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."
Showing posts with label Science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Science. Show all posts

Monday, November 7, 2022

How to Beat Propaganda: the Grokking Strategy

We CAN beat propaganda, but it takes some effort to avoid falling prey to the simple, yet effective, methods that the powers that be (PTB) use to control us. You need first of all to understand that there is no such thing as an "authoritative source." All sources can be wrong, and many are there to trick you into believing that something is true when it is not. So, you need to listen to everybody and trust nobody. In this way, you can "grok" your information and not be grokked by the PTB.

I remember how, as a young scientist, I spent long hours at night perusing scientific journals in my department's library, at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. The administrators wisely kept the library open all night for us, students and postdocs, to nibble at the treasure of knowledge stored there. It was the equivalent of what we do today when "surfing the Web", it was just slower and more laborious. But it was a great experience: I soon learned that not all the articles found in scientific journals were trustworthy, nor were the scientists who had published them. When I started my career, frauds and lies in science were still rare, but even in "high-level" scientific journals, there were plenty of evident mistakes, unjustified assumptions, sloppy work, or, simply, irrelevant babbling. 

It was a different story when I was a student. As a student, you are supposed to be "trained." The term comes from the Latin "trahere, ‘to pull.’ It implies that your teachers can force you to learn whatever they think you must learn. So, you can pass exams in college without having understood anything of what you regurgitate to your examiners. But things change completely when you become a professional. You must learn to consult many sources and sift good information from the bad. If you are a good professional, you listen to everybody and trust nobody.

We can describe this attitude by the term "grokking," invented by sci-fi author Robert Anson Heinlein to indicate the kind of in-depth understanding that professionals have of their field. In Heinlein's fictional Mars, "to grok" also means "to drink." You assimilate knowledge just like you assimilate the water you drink. It is strictly related to the concept of "empathy" as discussed by Chuck Pezeshky in his blog. (It is also part of the concept of "virtual holobiont," but let me skip that, here).

The "grokking-style" learning is based on the idea that you don't trust a source just because it is "authoritative." No. You are the one who decides whether what you are being told is true or not. And you base your evaluation on having more than one source, and critically evaluating all of them. It applies to scientific research, but also to all kinds of information collection in ordinary life. Or, at least, it should apply if you want to really understand what you are learning. 

It is here that we have the problem, a big problem. Universities don't teach you how to grok. Probably, it is because the old saying is true: nothing worth learning can be taught. At least, not in the traditional way. Even good professionals are often completely naive when they leave their specialized field and are exposed to propaganda. Yet, it is not impossible to learn how to grok. It is a recursive affair: you must grok how to grok!

Nowadays, with a tsunami of propaganda submerging all of us, I am discovering that many people I know use the same grokking strategy that I use. Typically, we avoid TV and mainstream media, and we use aggregators, feed readers, and similar ways to access multiple sources. Many people seem to have developed this learning strategy by themselves. Not long ago, my good friend Anastassia showed me how she does it: she has hundreds of telegram channels she follows. She clicks on the titles of posts that seem interesting to her, reading them if they turn out to be really interesting. She doesn't trust any of them, but she listens to all of them. I have a feeling that there is some correlation between this style of learning and the fact that she is among the brightest people I know. 

Personally, I tend to use feed readers rather than Telegram (I described the method in a previous post), but it is the same idea. In addition, some blogs and sites are structured as aggregators, and they will do a good job for you by alerting you about new information arriving (a good one that I follow is Raul Ilargi's "Automatic Earth."). In any case, you want to be in control of what you receive: so, no Facebook, no Twitter, nothing like that, even search engines are biased. You don't want others to decide what you see. You want to be in control of the information you receive. You listen to everyone, and you trust no one. 

This method of managing information has the advantage that it makes you nearly invulnerable to propaganda. I say "nearly" because we are all human beings, and we all tend to believe in what we would like were true. But, surely, a good grokker is a hard target for the classic propaganda techniques that consist mainly in suppressing the sources of contrasting information. Then, by repeating the same thing, over and over, it becomes true (you surely remember Karl Rove's statement about "creating our own reality"). If you watch TV, you are their slave, but if you are reading this blog, you probably aren't. So far, it is still possible to collect a fan of information sources sufficiently distant from the official truth to be able to grok the situation. 

On the other hand, there are problems with this strategy. One is that, by abandoning the mainstream sources, you risk rolling down the other side of the disinformation hill. In this case, you'll find yourself fishing out rotten morsels from the soup of madness that often surrounds "alternative" news sources. You know, things like the moon landing hoax, graphene in the Covid vaccines, viruses that do not exist, and the like. It is bad information that comes in part from people who have gone Martian coconuts, and in part from paid disinformers who just want to trick you. As an example, Igor Chudov makes a good case for the "viruses do not exist" meme as a psyop created by the PTB. He even could identify the site that created the meme and diffused it. You risk "inverse grokking," which means that the powers that be are grokking you!

The other problem, much more serious, is that if you are a serious grokker, you place yourself outside the mainstream beliefs and views. You may find that your friends and family think that you are "strange," that when you walk toward someone you know in the street, she may cross the street to avoid getting close to you. And woe betides those who try to discuss with non-grokkers. You will be ignored (at best), ridiculed, and even insulted by people whom you thought were your best friends. I don't have to tell you that being in this situation can be bad for your mental health and, in some cases, for your physical survival. You may remember the ominous sentence about the unvaccinated, “what do we do with these people?” expressed by Canadian prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It sounds very much like what was said about the "Jewish Problem" in the 1930s. You know how some people thought they could solve it. Some solutions are truly final.  

So, knowledge carries a risk, something that has been known from the time of Adam and Eve. On the other hand, we are always seeking truth, an activity that every good person on this planet should pursue. And so, onward, fellow grokkers! All you have to lose is your ignorance. 

If you have time, you can tell me in the comments the way you use to gather and process information. I suspect that many readers of this blog are good grokkers, but many of them may use creative methods. 

In the following, some excerpts from a post by "John Carter" which inspired these reflections of mine. Note, though, that if you read his whole post, you may notice that not even he is completely immune from being grokked by reverse propaganda. Probably it is also my case.... alas. See also a recent post by Todd Hayen on "Off Guardian" that expresses very similar concepts. 

What Are Your Sources?

"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end with doubts, but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties." - Francis Bacon

Excerpts from a post by John Carter on his blog, "Postcards from Barsoom"

"Where do you get your information from? What are your sources?"

I really hate this question.

Part of it is that a lot of the places I tend to go to collect information would strike the normie as batshit insane conspiracy sites. Once you're on the other side of the great hyperreality bifurcation, you're experiencing a world in which very fundamental assumptions of the old societal mainstream, ranging from 'what is true' to 'what is moral', are no longer taken for granted and, indeed, are widely rejected.

Another part of it is that a great deal of what gets circulated within the hydra originates with anonymous or pseudonymous writers. By the very nature of communicating one's thoughts from behind a veil, it is impossible to verify whether they really know what they're talking about. A normie used to the anodyne pronouncements of credentialed experts being fellated by talking heads on CNN will find the idea of taking seriously the words of random Internet schizos to be a bit jarring.

But the single biggest reason I dislike this question is that it's the wrong question. 'Sources' have absolutely nothing to do with how I gather information; and from what I've seen, that's true for most of us.

