Interplanetary Travel

Mariner is an old codger – almost as old as many legislators. The truth is, the world today is quite alien to him. It is not his planet. Back on his planet, there is a President named John F. Kennedy; in fifteen minutes Charles Kuralt tells the news of the world with no gossip, no allegiance to viewer share, no conspiracy threats. Social media does not exist, only thick daily newspapers with pages of funnies and sports; mariner delivered them every day for a few years.

Computers are around but they don’t poke into everyone’s business. The U.S. is at war, as usual, but it is a strange no-bullet war with Russia. There are no mass shootings of children every month or so. In fact, when mariner was 12 years old, he would take the streetcar downtown without even knowing about the social dangers that lurk the streets on this planet. On mariner’s planet policemen walk their neighborhood beats and stop to pass the time of day.

Mariner could go on and on about how different his planet is from this planet. On this planet, he feels out of place and irrelevant because he does not understand this world. He is not rooted in the life of a child who is given a computer tablet in kindergarten. It likely is appropriate training for children on this planet but mariner finds himself confused about social values. Humanist philosophy is at a nadir.

Even television on this planet seems irrelevant. Mariner switched to a modern ‘smart’ television to no avail; little is of interest. The few programs he watches are broadcast on his planet. Listening to news today speaks only of Armageddon. Mariner’s planet, while it has issues, has no reason to fear the future demise of humanity.

But mariner can visit his planet. There is a dimension called ‘music’ that has a direct link to his planet. He steps into this dimension by listening to what people on this planet call golden oldies. Golden, indeed, and eternal.

Stack up the old 45 with names like Penguins, Everly Brothers, Presley, Ronstadt, Platters, Domino, Brightman, Little Richard, Carpenters, Ray Charles, Joni James and Cline. Or capture the next decade with Diamond, Denver, Peter, Paul and Mary, and ABBA. Mariner settles down in the music space ship chair and travels back to his planet.

Ancient Mariner

How important is the extended work family?

Mariner has discussed the extended human family and its newer version, the nuclear family. Nuclear families consist of one parenting unit and growing children. In recent times the benefit of having several generations nearby and even several in-laws provided a more fulfilling experience for all kinds of reasons from babysitting, to great holiday festivities, to fiscal assuredness, to a frequent communal sharing of love and association. Today, only the lucky families have brothers, sisters, cousins and older generations close by.

It turns out that there are benefits to an extended workforce that are similar to extended family relationships. A benefit of everyone working at the same workplace encourages allegiance to the business. Another important element is the cordiality among workers that makes tenure and job satisfaction more stable. The business benefits from team creativity and team commitment.

The new work force imposed too rapidly by Covid is one where an employee works in a nuclear environment at home or from anywhere in the world. Business administrators have noticed a drop in productivity not necessarily from individuals alone but from  general business production. Most notable is less spontaneous creativity by employees yielding only task-based productivity.

On the one hand, business can take advantage of dropping the overhead of large office space; for example Disney has a huge office building in Burbank that is virtually empty today. On the other hand, babysitting large employee operations that are spread all over the place has added a layer of coordination that is not easy to manage.

Administrators are tinkering with new ideas that will help manage a ‘nuclear’ workforce. For many reasons every business needs large scale coordination of its employees, e.g., changes in corporate policy, legal changes for employees and, importantly, a unified production force.

How about prepaid vacation for three days for employees while performing corporate-wide business? Palm trees and shorts are more inclusive than shirts and dresses!

How about overnight team retreats to work on specific issues?

How about restoring the old company picnic that looked almost like a fair? Maybe smaller businesses could take employees to a major league sports event.

These suggestions are among many serious ideas emerging to restore the magic of an extended workforce – the word ‘extended’ referring to the cohesiveness of an extended family.

Ancient Mariner

 

Today’s News

This excerpt is taken from a Politico news item today. The survey was taken by several elite colleges and was peer reviewed:

“HUMANITY IS DOOMED” — Climate change is taking a toll on the mental health of teenagers and young adults in a way that could be broadly damaging to society and even democratic institutions. That’s among the findings in a first-of-its-kind survey of 10,000 teens and young adults aged 16 to 25.

“The numbers: 83 percent said people have failed to care for the planet; 75 percent called the future frightening; 39 percent said they’re hesitant to have children.

