Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Asymptote of Truth

I won't have very much time on the weekends for deep, analytical posts for a while. The summer school session has just started and I am teaching a sophomore level engineering class two days a week as an adjunct. This is on top of my day job. (I'm glad I arranged to work part-time!)

But a couple of things have been on my mind lately. First, the continued oil spill (or leak, or gusher, or whatever you want to call it) at the Macondo field in the Gulf of Mexico. People who are paying attention should know that originally BP claimed that the spill was “very minor,” and that it was only grudgingly that they revised their daily leakage numbers upward to 5000 barrels per day. This figure they (and the U.S. Coast Guard) steadfastly maintained to be the truth, even though available evidence suggested that the spill was far worse. Recently, the evidence has become so overwhelming that the “official” leakage figures have steadily crept toward agreement with estimates made by independent observers. This source states a figure of 60,000 barrels per day. Even that figure pales in comparison with BP's own worst-case estimate of 100,000 barrels per day. The truth is coming out, but grudgingly.

The story of this oil spill and of the “official” story of this oil spill is but a subset of the story of our present societal predicament and of the “official” story of that predicament. This is especially true regarding Peak Oil. The official story started with denial. But as the evidence of our true situation has grown worse and more overwhelming, the official stories have begun to line up with the accounts of independent observers. After years of denial, even the U.S. Energy Information Administration now admitting that Peak Oil is real, and that it is here.

What makes people in power lie through their teeth? The answer to that question, while rather simple, would take a lot of time to write, and I have to be out of the house early tomorrow. But I am thinking of one possible outcome to our societal predicament, an outcome I first heard suggested in a podcast I heard of someone interviewing Dmitri Orlov. I think what may happen in a lot of cases is that people in power will lie to us just as long as the lie holds some hope of being profitable to them. As the available evidence mounts to disprove their lies, they will change their story to bring it closer to the truth – yet they will never quite reach truthfulness. Once the available evidence becomes overwhelming, Orlov suggests that some of these people will simply walk off their jobs and disappear, because there's no further reward to be had by staying. I wonder.

1 comment:

Jerry said...

You knew the White House Budget Director is resigning, right?

Orlov was bang on, I think.