Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 13, No. 4, April 2017
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Unwinding the Human Predicament:
Preliminary Summary and Conclusion

Jack Alpert

This article was originally published by
Stanford Knowledge Integration Laboratory, 21 February 2017

This page provides monthly updates about a research program on "unwinding the human predicament," by Jack Alpert of the Stanford Knowledge Integration Laboratory (SKIL).

  • The introduction and overall research framework was featured in the September 2016 issue.
  • Part 1, on injuries that exist on our civilization's path and are worth avoiding, was in the October 2016 issue.
  • Part 2, on a civilization design that does not create these extreme injuries, was in the November 2016 issue.
  • Part 3, on forces exist that transition to and maintain a sustainable civilization, was in the December 2016 issue.
  • Part 4, A social contract exists that creates the forces in Part 3, was in the January 2017 issue.
  • Part 5, Constituencies can implement social contracts, was in the February 2017 issue.
  • Part 6, There is a process for creating the individuals that fill this constituency, was in the March issue.
  • Unwinding the Human Predicament is "work in progress," and the reader should visit the SKIL website for the latest updates.

    Editor's Note: This page is a refresh of last month's page on the same subject with additional references on resistance to change, i.e., human resistance to see what we don't want to see. The Unwinding the Human Predicament series will be resumed as new material becomes available.

    Stanford Knowledge Integration Laboratory (SKIL)
    Resulting World View

    What the SKIL model reveals about the human experiment and the behavior that keeps it on track, is that we have to find and implement the rate of population decline that diminishes the total human footprint far below the carrying capacity while allowing a high enough rising per capita wellbeing to limit social conflict.

    Traffic congestion in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
    By Ngô Trung - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia

    Unwinding the Human Predicament: Summary and Conclusion

    In the previous section I described how two hermits could come to the conclusion that adding a mutual constraint would provide each with some benefits. The constraint was obvious and immediate. And the benefit was obvious and immediate. So the conversation between the two hermits was simple.

    However, the conversations for the case of additions to the social contract that produce civilization sustainability are not simple. The constrains outlined in part 4 and the imagined future benefits are not simple.

    The one-on-one conversations between two people, one an advocate for the new constraints and benefits, and the other blind to any future injury on the present path are not simple. However they may be not too complex for these conversations to succeed.

    Similar complexity did not prevented abolition, suffrage, prohibition, and civil right from being added to our social contract. Their adoption started with simple one on one conversations. It took time for a constituency to grow large enough; first to create social pressure for change, and eventually to create enough institutional coercion to implement them.

    The "Change the Course" project at SKIL plans to understand and help implement these one on one conversations. By initiating and dissecting many trial conversations among many pairs of individuals we hope to determine the form and content of making the blind listener into an informed advocate.

    This 10 minute video. invites you to participate in the "Change the Course" -- a project to identify the form and content of these conversations.

    Change the Course -- Invitation to Internet Group

    Source: Change the Course Video, Jack Alpert, 18 January 2014

    Links to the Introduction and Parts 1 to 6

    Introduction      Part 1      Part 2      Part 3      Part 4      Part 5      Part 6


    Time Blind ~ Global problems in terms of human thought processes
    Jack Alpert, SKIL, 2000

    Written for the general reader. Describes limitations in the way people gather, process, and value information and the implication of these limitations on our future.

    Time Blind ~ The development of temporal thought processes
    Jack Alpert, SKIL, 2000

    Written for the science reader. Describes the relationships between learning environments and the development of temporal inference cognitive processes.



    Jack Alpert is director of Stanford Knowledge Integration Lab, a Lab which he started in 1978 at Stanford University. In 1992 the Lab left Stanford and became a non profit research foundation. The research focused on how people gather and process information to understand dynamic systems. Over the years the Lab has transitioned its focus to the relationship between human cognition and civilization viability. The current work is on discovering and implementing behavior that “changes our course” and creates a sustainable civilization. The author can be contacted at

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    "The price of apathy towards public
    affairs is to be ruled by evil men."

    Plato (428-348 BCE)


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