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Georgina Woodward: on 10/10/16 at 8:28am UTC, wrote Thank you Paul. I now understand that you were not talking about population...

Paul Butler: on 10/10/16 at 3:45am UTC, wrote Dear Georgina, I had forgotten that you said that you would put a comment...

Georgina Woodward: on 10/4/16 at 4:32am UTC, wrote Hi Paul, thanks for reading my essay and for your reflections on it. The...

Georgina Woodward: on 8/22/14 at 3:09am UTC, wrote Thank you Lorraine, I really appreciate you stopping by to say so.

Lorraine Ford: on 8/21/14 at 13:32pm UTC, wrote Georgina, congratulations on winning the prize - you deserve it! Best...

Georgina Woodward: on 8/21/14 at 3:13am UTC, wrote Thank you for your congratulations Tom. Its very nice to get somewhere at...

Thomas Ray: on 8/20/14 at 22:26pm UTC, wrote Congratulations on the deserved recognition, Georgina! I guess you've...

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October 18, 2017

CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: Smooth seas do not make good sailors by Georgina Parry [refresh]
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Author Georgina Woodward wrote on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 15:22 GMT
Essay Abstract

This essay is a vision of the unwritten future, where mankind has had to adapt to the changes brought about by overpopulation and climate change. A highly sustainable, versatile, technological way of life, employing bio-mimicry has been developed, allowing a large proportion of the human race to survive despite the various challenges. Also the health and quality of life of the people has been improved through various health measures and social expectations. It takes a look at a typical day for an inhabitant of one sanctuary and looks back at the attitudes of the past and also to the future. Having achieved a truly sustainable, self sufficient, symbiotic lifestyle migration to other worlds can now be contemplated. The big issues of the exponential function, chaos in the climate and weather system, and possible outcomes are considered.

Author Bio

Long time participant on FQXi blogs and in FQXi competitions Graduate in Biological sciences. Former teacher of the Sciences and human biology. Unaffiliated inquiring mind and problem solver.

Download Essay PDF File

James Lee Hoover wrote on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 22:03 GMT

Clever and imaginative scenario of future student, Grace, thoughts ruminating on life below the surface with the current wisdom taught to them and her observations of below and above, perhaps the latter based on the video lessons of class.

Capsulized pithy sayings reminds one of the wisdom of the past, Ben Franklinish. The personless Knowledge Hub is perhaps a vast improvement over the frustration of current attempts at programmed learning and communication.

A creative effort in depicting the future, based on a present that leadership is pointing toward non-viable surface life.

Good job.


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Member Rick Searle replied on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 01:15 GMT
Great piece, Georgina

Though I am more of the school that thinks consumption levels are more important than population control for a sustainable future given declining fertility rates globally, your essay offered me I picture of a future any of us would be lucky to live in. In my book this is half the battle.

I especially liked this quote:

“The image mankind call 'the present' has been written in the light but the material future has not been built. Now it is the mission of people like Grace, and the human species, to build a future. Success will be measured by the contentment, health, altruism, high culture, and creativity of its people. As a species, Homo sapiens sapiens are hackers of nature's solutions presented by the tree of life, that has evolved over millions of years. It could not be clearer if there was “How to survive” in big bold letters written on every surviving life form.”

Great writing-best of luck!

Rick Searle

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 09:34 GMT
Thank you James and Rick, glad you enjoyed it.

James Lee Hoover replied on May. 20, 2014 @ 19:16 GMT

Time grows short, so it's time for revisiting and rating.


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murat Asgatovich gaisin wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 08:47 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Future as a utopia. Article cognitively and interesting.


Murat Asgatovich Gaisin

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 05:27 GMT
Thanks Murat.

Domenico Oricchio wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 13:07 GMT
Thank you to have read my essay.

I think that the nanotechnology can be dangerous for human being if there are the elements that compose the human body, and if the molecules are polymer of natural amino acids with no self-reproduction (if there is assimilation there is biocompatibility, if there is oxidation then the human body can ricycle the products).

I read in your essay some sensible things, and I become disoriented in the story like in the Asimov stories.

I also thing that the stable grows in the population, and in the use of the renewable resource, is the only solution for the humanity: only a wider environment, like the discovery of America (an other planet for the humanity) can increase the possibility to use resource; I am thinking that population dynamic can give suggestion for stable states of the differential equation.

We live in a world with slow mutation of the plants, but some experiment have happen for accelerated mutation (durum wheat, blue rose, golden rice, etc), and synthetic biology, so that between a little will no longer science fiction.

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 05:45 GMT
Hi Domenico,

glad you found some sense in it. I suppose it might be a bit disorienting. There is a narrative in black type which is describing life in the sanctuary . There is the writing on the girl's computer and home screen in blue, sayings that bind the community together and lessons that the girl is being taught. Then in red is technical information from the Knowledge Hub, which is I imagine is the communities super computer and repository of knowledge. The technical information is not a necessary part of the story but provides actual scientific information to back up the story details. The reference numbers throughout refer to the reference list at the end in which there are many hyperlinks making the finding of additional information easy.

Population growth is slowing but it is still growth. I am unsure about the future promise of biotechnology due to the hit and miss nature of using virus vectors.(Possible damage to the plants genetic code by the insertion of the vector and attached code.) There is some debate about the safety of GM crops. the increasing use of pesticide on Roundup ready crops and the problem of resistant weeds arising from unintended gene transfer. Perhaps one day it may be possible just to print out desired genetic code circumventing the vector issue.

Thanks for your comments.

Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 15:06 GMT
Dear Georgina,

I was surprised to read your very interesting essay, indeed we are both already some time participating in these contests.

"Smooth seas do not make good sailors" is your starting point, but really when I look around I think that we are and never were in smooth seas, trouble and misery is everywhere around us....and yet we are very bad sailors, it is even told that the best poems are written by a poet that lives in the greatest misery...

The origin is the dualistic character of our universe, love and war (sometimes the same), good and bad it all is the reason for the tension ,that is the origin of a a current giving light in the lamp.

To influence the polarity of this life-giving origin is not at all a sinecure...

You would have (physically speaking) try to maintain the current while diminishing the difference in polarity, so begin with finding the origin of the polarity....

And there I come on the point that maybe you might find some time to read my essay "STEERING THE FUTURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS ? , there you can read how in my perception this polarity can be "handled" because it is you and me that are the "creators" of this through our consciousness. Maybe you can give me a rating that is in conformity with your appreciation of the ideas.

Good luck and best regards


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 03:35 GMT
Hi Wilhelmus,

you are right that the seas have never been entirely smooth but mankind has lived through the best of times in the relatively stable inter glacial period. Now it seems climate change will only add to our woes world wide. More droughts more floods, more tornadoes and cyclones, more lightning, more wildfires, more heatwaves, more unseasonable weather, as well as a population still growing and oil running out that mechanized intensive agriculture, that has fed the world, depends upon.

I will read your essay Wilhelmus : )

Author Georgina Woodward wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 21:41 GMT
It is important to appreciate that this is not just a pretty Utopian fantasy.

Real problems that are or may well soon affect mankind are raised and importantly solutions are given. I have not merely said this is a problem or we should do something or lets all be nice to each other ( though of course that is desirable).

Here are some of the problems raised in the essay (not in the order they appear ), read it carefully to find the solutions.

1.Growth of population,

2.growth in the consumption of resources,

3.unwanted / uncared for children, in the future,,



7.antibiotic resistance,


9.sea level rise, to adapt to the unknown,

11.maintaining social cohesion,

12.mass migrations,

13.maintaining good will, co-operation, and genetic exchange between isolated communities,

14.potential ice age, to feel worthwhile without children,

16.need for sustainable measures of economic success,

17.need for a shared goal and values for humanity,

18.self sufficiency,,

20.How to create independent colonies suitable for space migration,

21.what happens to non human life as climate change progresses?

The tale progresses from a rather stark opening quote that shows the devaluation of humanity and ends on an uplifting quote that in contrast shows the unappreciated value of life, and especially the human being. It also progresses through a day from 'sunrise' to 'sunset'.Physics is woven into the tale both in the context of problems we will face and as solutions to problems. I particularly like the realization that light at night is linked to cancer and so can be prevented by a healthy sleep regime.

The final section relates to my explanatory framework for physics in which the (material un-written )future is not fully determined so mankind has freewill to build his future. Through out the essay are many references the reference list contains a large number of hyperlinks making the access of additional information easy.

Denis Frith replied on Jun. 3, 2014 @ 01:29 GMT

You list a lot of problems in the operation of society and address how they can be tackled. That is a major issue. However, there is one major issue that you do not address. Technological systems have irreversibly used up limited natural materials resources to temporarily provide society with goods, services and infrastructure. These systems have produced irrevocable wastes, including those that have caused climate change and ocean acidification. The unsustainable processes have also devastated the environment. One of the objectives of ELAM would be to address the challenge of society coping with the inevitable powering down as the infrastructure disintegrates.



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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Jun. 3, 2014 @ 03:10 GMT
Thank you Denis for reading and commenting on my essay.

I haven't directly addressed the issue of pollution but I have hinted that society run differently can be less wasteful and aim for, if not achieve, complete sustainability.Remember the affirmation "There is no wealth but life." "He who buys what he does not need steals from himself". Also there is the change in the way success is measured: by "contentment, health, altruism, creativity and high culture" I.e, not by increase in productivity of consumer goods and increasing consumption.

The restriction of living underground or under the sea will exert influence upon the way people express their individuality and success.I imagine that might be through cultivating and nurturing themselves, others and the environment rather than amassing many possessions or imposing status symbols and expecting admiration for having had the ability to do that.

Perhaps like Grace they will assemble digital collections for personal pleasure, which may be their own or others artworks, or anything that is a personal interest or they may 3D print small objects of desire, their own or other's creations, which can be recycled when no longer desired just retained as a file that can be reprinted by anyone at any time.

Georgina Parry replied on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 00:58 GMT
Cartoon"Beached AZ whale killed by plistuck",Greenpeace

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James A Putnam wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 23:45 GMT

This is very good. The few statements that I might feel differently about are the kind that readers would decide for themselves. So, they aren't worth mentioning. What I thought several times while reading this twice was the difference in our styles. I write like I am laying bricks. It was a pleasure to read your creative, thoughtful, and storied essay. I enjoyed it and admit I am envious.


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 09:15 GMT

thank you so much for reading my essay and for your kind and gracious words. They are very much appreciated.

Hoang cao Hai wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 03:12 GMT
Glad to see you again - Georgina

Smooth seas do not make good sailors , that would have to be: good sailors will make smooth sea

Very insightful essay, I prefer:"And if a blade of grass is priceless,what is the value of a human being?"

10 points is too small compared to your devotion

Best wishes - Hải.CaoHoàng

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Michael Allan replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 03:35 GMT
I like that, "Good sailors will make smooth sea". I look forward to reading an essay that inspires so much thoughtful comment. I only wish that I could read yours properly, Hai, where unfortunately too much was lost in the translation. - Mike

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 03:38 GMT
Thanks, Hải.CaoHoàng

Michael Allan wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 09:18 GMT
Hi Georgina,

It hurts me to think we live in a meaningless society, and your utopia is a welcome sight for sore eyes in that regard; it has a strong sense of its own origin and purpose. But just my saying that will immediately raise images of violence in the mind of anyone who understands how power works in society. We sail rough seas indeed, and I'm afraid your ship won't be strong enough to hold together out there. It shows in the first few paragraphs, I think, where the horror of life outside the sanctuaries (for the larger population) comes pouring in between the lines, so to speak, despite the efforts of the soldiers deployed to keep it out. Please explain, why is that necessary? Why cannot all of humanity find sanctuary in the future?