The general assumption in normieland seems to be that there are reliable and unreliable sources of information. The former carry the stamp of approval of established authorities, who go to great lengths to ensure that the information they communicate has been extensively vetted for accuracy, with obvious mistakes removed by dedicated teams devoted to the rigorous vetting of every piece of information that gets included. The latter consists of wild speculations, rumours, and crazed ramblings. There's some nuance there - most people will admit that politicians, bureaucrats, and corporate marketing executives will usually put some spin on the information they communicate - but in general the heuristic that gets applied is "there are reliable sources, and unreliable sources; all you need to do to have an accurate view of reality is to limit your information diet to the former and ignore the latter."


When you're attempting to scale the walls of Chapel Perilous in the weird corners of the Internet, you don't have the luxury of relying on authoritative sources. The very concept of 'authoritative source' loses all meaning, and of necessity one develops a very different approach to information gathering and belief formation. Inside the datastream of the Internet, no one perspective is privileged as being unimpeachable. Nothing is to be trusted. Nothing is ever to be 100% believed. Everything one comes across, from any source, whether an established blogger with hundreds of thousands of daily readers or some rando in the comments section, is greeted with more or less the same response:

Here's what I do; and I suspect it's pretty much what the rest of you do, too:

I've got a variety of news aggregators I tend to go to, each more or less reflecting the worldview of the individual or team who maintains them through the lens of the topics that attract their attention. I skim these feeds and occasionally click on something if it catches my own attention. There are a few forums that I frequent, where various topics are discussed, and people share links to things they think are interesting together with whatever impressions they have of them. Social media plays a similar role; while I'm not on Twitter or Facebook, I do subscribe to a couple of hundred Telegram channels, some of which I'll peruse throughout the day, once again clicking on anything that looks interesting. Add to this an archipelago of blogs which provide some degree of original analysis, but are mostly the Internet's editorial page; in these cases, I gravitate towards those authors I find to be consistently interesting. Then there are podcasts and livestreams, most of which take the form of a free-ranging conversation between hosts and guests.

In most cases I have no idea about the identities or credentials of the authors, and I could generally care less. The contribution of an anon on 4chan can be every bit as insightful and correct as the analysis of a facefag whose CV I can review in detail. Equivalently, the facefag can be every bit as wrong as that of the shitposter. The salient detail is not the identity of the person originating the information, but the structure of the argument.

When perusing something, at the same time that I'm evaluating the information, I'm also evaluating the worldview that produced the information. What are the ideological biases of the author? Is he a libertarian, a post-liberal, an old-school leftist, a nationalist, a trad-Catholic, a deep ecologist, a neoliberal managerialist, a critical race theorist? Does the author have something to gain from what he's writing - is he trying to get me to buy something, or being paid to advance a perspective that will enrich his paymasters? The author's perspective is inseparable from the argument being put forward, as it structures what the author considers to be interesting, and what he believes to be axiomatically true and false - creating attentional foci and blind spots.

This doesn't mean that something is to be rejected or accepted merely because it conflicts or accords with a worldview I find personally agreeable - that's ultimately just a version of the 'authoritative source' mindset, one that leads straight into an echo chamber. In principle, valuable insights can come from almost anywhere. The purpose of the exercise is rather to discern the model of reality that produced the perspective leading to the information being organized as it has been.

All models are by their nature simplified schema that fail to capture the full complexity and nuance of the world. They emphasize some things and omit others. That's why it's important not to get overly attached to them. However, some models are more accurate than others, much more likely to correctly predict unfolding events. By foregrounding the models that produce the hot takes, one begins constantly testing these models against one another. As events unfold, one notices which models are more, and which less, accurate. New information can then be evaluated on the basis of the model that generated it, and its probability of being accurate weighted accordingly.

As this goes on, one inevitably begins to construct one's own model of reality, simply by combining the elements that seem to have worked from the models that one has been exposed to. There's nothing particularly special about having a model of reality - we all do, of necessity; the advantage lies rather in that this process becomes conscious and deliberate. One makes one's own model, rather than simply accepting whatever model is offered by 'authoritative sources'.

The normies still trapped in the mass media holodeck cling to the certainty that their 'reliable sources' can be trusted, and the result is that they inhabit a nightmare world of shifting illusions that has driven them quite entirely mad. It frequently happens that they wake up to one or another of the lies of which the control system is built, but having perceived the deception on a given topic, they react by looking for an authoritative source elsewhere that they can rely upon. Invariably in this case, they get trapped in a different lie - trading the regime ideology they've left behind for a new ideology, one that they accept whole as uncritically as the one they were raised with. That's what that boomer in the bar was looking for. His first instinct, upon being confronted with plausible arguments that he'd been systematically misled by the legacy media, was to reach for something he could trust. To trade one gospel for another.

In truth, there are no reliable sources, and there never have been. Paradoxically, it's only by letting go of the desire for reliability, by holding things conditionally rather than absolutely true, and by constructing one's own provisional reality model, that one can find one's sea legs on the shifting and uncertain waters, and successfully navigate the ocean of the real.


To finish, an updated list of the blogs I follow (UB)

  1. Anti-EmpireAlgora Blog
  2. Bracing Views
  3. Brownstone Institute
  4. Climate Etc.
  5. Clive Best
  6. ClubOrlov
  7. Collaborative Fund
  8. Consent Factory, Inc.
  9. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick
  10. Edward Slavsquat
  11. eugyppius: a plague chronicle
  12. Exapt Press
  13. Fear of a Microbial Planet
  14. Fight Aging!
  16. RSS feed
  17. Glenn Greenwald
  18. Gut Microbiota for Health
  20. Il Chimico Scettico
  21. Il Pedante
  22. Il Pedante
  23. imetatronink
  24. Impressions of a Holobiont
  25. It's About Empathy – Connection Ties Us Together
  26. Julian Jaynes Society
  27. Just Emil Kirkegaard Things
  28. Kelebekler Blog
  29. La cruna dell'ago
  30. La Cruna dell'Ago
  31. Lettera da Mosca
  32. Madam Mayo
  33. Marty's Mac 'n' Cheese
  34. Mattias Desmet
  35. Meryl’s COVID Newsletter
  37. Moon of Alabama
  38. Nuova Accademia Gnostica S.A.W. di Firenze
  39. OffGuardian
  40. oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith
  41. Our Finite World
  42. Paolo Gulisano blog
  43. Patrick J. Buchanan – Official Website
  44. Peak Oil Barrel
  45. Peter Turchin
  46. Post-Woke
  47. Postcards From Barsoom
  48. Prof. Harald Walach
  49. Rational Ground – Clear Reasoning on National Policy for COVID-19
  50. Resistenze al nanomondo
  51. Resource Insights
  52. Retraction Watch
  53. Roy Spencer, PhD.
  54. Sebastian Rushworth M.D.
  55. Shrew Views
  56. Simon Sheridan
  57. Steve Kirsch's newsletter
  58. Tehran Times
  59. Tessa Fights Robots
  60. The age of loss
  61. The Automatic Earth
  63. The Inquisitive Biologist
  64. The New Normal
  65. The Philosophical Salon
  66. The Reading Junkie
  67. The Slavland Chronicles
  68. The Upheaval
  69. The van says…
  70. The Vineyard of the Saker
  71. Trust the Evidence
  72. Umanesimo e Scienza
  73. Unmasked
  74. Vinay Prasad's Observations and Thoughts

Note added after publication: Several people have expressed surprise at the fact that I placed 74 links in the list. "How can you follow so many blogs?" they ask. The fact it that I don't "follow" all of them. I skim through the list of titles and I open the links that I think are interesting. Then, I may or may not read the whole post -- some people publish posts that are so interesting that I can't miss them. But not all those linked here, only a minority Note also that almost all these links refer to single-author blogs which publish no more than one-two posts per week -- often even less frequently. I make an exception for "The Automatic Earth" by Raul Ilargi, which publishes daily, because it is so interesting. But some links that you see in the list above have already disappeared from the updated list. For instance, I removed "Tehran Times" -- too many posts, and too flatly aligned with the Iranian government. 

