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Autumn McJavabean

Determinism

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Autumn McJavabean

I'd like tp posit the motion that life is run by determinism, not free will.

 

Just note, like gender as people think here, determinism is nuanced. It's not binary. For one, on the left end of the spectrum there is free will, total and complete autonomy of ones body. The other is determinism, whereas you are always going to do X, but it's not "written into stone" per se. In the middle is partial free will/determinism, in which it's like being born in a room you did not choose, but what you do in that room is your choice. 

 

I believe determinism, hard determinism, makes the most logical sense. What do you think, feel and where do you land on this issue?

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michaeld

I'm a compatibilist so I'd challenge the notion that free will and determinism are at odds. There is much information about compatibilism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy, and it seems to be a mainstream position among philosophers. (I personally held this view long before I knew it was called compatibilism.)

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/

 

Sometimes it's useful to distinguish between compatibilist free will (this is the type I believe in) and libertarian free will (the type of free will whose existence would contradict determinism). Often the heated arguments that occur on this subject really boil down to what one understands by free will. There are probably other possibilities other than the two camps above, but in my experience those are the main two.

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Sarah-Sylvia

I think free will is proportional to the amount of awareness someone has, including of their choices.

That is, if the heart hasn't guided everything about our lives, in which case it would be entirely our free will, even if we're not mindfully aware of what we've chosen.

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Ace of Mind

I usually like to approach this with a physics-y flavor. The question is essentially whether, if given perfect information about the current state of the universe, one could obtain perfect information about the next instant of the universe.

 

And for me the jury is still out. For a while I was leaning towards determinism, but there are a couple oddities like quantum phenomena and the loss of information to black holes that seem to cause problems for a fully deterministic model. A model based on probability distributions is probably the way to go, in which case things may not be perfectly deterministic.

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RoseGoesToYale

I tend to agree. In reality we have very little control over our lives, i.e. we can't reach into the past and change events or tell our former selves what to do, nor can we reach into the future to see the consequences of our current/past actions and make corrections to achieve a more desirable outcome. All we can do is act in the present, using what knowledge and experience we have, but there's no true way to determine what makes us do what we do. Who knows if the stuffing I ate today was because I made some self-aware choice to eat stuffing, or if I was destined to eat the stuffing, and life is all just an intangible script playing out as it was "written".

 

I don't think we'll ever know, and that's a good thing, because imagine if we had positive proof that we have no control over our lives. People would just stop trying.

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Aebt-Ætheling

I will echo a previous poster and say that I am not so sure they are necessarily exclusive. But I will also say that even if complete determinism is found to be correct it may still be better to maintain the concept of free will as it better explains things.  

 

I hate myself for saying that as it sounds like the weakest argument ever, but compare it to economics. Contrary to economics textbooks, evidence that prices and quantities are set by supply and demand is fairly weak. Yet we still use supply-demand graphs because even while they might be false they allow us to reach a similar conclusion to the empirical evidence. Despite the fact it seems built on a false premise, they are actually good at understanding the world.

 

Also claiming free-will is an illusion is problematic for numerous reasons I do not want to write an infinitely long post about. In short, it is very similar to the Marxist claims of false consciousness, yes it might be an illusion, but maybe you have an illusion. It's like the wonderful card that anyone can play but that actually doesn't solve anything. Claiming we don't have free-will is one thing, claiming it is an illusion is another. Also, if determinism is correct claiming it to be an illusion, and therefore one believing in it under an illusion, that could be a dangerous move towards claiming one to be deterministically better than another (I hope this last point makes sense, I have tired to boil it down to a sentence). Realize I did not say free-will is correct, just that certain arguments, particularly ones people love to use against it, are weak and should be abandoned 

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Autumn McJavabean
5 hours ago, michaeld said:

I'm a compatibilist so I'd challenge the notion that free will and determinism are at odds. There is much information about compatibilism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy, and it seems to be a mainstream position among philosophers. (I personally held this view long before I knew it was called compatibilism.)

