A Great Tomorrow

Scientific American magazine published its annual ‘top 10 technologies to change the future’ – ideas that are poised to transform society! Mariner remembers when Neil deGrasse Tyson had his first series on the Universe; He spoke fondly of that moment when the Earth becomes Planet One – a world of peace and unity. It is the vision of the magazine and Neil and other scientists as well that science and technology will solve our human problems. These moments are pleasant to read or envision. Full of hope and absolute belief, it seems our walk into the sublime is a short one on a sunny day.

Just last night mariner watched Frontline on PBS. It was about the 1 in 5 children in the United States who live below the poverty line. It was difficult to watch perfectly normal and bright children be crushed by the brutality of our dollar-hungry society. Must we wait for Planet One before children who live in rented slum motels can register to go to school? They have no permanent address so the children can’t register. Tragically, these children know their plight, its unfairness, its wall that cages them in nothingness.

Hasn’t science and technology provided the capabilities today to allow every child born to experience a normal childhood? Yes, they have. Then what is wrong? What is wrong is science has little to do with issues of sociology, racism, class brutality, not enough to eat not because science hasn’t provided better crops but because human abuse doesn’t feel responsible to see to it that everyone has an equal chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Isn’t that idea part of the Declaration of Independence?

As we marvel at the potential of our future through science, remember that our main problem is us, not scientific inadequacy. No amount of engineering or visionary capability will alter the human condition.

Perhaps it is better to succumb to the intelligence and mental control of artificial intelligence rather than to sustain our own inadequacies.

However and nevertheless, let us admire the future in which we will live. Remain lighthearted and appreciative. Here are the ten technologies that will transform our society:

  • No one need be thirsty anymore even if one lives in a desert. Sunlight powers a water collector that produces enough water to sustain human life on a daily basis. Using Zirconium Fumarate, water is drawn from the air and collected for use.
  • Scientists will soon manufacture an artificial leaf that works exactly like a true plant leaf. The advantage will be the same as it is for a plant – Carbon Dioxide will be converted to hydrocarbons to produce energy. This means that fossil fuels will not be needed.
  • Artificial Intelligence soon will ‘see’ exactly the same as humans. This has significant advantages for security and precise viewing in the areas of medicine and other professions which require precise viewing of texture and color. Combined with convolutional neural network (CNN) technology, miniscule differences in faces, animals, or texture can be learned by the device without teaching it.
  • Traditional farming manages whole fields of crops. A new metering system manages crops plant by plant combining sensors, robots, GPS, mapping tools and high density data-analytics to provide optimum care and feeding to each plant individually – with no increase in human labor.
  • A ‘human cell atlas’ is under development which would map every cell in the body. This will enable researchers to track developing disease and other transformations such as aging or mental variations.
  • ‘Liquid biopsies’ will be more precise in identifying the presence of cancer and other defects in human chemistry. Today’s blood sample will be improved in sensitivity many times over to provide far more detailed data.
  • Improvements in catalytic converters will assure that every vehicle can run on Hydrogen gas. Fossil fuels will not be needed for any type of vehicle.
  • Vaccines will include DNA and RNA to more accurately control infectious diseases.
  • The new movement of building houses designed to grow gardens and otherwise have a ‘greening effect’ has moved to building whole blocks and streets with integrated growing areas more or less providing whole acreages for crops and atmospheric quality. One of the associated ideas is self-sustaining neighborhoods.
  • The biggie is quantum computing. Quantum computing is founded on quantum mechanics which does not search one solution at a time like current computer processing. Rather, it assembles all possible solutions at the ready and searches for the right answer along several paths at once. The intense processing requires cooling 100 times as powerful as super computers today. Obviously, the complexity of variables and other relationships in very abstruse problems will be solvable. The primary advantage is optimization beyond normal abilities even for super computers.

In the Frontline piece about children in poverty, mariner doesn’t see any solutions that will prevent an 8 year old girl from having to turn her pet dog over to a rescue center because she lost the house she lived in because they could not afford the rent.

Ancient Mariner

The Great Experiment in Peril

In 2016, Eric Metaxas published a book called “If They can Keep it.[1]” In a post, mariner reviewed it at the time. Metaxas took the title from a phrase Benjamin Franklin spoke upon leaving a meeting of the founding fathers. The great experiment was to let citizens run the nation. Citizens would select fellow citizens to represent them in a Federal Republic that spread the agenda of managing the goals and processes of government across three representative levels – Federal, State and Local governments.