“Most worrisome in the big picture was a widespread mistrust of government. Among U.S. respondents, only 21 percent said government could be trusted, the worst showing of any country. In India, nearly 3 in 4 teens and young adults said humanity is doomed. In Brazil, 78 percent said the government lies. Ninety-two percent of Filipinos called the future frightening.

“We’ve heard this story before. Teen activist Greta Thunberg took on former President Donald Trump. Teenagers are marching in the streets. Young adults are suing the U.S. government in a case that could go to trial next year. Large employers say they’ve been forced into climate action in part by demands from their young workers.

“The survey is the first time climate anxiety has been quantified and documented in young people.

“You needed the proof? OK. Here’s the fricking paperwork,” said van Susteren, a forensic psychologist. “The era of denial and disconnecting is over.”

– – – –

Mariner was in a doctor’s waiting room today. Five others were in the room as well. He overheard the following short conversation between ‘Bob’ and ‘John’.

Bob – Hello, John. It’s been a long time. How old are you now?

John – too fuckin’ old.

You must at least be in your 90’s. What’s your secret?

John – I fucked everything I could get my hands on, ate everything I could get my hands on, did whatever I wanted and went anywhere I wanted when I wanted. [Mariner assumes this was a stock bravado answer that evolved because everyone kept asking him that question.]

Bob – Wow. That’s how to do it, John. How are the wife and kids?

John – ‘Mona’ died 7 years ago. The older boy lives in Panama; haven’t heard from him in years. The younger one lives in Dallas; he calls me every Christmas.

Bob – That’s tough. Where do you live now?

John – I live in Mona’s niece’s converted garage over on ‘South Street’.

The conversation dwindled.

– – – –

And that’s the way it is.

Ancient Mariner

 

How are consumers in charge of global warming?

A few posts ago mariner wrote a post in response to an article that suggested “If everyone in the Nation would stop eating beef for one day each week, the Colorado River disappearance would be reversed.” The implication was that private citizens, as consumers, can have a more immediate effect on global warming than is possible through government and corporate politics, which are burdened with self-interest and ignorance.

The idea of consumer-managed reversal of the causes of global warming extends to other causes as well. If each citizen would not use air conditioning or heating for one day each week, carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by a notable percent. The same applies to automobiles, airplanes, buses and trains. Perhaps if everyone wore each day’s clothing two days instead of one thereby using less water for laundry, the amount of potable water in the world would stabilize.

These observations are relatively true and the impact would be significant. The fallacy is how does one ensure that 350 million citizens participate? Nevertheless, as an old trope says, ‘A dollar has 100 pennies.’ Even if a small percentage of citizens accept this responsibility, it helps.

In that recent post, mariner cast about looking for substitutes for beef one day per week. He thought Friday may be more acceptable because of various religious traditions of meatless Friday. He was dismayed that so many seafood options are suffering from overharvesting; one source cited that only ten percent of the world’s original large fish population exists today. Wild salmon and tiger shrimp have become a delicacy.

The vegans have the moral high ground with the meat issue. Still, mariner thinks our ancestors may not have made it without meat, if only carrion. Isn’t it true that the bone marrow, liver, heart and brains were the magic sources of protein that allowed today’s human brain to develop? . . . Maybe the vegans have a good point.

However, dealing with global warming is not a game. Around the world already weather and flooding have caused trillions of dollars in damage, wiped out family sustainability for billions, leaving not even a home or possessions. The rich nations have been able to hold their own in covering the obvious financial cost to the economy but certainly have no means to restore lives and families of those who suddenly have been wiped out.

The United States is in a cantankerous mood today. Irrelevant political conflict prevents the governments from performing with rationality in the face of a worldwide global crisis beyond any that humans have faced. In the US alone, millions will be forced to move away from disaster at a time when housing is inadequate, expensive and likely the economy may suffer accordingly, suffering a severe stagflation.

While wearing one’s clothing for two days is admirable, it is inadequate. Disaster will come anyway. The electorate’s job is not to stop beef or automobiles; its job is to elect rational individuals who will turn the politics around and start doing the representative job they are supposed to do.

