human, by the way). This will be demonstrated by their capacity to adapt to non-stationary environments and still succeed at a given mission objective.

I think the answer to consciousness lay in the evolution of brains from those primitive versions up through mammals and to humans. I have elected to try to emulate the stages of brain evolution by simulating biological-like neurons and their dynamic interactions in brain-like structures (e.g. the hippocampus and its analogues in reptiles). Essentially I seek to grasp how the brain works by recapitulating its evolution.

Jeff Hawkins (2004), of PalmPilot fame, is also attempting to reverse engineer the brain (especially the human level) but is most interested in the neocortex of mammals and humans to emulate human level (like) intelligence. His approach has been a more top-down one in which he has focused on what he feels (and I agree with him) the role of the cortex is as a memory-based prediction processor that can form invariant representations of things, causal relations, and interaction dynamics in the world that actually allows the possessor to visualize the future based on experiences learned in the past. I feel he is closer to understanding real intelligence than all of the classical artificial intelligence and artificial neural network researchers combined! Real, natural intelligence will never be simulated by a program. It will only be emulated by a program that simulates the necessary details of brains. I think we can do this on a computer, but probably not a brain as complex as the human’s. I will be happy if we can get to something a little more advanced than a lizard, for example a mouse.

I must say I think Hawkins’ approach, while having the advantage of providing a kind of top-down framework for generating hypotheses about intelligence, is going to have difficulty in not having spent time understanding the way in which neurons (all of them) encode synaptic efficacy as the basis for memory traces. Further, we now know that neurons are actively wiring and rewiring as a result of experiences. New synaptic junctions are formed, especially between distant clusters, and the mechanism for doing this involves the dynamic behavior of existing synapses and the epigenetic controls on genes that encode, for example, channel proteins. My adaptrode model provides the basis for this mechanism and this too is one of my goals — to show how distant neural clusters can come to represent causal associations in a developing brain simulation.

The approach of reverse engineering takes the work of neuroscientists like Daniel Alkon (1985), Eric Kandel, and Larry Squires (2008) who showed how synaptic efficacy dynamics worked, and Damasio and others like him who have painted a picture of how the mind works (similar to Hawkins’ framework approach) and attempting to simulate the parts that interact in such a way that the whole thing works just like brains do, but in software and silicon instead of meat. I contend that it is the causal relation encoding dynamic built into synapses that is the key. And that can be simulated reasonably well[1].

In any case Hawkins seems interested in consciousness as an afterthought, a consequence of neurology (see Chapter 7 in his book). He seems focused on the issue of intelligent decision-making and never considers the nature of judgement or wisdom. In the chapter on the topic, consciousness, creativity, and imagination are treated more like epiphenomena of neocortex operations. I, however, am interested in the nature of consciousness from the standpoint of that it is an essential evolutionary consequence of fitness and how it emerges from the workings of the brain. I do not think it is an epiphenomenon — a simple but unnecessary consequence of brain workings (in fairness to Hawkins he may not really think that these “extra” phenomena are truly epiphenomena, but his treatment of them seems cursory and almost dismissive, so that it seems as if he does).

For Hawkins the objective is new technology to be applied to building useful tools; tools that are truly intelligent, meaning they learn from experience and can make good decisions. He sees these applications as specifically not being humanoid robot like, but rather for things like autonomous vehicles that do not have emotions or internal drives as animals (and humans) do. But for me the motivation is quite different. I seek to reverse engineer the brain and demonstrate its functionality in a working autonomous agent as a way to better understand biological brains! I build agents not to develop commercial applications but to understand better the brain itself. Frankly I suspect Hawkins, in excluding the inclusion of limbic functions like emotional content, will run into a barrier in his quest. As Damasio (1994) pointed out in his first book, Descartes’ Error, essentially all of our memory traces are tagged with emotions or feelings derived from the limbic centers and based on the emotional context of the moment in which they are formed (see Chapter 8 — The Somatic-Marker Hypothesis). Damasio has concluded that the whole brain and body &ldwquo;… form an indissociable organism… ” (page 88) that probably cannot have parts isolated and function properly. Hawkins seeks to isolate the neocortex (and perhaps part of the thalamus and hippocampus) for his ‘intelligent tools’. I am skeptical that the learning algorithms he might apply to the neurons (synaptic plasticity) will do what he expects without an underlying motivational response system. But I wish him luck.

