Friday, June 28, 2019

Independence and Idealism

Critics in the media quickly jumped on Maura’s comment yesterday about us not coming out of an economic depression after the transition. They argued mostly that the economy would have no significant annual growth or loss after 2040 in the best case, and the worst case would be a “trivial case” accompanied by rapid economic gain and then extinction. They did acknowledge her main point, that what will suffices for an economy after the transition will likely be very different from what most people recognize now.

Maura’s father Andy, himself a student of history and a veteran of war in primitive environments, shared his opinion of what to expect during a visit last night. “I’ll be very surprised if the Great Plains have more than a few thousand people by the end of the transition. The water’s drying up fast, the temperature’s going to be unbearable, and without cheap energy there won’t be any way to compensate for either. Not to mention extreme and unpredictable weather, wildfires, and lack of an economy to move food from where it can be grown to where it’s needed.”

“Where do you think people will go, Andy?” Maura’s mother Ally asked.

He gave her a look that revealed this conversation wasn’t a new one. “The best way to head is north.” Turning to Maura and me, he continued, “I suggest you go to Montana as soon as your business at the university is done, Canada if you can manage it. This country’s got too much of an independent streak to survive what’s coming, despite the lofty rhetoric and signs of compliance with the strategy. At the first sign of major trouble, and the system’s too complex to avoid it, we’ll see the individualists start taking what they want, and most of us will be pushed into that collapse phase that WICO’s warning us about.”

“Really, Dad?” Maura challenged him. “I think people deserve a lot more credit than that.”

“I know you do,” he said, as if he was reciting the time of day, “but you saw what that reverend’s people tried to do to you. People like that are everywhere, biding their time until they can force people to let them live the way they want.”

“The evidence is too compelling to ignore, Andy,” I said. “I’ve seen people eager to learn and do what’s right with what they discover.”

“You mean with PFR?” he guessed correctly. “Possibilities from Responsibilities is doing an admirable job channeling that independent spirit into something positive. That was a great insight you had, son. But I promise you: it’s only temporary.”

When they had gone home, I asked Maura if any of her “sisters” agreed with Andy’s point. “None of my friends here do, as you might expect,” she said, referring to her childhood friends who live in communes, “but the others would be totally on his side, seeing what’s happening here as a major aberration.”

“It better not be,” I said, suddenly unsure of everything else.

Reality Check

I expect that Andy being right is more likely than not. Will’s final comment is based on my own reaction to the thought experiment on display in this post.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Ideal Expectations

“We’ll have the population and feel of the late-1980s, while each consuming as much as people did in 1920.” Maura paused for effect after summarizing the ideal outcome of the transition, and was greeted with confused stares from the crowd attending her public lunchtime lecture. “Oh, come on,” she said with a hint of amusement, “surely most of you have heard this before.” She knew they hadn’t, at least not like this, which was the point of the lecture.

A woman old enough to be her mother raised a hand, and Maura nodded to let her speak. “Sweetie, that makes no sense! My momma grew up in the 20s, and it wasn’t anything like the 80s.”

Maura smiled as she had in her rehearsals when a similar question was asked by her mock audience, namely me. “It’s going to be a new world,” she answered patiently, “where we’ll get to use what we’ve learned in the past century to live better with what people did before that.” It was a gross simplification, as preliminary summaries often are, but as a natural teacher she knew better than to start by taking a deep dive into the details.

“Is it because we’ll be coming out of a depression?” asked a male student I recognized from a summer session at the university.

“The depression happened after 1920,” the woman corrected him.

“We won’t be coming out of this depression,” Maura said solemnly. “The reason is that we’ll be converting much of our artificial economy back into nature’s economy; so other creatures can provide more of what we need, which we can’t safely provide on our own.”

“But we won’t have cars and planes like we did in the 80s, right?” the woman insisted.

“Right. We’ll have to use what we’ve learned to take care of the basics without them and all the pollution that comes with them.” Her answer reminded me of the TBDs in the early strategy draft, which have been turned into goals of creative effort in synergy with other species we’ll hopefully bring back from the brink of extinction.