Ancient Mariner

Times are changing more than one realizes

For example, using bitcoin did you know you could buy a piece of art that exists only on the Internet? No physical representation exists. You can buy the art but you don’t own it. You can sell shares to people who won’t own it either. “Oh,” you say, “isn’t that just like leasing?” Perhaps but unlike leasing you can’t use the art or take it anywhere. Besides, thousands of other bitcoin investors are buying the same art so they can sell shares, too.

Try to set your mind in the most abstract position possible. This buying and selling of art shares takes the place of a bank and associated trading of debt between banks. Bitcoin was invented the year after the 2018 recession which was caused entirely by crooked bank dealings with something called collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Passed off as triple A mortgages, the mortgages in fact were not triple A and contained all manner of mortgage failure.

Eventually, the false value of the CDO, very high because the whole intent was to make profit, came to light as mortgage after mortgage failed due to nonpayment. Caught ‘holding the bag’ so to speak, banks suffered unexpected losses; simultaneously real estate values plummeted because of the collapse of mortgage valuation in private investment markets.

So instead, bit coin users don’t buy real estate debt, they buy an artificial internet object that takes the place of real estate and is not subject to CDOs or any other bundling of debt because in the bitcoin world, every transaction is saved in one massive database where, to coin a TV theme, “everyone knows you’re name.”

Unless you have extra Monopoly money, don’t run out and buy an emoji. The bitcoin world is very fluid because it is not anchored to a three-dimensional world of physical things and human investment like jobs and commerce. It behaves more like a commodities market where prices are flexible based on availability instead of the value of the dollar. Bitcoin values – there are several different coins – can fluctuate wildly for no realistic reason. Still, one can avoid the shenanigans of Wall Street and the banks if one has a lot of Monopoly money to invest.

Eventually, paper money and even credit cards may disappear as the cloud and Internet become the financial platform for economics. Mariner wrote a post in February 2020 comparing North American Indian wampum to Kenya’s “first nation to do so” no-bank system by transferring cash with smartphones since 2007. The smartphone application world already has the software that can handle cash transfer but there are legalities in the way. For now, one needs a bank or card number.

Mariner still carries cash in a wallet he bought ten years ago. The bitcoin, bankless world doesn’t fit in the wallet. Where’s a cashier when you need one?

Ancient Mariner

A Recipe for Progress

Feeds 350 million – Let rise for 30 years.

Add 50 states:

AXIOS – “States are responsible for many of the laws with the greatest direct impact on people’s daily lives. Republicans control 30 state legislatures and the GOP has the trifecta — the governorship, state House and state Senate control — in 23 states, while Democrats do in 15.”

Blend with gerrymandering to maximize representatives in the House of Representatives.

Toss in a Constitutionally mandated representation of 2 senators from each state regardless of population. (Wyoming, the least populated state with 581,075 citizens, has two senators; California, with 39,512,223 citizens, has two senators).

Divide into two halves representing the 20th century and the 21st century. Using Covid, throw away the half representing the 20th century.

 

Herbs and Spices

Do not use antitrust – especially with the technology sector.

Use taxation sparingly if at all.

To increase hot spiciness, divide two political parties into four.

To add an aged flavor, do not enact a term limits act.

Do not add new concepts of education; it will confuse the older generations.

Ask China to economically control South America.

To prevent too much rising, avoid supply economics.

Continually agitate while baking. For a topping, use China’s Artificial Intelligence global network.

 

Good Luck, Zees.[1]

Ancient Mariner

 

 

[1] Generation Z, born from 1997 to 2012

Generational impact on retirement

Mariner has written about the conflicts between younger generations and older generations during this rapid shift in culture, economics and technology. Primarily because of the pandemic – a literal meth dose for culture – and delay of a more orderly change in culture between 1960 and 2021, the split is unusually focused between baby boomers (born 1940s-1960s) and generation X (born 1980s-1990s). Millennials are in the middle with older ones tending to be more traditional and the younger ones tending toward contemporary views.

Noting the perception of social morality between the two generations is akin to the Grand Canyon split of Arizona. Everyone is familiar with the many populist uprisings – more a social class issue than an age issue – but the generational conflict has more to do with institutions. Any and all institutions are included from government to business to public service to Wall Street itself.

