Plex: 6 September 2023

Personhood for Swannanoa River; Prose Fusion; What do we call this moment in time? Art From My Walks; Visions of the Future; Practical Steps Towards Gardenworld; PLEXLINKS 20230906

Plex: 6 September 2023

The Biweekly Plex Dispatch is an inter-community newspaper published by Collective Sense Commons on first and third Wednesdays of each month. Price per issue: 1 USD, or your choice of amount (even zero).

In This Issue

  • Personhood for Swannanoa River (Kevin Jones)
  • Prose Fusion (Peter Kaminski)
  • What do we call this moment in time? (Ken Homer)
  • Art From My Walks (Ken Homer)
  • Visions of the Future (Klaus Mager)
  • Practical Steps Towards Gardenworld (Douglass Carmichael)
  • PLEXLINKS 20230906 (charles blass)

Personhood for Swannanoa River

by Kevin Jones

A capstone class from our local college environmental sciences department wants to listen in and potentially be part of the effort to gain legal status for our river, the Swannanoa, as a way to counter corporate power.

If a person hits you, they have committed a crime and can be prosecuted. Currently a river can be hit with a regulator approved level of pollution and you can’t do anything.

If the river had legal status, like a corporation, it could take action against polluters, just like a person can, and stop the assault.

Prose Fusion

by Peter Kaminski

The “Markdown and Git for Collaborative Writing” sessions have evolved into Prose Fusion. Prose Fusion is a project team exploring and documenting how to do high-performance, team-based, collaborative writing. To aid our human coordination, we use tools like Markdown, Git, chat, and project management.

We have a chat channel on CSC Mattermost (free registration required):

Our next event is Monday, 11 September 2023 at 18:00 UTC  (11am PDT, 1pm EDT) for 90 minutes. Send me an email––if you’re interested in attending!

What do we call this moment in time?

by Ken Homer

If you are reading the PLEX, there’s a high likelihood that you encountered at least some of the following terms:

  • Wicked-mess
  • Meta-mess
  • Predicament
  • Poly-crisis
  • Perma-crisis
  • Meta-crisis

Here are the distinctions I make with regard to these terms. These are not proposed as definitive, but as a starting point for conversations.


When high social complexity couples with high systems complexity and where “wicked” refers not to a moral judgment but to the ways in which the homeostasis rejects and resists attempts at intervention.

Wicked-messes are akin in many ways to Ron Heifetz’ concept of adaptive challenges, where the technical know-how may exist to solve certain aspects of the crisis, but the level of thinking through which that technical knowledge gets applied with is insufficient to cope effectively with the inherent complexity of the situation.


A constellation of wicked messes each with tentacles (both obvious and hidden) into the other wicked messes.


A constellation of crises with multiple centers or poles.

Poly-crises are sometimes referred to as multipolar traps, which David Gurteen defines as: situations where self-interest compels parties to act against their collective interest, resulting in detrimental or even destructive outcomes.


A permanent state of crises.


The wicked-poly-perma-crises that emerge when a human-created worldview or success paradigm reaches its limits and begins to fail. Daniel Schmachtenberger labels such paradigms as “self-terminating.”

The paradigm cannot be fixed or rewoven, and whatever will replace it may have some elements of the old success paradigm but will contain a great deal of new thinking that’s currently on the margins and therefore, well, marginalized and rejected by those who are defending to the death the old ways of being.

Are these distinctions helpful? What terms do you use? How do you define them? To whom do you speak about them? How do you talk with people who don’t share the view that these terms are applicable or needed to cope with the challenges before us?

Art From My Walks

by Ken Homer

Visions of the Future

by Klaus Mager

In the latest chapter of the NeoBook on ‘The Story of Soil’ we were asking what the immediate future looks like, given current trend lines.

Visions of the Future

ChatGPT 4.0, prompted and edited by Klaus Mager

We have only dim memories of living with nature, sharing the cycles of the seasons, and living with her bounties she willingly gives. What has emerged is a dystopian landscape in places most people don’t often see, only hear occasionally about. The death of pollinators, watersheds that are too polluted for recreational use, strange weather patterns, droughts, floods, storms. A danger is brewing, an anger, a storm.

