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"Know Thyself"
(Our inscription on the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, Greece.)


Executive Summary, by Yaj, January 24, 1997.

Ten years ago, I was ordered to travel to this solar system in order to survey the dominant animal life on the third planet. I have now completed my study of the "dominant bipeds" (they call themselves humans) and am eager to return home to my own star system. Therefore, I submit this executive summary on certain key aspects of these animals and their society for your approval.

Please note the many references from the bipeds' own literature in my report! This illustrates the bipeds' essential defect: even though we advised them to "know thyself" 2,500 years ago—and they have been strenuously engaged ever since—the bipeds' evolutionary process selected for self-deception and they are simply not capable of knowing themselves. [1]

Detritus: Disintegrated or eroded matter.
Exploit: To employ to the greatest possible advantage.

The dominant biped evolved to run, not to reason. [
2] When making inferences, the biped gives recently presented information undue importance, thereby producing answers that are not rational:

"Since the mind evolved to select a few signals and then dream up a semblance, whatever enters our consciousness is overemphasized. It does not matter how the information enters, whether via a television program, a newspaper story, a friend's conversation, a strong emotional reaction, a memory—all is overemphasized. We ignore other, more compelling evidence, overemphasizing and overgeneralizing from the information close at hand to produce a rough-and-ready realty." [3]

The dominant biped also evolved to blindly exploit anything and everything except family members. [
4] Hardin has shown that the biped, under conditions of freedom, will ultimately destroy itself. The Tragedy of the Commons is that under freedom, any one biped can force destruction of the commons. Although Hardin describes exploitation in an unregulated public pasture, the principle applies to the entire biped society. In other words, virtually everything that the biped can reach (including other bipeds) is exploited to the detriment of other bipeds.

Here is a typical example of the exploitation of one group of bipeds by another:

"Women are carefully trained by media to view themselves as inadequate. They are taught that other women—through the purchases of clothes, cosmetics, food, vocations, avocations, education, etc.—are more desirable and feminine than themselves. Her need to constantly reverify her sexual adequacy though the purchase of merchandise becomes an overwhelming preoccupation, profitable for the merchandisers, but potentially disastrous for the individual.

"North American society has a vested interest in reinforcing an individual's failure to achieve sexual maturity. By exploiting unconscious fears, forcing them to repress sexual taboos, the media guarantees blind repressed seeking for value substitutes through commercial products and consumption. Sexual repression, as reinforced by the media, is a most viable marketing technology.

"Repressed sexual fear, much like all types of repression, makes humans highly vulnerable to subliminal management and control technology. Through subliminal appeals and reinforcements of these fears, some consumers can be induced into buying almost anything." [5]

In order to magnify exploitation of each other, bipeds have invented a brainwashing technology that allows exploitation messages to be delivered undetected:

"The fact that TV is a source not actively or critically attended to was made dramatically evident in the late 1960s by an experiment that rocked the world of political and product advertising and forever changed the ways in which the television medium would be used. The results of the experiment still reverberate through the industry long after its somewhat primitive methods have been perfected.

"In November 1969, a researcher named Herbert Krugman, who later became manager of public-opinion research at General Electric headquarters in Connecticut, decided to try to discover what goes on physiologically in the brain of a person watching TV. He elicited the co-operation of a twenty-two-year-old secretary and taped a single electrode to the back of her head. The wire from this electrode connected to a Grass Model 7 Polygraph, which in turn interfaced with a Honeywell 7600 computer and a CAT 400B computer.

"Flicking on the TV, Krugman began monitoring the brain-waves of the subject. What he found through repeated trials was that within about thirty seconds, the brain-waves switched from predominantly beta waves, indicating alert and conscious attention, to predominantly alpha waves, indicating an unfocused, receptive lack of attention: the state of aimless fantasy and daydreaming below the threshold of consciousness. When Krugman's subject turned to reading through a magazine, beta waves reappeared, indicating that conscious and alert attentiveness had replaced the daydreaming state.