As long-term readers well know my ultimate interest is in the nature of wisdom and its effects on intelligence, creativity, and affect (emotions) as a necessary and evolutionarily emergent capacity of our human brains. I think consciousness is for something that is deeply tied to the nature of sapience. Perhaps, as I have speculated, the two phenomena are coextensive, i.e., come from the same brain structures that evolved in humans but are almost absent in lower animals. I suppose you could say that my ultimate goal would be to show how that can emerge (evolve) in brains by building something as proof of concept. As I said earlier, that won’t be possible with the current generation of computers, even the most powerful supper computers or even through massive parallel processing over the Internet. But it should be possible to make advances in that direction that demonstrate the potential of the trajectory.

Believe it or not there are a number of researchers, both in and around the field of artificial intelligence (AI), who are studying Artificial Consciousness (AC). The study of AI has, itself, helped shed light on what we really mean by intelligence even if it has not been very successful in producing the general kind of intelligence we now recognize as the basis for adaptive behavior in autonomous agents like animals. I would claim that my own modest efforts have gone a long way to show an alternative approach that does do so. Those who have considered AC do recognize that if it is possible to produce consciousness (whatever it is) artificially it will certainly include, and start with, the capacity for adaptive autonomy by an intentional agent.

The beginning of this approach is now to consider how an animal is “aware” of its world and its self as it moves about sensing that world and its own body states.

Awareness — Self vs. Non-Self

The nature of consciousness begins with the nature of an agent’s awareness. Even the simplest living organisms keep track of stimuli that originate in themselves versus those that originate in their environments. All animals, certainly, from the lowliest worm to human beings have neural mechanisms that track their own bodily positions and self-stimulation versus stimulations that originate from elsewhere in their environments. In other words they keep track of self versus non-self The need to do so is really pretty simple. Organisms need to react with appropriate behaviors to the impacts of the stimuli coming from other sources. They do not need to react to stimuli from themselves. For example, a nudibranch (marine snail) needs to withdraw its gills if they are touched by other agents (live or not). It does not need to do so if it touches its own gills. So it has neural mechanisms that keep track of its own movements. It knows where every part of its body is relative to all other parts at all times. If it detects a sensation on the surface of its body while noting that its foot, for example, is curled up and is the source of the stimulation (its foot will also feel the touch of the gill), it does not need to react. Any other stimulation not accounted for by its neural tracking of self should be reacted to for safety sake.

The circuit in Figure 1 shows how this is accomplished. The circuit compares sensory inputs from any of its externally focused senses, visual, auditory, or touch. These are compared with proprioceptive sensory information for correlations. In the nudibranch case above it will have a proprioceptive map that indicates where its foot is because it keeps track of how it moved that foot to its current location (nudibranchs are quite capable of such contortions!). It also receives touch sensory data from the gills in the location corresponding to where the foot is. Thus it can determine that no response is needed since it is self-stimulating the gills. Contrariwise, if the foot has not been moved to that location then it will conclude that something not itself has touched its gills and it will retract them immediately.



Figure 1. The distinction between self and non-self is differentiated by whether proprioceptive sensing matches external somatosensory inputs. A. If the proprioceptive input does not indicate that the self has produced the sensory input, then the non-self cluster is activated indicating the need to attend to the stimulus. B.If the proprioceptive input does indicate that the self has moved and this correlates to the sensory inputs then it is recognized as a self action. This kind of circuit is what lets you know that it is you scratching your ear and not someone else trying to be friendly.