Asking ChatGPT 4.0: Use the opinion expressed above to write an essay of the dangers that lie ahead for humanity, threatening the survival of our civilizations.

In a world teeming with technological marvels, the Earth’s natural essence is fading into a grim folklore of our own making. Our oceans, once vibrant ecosystems, are now graveyards choked by plastic. Cities, symbols of progress, hide under smog so thick it blurs the sun. The soil, our sustenance, is impoverished, stripped of life by monocropping. Above it all, an altered sky looms. Seasonal rhythms are disrupted, flooding and fires devastate communities, and storms of unprecedented fury lash out as if nature itself is rebelling.

It’s a harrowing narrative written not in words, but in a universal language of loss and lament. The tragedy is palpable: we see the impending doom, we know the data, yet we are gripped by collective inaction. Our species, capable of decoding DNA and exploring the cosmos, may be writing its own epitaph. We stand on a precarious ledge, staring into an abyss of our own making, pondering perhaps too late the existential cost of our choices. It’s a dark, unfolding tragedy, one that questions the very core of human wisdom and will.

Trend Lines

Asking ChatGPT 4.0: Given current trend lines how humanity is evolving and impacting nature, what are the impacts in both the biosphere and the social systems. Where are these impacts trending, what is the 5-10 year outlook if humanity does not change course?

The current trajectory of human impact on the environment is creating a ripple effect of consequences, affecting both the biosphere and social systems. If not mitigated within the next 5-10 years, these impacts could lead to irreversible damage and create an array of challenges for human civilization.


Soil Degradation: Industrial agriculture is depleting soil nutrients and killing off microorganisms that help in nutrient cycling. This can result in poor crop yields and ultimately food scarcity.

Water Pollution and Scarcity: Chemical runoff from farming and industrial processes are contaminating water bodies, making water increasingly scarce and leading to conflicts over resources.

Biodiversity Loss: The rapid loss of species due to habitat destruction and climate change will weaken ecosystems and make them less resilient to changes, affecting services like pollination and water purification.

Climate Change: Rising levels of greenhouse gases are altering climate patterns, causing more frequent and intense natural disasters, rising sea levels, and changing precipitation patterns.

Resource Depletion: Overfishing, mining, and deforestation are depleting natural resources faster than they can be replenished, further stressing ecosystems.

Social Systems

Food Security: Reduced crop yields and fish stocks will put pressure on food systems, leading to higher food prices and increased poverty.

Health: Polluted air and water, along with increased prevalence of vector-borne diseases due to climate change, will have severe impacts on public health.

Social Inequality: Resource scarcity tends to disproportionately affect marginalized communities, exacerbating existing social inequalities.

Political Instability: Competition for dwindling resources could lead to local or even global conflicts.

Mental Health: The increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, combined with the stress and anxiety associated with environmental degradation, are likely to have widespread impacts on mental health.

ChatGPT: My confidence in these statements is high, given the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting these trends. The urgency for change has never been more critical.

Now focusing on the next chapter: “Leading from the Emerging Future”, with optimism and faith. – Klaus

Practical Steps Towards Gardenworld

Thoughts from the last two weeks

by Douglass Carmichael

“worst since...”

Language is power. Almost all reporters about the weather have bought into making sure their reporting includes “worst since....” For Idalia, it’s “worst in 125 years.” Really? What exactly happened 125 years ago? The reporter likely has no idea and probably never checked.

The implication, however, is that the reported weather is cyclical, not a trend, which is what oil companies want us to believe. Every time you hear “worst since,” you’re subtly being conditioned to think that the current weather isn’t unprecedented but rather a repeat of a previous event.

We should be very vigilant. Language colonizes us and gets us to generate the next thought it wants, not what we want. The language we learn is already a kind of AI. Powerful and useful, but not innocent.