"What surprised Krugman, who had set out to test some McLuhanesque hypotheses about the nature of TV-viewing, was how rapidly the alpha-state emerged. Further research revealed that the brain's left hemisphere, which processes information logically and analytically, tunes out while the person is watching TV. This tuning-out allows the right hemisphere of the brain, which processes information emotionally and noncritically, to function unimpeded. 'It appears,' wrote Krugman in a report of his findings, 'that the mode of response to television is more or less constant and very different from the response to print. That is, the basic electrical response of the brain is clearly to the medium and not to content difference.... [Television is] a communication medium that effortlessly transmits huge quantities of information not thought about at the time of exposure.'" [6]

What's more, this brainwashing technology is addictive:

"When we think about addiction to drugs or alcohol we frequently focus on negative aspects, ignoring the pleasures that accompany drinking or drug-taking. And yet the essence of any serious addiction is a pursuit of pleasure, a search for a 'high' that normal life does not supply. It is only the inability to function without the addictive substance that is dismaying, the dependence of the organism upon a certain experience and an increasing inability to function normally without it. Thus people will take two or three drinks at the end of the day not merely for the pleasure drinking provides, but also because they 'don't feel normal' without them.

"Real addicts do not merely pursue a pleasurable experience one time in order to function normally. They need to repeat it again and again. Something about that particular experience makes life without it less than complete. Other potentially pleasurable experiences are no longer possible, for under the spell of the addictive experience, their lives are peculiarly distorted. The addict craves an experience and yet is never really satisfied. The organism may be temporarily sated, but soon it begins to crave again.

"Finally, a serious addiction is distinguished from a harmless pursuit of pleasure by its distinctly destructive elements. Heroin addicts, for instance, lead a damaged life: their increasing need for heroin in increasing doses prevents them from working, from maintaining relationships, from developing in human ways. Similarly alcoholics' lives are narrowed and dehumanized by their dependence on alcohol.

"Let us consider television viewing in the light of the conditions that define serious addictions.

"Not unlike drugs or alcohol, the television experience allows the participant to blot out the real world and enter into a pleasurable and passive mental state. The worries and anxieties of reality are as effectively deferred by becoming absorbed in a television program as by going on a 'trip' induced by drugs or alcohol. And just as alcoholics are only vaguely aware of their addiction, feeling that they control their drinking more than they really do ('I can cut it out any time I want—I just like to have three or four drinks before dinner'), people similarly overestimate their control over television watching. Even as they put off other activities to spend hour after hour watching television, they feel they could easily resume living in a different, less passive style.

"But somehow or other, while the television set is present in their homes, the click doesn't sound. With television pleasures available, those other experiences seem less attractive, more difficult somehow.

"Finally it is the adverse effect of television viewing on the lives of so many people that defines it as a serious addiction. The television habit distorts the sense of time. It renders other experiences vague and curiously unreal while taking on a greater reality for itself. It weakens relationships by reducing and sometimes eliminating normal opportunities for talking, for communicating." [7]

Bipeds eat mostly ancient detritus (food produced by modern agriculture now uses four to ten times as much fossil energy as solar). [
8] When the ancient detritus is exhausted, it is expected that these bipeds will "crash and die-off":

"It was thus becoming apparent that nature must, in the not far distant future, institute bankruptcy proceedings against industrial civilization, and perhaps against the standing crop of human flesh, just as nature had done many times to other detritus-consuming species following their exuberant expansion in response to the savings deposits their ecosystems had accumulated before they got the opportunity to begin the drawdown... Having become a species of superdetritovores, mankind was destined not merely for succession, but for crash." [9]

Had the dominant biped evolved to reason instead of to run, it could have learned by simply observing quadrupeds. Take, for example, the reindeer:

"Transgressing the carrying capacity for one period lowers the carrying capacity thereafter, perhaps starting a downward spiral toward zero. David Klein's classic study of the reindeer on St. Matthew Island illustrates the point. In 1944 a population of 29 animals was moved to the island, without the corrective feedback (negative feedback) of such predators as wolves and human hunters. In 19 years the population swelled to 6,000 and then "crashed" in 3 years to a total of 41 females and one male, all in miserable condition. Klein estimates that the primeval carrying capacity of the island was about 5 deer per square kilometer. At the population peak there were 18 per square kilometer. After the crash there were only 0.126 animals per square kilometer and even this was probably too many once the island was largely denuded of lichens. Recovery of lichens under zero population conditions takes decades; with a continuing resident population of reindeer it may never occur. Transgressing the carrying capacity of St. Matthew Island reduced its carrying capacity by at least 97.5 percent." [10]

As might be expected, the dominant bipeds designed an irrational political system that is unconcerned about outcomes—a "crash and die-off" political system.

"[In the US ] we practice 'process' politics as opposed to 'systems' politics (Schick 1971). As the name implies, process politics emphasizes the adequacy and fairness of the rules governing the process of politics. If the process is fair, then, as in a trial conducted according to due process, the outcome is assumed to be just—or at least the best the system can achieve. By contrast, systems politics is concerned primarily with desired outcomes; means are subordinated to predetermined ends." [11]

Even worse, this "crash and die-off" political system has been corrupted by money from its inception:

"In 1757, one of early America's wealthiest men sought a seat in Virginia's colonial legislature, the House of Burgesses. The gentleman left nothing to chance. To guarantee his election, this aspiring politician bought 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, and two gallons of cider. Contemporary observers were impressed. There were, after all, only 391 voters in young George Washington's district.