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 11:13 GMT
Michael, what a great question.

I have struggled to decide how many people the Earth can support sustainably. We were told to be optimistic and I think the figure chosen probably is. The story is set some time in the future, falling birth rates, disease, famine, and war have reduced the population to near the 5 billion housed in the sanctuaries. (It says- disease, famine, and war were left behind)

There are still several reasons for people being outside of the sanctuaries.

Some people thrive on challenge, pitting themselves against adversity or foes and conquering. Either conquering the environment (e.g. mountain climbing, jungle survival ) or own fears or limitations or their own personal best; winning in a contest or battle. For the joy of overcoming, the adrenalin, the endorphins, the camaraderie and celebration. That's what makes life meaningful and worthwhile for them. Being safe and having an easy life could seem suffocating and prison like. If these people are enclosed within the sanctuaries they could upset the harmony because they do not have a dedication that makes their heart race and that bonds them closely to like minded souls, and that they feel allows them to express their true warrior nature.Its better that they serve the sanctuary rather than act against it. So there is some reciprocal advantage to the arrangement. Food and water supplies, holidays in the sanctuary, respect, admiration.

Social cohesion is very important but some may resent the social affirmations which are a kind of drip fed, daily indoctrination, or they may disagree with the imposition of compulsory sleep or with the planned parenting measures.Strong minded individuals particularly those wanting personal power may exclude themselves from the sanctuaries. Anyone can choose to leave, it isn't a prison. Some may get personal fulfillment and purpose from banding together with like minded individuals, struggling to survive and working against the sanctuaries.In the name of freedom but wanting control of the resources and to be in charge. These people were referred to as terrorists

Another group are criminals that have incurable personality disorders.Rather than having people permanently incarcerated for the safety of the sanctuary they will be exiled. Unlike the terrorists who just want to break the system the criminals may just want to get back into the sanctuary where life is a lot nicer or to get resources as they are scarce outside.Finally there may be feral bands that are the descendants of those that did not want to enter the sanctuary because its culture conflicts with their strongly held beliefs. They hang on to that identity because it is all that they have.

Why cannot all of humanity find sanctuary in the future? In a nutshell, certain aspects of human nature and personality. They do not want sanctuary or can not be given sanctuary for the safety of the rest.

Michael Allan replied on May. 21, 2014 @ 20:55 GMT
Thanks for the frank explanation, Georgina. And thanks again for reviewing my own essay. I'll be rating yours (along with the others on my review list) some time between now and May 30. All the best, and bye for now, - Mike

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Mohammed M. Khalil wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 13:07 GMT

Great essay. I find it very interesting how you discussed humanity's problems and their solutions within a story. I especially like your statement "The human species is the ultimate generalist, we learn, we adapt, we survive." I totally agree that it is important to learn from our mistakes and adapt to our changing environment.

Best wishes,


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 03:40 GMT

Thank you so much for reading my easy and for your kind comments. Glad you agree with the overall message.

Member Tommaso Bolognesi wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 16:20 GMT
Hello Georgina,

I've quickly read your essay once, and I find it quite original and entertaining. Your style of presentation is cute.

At a quick glance, there are two aspects in your described potential future that do not look too attractive to me.

The first is that there appears to be a clear separation, even more marked than now, between the good inhabitants of the sanctuaries, and the criminals, terrorists and debris (that pose a threat to the ventilation shafts and logistics portals, or threaten exchange mission among sanctuaries).

The second, in part related, is the overall impression that the life in the sanctuary system is based on regulations imposed from above by some authority hidden behind the scenes. Because your text is very suggestive, even visually, it may be that it has induced in my imagination some unintended resonance with some common place science fiction scenarios, as seen in some science fiction movie (does `Zardoz` ring a bell?), or read in some book.

Nevertheless, I wonder (i) whether you feel that any future stage of humanity will unavoidably have to cope with a percentage of bad guys, and, perhaps less naively, (ii) how you imagine the transition from our present world to the sanctuary system could take place (e.g., whether peacefully or not).


PS1. Humans are becoming symbiotic residents of living man made hosts. Sometimes, when queuing in my car along the highway, I feel we have already got to that point.

PS2. I see you have a lot of comments above, which I could not read. If you feel my points are already covered in some previous post, let me know, and I might stick in at the right place.

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 21:40 GMT
Hi Tommaso,

thanks for your interest and observations. In my reply to Michael Alan I have talked about some of the less Utopian aspects of the tale.

You are right indoctrination, shared affirmations, is used as a means of maintaining social cohesion. Common knowledge of past mistakes, necessary limits, optimism and common purpose are used. As can be seen it is part of the education system, parental guidance and public information. Whether this is good or bad is a matter of opinion. Self interest to the detriment of others, greed, and profits do not have a place, success is measured in other ways. Nor does anarchy have a place. Perhaps there can be discussion among the populous about the affirmations, choosing perhaps the shared affirmations for the next quarter, discussion of the meaning/interpretations, validity and benefits of the different affirmations. Perhaps voting to delete some from the public list or adding new ones as they seem appropriate to new circumstances. In this way the people might feel they have some democratic input into the steering of the society.

Re. bad guys. I think they are not all of one type. There are people who can dedicate themselves to service of the sanctuaries as external protectors and gatherers of data. Their character may make them unsuited to permanent sanctuary life as it does not sufficiently challenge their competitive drive. These are not bad guys but could become bad guys if trapped in an unsuitable environment and culture. There are those opposed to the social control of the system and want to overthrow it in favor of their own form of government or anarchy and those who are have personality disorders that can not be cured and are a danger to the other residents.Using brain scans it is now possible to observe the structural differences of such people and screen them out of the population, and exile them.It may be possible to detect them while still children and put them into a different education path that will prepare them for life outside of the sanctuary.It may be possible to think of some positive role that those fearless, ambitious, self interested people could play.

Re. the political system I have in mind a benign democratically elected meritocracy, rather than sinister hidden authoritarian control. Social leadership would be a dedication like any other and suitable personalities would have appropriate broad based education (e.g.sociology, psychology, history, science, leadership, prior to becoming candidates for election. I haven't gone as far as thinking about a suitable curriculum : )

I think that putting in the infrastructure and construction of the sanctuaries would happen with a background of unrest as the need for them would not be agreed to until the environmental conditions have made survival difficult.I imagine it would require peace keepers to prevent obstruction from those who regard them as a waste of resources that could be better spent on food production and basic necessities of life, and those that would want to take resources from the sanctuaries for their own personal survival.The only way a peaceful transition could take place is if the 'indoctrination' of the people begins before construction so that the majority are in support of the projects.

Thanks for helping me put some more flesh on the bare bones, Georgina

Michael Allan replied on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 03:20 GMT
I second you, Tommaso. John Boorman's Zardoz came immediately to mind. Then Orwell's 1984 with its indoctrination of the middle classes and exclusion of the proletariate. (Thinking I might want to escape and join the prols, I was going to add Lucas's THX 1138 to the mix; but freedom of movement isn't policed in that direction.) Georgina is quite frank in acknowledging these dystopic overtones. - Mike

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 03:30 GMT
Hi Michael, Tommaso,

I had not heard of 'Zardoz' but have now read about it on Wikipedia and watched a trailer for the film. Oh dear I will never think of Sean Connery in the same way again!

I envision "my warriors" to have a role more akin to that of soldier ants that guard and keep safe the colony. Rather than being completely separate independent agents they are still a functional part though taking on a specialized role.

I don't see them as brutal and undisciplined but quite the opposite. Working in well regulated groups for mutual protection and survival. They are not 'gladiators' working for public entertainment, as in 'Zardoz'. Though I think applauding their efforts and celebrating their successes is important to give work satisfaction and esteem to the warriors. Important because their dissatisfaction would risk the warriors turning on their own sanctuary.

Immortality is a theme explored in 'Zardoz'. I have not looked at the problem/s of immortality or drastic life extension. Maybe it should have been mentioned in my essay but a large number of other problems were dealt with. The story assumes moderately extended life span due to: eradication of disease, famine and war, optimized diet and sleep regulation. 0% population growth through planned child birth rate.

Thanks, Georgina

Joe Fisher wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 19:28 GMT
Dear Ms. Parry,

As is now becoming usual in these contests, your essay was another terrific read. Unlike every other essay I have read at this site so far, your main concern in writing it was to inform and involve the reader only in the process of being expertly informed.

With the highest of regards,

Joe Fisher

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 05:27 GMT
Hi Joe, thanks glad you enjoyed it and found it informative. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

Gene H Barbee wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 21:43 GMT

You are a very creative writer. Have you written books or other articles that I can access? I enjoyed your futuristic view and I hope it reflects where we are headed. I worry about our collective wisdom. Do we really have the ability to create a utopian future or do we forget how to deal with adversity when the seas become smooth? Your optimistic view is refreshing. I enjoyed the tidbits of wisdom and they are the lessons that we need to learn and act upon. Your background in biology clearly gives you a platform to help guide the future. You get my high vote.

Thanks for reading my essay. I appreciated your positive feedback.

Gene Barbee

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 05:24 GMT
Hi Gene,

this is actually my first attempt at fiction (since high school). I found it surprisingly easy to write as my imagination did a lot of the work for me. I have written other FQXi essays but I would only recommend "Which of our basic physical assumptions are wrong", as it is relatively easy to read and was well received. It contains the diagram of the explanatory framework for physics which was in passing referred to in the last section of the story you read. There is also an enlarged copy of the diagram in the discussion thread. Prior to finding on which I am able to discuss and share ideas I wrote a few books but I am no longer distributing them as my ideas have moved on, it is not financially viable or worthwhile to me to produce and distribute them and I am also a better writer now than then. Perhaps this contest may inspire me to wrote more fiction. Really glad you found it enjoyable, and yes I do think we have a lot to learn.

Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 00:36 GMT
Gorge (as Enid Blyton in the Famous Five books decreed your name can be)

You have surpassed all the essays I have read in this contest. I for one had to be reminded that I had neglected to mention overpopulation as a crucial factor in the steered-to future. Your dystopia/utopia is admirable for the possible solutions to this problem. The quotes from current research show that the Sanctuaries are no mere SciFi dream but may come to pass in some fashion.

Quite apart from the excellent ideas I enjoyed the narrative in which you have made your research seem already a fact of life.

Gawd help us all!


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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 00:39 GMT
I mistyped George sorry and the mistake was almost invisible on the ipad editing window! Is this progress?

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 05:00 GMT
Hi Vladimir,

Yes George is OK if you like, the 'ina' is just a feminisation.

Thank you so much for your very appreciative comments. Glad you picked up that the tale is not mere fantasy but is a vehicle for raising a number of problems facing humanity and their solutions, linked to current scientific knowledge.

Glad you enjoyed it.