Science and Truth

It’s intriguing how we comfortably say “The sun rises,” while science is happy with “The earth orbits the sun,” even though the latter isn’t entirely accurate. In truth, the Earth and the Sun both revolve around their combined center of gravity. Both bodies are in motion, which is a much more interesting view. And even this is false because they both are moving in the gravitational field of the galaxy, then the universe, and beyond. Yet, we teach children that we are so clever because we replaced the Sun around the unmoving Earth with the Earth around the unmoving Sun.

Take “all men are created equal”. Obviously false? But as an ethical guide maybe true?

Truth and science are in a complicated dance.

Cause of Opinions Held Not the Same as Opinions Held

What I am getting at is the following: many people believe that the rich have stolen the economy. They watch the lifestyles of the upper middle class expand while their own remain static. They watch as the rich kids get into good colleges while their own children never seem to have had a chance at going there. Real estate is up, based on the swollen incomes of the professionals, so their children can’t afford a home outside the family. They see their children choosing military careers and getting killed because there are no jobs where they live. Based on this experienced reality, they want to choose a political person who will fight back. This is in the context of the democratic party moving from supporting the lower 90% of the economy to being the support of the 1%.

Their kids have come into voting age as the party of their parents has become the party of the professionals.

Strikingly, many progressives recognize the issues, feeling marginalized, yet they remain Democrats, because that is where the job opportunities that map to their education has taken them. What is important in the choice is not agreement on fact, but an expression of rage. That’s why vilifying Trump and perceiving his supporters as sharing his views overlooks the genuine concerns fueling their support. We fail to see that underlying Trump support is a serious diagnosis of the state of the nation. If their choice for expressing their rage appears stupid, it is because we didn’t notice that they were not offered any other choice.

Therefore, equating the beliefs of Trump supporters to those of Trump is a mistake. While journalists can cherry-pick interviewees from rallies, this isn’t necessarily a representative sample. We must be better at social analysis.

A Dying Civilization Becomes a Failed State

There’s a widespread sentiment: “Why destroy our lives to fix climate, when the fix will make the rich richer and trash us?”

This sets up the obvious dilemma: what do we give up, where will be the sacrifice zones? We don’t want to think about this and may prefer to drift over the edge.

Toynbee differentiates between civilizations, which have shared beliefs, and universal states, which possess bureaucracy but no shared belief except their own immortality.

He argues that the ultimate sign a civilization has broken down is when the dominant minority forms a “universal state”, which stifles political creativity within the existing social order. (Quoting editor of Study of History.) For example, Toynbee writes:

First the Dominant Minority attempts to hold by force—against all right and reason—a position of inherited privilege which it has ceased to merit; and then the Proletariat repays injustice with resentment, fear with hate, and violence with violence. Yet the whole movement ends in positive acts of creation. The Dominant Minority creates a universal state, the Internal Proletariat a universal church, and the External Proletariat a bevy of barbarian war-bands.

It is easy to see our own situation in these ideas. Our Senate is a dead institution incapable of dealing with our real problems (population, energy, climate well-being, war.. The presidency is dead, trying to pump thin blood into a huge dying politics. We have no shared belief except that the elite think they have the right to rule, but have no platform, and no goal.

Toynbee and Joseph Tainter are telling us the same story: existing dynamics will kill us: extraction of wealth from the people and land.

Where can revitalization come from? Most proposals are too weak to counter the tide and actually are designed to support the existing political and economic regimes. We are trapped in Burning Man. The paths out are difficult but we will try.

Common System Template for World View

In dealing with climate we need to understand the attitudes of the population. Trump is, for many, a bigger-than-life giant who can get back at those responsible for an out-of-kilter society. Those who will vote for Trump have no choice, in their understanding, other than to vote for his “screw them” attitude.

People like us tend to confuse what Trump actually is, assuming he represents the thoughts of his supporters. Trump’s views (sic!) are an overlay that poorly fits the underlying complexities of the monopolizing corporate and media world—but for his voters he is the best fit we have.