In other words, you, mariner, and every other US citizen have a daily chore of looking after the philosophy of government, the guaranteed equality of freedom, the mores of economy and culture, and the quality of representation in government. Together, citizens comprised a central power that controlled the nobler objectives of political science.

Metaxas described the daily chore as three elements of human character: The first is loyalty. We have forgotten that in the US, we aren’t loyal to a regime or an ideologue. In the US, the strength of our society is not loyalty to the flag. No, it isn’t. We are loyal to each other. Not just in political rituals or paying taxes; each of us has a bonded responsibility to look after our fellow citizens and they must look out for us. Eric Metaxas said the US is founded on freedom. Freedom requires belief in freedom; freedom requires loyalty; loyalty requires virtue.

The romantic element in this new philosophy of government was similar to a citizen’s commitment to their spouse and children: a DAILY act of responsibility with family and with affairs of state. In effect, citizens comprised a massive Board of Directors. However, mix this with the other part of the great experiment, the right of freedom to be whoever a citizen chooses to be, the guarantee to believe in any manner, and the minimal intervention of government imposing on one’s freedom raised a deep-rooted flaw. The two elements were and are in conflict: one espousing national unity and responsibility for the quality of government countermanded by guaranteeing a life of individual freedom to be what one chose to be. Benjamin was astute in his comprehension of a direct conflict between responsibility to a unified society supporting the rights of everyone and at the same time supporting the right of everyone to be individualistic.

What held the great experiment together for one hundred years was a common philosophy that commerce was obligated to perform in behalf of the citizenry. Commerce was measured first not by profit but by quality of support to the citizenry. However, the guaranteed freedoms of the constitution led to the opportunity to be as wealthy as one could possibly be – the obligation to citizen wellbeing fell by the wayside. During the last half of the nineteenth century (1850 – 1900), capitalism emerged. A socially aware economy partnered with the government rapidly became an economy of financial opportunity without accountability to the citizen “Board of Directors”.

The cultural conflict is clear: How does one look after the wellbeing of everyone else yet sustain independence to further one’s own wellbeing?

Recently, mariner’s wife listened to a podcast featuring Princeton University economist Uwe Reinhardt, one of the nation’s leading health care economists. On the matter of health care, he said the US will never solve the issue until all Americans on all sides come together as one nation to decide a common tax or fee that will enable comprehensive, government-paid healthcare. The hard part is bringing together a defunct Board of Directors. Since the Viet Nam war, the nation steadily has fallen deeper into the natural human grouping of tribes. Even the “two party system” in Congress splinters into more and more ‘tribes’ as new issues arise. Congress is not designed to be a parliamentary system. Nor, it seems, an authoritarian oligarchy – no matter how hard Donald tries.

Over time, every political system suffers entropy and new challenges. It has been 250 years, more or less, since the great experiment was launched and many changes in economics, technology and industrialism warrant some jostling of the political structure and goals of any nation during that era. But these are not normal times for change.

– – – –

The entire world is in the throes of shifting from one nation, one economy to international economic agreements. It is not a time to throw rocks into the gearbox of the US economy. The forces at work are monopolistic corporations invading a new money system where regulation and political influence are scant. An example of the effect is similar to Amazon.com or Walmart or Google diminishing or eliminating local businesses or incorporating the small business marketplace into the large corporation – in effect curtailing how smaller businesses invest and grow. Replace local businesses with nations; a scramble for global market share is underway. The US, early on the scene, put together the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a consortium of 12 countries agreeing to share a global market. Sadly, some terms of the agreement were overbearing to a given nation’s participation and the Congress was ignorant of the context in a global economy. Donald has cancelled participation.

Another area in the throes of global change is Artificial Intelligence. Cloud technology and ever smarter software will displace millions of labor class jobs around the world. Again, corporate interests see a time when job salaries and jobs can be eliminated – without obligation to the jobless employees.

Further, world population is in dire straits. For the developed nations, including the US, demographics are skewed toward older, retired individuals who no longer contribute to the economy; rather, the nations must support the retirees – a double whammy.

Under developed nations suffer corrupt governments or oligarchies. There is no dependable economy. 20 million people in North Africa face starvation.

Finally, Planet Earth is changing. Only the fossil fuel industry and its allies refuse to accept global warming despite visible, three dimensional evidence.

