Saturday, December 26, 2009

peak oil and the psychology of work

OilDrum | This is a preliminary attempt to explore the relationship between the current predicament facing humanity arising out of an exploding population facing planetary resource limitations, in other words known as overshoot, and the psychology of work inherent in the human species. One reason to explore this connection is that the question of overshoot is normally framed in standard Darwinian terms. In the Darwinian framework overshoot begins with the availability of abundant resources that allows the population of a species to increase exponentially. This exploding population eventually depletes irreversibly the very resources that sustain the population and this leads to a large scale die-off and a precipitous fall in the species population sometimes leading to extinction. In this rise and fall, the behavior of the individuals of the species is often typical of any organism seeking to maximize its chances of survival and procreation.

While the role of ecological resources in these signal revolutions is fairly well understood, the role of human mental faculties in their myriad manifestations is either unclear or the subject of severe controversies. But there can also be little doubt that human mental faculties – through innate predisposition and learnt skills and behavioral responses – must have played a fundamental role in these changes as well. My interest lies in understanding how our mental faculties contributed to these fundamental transformations, with the hope that this understanding will enable us as individuals and collectives to be better prepared for the inevitable turmoil that results from the decline in the availability of concentrated energy resources. In particular in this essay I want to explore how the human mind views and deals with the concept of work – both as an idea in the mind and as a felt necessity of human existence.