People are generally distracted by many issues and can’t focus. We do not have what the founding fathers hoped for: a conversation-based Republic.

Here is a rough guess at the system most people (including many anti-trumpets) think and understand and vote from. More or less:

  • Banks have money.
  • Tech is huge and can cope.
  • The economy is in bad shape with inflation.
  • A good economy is possible if we get back jobs and energy.
  • College and home out of reach.
  • Kids can’t afford to leave home.
  • We need to defend ourselves against China.
  • Europe won’t help.
  • Health is a bureaucratic mess.
  • Bureaucracies provide jobs for those who got college degrees.
  • We need leadership that stops giving the country to the elite and works for America.
  • Politics is useless.

Any wonder climate is not the focus? (I must say, these beliefs are not mine, but an attempt to understand others.)

Some Pragmatics for Reaching Gardenworld

The world will not be in uniform decay, decadence, or recovery. Some areas will be thriving, while others will be unlivable. It’s more tattered than uniform, but opportunities exist even in the bleakest spots.

In our journey toward Gardenworld—a harmonious blend of growing food and nurturing people in the same place—it’s crucial to have some intermediate goals in mind. The first is that with every move, you think in terms of the aesthetics of the placement of things: patterns. Jim Channon, on the big island in Hawaii, had a garden where everything was planted in circles.

Toynbee and Joseph Tainter are telling us the same story: existing dynamics will kill us: extraction of wealth from the people and land.

Where can revitalization come from? Most proposals are too weak to counter the tide and actually are designed to support the existing political and economic regimes. We are trapped in Burning Man. The paths out are difficult but we will try.

The next things are to think very practically about the need for seeds, water, soil, quality, and gardening tools. We want to leave the tractors alone as much as we can. And beware that much land either drains too quickly or not at all, and it’s either too low or too high.

Gardenworld is the return to the old practice of having a closed Garden next to the town City Hall or a large estate.

Think of the garden as a place for children to play, older people to relax, and for pets to amuse us.

But don’t forget, what may be the most difficult part which is access to the land, land-use, ownership—good fodder for having community discussions.

by charles blass

hey plexers, in lieu of images this issue i offer a few scoops of compost fresh from top of the heap, such cheery times we’re in, keep breathing, & blinking .... love, cb

Systemic Drivers of Collapse (Part 2 – An Overview) (Tom Atlee 20230905)

torres & gebru: what’s behind the race to create agi (aug. 2023)

timnit gebru: eugenics and the promise of utopia through artificial general intelligence (feb. 2023)

emily bender: ChatGP-why: When, if ever, is synthetic text safe, appropriate, and desirable? (20230808)

Rhetoric of AI Hype w/ Emily Bender (july 2023)

AI could choke on its own exhaust as it fills the web (20230828)

The Hidden History of the Like Button: From Decentralized Data to Semantic Enclosure (aug. 2023)
(nov. 2022)

How Musk, Thiel, Zuckerberg, and Andressen Are Creating an Alternate, Autocratic Reality (Aug. 2023)

Nate Hagens presentation on energy - GITA series (feb. 2023)

How AI Researcher Dylan Baker Uses Technical Communication to Reduce Algorithmic Harm (june 2023)

datasets have worldviews - dylan baker (jan. 2022)

AI and Stochastic Parrots: Emily Bender & Timnit Gebru (Apr. 2023)

timnit gebru: is ai racist and anti-democractic? (aug. 2022)

Ethical AI - Timnit Gebru & Minerva Tantoco (Oct. 2022)

Seeing Silicon Valley: Fred Turner & Mary Beth Meehan (may 2022)
[audio not great, but good discussion]

geert lovink: the dark side of the net (dec. 2020)

killer thread
‘meaning of “open” in so-called “open” AI including “OpenAI”’

Thank you for reading! The next edition will be published on 20 September 2023. Email Pete with suggested submissions.

Grateful appreciation and many thanks to Charles Blass, Douglass Carmichael, Ken Homer, Kevin Jones, and Klaus Mager for their kind contributions to this issue.

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