There are many other collapsing systems that humans depend on in the environment. The list above is a collection of economic issues in serious disrepair as the world moves into a truly new age.

Will the great experiment survive?

Ancient Mariner

[1] “If You Can Keep It” by Eric Metaxas, copyright 2016, Penguin Random House. ISBN 9781101979983 hardbound — ISBN 9781101980002 ebook. $26.00 hardbound. Or see your library.

The Judge and the Ladies

Roy Moore is an unavoidable brouhaha. It’s like watching water drain down a sink after cleaning vegetables. Every issue that has anything to do with politics, news media, simple human ethics, government procedures, Alabaman morality, and any personality of note from Donald to Mitch to Jeff to DonaldJR to Steve Bannon are sucked down the drain in this melodrama.

The swirling water has the bitter taste of GOP immorality, that is, highly questionable priorities for a political party representing all the people of the United States. Toss in some vinegar and rotten egg when the GOP and extremist religious groups (including citizens of Alabama) intend to vote for Roy regardless. God forbid a democrat is thrown into the mix. Truly, the GOP is morally corrupt.

Spices are added when Mitch rejects Roy and the news media says, “Who, me?” and Steve vows to create more favorable news of his own. One wishes Donald were in Washington during this vulgar conflict; Donald would find good people involved . . .

As to Donald washing down the drain, he would clog it.

Guru has pondered for some time why Dixie has never been able to catch up to contemporary morality and advancing social behavior; for over 250 years – even before there was a United States, Dixie stayed well back in moral progression and unifying culture.

Mariner must say it is fun to watch for the moment, however horrific. He is reminded of Bill Mauldin who drew cartoons of GI Joe in the second war.

Ancient Mariner

 

What is it?

You can feel it. Everyone can. It is similar to flying through the Universe faster than the speed of light. It feels like a tennis match using a dozen balls instead of one. It whirls you about like a carnival ride. It feels like you are crawling under barbed wire in the mud while bullets fly around you.

It is change. Change in religion; change in life style; change in deep-rooted national values; change in economic dependability; change in the Earth’s environment; change in self-confidence; change in the workplace. It is change. Change happening faster than ever before. Change so pervasive as to leave the entire world in disarray.

War is changing. Fresh water is disappearing. Work is changing. Seas are rising. Vital food chains are disappearing. Human life lives too long to be supported. Changing weather drives millions out of their habitat into starvation. The mammalian age is fragmenting. Sea life is dying.

If you are older than the Millennials, it feels like passing out in a spinning centrifuge. If you are a Millennial, reality is a hodge podge of artificial experiences that lead nowhere.

Change is so disruptive it begs the question, “How can we change change?” We can’t. Change is not arbitrary; change has no speed control; change cannot be reversed. And, to identify the cause of change, as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Broadcast news services cannot bring us all the changes. There are too many changes from too many diverse sources. News agencies are busy chasing down nothing more than political frivolity and gossip. Most viewers aren’t interested in change; viewers are interested in viewing frivolity and gossip which require little thought and action. Yet change rumbles the ground beneath us. Rock solid virtuosity is changing to flowing currents of ineptitude. Human life is in the midst of the largest quake in human history.

Ancient Mariner

 

Becoming Really Old

Mariner’s household watched HBO’s clip ‘If you’re not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast’ produced by Carl Reiner. It’s a fluff piece about the secret to living happily into one’s nineties. The sociological statistics one gleans from the show produce the following priorities for longevity:

Be a friend of Carl Reiner.

Be Jewish.

Be wealthy.

Have no life ending health issues.

Have no psychological entrapments – let go and enjoy success.

Be an artist.

Be in a profession that allows one to keep working into one’s nineties.

 

Amos thinks it was a way to get Carl’s friends together on a project that would be fun and also make money. Actually, it is a thought provoking film once one discounts the upbeat atmosphere of highly successful comedians and obviously better than average income. Mariner as well would have enjoyed seeing Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and Howard Morris – fellow comedians from that magical era.

Generally, the underlying message was to cast off the mental issues and daily hardships that plague all of us through life: feelings of inadequacy, emotional pains, persistent failure, meager circumstances, even physical disabilities. Instead, have full confidence that nothing is wrong about us. We are not focused on burdens; we are focused on lighthearted participation in whatever is going on – something that is entertaining or challenging or charitable. Pay no attention to internal thoughts that may constrain or restrict us; pay no attention to social judgment of our lifestyle. It’s not about us. It’s about everyone else.

