More on systemic adaptation

In the last post, mariner used the transition from cash to online as an example of how humans shift behavior because that is how everyone else does it and there is some benefit attached. Money, credit cards and online shopping are obvious systemic adaptations – even the first telephone was a systemic adaptation. However, systemic adaptation is more complex when it is political, emotional or behavioral conditioning.

For example, is the MAGA movement an example of systemic adaptation? Why has a significant portion of the citizenry modified their behavior in a very similar fashion? What happened in our society that provoked this unified behavior?

Even more subtle is the shift in attitude within the democratic party. Why did the party become elitist and forget its roots in labor? Was it because everyone was behaving that way, aka systemic adaptation?

Why is it that rural folks typically are conservative while city folks tend to be liberal? The common behavior is too precise to be an individually determined mindset. Why is there a distinct difference in assumptions when comparing a rural town, a suburb and a slum?

It turns out that systemic adaptation is the same awareness that explains how a flock of thousands of birds can swirl through the air without breaking formation. It is a common subconscious ability in any species that requires social awareness – birds, mammals and even some fish.

Giving the frontal lobes their due, conscious manipulation of the environment is a survival skill that requires conscious focus and abstract reasoning – just like beavers, mice, magpies, monkeys and apes.

But most of our survival is managed by a deeply complex subconscious machine which requires an approval before anything is decided – frontal lobes included. It is the subconscious that allows humans to behave as they do – good or bad; the subconscious mind can be flawed like anything else.

Given a rare and extremely unusual reasoning power, humans are capable of complex uses of systemic adaptation. Hence, humans, clearly a social creature, adjust their behavior in many ways (MAGA or democrat? bowling league or flower club? college graduate or service worker? engineer or poet? parent or single?) adjusting social behavior accordingly.

What has motivated mariner to ponder systemic adaptability is the paradox in the last post: Do politicians, economists, and corporations control our systemic behavior or do we as citizens allow them to do so because of our indifference – in itself a systemic adaptation?

In any case, the trope is true: birds of a feather . . . .

Ancient Mariner



Right this moment, how much cash does the reader have in their pockets, wallet, etc.? Is there enough to buy supper at a fast food restaurant? Can the reader pay cash for a nice looking sweater? Ever use the cash slot at the car wash? Has the reader ever gone shopping only to discover the store is vacant but one can order online? Mariner once went to a store that had a sign: “cashless – credit card only”.

How about the grocery store that has self-checkout? Does the reader pay cash or card or wait to check out with a cashier? What would happen to our society if there were no cash? What would the reader’s net worth be if retailers held the amount of ‘cash value’ you could use instead of the government printing (creating) money? Big credit card corporations try hard to play that role today as new card features include ‘checkbook’ functions. Mariner pays cash as much as possible so that Google doesn’t know it was him; pay cash – who me? never go to that store!

Even as far back as the 1770s, Adam Smith pondered the issue of cash in governments and society. It is Adam who set the playing field for today’s rules about capitalism in several economic books including The Wealth of Nations (1776).

Brett Scott, writing in Aeon magazine, posed this question: “Do bad things like climate change, conflict and corporate greed happen because powerful politicians and CEOs construct it like that, or do they emerge in the vacuum of human agency, in the fact that nobody’s actually in control?” Mariner found the question intriguing; it is a genuine paradox. Is the world’s roiling capitalism a deliberate abuse or is it benign neglect by society?

This paradox can be applied to the cash question – Is the disappearance of cash the result of greedy politicians and corporate profit or is the disappearance of cash because folks don’t care enough to manage cash to benefit society?

Mariner has written in previous posts about the Anabaptist religions whose philosophy about money is more communal; ‘cash is shared within the community and does not belong to an individual’. That attitude certainly is the opposite of the general population’s laissez-faire about how cash is used and permits giant conglomerates to manage their personal financial value.

Mariner has a good feeling about the fact that his income is in cash and belongs to him personally.  The use is between him and his wallet, knowing that the local bank will convert his balance to cash whenever he needs it. Don’t need MasterCard, Amazon and Google telling him what to do with his cash – and keeping some of it for themselves.

Ancient Mariner

Catch up

Greetings, Readers

Real life distractions have drawn him away from the blog. Perhaps a few catch up thoughts should be offered.

Guru passed along some thoughts. Electing Biden for the first term was the right move; his personality, leadership style and long experience in Federal Government were the right move to heal Donald’s abrasions to government operations and establish momentum in national politics. Joe has done that despite COVID, inflation, the border wars and a prejudiced Congress. He moved policy toward dealing with global warming and several discretionary programs that were important to the citizenry.

Guru believes Biden made a serious mistake when he kept Kamala Harris as Vice President. Joe has a lot of dissatisfied democrats for several reasons, the most important being what democrat will take the lead in 2024. Joe was supposed to heal and leave. In 2024, he is facing rebellion among the state parties and progressives; he is suffering generally from public opinion about his age. Further, a slowly growing rebellion is showing up in Latino citizens, who, like the MAGAs, were never made welcome in the elitist democratic party. It was Biden’s duty to create a new democratic leader for national politics. Guru believes that if Biden had made his Vice President a strong leader personality three years ago, especially if that leader had good relations with Latinos, the 2024 election would be a landslide for the democrats. Imagine if the next democratic candidate for President took the stage and said, “Hablo Español!

