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Phil Stevens

Interesting that Burkey is actually permitted to ask such a question in a relatively mainstream forum. Equally interesting is his statement that he's not necessarily interested in saving Homo sapiens, but rather preserving as much of present-day biodiversity as possible.

But he's asking the wrong question as a starting point. "Can we get people to be different than they are?" assumes that the collapse of the Earth system can be stopped. If Burkey spent more time with the science and less with theories of human behavior he'd be in a better position to answer his larger question.

@ Dave, yes, by all means get in touch with this guy, if you feel like it. Personally I doubt you'll be able to have much of an impact on the conversation, though it'd be nice to see you prove me wrong.

Mike Cooper

It would be criminal if you didn't. 😐


Should you get in touch? I was going to suggest that you offer your services as 'Devil's advocate' but then I noticed they weren't really
talking about suggesting any solutions to discuss.

But, as long as they are compiling a list of 'everything we know', perhaps you could offer to assist with the list of 'things we don't know' or better yet - 'things we should know'.

In general, it sounds like some good resume/CV padding experience that might have helped get some funding in the future for more studies, but I wouldn't count on that anymore with some of Trump's recent appointments in the 'science' roles.

Phil Stevens

Just watched the video. Amazing how NOAA manages to present such a heap of bad news so blandly.


Dave - you made me laugh!
Dark humour indeed, very dark.

Thanks :-))

Dave Cohen


Re: Equally interesting is his statement that he's not necessarily interested in saving Homo sapiens, but rather preserving as much of present-day biodiversity as possible

Where did Burkey say that?

Re: If Burkey spent more time with the science and less with theories of human behavior he'd be in a better position to answer his larger question

In fact, the Flatland model says just the opposite -- a good enough theory of human nature is far more important than what the largely settled science is telling us. If you're going to post uninformed bullshit, you won't last long on DOTE.

You have been warned.

-- Dave


Well, he seems like a sincere guy, and it's impressive that he's even gotten as far as he has and remained in a reputable position.

Should you contact him? Not much harm in it, though I suspect he'll blow you off as not from a respectable enough clique. If nothing else, it would provide some good Flatland fodder.

This project is sort of like the scientist in the last post who was whining about more satellites for gathering climate change data. A bunch of conferences and a book aren't going to change a damned thing, but if done well, it could be interesting. I'd like to read it at least... Of course they'll never allow themselves to conclude "nope, we're fucked."


@Dave-- I think @Phil was referring to Tormod's remark in the comments:

"Though, I must say, that, personally, my motivation is not for the survival of the human species. Appeals to utility for humans, or warnings of dire consequences to humanity itself, do not work for me."

Phil Stevens

Dave, Burkey says this in one of his responses to the comments (not in the essay itself, admittedly):

"Though, I must say, that, personally, my motivation is not for the survival of the human species. ... And personally, I care about the species that are here now, and am unwilling to let humanity continue its relentless attrition of them."

As for my second remark, I don’t think we disagree, so I probably didn’t express myself clearly. What I was trying to say was that Burkey seems to imagine that we could create “systems whereby not only idealists behave properly” and that “make good choices generic.” My impression has been that you are convinced that humans are incapable of creating such systems; I certainly am. My point about focusing on the science was meant to suggest that even if we were able to do create systems that could make people “behave properly,” climate change and biodiversity collapse and nitrogen cycle disruption and all the other wheels that are coming off provide pretty incontrovertible evidence that the answer to Burkey’s larger question, i.e. “Can we save the world?” is “No.”

J. F. Mamjja

I just saw the movie "The Arrival",
it was incomprehensible, but it
reminded me of all the other
sci-fi movies in the same class. Humanity
is fucked, and needs an off planet
species to help us out or our predicament.

Can we save the world?
The premise of movies in this class
would seem to be:

"We're not real good at saving the world,
could you do it?"

Robert Schick

As a composer, watching the video and its understated lukewarm emergency message occurring in the Arctic, so too the mediocre flatland snowflake music accompanying it. So, throughout the video i was composing the 'proper' somber yet menacing music necessary to assist the seriousness of this tragedy. Everything is connected, so too the music. But why expect any creative passion from flatlanders?


@ J.F Mamjja: not to get off track, but the movie Arrival was not really a sci-fi film. It was more about (paraphrasing a decent NYT review) the strengths and flaws of language and communication. At least that was my take. It wasn't a 10, but I enjoyed it.

As I know (or perhaps imagined) Dave has a background in linguistics, so I am curious if he enjoyed it, if he saw it. I think the script writer did a great job (after reading the original short story it was based on). Now back to your regular program...

Dave Cohen


Well, if I misunderstood you it was because of what you literally said.

The axiomatic premise of this blog is that it is human nature that determines our future. Science merely tells us where we stand. Admittedly, on current trends the future does not look good.

Following from that premise, if humans had the capacity to understand themselves, i.e., if they had the capacity to escape what I call "Flatland", it might be possible for them to make fundamental changes in their behavior to change their fate.

Unfortunately, my inescapable conclusion is that they do not have the capacity required. They are what they are, what you see is what you get, and what you're going to get.

Which is why when I asked "should I get in touch?", that was meant to be an inside joke for those who have read this blog for a long time now.

Mike Cooper and Jeremy above got the joke.

-- Dave

Jeremy MG

When I first read the last sentence of the quoted text, I thought it said brainwashing instead of brainstorming. Things are so desperate, I might have been on board for the former.


Maybe you can write the forward... "There will be hope, or how to read this bullshit."

What could go wrong? ;-)

Mike Roberts

You revealed the joke before I had a chance to read it, Dave! Yes, such a forum is not interested in discovering that nothing can be done (only hypothetically can some actions be taken).


"Can we save the world?" Followed by your "should I get in touch?"

Laughing so hard my eyes are watering.

Good stuff, Dave.

Okay, when I calm down I might go read Burkey's "essay". Or maybe not. Probably not. Because, why?

Pack Shaud

@J.F Mamjja:

The movie is based in two concepts:

1. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. The language we use limits what we are able to perceive and think.

2. Time is an illusion that arises from the way our minds are structured.

So, in the movie, the aliens teach what they call "Universal Language" to humans. This language allows one who understands it to go past through the illusion that time exists, thus allowing a person to see the future.

The aliens in the movie are here because their species will need help from humanity in 3000 years. They know this because they can "see" the future.

From my limited, amateur knowledge in linguistics, I say that part is fine in the movie.


Hey Dave, thanks for the shits & giggles! In keeping with the "can we save the world" theme, I thought you and other readers might appreciate this article...


There's honestly nothing new here for DOTE followers, but I thought it interesting to find another article/writer providing a timely and rather accurate answer to the above question... hopium free!

That answer being (in-short) - "No, because Flatland!"

I dunno, maybe Raul's a fellow DOTE reader? :-)

Alexander Ač

Can the world be saved?

Those people who ask this question have never read DOTE, and if they did, the did not understand it.

Keep in mind that people asking this question are actually some of the best humanity can offer, even though they are almost as clueless as people who dont care at all...



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