Mariner has been blessed to know many nonagenarians. Many were suffering the ravages of age. Nevertheless, it was clear they were self-confident and focused on participating in life as best they could. Very few, if any of us, live a stress-free life; still, becoming a nonagenarian seems to require focus on the world beyond our nose.

Ancient Mariner

Global War already has begun

On last Sunday’s broadcast of Global Public Square (GPS), Fareed Zakaria covered the prospect of modern warfare. The point was raised that the new bullet is hacking a computer system. Just as the world is tackling fossil fuel as a global conflict, nations of the world are moving from gunpowder to cybernetics.

The US had a good taste of modern warfare in the 2016 election. Obviously, great harm can be visited on a nation if any adversary, nation or otherwise, can disrupt basic political functions, electrical grids, economic status, or major services like health care. Ronald Reagan had a project that was to invent a bomb that would kill people but not hurt buildings. Today, why bother; a single hack can shut down the whole of Manhattan.

The key adversaries capable of a cyber invasion are Russia, China, Iran and North Korea – setting aside the European Union, Canada and Australia who can hack against the US but don’t. Frankly, none of these nations, including China, would be better off after a conventional war with the US. But now war is ongoing: recently it was reported that North Korea literally has stolen billions of dollars from other countries and corporations around the world. Here in the US, we take great umbrage when a citizen fraudulently claims tax refunds belonging to another citizen; think what a cyber invasion from a nation could do . . .

Amos thinks the antiquated Congress (and the President) has no idea how to fight wars anymore; two recent useless wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) were launched by a Congress unaware that global economics, cyber warfare and international collaboration were capable of containing internal religious conflict to be settled internally whether by war or better means. Yes, oil was a major reason for meddling but the Middle East, oil and all, could have been managed differently than with tanks, land mines and gunpowder bullets.

Many, especially veterans, remember battling for territory. Maps were important because wars had battlefields. A few veterans have had a large influence in the nation’s handling of wars; think about Eisenhower, Kennedy, the Bushes, and John McCain. A new movie is out about LBJ and how he knew the Viet Nam War was unwinnable. Barack believed he was elected to get out of wars. Donald, never a veteran, never a statesman, has no idea what war is (nuclear, gunpowder or cyber) and may cause one for useless reasons.

Today, one knows the Internet has no map. It is ubiquitous. In fact, there is a new phrase, ‘ubiquitous computing’[1] that allows anyone, any nation in fact, to wait until a situation presents itself then take targeted action against that situation. Simple example: cash transfers between nations. Technical example: jamming signals coming from military satellites. Social example: interjecting false information into major broadcast networks about a spreading disease or the decorum of a political candidate.

Who needs gunpowder when one can control information? Reminds mariner of all the movies about controlling the weather.

The new bullet is an automated transaction fired from anywhere, anytime for rational and irrational reasons. Information is the new cloud over the battlefield. Pun intended.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Ubiquitous computing (or “ubicomp”) is a concept in software engineering and computer science where computing is made to appear anytime and everywhere. In contrast to desktop computing, ubiquitous computing can occur using any device, in any location, and in any format. For us old timers in programming, it means platform doesn’t matter; that an application will adapt to platform and to data status.

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Next Thursday mariner plans to upgrade his eyeglass prescription. He is undecided about whether to tune them to Dish or DirecTV or Roku; so many options . . . His bridgework is due for an upgrade, too. Should he include the health monitoring package? Which hospital? . . . My dog is having a chip implant so mariner always knows where the dog is; mariner plans to have an implant as well so the dog, among others, always knows where mariner is.

Someone suggested an imbedded mood chip that automatically dispenses an antidepressant. That is depressing – how about a chip that helps with sex? Mariner has joined a clothier website that sells chip-embedded clothing. Integrated with his weather app and his appointment calendar, it buys his clothes and each day picks his outfits. As to what to eat for breakfast, a meal is set out based on his key nutritional KPIs (such as hydration, body mass, and hemoglobin levels) recorded from that health option in his teeth. Mariner is not sure the dog cares about that. To drive to work, make sure to fasten your seatbelt. That’s all you need to do; the car drives its self and knows where you are going because it is integrated with your appointment…. There is a keyring bauble that can locate one’s cellphone no matter where it is – usually at home when travelling. As to locating one’s smartphone, it’s the other way around: the smartphone always knows where you are.