George Gantz wrote on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 02:31 GMT
Hello Georgina - Thank you for a very entertaining and provocative read. I always love an ending where the good guys have won, but like Tommaso, I ended up with a queasy feeling. The community you describe would seem to involve conformity and compliance as a primary value, and the result seems serene, almost plastic. This is perhaps an appropriate cocoon for a child in school, but you have not given a clear picture of what the community is like at the adult level. Conformity and compliance at this level for adults could depress rather than promote innovation, initiative and creativity - all essential for continued survival in the face of continuous change and challenge.

You've discussed this concern in your responses above, and as you say "smooth seas do not make good sailors". Perhaps there is another level to your narrative that is only faintly revealed - the immense fear and vigilance of the adult community required to sustain this child's sense of peace - vigilance which includes personal self-sacrifice (forays to the surface, dangerous missions, emergency bio-hazards to fight) - something which generates the motivations to build and sustain the powerful shared moral framework on which the community rests...... We all love a good story with a balance of good and evil - and good winning out in the end (but just barely).

Thanks for the inspiration. - George

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 04:23 GMT
Hi George,

thanks for reading the essay and for filling in the blanks in your own way. My daughter also informed me that in a story something exciting or intriguing has to actually happen. We were only allowed 9 pages and were instructed to be optimistic. All I have done is set the scene, as a vehicle for highlighting a number of issues and their solutions. They are facing the unknown. What they can do is to learn how to survive whatever happens, they are 'filling the tool box' so to speak, so that they have what they need to do that.

High culture and creativity are two measures of the success of the sanctuary so there will be effort put into enabling and encouraging personal development and exploration and celebration in those areas. I imagine just as the children learn to create virtual environments to explore so do the adults, not just as games but as experiences. Art is not limited to external images and objects but becomes immersive and interactive too. Architecture is also a creative field in which old limitations might be left behind. Building unimaginable shapes There is also no reason why the sanctuaries could not 'evolve' over time to better meet the emotional and intellectual needs of the people. A symbiotic relationship is imagined in which the people serve the needs of the sanctuary and the sanctuary serves the needs of the people.

Member Tejinder Pal Singh wrote on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 17:38 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Very enjoyable essay!

You have a fascinating futuristic world. How are we to get there from where we are now, I am wondering. What practical steps are feasible? Will appreciate your thoughts. For instance, how to regulate and restrict the primordial instinct, and the individual freedom, to procreate, given the way societies function today?

Kind regards,


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 01:30 GMT
Hi Tejinder,

thank you for reading my essay and for the questions.

Perhaps Japan might give us an idea of a society where procreation is not universally considered a priority. Japanese adults could choose to have children but many are not. Though there has been a rise in companion dog ownership. Demographics of Japan There are other purposes for which lives can be lead. And with busy fulfilled lives there isn't a place for children too. In my 'Utopia' it's the people who want to be parents more than anything else and are prepared to dedicate their lives to the role of raising those children that do that. They give up other options in order to fulfill that primary desire.Children are not an add on that parents don't really have time for, or accidents, or extensions of their selfish parent's egos.

increasing childlessness in Germany and Japan

Helen Mirram confronts the final female taboo

Quote: "Although a minority of women choose not to have children, the trend constitutes a genuine revolution, pointing to some unspoken resistance to motherhood. As we know, as soon as women were able to control reproduction, pursue studies, enter the job market and aspire to financial independence, motherhood stopped being an inevitable, self-evident step and became a choice instead."By Elisabeth Badinter, Special to CNN, May 15, 2012 "Why are rich nations birthrates in freefall?"

Its seems given a choice many women choose to be child free(rather than just child less), ie. not having children seen as a positive state of affairs.

Peaceful transition to the kind of societies imagined would require public familiarization with the various problems that have lead to their necessity.See also my reply to Tommaso.

Mostly the story is a vehicle for introducing numerous problems and giving solutions. For a list please look in this discussion thread at Apr. 22, 2014 @ 21:41 GMT

Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 06:25 GMT
Maintaining genetic diversity within the population is important for genetic fitness,i.e. the population has greater adaptability to unknown challenges through the various phenotype differences.Genetic drift should be avoided to maintain all kinds of suitabilities and diverse 'strengths'.

It may be that all of the children are not necessarily the biological offspring of their parents. Perhaps gametes from the whole population could be pooled and embryos developed from selections of healthy gametes. Or perhaps excellence in any dedication has the reward of one's gametes being added to a pool for possible embryo development.

This system would allow rejection of defective gametes prior to embryo creation.And, as outlined above, an element of competition in selection of the biological parents of the next generation, as occurs in nature, could be incorporated. These kind of ideas stray into the difficult subject of eugenics which is beyond the scope of my essay but has been considered by Judy Nabb.

John Brodix Merryman wrote on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 18:02 GMT

I have to say, from my personal perspective, that is a very tough read. I started it a few days ago and had to stop. Much of what you describe is potentially quite logical, but on an emotional level, I find myself rejecting it quite vehemently. Maybe this is due to my own fairly comfortable and usually outside life, but there is a degree of sterility I sense would be quite deadening. Not to say much of current society isn't already overly sterilized, but then I try to avoid leaving the farm.

I think if I was to take one point to argue over, it would be the emphasis on survival. Now logically it would seem survival is a natural prerequisite for life, but I would go out on a limb here and argue the opposite, that so much of living is about expression and that it is this cycle of rising and falling which is most elemental. Simple survival would be like a flatline on the heart monitor. DNA is about survival. Individual lives are about pushing the boundaries as far as possible. Like a tree, the growth rings are on the outside, while the wood in the trunk is stable but prone to rot. A healthy society is often on the border of chaos and order is for the churches, schools and courts.



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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 00:01 GMT

thanks for reading it. The story is a vehicle for raising and giving solutions to a number of problems.On this discussion thread a have given a list of many of the problems raised. It is set of a time when surface living has become too difficult for most because of the consequences of climate change. Though subterranean or sub-aquatic living is not compulsory and some have decided to stay outside and 'battle' the elements. I would ague with you view that there is a degree of sterility . Unlike many other Utopian tales nature has been taken into the sanctuaries for its continuation and for the needs of mankind. As I said mankind belongs with the tree of life. Disease is avoided by having a healthy natural microflora living in the environment. There are green spaces for recreation and stress relief, there are wildlife zones there is horticulture and aquaculture. There are companion animals for stress relief and companionship.

There is a hierarchy of needs and at the base there are the prerequisites for survival. Without the ability to survive non of the higher needs will be fulfilled. The societies are facing the unknown and so is filling its 'tool box' with means of survival so that they are able to adapt to whatever happens. They are becoming highly versatile. Yes I agree about pushing boundaries but that is what these people are doing by biominicry, bio-engineering,and creative cultural pursuits. High culture and creativity are measures of the sanctuaries success.See may reply to George Gantz re.creativity

Author Georgina Woodward wrote on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 01:45 GMT
It is important to appreciate that this is not just a pretty Utopian fantasy.

Real problems that are or may well soon affect mankind are raised and importantly solutions are given. I have not merely said this is a problem or we should do something or lets all be nice to each other ( though of course that is desirable).

Here are some of the problems raised in the essay (not in the order they appear ), read it carefully to find the solutions.

Growth of population, 2.growth in the consumption of resources,3.unwanted / uncared for children, in the future,,,6.stress,7.antibiotic resistance, 8.desertification,9.sea level rise, to adapt to the unknown,11.maintaining social cohesion,12.mass migrations,13.maintaining good will, co-operation, and genetic exchange between isolated communities,14.potential ice age, to feel worthwhile without children,16.need for sustainable measures of economic success,17.need for a shared goal and values for humanity,18.self sufficiency,,20.How to create independent colonies suitable for space migration,21.what happens to non human life as climate change progresses? 22.cancer

The tale progresses from a rather stark opening quote that shows the devaluation of humanity and ends on an uplifting quote that in contrast shows the unappreciated value of life, and especially the human being. It also progresses through a day from 'sunrise' to 'sunset'.Physics is woven into the tale both in the context of problems we will face and as solutions to problems. I particularly like the realization that light at night is linked to cancer and so can be prevented by a healthy sleep regime.

The final section relates to my explanatory framework for physics in which the (material un-written )future is not fully determined so mankind has freewill to build his future. Through out the essay are many references the reference list contains a large number of hyperlinks making the access of additional information easy.

John Brodix Merryman replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 02:27 GMT

I well appreciate that you have taken an extremely hard-headed view of many of the problems faced by humanity and yet have tried, given the most extreme consequences, to distill out a message of hope. I have to say that I am much more a person of my particular circumstance and do admittedly bury my head in the sand about many major issues, even many happening today, because I know that with my own limited attention and time, it's best to focus on what little I do have some influence over. As such mine is about a specific issue that will be needed to be addressed in our own lifetimes and I leave other problems, from climate change, to war, for those more focused on pursuing them.

Best wishes,


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Ross Cevenst wrote on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 09:52 GMT
Hi Georgina,

Quite an interested essay. I had to read it twice to really take it in, as like others a found it a little confusing at first. I liked how you include several ideas that are clearly informed by your background in biology - sometimes the behavioural sciences can forget the importance of the physical environment and miss the kinds of innovations you suggest.

I found that you're dealing with a great many topics in quite a short amount of space, and I also think I missed a couple of the references that I might have been more certain of with a background more similar to yours. I wonder if it could be worth exploring some of the ideas in more depth rather than covering so many at once? Do you have a website where you have more of your writing by any chance? The only other feedback I have is to say enclosed static communities are no simple achievement (from what I've read they are very difficult to make work) and the social science/psychology of such a community might be quite an interesting topic to try to explore in detail.

All in all a great read I enjoyed it very much, and I hope you write more on these topics!

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 11:03 GMT
Hi Ross,

Thank you for reading my essay and for your kind comments.I could have dealt with fewer problems in more depth but then it would have been a different essay : ). I take your point that there could have been much more discussion of each problem but with the page limit a lot would have had to be left out. One advantage of dealing with so many problems at once is it brings up the big issue that many problems are coming together.

This is my first attempt at writing fiction. Because it has been so well received I am quite tempted to continue with this tale, add in details and further discussion and possibly try writing others too. The questions that readers are asking are gradually putting more "meat on the bones".

I have written other FQXi essays but I would only recommend "Which of our basic physical assumptions are wrong", as it is relatively easy to read and was well received.It isn't fiction though. It contains the diagram of the explanatory framework for physics which was in passing referred to in the last section of the story you read. There is also an enlarged copy of the diagram in the discussion thread.

Biosphere 2

Yes you are correct about enclosed communities but the scale of these sanctuaries is far larger than any project yet attempted and I hypothesize that it would both psychologically and ecologically be more sustainable. Though the sanctuary we follow has been self sufficient and sustainable for 10 years it might be assumed that prior to that it was not and the inhabitants and ecosystem have had to adjust to reach equilibrium.I agree,'the social science/psychology of such a community might be quite an interesting topic to try to explore in detail'.

Thank you for your interest, Georgina

Ross Cevenst replied on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 13:00 GMT
I've got a background in social science if you would ever like to talk further on that side of things. My website is and my email is the-citizen at safe-mail dott net

Good luck with your entry!

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Turil Sweden Cronburg wrote on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 14:46 GMT
Georgina, there are a whole lot of ideas in here, and many that I think really are valuable, but I find the young lady’s life repressive sounding, and the idea of bubbles of humanity in a sort of post apocalyptic planet depressing. Was that intentional?

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 22:33 GMT
Hi Turil,

thank you for reading my essay, for your comments and question.

