Do you know your epitaph?

True, tombstones are not so much the fashion today but one should not ignore one’s epitaph whether on a tombstone or not. In just a few words, certainly less than a dozen, a person’s life is encapsulated for all time. Who are you? What is it about you that contributed to reality?

Addressing the enormity of the epitaph with humor, mariner’s family and friends are well aware mariner considers the verb ‘get’ to be an evil destroyer of vocabulary. American usage, especially the simple past and past participle (got), displaces at least 17 additional words every day. What happened to “I received mail?” or “I understand it?” and a myriad more forgotten words that actually have a specific meaning. Even word partner ‘have’ is left out: “I gotta go.”

Mariner’s wife was quick to offer her choice for mariner’s epitaph: “Here lies mariner. He got dead.” Her own characteristics of never being able to leave the house just once without forgetting something and coming back – two or three times – provided her epitaph: “Here lies mariner’s wife. She’ll be back.” Identifying one another’s epitaphs should be entertainment for the family or even at a party.

Humor aside, although it is the fun part, identifying the most important influence one has had on reality is a personal value that carries serious import. The ego, too, is close to the surface. The caveat is that the opinion of others may not be as rosy or complimentary as one’s own opinion. In short, epitaph may become epithet. For example, “Here lies Sam. He never met a prejudice he didn’t like.” Perhaps, “Here lies Darlene. She made the most of eleven marriages.

The subjects of these two examples likely had more grandiose images of themselves, perhaps invoking thoughts of sacrifice to others in spite of the world the subjects lived in. Many are aware that they have committed their life to a cause. A very common example is caring for the quality of life in a spouse; another common raison d’être is raising one’s children.

It is true that epitaphs based on behavioral characteristics tend to be humorous but there is merit to identifying within one’s self what one did to improve the world in some way. One doesn’t need to discover this at a party. In fact, each of us needs to give time every once in a while to what value our life has been to reality.

Ancient Mariner


The Times – They are A-Changin’

Mariner found the article below in an old Time magazine. Currently, scientists anticipate 20 billion living humans by the end of the century. If they all live forever and each couple continues having two children, what a fine thing that will be???

Is an Anti-Aging Pill on the Horizon?

By Alexandra Sifferlin

“NAD+ is the closest we’ve gotten to a fountain of youth,” says David Sinclair, co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School. “It’s one of the most important molecules for life to exist, and without it, you’re dead in 30 seconds.”

NAD+ is a molecule found in all living cells and is critical for regulating cellular aging and maintaining proper function of the whole body. Levels of NAD+ in people and animals diminish significantly over time, and researchers have found that re-upping NAD+ in older mice causes them to look and act younger, as well as live longer than expected. In a March 2017 study published in the journal Science, Sinclair and his colleagues put drops of a compound known to raise levels of NAD+ into the water for a group of mice.

Within a couple hours, the NAD+ levels in the mice had risen significantly. In about a week, signs of aging in the tissue and muscles of the older mice reversed to the point that researchers could no longer tell the difference between the tissues of a 2-year-old mouse and those of a 4-month-old one.

Now scientists are trying to achieve similar results in humans…[1]

– – – –

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Indeed so as we enter what looks like it will be civilization’s most disruptive century since the Black Plague. Consider this list:

Climate change – coastal cities around the world will be flooded; much of the temperate zone will become tropical; ocean life will dwindle to a serious degree; penguins and polar bears will be homeless and hungry; environmental stresses will interfere with war; the travesty of climate destruction will test the strongest economies.

Artificial Intelligence – already reducing major job markets and soon will displace many lawyers, family care physicians, financial advisors, mortgage brokers and everyone who performs data entry tasks; public transportation including trains, planes, cars and 18-wheelers will drive themselves (this likely may require making human drivers illegal); AI will interfere with cultural policies about race and religious segregation – simply because identity politics won’t be affordable.