"In 1884, one of the wealthiest men of his time, Henry B. Payne, wanted to become the next United States senator from Ohio. Payne's son Oliver, the treasurer of Standard Oil, did his best to help. Just before the election for Ohio's seat, son Oliver 'sat at a desk in a Columbus hotel with a stack of bills in front of him, paying for the votes of the state legislators,' who then elected U.S. senators." [12]

"Twenty-one corporations and wealthy individuals gave $100,000 or more each in soft money to the Republican National Committee (RNC) in April 1996, according to a recently released Common Cause study.

"The RNC raised $5.4 million in soft money in April, more than in any month since October 1994. RNC soft money fundraising in April doubled compared to March, and was four times higher than in April 1992, the last Presidential election year, the study found."

The dominant bipeds invented a clever mechanism to greatly magnify their exploitative power: the corporate machine.

Before the Civil War of 1861, the corporate machines were controlled by the bipeds and were chartered for a specific limited purpose (for example, building a toll road or canal) and for a specific, limited period of time (usually 20 or 30 years).

After the Civil War, during the 1870s and 1880s, the corporate machines greatly expanded their powers. Perhaps the most important change occurred when the U.S. Supreme Court granted corporate machines the full constitutional protections of individual citizens. Congress had written the 14th Amendment to protect the rights of freed slaves, but in an 1886 decision (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad) this was expanded when the courts declared that no state shall deprive a corporate machine ". . . of life, liberty or property without due process of law." Now the bipeds were controlled by their own machines!

Like all machines, corporate machines follow the logic inherent in their design. They ingest living, natural systems (including the bipeds they claim to serve) in one end, and excrete un-natural, dead garbage and waste (including worn-out bipeds) out the other. These marvelous machines have even taken over the task of governing the bipeds:

"'The big corporations, our clients, are scared shitless of the environmental movement,' Mankiewicz confided. 'They sense that there's a majority out there and that the emotions are all on the other side—if they can be heard. They think the politicians are going to yield to the emotions. I think the corporations are wrong about that. I think the companies will have to give in only at insignificant levels. Because the companies are too strong, they're the establishment. The environmentalists are going to have to be like the mob in the square in Romania before they prevail.'" [13]

Since the dominant biped is unable to overcome its innate propensity for exploitation and self-deception, it blindly continues to feed on the ancient detritus:

"Under the Rio treaty, industrial countries, which now produce two-thirds of the greenhouse gases, are supposed to take the lead in slowing emissions. However, many of these governments have acquiesced to pressure from fossil fuel industries and labor groups. In the past two years, they have used the vague language of the treaty to justify the adoption of convoluted and weak national climate goals.

"Germany has made the target easier by using an earlier base year with higher emissions; others have pushed the date for achieving 1990 emissions to the year 2005.

"France and Japan have decided to stabilize emissions per capita, which allows them to increase emissions as their population grows.

"Spain and Ireland have disregarded the treaty entirely, aiming instead to slow emissions growth by an 'unspecified' amount.

"Canada has decided not to produce a national plan at all, but rather is turning climate policy over to its provinces.

"The U.S. government has interpreted the treaty as allowing a 3-percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions, which would be offset by dubious efforts to lower emissions of other gases; and even that plan is falling short of its own targets." [14]

I expect widespread panic (bipeds evolved to run, not to reason) and violent conflict [15] when the biped leaves the "exuberant expansion" phase of its existence and enters the "crash" phase. [16] The crash is expected to begin when the demand for ancient detritus exceeds the supply—sometime around 2005. [17] The crash will soon become so disruptive that biped governments must become authoritarian in order to keep the peace (multiply the Rodney King violence by a million).

If the dominant biped could reason, then it would realize that in order to survive, it must convert from a competitive system under freedom, to a cooperative system under some sort of authority.
[18] Freedom and cooperation are not compatible because any one member of a cooperating group of bipeds can force the necessity for power on the rest of the group—that is the lesson of the Parable of the Tribes:

"The new human freedom made striving for expansion and power possible. Such freedom, when multiplied, creates anarchy. The anarchy among civilized societies meant that the play of power in the system was uncontrollable. In an anarchic situation like that, no one can choose that the struggle for power shall cease. But there is one more element in the picture: no one is free to choose peace, but anyone can impose upon all the necessity for power. This is the lesson of the parable of the tribes." [19]

In our own star system, every schoolboy knows that a cooperative (non-exploitive) community can only be sustained under authority. Thus, the inevitable shift to authoritarian government that will occur when the dominant biped panics will be the first and last chance for the bipeds to salvage anything of their so-called civilization.

