The Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) was perhaps the first to note the universal trend that growth is slow but ruin is rapid. I call this tendency the "Seneca Effect."

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Collapse of Rhetoric. Can Economists and Ecologists Talk to Each Other?


In ancient times, the standard way to deal with different opinions was found in the fine art of rhetoric. At the time of Seneca, rhetoric was perhaps the main skill of a man of culture: the capability of debating was valued and practiced. 

The use remained for a long time, even in scientific matters. At the time of Galileo Galilei, it was still the standard way to discuss. Galileo wrote his "Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo" in 1632 as a fictional dialogue among three savants. (see image above).

But rhetoric has completely gone out of fashion nowadays. Did you notice how in the media or in the socials there is no more debate? There are only insults. There has to be something deeply wrong in the way society is functioning that makes it impossible for most of us to discuss with people who don't fully agree with us. 

Nevertheless, the art of the fictional dialogue has not disappeared. Here is how it was recently interpreted by Kathy Shields, republished here with her kind permission. Note how you could see the dialog she presents as a sort of crescendo in which the protagonists, the ecologists and the economists, sort of play a musical duet that grows in tone and volume, ending with a final bang: "who put these people, (the economists) in charge?

There are many ways to describe a Seneca cycle, this is one.

A completely made up story about the history of economics and ecology



  1. An old blog post by physicist Tom Murphy

  2. Up to now science found 5 species that would survive a nuclear war
    In the 1970s they found RATS
    In the 1980s COCKROACHS
    In the 1990s SCORPIONS
    In the 2000s POLITICIAN
    And in the 2010 if my memory is good it's M.Nassim Nicholas Taleb who found the fifth one ECONOMISTS
    Have a nice day

  3. Belief systems are a function of the amount of Energy allocated in running them...

    The dialogue above suggests the power grid has been running spotless all those decades between 1970 and 2020 for both talking-figures.

    In Iraq, in contrast, the dialogue has been shifted a bloody exercise on the ground, in the endless wars of the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and today from street to street.

    In the 1930s, the BBC has been busy Audio recording Quran recitals in Egypt and others - like no tomorrow, despite Audio recording technologies have been an extremely expensive novelty, the first Iraqi lady students were entering the school of Medicine, Law and the field of Journalism, Art, etc, Muslim women in Kabul were not far behind, too.

    The Islamisation of the Middle East has gone very well since, as few decades later it helped with mass exportation of oil from Iraq, Saudi and others, Afghan war and the demise of the Soviet Union experiment, etc - without leaving any chance for any of those locations turning another Paris, Milan, London or Berlin.

    Today, our civilisation is waging a fierce, relentless and extremely well funded 24/7 multi-lingual campaign over the internet debunking Islam as we know it.

    The campaign suggests that Mohamed, Omar, Baker, Ali and other Islamic figures are fictitious, to say the least, and they were a product of the Abbasid era heavily practicing a grand conspiracy theory (after all, cilvilisations appear no more than social engineering enterprises 14 century ago, earlier and still?!)

    When oil reserves in the Middle East were just tapped on, the BBC has been telling Muslim masses, listen to your holly Quran day and night, the British Channel 4 has been airing live scenes of Ramadhan and Eid as if Britain is more Muslim than Muslims, and British Universities were running Prayer rooms for Muslim students not any other students.

    Now there is little remaining oil left in the Middle East, the new campaign is telling Muslims that Islam is Judaism and Christianity hybridised and it is better to stick with the roots!

    Belief systems are a function of the amount of Energy allocated in running them and they wouldn't last past that supply of Energy - as humans default to what allows continuity without those temporary synthetic supplies.

    Oil, coal and natural gas!

    The scary dimension is that if above 'ECONOMISTS' and 'ECOLOGISTS' soon turn demonstrators like Iraqis today, leaving their circular chicken-and-egg dialogue about the gender of Angels - and the rest of the world becomes another never-recovering, bloody and violent Iraq - god forbid!


  4. We should let a MATHEMATICIAN join in the dialogue and explain to the stupid economists the madness of exponential growth (though I suspect they would be just too stupid to understand the arithmetic). Prof Albert Bartlett would be an ideal candidate for such a mathematician, but sadly he's no longer with us.