On the contrary there is a lot of freedom. The children do a lot of personal study of topics that interest them, they collaborate on virtual reality projects, they are able to freely access the Knowledge Hub, they can indulge in pass-times that are classed as stress relieving such as spending time with the companion animals. They have Greenspace play times. High culture and creativity are measures of success in the sanctuary. I can imagine music composition, virtual,immerse and interactive arts, theater, dance and story telling; as well as scientific investigation of the sanctuary itself to optimize the environment for survival and quality of life. Also biomimicry and bioengineering research and development, and study of weather data for prediction of future challenges. People choose to dedicate their lives to serving the sanctuary in some way, I mentioned also that they can choose to alter their dedication if they desire.

It was not my intention to be depressing but rather to be optimistic that a technological civilization can survive while allowing humanity an enhanced quality of life, better health, dignity and purpose. Yes it is set in a background of devastating climate change and strife but as Vladimir noted it is also based around current scientific knowledge and might be seen as a warning of what might come to pass. I'm afraid I do not think everyone can live happily in the sanctaries as I have talked to Tommaso and Michael about. People can leave if they wish, it is not a prison. They can join the warriors or take their chances, which are not good.

I think it is a far cheerier vision of the future than rise of the machines oppressing humanity, Borg like hive mind post humans, complete collapse of civilization and return to a new dark ages, or a tale of feral, savage humanity trying to survive against the odds, cannibalism as an answer to food shortages and other such horrific scenarios.

Judy Nabb wrote on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 07:50 GMT

A nice utopia and some interesting snippets of biology. But apart from those I was left feeling it didn't really address how we overcome the many problems we have here and now to actually get there, if 'there' is where we want to end up.

How do we evolve the way people think?

I couldn't help thinking that without an epiphany human nature would just end up pitting sanctuaries against each other. It's the other mans (blade of) grass syndrome. As guidance to somebody with influence to 'steer' us to a future it does give a 'vision', which is certainly needed as targets to aim for, but I wondered how much it would help him chart his way through and out of the present maelstrom. Is it not really man's 'ways of thinking' that need to be changed to really allow progress in the right direction?

I think I'm thinking; having visions is great, but what we really need is almost an intellectual revolution to stand any real chance of achieving them before we destroy our habitat. (i.e. exactly how, in practice, DO we keep the population to 5bn?)

Do you disagree?

A very nicely written and valuable essay anyway.


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 00:48 GMT
Hi Judy,

thank you for reading may essay and for your queries.A solution to antibiotic resistance, symbiosis with micro flora in the habitats was given. Cancer, no light at night and adequate regular sleep regime and optimal vitamin D levels in the population. If you had looked at the references you would have seen this is based upon actual current research. Growth in population is halted...

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Mark Avrum Gubrud wrote on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 15:15 GMT
All the way through, I kept wondering if this was supposed to be utopia or dystopia. It is reminiscent of Brave New World or THX 1138, updated to a 2014 organic crunchy flavor. I suppose to the people in the story, it might seem that their world and their way of life was chosen and democratically ratified. But they do not seem truly free; they are subject to too many palpable constraints and everything must be negotiated with the collective. It's not clear to me that such a social order would ever be stable. Global utopian democratic socialism? You give us a vision of what that would be like if it could be made to work, and no, it isn't pretty, it seems suffocating. But then again, in your story it has been forced on humanity by some set of ecological catastrophes... people will adapt, as long as they possibly can. Anyway, thought provoking, nice work.

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 00:16 GMT
Hi Mark,

Thanks for reading the essay. I was using the story to raise and give possible solution to many of the problems facing mankind. Rather than considering future politics. However since the politics concerns you, I envision it as more of a democratically elected meritocracy.Candidates having been educated to fulfil leadership roles. I agree it is not necessarily utopian but I have tried to suggest that the people have a lot of freedom to choose what they do and that there is a rich culture and promotion of creativity, better health, pleasing architecture. The deleterious effects of stress has been acknowledged and stress relief activities are considered worthy of dedication time. The sanctuaries are not prisons anyone can leave if they wish and take their chances.The sanctuaries are a way of allowing a large number of people survive rather than the human race going through an evolutionary bottle neck.

Peter Jackson wrote on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 18:13 GMT

Up to your usual high standard. Nice to have a utopian view among the doom and gloom. Which is correct is moot of course.

As an offshore racing helmsman (UK Rep) your title caught my eye, but seems a little contrary to the content. If life turns out to be a smooth as you describe won't the eventual result then be a failing society? The view did seem to lack 'challenge' or 'purpose', but perhaps that's what you're saying in a subtle way?

Anyway I found it a very pleasant, interesting and thought provoking read. Well done. I hope it does well.

I also hope you'll enjoy mine, which may better describe what we were discussing, the recognition of which may help achieve some more utopian society. But then I think you agree; recognising things for what they really are doesn't exactly seem to be man's forte at present!

Best wishes


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 00:01 GMT
Peter ,

thanks for reading the essay. The 'Utopian' story is a vehicle for raising and giving solutions to many problems that are facing mankind.I have written a list in this discussion thread which may not be complete. I should have mentioned in the abstract that that was what its purpose is. Smooth seas do not make good sailors rough and unpredictable seas do. And that is also what the essay is about. Facing and preparing to face challenges and unpredictability.The challenges are not all done and finished with, the weather reports say the weather is still changing. They don't know if they will be dealing with an ice age, or be going into space or what challenges of living in an isolated biosphere might bring. They are creating and developing solutions to potential problems, and creativity is a part of their culture. They have a clear purpose to preserve and propagate the tree of life.

I will read your essay. Thanks for your feedback,Georgina

Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 14:50 GMT
Hi Georgina,

I had to read a couple of times (and it was delightful reading) to understand what is meant by the title. I came in with the assumption that it had something to do with evolutionary pressure. I'm no yachtsman like Peter, yet I did serve at sea in the U.S. Navy, and had much the same reaction. Foul weather and heavy seas make us vigilant toward forecasting conditions sufficiently ahead of time -- the common wish from sailor to sailor is for "fair winds and following seas."

So I guess that sanctuary would be a form of "smooth sailing," too. It's what we all wish for in a sea of ever present danger. We can't avoid it entirely, though let's try and steer away from it, please! (I have to admit at the same time that some of those storms were awesome and exhilarating; a lot of life at sea is dreadfully routine and boring.)

All best in the essay competition!


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 01:20 GMT
Hi Tom,

Glad you enjoyed reading it. I meant that it's the 'rough and unpredictable seas', difficulties, problems, challenges, that make good sailors. That is what Grace's mother was trying to explain to Grace. That's still ongoing as they do not know what new challenges they will face. They are filling their 'tool box' with as many solutions as possible, for current challenges and ones that might arise in the future.

I have a list in this thread of many of the problems that are raised in the essay and solutions given. There are references through out many to current research and with hyper-links for easy access. I have also referred subtly to my explanatory framework by mentioning the un-written future and saying that the present image is written in the light but the material future has not been built.

Thanks Tom, Georgina

Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 03:48 GMT

I should also say that it is meant as a science essay not just a sociological experiment fantasy. It seems many people don't like the lifestyle of the inhabitants, they could easily imagine something different and more to their liking. However I think they should also ask themselves if it solves as many or more problems.If not I would question whether it is better. War, famine and disease are not exhilarating for most but misery.

There are some premises on which the essay is built. Though it does not become obvious until the end; the idea that the future can be built rather than just steering towards a space-time future that has existence in the space-time continuum, or towards a particular branching of the universe. That comes from my explanatory framework, it is the last reference in the essay. It is referred to subtly because to present it overtly might be seen as just using the essay as an excuse to talk about it.

The next premise is that there are problems that already have solutions that ought to be implemented.Allan Savory's work on combating desertification , pandemic vitamin D deficiency, night light cancer link, Fever cancer treatment are examples.

The third is that there are unknown and unpredictable problems that we will face, and that we can prepare for them, "filling the tool box". The chaos in the weather and climate were given as examples, there is reference to the Lorenz center and a really interesting video on why they are unpredictable and the need for more investment on even greater computing power. That's about physics. The Prairie dog tunnels, physics, the gills physics. I was trying to show how the physics (and biology) of nature can be taken and utilized to preserve and improve quality of life under extreme conditions ie. subterranean and subaquatic living.

Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 09:16 GMT
Not really just for you Tom but anyone thinking of reading the essay : )

Ajay Bhatla wrote on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 00:04 GMT

You made a bunch of tough topics easy to read once I understood the interweaving different threads in your essay. Very innovative approach.

If I understood your message, your description of Utopia, however, sits not at all well with me. While you definitely bring justice to a set of deserving issues, I feel you may have given up on humanity.

In Grace's time, I get...

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 01:07 GMT
Hi Ajay,

thank you for your comments.

I don't see the sanctuary as something stagnant but something adapting and developing like a life form itself.Smooth seas do not make good sailors rough and unpredictable ones do. They are still learning all of the ways of dealing with problems as they arise and for future use. The kids start their lifelong creativity with IT, study of nature and engineering very early. As I said in the essay high culture and creativity are in part how the success of the society is measured. Yes I think there is a preservation of genetic diversity, rather than allowing drift, to keep populations healthy and give the maximum ability to diverge into new niches when the Earth is habitable again or on other worlds.

I will read your essay, Georgina

Ajay Bhatla replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 04:25 GMT
Hi Georgina,

Thank you for the reply..

Am I correct to understand that Grace is simply a representative of all children but not for all the many residents of the sanctuary?

As everyone is a child once, I can see the logic in presenting just this perspective or slice to define your vision.

Powerful in many ways, indeed.


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 04:11 GMT
Hi Ajay,

yes Grace is a typical child. I have imagined her to be about 14 or 15 years old but have not given an age in the story. I think it would have been too difficult to describe the lives of all the people in just a few pages. Thank you very much for your interest and kind comment, Georgina

Armin Nikkhah Shirazi wrote on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 00:35 GMT
Dear Georgina,

You have written an imaginative essay in which you mention a host of challenges for humanity, and, although a future living in underground colonies sounds rather bleak, you have managed to keep the essay upbeat.

I have noticed a similarity between the affirmations and lessons in your essay and the "rules for a prosperous society" in mine, and it seems that we both agree that they need to be inculcated at the earliest possible age. How we raise our children will probably have the largest impact on the future of humanity, and that message came clearly through in your essay.

All the best,


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 06:55 GMT
Author Georgina Parry wrote on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 00:55 GMT

Hi Armin,

thank you for reading my essay and for your comments. Yes I have included many solutions. Though the final outcome may be displeasing to many it is a far better outcome than many others that could be considered.

I look forward to reading your essay.

Author Georgina Woodward wrote on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 00:55 GMT
Hi Armin,

thank you for reading my essay and for your comments. Yes I have included many solutions. Though the final outcome may be displeasing to many it is a far better outcome than many others that could be considered.

I look forward to reading your essay.

Author Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 06:57 GMT
Put this in the wrong place.

have now replied in the correct place.

Ross Cevenst wrote on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 12:01 GMT
Hi Georgina don't forget to rate my essay if you get a chance! So far I'm getting lots of great comments but only one rating. Good luck with your essay!

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Author Georgina Woodward wrote on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 21:44 GMT
In the last section of the essay is written "The image mankind call 'the present' has been written in the light but the material future has not been built." That is not just poetry but physics. 'Goals and intent', Quote "Encourage and support rigorous, innovative, and influential thinking connected with foundational questions."