“It won’t really be like the 80s, then,” the woman said.

“We’ll have a new, better version, where we live as long and are just as happy, and can do so for a long time.”

Al shouted from the rear of the room, “That’s if we can clean up all the waste and stop those nasty time bombs we lit a few years ago!”

“The self-sustained impacts,” Maura clarified, caught by surprise. “Everything depends on that.”

Reality Check

Maura’s description is based on the simulated past back to 1920 and projections out to 2040.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Maura and I received feedback on our personal plans today. Like many couples uncertain about whether we want children, we were encouraged to abandon the idea and move into a much smaller home nearer the university where we work. Maura suspects that, in addition, our local community plan is being revised by the Extinction Response Unit to replace the buildings in our neighborhood with natural habitat as a node in a wildlife corridor that would logically join open spaces that have already expanded to our north and east.

“They’re going to have to scrub the coal ash ponds,” she reminded me as we studied on online map of our area, “and I wouldn’t be surprised if they take out the neighborhoods surrounding them in the process.”

“What about the highway?” I asked, pointing to the interstate that runs nearby. It seemed like a significant barrier to any major influx of wildlife.

“That would do more harm than good right now. If I were doing the analysis,” which I knew she did in her old job at the ERU, “I’d keep the critical supply chains in place until a basic level of self-sufficiency can be developed in the dependent areas.”

I recalled a graph from the global strategy showing a projection of average personal consumption during the transition. It showed a trading of waste for what it simplistically called needs and wants, with artificial structures used for wants such as living space being replaced with materials that could be better be assimilated into ecosystems. Waste includes pollution such as the coal ash and gas emissions that make places unlivable, as well as those unlivable spaces themselves that need to be reclaimed. “To me, a lot of roads help produce waste, so removing them should be a no-brainer,” I responded.

“Let’s wait for the updated plans before we pass judgment,” Maura suggested. “In the meantime, we should start looking for a new house.”

Reality Check

Will’s home setting is loosely based on my own, and I am personally searching for a smaller house for obviously different reasons.

Establishing low impact self-sufficiency for the population of a metropolitan area like Colorado’s Front Range would be problematic under the best circumstances, not to mention cleaning up waste in its many forms (such as coal ash, which is a real) and cutting off its sources which provide income to many people. One approach that can help was chosen by the simulated world: reducing population by limiting births and limiting medical prolonging of life, as well as enabling emigration to areas with more resources.

Following is a graph like what Will was recalling:

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


During this last week until the formal execution of the global strategy, all nations are preparing “startup status reports” that detail how close they are to the targets for 2040. The reports will be filed with WICO and posted online for everyone to see. Plans for implementing the strategy are already available at the resolution of communities of five-thousand or more people, that include bench marks expected to be reached over the next year.

Like many people, I spent the last three days finalizing my personal plan and today will be submitting it to the Extinction Response Unit for evaluation and feedback that ensures it is consistent with the relevant community plans. Maura and I have decided to file jointly as a family unit now that we both live and work together, and so our plans are very similar. Much of the time spent preparing the plan involved discussing what we see as our joint future, shaped by our joint values and commitment to “creating as much good as possible, locked into the past everywhere that’s touched,” as she likes to say.

As expected, the main goal of the plans is to reduce ecological impact to minimize the extinction rate by maximizing longevity, quantity, diversity, and quality of life, in that order, with emphasis on our species. The checklists included with the plans vary by global region, with specifics of culture, environment, and current impacts accounted for. Here in the Rocky Mountain region, industrial pollution, extractive industries, transportation, other land and water use, and population growth are major concerns, along with increasing climate variability that affects the ability of local ecosystems to provide basic needs. Rapid reduction of all of the above is a top priority for the majority of plans here, as they should be elsewhere.

