"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Strategic Laziness

Our universe tends towards entropy and chaos.  As complexity of organization increases, resistance rises exponentially, like trying to force two opposing magnets together. (It’s always megafauna, T Rex or Mammoths that go extinct, not E. coli)  Looking at the natural world here on earth it’s quickly clear that every living thing expends as little energy as possible to persist.  Lions with full stomachs sleep most of the time, desert toads hibernate for years in between rains, birds with no predators lose the ability to fly over time. Nothing works harder than it must.  The more complex and energy-intensive the solution, the harder it is to sustain.

Trouble arises, though, when you’re a flightless, fearless dodo perfectly well adapted to your environment and suddenly humans show up. Or likewise, you’re a fit dinosaur species but prove unable to cope with a nuclear winter caused by asteroid impact possibly combining with volcanic eruptions to form a perfect disaster.  Evolution alone can’t plan ahead or anticipate rare catastrophic events.  This is why I think some living things have been pushed towards higher levels of awareness despite its massive costs, so they can be strategically lazy spending as little effort as possible while avoiding the dangers of only responding to constant, familiar stressors.

 The peacock’s tail is one of my favorite examples against the infallibility of nature.  It’s a natural pattern we see often in corporate, governmental, civilizational bloat.  All that sacred competition gets you something that maybe looks pretty but is a worse-than-useless burden sucking huge amounts of energy.  It teaches us that the patterns of civilizations and corporations are every bit as natural as the rippling of sand dunes.  Perhaps the most devastating doctrine of the enlightenment was to hubristically treat man and nature, not only as separate, but as opposites.

When I was about 12 years old, I was responsible for weeding the yard.  Trouble was, there were more seeds constantly blowing in from the desert and most of the lot was dirt and gravel that was perfect for them.  I well knew that even going over the whole yard with a hoe a couple times a week wouldn’t accomplish much.  In a few days, new sprouts were coming up everywhere.  In fact, killing everything just favored the worst sort of thorns that hugged the ground in choking vines, and dropped thousands of their sharp barbs that deflated basketballs and stuck in shoe soles by the dozens.
I noticed at the same time that a lot of the desert plants had pretty flowers, lacked thorns or sticky leaves, and had roots that were easy to pull up if I needed to.  I started what I then called “selective weeding” and let the desert weeds I liked flourish while punishing the thorn vines and the russian thistles that turn into tumbleweeds.
Before long, there was a colorful garden of desert flowers outside my bedroom window alive with the buzzing of bees.  The thorn plants were not even 1/10th of the problem they used to be once they had competition.
Of course my parents eventually asked me why I wasn’t doing my job.  I tried to explain what I was doing, but no one listens to a 7th grade kid trying to avoid work and I was told to take care of it.  So knowing full well what would happen next, I went out and uprooted my experiment.  Soon enough, the thorns were back in force despite our best efforts.
This was a formative experience that influenced my world view ever since.  I learned the futility of sustaining a vacuum against equilibrium.
I later saw the same problems I encountered doing childhood yard chores over and over again in 6000 years of failed human governments.  At some point there’s always well-intentioned policies that try to defy the equilibrium, end up favoring the thorns, and the rest is history.

I came to realize as I grew up in a frantically workaholic American society that nature in fact favors laziness.  An animal at leisure is well-fed and prosperous, a creature that must always work is failing at the game of survival.  It helped explain to me the widespread stress and misery of what should be by all rights a prosperous and happy land.  Constant labor tells us on a gut level that we are always on the brink of starvation, however many mansions and cars we may own.  Some of us become adrendaline junkies while others get ground down into burnouts that just go through the motions.  Whatever someone’s station, there’s just an interminable “job” never a tangible task that has a beginning and an end after which one enjoys the fruits of a job well done.  That I realized is the peculiar insanity of industrial civilization—a trap of Sisyphean futility most are stuck in until they’re dead.
As I approached adulthood I came to understand there was no luxury on earth greater than the power to simply do nothing.

The basic problem of modern civilization is that it favors extravagant solutions arrived at through extreme, specialized competition like the peacock’s tail.
A sense of minimalism, strategic laziness, yields simpler, more resilient, more adaptable solutions.  
Even when gatekeepers force peacock competition with a strategic bottleneck, the payoff for finding a low cost workaround or substitute is very high.