Amos complained most about the Federal Government being grossly incompetent when dealing with artificial intelligence, health and welfare, corporate monopolies, all global warming issues from drought in the west, flooding in the south, reduction of oil dependency, etc., and wonders why Marjorie Taylor Greene has so much influence in Republican issues.

Has anyone seen Chicken Little? Please don’t say the word ‘apocalypse’.

Ancient Mariner

A new sign, a new hope

One of the main reasons mariner has had such a cynical view on the state of affairs is that there were no positive movements. Every issue was argumentative and intent on destruction of counter proposals. Every leader was either a democracy-busting dictator or an oligarch. Schools continue to crumble, wages remained static, the nation engaged in not one war but many, Mother Nature was coming down hard on global stability. Where was the hole in the fence? Where could we step through to a new, constructive society? There was only barbed wire and trump, a Hitler look-alike.

Until today. Flipping through the AOL news clips, mariner came upon the attached clip. It is the first positive sign in this century. Mind you, it is in its infancy and could be crushed in this societal hurricane. Nevertheless, it is a genuinely positive and constructive sign that there may be a hole in the fence. Please read to sustain hope.

Ancient Mariner

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Across the board, recent polls about public confidence in news broadcasts has fallen in every poll. Why?

Mariner suspects it may be the ‘social media’ style of content. A hint may be that Huntley, Brinkley, Kuralt, etc., put out headlines about good and bad behavior that focused on institutional behavior without excessive interviews and human opinion because (a) they had at best two half-hour broadcasts and (b) news back then was not sponsored but a public service – time was preserved for sponsored ($) airtime.

Disasters were reported as a singular event rather than the excessively drawn out, days long coverage and socialized (AKA gossip) detailed coverage that fills news channels today. Today, the fact that Mike Pence withdrew from the election has been running like a soap opera for days; Cronkite and Rather would use two sentences and move on.

The premise for special reports was always focused on institutions, government actions and environmental events. What a movie star or an anonymous citizen thought about the news was not included.

As a counterpoint to the style of today’s streaming news style, mariner recommends checking out Propublica is donor sponsored and is not part of any news organization. Propublica exposes failings in government or corporate management where the citizen is injured or grossly abused. The focus is on the behavior of institutions and their victimization of citizens.

Propublica has a no-nonsense reporting style. It was Propublica that uncovered the behavior of a judge who routinely sentenced school children to prison.

Like so many social patterns today, the public plays a role in the news with abuses on social media; the public has the role of nosy and judgmental neighbor on web sites like Facebook and ‘X’. Where is the truth – news broadcasts or nosy neighbors? Neither?

Where are the actual facts sans commentary?

Ancient Mariner

What if –

Our nation went back to the original campaigning environment where, because of the spread of the population and a relative isolation because modern transportation and communication weren’t around yet, the funds for campaigning were limited to local funding within the electoral jurisdiction and the selection of campaigners was a local decision?

Albert Einstein said we can’t go back.

What if credit cards didn’t exist and the local economy depended on cash, check and local bank financing? Would giant retail mega-corporations exist?

Albert said we can’t go back.

What if the amount of income from any source was subject to an upper limit beyond which federal taxes would be 100 percent? FDR did it.

But Albert just chuckled.

What if unions were pervasive enough to restore full-time, corporate guaranteed retirement and full medical benefits?

Albert said nope.

What if the entire education industry had been able to keep up with inflation like the universities did?

Stop this says Albert. The laws of physics say that under certain conditions it may be possible to leap into the future but going back in time is not possible.

Anyone care to peek into the future?

Ancient Mariner



The good and the bad

Mariner often has feedback suggesting he is an ‘old timer’ that won’t accept the modern world; they suggest he is too negative. He can’t deny these opinions and he is vulnerable to flamboyant metaphors as well. Still, his values stem from his humanist beliefs – a known and accepted philosophy in the world. But seldom practiced. Humanist ethics and Christianity have similar beliefs; both virtually are nonexistent today because the Romans declared that Christianity was the state religion.

It acted like a state acts; it went to war; it monopolized the economies of Europe; ‘Christian’ explorers entered the new world butchering, raping and stealing the wealth of native cultures; today it still behaves as a Roman adjunct to government. He finds it a validation of modern Christian values that it is more important to rebuild Notre Dame, a symbol of religious authoritarianism than to save 1,000 mature trees required to rebuild it in a time when global warming threatens catastrophe. He agrees that the times today require a remake of tradition – but let’s take it in the humanist direction. No room here to talk about American racism and gay follies or oligarchian authoritarianism.

Turning to unimportant issues like speech, mariner has added another word to his dictionary of words beloved by the hearing impaired: shouldna. It means ‘should not have’. What makes this word an interesting addition to the dictionary is the nuanced ‘should not of had’.

