I have lived in Switzerland for 15 years, and I fairly recently found out that there is whisky distilled in the Kanton of Appenzell. A Celtic tribe known as the Helvetier settled what is now the Swiss Alps in the 1st Century CE, under Roman rule, and this is one of their legacies, along with the national code "CH" ("Confoederatio Helvetica").

I first read about it in a mountain-sports magazine. Apparently there is a hiking route in the mountains of Appenzell where you can walk from lodge to lodge sampling about 40 brands of whisky. I have no idea whether anyone has ever survived the entire route.


Fascinating material. Putting on my mind-as-software hat, this screams to me of abstractions and meta-systems. A pattern can be learned, let's say, and a higher-level governor can then apply it elsewhere, running on different but analogous hardware.

I have for a while now nurtured the presumption to a hypothesis of higher-level intelligence as arising from a capacity for metaphor. Cat is to mouse as python is to missionary, so to speak. By picking up relationships and patterns independent of their objects and applying them to unrelated objects, my hypothesis goes, we can come up with novel ideas very efficiently.

What could support this better at the neural level than some capacity to pick up a pattern of firing and run it elsewhere, on different groups of neurons?

Collapses tend to be, ahem, interesting times through which to live. For that reason I'd be grateful if the next one could be deferred until I am safely dead. (I'm currently 55.) Having said that, an awful lot of signs and studies all point to some sort of climacteric. People tend to have no intuitive grasp of just how fast exponential growth goes in its last stages before exhaustion of a resource, and it seems to me that a lot of resources, including atmospheric sink capacity, are in their last stages before exhaustion.

But we're an inventive species. If we understand how close we are to collapse, perhaps we can make it a managed decline.