Friday, October 28, 2022

Is Fascism Returning?A Reflection on the Centennial of the March on Rome


An image of the "March on Rome" of the Fascist blackshirts that took place a hundred years ago, in October 1922, and that brought Benito Mussolini to power in Italy. Look at him at the center of the photo: he already looked like an actor playing a role on stage, the strong man with a square jawline. It was a posture and a mask that he would maintain unaltered for more than 20 years as absolute ruler of Italy. That mask would eventually become him and devour him, taking him to his doom. Today, there doesn't seem to be any more space for such macho dictators, but totalitarianism is not gone, it is taking different forms. 

On July 25, 1943, the leader of the Italian government, Benito Mussolini, was arrested on orders from the King of Italy. That day, my grandfather was on vacation with his family on the hills. Coming back home by train, he walked out of the station without having read the newspapers of the day, so he was still wearing his Fascist party badge. Someone told him that it was not a good idea, but he refused to take it off and, for a few days, he stubbornly insisted on wearing it. It took several days before he was forced to realize that the days of Fascism were over.

I am telling you this story to show you that Fascism in Italy was not something imposed by jack-booted thugs wearing black shirts. My grandfather, surely, was not one: I remember him as a kind man who loved children. But, during its heydays, Fascism was a truly totalitarian phenomenon. It permeated every facet of life: at school, at work, in the family, everything. And it was diffuse in all social classes: from the nobility to the workers. But what was it, exactly? An idea? A political party? A person? A hallucination? Or what? 

Fascists saluted each other by outstretching their right hands in the "Roman Salute," which the Ancient Romans never used. They would recognize the "fascio" as a symbol of unity, a meaning that it probably never had in Roman times. They claimed to have rebuilt the Roman Empire by conquering a country, Ethiopia, that newer was part of the ancient Roman Empire. They shared with each other some typical ideas, such as nationalism, racism, the idea of self-sacrifice ("me ne frego,") and a love for uniforms and military parades. In terms of policies, Fascism was a mix of socialism, nationalism, paternalism, imperialism, and more, often in contradiction with each other. It could be anything, but, in practice, it was mainly one thing: Benito Mussolini himself, the Duce degli Italiani,  the absolute ruler of Italy. 

During the Fascism age, the propaganda machine of the Fascist party ran unopposed and saturated the Italians' worldview. The power of the Duce grew so much that it probably went beyond the expectations of his sponsors, and perhaps of Mussolini himself. It became a common slogan that "Mussolini ha sempre ragione" (Mussolini is always right), and he would bask in public ceremonies where he was revered by "oceanic crowds". The Italian people had completely delegated to him all powers. They had regressed to the role of children obeying the orders of their stern father. Mark Oshinkie correctly described this phenomenon as follows (not referred to Italian Fascism, but valid for it, too),

Overall, per Jean Piaget, they thought like eight-year-olds. And as did Cub Scouts, they exhibited a pack mentality: the dysfunctional kind. 

This image (author unknown) nicely summarizes the essence of Fascism, just as of all forms of totalitarianism:

How could it happen that so much power was bestowed on a single man? In part, Mussolini's success was due to sheer luck, but also to his capability to bluff, and his willingness of catching a good opportunity when it appeared. More than all, he was a master of propaganda, one of the first politicians in history to use the new mass media -- the press, movies, and the radio -- for self-promotion. As a politician, Mussolini knew even too well that all politics is based on finding someone to blame. And he was selling to his sponsor the idea to deflect the rage of the working class to foreign targets, away from the Italian elites. Pivoting on a series of myths that were already diffuse at that time, he blamed the troubles of Italy on the decadent Northern Plutocracies, the evil Soviet Communists, and the inferior African races. In this way, he managed to obtain support from those sectors of Italian society which had been fighting each other before Fascism: the workers, the financial sector, the industrial sector, the military, the intellectuals, and the King of Italy himself. 

But Mussolini was not just a politician. He was a great salesman, too, one of those people who don't just sell things, they sell dreams. He sold to Italians the dream of a new Roman Empire and that they, the descendants of the ancient Romans, would be the new masters of the world. And Italians bought that dream enthusiastically. For 20 years, Italy saw a wave of Roman symbols, banners, fascis, people dressed in togas, and speeches about the new Empire. If you visit Rome today, you can still see four maps of the expansion of the Roman Empire on the wall of the ancient Forum, placed there in 1934. A fifth map, now removed, depicted the modern Italian conquest of Libya and Ethiopia. Was it a political program? If it was, it failed miserably. But at the time, evidently, it looked like a good idea.    

For some 20 years, the Duce was Italy, and Italy was the Duce. You could say that he was playing the mythical role of the "Sacred King," concentrating on himself the glory and the responsibility for all that was happening, good and bad. And everything that happened was written in the Celestial Gantt Charts, up in the sky. Glory is a harsh mistress, and no man can keep his mind sane for a long time while staying at the top, surrounded only by adulators and sycophants. By the late 1930s, Mussolini had become a caricature of himself: his mask of strong-jawed man had devoured him, turning him into a bumbling fool who had lost contact with reality, and who threw Italy into a series of absurd wars that ended with a humiliating defeat. Mussolini played the role of the sacred king up to the end, when, in 1945, he was ritually sacrificed, atoning with his death the atrocities committed in his name.

And now, about our times: can Fascism return? And if so, in which form? Clearly, humans have a fascination for strong leaders and, today, Western media are quick to label a foreign leader as a "dictator" or a "new Hitler." But few modern leaders seem to be able to approach the level of power that Mussolini had. Our "color revolutions" borrow some elements that Mussolini pioneered with his March on Rome, but they are a different thing, piloted by foreign powers and designed to create chaos. In 2020, Donald Trump may have tried something like a "March on Washington," but his militia, despite including a propitiatory horned shaman, turned out to be pitifully ineffective. 

Should we conclude that the age of Fascism is over? Maybe it is, at least in the aggressive form that it had assumed with Mussolini and his imitators. But totalitarianism, surely, is not over. On the contrary, it is on the increase. We see it very well with the current rise of censorship, groupthink, propaganda, control, encroaching on personal freedom, and more. But all that is arriving without the presence of a "great leader," at the top. What's happening? 

