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The language in which we talk about learning is directed towards the idea of attaining mastery. Becoming as gods. Individually and collectively we remain locked into behaviour patterns that we know are dysfunctional, yet the smartest among us can't find ways to unlearn them. We remain as fools. The power of gods and the behaviour of fools makes for a dangerous cocktail.
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Stewart Brand is a self-styled ecopragmatist. If rolling up our sleeves and tinkering with the forces that regulate life on earth might save us from war and famine, we'd better get on and learn how to do it. Become masters of our destiny. David Buss has devoted his career to studying how, individually and collectively, we remain locked into behaviour patterns that we know are dysfunctional. Yet even he  can't find ways to unlearn these patterns. So we're gods, and fools. Can they both be right?
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The final chapter of Stuart Brand's ''Whole Earth Discipline'' is called Planet Craft. It's a quick tour of potential geo-engineering levers and pulleys that could buy us some time before our climate sends us to war with each other over diminishing resources.
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The final chapter of Stuart Brand's ''Whole Earth Discipline'' is called Planet Craft. It's a quick tour of potential geo-engineering levers and pulleys that could buy us some time to rethink our way of life before billions of homeless climate refugees change it for us. Actually it's not levers and pulleys: it's more like aerosols in the upper atmosphere and making the clouds over the ocean shinier so that they reflect light and absorb less heat. Still, this is a classic Newtonian clockwork view of a universe that we can keep running smoothly with some judicious, godlike tweaking.
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This kind of tinkering with the flows and mechanisms on which all life depends that makes the "gods" claim almost plausible. Its tech fix mindset is the polar opposite of the post-Cartesian, non-mechanistic that I remember from the green movement in the 1980s. The time we said was running out then really is running out now. Philosophical sensitivities are set aside while tactics for buying a little more breathing space - and learning space - take over. Or so runs the argument.
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Do you feel like a god? No, me neither. Do presidents and prime ministers feel like gods? No? Then what about Branson, Gates, Buffett, the oligarchs and the world's many secret billionaires? Some of them may have the means unilaterally to undertake geo-engineering projects with global consequences - like Bond villains of old. Like Bond villains, their psychological tics and vanities may be more extreme versions of our everyday biases. And these may ultimately be their undoing.
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Do you feel like a god? No, me neither. Do presidents and prime ministers feel like gods? No? Then what about Branson, Gates, Buffett, oligarchs and the world's many secret billionaires? Some of them may have the means unilaterally to undertake geo-engineering projects with global consequences - like Bond villains of old. Still, my hunch is that most if not all have come to understand that their omnipotence has boundaries.
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The gods they/we are remain fallible and vengeful, closer to those of Greek and Norse myth than the kind to whom all hearts are open and all desires known.
 
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Even the most godlike individuals suffer similar cognitive biases to the rest of us. Their vanities and petty jealousies may be especially acute (it took some extreme and sustained psychic energy to get them where they are today).
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The gods they/we are remain fallible and vengeful, closer to the gods of Greek and Norse myth than the kind to whom all hearts are open and all desires known.
      
== II ==
 
== II ==

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