Part of the research Maura and I are performing involves learning how parts of existing regions might inform understanding of the history and potential future of others, at all scales. Flying to other regions in this and other nations could provide valuable information that would be hard to collect remotely. However, flying has one of the largest ecological impacts of any activity, and should therefore be avoided where possible. We’re exploring other possibilities, such as expanding the partnership between the university and WICO, datamining of online news sources, and leveraging work being done by other groups on other projects.

Reality Check

The “family unit” formed by Will and Maura is, of course, fictional - just as they are. In some respects, however, their relationship is based on how I imagine my wife and I might have formed one if we met around the age of 30 under the conditions of the simulated world.

Work on community plans would have been in progress since the declaration of the global emergency in January. Completion of the strategy and completion of education activities during deployment would trigger finalizing detailed plans at the individual level.

Limiting high-impact activities such as mining is an obvious early step in any effort to reduce the extinction rate, since it affects two of the main drivers (habitat loss and pollution). Unlike our real world, the simulated world is not trying to maintain socio-economic norms through technological innovation; so traditional renewable energy sources won’t be developed on anything other than a temporary “bridge” basis, if at all, and any new infrastructure will likely be more focused on synergy with ecosystems using a radical version of today’s permaculture.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Historical Context

This morning, Maura tried out a lecture to a group of other professors (and me). It was a summary of the imminent extinction threat and the first public presentation of her preliminary framework for putting it in historical context. Following are some of the highlights.

“The last quarter of the thirteenth century is known for at least two technological innovations: eyeglasses and firearms. One allowed people to see better, and the other allowed them to kill more efficiently. Unknown until recently, it also marked the beginning of an era when the world’s human population would be dependent on the populations of the world’s other species. 

“Technological innovation progressed in tandem with scientific discovery, enabling advances in transportation, mining, agriculture, and construction that accelerated the conversion of everything into ‘resources’ that could be traded between people to increase how long they lived, how satisfied they were with their lives, and how many children they had.

“A second milestone was achieved in the 1930s. If we measure the amount of resources as the impact of actions on ecosystems, the resources consumed by the entire population was double what people needed to survive. After that, there would be more resources in stuff than in people. That new reality accompanied and was enabled by the creation of a global civilization marked by revolutions in science and technology, development of cheap fossil fuel, and conflict between groups of people who were trying to dominate or survive the merging of cultures into an interdependent whole.

“Rapidly accelerating per-capita consumption in the 1940s stopped growing in the 1970s, just as total consumption exceeded the amount of resources provided on a renewable basis by other species. This third milestone corresponded to a peak in life satisfaction that was achieved by four out of five people while the rest kept trying to reach that peak. Meanwhile, there was growing concern that fossil fuel production had itself reached a peak, and the status quo might not be able to be maintained.

“For more than two decades, population growth drove growth in how much of the world’s ecological resources humanity used, both in needs and wants. Science and technology contributed to more efficient use of resources that helped reduce per-capita consumption. At the end of that period, a fourth milestone was reached: the population consisted of people still pushing toward that happiness peak and people between that peak and a higher one that also corresponded to a peak in life expectancy.

“Per-capita consumption began to grow again in the mid-2000s, and most of what was added made parts of the world uninhabitable by other species and us. By 2015, more than one-seventh of the original resources were not consumable. Also, that year, a few percent of the population was not having children, reflected by a life expectancy of zero, and self-sustained impacts began cutting into the remaining resources.

“WICO projects that, if the global strategy isn’t implemented on schedule, a fifth milestone will be reached in 2023 as the world’s population reaches its peak. That will be followed by rapid population loss until 2030. Hopefully, we will settle into something between the third and fourth milestones, maintaining a smaller population by living mostly off of renewable resources produced by a healthier biosphere.” 

Reality Check

Historical events are correlated with the historical record until 1940. After 1940, projected global values for the simulation “Hikeayay” are used to identify the boundaries of the phases, which correlate to the “milestones” recited by Maura.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


During the six days since WICO Secretary General Decatur asserted that the technology already exists to stop self-sustaining impacts, the press has been interviewing everyone they can to determine if it’s true. Maura was approached a dozen times for the source of “pretty good authority that he lied,” and each time she responded that the source insists on remaining anonymous.

