Civilizations Running out of Gas and How we Learn

I came across this video today Civilization’s Running out of gas Story (beta5.0).1 I would love to get §macgarvin’s take on the viability of our well-being in 2050 vs. 2100. The video paints a dire picture, given its modeling of our “inevitable” reduction/loss of energy and food production in the coming decades. This has me reflecting on Fleming’s book Lean Logic 2 as one instruction book on managing this decline.

Moving beyond the dire predictions for humanity, what caught my attention in this video was the presenter’s remarks on the three ways humans learn: experience, transmission, and flow. I did a quick search3 and found others forms of learning (I think in some way the are all “expeirence”):

  • Transmission, an expert conveys their knowledge (e.g., ideas, skills) directly via telling, demonstration, and guidance to learners.
  • Aquisition, a learner seeks knowledge, driven by necessity or curiosity (or both), through exploration, inquiry, and experimentation.
  • Accretion, a learner unconsciously acquires knowledge through gradual absorption.
  • Emergence: a learner expands their knowledge through reflection, meditation, and creative expression.
  • Flow, a learning becomes deeply absorbed, which provides focus (e.g., “flows effect future events, and event effect future flow.”)4

I’m curious: can anyone add any more methods of learning this list? If so, can you also share references? Which method is more efficient and effective in different contexts? How, in fact, do we learn? How will using Tinderbox and its family of related tools help us with this learning? Thoughts?


  1. Civilization’s Running Out of Gas Story (Beta5.0).
  2. Lean Logic.
  3. Wilson, “Types of Learning.”
  4. Civilization’s Running Out of Gas Story (Beta5.0).

Civilization’s Running Out of Gas Story (Beta5.0), 2023.

Fleming, David, and Jonathon Porritt. Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It. Edited by Shaun Chamberlin. Illustrated edition. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016.

Wilson, Owen. “Types of Learning.”, 2024. Types of learning.

The Oxford Dictionary of Psychology defines learning as “any lasting change in behaviour resulting from experience, especially conditioning” and “the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill, or knowledge gained by study”. Stated rather crudely, it is about changes in the brain that endure for some time, and the mechanisms that cause those changes. Psychology has naturally studied learning a great deal, but it is not my field, so I will refrain from trying to say much about it. However, it might be interesting to have a look at Social Learning Theory and also Argyris and Schon’s writing about the learning organisation. I particularly like Argyris’s article Teaching Smart People How to Learn.

Learning does not take place in a vacuum – it is not a purely individual thing. It takes place in context, and the context and the effect that has are frequently overlooked.

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Bruner! – sorry, I know you know, but others might get confused. (And Vygotsky, of course!)

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I think that there should be room for “Inspiration” in this taxonomy of learning.

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To my mind, inspiration sounds as if it is more to do with understanding than with learning, if we take an “inspiration” to mean something like an “insight”. However, if you have (finally) understood something, have you learned it? I think there could be a long philosophical debate about that! Then again, if you mean something along the lines of somebody or something inspiring you, that sounds to me like motivation to learn rather than learning itself.

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Maybe that falls under the “Emergence” category.

Not a style of learning, but rom experience, openness of mind is a major factor in the occurrence of learning. A closed mind, of whatever intellect, stutters in the light of the new. Experience suggests this facility is disjoint from intellectual ability, yet important to its effectiveness (learning that is, not intellect).

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There was an article in New Yorker that deals with something like this: Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds | The New Yorker. Festinger, Riecken and Schachter’s famous book When Prophecy Fails also deals with the problems that occur when evidence clashes with deeply held beliefs (cognitive dissonance). But this is moving out of the realms of simple learning – if learning can ever be said to be simple.


In terms of “how” we learn it might help to distinguish input to a learning process - experience as input, transmission as input. vs the learning process. We can have loads of experiences and not learn or one experience and learn immediately (phobias are an example). Similarly with transmission I think.

Flow - or focus - seems to speak more to the process of learning itself. If we broaden out transmission to sender, receiver, the relationship between them and the information flow between them then it seems to me we might shift our attention more to the process of learning.

My grandaughter is just choosing subjects to study and she states she is choosing subjects on the basis of teachers she likes. Yet, interestingly, they also happen to be subjects that she is doing well in.

The philosopher Gilbert Ryle distinguished knowing “how” from knowing “that” which informs “what” is to be learnt.

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Thanks, I was not aware of this work before: Ryle, G. (1949). The Concept Mind. Hutchinson & Co.