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/

 

Sometimes it's useful to distinguish between compatibilist free will (this is the type I believe in) and libertarian free will (the type of free will whose existence would contradict determinism). Often the heated arguments that occur on this subject really boil down to what one understands by free will. There are probably other possibilities other than the two camps above, but in my experience those are the main two.

To be fair, I did say that free will and determinism exist on a spectrum of possible outcomes. It might be X, Z, could even be in-between with a Z or X.5, etc. If I were to pick a side, it would be determinism first, but partial determinism, or compatibilist positions are also very sound and valid, in my eyes. I'll respond to the rest soon.

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Sithgroundhog

I believe somewhere in the middle, but more towards free will than determinism. I make my own decisions. Everyone else makes their own decisions. For some, doing so is more difficult. Animals, for example, do not have as much free will because they do not have the cognitive ability to think about their actions in a cause-and-effect way. 

 

So if 1 were Determinism and 10 were Free Will, I'd say about 6 or 7 on average, but it's lower for some and higher for others. Obviously, the way society works, not all of us have many choices in life. We are responsible for the ones we make, but some have more than others. 

 

Because yes, we did not choose to be born into this world to the parents we have. We did not choose the amount of siblings we have, or the nation we were born into. But we can choose to be a neo-nazi as much as we can choose to be antifa. Thing in life influence our choices, but it boils down to decisions and conclusions.

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Autumn McJavabean
21 minutes ago, SithGrinch said:

I believe somewhere in the middle, but more towards free will than determinism. I make my own decisions. Everyone else makes their own decisions. For some, doing so is more difficult. Animals, for example, do not have as much free will because they do not have the cognitive ability to think about their actions in a cause-and-effect way. 

 

So if 1 were Determinism and 10 were Free Will, I'd say about 6 or 7 on average, but it's lower for some and higher for others. Obviously, the way society works, not all of us have many choices in life. We are responsible for the ones we make, but some have more than others. 

 

Because yes, we did not choose to be born into this world to the parents we have. We did not choose the amount of siblings we have, or the nation we were born into. But we can choose to be a neo-nazi as much as we can choose to be antifa. Thing in life influence our choices, but it boils down to decisions and conclusions.

Yea, and I think it can very much is nuanced, not some dichotomy. 

 

I would say I'm the opposite, I'm more of a 2-4. I lean more on determinism due to studies and arguments made, such as in Sam Harris' book Free Will in which it's shown that if you were me, atom for atom, you would do the same thing I'm doing and that your decisions are "sub-consciously" made before you actually think them, due to a study from somewhere, I'll find it, in which we were able to read their thoughts 7 seconds before they actually made them themselves.

 

I think that you're either inherently open-minded, closed-minded or neutrally of those two, where you can make a choice, but it was always going to do it because the factor was more important to what you think than what you want. Does that make any sense?

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Autumn McJavabean
4 hours ago, Sarah-Sylvia said:

I think free will is proportional to the amount of awareness someone has, including of their choices.

That is, if the heart hasn't guided everything about our lives, in which case it would be entirely our free will, even if we're not mindfully aware of what we've chosen.

Yea, that would make a lot of sense, in that it arises in species, or really individuals, who have the mental capacity to make such decisions, assuming free will is valid.

Why do you think it would still be entirely your free will?

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Autumn McJavabean
2 hours ago, Ace of Mind said:

I usually like to approach this with a physics-y flavor. The question is essentially whether, if given perfect information about the current state of the universe, one could obtain perfect information about the next instant of the universe.

 

And for me the jury is still out. For a while I was leaning towards determinism, but there are a couple oddities like quantum phenomena and the loss of information to black holes that seem to cause problems for a fully deterministic model. A model based on probability distributions is probably the way to go, in which case things may not be perfectly deterministic.

Yea, those oddities do exist, I think that leaving Classical Physics, which is very deterministic, to Quantum Physics, things do get complex. But I think that may be due to our technological advancement impeding our understanding.

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Sarah-Sylvia
1 hour ago, Autumn McJavabean said:

Yea, that would make a lot of sense, in that it arises in species, or really individuals, who have the mental capacity to make such decisions, assuming free will is valid.

