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  1. #1
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Lethe's Avatar
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    Opiates of the People

    Quote Originally Posted by Ernst Becker
    The daily madness of employment is vaccination against the madness of the asylum […] which poses a problem for a sophisticated Marxism: what obsessive denials of reality will a utopian society provide to keep men from going mad?

    So we have a future of declining economic (and therefore social) prospects among those with lesser educational attainment, courtesy of the ongoing effects of globalisation and technological advancement, coupled with a prevailing politico-cultural climate that is in no way prepared to acknowledge, much less mitigate the problem.

    We also have the spectre of increasing rates of drug addiction amongst lower class white communities -- a phenomenon that black and other minority communities were already well acquainted with --in the United States, which has contributed to the heretofore unprecedented decline in life expectancy amongst that group over the last generation.

    My basic contention is that drug addiction, as with alcohol abuse in Russia, use of poker machines amongst the elderly, are all manifestations of cultural disengagement and despair, i.e. there is nothing better to do. And courtesy of the politico-economic trends outlined above, we can expect such problems to become worse over time.

    Enter the new masters of human psychological manipulation: video games. Enter burgeoning VR technology. And like most new developments, the profits flow from the many to the few. I can envision a future where large subsets of the population are economically, socially, and culturally unproductive, and who choose to escape the pain and tedium of existence through drugs, through VR, funneling ever more profits to the diminishing share of humanity that remains engaged with the real world.

    One can envision governments (which of course have long since been captured by oligarchs) actively encouraging such diversions as a means of ensuring the passivity of what could otherwise be a restive populace.

    The arts of human psychological manipulation -- and therefore the keys to mass population control -- have been unlocked at nearly the same time as much of humanity is set to become disposable. What could in theory be a utopia seems rather more likely to become a new kind of dystopia the likes of which we have never seen before.
    Last edited by Lethe; 19-12-2016 at 07:15 PM.
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  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus BillButNotBen's Avatar
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    Personally, video games are too much work these days, I'm taking Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hulu/etc... everyone else seems to be hooked on smartphones (including games) and social media.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lethe View Post
    My basic contention is that drug addiction, as with alcohol abuse in Russia, use of poker machines amongst the elderly, are all manifestations of cultural disengagement and despair, i.e. there is nothing better to do. And courtesy of the politico-economic trends outlined above, we can expect such problems to become worse over time.

    Enter the new masters of human psychological manipulation: video games. Enter burgeoning VR technology. And like most new developments, the profits flow from the many to the few. I can envision a future where large subsets of the population are economically, socially, and culturally unproductive, and who choose to escape the pain and tedium of existence through drugs, through VR, funneling ever more profits to the diminishing share of humanity that remains engaged with the real world.

    One can envision governments (which of course have long since been captured by oligarchs) actively encouraging such diversions as a means of ensuring the passivity of what could otherwise be a restive populace.

    The arts of human psychological manipulation -- and therefore the keys to mass population control -- have been unlocked at nearly the same time as much of humanity is set to become disposable. What could in theory be a utopia seems rather more likely to become a new kind of dystopia the likes of which we have never seen before.
    So, precisely as predicted by every cyberpunk P&P RPG ever, principally Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun?

    I don't know if I really buy "culturally disengaged" though, as a cause. Disenfranchised and disempowered is more like it. Fewer people being economically productive is kind of inevitable if the nature of jobs remains the same (and the gig economy hasn't changed that, but Patreon-type stuff has a bit).

    That said, I think there might be a limit to the penetration of such displacement activities, just due to human psychology. Some people don't like wish fulfillment, don't like simulations, and so on, or only like them a bit. What seems equally possible that VR-type and AI-type stuff could empower individual creativity. Sure, various forces will try to limit this or assume control of it, but I doubt they'll succeed, long-term.

    Inevitably the real world will impinge on things, and it's going to decades and decades, if not a century or more, before we have sci-fi-style VR (with full, believable sensation). Sure, like, otaku-ish nerds will have their VR waifus and whatever, but I don't see that going mainstream, in part because it will be obvious and creepy, and in part because humans seek human contact and interaction, for the most part.

  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Zephro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lethe View Post
    My basic contention is that drug addiction, as with alcohol abuse in Russia, use of poker machines amongst the elderly, are all manifestations of cultural disengagement and despair, i.e. there is nothing better to do. And courtesy of the politico-economic trends outlined above, we can expect such problems to become worse over time.