19 responses to “Strategic Laziness

  1. Candide III December 31, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Not bad, but usually something on the lower level has to constantly sustain vacuum against equilibrium for something on the upper level to be able to relax and be lazy. In equilibrium we are dead, and you eat every day to sustain yourself against that equilibrium. Molecular biology is full of this. Every cell of a napping lion with a full stomach is constantly working pumping ions across the membrane to maintain the gradients that will allow the lion to jump up at a moment’s notice. Enzyme complexes involved in DNA copying and protein synthesis expend huge amounts of energy ‘spinning the wheels’ to ensure high fidelity, and the proteins synthesized at such cost are constantly torn down and recycled to maintain a pool of reasonably undegraded copies. A lot of mRNA is constantly synthesized only to be immediately destroyed, in order that some regulatory mechanisms evolved a billion years ago can function. (It’s not simple inefficiency, either: given the rather crude chemical tools available to it our biology actually does pretty well.) And so on. So this sort of depends on your point of view. To give a couple of obnoxious examples, a socialist would say that a lord’s serfs labor to sustain his leisure against the Malthusian equilibrium, and Chinese migrant peasants labor to sustain American rednecks zonking on meth and opioids.

    All this is not to say that your conclusion in the penultimate paragraph is wrong. Arguably, one function of setting aside one day of the week for leisure was to prevent this ‘constantly struggling to stay alive’ indicator from ringing too insistently.

    • sunhater January 1, 2017 at 2:38 am

      Brilliant response, are you a scientist?
      Both this article and your comment reinforce my view that most proles are (metaphorically) part animal & part dumb machine.

      According to the laws of thermodynamics, an open system like our planet favors order & emergent systems since molecules need to find more efficient way to vent/expel excess heat.
      The sun’s entropy increase while “ours” decrease.

      One must remember that many phenomenon cannot exploit “low quality” high entropy forms of energy like heat! Chemical energy, electricity, even visible light, these are all low entropy forms of energy much less abundant than infrared-radiation & heat.

      Consider that most machines that run on temperature gradients/differences (delta T) are horribly inefficient or function only at very high temperatures. Since entropy = energy divided by temperature, this makes sense.

      If both of you & Giovanni want to know more about emergent systems, consider the study of the old science of Cybernetics.

    • sunhater January 1, 2017 at 5:56 am

      Both of us are being rather superficial on the science part of this post, this disturbs me. Candide III SEEMS to know his SCIENCE!

      Because of this, I’ve opened a discussion on Reddit’s AskPhysics to receive some “peer-review”, this is important because we must not turn this place into a circle-jerk like Return of Kings.

      • Giovanni Dannato January 7, 2017 at 12:22 pm

        I saw where you posted from site referrals. They were pretty highly critical! I can see there’s a gap between the verbal and spatial/logic here. I understood entropy to mean something like “disorder” when in fact it’s a concept more readily described by equations.
        This has motivated me to at least get a basic grasp of some of the science.
        I can see now why the word “complexity” would bother people who understand thermodynamics. Perhaps they would have been more satisfied had I used the word “improbable?” Yet I’m not sure that would have communicated the idea.
        Perhaps we consider “order” or “complexity” here as just a low entropy, highly unlikely configuration.

      • sunhater January 8, 2017 at 7:17 pm

        The problems with those posts is that they just gave their definition of entropy while I asked a review of my statement (I was mistaken for the author by the way).

        Nevertheless Reddit is surely better than yahoo answer with randomly posted wikipedia copy/paste!

    • Giovanni Dannato January 3, 2017 at 10:45 pm

      Hey guys, I’m on my way back after spending the New Year with some friends. Thanks for the detailed responses. I understand that living things exist in defiance of equilibrium but the best, in recognition of that fact are minimalist and adaptable, I think. I don’t know much about the science but get that objects seem to prefer staying still and once forced into movement tend to meet with friction that returns them to a motionless state. So a car or plane defies the laws of the universe yet respects them by being designed with aerodynamic profiles. The peacock’s tail, stock market bubble, or bloated government contractor seems to me about as as “aerodynamic” as a cinderblock and that is where the fault lies.