The Sacramento Watcher has compiled the most complete list of impacts and related technologies that I know of, and reported that at least six unspecified new technologies are being developed that are classified top secret because of their potential to be used as weapons. I suspect - but can’t confirm - that most of the new technologies fall under the category of globaforming, and would be applied to the most difficult task of refreezing permafrost that threatens to release catastrophic amounts of methane and ancient diseases into the biosphere if it melts much more.

Possibilities from Responsibilities is in the news today, advertising guided nature walks in urban areas “to introduce more people to the wellbeing they can create during the transition.” The organization is providing transportation for those who don’t have it, and providing resources for adding greenery to areas with very little or none. The programs were about to be launched when I resigned, and it’s good to see them now underway.

Reality Check

“Globaforming” is a made-up word, meaning “surgical terraforming.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Cutting Plans

“One man’s waste is another’s treasure. Not countin’ pollution, of course.” Al Menzies and I stood on a knoll overlooking the Colorado Holistic University campus. He had just finished work on a plan for cutting the ecological impact of the physics complex by half over the next 13 years. His suggestions will be integrated into a larger plan with a similar target for the university as a whole. “I hate knockin’ down buildings,” he continued, “but the offices have gotta go.”

I imagined native plants occupying the area after the demolition. “I’m surprised that efficiency doesn’t get you at least that much,” I said, fully aware that he must have tackled that low-hanging fruit at the beginning of the effort.

“Efficiency!” he spat. “With current tech, that keeps ya from losin’ about a sixth of what’s added, energy and so-on. If ya take out the need for addin’ then you’re gettin’ real savings. Nature knows how: reuse everything, includin’ the consumers. That’s the example we gotta follow.”

“That seems like overkill,” I insisted. “Is it because we need the labs to support the stop-and-clean?” Yes, I used the new lingo for stopping self-sustained impacts and getting rid of pollution.

“It’s simpler than that. Remember Menzies’ Rule? Do everything ya can, as soon as ya can, ‘cause it might not be possible later.”

A block to our right, I saw Maura exit the history department where I now work. She waved, and I waved back. “Have you heard what they’ll be doing with history?” I asked Al.

“Nah,” he said, “but I’m guessin’ it’ll be less ‘cause of their lack of labs. Also, the alumni love the history of the place a lot more, pun intended. Like I said, another’s treasure.”

Stories of similar decisions are appearing more frequently in the news as promises made during the negotiation of the global strategy now have the force of law. Most cities have already announced that they will be literally breaking ground in less than two weeks, putting plans into action so they have a defensible chance of meeting the strategy’s targets.

Reality Check

The following graph shows the distribution of world resources as projected over time for the simulated world. Ratios discussed in the post apply to the sum of wants and waste. Note that waste must be totally gone two years after the deadline.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Transition Targets

With two weeks left until the global strategy is in full execution, WICO released its annual targets for per-capita consumption and population, with its estimated effects on the global economy, over the course of the transition. 

To meet the targets, population will need to decrease at least two percent per year, and per-capita consumption between two and nine percent per year (with possibly more, depending on what’s needed to stop the self-sustained impacts). The economy will be in what feels like a deep depression, with world GDP contracting seven percent next year, and up to 12 percent per year during the rest of the transition.

The total declines from 2019 to 2040 will be 36 percent for population, at least 50 percent for per-capita consumption, and at least 86 percent for world GDP.

On a personal note, I resigned from Possibilities from Responsibilities, and have accepted a position as a documentation manager and research assistant at Colorado Holistic University (CHU) on a project Maura is leading to assess the historical context of the imminent threat response. I will of course continue writing this blog.

Reality Check

Annual rates of change for the future of the simulation, including failure to stop self-sustained impacts, are shown in the following graph. GWP, Gross World Product, is real global GDP.