    Enter the new masters of human psychological manipulation: video games. Enter burgeoning VR technology. And like most new developments, the profits flow from the many to the few. I can envision a future where large subsets of the population are economically, socially, and culturally unproductive, and who choose to escape the pain and tedium of existence through drugs, through VR, funneling ever more profits to the diminishing share of humanity that remains engaged with the real world.

    One can envision governments (which of course have long since been captured by oligarchs) actively encouraging such diversions as a means of ensuring the passivity of what could otherwise be a restive populace.

    The arts of human psychological manipulation -- and therefore the keys to mass population control -- have been unlocked at nearly the same time as much of humanity is set to become disposable. What could in theory be a utopia seems rather more likely to become a new kind of dystopia the likes of which we have never seen before.
    So sure people who are despairing and disenfranchised are more likely to be in these traps and it is a concern.

    But it doesn't seem to be anything new. I mean just look at a Hogarth painting about Gin Lane, there was a moral panic that the under privileged were just killing themselves with gin. Or films/books like train spotting, e.g. drugs specifically heroin 20-30 years ago.

    Not sure about cultural disengagement though. For the bit I bolded. There have always been large subsets of the population like that. Most culture and social power are almost exclusively controlled by the middle classes, which is getting much much worse right now in terms of things like internships for journalism. Maybe I'm being a bit literal but to disengage you'd imagine people had been given a voice in the first place, which they basically never had.

    Or at least VR/technology hasn't made any of this noticeably worse, Thatcherism definitely has in that it's made people poorer and their lives feel less secure and more pointless. Also the whole governments/oligarchs will manipulate it seems a stretch.

    This stuff is definitely all linked to addiction though. My own attempts to quit smoking always fall short in the face of depression and anxiety about the rest of life. For that matter I only started when I was 28 mostly as a way of getting out of an oppressive office space for breaks. With my main response to sanctimonious middle class knobs who like to inform me it's bad for me being to mind their own business and just try quitting when life isn't as easy as they assume.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zephro View Post
    This stuff is definitely all linked to addiction though. My own attempts to quit smoking always fall short in the face of depression and anxiety about the rest of life. For that matter I only started when I was 28 mostly as a way of getting out of an oppressive office space for breaks. With my main response to sanctimonious middle class knobs who like to inform me it's bad for me being to mind their own business and just try quitting when life isn't as easy as they assume.
    I have a friend who with his wife is making like 200-250k pre-tax, and he can't stop smoking for exactly the same reasons, so I really don't think Lethe's logic holds up very well here. I don't think he's lying or delusional or whatever either - it's just they're blowing all their money on childcare (their nanny earns significantly more than I do, but she's not actually that unusually expensive, it's terrifying), saving for extortionate private schools (like they went to, and to be fair, like I went to after I was 10), and so on, because they think that's what you "have" to do.

    Also, VR/Better-than-Life stuff will definitely be a middle-class pursuit for a long, long time before it's cheap enough to be an opiate of the masses, if the masses aren't middle-class.

  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Zephro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LexW View Post
    I have a friend who with his wife is making like 200-250k pre-tax, and he can't stop smoking for exactly the same reasons, so I really don't think Lethe's logic holds up very well here. I don't think he's lying or delusional or whatever either - it's just they're blowing all their money on childcare (their nanny earns significantly more than I do, but she's not actually that unusually expensive, it's terrifying), saving for extortionate private schools (like they went to, and to be fair, like I went to after I was 10), and so on, because they think that's what you "have" to do.

    Also, VR/Better-than-Life stuff will definitely be a middle-class pursuit for a long, long time before it's cheap enough to be an opiate of the masses, if the masses aren't middle-class.
    Yeah I'm not going to claim to be hard done by, I'm a programmer and well paid. Not that well paid. But my wife is ill and a US citizen so can't work and can't get any kind of benefits/support. So we make do. Can't save a penny, can't go on holiday ever, we're well into our 30s and having children is basically out of the question as there's no way we could afford a 2 bed flat in London right now. I've started having mild panic attacks when my friend's start discussing going out to a restaurant as it's always pricey and they've moved on to the point where they all think ordering 30 bottles of wine and splitting the bill equally with people on tap water is fine. So yeah your friend's have my sympathy.

    Cigarettes make me feel better, and no amount of random strangers concern trolling me in the street (or pub garden which is frankly there for smoking) is going to change that. So I've got sympathy for similar(ish) circumstances and very little with people wanting to build big social narratives out of these personal things or to talk about them in certain ways. I mean the original Marx quote actually contains a lot of sympathy for why people believe in god but often these things stray into patronising bullshit.

