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Journal Articles (Review Article) Anthropocene Year : 2020

How humans may co-exist with Earth? The case for suboptimal systems


Human societies rely on rules to function, curbing the interests of individuals in favor of the interests of the population. A review of recent progress in biology and digital sciences suggests that such strategies might be universal: many living and technological systems favor the interests of the population to the detriment of individuals, at all scales. They behave in a suboptimal manner, restraining short-term performances while ensuring a high level of global resilience. This paper describes the features of such suboptimal systems. By synthesizing numerous examples within biological, and sociocultural systems, we show how suboptimality might constitute a powerful source of inspiration to address the numerous trade-offs humanity is facing in the anthropocene. Should human societies curb their performance for the now anthropic ecosystems to be resilient? New research themes, such as soft law, agroecology, and planetary health, already echo suboptimal behaviors. These examples suggest that a better knowledge of suboptimal systems could help formalize a rational limit to human development towards sustainability, very much like the planetary boundaries for their Earth counterpart. Conversely, this synthesis also raises a question of whether human societies could be resilient without being suboptimal?
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hal-03019269 , version 1 (23-11-2020)



Stéphane Grumbach, Olivier Hamant. How humans may co-exist with Earth? The case for suboptimal systems. Anthropocene, 2020, 30, pp.1-10. ⟨10.1016/j.ancene.2020.100245⟩. ⟨hal-03019269⟩
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