Why do you think it would still be entirely your free will?

I'm holding two different positions at the same time.(they're not necessarily incompatible, tooi). The first is the one that does depend on mental capacity and awareness, while the other is a bit more spiritual. It has to do with the notion that we can exist on different levels of consciousness. We may not know or remember the choices we made as spirit while we're perceiving things through the human mind/lens. That's to say, we may have entirely chosen much more than we think about life, and like on this level we may not have access to what we choose, while 'veiled' by human memories, if that makes sense. It's just something I'm entertaining. Sometimes it can feel like we make intuitive choices that don't even have to mentally consider all the options, so it's kind of an elevated idea that's a bit like that.

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gisiebob
1 hour ago, Autumn McJavabean said:

your decisions are "sub-consciously" made before you actually think them, due to a study from somewhere, I'll find it, in which we were able to read their thoughts 7 seconds before they actually made them themselves.

just because you are not aware of these thoughts that are going to become your own, do you not have ownership of them, from beyond the horizon of awareness?

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Gloomy

We're essentially organic robots programmed by our brains and hormones. That's not to say we can't make our own choices, but when we choose something we can't exactly control *why* we chose it. I can't control that I like certain foods, or like certain colors, or that I prefer being a single cat lady over having a husband and kids, or that I'd rather save money than spend it on a new car, or even the fact that I'm posting this response in these exact words.

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Sarah-Sylvia

It's a good point to think about how there's some things we can't change, including about ourselves. We are who we are. (and have the values we do)
But at the same time, I think that's what makes choices meaningful. If we value ourselves, and others, then the choices we make can be based on that. Else, what does it matter what choice we make, what's the point of free will if there's no difference or meaning between them?

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lapat67

I feel as if I have free will. To me, it makes no sense for me to be predetermined to feel as if I have free will when I don't.

 

On 11/28/2019 at 8:59 PM, michaeld said:

I'm a compatibilist so I'd challenge the notion that free will and determinism are at odds.

[snip]

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/

[snip]

Reading the webpage above, my summary of all but section 4.1.2 would be:

Compatibilists prefer the cognitive dissonance of believing the two incompatible statements:

1) we have free will

2) our actions are predetermined

by wasting a lot of words that try to deny that free will means the choice to do one thing rather than another.

The exception is 4.1.2 which states that free will is a force of nature (i.e. the fifth one in addition to gravitation, electromagnetism, the strong and the weak nuclear force). It's actually what I believe. I would call this incompatibilism, but am willing to concede that's a matter of taste (i.e. free will). I think @Sarah-Sylvia makes this point, when calling this force of nature spirit. If spirit is outside time, then it becomes an arbitrary decision to say whether the influence of spirit at the point where it leads to a free will choice in space-time is called predetermined. (Because the spirit agency would be able to look at the space-time confined part of us and see us make this free will choice once and for all.)

 

On 11/29/2019 at 1:19 AM, RoseGoesToYule said:

I tend to agree. In reality we have very little control over our lives,

[snip]

 

I don't think we'll ever know, and that's a good thing, because imagine if we had positive proof that we have no control over our lives. People would just stop trying.

Yes, we have little control over our lives, but that's fundamentally different from the deterministic point of view that we have no control over our lives.

NOOOO! If it were predetermined that we will find positive proof of determinism at some point in the future, then it's also predetermined whether we would stop trying at that point, and you can't predict that from this point in time.

 

On 11/29/2019 at 1:52 AM, Aebt-Ætheling said:

[snip] even while they might be false they allow us to reach a similar conclusion to the empirical evidence. Despite the fact it seems built on a false premise, they are actually good at understanding the world.

Definitely not. A model built on a false premise might allow us to reproduce PAST empirical evidence with reasonable accuracy, but it does NOT give us good understanding of the world, and there is NO guarantee that it will reproduce FUTURE empirical evidence, because the false premise might lead us to ignore those conditions that make the past correlation to break down in the future. For this very reason classical and neoclassical economy are NOT science.