  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    This article I read may relate to this somewhat in terms of artists side of things:

    Capitalism wants artists’ talents and ideas because they can be used to sell things, capitalism wants artists to have a liberal education so they can steal ideas from all the world's culture. Capitalism would like to meet artists at parties—where the artist can simultaneously entertain the capitalist and can be introduced to patrons in an informal setting outside the recorded and legalized confines of the application process (where there are difficult questions concerning how many people of what kind you're taking applications from)--so it wants artists to throw parties, or at least go to them, and so be at least social enough to handle that. What it doesn’t want is artists who have money (artists are creative, so if you give them money they won’t necessarily invest in things and hire people to make more money, they might just spend it on firecrackers and beanbag chairs) or power (artists are nearly by definition people with unpredictable and radical ideas, and capitalism wants stable or at least controllable governance) or who are taken seriously outside the world of entertainment (unpredictable ideas plus the ability to communicate=trouble).

    And, lo-and-behold, what kind of personality types do we get? “Artists are crazy,” “Artists are flakes,” “Guitarists are drug addicts,” “He’s a genius behind the piano but in real life he was a disaster”, etc. etc. Lovable but "unstable". You'd never vote for an artist.

    Are these myths promoted to keep them in their place? Or descriptions of the personality-types that the institutions and conditions most favorable to survival produce?
    http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.co....-lane.html?m=1

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Zephro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xercies View Post
    This article I read may relate to this somewhat in terms of artists side of things:



    http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.co....-lane.html?m=1
    Interesting. I'm not disagreeing but I suspect there is something weird being done with people's agency. It's simultaneously over stating people's power, intellectuals and artists would be dangerous if not oppressed while suggesting the system forces them into social niches and behaviour. I don't think it's quite so neat. Nerds, Artists, etc. have been very involved in doing this to themselves and politicians have been very involved in being more active than just some faceless agent of capitalism. Then again King's were definitely not setting priests on each other to argue about god to consolidate their own power. Stuff is just messier than that. Though yeah the systems broadly push things these ways to keep the system controllable. But in a statistical sense.

  9. #9
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Lethe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BillButNotBen View Post
    Personally, video games are too much work these days, I'm taking Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hulu/etc... everyone else seems to be hooked on smartphones (including games) and social media.
    "I know something about dread myself, and appreciate the elaborate systems with which people fill the void -- all the opiates of the people, whether they are as accessible as alcohol and promiscuity or as hard to come by as faith in God or History." -- Joan Didion

    To be sure there are many opiates of the people, and some of them are more clearly harmful than others, to the point that in some cases we might question whether, at least in moderation, they are harmful at all. It is a matter of degree, along varying axes. But we should not lose sight of what is happening, nor fail to perceive the dangers that lie in the ongoing, profit-directed, weaponised development of our favoured pastimes.

    I am not optimistic. I see little reason to believe that what is best and brightest in humanity -- our capacity for intelligence and rationality, for empathy and brotherhood, for individual and communal creative endeavour, will flourish in the decades ahead. Rather, the mechanisms I see point in entirely the opposite direction, to the suppression and subjugation of humanity by narrow and self-serving interests, using all the tools that science has bequeathed to us.

    And when I think of the forces capable of resisting these trends -- that is to say, in the real world, not in Solzhenitsyn's long-vanished world where the writer -- the word in and of itself -- still wields some power, or the fantasy world in which a new and effective progressive alliance akin to the old left can be created without the material circumstances that gave rise to that alliance (and led to its downfall as they changed) in the first place -- only one candidate comes to mind: religion.

    Related article that popped up just now: George Monbiot -- Celebrity isn't just harmless fun
    Last edited by Lethe; 20-12-2016 at 10:20 PM.
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  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus karaquazian's Avatar
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    Football.

    Look at the recent football coach peado scandal in the UK. Good distraction from the peado mps, lords, establishment etc.. Investigation going nowhere. Even though half these football nonces are already convicted.

  11. #11
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    @Lethe
    Take it from a former conspiricy theorist, your first post sounds exactly like what they believe. That we are being controlled by secretive governments to be like sheep and for them to be in total power. At least Brexit and Trump show us that the idea of that is someehat rather silly. We cannot be controlled we change with moods and the time. People have always been in control if they want it. But most people are lazy and so it has to take a big probably very strong idea for us to be moved.

    In fact Trump being elected should really end the New World Order shit. They would not be putting him when you have establishment loving candidadate in the form of Hilary.

    Here is an interesting rebuttal looking at the past hundrends of years. I think the opiates of the masses is the need to be informed. Look at what has become big in the last hundreds of years: Education, Media and Science.