Awareness is essentially the maintenance of somatosensory maps[2] that keep track of every sensory input that is active at any given moment. These come from the external world and from the internal body. Proprioception, as just described, provides a map of the body’s movable parts so that the animal “knows” at all times where its part are relative to all other parts. It also supplies information about how much force, for example, had to be used to get the part where the motor commands directed it. This is used as feedback to help regulate the motor commands themselves. If little force is still accomplishing the task then more force is not needed. This information can be used to determine the agent’s relations with objects and media in its world. A second internal sensory map is the interoception, or sensing of physiological body states such as blood sugar levels or nitrogenous waste build up in muscles. It includes hunger, hormone-driven effects like sexual urges, and pain reception. Some of these states, such as sexual urges, can be triggered by external sensory stimuli (presence of the opposite sex’s pheromones) but sensed by internal sensors and relayed to the brain as body state information.

Even the most primitive brain maintains these three dynamic mappings that keep it aware of the state and position of the self and the state of the environment around it[3]. In reptiles and below these maps are mostly processed in the nuclei-like structures of the lower and middle brain areas. Many are nonmalleable in the sense that they cannot learn new images or new behaviors. They provide instinctual behaviors. In amphibians and reptiles newer, more flexible, structures appeared. They are more cortical-like in architecture and they are flexible in the sense that they allow for non-instinctual memories (at least in short-term) to be encoded as new images from the environment. Such structures help quadrupedal mobility in more difficult to navigate terrains. They also allow more flexibility in reorganizing instinctual behaviors to achieve a more complex goal. For example mating rituals can be more elaborate and follow slightly different patterns in each instance based on current circumstances. This helps improve mating success and thus seems to have obvious selective advantage.



Figure 2. There are three sources of sensory input to the central nervous system. The exterioceptive senses are the ones we normally think about as the five senses along with a few others. The proprioceptive system keeps track of body movements and positions of parts relative to each other. The interoceptive system monitors internal body states and keeps a map of activity levels in the relevant subsystems. All maps are integrated into a “global” map of the self and its relation to the things and forces operating in its environment. This is the origin of awareness and can be found in some of the most primitive brains.


Yet even more elaborate and flexible mapping processors emerged in the form of the paleocortex[4]. This structure may have evolved in dinosaurs or at least the last common ancestor of dinosaurs and birds, since the latter have similar structures. A cortical structure, as Hawkins and others have elaborated, allows much greater flexibility in making more complex associations between sensory inputs and leading to more complex motor outputs (behaviors). The maps shown above were replicated in these cortical structures but in a much more elaborate form. The paleocortex could process so much more and do so by acting as Hawkins’ memory-prediction system that I have shown to provide anticipatory (preemptive) based actions.

The final stage of evolutionary expansion of brain systems and the gain of unparalleled adaptivity came with the emergence of the neocortex in mammals. In some respects not unlike the paleocortex this ‘new’ cortex provides a much more powerful capacity to encode memory traces and make anticipatory guesses about the near future state of the world. But even more important, the size and complexity of this subsystem allows the brain to manipulate concepts experimentally, to imagine a possible future that can be tested for possibilities before action is committed. For example a preditor such as a lion or wild dog can consider that they have often found food resources at particular water holes. When the game is more scarce, the predator can then experiment with the idea that there might be other water holes some distance away where more game might be found.

You may question my use of the word “idea” here. But I mean it literally. Most of your ideas actually start out in the subconscious processing taking place in various parts of your brain. Only a very few of these ideas make to the light of conscious awareness. Yet we know they are there because psychologists/neuroscientists have devised clever ways to elicit subconscious thinking and visualize it using fMRI and other dynamic imaging methods. Thus, though a predator like a lion might or might not have a conscious thought about ‘trying’ to find a new watering hole, the thought is there none the less. This is evidenced by the actual behavior of such animals that has every appearance of premeditation. For my part I have several reasons to believe that lions and dogs actually do experience such ideas consciously. I also suspect they have an inner language that includes complex concepts in the form of noun-like and verb-like (including tenses) abstractions of the things in their world. Recent work in animal communications indicates that their body languages convey much more of their inner thoughts than we had previously considered. I will have to write about this at a later time. For now please accept that mammals have mental capabilities, made possible by neocortex, that allow them to work with concepts in ways very similar to our own.