An observer receiving em sensory data forms the input into an output experienced reality. If the light from a distant star is observed it is seen in the observers present no matter how long it has taken the light to arrive. The material, made of fermion particles and atoms, configuration/arrangement of matter that was the source of the light will have changed as there is continual recycling and only the configuration at uni-temporal Now exists. That means that there many possible written futures in the em data in the environment that can be received and made into a present Image reality but the material future has not been built, it does not exist.Only the material arrangement at uni-temporal Now exists, the source of new em signals that will enter the data pool. The structure of the explanatory framework is shown in the attached diagram. It is referenced in the essay. It overcomes the temporal paradoxes, makes relativity intuitive and allows relativity and QM to co exist without contradiction.

'Evaluation criteria' Quote "Additionally, to be consonant with FQXi's scope and goals, essays should be sure to touch on issues in physics and cosmology, or closed related fields, such as astrophysics, biophysics, mathematics, complexity and emergence, and the philosophy of physics."

I have also talked about chaos theory and other aspects of physics in the essay, with references to the source of the information.

attachments: 1_RICP3D_high_def_essay_version..pdf

Tommy Anderberg wrote on May. 1, 2014 @ 18:17 GMT
I thought there was something familiar about this story as I read it, but it was the additional background in answers to comments that made me sit up and exclaim (for dramatic effect): prequel!

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 1, 2014 @ 22:41 GMT

thanks for the link, I enjoyed the story though it is a grim vision of future humanity. Maybe that short story should be put on the future school's curriculum, as a warning not to go too far in that direction.

Laurence Hitterdale wrote on May. 3, 2014 @ 17:20 GMT
Hi Georgina,

The first thought that occurred to me as I read your essay was the dialectic tension between utopian and dystopian factors. However, you and several commentators have already discussed this, so I will add only a brief observation to that discussion. It seems to me that the situation you describe is dystopian in the sense that the given circumstances of life are not good, but the situation is utopian in the sense that the people have done well in building a tolerable and in some ways desirable place for themselves in the midst of those circumstances.

This observation leads me to suggest that your imaginative vision of the future might be a parallel to human existence in other times and places. We have always been living in a sanctuary, whether that be the light around the campfire, a cabin in a clearing, a walled city, or whatever. I think we could see the sanctuary not just as a physical space but as a social and psychological comfort zone.

The difficult question is how humanity can build sanctuaries appropriate for present and future challenges.

Your comments on my essay were helpful and appreciated. In my reply, I tried to deal with the issues you raised. Thanks.

Laurence Hitterdale

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 3, 2014 @ 22:58 GMT
Thank you for your observations. Yes I agree completely.

The essay was a vehicle for raising and addressing a number of problems. Such as lifestyle and diet changes to prevent cancer. Fever therapy and symbiotic environments to overcome the problem of antibiotic resistance. Returning grazing herds to eroded grasslands to prevent desertification, and if done on a large enough scale ameliorating climate change. These are real solutions to real problems.

Are people used to a 24 /7 lifestyle prepared to voluntarily give it up for the sake of their health? Probably not.Do most people take the threat of antibiotic resistance as seriously as they should? probably not.

Re sanctuaries of the future, I think governments are already considering the kinds of threats we might face and looking at preparing infrastructure to deal with the threats. Flooding has been a big issue in the UK. One solution is not building homes on flood plains! A possible problem is the speed at which change might occur and whether we can adapt in time. Why in tornado prone areas aren't buildings and car parks constructed underground?

Charles Gregory St Pierre wrote on May. 4, 2014 @ 04:29 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Very imaginative, in the best sense.

As you note, education, and instilling the proper attitude for survival are key. The construction of sanctuaries, or at least communities of those more interested in humanity's survival (although they must also secure their own) may indeed be the only practical solution. You might have provided a little more detail on how to get there, but given the constraints, excellent in scope.

And thanks for reading my essay.


Charles Gregory St. Pierre

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 4, 2014 @ 23:05 GMT
Hi Charles,

thank you very much for reading my essay and for your comments on it. Yes perhaps a little history lesson on how the sanctuaries came to be constructed would have helped the story. Others have picked out different details that they would have liked. The story is just a way of talking about problems facing humanity and how they might be overcome, in an interesting way. That you have appreciated the importance of the lessons and the scope of the essay makes me happy, thank you.

Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on May. 8, 2014 @ 00:29 GMT
Dear Georgina,

I very much like your title, as it seems to be so easy to forget this fact of life. If you have not read 'Wool Omnibus' by Hugh Howey, you might wish to do so. I view it as perhaps a prototype 'sanctuary'. I've given some thought to the idea of sanctuaries in the past, but did not place them underground.

Based on your prior contributions to FQXi, I did not see this one coming. Congratulations on the ability to surprise your friends!

Best regards,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 02:01 GMT
Dear Edwin, I do hope that you got beyond the title and were pleasantly surprised, not disappointed.

In the evaluation criteria under Interesting, it says "Original and creative... At the same time, the entry should differ substantially from any previously published piece by the author." I have tried to jump those hoops by using an interesting literary style to convey numerous problems and actual or potential solutions.

"Technically correct and rigorously argued, to the degree of a published work or grant proposal." You may have noticed the very large number of references given for the facts contained in it.

Under relevant it says "(Note: While this topic is broad, successful essays will not use this breadth as an excuse to shoehorn in the author's pet topic, but will rather keep as their central focus the theme of how humanity should steer the future.)" I have subtly referred to my explanatory framework and not made it the central focus of the essay.

"Additionally, to be consonant with FQXi's scope and goals, essays should be sure to touch on issues in physics and cosmology, or closed related fields, such as astrophysics, biophysics, mathematics, complexity and emergence, and the philosophy of physics." The image we call the present is written in the light but the material future has not been built is philosophy of physics and I am referring to my explanatory framework for physics. I also talk about the Strange Atractor, chaos and give a reference to the Lorenz center. Other aspects of physics are also mentioned.

I have also addressed these points listed under Relevant "What is the best state that humanity can realistically achieve?" I have talked about how success is measured. "What is your plan for getting us there? Who implements this plan?" I have talked about the various kinds of future problem solvers "What technology (construed broadly to include practices and techniques) does your plan rely on?" I have talked about bio-mimicry, bio-engineering, and 3D printing to build a 'tool box' of potential solutions to future problems.And constructing self sufficient sustainable biospheres as a prerequisite to space colonization.Control of the environment to promote health ie. simbionts to out compete pathogens and control of lighting and em devices for health purposes. Use of fever and dormant states for treatment of ill health and injury. I have also talked about self healing materials.

Under interesting it also says "Well and clearly written, Accessible to a diverse, well-educated but non-specialist audience". I believe I have jumped those hoops too as it is possible to read the essay on different levels. Just a simple Utopian tale or a deep consideration of a large number of serious problems that do or may soon affect humanity.

We were told to be optimistic,and though some people have pointed out that the "Utopian" society is set within a Dystopian world it is predominantly an optimistic view; that a large human population can be sustained with purpose, dignity and a good deal of personal freedom as well as having an improved standard of living and good health. The stark depressing quote of Issac Asimov at the beginning is contrasted with the realization that humanity is beyond price, when the perspective is changed, in the quote by Carl Sagan.

Kind Regards, Georgina

Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 07:04 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Wow! One can touch hot buttons even in the dark! I can only assume that you felt damned by faint praise. I apologize. Your original entry both meets FQXi specs (as you leave no doubt!) and my own (inconsequential) standards for an essay.

Whatever set you off was unintentional. You painted a picture. I related it to a similar picture (Hugh Howey) I have encountered in the last year. Mea culpa! Mea culpa!.

I still love you,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 21:15 GMT
Dear Edwin,

I am sorry if my reply seems snappy, inappropriate or ungrateful. I just wanted to point out the care taken to match the evaluation criteria and that it is not just a story.

I'm glad you like the title. I deliberately chose something a little more eye catching than previous years. I hoped it would attract more readers. Mankind has lived through the benign inter-glacial period with steady climate and abundant oil has fueled the green revolution, allowing rapid increase in population. It seems the good times (smooth seas) that mankind is accustomed to will not last forever. The title is implying that we can become 'good sailors' (adapting as required) through experience of harsh conditions and challenges. That seemed to me to fit well with scenario depicted.

Thanks for taking a look, Georgina

Robert de Neufville wrote on May. 10, 2014 @ 02:48 GMT
Thanks for sharing your vision of the future, Georgina. I like the way you measure success for humanity. And I think you are right to stress the importance of sustainability.

My own view is that the petri dish analogy may be too simple—I have actually written about this elsewhere—but I agree that there are limits to how much we can consume as a species. I suppose I also hope that the future will have more room for difference of opinion than this society seems to. But if there is a lot to debate in your vision, these are definitely debates worth having.

If you get a chance, I would be grateful for your thoughts on my own essay. Best of luck to you in any case!


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 12, 2014 @ 00:28 GMT
Thank you Robert.

I am glad you like the measures of success. You are the first to have picked up on that. In this fictitious society instead of growth of production and consumption, or wealth being measures of success it is the sustainability, contentment, altruism (with corresponding low crime rate), creativity and high culture that are evaluated. This means that not only does the society quantify how it is doing but it is striving to improve on all of those measures.It probably will not be an ideal environment and society to begin with but with the success criteria in mind it can gradually be improved for the benefit of the populus and biosphere.

Contentment, being one of the success criteria, is taken into account in social planning. This I think addresses the concerns expressed by a number of people that they would not have enough freedom in such a society. There are a number of ways the opportunity to express idea and have them acknowledged can be built in to such a society as well as numerous opportunities for creative expression and experimentation.

Thanks, Georgina

Member Daniel Dewey wrote on May. 11, 2014 @ 17:47 GMT
Hi Georgina,

Nice choice of format; showing a day in the life seems like a good way of expressing what you're advocating for.

For what it's worth, I would have benefited from a more detailed explanation of why overpopulation is the most important thing to consider about steering our future; it seems likely to me that advanced technologies will allow us to comfortably support many more people than we do today.



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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 11, 2014 @ 21:08 GMT
Hi Daniel,

thank you for reading my essay. It is not population size per se that is the problem but exponential growth. I put a reference to part of a transcript explaining that in the text, corresponding to a hyperlink on the reference page. Here is a link to the transcript

A. Bartlett, Arithmetic, population, energy transcript

Here is the full length video. It is also available on you tube as 8 installments

A. Bartlett, Arithmetic, population, energy video

If you understand exponential growth you will understand the nature of the problem.

By the way all of the reference numbers in the text correspond to ones on the reference page at the end of the essay, the majority of which have hyperlinks.

Kind regards , Georgina

Neil Bates wrote on May. 12, 2014 @ 00:34 GMT
Georgina, thanks again for your encouraging comments at my own essay. To reiterate my reply: yes, most people don't think about the basics of why things are made like they are. I think much of the time, it's "custom" rather than "best design", and we need to change that. My essay is of course not just a laundry list of proposals, but a head-on attempt to get at the basis of human mentality (both regarding "awareness" and "will"), and try to use that to better enable more optimal, less hide-bound thinking. I want to be more optimistic than you and most people, about our potential ability to fight nature's urges and habits. We already know that people who believe in and practice willpower (whatever it ultimately is) can exert more self control and eat fewer snacks etc. (altho as we know, relapse is a problem.)