Banking and Finance – Artificial intelligence also will affect the way we relate to income and assets; economies will be influenced by increasingly socialist solutions to solve problems too large and diverse to be addressed by individual national economies or corporations; individual families may not own much directly but will participate in largescale consortiums (think something like Amazon.Com); salaries will be separated from most jobs and distributed directly to citizens. [Yes, this may sound blasphemous to fiscal conservatives but mariner draws this opinion from existing evidence that banks, corporations and governments are thinking about how to manage a future where everyone around the world has instant contact with everyone else and personal assets are managed electronically; ways to bundle housing, payroll, transportation and accessories as a single package; ways to bundle services like health care and education.]

Mariner is concerned that we may simply turn over to others our privacy, independent choices in our lives, even our choice of taste in clothing and other daily interests. Both the book 1984 and the movie Matrix loom as literary shadows if we do not move into this century level-headed and wisely.[2]

Ancient Mariner



[2] For someone who has given the immediate future great thought, buy the book, We’re doomed, Now what?: Essays on war and Climate Change. by Roy Scranton.


A legitimate question was raised as to why mariner did not include personality variables in the last post. There are tons of personality tests about intelligence (Stanford-Binet), skill assessment (SAT, GRE), decision variables (Myers-Briggs), and many general tests (MMPI). There are so many that mariner refers the reader to Wikipedia at:

Every personality/capability/decision test adds understanding about personalities, aptitudes and function preferences – even attitudes. Mariner is not writing a book; he suspects his readers do not want to read a book. His intent always is to inject an interesting perspective into one’s daily schedule. Consequently when the subject is human behavior, he depends on truisms, popular psychology tools, general behavior and a sailor’s intuition.

When mariner was an independent consultant, he had contracts to teach leadership skills, organization methods and computerization of business models. All these subjects rest on human behavior. Mariner often used Myers-Briggs to sensitize how one participates in a group. He borrowed instructional tools from W. Edwards Deming, Peter Drucker and others. One of mariner’s favorites is Deming’s playing card games which demonstrated that employees will do anything, even cheat, to be successful. (One thinks of Sarah Huckabee Sanders)

A personal favorite mariner devised was on the second day of training, when the students were out to lunch, he and his team would move everyone’s materials to a different seat. This caused immense discomfort in many of the students but it demonstrated one’s conservatism in sustaining the status quo – a behavior that inhibits making good decisions.

Mariner responded to a reader’s reply about not including Myers-Briggs. The response suggests that when presented in a group that was predefined (employee groups), 99% used the four letter scores negatively for purposes of self-promotion and elitism. While Myers-Briggs is technically sound, it carries overhead in a behavioral training session.

So, as it states in the blog page about the mariner, tall tales will be told – with some wisdom, mariner hopes.

Ancient Mariner




When mariner was in his thirties, he took courses in sociology and psychology. He became interested in how an individual chooses lifestyle, career and hobbies. Certainly fate itself dictates a great number of choices, often choices that may not fit one’s emotion, talent or physical profile. Still, one becomes aware that certain ways of learning, certain mental and physical skills perform more easily when compared to other people’s profiles.

To demonstrate clearly how an individual is different from another in how they learn and what comes more easily to them, mariner cites three extreme examples of individual skills that demonstrate the differences each of us may have from others.

Alonzo Clemens was a perfectly normal human. Unfortunately, he had a severe accident which damaged his brain. He is no longer a normal individual; he is a savant. Hand him a lump of clay and in minutes he will miraculously produce a perfect replica of any creature, his favorite being horses. Alonzo’s brain easily speaks through his hands.

Alma Deutscher, is a normal British eleven year old musical prodigy. She played the piano and violin at 3; Alma wrote an opera for a full symphony orchestra at age 11 – including the music for each instrument in the orchestra. It was performed to raves. One could say that Alma’s brain is wired to understand and produce music – not a small skill and one where hearing is critical.