The central issue between the generations has three parts. First is the manner of social interaction, that is, the ‘intrusion’ of smart phones, privacy, and altered ways of fulfilling human-to-human social relations. The second part is the interpretation of a successful life, that is, the 40 year career is a thing of the past; living in an era of better resources like housing, college cost, and flaunted family vehicles as a measure of success is disappearing. It is the third part that is the subject of this post: The role of institutions in the new world social order.

Below are a few examples.

Tenure is a term you’ll often hear associated with professors. Academic tenure means a professor has been granted lifetime employment with a college or university. It also protects them from being fired without cause. Tenured professors are smart and educated and have demonstrated good skills and many are past normal retirement because tenure protects their job. In other words they are baby boomers and a few from the silent generation (born 1920s-1940s). The role of colleges in society already is beginning a full transition to a new era where colleges are not staid, building-rich fortresses with an insulated student body. The new college will need to diversify its role moving out into the community, partnering with business, other public and private institutions and creating subjects and majors that mean more to the younger generations. Will colleges trim their baby boomer administrators and professors? Frankly, it is do or die time for colleges to rise like a phoenix from traditional classrooms.

Like colleges, other private service institutions like churches, retirement homes and libraries, the emerging culture is less interested in sequestered services because modern technology has provided any individual the opportunity to engage in personal activities more independently. A few examples are listed:

Churches struggle to keep an active outreach program because older parishioners are more comfortable sitting in pews or watching online services.

Small nursing homes have difficulty enlisting enough residents to sustain operability. More health services are easily available outside of retirement homes.

Community services for senior citizens have difficulty sustaining participants, e.g., lunch and dinner programs have dwindled because seniors can order meals online and have them delivered.

Libraries are caught with rooms full of books that go unread because of internet browsers. In each of these examples, the administrators typically are older millennials or baby boomers. These older administrators, like the professors, are classy, responsible people. But they are old. They did not have the same reality in their active years that the current generations are experiencing.

Speaking brutally, retirement is the solution to help institutions redefine their functions. Making mandatory retirement fair will take new government regulations and financial guarantees for the retirees.

As mariner has advised for Congressional elections, do not vote for any candidate over 55. The emerging culture demands that institutions redefine themselves to be ‘out on the street’ dealing with the citizenry on their turf instead of being sheltered within the comfort of stationary buildings.

Ancient Mariner   (Talk about old . . .)

Humanism

Someone suggested mariner should expound on humanism, referenced in his last post about ABBA. He proposed that computer intelligence was damaging the humanistic elements of society.

Generally, humanism refers to a focus on human wellbeing and advocates for human freedom, autonomy, and progress. It views humanity as responsible for the promotion and development of every human, advocates the equal and inherent dignity of all human beings and has concern for humans in relation to the world not only politically but in the human relation to the planet as a whole. Wikipedia uses the word ‘agency’ which means capability to perform as intended.

Humanism has no theology; the core ethic is the responsibility of humans to do what is best for humans. Humanism often is compared to secularism because both philosophies espouse a human-based morality that includes self-imposed responsibility for the wellbeing of humans, including the reality within which humans must exist.

The difference between the two is that secularism focuses more on the separation of church and state while humanism has no argument with the existence of theological beliefs – as long as it improves the agency (ability to perform as intended) of its believers. Humanism depends on science and existential circumstances to define both reality and moral agency.

What is important to humanism is its concern for success in life for all people and extends that concern to all of reality such that humans and reality are in concert. A large part of that position is the inclusive nature required. Many of the ethical principles are similar to those in the New Testament, that is, respect everyone without prejudice, do no harm, bond with humanity using compassion and assuring one’s agency is focused on the wellbeing of humanity.

Caring for humans is a natural instinct for the species. The ability to read the emotional state of a person by the expression on that person’s face, without even realizing one is analyzing, is a simple example of how important human emotion is. Compassion is a particularly strong emotion in humans but it is damaged by being abused or by constricting normal behavior. Humanism is a political advocate for equality and freedom and it promotes the agency of society generally.

When an individual frequently withdraws from interaction with humans in order to focus on a smartphone, does that improve the wellbeing of humanity? When the information on that smartphone is unreliable or manipulative, does that improve the wellbeing of humanity? When too many trees are cut down and it affects global warming, does that improve the wellbeing of humanity? When economic policy is unbalanced by classism, does that improve the wellbeing of humanity? Whatever the issue, humanists will ask: Does that improve the wellbeing of humanity?