Reducing stress and bad environmental influences however, does help - we aren't just plugging away with our wills in a vacuum. I have installed orange lights to turn on at night for awhile before retiring, to reduce the influence of the bluish rays that you mention (they reduce melatonin and increase stress chemicals, and are found even in unfiltered incandescent light - fluorescent is even worse.)

I like the regard for and attention to nature that you express in your essay (as did many other writers - this is to me a good sign.) We are indeed learning better ways of doing things from studying nature - for example, seashells have shown how to make tough armor. Applying such techniques to humans is of course controversial and will require the highest ethical standards and collaboration and consensus. But the world faces such great challenges, so we will probably have to try exotic and possibly radical techniques at some point. Cheers, good luck to you.

Your title poses a classic belief, that having it too easy ("smooth seas") keeps people from doing their best. Surely much truth in that, and I think that challenges also stimulate and build up willpower (for one reason, since we have to keep plugging away at something and can't give up - yet must remain flexible if things change. Being able to do both is the essence of power of mind.)

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Author Georgina Woodward wrote on May. 12, 2014 @ 06:26 GMT
Hi Neil,

thank you for your comment about attention to nature.In my opinion it has value in its own right as well as being able to teach us many lessons and provide life support and quality of life for humans.

I think I should differentiate between bioengineering and biotechnology. My fictional society makes use of bioengineering and biomimicry, imitating nature but not biotechnology, the modification of natural organisms. Bioengineering, Wikipedia Biotechnology, Wikipedia Care and consensus is still needed as you point out. However that civilization is not genetically altering human beings or other organisms but using technology to survive, solve problems and improve quality of life. It is not a vision of (artificial) transhumanism but humans living alongside nature and their nature inspired technology.

Thank you for telling me about your lights. I am touched to think that my essay has made a positive change to your lifestyle, which should improve well being.

The title is also optimistic, in that when the "seas get rough" we can rise to the challenge and master our circumstances.As Grace's mum says "we are becoming good sailors." You wrote "I think that challenges also stimulate and build up willpower (for one reason, since we have to keep plugging away at something and can't give up - yet must remain flexible if things change. Being able to do both is the essence of power of mind.)" Also the qualities of a good sailor : )

Regards, Georgina

Douglas Alexander Singleton wrote on May. 12, 2014 @ 23:45 GMT
Hi Georgina,

A nice story/essay (Peter Jackson also told his points in story form and I think I've seen one other essay that takes this approach). The essay seems to focus on environmental issues and how (hopefully) we will successful come to grips with them. I was privileged to hear Dr. Barlett talk during the early 1990s while I was at UVA. Amazing and passionate speaker. One point he made that I remember is that in a finite system there is no such thing as sustainable *growth*. You will eventually run out of resources. Which shows that there is still a long way to go in terms of the mind sets of people, governments, companies, etc. They all want *growth* and if the economy, company, etc. is not growing this is seen as a bad sign. But in the end (as your essay argues) we need to find some static equilibrium.

I also enjoyed the idea of borrowing design ideas from nature (i.e your passive tunnel ventilation used by Prairie Dogs and your future society). I've seen this idea discussed a few time and it seems like a good one and something that people are looking into. I remember a recent "Technology Review" article about natural design and how engineers at MIT and other places were starting to look toward nature to solve some of their problems.

An optimistic essay. I liked.

Actually as you have time I had another question. I note in your bio that you have a Biology background. If one thinks about life evolving on other planets (and according to the Kepler mission planets, even Earth sized ones in the stars habitable zone, appear not uncommon) do we know enough about the mechanisms of evolution to say if the life forms that develop on other worlds will be absolutely alien and differ, or is there some idea that given the same basic underlying physical laws evolutions will always proceed down the same (or maybe a few limited) paths? I could easily believe either answer but think we don't know enough to say with authority. For example there are complex systems like weather or evolution of life for which there are attractors (like the Lorenz attractors you mention in your essay). I was just curious and again could believe either answer, but wanted to know if there was any leaning one way or the other.

Best of luck.


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 13, 2014 @ 05:57 GMT
Hi Doug,

thank you very much for reading the essay and for your positive comments.

It is fortunate that there are videos on You tube of Prof.A. Bartlett's talk, Arithmetic, population, energy: A. Bartlett talk, this one is full length but it is also available as 8 installments, so we can still appreciate his enthusiasm and very clear explanations.

Re. evolution of life on other worlds. Firstly there is the question of whether life emerged on Earth independently or whether it arrived on Earth in some way, such as within an asteroid. If it arrived on Earth it is possible that it arrived on other worlds in the same way. Then it might given similar environmental conditions evolve in similar ways. The convergent evolution of the Tenrec shows how very similar forms of Earth life can evolve independently to occupy the same niches.

The other possibility is that life arose independently on Earth and may arise independently on other worlds, either having the same genetic cipher, from the same "building blocks" or a different one. It has been demonstrated that self replication of non DNA code occurs.Living organisms pass down artificial 'DNA'Having shown that to be possible it can be imagined that DNA is not uniquely able to replicate and that there may be other life forms with a completely different self replicating code. Just as the synthetic DNA is potentially able to produce entirely novel proteins so could alien non DNA code. Completely different biochemistry can be imagined,completely alien, yet perhaps having convergent forms when in similar niches due to similar selection pressures.

The diversity of Earth life is phenomenal and there are very many strange unicellular organisms, fungi, plants and animals, all sharing the same genetic cipher. Who would have imagined a leafy sea dragon(Wikipedia), or a gulper eel(Take a look at this amazing photo from national geographic) without having seen them or their images? Life is also able to exist in far more hostile environments than we used to imagine possible. Life forms called extremophiles,.(Wikipedia, There is an astrobiology section in that article).

As I see it life can be one of two kinds, life as we know it sharing the same genetic cipher ( "extended family" ) or life but not as we know it with a different genetic cipher or other means of replication (Non family).

Thanks for the interesting question, Georgina

Israel Perez wrote on May. 14, 2014 @ 01:19 GMT
Hi Georgina

You a have a peculiar writing style, I felt I was reading a nice novel. I found your essay well written and with a deep message; specially, the Asimov and Barlett parts. Although I wonder, if you are offering any particular solution to the problems you touch in your essay.

I indeed think that more population aggravates problems and degrade human values. In this sense humanity behaves Darwinian, just as you mention in your essay: adapt to the environment. But I also think this is an extreme case when people are desperate for getting food or other basic needs (assuming no natural causes interfere with the current course).

Sometimes, if you cannot adapt to the environment, you have to change the environment and make it suitable according to your needs. So, this is what humans collectively try to do.

I also wanted to let you know that I replied to your comments in my thread. The replies are very much related, I think, to some of the issues you discuss in your essay. My view is that the planet can sustain life for at least 20 billion people for many centuries more. In my opinion, the problem is not sustainability but the struggle between nations; the differences in religions and cultures, etc. As long as these differences exist, I do not see how the world will live in peace and harmony. I think there is still a long way to go.

Good luck in the contest!

Best Regards


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 14, 2014 @ 03:14 GMT
Hi Israel,

thank you for reading my essay. Re solutions I will list them because there are lots.

1.Population- halting growth is more important than any absolute number that can hypothetically be supported. A. Bartlett's talk explains why.To overcome this problem there has been social engineering to alter attitudes to procreation and child rearing. Those choosing to dedicate themselves to that role undergo holistic suitability testing and training. The majority of the population are sterilized either temporarily or permanently.

2.Child abuse and neglect- All children are wanted and nurtured by dedicated parents and mentors. All parents are given training in child rearing.

3.Resource depletion- Public education on the need for sustainability. Change in attitudes to consumption (The only wealth is life).Change in measures of success from growth in production and consumption to contentment, altruism (and associated low crime),creativity, high culture and sustainability.

4.Cancer- optimizing vitamin D levels (We have pandemic vitamin D deficiency), Healthy diet,compulsory sleep time. Dimming and then turning off of blue wavelength emitting lights in the evening. Fever therapy (factual) aestivation therapy (hypothetical)

5.Antibiotic resistance- Use of symbiotic bacteria to compete with pathogens. Fever therapy to fight infections

6.Climate change and desertification- Allan Savory's method. reintroducing roving herds, trampling and trapping carbon in the ground which if done on large enough scale could ameliorate CO2 rise. Roots stabilizing ground and trampled vegetation giving shelter for fresh germination.

7.Climate change- wild weather, temperate and sea level rise. Subterranean and sub-aquatic sanctuaries. Temperature is far more stable underground, can avoid storms and still occupy areas that would otherwise be uninhabitable, avoiding mass migration and associated problems.

8.Prevention of mass migrations-Build sanctuaries for the helpless hoards.

9.How to prepare for the unknown- find as many solutions as possible already evolved by nature.

10.How to live happily underground- Appropriate lighting including solar tubes, natural green spaces,nature inspired designs for beauty and interest, fresh air ventilation system.

11.Meaning of life- People have dedications that they choose not jobs.The whole civilization has purpose hacking the solutions of life and ultimately propagating the tree of life to other worlds.

12.Personal freedom and quality of life- People can leave if they choose . People choose their dedication and can change it later on if they really want. As creativity and high culture are measures of success, there is plenty of opportunity to fulfill creative urges, starting at a very young age with creative IT, and appreciation of the various arts, as well as science, engineering and IT. Stress relief is valued, forms of meditation, creative expression, time with nature and or with companion animals.

13. Terrorism and incurable criminality- Exile and protection of the sanctuary by dedicated security forces.

14. Education- Virtual classrooms but free play times together are scheduled. A lot of free time given for personal study of topics that are interesting to that individual and on creative projects.

Ongoing public education- Every member of the society is taught the principles on which the society is built, lessons of the past and about the future problem solvers. This is to promote social cohesion through shared values and knowledge. I have replied to someone else that perhaps the populous can decide which affirmation will be broadcast each quarter, so they feel they have some input.

Re, Changing the environment I cautioned against large geo-engineering projects because there is the potential to cause more harm than intended. The many problems of hydroelectric dams are illustrative. Damage to fisheries and farms by preventing nutrient rich silts to get down stream, silting up of the dam, problems over water supply down stream. Allan Savoy's solution though is to return eroded areas of land back to a state that existed previously, and is entirely natural. I think we have to work with nature and not battle against it with our technology.

Thanks again, Israel. (I will take a look at your reply on your page), Georgina

Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 14, 2014 @ 08:21 GMT
Just thought,

In regard to education I should also have mentioned the knowledge hubs, repository of human knowledge shared between all of the sanctuaries, to which all people have free access.

15.Extinctions- some natural ecosystems and genetic material are preserved within the sanctuaries

Maintaining structures- self healing materials are used. This is new technology but in the fictitious world it is far more advanced.Also for resilience tough natural materials and strong nature like forms are used.

Manufacturing-by 3D printing and growth

Israel Perez replied on May. 14, 2014 @ 20:20 GMT
Hi Georgina

Thanks for your comprehensive reply, it is very elucidating. Alan Kadin also argues that overpopulation is a problem. I do agree is a problem but I think the planet can sustain a population of over 10 billion people for several centuries. I don't think limiting birth rate is a viable solution, no body on this planet would like the idea of restricting the number of children per family.