There is no Colorado Holistic University in our world.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Lying Certainty

“We will NOT fail!” Secretary General Decatur shouted at a press briefing held at WICO headquarters in London, responding to public furor over the lack of a plan if self-sustained impacts cannot be stopped by 2040, which I reported yesterday on this blog. “Believing otherwise is the REAL death sentence, and it is extremely irresponsible to encourage it!” I could feel him talking directly to me, even though it was a lie.

Someone in the press pool asked if he would share a number for the probability of success, and he told an obvious lie: “It’s one hundred percent, of course.”

“You’ve already stopped the impacts?” the reporter asked as a follow-up.

“No,” Decatur said, “but we know exactly what they are and how to stop them. The technology is available, and will be deployed soon.”

I heard Maura gasp beside me as we watched the briefing on television. “It’s a good thing this was my last day,” she said as another question was asked.

“You’ll see!” Decatur barked from the podium. “You do your job, getting through the transition, and let us do ours.” He stepped back and scanned the small crowd. “The details are secret for now, but you can judge us by the results. That is all for today.”

My phone rang. It was Al. “Didya hear that, Will?” he asked when I put the phone on speaker. “Arvin practically threw you and Maura under the bus!” I wasn’t surprised to hear him use Decatur’s first name; they worked together many years ago on multiple projects. “Yaboth didn’t encourage anythin’ like givin’ up, just doin’ what any smart person would: plannin’ for the worst case.”

“You heard him Al,” Maura said, now angry, “there is no worst case.”

“Is it possible he’s right?” I asked them both, stunned over the uncharacteristic performance by someone I deeply respected.

Maura held my hand. “Oh, Will, always the devil’s advocate. I wish it was, but I have it on pretty good authority that he lied. You can write that in your blog, by the way.”

“You can tell ‘em this, too,” Al said from the phone, “it doesn’t matter. Downgradin’ is the best shot we got, regardless of what comes after. We’ll all do what we can, and deal with the result. Who knows: maybe we’ll get lucky with some help from friends we don’t know yet. Right, Maura?”

“Never rule out luck, Al,” she said.

Reality Check

No strategy is a sure thing. It won’t work at all if everyone isn’t behind it, and part of a leader’s job is to make sure they are.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Inflection Point

Last night, Maura asked me a simple question that became the subject of a meeting today with the leadership of Possibilities from Responsibilities: “Have you considered what to do if the external impacts can’t be stopped in 2040?” That year is the “end state” that we’ve all been planning on, where everything levels off after a 21-year decline.

I recalled the version of the Hope Chart showing the alternative scenario she referred to, where population begins to grow again and consumption drops at a slower pace. “We’ll go along with everyone else, and minimize the pain to buy more time,” I answered her, suddenly feeling lame.

She gave me a look of pity that I’ll never forget. “There won’t be enough resources left to buy more time, Will. The pain will get worse for another 27 years, and then everyone will be dead.”

“That’s not going to happen,” I said, and then regretted it. In the three months that we’ve known each other, there have been over a half-dozen conversations about the hubris behind technology, and I didn’t want this to be another one. “We don’t know what’s really going to happen,” I corrected myself.

“That’s true,” she conceded, “though Sally says the uncertainty’s now less than five percent that it won’t get worse.” If anyone knew, it would be Sally the AI.

“What’s the trigger? What’s so special about 2040?” I remembered what it used to be, but she might have new information.

She played along. “It’s an inflection point, a sudden transition. Because of increasing age, if people don’t start having more children then they won’t be able to keep the population from going extinct. Also, per-capita consumption will be right at the edge of keeping a global civilization functioning. If it drops further, then we can’t organize our response or maintain technology that can have a substantial effect.”

I decided to ask her something I had no clue about, mainly because it never became part of the strategy. “What happens if we try to keep everything level anyway?”

“Consumption would have to drop to zero, with the obvious result.” Translation: everyone dies.

When I brought up the subject with the PFR leadership, Louis Delambre told me they were planning to add basic needs training to the next iteration of its Possibilities Bootcamp. “We’re offering it as a way to free up resources to deal with emergencies, something we had to do a few times in the test communities.”