From Brain to Mind

The neocortex alone, as simply an expanded version of the paleocortex, would not have resulted in the explosion of complex behaviors that gave mammals tremendous survival advantages. The other concomitant development in brain structure was the development and expansion of the prefrontal cortex, the lobes of cortex just behind the eyebrows. The frontal lobes were always the seat of associating environmental situations with appropriate behavioral programs, planing of muscle contraction sequences, and then sending commands for those sequences at the appropriate timing intervals. The addition of the prefrontal cortex added a new feature, the ability to plan alternative coordination with possible future situations, extending the ability to anticipate and adding considerable flexibility to behaviors (along with increased complexity). With the addition of temporal categories, past, present, and near-future, animals with prefrontal cortex could process the present situation based on past experiences and plan future actions.

Figure 3 shows a complete set of mappings and the information flows from sensory to planning to motor coordination. The new layer of map effectively observes what the sensory integration is producing and uses memory of past experiences to decide what motor actions would be needed. In this sense it is planning for the future by anticipating future outcomes. But in the primitive animals in which this map came into being, the future is just a very few seconds.

The figure includes the feedback through the environment resulting from the animal’s behavior altering its relation to objects in the environment — essentially changing the environment (red arrow) relative to the animals perceptions. The loop is continuous in time. The animal continually senses the environmental configuration of percepts and tracks how they change in the planning map. Those changes then give rise to new motor plans. Not shown in the figure are the internal feedback loops from higher order maps to lower order ones. I’ll have more to say about this aspect in future postings.



Figure 3. Adding motor outputs requires the integration of sensory inputs and the coordination of motor outputs. This requires a higher-level map to plan actions that will need to be done in order to better position the agent in the environment. The sensing, planning, motor output, and feedback as the environment changes relative to the agent’s perceptions is continuous in time.


Connecting complex environmental situations and body states with actions to take was a major leap in agency, the ability to flexibly choose alternatives, some of which might be learned through experience. But it was still only a slight improvement in anticipatory behavior in being limited to the immediate future. In many ways this capacity could be limited to amateur game playing; if the opponent moves here I should move there. Considerations for what the opponent might do two minutes from the present, let alone two hours, were not a factor.

As the evolution of more complex environments proceeded [5] selection for more behavioral flexibility became stronger. The behavior planning map expanded to provide more memory capacity for more complex situations encountered. At some point (probably in early mammals, monotremes) a new map emerged above the short-term planning map in Figure 3. In all likelihood this map evolved as many new organs/facilities often do as a duplicated structure (the planning map) that was initially redundant, but later was free to evolve additional capabilities.

That structure is depicted in Figure 4 as an “Observer Model.” sitting atop the action planning map. At this juncture the latter is more a short-term default map wherein actions chosen would hold under ordinary circumstances. But the higher-order map is capable of storing more implicit (and perhaps the beginnings of explicit – episodic) memories than could be accommodated in the lower map. This larger memory also includes longer time scales for memory retention. But more intriguingly the higher-order map is a dynamic map in that it is capable of reconfiguration (generating new wiring schemes between concept objects) and hence, as a modeling “platform”, capable of generating multiple possible scenarios for the future. The time horizon for planning actions, and hence the length of the sequencing, expanded as well. The animals could consider behaviors further into the future than before.



Figure 4. At some point of complexity (environment and behavior) a new map appeared as an adjunct to the Action Planning Map. This map introduces longer time scales of “what happened” as well as “what may happen in the future”. This map is probably better called a dynamic model but it takes current status information and constructs refinements to models of how things work. The output from these models affect the current behavior.