Marilu Henner is a well-known actress. She also is one of thirteen known people worldwide with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, or H-SAM. Marilu has full retention of her entire life complete with dates, what she did on a given day, and everyone she spoke to on that day. Marilu’s brain is wired like a database; parsing information is her special ability. This phenomenon does not interfere with other emotional or physical experiences. Mariner selected Marilu as an example from AARP magazine. You can read this article at:

We plain folk aren’t mental superstars but it is important to realize that each of us has a discerning skill and aptitude that makes each of us special. It makes for an easier life if we are conscious of our specialties; this makes it easier to select our job, hobby, and leverage the special way that each of us learns.

There are a number of characteristics that can help us identify our abilities. For example, each of us tends to learn more easily with one sense over the others. Some find it easier to learn by touching or doing; some find it easier to learn by hearing; some find it easier to learn by watching; some by reading, etc. In the AARP article, Marilu suggests to review the day’s experiences by replaying them mentally, using our brain’s image of what we did that day, will noticeably improve our memory. Mariner, for example, learns best using sight; at the end of the day he should run a set of images through his brain that will serve as memory anchors.

Another aspect of learning is how our brains solve problems. Some will be better at solving procedural problems; others will be better at comparative solutions and others may understand solutions better if they have a broad perspective of the issue.

An old pop-psych description mariner has referenced before is the what-how-why description of arriving at solutions. Which is the most informative question you ask yourself when confronted with a situation that needs a solution?

What do I do?   How do I do this?     Why do I do this?

Combining the favored sense for learning with the manner by which we solve problems is a simple description of our individual aptitude. Those who learn best by touch or hands-on engagement coupled with ‘what do I do’ have an aptitude that excels at sequential activities, i.e, bookkeeping, woodworking, and construction among many examples. If we pair hearing and ‘how do I do this’ we likely will be better than average managers where talking and comparative reasoning are important. If we pair sight and ‘why do I do this’ it may be easier to ponder less defined solutions associated with science or cause and effect speculations.

Mariner has a life experience he tells about the time when he was a supervisor of programmers. In large computer systems, there are millions of lines of code so the code is divided into appropriate functions and each is overseen by a supervisor and a team of programmers. A situation arose where mariner was to receive an additional function from another supervisor. He visited the other supervisor to learn what the new function was about; this involved understanding the logic of the code – a very procedural style of logic. The supervisor sat down at the computer and described in rapid succession sixteen steps required to manage the function. Mariner, not being so glib as an intensely ‘what’ person at procedure, learned absolutely nothing about the meaning of the sixteen steps. The supervisor went through the steps again and a third time. Mariner was as ignorant as he was before the supervisor started. The supervisor asked mariner how he ever got a job as a supervisor and said as much to our manager. Fortunately, our manager was wise to our different aptitudes and dismissed the situation. Mariner later sat down with the code manual, read through the code a few times and understood what the function was about.

The important lesson in this life experience is to not judge people as inferior because they don’t have the same aptitude and skill experience as you.

We are amazed when people with very special aptitudes perform. A common example is the person who can do instant math. They stand at the front of an audience and outperform calculators. They seem not to do mental calculation; in fact they don’t. The brain intuitively knows the answer. A similar example is the memory experts who in real time can learn and recite massive amounts of detail like the first names of everyone in an auditorium. True, these specialists have honed techniques that help. However, we with all the techniques in the world could not compete with them.

A way to tell if you are in line with your aptitude is when you know solutions without calculating; another way to say that is you know intuitively: It seems so easy; why does everyone have trouble with this? I could do this job in my sleep; I feel good about myself when I exercise my aptitude. Athletes talk about being in the zone. The brain takes over and controls muscle and skeleton without conscious effort and performs better than if the athlete were thinking about his actions. Michael Jordon recounted his basketball shot at the last second in a close game: “I wasn’t worried about making the basket; I knew I would make it.” Each of us has a zone of some kind.

Enjoy learning who you are. You are unique.

Ancient Mariner


A New Stratum

The planet Earth has many layers of rock that have accumulated over eons of time. Each new layer sits atop an older layer. One layer is called a stratum. We who live on the surface are not aware of the many strata that hold our land masses together. We simply know what we see at the surface and form expectations about the surface environment. Ideas have strata, too. Over human history many layers of ideas have formed and together support our expectations in this present time.