When I said I would be writing about this, Louis and the rest of the leadership agreed that it should be advertised as necessary preparation for if nothing else is possible.

Reality Check

There are actually three non-trivial inflection points (using the geometric definition), obvious on the following graphs: in 2019, 2040, and 2062. The period discussed by Will and Maura is from 2040 to 2067. The characterization of what happens is drawn from the simulation.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


One of the major concerns in reducing ecological impact has been its potential to increase the vulnerability of people to the consequences of the ongoing threat. Access to diminishing needs like air, water and food has traditionally required increases in the consumption of energy and materials for discovery, extraction, processing, and distribution, as well as survival while performing those activities (including use of the result). The global strategy relies heavily on a “live off the land” approach to limit the corresponding impact, choosing to focus high-impact technologies on making that approach easier by removing obstacles to safe living such as pollution, habitat fragmentation, disease vectors, and extreme temperatures.

How to deal with the temperature problem, on land and in the oceans, was one of the big TBDs I found in the strategy draft reconstructed in March after WICO’s servers crashed. As Al has reminded me, temperature is a measure of the average energy of moving particles in a system of particles such as a room of air, a body of water, or a creature made of gases, liquids, and solids. Changing the temperature of a system therefore involves changing its energy, which often means moving energy from or to another system, isolating the system from other systems that supply or remove energy, or both. 

The biosphere assessment included temperature management information about natural systems, much of which was lost in the server crash, so some of those TBDs have been filled with plans to collect new data. The data is being collected and shared by both citizens and organizations that are developing artificial systems and energy transfer technologies that can be deployed at a variety of scales where natural systems are unable to handle the load. Citizens - people trained by WICO’s Extinction Strategy Support team and former test community members - are also learning to change temperatures (with minimal ecological impact) of the natural systems and artificial systems they already have experience with, and adding that knowledge to WICO’s new database managed by Sally the AI.

Reality Check

Limiting temperature extremes around the world is one of the biggest problems facing humanity as result of global climate change. I expect that having everyone know the basics of what’s involved would be a key requirement for any effort to do so.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Lost Dreams

It has been a month since Possibilities from Responsibilities was founded based on a discussion I had with members of test community Vitalla. The grassroots creative living approach promoted by PFR has spread like wildfire around the U.S. and at least a dozen other nations. 

An unexpected outgrowth of the movement is a growing network of social groups collectively called Awakenings that host “lost dreams” meetings. The meetings help people cope with having to abandon the goals they nurtured and worked for before the world went on the offensive against the threat of imminent extinction. I was asked to speak at the first meeting hosted by a new Awakenings group in Denver.

Held tonight at a large local bookstore, the meeting had over 100 attendees. The three leaders explained the purpose of the meeting and asked people to start chapters in the surrounding communities. I spent an hour discussing the goals of PFR and answering questions about the limitations imposed by the strategy as well as its chances of success. Then came the main part of the meeting: one by one, people introduced themselves and shared a personal story about a life plan that was no longer possible, why they had chosen it, how they felt about abandoning it, and what they expected would take its place - if anything.

Many of the plans/dreams involved growing families and acquiring better places for them to live. The limits on new children was heartbreaking to the younger couples, while middle-aged couples struggled with the limits on new housing as they contemplated retirement that was unlikely to come. Some single people, excited by the possibility of living a down-sized life and making a positive contribution to the world, were nonetheless disappointed that careers they had been groomed for were no longer optional.

Having had my career take some unexpected turns lately, I could more than sympathize with the feelings expressed at the meeting. When asked for my advice, I simply offered some advice given by a mentor when I was young: “If you don’t like where you’re goin’, just focus on goin’ someplace at least as good. You might get lucky and find one that’s better.”

Reality Check

The advice given at the end, clearly from Al, is derived from some similar advice that my father gave me in my twenties.