The following graph depicts the most likley future for these unfortunate creatures:

Oh well, better luck next time. . . .

Know Thyself,

1 "In his foreword to Richard Dawkins' THE SELFISH GENE, Robert Trivers noted Dawkins' emphasis on the role of deception in animal life and added, in a much-cited passage, that if indeed 'deceit is fundamental to animal communication, then there must be strong selection to spot deception and this ought, in turn, to select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray—by the subtle signs of self-knowledge—the deception being practiced.' Thus, 'the conventional view that natural selection favors nervous systems which produce ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naive view of mental evolution.'" pp. 263-264, THE MORAL ANIMAL, Robert Wright; Pantheon, 1994. ISBN 0-679-40773-1.

2 "The [mental] system we recruited had the primary aim of reacting quickly to immediate danger—those who did lived long enough to produce us. Those who acted more thoughtfully and with due deliberation of the proper course, who could avoid panic when confronted by mild threats—who acted rationally, that is—probably lived shorter, and thus less generative, lives. The survival argument against rationality in primeval conditions is that payoff is very lopsided: Fail to respond to a real danger, even if that danger would kill you only 1/10,000 as often, and you will be dead. A few years later, you will be deader in evolutionary terms, for fewer of your genes will be around. However, an overreaction to danger produces only a little hysteria, a little stress, and maybe a little embarrassment—probably little or no loss of reproductive ability. Maybe the excitement would even recruit a little more reproductive effort!

"Running from every snake or tiger or loud noise probably doesn't disrupt life too much. Not running, while it might kill you only slightly more often, can eventually produce major changes in the population. The same numbers hold in this example as for the height difference cited earlier. If panic in response to a threat in all cases improved survival by even 1/10,000, those who panicked would be 484 million times more populous than those who did not. And so it was good to respond emotionally and quickly to the average dangers threatening most of our ancestors. Rationality is a great idea and ideal, but we never had the time for it; we don't have time for it now, and thus we don't have the mind for it." p. 262, THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS, Robert Ornstein; Prentice Hall, 1991. ISBN 0-13-587569-2



5 Wilson Bryan Key, MEDIA SEXPLOITATION; Signet, 1976.

6 p. 82, Joyce Nelson, THE PERFECT MACHINE; New Society Pub., 1992, 800-253-3605. ISBN 0-86571-235-2

7 pp. 23-25, Marie Winn, THE PLUG IN DRUG; Penguin, 1977. ISBN 0-14-007698-0


9 pp. 172-173, William Catton, OVERSHOOT; University of Illinois Press, 1982, 800-545-4703, Fax 217-244-8082. ISBN 0-252-00988-6


11 p. 242, William Ophuls, ECOLOGY AND THE POLITICS OF SCARCITY REVISITED; W. H. Freeman, 1992. ISBN 0-7167-2313-1

12 p. 12, Sam Pizzigati, THE MAXIMUM WAGE; Apex, 1992. ISBN 0-945257-45-7

13 p. 24, William Greider, WHO WILL TELL THE PEOPLE; Simon and Schuster, 1992. ISBN 0-671-68891-X

14 World Watch Magazine Mar/Apr 1995




18 "The proof of [the Puritan] belief's value to them may be taken from the opposite character of the first Jamestown settlement, farther south, in Virginia. The Englishmen who landed there were motivated mainly by a hunt for profit. They had thought to pick off the wealth of the new country and then return rich to England. They were a band of individualists, and a much more ingratiating group than the Massachusetts men. But Virginia destroyed them. Massachusetts tried to kill off the Puritans, but they combined; they set up a communal society which, in the beginning, was little more than an armed camp with an autocratic and very devoted leadership. It was, however, an autocracy by consent, for they were united from top to bottom by a commonly held ideology whose perpetuation was the reason and justification for all their sufferings. So their self-denial, their purposefulness, their suspicion of all vain pursuits, their hard-handed justice, were altogether perfect instruments for the conquest of this space so antagonistic to man." —THE CRUCIBLE, Arthur Miller

19 p. 21, Andrew Bard Schmookler, THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES; SUNY, 1995. ISBN 0-7914-2420-0