A stratum lies beneath and supports our expectations about fairness, our expectations about equality, and our expectations about justice. We expect American society to have a set of scruples and we expect, without explicit definition, everyone to live by these scruples. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution plus the Bill of Rights promote scruples and guarantee a system of jurisprudence that assures a set of scruples. The stratum that lies beneath our sense of fairness, equality, justice and cultural scruples has a name: meritocracy. In the current meritocracy, all citizens have the opportunity to be recognized and advanced in proportion to their abilities and accomplishments. But meritocracy is subject to reinterpretation.

Words like freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness, be all you can be, anyone can be President – all are expressions supported by meritocracy. When we look back to the thirties and forties, when the Great Depression, World War II and the years that followed established the current definition of meritocracy, we realize that a new stratum is forming; a new layer that will support a different set of expectations about the scruples of our society. Aware that a new definition is forming raises serious questions. How will existing scruples, fairness, etc., be reinterpreted? Will a new meritocracy support the ‘opportunity to be recognized and advanced in proportion to their abilities and accomplishments’? Importantly, “What will happen to me?”

Meritocracy is very malleable. Meritocracy is the flour in baked goods of every type, flavor and texture. The analogy of flour is apropos even to the event of having to rise; just because meritocracy is proclaimed, as in the Declaration of Independence, doesn’t mean it exists. Unlike baked goods, there is no given recipe – spices and additives are endless and often do not bake well.

In a final colorful analogy, meritocracy is like a toy top spinning on the floor. Spinning is wobbly and unstable in its direction but the fact that it seems to defy imbalance and stay spinning provides a good feeling and provides a sensation of success. This analogy is apropos of any ideal. Ideals by their very nature are unachievable; once fallen, ideals must be rewound and thrown again – and again. Each new definition of meritocracy is a new stratum in history; meritocracy is the flour of society; meritocracy, in the end, never will be permanent.

– – – –

What follows are general waypoints in the emergence, practice and transition of meritocracy.

What do Caligula, Henry VIII, Harold Hardrada, Napoleon, Hitler, Yeltsin, Erdogan, and Donald have in common?

Each of them, more by the power of their personality disorders than anything else, are the final blow that brought an end to an old stratum; government and culture were weak; mores, scruples and social expectations were in disarray. External status quo, that is, the world in general had changed but old internal assumptions held on until international conflict occurred and provoked the rise of new sources of power through overthrow of government, populism, or in some cases, war.

What do rice, wheat, corn, barley, and potatoes have in common?

The first significant shift in meritocracy was when early man discovered farming. Each of these crops in their own circumstances around the world created a totally new social order. Any significant change in economy or how economy works will trigger a new stratum – a new definition of human rights. The same can be said for inventions, communication, chemical advances and, especially until the entire world was mapped, exploration. Expectations about economic fairness, opportunity and confidence are life-changing in any regard and dissatisfaction quickly will challenge current perceptions of meritocracy.

What do Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, Moses and Muhammad have in common?

Obviously, each is the spiritual center of a major religion. Philosophical and theological contributions by each established codes of behavior and expectations which influenced all aspects of culture – even economics. Each religion straddles many strata and is an active force in changing the definition of meritocracy. Today, the impact of global economy, instant global information, and worldwide instant communication has brought various religions into conflict because global standardization does not mix well with the idiosyncrasies of different religious principles. This conflict in itself suggests a new definition of meritocracy is emerging.

Transition from one definition of human rights to another is messy and must pass through a hodgepodge of events and probabilities. No one can actually predict turns of events if one is living in the midst of stratum change. Below are some contemporary existential phenomena.

֎ Remember when . . . name any subject. If things are different today than they were a decade or two ago, meritocracy is undergoing redefinition.

֎ The economy is out of balance to the point that citizens are not sharing in the profits (remember the Luddites?). As alluded to earlier, nothing jumpstarts a new stratum like economic dissatisfaction.