      • sunhater January 4, 2017 at 10:16 pm

        Did you have fun? My brother went to Paris on New Year Eve, and he will return on Thursday, luckily he reports no terrorist attacks.

        Bloated governments are the result of excessive Taylorism! I am currently reading again Erich Fromm’s The Heart of Man, he is one of the few authors who describes the HOMO MECHANICUS & “those who love death”. These are the kind of technocrats who wants our society fashioned after insects’ hives.

      • Giovanni Dannato January 5, 2017 at 2:39 am

        Yeah, it was a great trip. Old friends, lots of champagne.
        I thought Taylorism was about efficiency. Isn’t Taylor the guy who started timing assembly lines with a stopwatch and tinkering with processes?
        Sadly, homo mechanicus was the end result of an enlightenment that never evolved, just doubled its way down a slippery slope.

      • sunhater January 5, 2017 at 7:58 am

        Liberalists & capitalists view society as a huge factory, they’re very open about it.
        This site makes good argument about the Taylorism unraveling to the extreme

        I love the concept of the homo mechanicus & the “lover of death” because it describes 3/4 of my normal behavior!
        I am the kind of man that regularly stare for half an hour to spinning gears, clicking relays & hissing pneumatics! (while listening to the Hammerite theme from Thief 3).

        A few weeks ago I ordered a book that should arrive soon, about early soviet literature, it is rife with young men staring at bolts and loving locomotives more than women!

  2. IA January 2, 2017 at 3:00 am

    “Brilliant response, are you a scientist?”

    Yes, what white guys need more of, techies.

  3. sunhater January 2, 2017 at 4:43 am


    I applaud your early botanical proficiency, you discovered how the concept of Will to Power applies in the natural world!

    “My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (–its will to power:) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement (“union”) with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on–”
    Quote by Friederich Nietzsche

    • Giovanni Dannato January 3, 2017 at 10:49 pm

      Wow, objectivism sounds like just a reformulation of this. I remember almost this exact analogy being made in Atlas Shrugged and Anthem.

      • sunhater January 4, 2017 at 10:24 pm

        I saw an old interview of Ayn Rand where she discussed the role of rationality in the theory of Objectivism. I have to say that I was impressed since she made some good points: in the real world a single person can be rational but large groups of people are almost always very dumb & exhibiting sheep-like behavior.

        I think that most people don’t realize that they are living in a capitalistic death-cult, no wonder these burn-outs are succumbing to depression & stress.

        I am writing part 2 of my old Nihilism Free Living article.

  4. IA January 2, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Will to Power is out, Dominance Hierarchy is in.

    What happens on a molecular level doesn’t mean the same thing happens to indivduals or societies anyway. It doesn’t take courage or cowardise for a cell to divide or pump out ions. Cells don’t have to figure out what group loyalty is and why it’s necessary. Men aren’t lumps of protoplasm that can be exchanged for other lumps. Well, you can view life like that but I wouldn’t recommend it.

    • sunhater January 2, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      The brain’s consciousness is ultimately slaved to what the genes dictate! It is needed by the genes to solves problems so the genes can propagate themselves!

      Why most people on this blog are introvert, introspective, loners? Simple: our genes + epigenetic interactions made us so! That’s the ultimate irony, our genes predispose us to question and resist the influence of our genes & base instincts.

      Free will may exist but it is far weaker than we presume.

      • IA January 2, 2017 at 6:43 pm

        Have you seen Jordon Peterson videos?

        Very interesting. The lesbians and trannies are trying to get him fired because he refuses to use gender neutral pronouns in his classes. LOL.

      • sunhater January 3, 2017 at 5:10 am

        Holy Shit this Peterson guy is awesome & he wrote real subtitles for his video, not those youtube’s auto-caption crap.

        What you wrote about those SJWs is disturbing & Orwellian, are they THAT batshit insane?
        Don’t they know there is no such thing as bad publicity! This guy should seek Trump’s patronage somehow.

      • Giovanni Dannato January 3, 2017 at 10:53 pm

        This ^. The only reason we have any capability whether sharp teeth, fast reflexes, or the ability to plan ahead is because it helped our ancestors survive and reproduce. Every one of us is heir to an unbroken chain of success. The winners write the history books…and the species itself. Across history, there’s billions of losers at life no one will ever hear about.

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