    Science and its theories are now the biggest way we see the world, some people say now bigger then religion. We have an insatiable need to understand the world around us. Governments use science to form policies, people use science to inform their lives, adverts use science to sell us things.

    Media informs us about the world and what is going on, we lie to ourselves about our need to be informed about Syria and what is happening in America. Media has made us more scared about the world, but it does inform our politics and our views on the world.

    We have also become a more educated soceity(don't laugh) more of us are going through school and university. We are gaining knowledge at a fantastic speed. We have the internet now which informs us super quick about things we want to know.

    All of these things can cause problems and be perverted look at the Daily Mail for perversion of science and media. Look at fake news. They ar the causes of Brexit and Trump I would say.

    I have been a cynic but I've never been apocalyptic about humanities chances(except when I was a conspiracy theorist) I believe now that we will bumble along like we have. Increasing our tech to make our lives easier and increasing our knowledge.
    Last edited by Xercies; 22-12-2016 at 08:51 AM.

  12. #12
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    I wouldn't worry about anything beyond 200 years. At that point AGW will fix everything and reset the clock so to speak. Humanity (and nature) will be starting over with much more simple (natural) concerns.

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    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Zephro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZakG View Post
    I wouldn't worry about anything beyond 200 years. At that point AGW will fix everything and reset the clock so to speak. Humanity (and nature) will be starting over with much more simple (natural) concerns.
    Our concerns now are perfectly natural and nature isn't even a sodding thing. There is the material universe and the stuff in it, done. As if "nature" can even have any sodding concerns.

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Lethe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xercies View Post
    @Lethe
    Take it from a former conspiricy theorist, your first post sounds exactly like what they believe. That we are being controlled by secretive governments to be like sheep and for them to be in total power.
    I think you're reading too much into a single sentence from my posts. The mechanisms I am thinking of are those we are already well acquainted with. Consider the rise of the private prison industry in the US as part of the modern incarceration state. Having been created to serve that incarceration state, in concert with ideological developments favourable to turning even traditional state functions over to private entities, the private prison industry is now a major obstacle to dismantling the incarceration state: there are contracts with minimum occupancy requirements, there is wealth at stake with access to legislators, there is direct bribery of judges and other judicial figures to keep the bodies coming, there are entire towns that are reliant upon prisons for their economic survival.

    At least Brexit and Trump show us that the idea of that is someehat rather silly. We cannot be controlled we change with moods and the time. People have always been in control if they want it. But most people are lazy and so it has to take a big probably very strong idea for us to be moved.
    Brexit and especially Trump are both good examples as to how easily people can be manipulated against their own interests. All that sound and fury, for what? To entrench those most responsible for our plight even deeper into power. People cannot be controlled with any degree of certainty, but their disaffection and its expression can certainly be shaped.

    Here is an interesting rebuttal looking at the past hundrends of years. I think the opiates of the masses is the need to be informed. Look at what has become big in the last hundreds of years: Education, Media and Science.

    Science and its theories are now the biggest way we see the world, some people say now bigger then religion. We have an insatiable need to understand the world around us. Governments use science to form policies, people use science to inform their lives, adverts use science to sell us things.
    Science is value-neutral and therefore serves the interests of those with power. Science has revealed that we humans are simply biological machines that can be manipulated like any other machine, and through science the tools of that manipulation are becoming ever more sophisticated, ever more fine-tuned, and those tools - psychological, pharmacological, electronic, etc. -- are increasingly to be found in the hands of those with power.

    You speak of the potential of the masses to overthrow their oppressors. This is something that has been true for most of recorded history, is arguably still true today, but it is becoming less true with each passing year, the continuation of a process that has been underway for centuries now. In the world of revolutionary America or revolutionary France, the difference between the forces commanded by the government and those commanded by its discontents are qualitatively relatively small. A man with a rifle is still a man with a rifle, irrespective of his uniform or lack thereof.

    The story of technology is the story of the transfer of power from people to capital. This is why the enormous armies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries have disappeared, why conscription has disappeared. It reflects the fact that people are increasingly unnecessary to power, that the capacity for violence is increasingly uncoupled from humanity. The coming of the drone, mass surveillance systems and autonomous weapons systems are the next step in this transition. In the future, a relative handful of wealthy folk, armed with the tools of modern technology, could well exercise the kind of tyranny over mass populations that has to date only been seen in the collision of European colonial forces with pre-modern societies, and more recently in the War on Terror with all-seeing drones watching over and occasionally visiting death upon mud hut villages in Warizistan. Technology is a force for the concentration of power, not its diffusion.
    Last edited by Lethe; 22-12-2016 at 07:56 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zephro View Post
    Our concerns now are perfectly natural and nature isn't even a sodding thing. There is the material universe and the stuff in it, done. As if "nature" can even have any sodding concerns.
    You are misunderstanding my use of these terms maybe? Our modern life is incredibly new in the human time line, the majority of our evolution has been without any of it. With AGW we will be returning to our previous more natural state. Like i said in 200 years or so, stock markets, bank accounts, computer games(!), nation states etc will be a thing of the past (or very nearly).