So what’s the good news to be had? Foremost, mariner and his wife have had the entire family visit during October. That means two children and their spouses, three children, one dog, two nephews, two cousins and five lifetime friends – all between the eleventh and the thirty-first! Who says extended families are passe?

Further good news, albeit spotty, is that the Republican party is dickering among themselves. The founding fathers intended to have two parties that represented the rainbow of citizens. It’s not over but there’s hope. At some point we may be able to reverse Newt Gingrich’s weaponizing of the two-party system. He shouldna done that.

Ancient Mariner






The post about population provides a new perspective on abortion. Today, abortion is seen as an individual choice, either by individual right or a mandated right to the unborn. Mariner has been befuddled about the role of abortion in society – why there is so much focus on this issue given the many more abusive behaviors around today (like shooting children??). The post on population provides a universal perspective that supersedes politics and even religion: overpopulation.

Women (and associated men) choose not to have children or to abort their fetus for the same reason female mice did – overcrowded conditions. Agreed there may be personal psychological reasons not to have children; one may easily accept the idea that career comes first. But abortion is such a large issue around the world that some universal situation provokes attention. Is it overcrowding? Is it a subconscious fear of not having stability because resources are not a given? How many times have we heard a woman say ‘I’ll have children later when I have the assets to support them’?

It seems there is a subconscious awareness that resources may not be available for whatever reason. Do we blame this angst on politics? Religion? Indirectly, yes because the real issue is a shortage of resources due both to overpopulation and environmental abuse, something that could be better managed. Crushing intervention by governments doesn’t work; China has proven that several times in history. Perhaps politics should let reproduction play out just like the female mice. Every species in the world is changing its genome because of global warming. Wouldn’t reproduction change because of overcrowding? Perhaps personal choice is the normal rule under the circumstances.

Give it some thought. Think of some other issues like housing shortage and the growing spread between rich and poor. Are they related to overcrowding?

Ancient Mariner


Regular readers may recall that mariner would mention rat and mouse studies done in the 1950s-70s. The focus was to document what happens when populations grow too large; the animals were given all the food and water they needed. For the mice, the cages were a 4 foot cubed cage; the walls were lined with little nest ‘condos’ from floor to ceiling. As the population grew, the mouse society began to show disarray. Continuous fighting, raping and disregard by females for birthed young became common. Eventually, the population topped out because most females did not become pregnant and any opportunity for nesting had disappeared. The population began to shrink back close to the original population.

Today, scientists have reevaluated the studies. Examining the films and behavior from a broader perspective, the habitats created weren’t really that overcrowded, but enabled aggressive mice to stake out territory and also isolated the ‘beautiful’ mice to live at the top of the cage above the fray. Instead of a population problem, one could argue that the experiment had a fair distribution problem. In other words, social stress created classes of separation. The ‘beautiful’ mice lived at the top of the cages and as the rows approached the floor of the cage, living standards dwindled because there weren’t enough condos to go around. On the floor, mice were homeless and lived in constant danger of physical abuse and death; the floor mice lived in a crowded and threatening society.

As he read the article, Chicago became a matching image. The upper condos were the luxury condos in the high rise downtown area; The better condos were the comfortable suburbs; southwest Chicago, with its gang-laden violence and lack of civil discipline was the floor. What seems more threatening is that, unlike the mice, not everyone has adequate housing, food or water.

Two circumstances come to mind: the size of the cage is planet Earth; the second is that the measuring stick is not condos, its nations. There are about a dozen countries rich enough to have a ‘balanced’ distribution of oligarchs, middle class, labor and disadvantaged poor – a circumstance of lacking enough resources. As nations grow poorer, the social stratification becomes more aggressive, often authoritarian, and the poorest nations, or those in deep social transition (Israel, Middle East, most of Africa) incur open warfare.

However, the mice had a stable environment that humanity lacks. Many nations will suffer economic collapse, e.g., Pakistan, as the weather and other environmental damages collapse national economies. Even wealthy nations will experience disruption and turmoil as the segregation of class wealth becomes too broad. Events such as mass migration, supply chain collapse and rich-nation bickering about the spoils of a new internationalism provided by the internet will stress the philosophies of government.

So the situation becomes one of starvation, homelessness, class warfare. The current evaluation of the mouse studies seems to be the better insight. We don’t have to wait for our population top-off at 11 billion; already there is too much population to sustain even cantankerous class distinction, let alone “all men are created equal”.

Happy Hallowe’en

Ancient Mariner

Gimme that old time economy

Mariner had a chuckle when he read an NPR news item that said transport corporations were considering wind power to save costs and assist with fighting climate change:

Maybe we could hitch some mules to an eighteen wheeler, or maybe go back to dove delivery of first class mail. The idea was mentioned that a corporation like UPS could use air balloons to deliver packages.
He is pleased that people are taking global warming seriously. He is entertained that, well, maybe the old way was the right way. Here’s another suggestion: maybe we should start cooking our own pizza instead of waiting for Pizza Hut and EZCater – that would reduce the amount of food waste that we put in the trash.
Mariner just had a hunch that internal engines weren’t the way to go . . . .
Ancient Mariner