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michaeld
25 minutes ago, lapat67 said:

I feel as if I have free will. To me, it makes no sense for me to be predetermined to feel as if I have free will when I don't.

 

Reading the webpage above, my summary of all but section 4.1.2 would be:

Compatibilists prefer the cognitive dissonance of believing the two incompatible statements:

1) we have free will

2) our actions are predetermined

by wasting a lot of words that try to deny that free will means the choice to do one thing rather than another.

The exception is 4.1.2 [snip]

I do not feel that is a fair summary. To make an oversimplified summary, which I think is closer to the mark, I'd say that compatibilists believe that even if choices are pre-determined they are still our choices. So yes, we do have the choice to do one thing rather than another. This choice is precisely the deterministic process that goes on in our heads when making a decision.

 

I am a compatibilist and I don't have cognitive dissonance over it. To me freedom of choice is real (by introspection) but has no metaphysical significance. I can't deduce whether the universe is deterministic or indeterministic from it.

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uhtred

I think there are different scales of determinism.  I believe that humans are completely controlled by the laws of the physical universe and so their behavior is in a sense completely deterministic except where quantum mechanics makes things completely random. So in the micro sense there is no free will.

 

OTOH there is no imaginable way to know the initial conditions or inputs to a human, nor to predict all of their actions, so in practice that lake of knowledge is indistinguishable from having free will. 

 

 

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Aebt-Ætheling
2 hours ago, lapat67 said:

Definitely not. A model built on a false premise might allow us to reproduce PAST empirical evidence with reasonable accuracy, but it does NOT give us good understanding of the world, and there is NO guarantee that it will reproduce FUTURE empirical evidence, because the false premise might lead us to ignore those conditions that make the past correlation to break down in the future. For this very reason classical and neoclassical economy are NOT science.

There is no guarantee that it will function in the future, but the economic models have proved they can explain parts of the past, present, and future if used correctly. All economic models are based on supply and demand yet there is some evidence that supply and demand doesn't actually work as the models suppose. Yet they can reach the same conclusion as the empirical data. I have never claimed any school of economics is a science and I do not think many present economists do proclaim it to be an exact science like physics. Rather it is a social science, just like anthropology, sociology, political science, etc. There is no guarantee anything will be able to be always reproduced empirically in the future in any social science, but we do have data that it can predict what is eventually backed up by future empirical evidence.

 

The fact is the economic models, whatever there basis, are an effective -- and in some cases only effective -- way of understanding parts of the world. Attempting to explain why Germany was the way it was between 1919 and 1933 without using economic models is impossible. Yet not only do the models allow us to understand Germany during those times but Lord Keynes himself in 1919 was able to predict, using economic models, how Germany would fare.

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lapat67

@michaeld , I would call that being agnostic about determinism. The way I was taught quantum mechanics, it's entirely deterministic. As far as I'm aware, free will is then the only argument for deciding whether the universe is deteministic. And I think the corollary is that the argument only works in one direction: first the decision whether we have free will, no free will, or have no way of knowing and then the conclusion that the universe is not fully deterministic, fully deterministic, or unknown. So I disagree that free will is compatible with a deterministic universe, a deterministic universe is only compatible with a universe where we mistakenly think we have free will.

 

@Aebt-Ætheling, I think the caveat about economic models is currently very important, because all of them except the very uninfluential ecological economics don't take into account that e.g. the second law of thermodynamics places severe limits on how much you can replace high EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) fossil fuels with low EROEI renewables, and that nature provides a lot of services for free but in limited quantity. So the past successes are steering us over the cliff edge of carrying capacity.

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michaeld
2 hours ago, lapat67 said:

@michaeld , I would call that being agnostic about determinism.

I think that's correct as far as it goes: compatibilists are agnostic about determinism if you base the argument solely on the existence of free will. Of course compatibilists may believe or disbelieve in determinism for other reasons, unrelated to free will.

 

Quote

The way I was taught quantum mechanics, it's entirely deterministic.