    We are simply adjusting too slowly to AGW and what is already happening/coming. Our modern life style is driving it to a large degree. We need to adjust our priorities (or those of our children certainly) to better adjust for that future.
    Last edited by ZakG; 26-12-2016 at 12:21 PM.

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    Nah, humanity survived many more or less fucked up and sudden events that we weren't prepared for like ice age, plagues, wars, famines, industrialization, poverty, colonialism, natural disasters and yet none of these erased or stopped our cultural or technological progress.

  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    Eh, that we never stopped progressing. There are many times humans technology and culturally regressed, and we will again, I only hope it's a sort of one step back two steps forward sort of thing.
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  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    You speak of the potential of the masses to overthrow their oppressors. This is something that has been true for most of recorded history, is arguably still true today, but it is becoming less true with each passing year, the continuation of a process that has been underway for centuries now. In the world of revolutionary America or revolutionary France, the difference between the forces commanded by the government and those commanded by its discontents are qualitatively relatively small. A man with a rifle is still a man with a rifle, irrespective of his uniform or lack thereof.

    The story of technology is the story of the transfer of power from people to capital. This is why the enormous armies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries have disappeared, why conscription has disappeared. It reflects the fact that people are increasingly unnecessary to power, that the capacity for violence is increasingly uncoupled from humanity. The coming of the drone, mass surveillance systems and autonomous weapons systems are the next step in this transition. In the future, a relative handful of wealthy folk, armed with the tools of modern technology, could well exercise the kind of tyranny over mass populations that has to date only been seen in the collision of European colonial forces with pre-modern societies, and more recently in the War on Terror with all-seeing drones watching over and occasionally visiting death upon mud hut villages in Warizistan. Technology is a force for the concentration of power, not its diffusion.
    I don't think this is because technology has made us "soft" I think we just don't have any strong ideas that make us fight anymore or at least strong enough to go through divides and make people fight. Look at WW1 and 2, look at communism versus capatilism. They were almost idealized both on the side we are on, this is why we are great army/ideology wise and this is why the other side is monsters.

    Without an ideal someone won't pick up a gun, without demonisation of the enemy they won't actually shoot that gun. We had Empire and country in WW1, we had good old fashioned democracy versus tyranny in WW2. In this modern world we don't have a vision or dehumanization as powerful as those things. The jihadists do and maybe why people are going to them because however twisted they do have that big vision which we seem to have lost in the west.

    The story of technology is to dismantle and shatter visions so we all have dreams but they are all to individual or niche but big revolutions take many people and many different ideas going into one.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by GameCat View Post
    Nah, humanity survived many more or less fucked up and sudden events that we weren't prepared for like ice age, plagues, wars, famines, industrialization, poverty, colonialism, natural disasters and yet none of these erased or stopped our cultural or technological progress.
    Well that Ice Age did nearly finish it, luckily it was not a total global event (it stopped around the equatorial zone) like the big one previously (snowball earth). Many of those other things you mention are very much human driven or not global in the natural sense of global. AGW is going to be like nothing we have ever had to live through (as a species), that is already in the pipeline and getting worse each day we put off doing what is needed for longterm survival.

    I think this is the problem climate scientists face in truth, when things are not that bad really (check through the thread on climate change stuff for lists of things that class as 'not that bad'), making it hit home with the required weight is a very tough sell, and so far they are failing to do that, which is to all our collective longterm peril. But i will say AGW, especially with our slow reaction to it, is going to become pretty much a game stopper in terms of humanities advancement and continuation over the recent era (post agriculture etc).

    We will simply be living on a planet that is too hot (and cold!) and too extreme in climate variance for 'business as usual' to commence. We are actually already seeing the markers of this coming future world.
    Last edited by ZakG; 27-12-2016 at 11:55 AM.

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    Nah I just think the humanity that will survive will have to become more nomadic. Basically we travel to Africa of South America during Winter and then towards the north scsndenavian countries during the summer.

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