Few books have left as large an imprint on Chris’ general outlook on the world as has Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

Our so called modern economy requires the equivalent of two full planets of resources to operate. Therefore, it’s living on borrowed time, which means that someday, that experiment must end — as must every living arrangement that borrows too heavily from the future.


Giving that we’re indoctrinated from birth that “Growth is good”, how can an intelligent person grapple with this contradiction? Get ready for a discussion that upends much of the conventional programing we grew up with, and asks us: What different path should we be taking?

Daniel Quinn:  Every culture has a mother culture whose function is to assure continuity, to repeat the wisdom of the culture and to see that it remains in place. In our case, our mother culture happens to be insane. So she is unique. She is constantly teaching us things that in the real world are destructive and insane.

For example, that the world was made for man and man was made to conquer and rule it, which is what mother culture teaches us. We alone have that belief and it has led us to take the world into our own hands and to put the world and ourselves at great risk because of that.

Chris Martenson:  For instance, be fruitful and multiply was maybe a good idea with a few tens of millions of people on the planet, maybe not a useful idea today.

Daniel Quinn:  Yes, that’s true.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Daniel Quinn (60m:05s).


Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson and its November 14, 2016. Now, I want to open this dialogue with the first three sentences from my most recent book, Prosper, and it’s this. “You can feel it in your bones. The world is in crisis. You see the signs every day. They are in the overabundance of depressing news, revealed by overly stressed natural systems and telegraphed by the emotional strain exhibited by people you know.”

Those words written more than a year ago somehow seem prophetic today, but they’re not. A prophecy foresees things others cannot. I was simply extrapolating a set of trends, which is not the same thing as prophesying at all. Trend extrapolation takes no special talent at all beyond being free from a worldview or set of beliefs that might eclipse your vision. Here’s a quick example.

Our so called modern economy requires the equivalent of two full planets of resources to operate. Therefore, its living on borrowed time, which means that someday, that experiment must end, as must every living arrangement that borrows too heavily from the future. You see, there’s no special sauce, no deep magic involved in that line of thought; only being free from the hope that somehow, someone will think of something that will in some way append the most basic laws of the universe.

But how can an intelligent person respond to such lines of thinking? This interview fits into the framework we’ve been exploring here that roughly centers around the idea of tribalism, which is just one way for humans to organize themselves socially. Today, we’re going to be adding enormously to that line of inquiry by talking with Daniel Quinn, the author who wrote books with such revolutionary ideas and in such a creative way that he changed the way I think. As you know, I place a very high personal value on anybody or any experience that changes the way I think.

One of Mr. Quinn’s output is the exceptional book Ishmael which was the first book of his that I read, as well as Beyond Civilization which is an extraordinary distillation of a carefully curated line of thinking. For those who have read one of his books, Mr. Quinn needs no introduction. For everyone else, Mr. Quinn had a 20-year career in educational and consumer publishing in Chicago. He served as biography and fine arts editor at the American People’s Encyclopedia, was the managing editor of the Greater Cleveland Mathematics Program and was head of the mathematics department at Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation.

Mr. Quinn is probably best known as the author of Ishmael, the novel that in 1991 won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship which was established, which was established to encourage authors to seek “creative and positive solutions to global problems.” Ishmael has been in print continuously since its publication in 1992 and has been made available in more than 25 languages. Ishmael has been and continues to be used as a text in a broad range of classes that, listen to this now, that include anthropology, ecology, history, literature, philosophy, ethics, biology and psychology at age levels from middle school through graduate level.

That broad range of subject and age appeal is the mark of an exceptional line of thinking coupled to a clear and accessible style of writing. Welcome Daniel.

Daniel Quinn: Thank you very much. I’m glad to be with you.

Chris Martenson: Well, I really have to begin by thanking you for your work, your logical thinking and for undertaking what must have been, it must have resulted in as much trouble as it did accolades, I might say. You went straight after mother culture’s central ideas, which is maybe not always, shall we say, appreciated.

Daniel Quinn: Yes, it was an incredible struggle. I was fortunate to be in a position where I was able to devote 12 years to it. Not many people would be able to do that, but I was able and I was forced to do that. I did nothing else for 12 years except work on the book that eventually became Ishmael.

Chris Martenson: Now, that 12 years, obviously you must have had your own struggles to come through and sort of to figure out how to tell this huge story, and I notice that it’s interesting, I should say. You have a mathematics background, it’s right there in your bio, and you’ve built a life around observing that humanity’s future is at stake. I’d like to read a sentence from Beyond Civilization that I think gets to this.

You say: “If we go on as we are, we’re not going to be around for much longer. A few decades, a century at most, if we’re still around a thousand years from now, it will be because we stopped going on as we are.” Now in my experience, a background in mathematics or some other logical pursuit and the ability to formulate such a thought as expressed in that sense are connected. Do you think they are?

Daniel Quinn: I never thought of that. What you say is true, though. Yes, I suppose, I don’t consider myself a mathematician or anything even remotely close to a mathematician, though I have been associated with it in some of my career in publishing.

Chris Martenson: To me, the connection is that there’s

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