As for point 6. I am unaware of Savory's method, I will take a look at it, because CO2 emission is a big problem.

Good luck in the contest.

Best Regards


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Gbenga Michael Ogungbuyi wrote on May. 15, 2014 @ 05:38 GMT
Dear Georgina Parry,

Your article is pungent and very interesting. Your idea held my interest through out. I wish you a fantastic reward for your efforts!

Kindly read my article as well on STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY AND ECOSYSTEM using this direct link

I will expect your view as comment on the article after reading as well as your rating.

Wishing you the very best in this competition.



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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 21, 2014 @ 08:31 GMT
Hi Gbenga,

thank you very much for reading my essay and for your kind comments.

I will read your essay.

Member Marc Séguin wrote on May. 15, 2014 @ 23:39 GMT

Thank you for an interesting essay and an imaginative vision of the future!

Since I still believe that education can save the world (as presented in my essay on the Futurocentric Education Initiative), I especially liked the passage where you say:

Now even infants begin to learn about the exponential function, to understand that limits can not be exceed. At first they think being allowed to take more and more jelly beans out of the box is a good thing but when the box is empty they gradually begin to understand.

I hope your essay makes it to the finals... Good luck!


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 16, 2014 @ 05:03 GMT
Hi Marc,

thank you for reading my essay, for your comment and good wishes.

I had a debate with my teenage daughter about whether the children would learn from intermittent repetitions of the jelly bean game. Taking the jelly beans out at different intervals and seeing how long there were still jelly beans left in the box. (Maybe that could be extended by adding more beans to the box at different rates as well as taking them out.) Or whether the children would just enjoy getting the jelly beans as quickly as possible and be frustrated by having to wait. I don't know the answer without trying it out on some infant school children but decided to leave it in the essay. My presumption is that they are eating the jelly beans making this a very enjoyable, rewarding game. It is meant to demonstrate the gentle way very important lessons about resources might be taught to very young children in an age appropriate way. The children grow up with that knowledge, it is a part of them, only becoming aware of the vital significance as they get older.

You have also unintentionally spotted a typo. It was supposed to say 'exceeded'. Bother!

Author Georgina Woodward wrote on May. 16, 2014 @ 10:35 GMT
BBC article,'Arrogance' of ignoring need for sleep

Anonymous wrote on May. 16, 2014 @ 12:22 GMT
Dear Georgina,

As I promised in my Essay page, I have read your particular and nice Essay. Here are my comments/questions:

1) I did not know the intriguing sentence by Dr. Bartlett on the exponential function. I think it could have also other meanings outside the contest of overpopulation.

2) The lesson of the bacteria in a jar is nice, but I am not sure that it works also for humans in our planet.

3) Your title "Smooth seas do not make good sailors" that you also recall within the Essay's text remembers me my statement that "Experience is the sum of all ours failures".

4) I am an estimator of Dr. Allan Savory. It was a good thing that you cited him.

5) The aphorism "Diversity aids survival, do not let the book be destroyed to save the page" is fantastic!

6) I think that long-term weather forecasting is difficult also today.

7) Do you think that nuclear energy, if used without violent purposes, could have some role in your beautiful utopia?

You wrote a nice Essay, which enjoyed me. Thus, I will give you an high score. Best luck in the contest.

Cheers, Ch.

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Christian Corda replied on May. 16, 2014 @ 12:25 GMT
I sign the above post

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 17, 2014 @ 05:24 GMT
Dear Christian,

thank you so much for reading my essay and commenting.

1, "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." - Prof. Al Bartlett; comes from the beginning of his talk "Arithmetic, Population and Energy." In the references at the end of my essay there is a hyperlink to a transcript of his talk. Here is a link to the full transcript of the talkTranscript of Arithmetic, population and energy Or if you prefer on this linked page you will find links to video of his talk as 8 installments or as 1 hour streaming video.Video links, Arithmetic, Population and Energy, by A. Bartlett It is well worth a look. I have watched it all the way through a number of times because it is so good.

"Dr. Bartlett gave his celebrated lecture, Arithmetic, Population and Energy 1,742 times."from It is about the exponential function which applies to any kind of growth, increasing use of resources, particularly fossil fuels, as well as population growth.

He also says, Quote:"We must educate people to recognise the fact that growth of populations and growth of rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained. What's the first law of sustainability? You've heard thousands of people talking endlessly about sustainability; did they ever tell you the first law? Here it is: population growth and /or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained. That's simple arithmetic. Yet nobody that I'm encountering will tell you about that when they're talking about sustainability. So I think it's intellectually dishonest to talk about saving the environment, which is sustainability, without stressing the obvious fact that stopping population growth is a necessary condition for saving the environment and for sustainability."

2. The lesson of the bacteria in a jar 'brings home' the idea of how very quickly resources are used up when there is exponential growth. Much, much quicker than with a linear relationship. So it's no good looking at what's left and comparing it to what has been used already and thinking that's plenty, because with the next doubling of consumption as much again as the total already used will be used up. Prof. Bartlett explains it better than I can in a short reply.

3.Yes a good comparison.It is overcoming difficulties that gives the experience to deal effectively with future problems.

4.Yes I think Dr. Allan Savory is doing very good work. I also like that he admits to the mistake of recommending the cull of herds of elephants and has taken a "U turn" against the incorrect received wisdom of overgrazing.

5.Thank you.

6.Yes also in the references at the end of the essay is a link to a talk given by Timothy Palmer: Predicting climate in a chaotic world, how certain can we be?MIT Lorenz Center John Carlson Lecture. You tube:Timothy Palmer: Predicting climate in a chaotic world, how certain can we be? He explains the need to crudely sum together the smallest inputs to the climate and weather forecasts because even with the biggest super computers there is not the computing power to deal with the level of accuracy of inputs required for really accurate forecasts. Because of the importance of weather prediction, he illustrates this by talking about knowing if we would be dealing with a hurricane Sandy or a Katrina event he asks for more funding for that kind of research as even more computing power is what is needed.

7.I was trying to portray a truly sustainable community, implying that they do not use non renewable resources and produce toxic waste. So a fission reactor is out of the question. That would involve mining and transport of raw materials (which may be even more problematic than now with climate disruption) and storage of waste. If safe fusion reactors can be built in the future and deuterium and tritium can be obtained in a sustainable way then that is a possibility. What energy sources are used may depend upon the location of the sanctuary. Central Australia would have no trouble getting enough solar energy, Iceland and New Zealand may have enough geothermal and wind energy. Another important source could be micro-generation, for example just walking over the floors or using exercize machines could generate additional energy.

Thank you for your good wishes. Georgina

Christian Corda replied on May. 17, 2014 @ 08:16 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Thanks for your kind replies, in particular for answering my question on nuclear energy.

I had also answered to your question in my Essay page.



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Don Limuti wrote on May. 17, 2014 @ 20:58 GMT
Hi Georgina,

So far this is the most interesting essay that I have come across so far.

With lots of scientific detail and examples. I am still a fan of Isaac Asimov, and am still waiting for the a 3D video epic production of the Foundation Trilogy.

I would have liked the man who died on the surface, to have asked God "what took you so long". I find your vision of the future rather grim.... and very interesting.

It is great to be with you in another contest,

Don Limuti

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 19, 2014 @ 00:22 GMT
Hi Don,

thank you so much for reading my essay and for your kind comments.As instructed, I tried to make it an optimistic tale, of how large numbers of humans can survive with quality of life and purpose. As you have realised it is set in a background of widespread climate devastation, which may be inevitable.

Foundation trilogy mini series I don't know if this is good or bad news.

Best wishes, Georgina

Author Georgina Woodward wrote on May. 18, 2014 @ 05:01 GMT
Savory Institute

Quote:"The Savory Institute has compiled and curated a portfolio of peer reviewed papers, articles, white papers and case study that represents the scientific and ground-truthed evidence basis of our work.We work in collaboration with organizations, scientists, and academic institutions to collect and conduct research that will increase our understanding of how properly managed livestock in the grasslands of the world contribute to removing carbon from the atmosphere and addressing problems such as drought, poverty, hunger and social violence."

" It is actually the way humans manage livestock that is the culprit. This fundamental shift in thinking must happen to drive needed policy and market shifts."

Talking Points Regarding Savory

"1. Statements that Savory's work isn't supported in the academic peer-reviewed literature, or that it has been discredited in the academic literature are categorically wrong.

2. There is abundant empirical evidence of its efficacy

3. The climate crisis is much worse than is commonly realized and efforts of atmospheric carbon capture must become a worldwide priority."

Author Georgina Woodward wrote on May. 18, 2014 @ 23:58 GMT
A nice example of biomimicry improving design of technology.Humpback whale fins inspire better turbine blades

Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 23, 2014 @ 05:22 GMT
Nature inspires flying robot design

Margriet Anne O\'Regan wrote on May. 23, 2014 @ 05:55 GMT
Evolution is a process of adaptation and given enough time and raw materials will eventually produce a fully evolved, perfectly adapted life form, which particular fully evolved, perfectly adopted life form will be evidenced by the facts that it will be able to live - indeed thrive - anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances - or relocate or terra form to suit, doing so, moreover, WITHOUT CAUSING ANY WASTE, LOSS OR DAMAGE TO EITHER ITSELF OR IT SURROUNDS, ANIMATE & INANIMATE ALIKE.

Until the rise of patriarchy we were well on our way to this most exalted of existential planes.

All we have to do to get back on that path is dismantle patriarchy.

We don't have to re-invent high-tech gizmos to help us become healthy, happy human beings.

If we don't dismantle patriarchy & re-centralise women, we'll most assuredly & very shortly, plunge into the abyss of omnicidal oblivion, & nature will just keep on adapting away until another fully evolved, perfectly adapted life form emerges once again.

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Ryoji Furui wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 01:53 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Interesting essay as your yearly postings. and your comments seen each thread are really the second abstract ;) I do believe you always uplift this community with your emotion and talent.

Wish you good luck,


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Peter Gluck replied on May. 26, 2014 @ 09:06 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Charming essay, very good literary style, bright and important ideas, met-biology

at its peak. I understand it as Symbiosis is the magic spell

Grateful for the opportunity to read such a fine writing.Making a bit of 'mea culpa' for my dry pragmatism.


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 26, 2014 @ 09:48 GMT
Hi Ryogi,

Thank you very much for your kind comments. I really should have done a better job with my abstract. It is fortunate that we have the opportunity to explain what we have written and why in these comment pages. I don't think I have read your essay yet, I will take a look, Georgina

Author Georgina Woodward replied on May. 26, 2014 @ 10:17 GMT
Hi Peter,

thank you so much for reading my essay and leaving such nice comments.It's uplifting getting such positive feedback. I am glad you liked it.

Regards Georgina

PS. Dry pragmatism or not I will have to take a look now : )

Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on May. 28, 2014 @ 05:46 GMT
Excellent Georgina!

I love the way you told the story from the viewpoint of the people living in the transformed future. Of course; that future is written in our present day choices, and our resolve or lack thereof, but set out your way it makes for a more interesting tale. High marks from me, and respect for your literary style.

All the Best,


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Author Georgina Woodward wrote on May. 28, 2014 @ 09:21 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

thank you for reading my essay and leaving such a nice comment. I love that you loved the story telling. I tried doing something very different this year and the positive feedback from those that liked it has been really encouraging.