In its standard "Copenhagen" formulation, QM is not deterministic. The Many Worlds Interpretation of QM (aka the Everett interpretation) is deterministic, but in a very strange way from an everyday perspective: to get a deterministic theory, you have to take into account branches of the wavefunction (sometimes dubbed "parallel universes") that we cannot see or interact with. The DeBroglie-Bohm version of QM is also technically deterministic, though not in a way that actually allows one to predict the future even in principle (i.e. given sufficiently powerful computation and sufficiently precise and comprehensive measuring devices).

 

Quote

As far as I'm aware, free will is then the only argument for deciding whether the universe is deteministic. And I think the corollary is that the argument only works in one direction: first the decision whether we have free will, no free will, or have no way of knowing and then the conclusion that the universe is not fully deterministic, fully deterministic, or unknown. So I disagree that free will is compatible with a deterministic universe, a deterministic universe is only compatible with a universe where we mistakenly think we have free will.

A lot depends on one's notion of free will. Libertarian free will is by definition incompatible with determinism, but I don't find any evidence via introspection that I actually have this kind of free will. Introspection leads me instead to compatibilist free will, which isn't of any use in determining whether the universe is deterministic.

 

Thus I don't find starting with the question of free will any use in deciding if the universe is deterministic. And I wouldn't really expect to: determinism is a very deep and unstable concept (unstable meaning that two theories may look extremely similar observationally with one deterministic and the other not) and I wouldn't expect it to be deducible by thinking about an everyday concept like free will, or from the introspective observational evidence for its existence.

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Aebt-Ætheling
2 hours ago, lapat67 said:

the second law of thermodynamics places severe limits on how much you can replace high EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) fossil fuels with low EROEI renewables, and that nature provides a lot of services for free but in limited quantity. So the past successes are steering us over the cliff edge of carrying capacity.

If I am understanding your argument correctly the way economists would answer this is that they account for future progress and invention, unlike Malthus (which is why he was wrong). Also you mention carrying capacity, rather than just ecological disaster (I would agree that there is a failure among mainstream generally right-of-center economists to account the ecological externalites), do you think humans are reaching carrying capacity on Earth?

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lapat67
On 12/7/2019 at 9:12 PM, Aebt-Ætheling said:

do you think humans are reaching carrying capacity on Earth?

The ecological footprint is a conservative measure of humanity's use of natural resources, and still the last time I looked it was 1.6 times the carrying capacity. Conservative in the sense that it's the smallest number that is supported by the data, so it's 1.6 or more. And it calculates carrying capacity as all of the biosphere, leaving nothing that can be used by humans for the wild species we share this planet with, while some people argue that we can only sustainably use half and maintain functional biodiversity. Which would mean we would be at 3.2 times carrying capacity. So no, I don't think we're reaching carrying capacity, by the conservative estimate we've been beyond it since 1970, and the decrease in biodiversity is some of the evidence which supports this hypothesis.

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Aebt-Ætheling
46 minutes ago, lapat67 said:

so it's 1.6 or more.

I doubt the numbers you are bringing up, even E.O.Wilson said pure carrying capacity of Earth has not been reached. Any population cannot maintain an over-capacity limit for as long as 1.6 times carrying capacity would indicate. The idea one can sustain above-capacity growth and one is already overcapacity for as long as those numbers (50+ years) indicate is impossible. It is rather similar to how right-of-center economists will talk about how the economy can function beyond the Long-Range Aggregate Supply curve (basically the maximum the economy can product) despite the fact we have little empirical evidence the economy can and when one starts looking into the specifics one realizes it is also theoretically impossible over any length of time.

 

Also, the sources you link do not account for any possible technological growth. Yes, the Earth is finite and no one with a functioning brain disputes that, but we as humans are shockingly good at creating efficiencies - to the extent we don't even realize it. Without accounting for this technological growth they fall into the same trap Malthus did by failing to account for changes. Malthus would have been right, except we had the agricultural revolution. His method was flawed despite his data being correct leading him to an incorrect assumption. By failing to account for past and present technological improvements we fall into the same trap.

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Float On

Most of your actions are deterministic and many things that happen to you are fateful from your perspective. 
 

but free will does exist but it’s hard to prove. 

