Human vs. Yeast

Project:Explaining exponential growth
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Project wiki:Explaining exponential growth

Here is another thing I am curious about.

On the one hand, we have Dan's excellent video: Are Human Smarter than Yeast?

On the other hand, we have Peak Oil expert Richard Heinberg who also uses the same expression in an interview (Enviro Close-Up #582).

This is the kind of thing that makes me curious :) Who is at the origin of this comparing human and yeast? Is it Heinberg in one of his early books? Someone else?

In any case, it is a good and effective comparison, and it does not take anything away from people who subsequently use it to spread the message.

I am just very curious about the historic timeline of such memes. I hope we can get it documented here.



In my video clip, "Are Humans Smarter Than Yeast," you'll notice that I start, "With a nod to Bob Shaw in Phoenix Arizona,...". Bob Shaw is a frequent commenter to "The Oil Drum," and he uses that phrase in his signature line. He also used it in his signature on the YahooGroup listserve energyresources going back to about 2004. On that listserve, energyresources, I first noticed it.

You may already know, there was a pretty intense debate between Jay Hanson and Michael Lynch, the industry-favorite MIT political-science-trained cornucopian, -- and others -- regarding global peak oil production that was running hot on uselists in the late 90s; then moved to energyresources around 2000. Hanson put together the site around then. Also in the late 90s there were some great on-going conversations on the learning-org listserve regarding energy. Search At deLange for some wonderful insight into self-organizing systems and thermodynamics.

I believe Hanson, Campbell, LaHarrere, Pimental, Trainer, Ivanhoe, Duncan ('98 Scientific American) and other pioneers from that late-90s era made it easier (serving as catalyst and path-breaker) for the likes of Heinberg, Simmons, Roberts, Deffeyes, and others who still were/are courageous to speak out against the business-as-usual grain (e.g., The Economist, 1999, "$10 oil for as long as one can imagine.") as they have. Of course, emerging in the 70s, we should acknowledge their predecessors, Catton, Bartlett, Youngquest, Hall, Donella Meadows, and others who also spoke with courage, intellect, and integrity.

Others may like to fill in gaps and refine my off-the-cuff sense of time-line with regard to the global peak oil production conversation that led me to the rhetorical question, "Are Humans Smarter Than Yeast?"

Dan Chay


Hi Dan,

It's nice to see you here. Thanks for filling in some of the gaps. I'll summarize what we found much later in the wiki.

I am in fact not (yet) too familiar with any of those names. You also mention Catton. Maybe you saw the issue #77: Interview William Catton and Frank Rotering : Frank is going to interview him next month. Maybe we can get him to ask him this question.


Project:Overshoot TV (General issues)» Explaining exponential growth
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moving to proper queue.