Monday, June 10, 2019


All nations today officially signed the Open Borders and Mutual Assistance Treaty (OBMAT), developed and negotiated since Blue Planet Day as part of the Threat of Imminent Extinction Global Strategy. As WICO Secretary General Decatur said in a joint statement with the signatories, “This critical step in the strategy’s deployment ensures that people and material can freely move wherever is needed in order to maximize the chances of the most people surviving for as long as possible… People experiencing problems implementing the strategy and dealing with unexpected events are guaranteed help by anyone who can provide it, regardless of affiliation or identity. We are one world now, where boundaries to our joint survival are not our own.” 

Pushback from religious and cultural purity groups was swift and clear. “This is the new world order we always feared,” the Commanding Triumvirate of the International Alliance of Descendants announced at a rally in London. “Intermixing of the clean with the unclean is now assured, sacrificing the lives of the chosen so that a mongrel breed can take its place. We must follow the rules, but we will resist wherever possible.” A similar message was broadcast by the Clan of Light over all social media platforms, including a promising to “take celibacy to a whole new level so we can live and die with dignity.”

 Leadership of Possibilities from Responsibilities worried that groups like the Descendants and the Clan would attempt to coopt and corrupt its creative message in an effort to subvert WICO’s coordination mandate, which some had accused them of secretly wanting. As one of the organization’s spokespeople, I can honestly that I have seen no evidence of such intent within PFR, and don’t believe the concern is warranted. Our values are clearly consistent with the global strategy, and any other group likewise making their values clear would stand out as obviously different.

Reality Check

I expect a treaty like OBMAT to be necessary under highly variable environmental conditions like those expected for self-sustained impacts and interactive failures of ecosystems made vulnerable due to the mechanics and magnitude of species die-offs. Just as members of other species must move to survive, so will members of ours.

Friday, June 7, 2019


An increasing amount of what I’m doing is too sensitive to share in this blog, including what’s happening with the people close to me, so I’ll be focusing almost entirely on what’s happening with the implementation of WICO’s global strategy and the public activities of Possibilities from Responsibilities.

The story of most interest today is public uproar over what the press is now calling “the drone scare” that happened in Colorado Springs on Wednesday. No one has claimed responsibility for building the drone; and both the Extinction Response Unit and the U.S. military refuse to provide any more details. 

“It’s high security clearance stuff,” said one of my contacts in WICO. “No one’s going to know about it until everyone knows about it.” I asked if that meant it was almost ready to be used, and the source said only that “certain precursor events need to happen first,” which I interpreted as admission that the verification test is currently on hold.

Reality Check

Will’s switch back to reporting news about the extinction threat response is consistent with pushback from his friends and coworkers about sharing private information on his blog. Changes in Maura’s status are imminent as the secondary purpose of this blog, developing a backstory that informs my other fiction, is gaining momentum that would be inconsistent with the primary purpose (discussing the results of simulations about saving humanity from extinction). Continuation of that backstory is taking the form of a “personal log” by Will on my Patreon site (visible to patrons).

Thursday, June 6, 2019


Today Ronald Wingate vehemently denied that Evolution over Devolution (E.D.) or any of its affiliates had anything to do with yesterday’s emergency, including the pollution-eating microbes and drone dispersal technology.

Shortly afterward, the Denver office of the Extinction Response Unit announced that the escaped drone was a prototype undergoing verification testing by the military due to its access to the necessary test equipment. The problem has since been found and fixed, and an investigation revealed that there actually was no significant risk to the public. 

Sally, meanwhile, told Maura that the question of jurisdiction is now officially settled, and refused to elaborate further on the answer she gave me yesterday.

“That brings up the question of how people will know what’s natural and what’s not,” I said to Al and Maura during a long lunch together at a restaurant in downtown Boulder. It was the first time in two weeks that the three of us had been together. “I know WICO wants maximum feedback for their coordination role, but people need to have realistic expectations to just live their lives, and they’re not always going to have phones.”

“It’s a cluster that everyone’s responsible for,” Al said. “Your PFR folks are creatin’ stuff just like the war machine. WICO’s hopin’ that they can know it all, figger how it all fits together, and share the picture in a way that makes sense. Which of course they can’t.” He turned to Maura. “How did the campers take to the observin’ protocols?”

