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We’ve all seen kids present parents with irrational demands. It could be a pony, a jet pack, a real light saber, a trip to the Moon, or a swimming pool on the roof of the (single-story) house. Adults are adept at deflecting these requests—sometimes with logic, and sometimes with distraction tactics. Adults know that some of the demands are technically impossible, or that others are simply outside their financial means. Just because we want something doesn’t mean it is possible to have it. Just because we want our fossil fuel alternatives to be as cheap and convenient doesn’t mean they will be, no matter how much we might belly-ache.

Somehow, kids who vow to eat only ice cream as adults or look forward to never having to go to bed learn for themselves as young adults that these are not viable strategies—no matter how desirable they seemed to be as a kid. Likewise, kids grow out of fantasies like believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. Yet, just as we don’t shake all of our mythical beliefs as adults, we don’t shed all of our irrational expectations and demands for the future.

When we are told we can’t keep growth going, that we face resource limitations, or that alternative energy sources may not be able to maintain our current standard of living, we see tantrums. When we’re told we can’t have free checking anymore, we howl in protest. When fuel prices skyrocket, airlines dare not raise airfare enough to cover costs, or the fits we throw will cause significant loss—so they lose money with under-priced fares and hope to make it up by keeping prices a bit elevated after fuel prices begin to ease. When taxes go up or stamps cost more, what do we do? We kick and pound the floor. Granted, some injustices are addressed effectively by tantrums, and sometimes with stunning results (Boston Tea Party). But on the whole, our tantrums are not held in check by the equivalent of a parent. We’re free to howl.

Many look to political leaders for, well, leadership. But I’ve come to appreciate that political leaders are actually politicians (another razor-sharp observation), and politicians need votes to occupy their seats. Politicians are therefore cowardly sycophants responding to the whims of the electorate. In other words, they are a reflection of our wants and demands. A child who has just been spanked for throwing a tantrum would probably not re-elect their parent if allowed the choice. We all scream for ice cream. Why would we reward a politician for leading us instead to a plate of vegetables—even if that’s what we really need. Meanwhile we find it all too easy to blame our ills on the politicians. It’s a lot more palatable than blaming ourselves for our own selfish demands that politicians simply try to satisfy.

My basic point in all this is that I perceive fundamental human weaknesses that circumvent our making rational, smart, adult decisions about our future. Our expectations tend to be outsized with respect to the physical limitations at hand. We quickly dash up against ideological articles of faith, so that many are unable to acknowledge that there is an energy/resource problem at all. The Spock in me wants to raise an eyebrow and say “fascinating.” The human in me is distressed by the implications to our collective rationality. The adult in me wants less whining, fewer temper tantrums, realistic expectations, a willingness to sacrifice where needed, the maturity to talk of the possibility of collapse and the need to step off the growth train, and adoption of a selfless attitude that we owe future generations a livable world where we can live rich and fulfilling lives with another click of the ratchet.

from this post.

Fundamental human weaknesses?

The adult in me says, “Let nature takes its course.” The human in me says, “Your food and knowledge comes from human community. You have the obligation to contribute to human community.”

In summary, the overall me says, “Do your best to influence the course to where you envision, and no hard feeling if it falls short.”


Human is the problem. Human is the solution. (人是问题,人也是答案。)

What’s the point of surviving without love?

World is complex, happiness is simple.

For the time being, I would say “change people behaviours”.

Difficult because we are so poor in this area: brain-psychology-social sciences, we don’t know how they works, and so no prescription.

Understanding change (dynamics) is hard, but we have method (system dynamics), the progress of our global warming understanding is impressive. Even the current global economic downturn, while many economics still have no idea about its root cause, many System Dynamists have a good grasp about it.

Without a theoretical breakthrough in this area, we can only rely on experience that suggest some approaches may work. The problem is, it takes time to gain experience. It is not easily transferable. It is like old-time craftsman who built bridge based on experience, not modern physics. The length of the bridge is limited.

Unfortunately changing people behaviours is the most pressing issue right now. It determines the future of mankind.

I am reluctant to use religion, but it might buy us time before we are able to diffuse Education for Sustainable Development (ethics, critical thinking) to majority of population. The caveat is, religious extremism and the ingroup-outgroup bias are actually adverse to sustainability.

The Quran burning event gives the alarm. It is like having a serious drought and someone tries to light the fire. People seems to have no memory about World War I.

Current situation is urgent but there is no quick way. I can only do my best.

New Zealand

Those are rich countries who have yet to ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Economics can be a science, social science, a system of principles describing how human actually behaves in society level. It will be a great help when we needs to apply these well-tested principles to (perceived to be) problem.

But it is wrong to equal what we want as science. Optimization is not science, it is the way we do to achieve desired outcome, it is engineering. As in applied domain, optimization goal has to be defined. In nonlinear case, absolute optimum will never be known, only local optima can be reached.

Of course there is relationship between science and application, but the explanation focus is the symbol of science, problem focus is the symbol of application. To solve a problem we cannot constrain ourselves to particular domain (e.g. economics only, or psychology only), we needs to focus on the essence of the problem and use whatever knowledge we have to tackle the problem. This is the fundamental principle of engineering.

By the way, System Dynamics can be think as applied dynamics, a useful tool to apply science of dynamics in many problems, especially when transdisciplinary knowledge is necessary.

Sadly Haiti was hit by earthquake, effectively rubbing salt into the wound of the already fragile state.

It is not their choice to be born there. Anyway, all person will die some day. It is up to us to choose what to do before we die.

If last decade is the lost decade, now is the decisive moment. When the old path is clear to be harder and harder to continue, either we change first, or be forced to change to adapt. In this time of change, good luck and best wishes.

Update: Interesting piece by Tony Blair. I do not agree his suggested policies, but the quote below.

To decide how to do that is to decide fundamentally what we believe in and what we want from our future. In deciding this, only the head can guide us in how to do it; but the heart must tell us what it is we truly believe in doing.

Rationality guides us how to do, the heart tell us what we want. Or in Chinese, 理性是生存的武器,感性是活着的目的。

What you really want?

Imagining, at first generally and then increasing specificity, what you really want?

What you really want, not what someone has taught you to want, and what you willing to settle for.

We all will die one day. What do you really want?

Ask yourself. You will know what should do.

Thanks Donella Meadows for this question. I did not know her when she was alive, but her spirit in her works will be in my heart.

… as this article claims.

If so, why? What can we do about it?

Are you thinking more like a CEO, or more like a founder?

I have a dream that one day the world is peaceful. All conflicts are resolved in conference table, not war, not terrorism, and surely not piracy. The international institution in place makes this possible, and the institution is flexible enough to be able to keep improving.

I have a dream that one day we always place common interest on top of self-interest. We understand the tragedy of the commons, how individuals acting rationally based on self-interest can ruins all finally.

I have a dream that one day we balance short-term and long-term benefits in making policy. We consider possible scenarios of the intervention, taking account of future generations, striving to expand their option to meet their own needs as large as possible.

I have a dream today!

I hava a dream that one day people can think critically and aware of the dynamic complexity of the social problems. We have learnt how their behaviours can be understood in terms of accumulation, feedback, delay and nonlinearity concepts.

I hava a dream that one day no more developed or developing countries – the distinction is blur. Hunger or malnutrition becomes history. Rich-poor gap is closed to a range that eliminates poverty while spurring people to make an effort for better living.

I hava a dream that one day we live within our means. We consume resource no more than it can be renewed, generate waste no faster than the nature can absorb. We differentiate needs and wants. We know enough is enough.

That’s my dream. What’s yours?

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