All the best to you as well, Georgina

Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on May. 29, 2014 @ 09:42 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Very deeply original essay in the spirit of Cartesian doubt. You put a very deep philosophical questions. Yes, indeed, very important issue that sets high goals for Humanity:"And if a blade of grass is priceless, what is the value of a human being?"

You have a good essay title: "Smooth seas do not make good sailors". It makes deep thinking about choosing a reliable course:

"It is by a mathematical point only that we are wise,

as the sailor or the fugitive slave keeps the polestar in his eye;

but that is sufficient guidance for all our life.

We may not arrive at our port within a calculable period,

but we would preserve the true course."
(Henry David Thoreau)

We must all work together to find "Pole Star" and "Point of support". We need a new "Great Common Cause" to save Peace, Nature and Humanity. Great Dream always go alond with Freedom without fear, Hope, Love. Justice.

It's time. We start the path. The New Era and a New Generation demanded action.

Thank FQXi that brings together people for "brainstorming" on very important topics of modern humanity!

I wish you good luck!

All the Best,


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Lorraine Ford wrote on May. 31, 2014 @ 00:41 GMT
Hi Georgina,

I enjoyed your essay - it was interesting, easy to read and well written.

I think the increasing ineffectiveness of antibiotics, and the recent medical research findings relating to beneficial microbes, vitamin D, sleep and light are very relevant to the health aspects of our possible future. Also, agriculture is an important issue, though there has been dispute about the effectiveness of Allan Savory's methods in certain environments. You rightly emphasize respect for life, not just human life.

My one quibble would be that although your story says "it was decided that geo-engineering projects were too dangerous because of the unknown, undesirable consequences that might occur", I would say that genetic/bioengineering is even more so "too dangerous because of the unknown, undesirable consequences that might occur".

I liked the way you brought the latest research results into the story. I also liked "Once upon a time it was thought that all life was within a space-time continuum, where...everything that would happen was already written into its fabric...The clever men would show the mathematics and win the argument. Then it was found that it was a trick of the light".

As you say "Now it is the mission of... the human species, to build a future. Success will be measured by the contentment, health, altruism, high culture, and creativity of its people".



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Author Georgina Woodward wrote on May. 31, 2014 @ 05:04 GMT
Thank you Lorraine,

if you look back in the discussion thread I have some links to the Savory institute, and Planet tech associates "Talking points about Savory" where the controversy is addressed.

I agree with you about the problems of genetic engineering.I could list many troubling issues that have already come to light but you are probably already aware of them. In the essay I didn't specifically mention genetic engineering and was not proposing it as a technology still in use, certainly not the current blunt tool approach. This tale is set in the future and though not mentioned perhaps by then genetic modification is conducted via DNA writing. The use of virus vectors that 'randomly' insert code having been superseded by precise, engineer controlled coding. That will instead give the precise products required and with greater stability of the code so gene transfer to other species is less of a concern.

I was actually thinking of engineering in a much broader context. I think I should have said bio and biological engineering as well as bio-mimicry, to be clear.

Quote from MIT," The Department of Biological Engineering was founded in 1998 as a new MIT academic unit, with the mission of defining and establishing a new discipline fusing molecular life sciences with engineering. The goal of this biological engineering discipline is to advance fundamental understanding of how biological systems operate and to develop effective biology-based technologies for applications across a wide spectrum of societal needs including breakthroughs in diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, in design of novel materials, devices, and processes, and in enhancing environmental health. Our departmental epigram is 'Creating Biological Technologies, from Discovery to Design', designating our intertwined emphases on advances in basic bioscience and in applied biotechnology. The innovative educational programs created by BE reflect this emphasis on integrating molecular and cellular biosciences with a quantitative, systems-oriented engineering analysis and synthesis approach."

The Once upon a time referring to my explanatory framework for physics, I will attach one of the explanatory diagrams, just in case you are interested to see it.

I really appreciate the feedback you have given me. Thank you, Georgina

attachments: 2_RICP3D_high_def_essay_version..pdf

Janko Kokosar wrote on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 18:14 GMT
Dear Georgina Parry

Humanity need to go to the universe, because space on earth will not be enough for all. But, in intermediate period we need to develop sanctuaries on earth on deserts, underwater in Antarctic and so on. It is more rapid process toward universe than immediately go to the Mars or toward the Moon. I think that your advice should be developed to the perfection and then we should to go in the universe.

You gave good advice about sleep and secretion of melatonin. Do you practise this?

My essay

Best regards

Janko Kokosar

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 10:16 GMT
Dear Janko thank you. Yes I think thorough preparation prior to space colonization would be important.

I do feel a lot healthier when I have slept well, and especially if I go to bed early and wake naturally. I often turn out lights gradually as the evening progresses and have my bedroom completely dark with no electronic distractions. I would love lights that dim themselves and change wavelength and come back on in the morning rather than an alarm, so that's what I imagined in the story.

Toby Asher Lightheart wrote on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 03:13 GMT
Hi Georgina,

I found your essay an enjoyable and interesting read. It's fun to imagine what the future might be like. Especially how humanity might live if we pass this stage of adolescence. Science or speculative fiction can also be a good way of presenting ideas to a wider audience.

I guess a question everyone should consider when thinking of their idea of utopia is "How do we get there?" Do you see a path that humanity should take to get to the destination you present?

I'm happy to discuss or provide feedback on anything else you would like.



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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 09:58 GMT
Hi Toby,

this is not really my Utopia but a scenario that might come about as a consequence of our actions, severe climate instability or extreme change, devastation of the environment and agricultural production making life above ground highly problematic. Its not that I want to go there but if we had to then we could make the best of it by learning all we can about how to survive come what may. Which also prepares us for other hostile environments on other Worlds.

The first sanctuaries are built to mitigate mass migrations, resulting from climate devastation, to prevent the destruction of the civilizations that lie in their path. It obviously is a monumental task that requires public support at a time when there may also be other environmental disasters, hardships, food and energy shortages or supply disruption. So there would have to be public information programmes to explain the necessity and gain support for them.

Following the success of the first sanctuaries more are built as a response to worsening climate conditions and the people adapt to the new ways of life. Populations have to be limited to the numbers that can be supported and social cohesion is important because the sanctuaries can not work as life support infrastructure and biosphere without the dedications of all of the people who make it all work. So there is also social engineering to ensure that there is a shared purpose, history, education and values and new measures of success.

The story is a vehicle for introducing a number of real problems and giving solutions. Somewhere in this discussion page there is a list of 14 problems that the essay addresses. I don't know if it is a complete list but those are what came to mind...population, child abuse/neglect, resource depletion, cancer, antibiotic resistance, climate change......

You wrote "Do you see a path that humanity should take to get to the destination you present?" Its a path we should not take but may be taking. Flavio Mercati has written "U-turn or U-die". I have offered an alternative to U-die,in the face of the unknown learn to survive in every way possible and survive. (Become good sailors.)

Thanks for reading the essay and for your comments and questions,


Orenda Urbano Hernández wrote on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 20:11 GMT

Fabulous, humanistic and clever key stones to create a basis for evolution. Delightful in its construction, prepossessing to follow the structured ideas that lead the attention toward the higher levels of human kind: dignity. Your work gives a deep value to science because is directed to create intelligent and innovative designs of blueprints to empower human race as a a group of systems leading cybernetics of cosmos in a rational and humanistic way.

It was deep to realize that you also consider children like a sanctuary, this is the vision from my family all the time. Where I defer with you is that “social affirmation” is not a belief system shared in “all families”, there is people blessed to have a strongly beautiful, deep, cultural, humanistic and kind basis to interact in the sanctuary and out of it.

“Adapt to survive” something that Darwin pointed as the nature of effective survival also leaded in me a deep disappointment. Fortunately your extended vision of intelligent interaction in different fields of human life (that affects all the other forms of life) ignites a sparkle of a new path: intelligent design based in respect of the dignity of all living forms. Your vision of micro-solution-intelligent design to be incorporated in complexity-survival-systems is an insightful deep grounded solution to keep the cycles of life as continuous flows of energy.

Fascinating you also perceive the silent flow of organization and life in chaos: non linear system. About your phrase: “Once upon a time it was thought that all llife was within a space-time continuum, where past and future were the same and everything that would happen was already written into its fabric.” I share with you Remedios Varo paint called: “Space and time Weaving,” I am sure will be of your like:

Wish you good luck for your great essay based in the dignity of living forms, respecting and understanding natural systems for life and the culture of respect.



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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 08:40 GMT
Hi Orenda,

thank you very much for reading my essay and for your very kind, positive feedback. I am glad that you enjoyed the message and not just the story.

Member Rick Searle wrote on Jul. 6, 2014 @ 03:02 GMT
Hello Georgina,

I posted an article giving some publicity to your piece:

All the best!

Rick Searle

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Jul. 7, 2014 @ 01:20 GMT
Thanks Rick,I appreciate the mention. Glad you liked it.

Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Aug. 20, 2014 @ 22:26 GMT
Congratulations on the deserved recognition, Georgina! I guess you've proven your point that we don't gain the prize without some heavy seas here and there. :-)


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Aug. 21, 2014 @ 03:13 GMT
Thank you for your congratulations Tom. Its very nice to get somewhere at last.

Though I wish now that I had written a different essay. Less creative and more matter of fact and hard hitting, because I could have. I was concentrating on keeping it optimistic despite the dire world problems addressed and potential for Distopia.

From the responses I received the story seems to have been too much of a distraction from the many up-coming problems and solutions outlined, and in some cases a deterrent to actually reading it, and seeing between the lines. To those who dislike the social engineered "Utopian" society I'd like to say if this is not the future you want then do something about it before it, or something like it, becomes a necessity for those wishing to survive mass extinction.

Lorraine Ford wrote on Aug. 21, 2014 @ 13:32 GMT

congratulations on winning the prize - you deserve it!

Best wishes,


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Aug. 22, 2014 @ 03:09 GMT
Thank you Lorraine, I really appreciate you stopping by to say so.

Author Georgina Woodward wrote on Oct. 4, 2016 @ 04:32 GMT
Hi Paul, thanks for reading my essay and for your reflections on it.

The sanctuaries are self sufficient and sustainable which means they do produce the food for the inhabitants. Food is not a business but life support. I have not explained how it is achieved but have implied that it is a society that is both technological and respectful of the "tree of life". Practices that are detrimental...

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Paul N Butler replied on Oct. 10, 2016 @ 03:45 GMT
Dear Georgina,

I had forgotten that you said that you would put a comment on your paper page, so it took me awhile to remember that. You are welcome. I always like to work with those that I believe are somewhat ahead of the pack in understanding. Your sanctuaries are a good idea because they can separate man from the local environment and thus protect it from manmade pollution. At the...

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Oct. 10, 2016 @ 08:28 GMT
Thank you Paul. I now understand that you were not talking about population growth being desirable. The story is a vehicle for raising awareness of a number of problems that need thinking about and hints at how they might be addressed, rather than being a plan as such. I have imagined it being a technological but largely post materialistic scenario. So there will not be the vast array of consumer goods you imagine, because of the limitations in production capability and because the values of the society are different. Human health; mental and physical, Social cohesion through shared values, respect for the tree of life; its diversity and adaptability, bio-mimicry, quality child nurturing, Knowledge, creativity, high levels of computer literacy and creation of virtual 'worlds'and such like are things that the imagined society values.

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