What you really need to know about the state of the world

Tying a few things together here, starting with the mysterious 8-foot Lego Man that “washed up” on a Florida beach. The front of his “shirt” says “No real than you are,” and the reverse side has the name “Ego Leonard.” Ego has a website based in the Netherlands, but nobody knows how he got to Florida (vacation?). Lego Man appears by inference (link on the site) to be a project of St. Art Gallery.

Ego’s a cheerful sort: “I come from the virtual world. A world that for me represents happiness, solidarity, all green and blossoming, with no rules or limitations.” However, he says, “my world has been flooded with fortune-hunters and people drunk with power.” Maybe we’re looking at a potential Occupy Legoland.

Ego Leonard’s visit was timed just before the world population hit 7 billion more or less (who’d have a precise count?), and that’s supposedly today, Halloween 2011. How fast are we growing?

1 billion – 1804
2 billion – 1927
3 billion – 1959
4 billion – 1974
5 billion – 1987
6 billion – 1999*
7 billion – 2011

The crazy and wildly diverse human race, is clearly a successful species, as of the 1800s – we’re producing new humans faster than Lego’s producing its brightly-colored simulacra. How successful we can remain, growing at this accelerating rate, is another question. How do you employ and provide resources for a population of 7 billion and counting? While people are staying around longer, crowding the new kids. (Perhaps this is why some of my libertarian acquaintances have argued against spending resources on aging citizens – arguing to end Social Security and Medicare, let ’em drop, defer resources to the next batch of humans).

You’ve been hearing a lot about economic injustice in the US, with the high-rolling, elite top 1% controlling 40% of the wealth and striving to get more. Perhaps they see the handwriting on the wall and want to make sure they have theirs as resources are stretched to the limit by 7 billion demands. However if the global economy collapses under the weight of this growing crowd’s demand for resources, it’s questionable what value the wealth of the wealthy will actually have in that context.

Meanwhile climate is increasingly whacky. Latest is an “unusually early snowstorm” leaving ~3 million in the eastern US without power. A decade ago, a climate scientist told me that, while climate change is driven by global warming, but not all the effects will be “warm.”

Some argue that climate change is unrelated to the substantial emission of gases associated with the growing numbers of people in the world (with their exhaust-ing cars, boats, and airplanes, and their aggregated farts). This is because they want to sell more: the current world economy pivots on the burn.

We should all move to Legoland.

And now for something completely different… but possibly related…

Did you know that Steve Jobs was a Buddhist? My pal Steve Silberman has written a great piece on Jobs’ Buddhist history. Maybe the best thing I’ve read about Jobs, and incidentally a striking perspective on American Buddhism. Excerpt:

Why would a former phone phreak who perseverated over the design of motherboards be interested in doing that? Using the mind to watch the mind, and ultimately to change how the mind works, is known in cognitive psychology as metacognition. Beneath the poetic cultural trappings of Buddhism, what intensive meditation offers to long-term practitioners is a kind of metacognitive hack of the human operating system (a metaphor that probably crossed Jobs’ mind at some point.) Sitting zazen offered Jobs a practical technique for upgrading the motherboard in his head.

The classic Buddhist image of this hack is that thoughts are like clouds passing through a spacious blue sky. All your life, you’ve been convinced that this succession of clouds comprises a stable, enduring identity — a “self.” But Buddhists believe this self this is an illusion that causes unnecessary suffering as you inevitably face change, loss, disease, old age, and death. One aim of practice is to reveal the gaps or discontinuities — the glimpses of blue sky — between the thoughts, so you’re not so taken in by the illusion, but instead learn to identify with the panoramic awareness in which the clouds arise and disappear.

Punctuation: Steve Jobs’ last words: “Oh, wow. Oh, wow. Oh, wow…”