Sunday, May 29, 2011

Streamlined and Modern

from the movie "Things to Come" 1936
Standing tough under stars and stripes
We can tell
This dream's in sight
You've got to admit it
At this point in time that it's clear
The future looks bright
On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
Well by seventy-six we'll be A.O.K.

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

Get your ticket to that wheel in space
While there's time
The fix is in
You'll be a witness to that game of chance in the sky
You know we've got to win
Here at home we'll play in the city
Powered by the sun
Perfect weather for a streamlined world
There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
(More leisure time for artists everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We'll be clean when their work is done
We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

“I.G.Y.” Donald Fagen, the Nightfly

First let me apologize for the delay in posting, but life is what happens between blog updates.

Imagine if you will a world that works.  A world where everything you need is a click away on your smart phone.  Medical care is affordable, efficient, and available.  Transportation is traffic free, and we move about our cities as efficiently as we move about our homes.  Information is accessible anywhere at any time, and it is sorted in a way we can see, hear and understand on an intuitive level.

Our civilization would be managed by expert systems, computers like the IBM Watson system, only vastly more powerful.  This is not say that humans would be unnecessary, but automation and networking go together; the movement of resources, the transmission of energy, the flow of things, are all susceptible to automation. Things would work, there would be no “systems integration issues” (“This damn thing isn’t working, why sweet lord Jesu, why!!!”)

Things would be clean, well managed, and orderly.  Everywhere.  If you touch down in Addis Ababa, your phone will work, you have access to everything that you would have at home, and be able to speak to the cab driver in his language, thanks to on-the-fly translation from your smart phone.  This is not to say that we won’t have drama.

People are people, no matter how smoothly things run.  Grandmas and puppies will still die, and the general human capacity to behave in the absolute worst possible way as often as permissible, would still be in effect.  But what if we reduce the opportunity for humans to behave badly?

What if our world ran so smoothly, that we had what we needed, when we needed it?  We would have more than enough, for billions, not just those that live in a geographic region or particular nation state.  We could have plenty not for those who look like us, or subscribe to our particular religious convictions or any religious convictions for that matter.  Our civilization would be truly civilized, global in scope, moving smoothly across the Earth’s surface.  In a world where there is no scarcity, would there be conflicts?

If we make a world, where we harness energy from the sun, the sea, the wind and the Earth itself, what would be our limitation?  When we can manufacture what we need from raw materials in our homes, make what we want, when we want it, at little or no cost, what are we fighting over?  Do we still have politics? Do we still have jingoistic nationalism and religious fundamentalism?  If your needs are met, you live in comfort, and things work, what do you have to complain about?  

from the movie "Things to Come" 1936

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thoughts on Politics, Post-Rapture };-)

 “I'll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. ‘I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.’ ‘I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.’ ‘Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding out both puppets!’ -- Bill Hicks, Rant in E-Minor (released posthumously, 1997)

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” -- Winston Churchill, Speech in the House of Commons: The Official Report, House of Commons (5th Series), 11 November 1947, vol. 444, cc. 206–07

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you really want to test his character, give him power.” -- Abraham Lincoln

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”-- Groucho Marx

When we as a nation engage in the political process, our assumption is that we are electing individuals who reflect our common values, shared beliefs, and our highest aspirations.  We make these assumptions because the other side of the equation is that these are people who are cynical manipulators and self-absorbed deal makers, who look at their duties as just steps up the inevitable career ladder.
            We expect our leader to exhibit self control and wisdom.  Instead, it seems we have only been blessed with people of mediocre intellect, no self-discipline and a perverse sense of self-importance.  We ask our leaders to provide conscientious leadership, reflecting the morality of the community at large.  What we have seen of late is that our leaders seem bereft of any morality whatsoever, and are hypocrites of the first order.  A lot of “Do as I say, not as I do.” is going on in the corridors of power, where people who have been buying and selling influence for generations, are daily making exchanges, compromising the ideals of our republic.
            They have sworn an oath to preserve and defend the Constitution, but they have really defended the status quo.  The back scratching and deal making have become so institutionalized, that any outsider is faced with either signing on to the “system”, or quickly becoming politically insignificant.  This is the way of the world, and it appears there is little actual effort to make any changes.  Left or right, they are both branches of the same corrupt tree, and therefore present only the illusion of choice.
            Illegitimate children, drug addictions, and other affronts to the excepted conventional American lifestyle aside, the question is why are so shocked by all of this?  These behaviors are nothing new and as previously mentioned this is the way we have been doing business for generations now.  If we really wanted to change all of this, would we not?  The fact is, that the Romans figured it out, that as long as people could vote themselves bread and circuses, the politicians could get away with a great deal of  mischief.  The illusion of republican ideals, held together with institutionalized corruption will bring about the same result. Pax Americana will grind to a halt, and our time in the spotlight will be over.  That is the true apocalypse.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thoughts on the coming apocalypse