I think that Simon Sheridan has a key observation, here. In examining the Covid story, he interprets it in terms of the "devouring mother" -- an archetype that goes in parallel with that of the sacred king, but that's different in many ways. From Sheridan's site

Drawing on the work of the great Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, Sheridan makes the case that the archetype that has been dominant in the west for several decades is The Devouring Mother, a shadow form whose primary qualities include gaslighting, emotional manipulation and guilt tripping all in the name of protecting her children. Sheridan switches between the microcosmic and the macrocosmic to show how The Devouring Mother permeates all levels of society from interpersonal relationships and employment through to large scale political and social movements including corona.

So, the West may have experienced an "archetype switch" during the second half of the 20th century, when propaganda moved from promoting the rule of dominating fathers (or sacred kings) to that of devouring mothers, also known as "castrating mothers." Sheridan's idea makes a lot of sense. When the corona pandemic appeared, no strong leader emerged with the promise of bombing the evil virus to submission. On the contrary, the strong man of 2020, Donald Trump, was positively damaged by his attitude that many perceived as callous and uncaring. At most, we saw the emergence of suave grandfatherly figures, such as Tony Fauci, who adopted gaslighting as his main communication tool. And "Science" took the role of the devouring mother.  

There is a logic in this archetype switch. A sacred king is a real person, while the devouring mother is an abstraction. From the viewpoint of the elites, an abstract archetype is much better. "Science" can be easily controlled by corrupting those who speak for it, the scientists. Instead, a great leader can hardly be corrupted: he has all the power, and so he can have everything he wants. Another advantage of having raised science to a god-like role is that if (when) things start going bad, politicians and officials can reasonably hope to be able to get off the hook (in a literal sense), by blaming the scientists for having misled them. Mussolini was hanged upside down, but you cannot hang science. That does not prevent the possibility that individual scientists will be hanged, just like the Nazis at Nuremberg. But the elites don't care about scientists.  

These phenomena are another step in the evolution of the communication technology we call "propaganda." It had its infancy in the 19th century, matured with the dictatorships of the 20th century, and is still growing and morphing into new forms that, sometimes, we have difficulties recognizing and understanding. In any case, technology is power, and the problem of power is control

The modern forms of propaganda are immensely powerful, even near divine if we see them as ways of "creating reality" -- once a prerogative of God alone. But whereas God is benevolent and merciful, propaganda definitely is not. Its main tool is hate, and it uses it with glee to exterminate huge numbers of people. 

The Covid propaganda campaign had started with a theoretically benevolent purpose: saving grandma from the threat of a deadly virus. And yet, it soon became a hate campaign against the evil "no-vaxxers." It may well be that the people who started the campaign were surprised themselves by how the small creature called "coronavirus" had been turned into a Chthonic deity, just as those who supported Mussolini were surprised to see him turning into a sacred king. Fortunately, the Covid story is clearly losing its grip on people's minds. Perhaps it is being suppressed by the same entities who created it, not wanting to lose control of their creature. For the time being, they have returned to the old and tested methods of hate-mongering, as we see in the current demonization campaign against the Russians. 

So, have we reached "peak propaganda"? Maybe, but it may also be that we'll see it morphing into something new and more sophisticated. The new creature called "Metaverse" may offer new avenues for the powers that be to control their subjects. But history always goes in cycles, old ideas come back and disappear, always the same and always different. In a century or so, we saw dictators take the shape of ancient sacred kings, the evil dragoness Tiamat reappearing as a minuscule peduncled creature, human sacrifices performed on an immense scale, and, recently, nearly all the churches of God worshiping a golden calf called "Science." What else are we going to see? 

In the end, it is the human mind that creates myths, gods, and monsters. It is keeps them alive, and gives them the power to harm people. Propaganda is just an amplifier of these powers -- evil is all in the mind of the believer. You have to resist this evil, and you can if you remember that reality is not what appears in TV or in the media. Reality is what you see and what you touch. It is your friends, your family, your partner, your children. It is the ground you touch, the flowers you see, the singing of birds. Just stay human, and Fascism will never return.  

Friday, October 14, 2022

Never Kiss an Alien Girl. Or, an Ode to the Death of Science


I remember having read a science fiction novel, several years ago, that told of the encounter between an alien spaceship and a human one, somewhere in deep space. In the story, humans and aliens breathe different atmospheres and can only make contact through a glass barrier. But, slowly, they begin to understand each other. At one point, one of the Earth astronauts deepens his relationship with an alien female so much that the captain has to rebuke him, saying, "Be careful! You don't want to fall in love with a green alien who breathes chlorine and drinks hydrochloric acid." (The novel was by Soviet writer Ivan Yefremov, if I remember correctly). 

We don't often fall in love with Teflon-skinned aliens, however, it happens sometimes to be fascinated by diversity, by discovering completely unexpected worlds. Sometimes, even shocking worlds that you wouldn't want to exist. But diversity always enriches you. If something exists -- and perhaps somewhere there really are chlorine-breathing aliens -- there must be some reason why it exists. 

I had such an experience while reading a post published on the blog of a friend of mine, A text I can only describe as alien. Not that it is not understandable: it is written in a Terrestrial language that I can, more or less, decipher. But I cannot find a single sentence in it that is consistent with my view of the universe. Nothing that matches the data I have, or with which I might even vaguely agree. For all I can tell, it could be from another galaxy. Try reading it yourself. If you have any technical-scientific education at all, you will get the same impression. And note that it is not the only one of its kind, it is part of an onrushing wave that's washing humankind's memesphere. 

Warning. I am not publishing this text to expose it to the ridicule of anyone, or even to criticize it. On the contrary, I am admired by the frankness of the author. I don't know her personally, but I am overwhelmingly convinced that she is an excellent person. If I present this text to you, it is a bit like presenting a funeral ode. This text is not a poem, but, in a way, it has poetic value. It is an ode to the death of science. 

Science, yes, the science that had started with the Renaissance astronomers who meticulously, painstakingly, night after night, collected data on the motion of the planets and stars. Perhaps they really thought there were angels pushing, but that did not make their work any less meticulous. Galileo's science, the one that says that "wisdom is the child of experience." Science, the one made of "1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration," the science for which nothing that is not rigorously proven is true, and where everything is quantified, everything is measured, everything is evaluated. That science we were taught when we were freshmen in college. Maybe it never really existed, but we believed in it. And if we believed in it, it existed, in a sense. 

And it's all gone. I don't know what effect it has on you to see the face of one of the many TV virologists who have been raging for the last two and a half years. To me, it feels like what I would expect if I were to kiss an alien who just drank a hydrochloric acid cocktail. And I'm not the only one who has that feeling. I know many people who feel heavily cheated by the way they have been treated during the past two and a half years, always under the guise of "science." These people have lost all faith in science, at least in "official" science. It's not that they've all become Flat Earthers, but now they notice the many hoaxes they are foisting on us in the name of science. And I'm guessing that these people are not those on the dumb side of the Gaussian curve. 

Unfortunately, you can also go too far with this attitude. There has also emerged a group of people who reject science outright and remake their own view of the universe on the basis of completely different assumptions. As does, among many others, the author of the text, below. And there is no way to find an agreement with them. Science (that thing we used to call "science") starts from certain assumptions, postulates if you like. You can't really prove them: you can only accept or reject them. There is no rigorously rational way to convince someone who believes that science is a hoax that it is not. It is the scientists' fault that in the eyes of so many people science has become a hodgepodge of corrupt hucksters paid by the powers that be. 