– – – –

Writing recently about how humans can wage war with telecommunications, mariner became interested in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Chicken Little already has fled to the basement to build a lead-lined safe room. We are familiar with the servant robots that sauntered about on the Jetsons; we are aware of robotic machinery in factories; we are aware of desktop functions like editing, faxing and checking out Facebook. We are aware that businesses like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Bing, et al, know our every move, taste, income, political preference, when we will buy an automobile and what model – more than you know yourself. AI has invaded our bodies and our brains or, in other arenas, makes better decisions than human brains. This is scary stuff!

For the moment, humans are not entombed in coffins at birth as depicted in Matrix. But AI technology is well on its way to living your life for you. A new phenomenon called ‘fake news’ has emerged. We are susceptible to fake news because we no longer live in a human-based sphere of empirical knowledge. For many, the existential reality is hundreds of TV channels that have no foundation in a person’s empirical reality. This includes television news as well as many fabricated websites on the Internet.

Searching for meaningful truth, we defend ourselves with ‘truthiness,’ Stephen Colbert’s invented word that says truth is what feels right, not what facts say truth is. Mariner visited Facebook for a few weeks. Facebook is an alternative reality which sits at the center of life experience for active participants. The smartphone is the portal through which we give our sense of self away to the AI world. At some point, AI will know enough about you to replicate you in an AI world. At that point, it may be time to pick out a coffin.

– – – –

Before closing his post, mariner asks that we pause to honor the passing of Fats Domino. He died Tuesday at the age of 89.

Before closing his post, mariner urges every reader to contact their Congressman to press for impeachment. The Donald phenomenon is no longer about compensating for a King complex; it is about stopping a brutal, unnecessary war, perhaps nuclear, with North Korea. Removing Donald is the only way to unplug a tragic and imminent future.

Ancient Mariner

 

Feeling Change

The Third Wave, a centrist organization performing polls and focus groups, visited the back country of Wisconsin to interview focus groups about the 2016 election.[1] The sessions were rich in wise, insightful statements. Mariner cites a few below:

Viroqua is a community with groups of progressives in the midst of Trump-switchers. The Viroqua representatives were eager to extol the virtues of their community. It was an oasis of sanity, an organic farmer in a pink-and-blue plaid shirt said—unlike the dismal city where he’d grown up. “There was no culture with which to identify, just television, drinking, maybe sports,” he said. “There’s nothing to aspire to. You’re just going through life with a case of Mountain Dew in your car.”

. . . What you see in these congressional meetings is a refusal to even play ball with ideas considered too extreme, like single-payer health care. “All these centrist ideals,” he said, “are just perpetuating a broken system.”

. . . A man who extols the area’s turnaround, in a section about the area’s “intense local pride.” “There’s love, beauty, and a sense of opportunity,” he is quoted as saying. “There’s been a rejuvenation of identity.”

An MRI could not have taken a better picture of the state of society in the United States. Despite The Third Way’s desire to discover that centrist values and cooperation were the answer to the nation’s problems, what is revealed are citizens without belief in an unstable, disparate society in all its manifestations: government, financial stability, religion, and therefore, nowhere to attach an identity to something that has value for a lifetime.

Mariner is not an expert historian but he believes the entire human population of the Earth is entering the greatest era of change in human history. Mariner thinks of polar bears clinging to smaller and smaller chunks of ice as the Earth’s climate inevitably reduces the number of ice floes. The bear doesn’t want change any more than we do. But the bear has no choice. We have no choice.

Imagine that the ice floes are chunks of functional society. Slowly, the establishment that represents society has become increasingly dysfunctional and does not serve the interest or need of the society’s members. Like the bear, we cling to the way things were, belief in the old ways, belief in rules that no longer work. We become defensive because we are unsure of new rules and new functions; our familiar chunks are melting . . .

We all remember many movies where the character steps through a mirror or membrane into a wholly strange and other worldly place. Unlike the movies, we can’t step through into a different world in a second or two. Stepping through the mirror into the future takes a lifetime – perhaps many generations. While we step through the mirror, part of our body is in the familiar world and part already is in the new world. Living in two realities at once makes no sense to either half and there is stress and confusion and doubt. The bear and the person both feel the change and become unsure. Unsureness needs no intellect; the soul knows things are changing beyond its control.

Today, and for the past seventy-five years, social change is accelerating. From a simple television to computers and robots and instantaneous communication with telephones that take the place of interpersonal growth and social fine tuning, we are in a swirl of change.