Note that this new capacity opened up new possibilities for exploring fitness space in mammalian evolution. The larger the spatio-temporal scope of an individual’s experiential memory coupled with mechanisms for experimenting with possible scenarios gave animals a capability to increase their tactical advantages considerably. The carnivores and the primates evolved this capability to maximum effect.

The reason I call this an observer model is that unlike the planning map that directly innervates the motor coordination map, this map takes in what the lower-level maps are doing and constructs what amounts to higher order models of both the self and the environment over long time scales. The sense of “I&rdquo, with continuity across time, is a consequence of this modeling. I am reasonably certain that dogs, cats, other carnivores, cetacean, and primate species have an inner sense of self and identity associated with their life experience memories. It may be true for ungulates too (horse owners would probably agree). Maybe even lagomorphs (rabbits) too! Indeed, as I think of various mammalian species I have watched behave (e.g. squirrels and raccoons) I would guess they all have some sense of I-ness.

There is another sense that results from there being a sense of I. That is the sense of agency and will; the sense that I caused that to happen. This has to be fairly obvious from the fact that the observer is watching the motor outputs (behaviors) that change the environment (relative to the observer) as well as observing the actions of the planning map and what it was in the sensory maps that gave rise to it.

With the emergence of this observer, model constructor, model user, scenario generator we have the emergence of the mind. We have the origin of the sense of self as different from the lower-level functions (maps) because it is. Lots of things could be going on in real-time in the lower level maps. This new higher level map (model) is working in a different time domain. It is collecting experiences and consequences of past behaviors in those circumstances which it uses to build anticipatory models of what should be done in the long-run (well, some long-run). It then provides the action planning map with provisional suggestions as to what sequence of actions it should take if such-and-such a situation comes to fruition. This new map allows the animal to deal with some ambiguity and uncertainty.

The new map is in the prefrontal cortex. Its actual work is to map longer-term and broader scale concepts to all of the regions in the neocortex where the details of lower-level concepts and percepts are actually stored (e.g. parietal and temporal lobes, etc.)

Higher-order Consciousness

The capacity to be aware of the environment and the sense of the body as a basis for short-term behavior planning is what I have called First-order Consciousness. The sense of self is primordial, consisting of a knowledge of proprioceptive senses that distinguish that what is happening is either due to some factor in the environment (awareness) or due to the animal’s own actions. All animals from the most primitive (probably with what we would call nervous systems) to human beings have this fundamental consciousness or they could not act effectively (be fit) in their worlds.

A sense of self that produces also a sense of separateness, the sense of I is what I call Second-order Consciousness. There is an observer in the brain that literally tracks both what is happening in the environment and what the body does in response AND proposes longer time-scale action sequences that should better situate the animal in the future. Fitness is greatly enhanced. The animal possessing this capability is able to adapt to multiple environmental configurations within limits.

What do we see with humans? In my next posting I will tackle the next level phenomenal experience — observing the observing! Humans are conscious that they are conscious. What does it mean?


Damasio, Antonio (2000). The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, Mariner Books.

Damasio, Antonio (1994). Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, HarperCollins Publisher, New York.

Hawkins, Jeff (2004). On Intelligence, St. Martin’s Griffen, New York.

Kandel, Eric & Squires, Larry (2008). Memory: From Mind to Molecules, Roberts and Company Publishers.

Koch, Christof (2004). The Quest for Consciousness: a Neurobiological Approach, Roberts and Co.

Koch, Christof (2012). Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA.