“They did okay,” she said. “The testers running Possibilities from Responsibilities have the protocols integrated into the curiosity part of the game…”

“The crazy questions Will wrote about?” he interrupted her.

She nodded. “Describing objects, conditions, and events, before and after actions where possible. Though they see the creation of understanding as the fun part, and prefer to internalize the rest.”

“You can’t let ‘em. There’s too many dependencies. Everyone sharin’ is what we need; it’s a great take you had on that empathy ruleset.”

“Tied in with responsibility,” I reminded him.

“It’s all tied in with responsibility,” he agreed. “Discovery’s great, but it’s no more than self-gratifyin’ consumption if you don’t communicate it to everyone whose lives might depend on it.”

Reality Check

Following up on yesterday’s post, this is more exposition of the core “rulesets” of responsibility, empathy, and curiosity. Interpretations are my own.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019


Three questions have been running through my mind since Monday: What is it, how good is it, and what do others think and feel about it? Answering them and the questions that follow from them was a game started by Louis Delambre on Sunday to train the bootcamp’s participants in the application of curiosity, responsibility, and empathy to actions, objects, conditions, and events. He introduced the game before the tours of Vitalla began, driving Maura and her fellow educational consultants crazy both as targets and sources of the questions.

“I’m getting tired of this,” Maura complained as we crossed the Colorado border yesterday, “and don’t you dare ask why!”

“Don’t worry,” I remember answering. “I feel the same way.” It took less than an hour for us to start up again. We both luckily had the rest of the day off, except for the time I took to write yesterday’s blog post. 

Today I joined her for a debriefing about the trip in my first visit to the Rocky Mountain Operations Center since resigning from WICO. We were interrupted by a rare Homeland Emergency Alert broadcast to everyone’s phones, warning that it was unsafe to be outside until further notice. While the rest of the public guessed the reason, Sally announced to the staff (which she considered me an honorary part of) that an experimental drone used for dispersal of pollution-collecting microbes had been accidentally released from a test facility in Colorado Springs. It was being tracked, and a search-and-recovery operation was underway using Air Force drones.

The whole story sounded fishy to me, but it was confirmed publicly three hours later along with news that the drone was safely recovered. I asked Sally if the Widely Dispersed Pollutants (WDP) group was still involved in experimental technologies development now that the Extinction Response Unit is in charge of trying to stop self-sustained impacts, but she refused to specifically answer, saying instead that “jurisdiction is currently fluid.”

When I was alone again with Maura, I recalled Ronald Wingate’s discussion on Blue Planet Day about commercial pollution cleanup technology, and Sally’s comment suddenly made sense. “What was the drone, really?” I asked Maura.

“Not this again,” she said plaintively.

“Seriously, who was controlling it?” I insisted. “Who, or what?”

“What are you thinking?” she asked, her expression revealing that she was taking me seriously.

“Why did it have to be hunted, unless it was under control? And if it was under control, what was the controller thinking? Was it being used as a delivery device for microbes, if it even had them, or was it being used for something else?”

She closed her eyes for a few moments, but they kept moving like she was reading a book or watching a movie. Then she opened them with the force of a revelation. “It wasn’t the WDP group, or Extinction Response, or the military. It was private.”

I nodded. “E.D. has a lab down there. Or it could be something externally controlling it.”

“The what,” she said, as if she was recalling something, like the conversation we had before we left for Montana. “You don’t think it was Sally, do you?”

“She was a little too vague when I asked about the WDP group,” I pointed out. “That answer left the door open for several answers, and several motives.”

“Like testing a commercial product,” she said. “Or manipulating perceptions to change the future.”

Once again, questions led to more questions.

Reality Check

One point of focusing on curiosity, responsibility, and empathy is to develop a consciousness of context for experience that can guide future experience toward desired goals. In my experience, asking and answering questions is a critical part of the process, and well worth the effort even if it initially leads to more confusion.