It may be that, like so many other things, like Communism or the cult of Jupiter, science too has come to an end. Perhaps it had to for some reason -- perhaps someone in high places wanted to destroy it because it was annoying with its insistence on certain things, like the need to do something about climate change. Either way, that's the way it was. 

So what? Well, we'll just march into the future in the dark, blindfolded, and with our optic nerves severed. What could possibly go wrong with that?  


Note added after publication: I received several comments on the text below. Some said that it was a bunch of idiocies and criticized me for having reprinted it. Others said that they saw nothing wrong with it, on the contrary, they agreed with most of its statements. I am impressed (and also scared) by the depth of the chasm that separates the two positions. Will we ever be able to mend this knowledge fracture? Probably not: it looks more like a sort of epistemological version of California's St. Andreas fault. It is causing epistemological earthquakes and, eventually, one of the two sides will disappear underwater.  

Translated from Italian. The author's name and Web address are withheld.

<..> It should be kept in mind that the same centers of power (military first and foremost) that ride the anthropogenic climate catastrophism and provide their solutions are the same ones that constructed the climate change "narrative," aware of the role and power that such a narrative could entail in the future.

That climate change depends on the earth's history and its natural cycles of cooling and warming is a sensible assumption since the earth is not a machine; it is a living organism that evolves, influences other organisms, and is affected by them. Then there is the responsibility of that part of mankind that has damaged and still damages the ozone layer by exploding nuclear bombs and launching rockets and satellites, that uses electromagnetic technologies capable of modifying the ionosphere, that sprays the skies with substances that shield sunlight bringing about a change in climatic conditions, as well as being harmful to all living things.

Perhaps the deception of co2 as the worst of all possible evils is revealed when we realize that it is not a pollutant, it is the main component of living things, and without it plants will not survive..... and neither will human beings, at least as long as they remain as such 

One might think that it has been released in excess, but then why does earth's history show that periods with higher CO2 concentration (higher than the present one) corresponded to a maximum explosion of plant life? and then why are the "climate change deniers" who see the decarbonization program as an environmental catastrophe being obscured without allowing them a confrontation?

Once upon a time, deniers were rightly accused of being paid by oil companies to deny climate warming (later changed to change).

With the same eagerness we should have asked who the promoters of climate catastrophism were funded by (Al Gore, Club of Rome, UN, WHO IPCC, NATO WWF........ behind them we would have found Rockefeller, Soros, the British monarchy......)

I don't know what impact CO2 has on climate change, but more importantly, I don't know if the climate is changing and what the causes are, for sure the overlords of evil will never declare war on the war machine and its emissions of chlorides heavy metals radiation and co2, just as they will never pick on the rockets that take Musk's and Bezos' satellites into the sky.

They just happen to be picking on the least harmful molecule among many...... who knows, maybe someday in addition to accusing us of being too many, they will ask us to reduce the exhalation of carbon dioxide...... just as some "environmentalists" are blaming tree corpses for emitting co2 during decomposition.

Meanwhile, under the guise of energy emergency, in some parts of Europe (Romania) "protected" forests are being allowed to be cut down, the use of shale gas is being implemented, the use of coal is increasing, nuclear power plants are being reactivated, dangerous high-pollution regasifiers are being imposed, oil extraction is increasing, monstrous wind turbines and photovoltaics will be installed everywhere..... in short, we are witnessing an acceleration of the destruction of the earth and "the inevitable" increase of co2 in the atmosphere.

Well wrote a friend of mine about the ridiculous clock that marks the time until the catastrophe..... because it is also in the grotesque details that we see the deception. In this regard, it is useful to recall some famous apocalyptic statements from "authoritative" voices: UN 1989: if global warming is not reversed by 2000, rising seas will cause disasters,

Al Gore 2008: the entire Arctic ice cap will disappear within 5 years (2013).

Of these statements with "randomly" shot dates there have been countless, and all of them have been meant to instill fear, to make people familiar with a future danger and the need for someone to manage it.

This morning the sky was blue, clear, then the usual planes began to spray forming a thin veil. It is a case of saying that they make it right over our eyes! So many people have no memory of the beautiful blue skies of the past. It's as if the sky is an entity that doesn't "belong" to them, it's none of their business...... and to me this mentality looks more much more worrisome than CO2.

The reality is that they are deceiving us by pointing out one problem to hide other and far more serious ones. By turning co2 from a life-sustaining molecule into yet another invisible enemy to be fought, the evil overlords have embarked on the final confrontation against nature, which is called the ecological/digital transition. The plan to control and manipulate life, including climate, is being carried out, so we can identify climate change theory as the tool to bring it to fruition, and with the blessing of the green mass, who have become useful idiots of the 'Transcodigital Agenda'.

According to Nigel Calder's testimony, in the late 1980s Margaret Thatcher went to the Royal Society and said to the IPCC engineers, "here's the money to prove the thesis of anthropogenic global warming!" They came up with the first major report that predicted climate disasters as a result of global warming. When Calder went to the scientific press conference, he was impressed by two things: First, the simplicity and striking power of the message. Second, the total indifference about all climate science at that time and especially the role of the sun, which had instead been the topic of a major meeting at the Royal Society only a few months earlier.

Monday, August 1, 2022

My Career in Science: the First Months of Freedom!


After retiring from my university, I am now involved a lot with the Club of Rome. In the photo, you see me wearing a t-shirt that reproduces the "Base Case" scenario of the 1972 report "The Limits to Growth." On the 50th anniversary of that publication, we published a new report, titled "Limits and Beyond," that summarizes the story and discussed its relevance for us and for our future. 

A few months ago I decided to retire. Actually, I ran away screaming from my university, and I never set foot again in my department afterward. And I do not plan to set foot in it again, ever. 

So, how is the life of a retiree scientist? It is a dream. Freedom from bureaucracy, paperwork, research reports, grant writing, attending meetings, being part of committees, all that. I don't have to spend the 1h 30' of commuting time that I used to spend every day to go to my office and back. To say nothing about not having to torture those catatonia-suffering creatures that go under the name of "students." I feel like a retiree executioner! 

More than all, I feel as if I had returned to when I was a postdoc at Berkeley, in the 1980s. At that time, I didn't have paperwork to do, no teaching, no committees, and no performance reports. I could spend 100% of my time on research. It was wonderful: I remember that the libraries of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory were open all night for researchers. And I did spend entire nights browsing the shelves. To say nothing about the bookstores in town: it was there that I discovered the concept of "peak oil." 

Today, university libraries have become fortresses where you can enter only if you are fully masked and if you reserve a seat in advance. But they have become useless: the Internet gives us possibilities that we wouldn't have dreamed of in the 1980s. It is a dream if you are trained in science, if you like science, if you love science, (I still do, despite the sad state of science, nowadays). 

The whole scientific knowledge of the world is at your fingertips. You can jump from paleontology to cosmology, to thermodynamics, to microbiology, or anything you fancy to learn. True, some of this knowledge is hidden behind the hideous paywalls that publishers use to make obscene profits, but I daresay that the relevant knowledge is mostly available for free. Nobody wants to publish behind a paywall anymore, except for papers they don't care much about because it is the cheap way to publish, and it gives them academic "points." But the relevant work, no, everyone wants it to be read!  