The only advice mariner can give is to let “progress” take its course, no matter how convoluted. Hold onto faith in one’s self; use the old rules while they work but replace them when they don’t. That sounds hollow but it is the only path through the mirror. One must make sense of the fact that guns are not the answer; racism and especially isolationism at any level may give small comfort now but in the long run, will be one’s demise; capitalism and other economically based value systems will stumble; this is a time when people must be more important than money. What primitive tools were to Paleolithic man, reason is to modern man. Separating into small prejudiced groups gives short comfort but prevents stepping through the mirror. Those who defy the mirror have the same fate as the polar bear. There will come a time when the last floe melts.

Ancient Mariner

[1] To view the article, see: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/10/on-safari- in-trumps-america/543288/?utm_source=nl-politics-daily-102317&silverid=MzQ2NDQ5NjI2MDc4S0

Thought Provoking

Mariner and his wife consider The Atlantic the premier magazine in print today. The Atlantic provides thoughtful, rational and valuable articles that cover society from one end to the other. Below, mariner presents the opening portion of an article by Eli Cook that tells about how in the 1700’s we measured people not by their worth in dollars but rather by other qualities.

The article starts here:

Money and markets have been around for thousands of years. Yet as central as currency has been to so many civilizations, people in societies as different as ancient Greece, imperial China, medieval Europe, and colonial America did not measure residents’ well-being in terms of monetary earnings or economic output.

In the mid-19th century, the United States—and to a lesser extent other industrializing nations such as England and Germany—departed from this historical pattern. It was then that American businesspeople and policymakers started to measure progress in dollar amounts, tabulating social welfare based on people’s capacity to generate income. This fundamental shift, in time, transformed the way Americans appraised not only investments and businesses but also their communities, their environment, and even themselves.

Today, well-being may seem hard to quantify in a nonmonetary way, but indeed other metrics—from incarceration rates to life expectancy—have held sway in the course of the country’s history. The turn away from these statistics, and toward financial ones, means that rather than considering how economic developments could meet Americans’ needs, the default stance—in policy, business, and everyday life—is to assess whether individuals are meeting the exigencies of the economy.

At the turn of the 19th century, it did not appear that financial metrics were going to define Americans’ concept of progress. In 1791, then-Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton wrote to various Americans across the country, asking them to calculate the moneymaking capacities of their farms, workshops, and families so that he could use that data to create economic indicators for his famous Report on Manufactures. Hamilton was greatly disappointed by the paltry responses he received and had to give up on adding price statistics to his report. Apparently, most Americans in the early republic did not see, count, or put a price on the world as he did.

Until the 1850s, in fact, by far the most popular and dominant form of social measurement in 19th-century America (as in Europe) were a collection of

social indicators known then as “moral statistics,” which quantified such phenomena as prostitution, incarceration, literacy, crime, education, insanity, pauperism, life expectancy, and disease. While these moral statistics were laden with paternalism, they nevertheless focused squarely on the physical, social, spiritual, and mental condition of the American people. For better or for worse, they placed human beings at the center of their calculating vision. Their unit of measure was bodies and minds, never dollars and cents.

Yet around the middle of the century, money-based economic indicators began to gain prominence, eventually supplanting moral statistics as the leading benchmarks of American prosperity. . .

. . . What happened in the mid-19th century that led to this historically unprecedented pricing of progress? The short answer is straightforward enough: Capitalism happened. In the first few decades of the Republic, the United States developed into a commercial society, but not yet a fully capitalist one. One of the main elements that distinguishes capitalism from other forms of social and cultural organization is not just the existence of markets but also of capitalized investment, the act through which basic elements of society and life—including natural resources, technological discoveries, works of art, urban spaces, educational institutions, human beings, and nations—are transformed (or “capitalized”) into income-generating assets that are valued and allocated in accordance with their capacity to make money and yield future returns. Save for a smattering of government-issued bonds and insurance companies, such a capitalization of everyday life was mostly absent until the mid-19th century. There existed few assets in early America through which one could invest wealth and earn an annual return.

By the Progressive Era, the logic of money could be found everywhere.

Capitalization, then, was crucial to the rise of economic indicators. As upper-class Americans in both the North and South began to plow their wealth into novel financial assets, they began to imagine not only their portfolio but their entire society as a capitalized investment and its inhabitants (free or enslaved) as inputs of human capital that could be plugged into output-maximizing equations of monetized growth. . .[1]

Stop article.