֎ Populism emerges as a potent political force. The 2016 election was clear evidence that government was not meeting meritocracy’s expectations.

֎ New technology modifies cultural values and behavior. This began to accelerate when an individual could buy one’s own computer; then amplified by cellular phones and now aggravated by smartphones and social media to the point that normal interpersonal behavior is a matter of electronic potential instead of human potential. Need a spouse? Find them on the Internet; who wants to bother with socializing and honing one’s interpersonal skills?

֎ Those in power show signs of abuse when dealing with due process. We in the US certainly suffer this but virtually the whole of South America suffers big time.

֎ Allegiance to a common value disintegrates into partisan bickering; the big issue today is the one Russia is manipulating; Americans are not united in their expectations; the stratum of meritocracy is unstable.

֎ Compound all this by our knowledge that another significant change lies just a few years down the calendar: artificial intelligence. We have no idea what that will do to our human rights, our definition of meritocracy, our new stratum.

The point of all this is that we are living lives of unusual stress because our expectations about our role in society, our sense of fairness, our sense of protection, our sense of justice – all are without a stable foundation. Meritocracy, the foundation concept that provides order for these issues, is shifting.

One last analogy: we are sailing in stormy seas. We must take control of the helm to assure that what we still think is fair, equal and just will guide our course.

Ancient Mariner


On Being a Shut-in – 2


Mariner thanks readers who responded with replies and emails. All were supportive. One reader suggested ‘shut-out’ would be a better term because the fact is there is no room for mariner in the state of the world. That term certainly has merit. There are many readers, also who are shut out; they know it and strive anyway at moving the world along by continuing their obligations as a member of a democratic nation.

Shut-in and shut-out both work. It may be the perspective of each individual that determines which term is appropriate. Mariner has focused on the shut-in experience. How does a shut-in adapt to a constrained reality? Each of us experiences an individualized slice of reality. If one had a job, family, and recreational activities, still that would be a narrow slice of reality at large. Could one ask, “Is Donald’s faithful base experiencing the life of a shut-in – constrained within a walled reality where changing economy, population and culture raise fears about the outside world? Is the life of a person of color a constrained reality that is just a shut-in version of greater reality? Could each of us, however liberated we may feel, be limited to a shut-in version of general reality?

Enough. Mariner ponders too much. Mariner is curious about how a shut-in adapts to the reality that is available. His personal experience suggests that all of us, shut-in, shut-out or otherwise, make adjustments to sustain an even, acceptable keel in our daily life however constrained. Not being God, the ultimate reality, all of us must find a balance that, if nothing else, allows us to wake up the next day and carry on.

It is difficult for physically and emotionally limited individuals. How does one find self-worth when one cannot participate in normal society? How does one pass a long, uneventful day? Mariner, having a very small and not discomforting challenge, found that filling the day requires deep emotional and intellectual thought. Depression is a constant threat; boredom is a sledgehammer disrupting problem-solving thought; time moves in slow motion making the day longer. Mariner quickly learned that, if each of us were to make a better world, it would be making a true, physically constrained shut-in have a better day.

Most of us, of course, are not physically or emotionally constrained. Still, we are shut-in, not allowing us to experience the full rainbow of life and, existentially, true reality. For the moment, mariner feels that constraint forces each of us to invent meaningful reality – a reality that provides personal worth and accomplishment as a human being. This can be holistic and gratifying or it can be disruptive, warlike and destructive. Whatever the outcome, we are challenged by being shut-ins.

Ancient Mariner


On Being a Shut-in

Each of us knows at least one person who is a shut-in. There are different reasons for being a shut-in. If one is infirm, disabled, or functionally incompetent, obviously one has no choice but to live in the small, contained space of their home, which may be limited to one small room.

Another reason to become a shut-in is fear; the outside world has become too onerous. One fears one’s own incompetence. The home is a safe haven requiring no responsibility or accountability to the outside world.