That leaves a problem: how do you wade through so much information? The mass of data that you can summon onto your screen is enormous, the problem is that you risk losing yourself in a galaxy of irrelevance. In my case, I rely a lot on blogs. Blogs often provide high-quality information, sometimes truly excellent information written by scientists or by experts in their fields. Nothing like the chaotic environment of social media (to say nothing about the censorship). And nothing like the boring platitude of scientific journals. 

But how do you organize your information flux from blogs? It is easy: you use a feed reader. I am always surprised at discovering how few people use feed readers to organize their information. It is simple, costs nothing, and it insures that you never miss the sources you think are relevant. And you decide what you want to read: you are not a slave to the search algorithms of whatever search engine or social media you use. I use "," but there are many similar ones. Try one, your views of the world will change. You may also want to try "" -- it is the same idea: it allows you to select the subjects you are interested in. But it works only with substack blogs, whereas a generic feed reader will cover practically all the available Web sites.

There remains the problem of the sheer limits of time and the capability to absorb so much information. There is the risk to become an Internet larva, spending all the time available surfing this and that. 

I am trying to cope with this problem. For one thing, I am dropping certain activities that I think are too time-consuming, and scarcely productive. For one thing, I am considering whether to resign from my position as editor at the "Biophysical Economics and Sustainability" journal. It is an interesting journal in terms of its theme, but it is still steeped in the old and obsolete scientific publishing paradigm of hiding papers behind paywalls. 

Then, I think I'll drop Twitter, too. Too much noise and too little content. It is not the same for Facebook, which still allows one to present reasonably structured information -- you just have to be careful to avoid censorship, which you can do if you phrase your statements carefully. About Metaverse..... well, I still don't know what it is, but I think that you won't be able to force me into it, not even threatening me with a shotgun.

So, with all this information coming in, what is coming out? A list of what I am doing would be boring for you, but let me just tell you that I am in a burst of activities -- I don't think I've ever been so productive as a scientist as now!

Quickly, I am publishing articles in scientific journals, and I am able to publish articles that I see as relevant (and also sometimes fun. That's the way science should be, I think). Among the latest articles, one is a co-authored study on the concept of a 100% renewable-powered society (spearheaded by Christian Breyer). Another (together with Ilaria Perissi) is a re-examination of the "Mousetrap Experiment" that simulates a chain reaction, shown first in Walt Disney's movie "Our friend the atom." Another paper (still with Ilaria) is about transforming the story of "Moby Dick" into a boardgame. The reviewers seem to be a little perplexed, but I think we'll be able to publish it. And there are more papers in the pipeline. 

Then, books. The main one is "Limits and Beyond," a new report to the Club of Rome that reassesses the story of the famous 1972 book, "The Limits to Growth." Then, my previous book, "The Empty Sea" (together with Ilaria Perissi),  is being published in Chinese. It will appear in September. More books are in the pipeline, one is titled "The Age of Exterminations." I think that it will not be easy to find a good publisher for this one -- a little gloomy, to say the least! Anyone among readers has suggestions? 

And then there are blogs and discussion groups. Let me just say that I am fascinated by the concept of "holobiont" and I am dedicating a lot of time to it. I have a blog on holobionts, that I think I will transfer soon to Substack. Right now, the way I see the concept is in terms of the "extended holobiont" synthesis. It will be published (I hope) as a chapter in a new book edited by Jean Pierre Imbrogiano and David Skribna.

The holobiont is, I think, a new paradigm that can help us frame many of the things that are causing us so much trouble nowadays. Holobionts are the building blocks of the ecosystem, and also of human-made social and economic systems.  The whole idea of holobionts is to emphasize collaboration and avoid competition. Holobionts mean sharing, creating, and living. It is the way of all the creatures of the ecosystem. Gaia herself is a giant holobiont -- the master of them all! Then, of course, we are all holobionts ourselves. 

And so, onward, fellow holobionts! 


Sunday, July 24, 2022

"That house is white, on this side" -- Fair Witnesses in Science


"Stranger in a Strange Land" is one of the masterpieces by Robert Anson Heinlein (1907- 1988). Written in 1961, the novel inverts one of the typical tropes of science fiction: instead of humans exploring alien planets, we have a Martian exploring Earth. The story teems with incredibly interesting ideas, intuitions, and observations. One of its legacies is the concept of "grokking" -- understanding something by somehow "drinking" it. Another is that of the "Fair Witnesses," a corporation of individuals trained to observe and report without ever being influenced by personal preferences or emotions. And you know how desperately we would need to have people like them in a world where lies are the rule. Above, an artificial intelligence system, that may behave as a fair witness.

From "Stranger in a Strange land" -- Robert A. Heinlein, 1961

"You know how Fair Witnesses behave." "Well ... no, I don't. I've never had any dealings with Fair Witnesses." "So? Perhaps you weren't aware of it. Anne!" Anne was seated on the springboard; she turned her head. Jubal called out, "That new house on the far hilltop-can you see what color they've painted it?" Anne looked in the direction in which Jubal was pointing and answered, "It's white on this side." She did not inquire why Jubal had asked, nor make any comment. Jubal went onto Jill in normal tones, "You see? Anne is so thoroughly indoctrinated that it doesn't even occur to her to infer that the other side is probably white, too. All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't force her to commit herself as to the far side - . . unless she herself went around to the other side and looked-and even then she wouldn't assume that it stayed whatever color it might be after she left because they might repaint it as soon as she turned her back,"

Heinlein's brilliance as a writer appears in many forms. Here, he had probably thought of the "Fair Witnesses" as the human equivalent of sophisticated surveillance cameras but, eventually, he described them as master epistemologists. People dedicated to truth, nothing but the truth, all the truth. 

Fair Witnesses could be seen as scientists, but freed of the encrustations of corruption, cronyism, hubris, and mere incompetence that plague modern science. They are followers of the scientific method in its pure form: truth is based on data, scrupulously collected and intelligently interpreted, and purged from interpretations based on personal pride or feelings. The result is the real reality. It is the exact opposite of Karl Rove's concept that "we can build our own reality" (maybe it was said by someone else, but that changes little to the idea). Where a Fair Witness would say that a house is "white on this side," Rove's followers would say, "it is the color I want you to believe it is." Which is as evil as evil can be,

If we had Fair Witnesses in our world, we could ask them questions about the problems that affect us nowadays. Climate change, pandemics, vaccines, mineral resources, pollution, etcetera We cannot trust scientists to give us reliable answers. They are too easily corrupted by money, driven by their personal pride, and swayed by their tendency to groupthink and their political beliefs. 

But could Fair Witnesses really exist? Clearly, it would not be easy to establish a corporation of truly incorruptible people, but it is a problem that has occurred many times in history. There have been several attempts to solve it, none was ever completely successful, but at least they went in the right direction. The tradition that may refer to is that of various forms of religious monasticism (note that Heinlein describes Fair Witnesses in his novels as wearing capes, as ancient monks did). Monks and Nuns are normally supposed to renounce worldly pursuits to devote themselves fully to spiritual work. Several traits of Western monasticism were clearly devised to avoid the corruption that plagued the Christian Church during medieval times. For instance, Franciscan friars were (and still are) prohibited from using money. 