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lapat67

@Aebt-Ætheling And everything E.O. Wilson said was true? Where's your evidence? I'm not saying the numbers I quote are 100% correct, but at least I referenced where I got them from.

 

If you have 1000 (arbitrary units) of resources and that generates 5 units per year (0.5%), then you can use up 16 units (3.2 times the carrying capacity of 5) for 76 years before you've used up all resources and starve. Who's to say this is not the appropriate analogy for the situation we're in?

 

Ever heard of Jevons paradox? It says that if technology improves the efficiency with which you get services out of resources (you use 15 units/y rather than 16 in year 1) and then you reinvest the gains (1 unit/y) to make more resource using technology, then after a very short time you end up using more than 16 units per year and have made matters worse. That's what we've been doing since the start of the industrial revolution.

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Aebt-Ætheling
6 hours ago, lapat67 said:

And everything E.O. Wilson said was true? Where's your evidence? I'm not saying the numbers I quote are 100% correct, but at least I referenced where I got them from.

I never said everything he said was correct nor even assumed that. I merely brought him up because I did not want to go randomly searching through the internet for some semi-authoritative (or worse) website to pull up as evidence. I figured being highly ecologically-minded as you seem to be you might remember where he said that and use it as a source, since I do not maintain a list of all books I have ever read and I have read far too many to randomly remember the name of a book I read over a year ago. I also used him over my preferred method which would have been a historical overview of the dilemma and why, given the historical evidence accumulated for a millennia, the idea that humans have been/are above carrying capacity is impossible using empirical evidence. However, that would take much longer and would probably be boring for everyone besides me. In short if you want to see some of the sources I would have used I recommend Steven Blank, Jean Dreze, along with many other food-related economists for some of my more technical sources I would have worked into the historical overview. My preferred sources for the history would be too many to list, if you are truly curious I could send you a list, but prepare to read.

 

The Jevons Paradox is very interesting and is definitely something to remember, however economically a look into actual reinvestment rates, a la Austrians, broken down by exactly how it was reinvested one finds the paradox is failing, particularly in the present, to assert itself. In the early stages of the Industrial Revolution it would seem to be correct, but a look into more recent reinvestment along with long-term trends (coupled with interest rates) shows this paradox to be declining. What is interesting is that I do not know of many who have really dealt with the paradox, but a quick look in authoritative books such as The History of Interest Rates, some more-recent work by Alan Greenspan (interestingly enough what his evidence says runs counter to what he often said), and others (mostly just books of data) will lead one to this conclusion. Actual reinvestment is low and has been dropping (I sound like an Austrian now, I assure you I am not rather they do make this one great point), this will cause problems economically but it frees one from Jevon's Paradox.

 

Your analogy is interesting, but the numbers are entirely arbitrary, including the replacement rate. Also you forgot to include any technological developments, especially in light of the problems of matching Jevons Paradox to modern day. The problem is that 70+ years is multiple generations, and despite that we have declining hunger (Howard Leathers for your source of a meta-study, along with others including Steven Blank as previously stated.). The lack of declining hunger disproves the idea of Humans being at or above the carrying capacity from a Malthusian standpoint while the fact that, while the condition of the environment has not gotten better, it has not increased at the absolutely runaway exponential pace one would assume if we were surpassing substantiate carrying capacity for so long. Not saying the environment is not getting worse, it is and we must do something, but over the past 70 years it has not gotten worse exponentially as one would have to assume if we were completely scraping the planet dry for the past 70 years.

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lapat67

@Aebt-Ætheling We've been scraping the planet dry of fossil fuels in the past 70 years. Agriculture depends on fossil fuels: tractors, nitrogen, transport, etc. Health care depends on fossil fuels.

We've been scraping the planet dry of metals in the past 70 years. We've been scraping the planet dry of fish in the past 70 years. We've been scraping the planet dry of soil in the past 70 years. We've been scraping the planet dry of biodiversity in the past 70 years.

Jevons Paradox will no longer apply going forward because we've scraped the planet dry, so there are no more reinvestment opportunities that will yield a better return than spending the money now. We are the red queen.

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