Mariner finds it almost inconceivable that commerce was once valued by how much it helped common man. Yet this concept existed at the beginning of our nation. Is this the concept that must return in order to balance fairness and human dignity in the future? Is that even possible? It is the nature of capitalism that more money and investment make more money – and limits human dignity to nothing more than a source to make profit for someone else. Common man may not be chattel slaves but it sure sounds the same. Are common people slaves to capitalism as an investment? In 1860, the nation fought a war about this notion. Mariner always thought the movie Matrix[2] was an allegorical representation of capitalism; humans are born and placed in a casket for life to be used as batteries. An artificial reality is fed into their brains so they think they are living a normal life. Don’t let this image frighten you; thanks to television, computers, the Internet and Amazon.com, it is how we live now.

In a related article from The Atlantic,[3] economic trust becomes a measure of benefit to the common man. Intellectually, ‘trust’ could include other values to the common man as well; not the same thing as pre-capitalist commerce but at least a distraction from capitalism.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] How Money Became the Measure of Everything: Two centuries ago, America pioneered a way of thinking that puts human well-being in economic terms. The Atlantic, Eli Cook Oct 19, 2017. See:

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/10/money-measure-everything-pricing-progress/543345/?utm_source=nl-atlantic-daily-101917&silverid=MzEzNjI5ODkxNjczS0

 

[2] Released in 1999 with sequels; available online.

[3] Reimagining Money: What if markets were designed to build trust instead of wealth? See:

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/03/douglas-rushkoff-reimagining-money/472335/

 

Political Nits

One has to hand it to Donald. One of his personally owned golf courses claimed a charity donation of five million dollars. NPR dug into it and could only find $80 thousand. The golf course and Donald have ignored questions about it. Mariner suspects the five million dollar gift is on Donald’s tax form to cut taxes owed. Pardon the use, Robert, but it will be an awesome day when Donald’s tax history is revealed.

The Gold Star issue laid bare Donald’s inability to feel empathy. Even in defensive comments, he can’t find something to blame it on; as in past presidents, generals and other leaders who have suffered the fallen, compassion comes from one’s own heart – nowhere else.

Mariner marvels at the inadequacy of nations to properly respond to the new age of globalization. In China, Xi Jingpin is moving the nation toward the glorious days of communism in an effort to make China Great Again (familiar?); in China, free press is disappearing, civil rights are disappearing. To maneuver around the leadership of the Communist Party, Xi has made himself chairman of several key committees. Other nations actively engaged in isolationism are Great Britain (Brexit), Spain, the United States (at least Donald says so), and the entire European Union – stressed by the wave of immigration and economic conflicts with Eastern European nations.

Globalism requires a market-based economy, not a nation-based economy. The TPP, which has serious civil rights flaws, nevertheless is a model for globalism. Nine nations were about to sign an agreement that bound them to an economic relationship where each nation shared a global market and agreed to a fair distribution of profit.

One of the shortcomings in the TPP is labor distribution. The reader may have noticed that over the past fifty years, corporations are doing everything they can to shed employees, minimize salary and benefits, and hide profits. While the concept of shared profit sounds good between nations, it does not require that job distribution is employee oriented or that corporations, either through taxation of actual profits or through internalized policies, seek to optimize employee participation (jobs). Nevertheless, we should understand that we will share GDP with other nations. Those nations seeking isolation are going in the wrong direction.

The Democratic Party shows signs of hope and increased energy but what is the message? What is the theory of social equality that binds Americans in a democratic society? What are the examples of civil liberty and equality? In mariner’s county, the focus still seems to be on petty local issues. This may be appropriate under general circumstances but today, with conservative policies running amuck from Libertarianism to Reaganism to white supremacy, voters need a new national message. Where is it? Voters already identify with the Affordable Care Act; what else is in the Democratic Bag?

The press recently called Donald the ‘destruction’ President because all he does is undo Obama’s legacy and destroy principles of democracy. But his Cabinet members also are great ‘destructionists’. Put together, our country rapidly is returning to the 1920’s. Mariner wouldn’t be surprised that new racist statues will be ordered and we shall become an archipelago nation as the oceans rise. We will not be a nation of rich-hued skin but a pale whiteness preserved from an ancient era – like a pod of Beluga whales.

Ancient Mariner