A modern corporation of Fair Witnesses would not need to go to the extremes that some monastic orders force on their members and that, likely, create more problems than they solve. They would not have to live in material poverty although, clearly, they could not be allowed to manage money at the individual level, otherwise they would be easy to corrupt. Nor they would have to be chaste, although they would have to follow some rules, maybe strict monogamy, to avoid that they could be bought with sex. Just like ancient monks, Fair Witnesses would be strictly linked to a monastery that would provide food, clothing, shelter, and all they need. Then, they would need to maintain strict equality among the members of their order. No Fair Witness should be considered better, wiser, or smarter than another Fair Witness. That would be the opposite of the obsession of modern scientists with their internal pecking order, measured on the basis of abstruse and arbitrary "indexes". 

If a corporation like this could be created, then we would have teams of "fair scientists" dedicated to knowledge, but not engaged in power games, or to amassing monetary wealth. They would engage mainly in the activity that we call "reviewing" to validate and make accessible to the public the work of ordinary scientists. They would be trustworthy, at least as much as human beings can be. 

Could it be done for real? Not impossible. After all, the existence of monks and monasteries was never planned. It just happened that in some historical periods there was a need for monks, and they appeared. Often, their job was that of conserving and developing knowledge in an age when the secular organization had become unable to do that. Ancient monks were engaged in copying ancient manuscripts, but also in keeping and upgrading practical knowledge in various fields, from food preparation to manufacturing. It is the same job that modern Fair Witnesses would engage in. 

We know that ancient monks were not always up to the standards they were supposed to uphold. If you read, for instance, Boccaccio's "Decameron" you will notice how, during the 14th century, monks and priests were widely considered ignorant boors and sexual predators. Nevertheless, much of what has survived of the Classical Civilization to our times is due to the work of monks. Clearly, they were effective at their job, and we may imagine that Fair Witnesses could continue that tradition. 

Although there are no "formal" Fair Witnesses nowadays, not all scientists are evil wizards, either, nor they were in the past. I recently wrote a post on Albert Einstein and Alfred Wegener, showing how they remained faithful to their commitment to truth and science. As for modern scientists, there are many. Let me just cite one: Sara Gandini, Italian Researcher in Medical Statistics, true embodiment of the truth-seeker, a competent and trustworthy Fair Witness. I could also cite the much-maligned group of scientists whose private emails were stolen and disseminated in the story called "Climategate" in 2009. You may be critical of their sometimes elitist attitude but, definitely, in the whole corpus of thousands of emails, nowhere you could find even a hint of politically motivated manipulation of the data, or corruption. So, it is not impossible to return science to its original aim of a search for truth. 

We may also think that the Fair Witnesses would not necessarily be human beings -- especially considering that we are asking them to behave in ways that most humans find difficult. Artificial Intelligence could provide us with ways to analyze the world around us and separate the truth from legends. One such AI entity is called Leonardo, created by Domenico Rutigliano. It is still in the development stage, but you may enjoy trying it to see what it can do. At least, Leonardo can't be corrupted by money or by sex! And, here, you have Leonardo proclaiming its own worth, in an AI version of the Gospels' sentence,  "ego sum via veritas et vita"


Monday, July 4, 2022

The Dragons of Science: Why we Need new ways to Communicate


A scientist guards his knowledge, making sure that nobody else profits from it. It is the theme of an article of mine (and my coworkers Chiavenuto, Lavacchi, and Perissi) titled "Science and the Dragon:" We were inspired by the work of Seymour Papert, the developer of the concept of "Mind Size" science. We need to tame the dragon and redistribute the treasure to the people. Science belongs to everybody! 

There is a book that I would warmly suggest to you: "The Clot Thickens" (2021) by Malcolm Kendrick. There are various reasons why this book is interesting, one is that Kendrick gives you several good ideas on how to take care of your circulatory system. You have to: that is the leading cause of death in our world. 

But there is more in Kendrick's book. He is a Scottish MD, a specialist in cardiovascular diseases. He is known as a heretical scientist for his negative evaluation of statins and other medicines that bring large profits to the pharmaceutical industry (so much that he attracted a rabid attack from the "Daily Mail" -- an honor!). 

Kendrick is not only a sharp scientist, but he has been developing new methods for communicating science to everyone, not just to specialists in a specific field. That's another reason why I recommend this book. Can you believe that I read this book three times? Yes, I did. Very few books deserve this kind of focused attention -- I don't think I have done that for more than three or four non-fiction books in the life of an avid reader, as I have always been, and I still am. And this one I may read a fourth time. 

Kendrick's book is truly amazing in the way the author masters the use of text for communicating complex ideas. This is not a "popular science" book, that is, it is not a watered-down version of science where a journalist explains to the uncouth masses the wonders that scientists have produced -- you know, galaxies, supercomputers, life extension, that kind of stuff. 

No. Kendrick's book is written by a scientist for scientists, or at least for people who have a certain degree of scientific literacy. Kendrick asks difficult questions, does not always have the answer, and does not shun reporting from the specialized scientific literature. The beauty of the way it is written is that it takes into account the fact that not everyone, not even scientists, understands the dialect of every scientific field. 

So, when we encounter the term "pultaceous," Kendrick stops to note that he himself at first wasn't sure of what it meant, then he explains that it stands for "having a soft consistency: pulpy." Kendrick also focuses the attention of the reader using italics, boldface, quotes, etcetera. And he makes wide use of irony, jokes, and asides, all with the idea of maintaining the attention of the reader. He does use acronyms (CVD for "cardiovascular disease") but sparingly enough that the reader is not forced to stop and think what the heck a certain acronym stands for. 

Let me state it once more. This is NOT the kind of watered-down science that goes under the name of popular science. This is science. Real Science. Hardcore science, if you like, presented in all its multi-faceted complexity. The matter of cardiovascular diseases is difficult, complicated, variegated, and sometimes baffling. But it is not impossible to understand if it is presented in the right way. 

What Kendrick is doing, here, is a major innovative feat: he is developing a new language for scientific communication. Let's ask ourselves a question: why are scientific papers written in such obscure jargon, for instance using the word "pultaceous" when "pulpy" would be just as good? Why do scientists feel obliged to write such hash as "it has been observed that...:" while it would be so much easier and clearer to say "We observed that...."? It is a "defensive" way of writing that scientists use for some reason -- the most likely one is to generate a defensive barrier to avoid incursions in their scientific turf. 

But these little tricks of scientific jargon are mostly harmless. The problem is that scientists almost never ask themselves who would or should read their paper, apart from their colleagues working in closely related fields. So, the destiny of a lot of science is to remain confined to obscure scientific journals that will be read by just a few people (if any). If it is bad science to be wasted in this way, no big damage (actually, it is better if it never sees the light). If it is good science (yes, there still is such a thing) then it is a shame that it is wasted in this way. 

And not just that: even good science is often hidden behind paywalls set by the publishers. This is another nice trick of the way science is managed nowadays. Scientists produce papers mostly using public money. Then they give them to publishers for free. Then, the publishers proceed to have the public pay exorbitant prices if they want to access the papers they have already paid for with their taxes. Are we shooting ourselves in our feet? Sure, multiple times!