Mobus, George E., (1994). “Toward a theory of learning and representing causal inferences in neural networks”, in Levine, D.S. and Aparicio, M (Eds.), Neural Networks for Knowledge Representation and Inference, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [Available on-line:]


[1]. Simulations, however, are not easy. A simulation is always an approximation to the actual system. We can never simulate the lowest level details. For example my Adaptrode does not simulate the molecular interactions that take place in a neuron from synapse to genes. Such a simulation would provide greater accuracy by capturing the sub-dynamics that contribute to the whole phenomenon. But at the cost of needing much more computing power. We always are stuck with a tradeoff between accuracy and computational overhead. What we do is try to analyze the phenomenon and identify what we think is the sufficient level of accuracy producing the desired effects (think of curve fitting approximating a non-linear time series). If there is a need to get the simulation to run in real time, then the constraints on level of detail are much more severe. Using a computer simulation of thousands of synapses with firing frequencies of 200-300 Hz requires a substantial amount of trimming of detail! Time will tell if the Adaptrode equations suffice.

[2] The use of the term ‘map’ may be confusing but the processing ‘modules’ reponsible for handling sensory inputs literally map the array of inputs (think of the retina as a two dimensional array of light sensitive cells) to higher order processing modules. Unlike static roadmaps, however, these neural modules are dynamic maps that track inputs across the sensory field, thus changing where activity is located based on what they are mapping. For example, think of the visual inputs from the retina as the eye moves. The objects in the field of view are moving relative to the map itself. Imagine a lattice made of rubber. An object in the field of view is like a distortion in the lattice, say pushing a finger down on it. As the eye moves and the object remains stationary it is like moving your finger across the lattice so that the distortion affects different regions.

[3]. Here the term environment refers only to the affective environment of the animal; essentially only those forces it can detect and objects it can recognize. For worms and snails this is a pretty limited environment. For humans it is clearly much larger. Nevertheless, there are many aspects of one’s immediate environment that one cannot sense directly yet they can have causal impacts on the individual.

[4]. A cortical structure is a sheet of micro-modular units (cortical columns) that are arrayed in a matrix arrangement. The sheet is divided into regions (and likely sub-regions) that are responsible for processing various representations. The sheet can be imagined as being layed out with regions near one edge (actually the back of the brain in the neocortex) devoted to low-level sensory inputs from all modalities. These are passed to the next regions which extract meaningful conceptual images from the inputs from the “lower” regions. That is, the outputs from the sensory regions are passed to the integration regions. It is also notable that there is a tremendous amount of feedback from the integration regions to the primary sensory regions. The outputs from the integration regions pass further along the sheet to object recognition and that to whole-field (situation) recognition. From there the behavior selection processing is done in the planning or pre-motor regions. Finally motor outputs are processed in regions in the far other edge of the sheet and the outputs are sent back down to the motor control nuclei in the central and lower brain areas for passing to muscles, etc. This is a, perhaps overly, simplified description. I plan on devoting some future writing to elaborate on this subject.

[5]. I say the environment evolved because an environment includes all other relevant species and environments and the various interacting genera coevolve. Sometimes such coevolution involves an “arms race”, as between prey and predator, called the Red Queen race.

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 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

In reply to Xabier. the virus will continue to kill many people, just at a (probably) decreasing dai [...]

In reply to doomphd. I was a little kid and thought it was great! now, "the morning sun is shin [...]

In reply to Dennis L.. "... real estate without a group will have declining value." defini [...]

In reply to Gail Tverberg. He's doing an online "I'll be back" Arnold Scwharzneg [...]

In reply to Nope.avi. As I recall he was irritated by the fact that not everybody on this site agree [...]

I don't get it. For years this blogger and others like Martenson have been on about the fragili [...]

In reply to steve from virginia. This Brookings webinar goes over some of the ground discussed here [...]

In reply to Ken Barrows. Everything is bullish! [...]

Also, it's very possible we could send the virus packing if everybody would just wear a face-ma [...]

The crux of the problem is that what Chris Martenson has christened the "Honey Badger Virus [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

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

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

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Technical Journals

Globally, subtropical circulation in the lower troposphere is characterized by anticyclones over the [...]

Numerical models are being used for the simulation of recent climate conditions as well as future pr [...]

This study aims to provide improved knowledge and evidence on current (1986–2015) climate vari [...]

In many countries, urban heat island (UHI) effects come along with urbanization in metropolitan area [...]