Dr. Peter Venkman: Well, you can believe Mr. Pecker...
Walter Peck: My name is "Peck."
Dr. Peter Venkman: Or you can accept the fact that this city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "Biblical"?
Dr. Raymond Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor– real wrath-of-God type stuff! Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddmore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!
Mayor: Enough! I get the point! And what if you're wrong?  Ghostbusters 1984

To begin, let me first qualify that I am not subscribing to any religious fanaticism.  I am skeptical of anyone who says they have found the revealed truth in an oft mis-translated translation of a translation.  Let me also say that if you find comfort in your faith, by all means continue to do so, for it would be cruel of me to strip you of your comfort.
That being said, apparently some folks of the deeply religious persuasion seem to feel that the end of the world should be happening on May 21st.  May 21st, 2011 to be exact; now in all seriousness, I do not…repeat, do not, believe that these folks have any veracity whatsoever.  At best what they are doing is selectively reading something that was poorly translated from the original, doing some rather dubious calculations, and coming up with a solution to fit their interpretation.
Which leads me to the topic of our conversation: What if, two days hence, the world is in fact coming to an end?  Maybe not the whole world, let’s just say “The End of The World as We Know It.” Our civilization will grind to a spectacular halt, consumed by a fiery flood, and by Sunday morning it will be all over.  What do you do? There will be no chiseled, square-jawed heroes to save us, no super humans in spandex, we are doomed.  Now what?
Do you spend your last few hours with those that you love? Do you make peace with all those who you have had “issues” with? Do you go out in a sybaritic festival of indulgence that would make Caligula blush? Or, as the clock runs out, do you grab your bug-out-bag, fuel up the four wheel drive and head for the hills, hoping to survive?
What can you do as the hands of the Doomsday clock reach midnight and the bell tolls? Panic, scream in impotent fury, cry, invoke the active deity of your choice, or party like its 1999?  How do you tell your kids? How do you let them know that you can’t save them, you can’t protect them and that it is all going to end, now?
Now think about how this makes you feel? Are you afraid? Angry? Hurt? Consider this: You will have a higher probability that you will have a devastating car accident than you will face an asteroid impact extinction level event.  What foolish drama have you let run your life today? Why did you yell at your kids, or your spouse? Was it important? Was it more important than the end of the world?
I will assume that the answer is no.  So hug your kids, your spouse, or your cat(if it will let you). Tell them you love them.  Work out your issues.  You can’t solve every problem, and some people just can’t be fixed. Run up that hill, but have a candy bar every now and then.  Live, just live. Be happy, but not deliriously so (it makes people nervous). Because a bad day isn’t the end of the world.
On a side note: IF the world does end, I will stand corrected. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In the beginning...

“The beginning is a very delicate time…” Princess Irulan, Dune

This is a new venture.  Like many attempts previously, it might peter out in a blaze of obscurity.  I will assume that it won’t.  In that assumption let me tell you about what this blog will be about.  It will be about observation, and detail.  It will be looking at the world as it is, paying attention to those things that seems to get missed in all the noise surrounding us.
It will also be about looking at the world at is may yet be.  We will discuss technology, not from a wonkish, techno-geek perspective, but from a more human based point of view.  Geeking out about this tech or that tech is covered ad nauseum, what we will look at is the effect of technology on humanity.  A sound tool in the right hand can do more to improve the human condition than all the political machinations devised.
            We will talk about the future.  About climbing out of mankind’s cradle, and moving off into the vastness of space.  We will work toward a world where things work; a world where our children and their children live at peace.  A world where there is plenty, where disease and war are things talked about in history books. These are our aspirations.
           I believe that all problems are solvable, provided that one can employ enough resources to the solution.  Solutions come from the application of effort, not based on fear or ignorance, but reasoned effort.  Reason, sweat equity and humility might do more for man in the long run.  A rational pragmatism, based on soundly arrived principles can unify humanity.  Not that such a thing is going to happen today.
Today is also another part of what I want to talk about.  We have a war of pundits in boxes, juxtaposed by their inability to find common ground.  When people decide to strap bombs on their children, because they hate their enemies more than they love their children, what does that say about humanity? And why all this hate, because reason has been submitted to the dogma of faith.  When we point at the other, and scream “Infidel”, “Yankee”, “Democrat” or “Conservative”, what possible good can come from that? Do you have to be wrong for me to be right?
          Do not take this as a pacifistic attitude.  Pacifists usually have bad endings. I believe in standing, defiantly. There will always be things to fight for, and maybe we will be on the right side of history.  That is for generations yet unborn to decide.  Standing is not passive, it is provocative.  It is looking the Man in the eye and calling him out for the ills he has caused.  It is giving the digitius impudicus, it is saying “Come and get them” when you are told to lay down your weapons, it is saying “I refuse.” when faced with force. They can only kill you once, right?
         We will stand firmly in the present, looking toward tomorrow.  I will be wrong, I will be right, I may in fact be wishy washy.  I reserve the right to amend my positions and grow as we go through this process.  This is a two way process, as no blog is any good without commentary.  And so, I invite yours, as we begin.