In short, scientists have been behaving like the dragons of epic stories, keeping their knowledge for themselves, making sure that nobody else could access it. We need to tame these awful beasts (not necessarily kill them, dragons can make nice pets, as you may have learned watching "The Game of Thrones"). Then we can redistribute the treasure of knowledge that the dragons have been guarding so jealously. But we have to be careful: much of the treasure is fool's gold. Wrong studies, useless studies, repetitions of older studies, fully incomprehensible studies, and many studies are the result of corruption by special interests outside science. Can we sift this enormous mass and keep what's really valuable, turning it into something useful?

A difficult task, certainly, but not impossible. Clearly, it goes beyond the capabilities of the human mind, but we are starting to develop tools that may be up to the task. To acquaint yourself with the capabilities of state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, take a look at the "Leonardo" site. This is an impressive tool that could be used to review the huge mass of the world's scientific literature and reorder it in ways that are both comprehensible and useful. That requires removing the publisher's paywalls, and that won't make them happy. Not at all. But it is not impossible, either. 

One thing is certain: if we want science to survive, we absolutely need to develop new methods of communication. Kendrick's book is a good example of how to do that, and AI can help us a lot to do even better. 


Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Collapse of Trust in Science: Climate Science is one of the Victims


The blog of El Gato Malo is fun to read and, often, reports useful data and correct discussions of the COVID pandemic -- of course, it is very political, as you can see if you peruse the site. But when the Gato tries to apply his skills to climate science, it is a complete disaster, such as in this screed about the climate of planet Venus. The Gato's failure is a good example of how you should always maintain a certain degree of humility when you approach a field you are not familiar with. 

The problem is not so much the site of a person who signs himself as "The Bad Cat".  The problem is that it is a wave. It could become a tsunami. There is a clear phenomenon of loss of trust in science resulting by the mounting evidence of corruption and politicization of those who claim to be the "voice of science" and whose advice the public should follow. The result is a wholesale rejection of everything that's supposed to be supported by "Science." It is not just that climate science becomes a conspiracy by the Greens. It also becomes a commonplace opinion that chemtrails exist, that renewables consume more energy than they produce, that electric cars pollute more than diesel and gasoline cars, that peak oil is an invention of the oil companies, and much more. 

Climate science is an easy victim of this phenomenon because it is a complicated matter that most people do not completely understand (and maybe nobody does). It is relatively easy to comb the data to find examples that don't (or don't seem to) agree with the standard interpretation. From there on, it all becomes politics and all attempts to use reason or data are destined to fail. Politics is not based on data. Just look at the comments to El Gato's post and be horrified: you are staring directly into the abyss. 

Yet, we must cling to science because it is the only thing we have that allows us to understand the world around us. In a sea of corruption, ossification, and ignorance, there do exist islands of sanity and understanding. Below, you can see an example of an attempt to develop a new way of looking at the ecosystem. It means not just turning CO2 into the villain of an adventure movie, but trying to understand how the whole system works and the role of the biosphere in maintaining the climate we need to survive. If we lose good science, we lose everything (UB)

From "The Pround Holobionts" Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Do we focus too much on CO2 alone? An appeal for the conservation of natural ecosystems

 Have we exaggerated with the idea that CO2 -- carbon dioxide -- is the arch villain of the story? Aren't we overemphasizing solutions that imply CO2 removal? How about geoengineering, sometimes touted as "the" solution that will allow us to keep going on burning fossil fuels? 

There is no doubt that the emissions of carbon dioxide are returning the ecosystem to a condition that was never seen before at least one million years ago. There is no doubt that CO2 is warming the planet and that none of our Sapiens ancestors ever breathed in an atmosphere that contains a concentration of CO2 of 420 parts per million -- as we are doing. 

But by focussing so much on CO2 alone is easy to forget what humans have been doing to the ecosystems that keep the biosphere alive (and with it, humankind). The ecosystem is a giant holobiont that strives for stability: a fundamental element to stabilize Earth's climate. It is a dangerous illusion to think that we, humans, can replace the work of Gaia with our fancy carbon capture machinery, or whatever other tricks we may concoct. 

Here is a reminder by a group of people from Eastern Europe who managed to maintain a certain degree of mental sanity. They remind us of the damage we are doing. Will anyone listen to them? (UB)

Appeal to the international community, governments, scientific, public organizations and business


Terrestrial and marine natural ecosystems are the basis for preservation of biological life on Earth. They have existed almost unchanged for millions of years and all this time have supported climate stability, biochemical flows, global water circulation and many other processes, irreplaceable and essential for preservation of life on our planet. Undisturbed natural ecosystems maintain the Earth's temperature, suitable for human life.

The laws of nature are the basis of life on Earth, and all the laws of human society that regulate economic, political, social and cultural relations are secondary to them and must take into account the biosphere’s operating principles and man’s place in it.

However, over the past decades, human activities aimed at meeting the needs for food, energy and 
water have caused unprecedented changes in ecosystems, including land degradation and deforestation. These changes have helped improve the lives of billions of people, but at the same time, they have destroyed nature's ability to regulate the environment and maintain the climate.

According to current estimates, more than 75% of natural ecosystems are subject to degradation and loss of their functions, which undermines all efforts to preserve the climate and threatens the achievement of SDGs, including hunger, disease and poverty eradication. 

Humanity is standing on the edge of a precipice. Over-threshold disturbance of ecosystems leads to
irreversible loss of the gene pool, up to complete disappearance of ecosystems. In the face of growing efforts and understanding of the threat of climate change, it is now necessary to recognize and support the unique role of natural ecosystems in preserving the climate and a vital environment. International climate policy adjustments and fundamental changes in national development strategies are required.

We call to wake up and recognize the fundamental and irreplaceable value of natural ecosystems and for strong and urgent action, including:
  1.  To recognize the goal of preserving natural ecosystems as humanity’s highest priority and stop their further destruction through adopting a global moratorium on any further development of territories still untouched by human activities, with international support mechanisms, including funding.
  2.  Promotion of large-scale natural reforestation is an urgent task. Climate-regulating functions of forests, associated with the ability to retain soil moisture and maintain continental water transfer, are their main value, which are orders of magnitude higher than the cost of wood. Undisturbed forests should be completely removed from economic activity by law and allocated to a separate category with the maximum degree of protection. 
  3. At all levels, from international to regional, national and local, it is necessary to review ongoing development strategies and take urgent measures to protect natural ecosystems and wildlife. It is necessary to adjust all sectoral policies, including agricultural practices, in order not only to meet the demand for food, but also to minimize the burden on natural ecosystems
  4. A transition from conventional sectoral management to basin and ecosystem management is required, including raising the status of nature conservation goals. Water resources management should ensure that natural ecosystems are guaranteed priority in water supply that is necessary for their conservation, as well as protection and restoration of aquatic and other ecosystems - from mountains and glaciers to deltas and reservoirs.
  5. Measures aimed at preserving natural ecosystems also require a review of existing incentives and tools and creation of new ones, so that ecosystem services are no longer perceived as free and unlimited, and their management takes into account the interests and roles of the populations and local communities which directly depend on them and are their custodians.


International Socio-Ecological Union, Eco-Forum (of 54 public organizations) of Kazakhstan, 
Association (non-governmental organizations) «For Sustainable Human Development of Armenia»,
Eco-Forum (independent non-governmental organizations) of Uzbekistan, as well as professional and non-governmental organizations of Armenia, Moldova, Russia, USA and others