Ancient Mariner

It’s Happening

The musical group ABBA is cutting its first album in forty years as part of a stage performance – as digital avatars! Sigh. . . ABBA, the most popular pop singing group in the seventies, is one of mariner’s favorite singing groups. But as digital avatars? Mariner has never watched the movie ‘Mama Mia’ because no one can replicate the ABBA sound – especially not Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep. Mariner listened to a couple of new songs that will be on the album. They still have the same sound but he isn’t sure he wants to see them in their avatar world.

How much sacrifice and damage is digital ‘reality’ causing the normal human experience? Mariner is reminded of occasional events when mirrors and photographs were shown to primitive tribes that were not part of the modern technical world. They reacted fearfully and suspected that their spiritual self had been stolen; certainly the image of self was altered if not stolen. So, too, mariner is suspicious.

Television used to be a handy tool as a remote camera. Mariner was a fan of the Baltimore Colts back in the days of John Unitas; the television broadcast away games. That was handy and appreciated. Now the television camera and telephones have been invaded by surreal reality, loaded with false imagery, false information and false ABBA.

Documentaries have warned us time and again about digital tomfoolery especially when it involves political information or marketing; it is hard to produce a hit movie today without outrageous digital monsters, scenery and abuse to rational comprehension. Where is Bela Lugosi when you need him?

Humans should have known this would happen, that their real human world would be distorted and leveraged. It is only fair, though, because humans have been distorting and leveraging the biosphere for 20,000 years.

It is the spirit and philosophy of humanism that suffers damage. Humanism can be traced to ancient Greek philosophy, which prioritizes human morality. Humanism is the prevalent philosophy embedded in democracy; humanism is the core of compassion; humanism is required for a cohesive society.

But the technical world of computer intelligence feels no need for these qualities. Just as we have plundered the planet’s biosphere, so is computer intelligence plundering humanism. Artificial intelligence is not bound by morality; it is bound only by whether it can be done – without regard or accountability to the human-only world of emotions and 200,000 years of evolutionary responsibility as a tribal species.

Goodbye, ABBA. You are missed.

Ancient Mariner

Life in the fast lane

It is too fast for mariner and other elderly folk. It is common knowledge that the beginning of the twenty-first century is a tumultuous border between a disappearing culture and an emerging one. Computers began the transition seventy years ago, and then the internet emerged. These two advances alone changed how a person views daily reality. In fact, reality itself is subject to revision.

Mariner read in his email today that the hottest market in software-related purchases is to buy and register an avatar that represents you while you are logged on. First, accessing the internet required a simple password; then it was a password and a clue; then the passwords had to be extraordinarily complex; then many services required the names of relatives; then a four-digit pin was added. Taken together these identifications assured others on the internet that the linked person was actually the real person. But now all that folderol will be unnecessary because you will be an animated creature or thing when you are logged on.

Two movies come to mind: The Matrix and Avatar. At least Neo retained his human form in The Matrix. In Avatar Jake Sully had to have blue skin and a funny nose. Facebook has been in the news for its aggressive pursuit of metaverse, a three-dimensional internet that seems lifelike similar to your representation in an online game. When you log on to Facebook, you won’t just be logged on; you will be one of the creatures in a bizarre zoo.

Ironically, mariner is reading a book about how we define factual reality.[1] The central point is that truth is not a finite object. The human perception of truth is just that – an ever changing perception based on what is judged to be the most dependable information at that moment. Unfortunately the computer combined with the internet has loosed Pandora’s Box in the form of unsubstantiated ‘truths’. Social media is the evil device that can use false information flamboyant enough to sway our perception of reality.

The clue that hints at the future culture is the dependence on unsubstantiated information – including an electronic shaping of our interaction with reality. Google makes billions of dollars selling access to our personal profiles, shaping what we know, believe and depend on as a full and truthful reality. Mariner often makes the point that opinion doesn’t need facts; today, manipulating opinion is out of control and is the biggest threat to the new culture.

Ancient Mariner

[1] The Constitution of Knowledge, A Defense of Truth by Jonathan Rauch. Published by the Brookings Institution 2021, ISBN 9780815738862.