Another reason, the reason mariner chose, is disgust and helplessness. It’s not so much he chose to become physically contained but that he has shut off news of the world – entirely. Not even reading websites of excellent repute. Mariner subscribes to a few top-tier magazines that lie on the table largely unread.

Mariner has lamented countless times about an electorate he perceives to be absent of any intellect whatsoever, any tiniest bit of compassion or integrity, and chooses to dwell in a land of misinformation, prejudice based on nothing, and accepts as true only those opinions and facts that fit the needs of one’s personal hippocampus.

Then there is the feeling of helplessness. Mariner is an old sailor that has lived a lifetime tilting at windmills no one else felt were important. The presence of Donald and dysfunctional legislatures across the land have induced great frustration and anger in mariner. He lives in a nation that shot dead the leaders of unified government, the Great Society and Civil Rights yet today would rather believe religiously in unfounded, false information and support only the most base interpretation of human rights and dignity. All the while, a kleptocratic President feeds the oligarchical power of an economy that does not include 99% of the electorate.

Having become a shut-in is clearly a different experience. The days are pleasant and mild; one notices how well the lilies bloomed this year; one putters in the workshop learning new woodworking techniques; one follows with little interruption the progress of tennis tournaments.

True, a feeling of uselessness pops up once in a while. In a relatively short amount of time mariner has retired from his job, divested real estate holdings, sold the farm, and is aware that grandparenthood, however pleasant, means one is not on the first team anymore. But mariner’s frustration and anger subside. It is possible to feel ‘normal.’

Do not feel obligated to draw mariner back into the real world run by the electorate; no matter the result of any election or legislative act, it still will be the world that frustrates and angers mariner. Being a shut-in can be quite palliative.

Ancient Mariner



Environment as a Change Agent

65 million years ago during the early Paleocene, the first primate-like creature evolved from the family Plesiadaptis. It was a small tree-climbing mammal that looked more like an insect-eating tree shrew. It was the beginning of the great age of primates and especially the branch of evolution that led to Homo sapiens – us.

This isn’t so long ago, actually. The dinosaurs existed for 230 million years until the biosphere was rudely interrupted by a meteor strike and to a lesser degree by some growing genetic deficiencies. Even so, such long timelines expose the role of the biosphere as a major player in evolution. Humans would not have been happy living during an earlier era of Earth’s history; the continents would have to spread out a bit to permit acceptable weather patterns and ocean currents; a few intense ice ages would be required to transition to fresh water so land creatures could evolve.

The reader is aware of the old, trite puzzle, ‘what came first the chicken or the egg?’ The puzzle hangs around because there are two logical answers: immediately, the answer is the first chicken hen must exist before there can be the first chicken egg; the other path of reasoning is that the genome of the chicken first occurred within the egg – a composite of several generations of genetic shifts. But another question precedes: What came first the chicken or the environment? Inevitably, the environment must be suitable for chickens in general to exist.

Environments normally change slower than creature evolution. Still, creatures have no choice except to adapt or disappear. On the other hand, creatures will modify the environment to fit their needs. For example, ahermatypic coral draw calcium from their environment to build homes for themselves; the beaver rearranges trees and leaves to build a dam which makes a pond, which enables a home safe from predators by placing the home in the middle of the pond. Neither creature has created a new biosphere but has rearranged a few conditions to better fit their needs.

So it is with humans. What humans sense about the environment is that it does not guarantee safety or longevity. In the great migration of pioneers across the western US, the environment was a threat, not a means of sustenance; the great gardens of the British Isles and Europe which require constant maintenance and an appearance of tight control also stems from an innate sense that the environment is not necessarily man’s best friend and must be mastered. One can imagine that the whole science of astrology is an effort to place meaning into an indifferent cosmos.

Innately, humans have sought to make life better and more secure by rearranging the environment. It started in earnest by collecting iron, copper, coal, nickel and other minerals; humans have always been aware of magnetic resonance in some fashion (electric charges in fish were documented in 2750 BC) but did not begin to extract magnetic forces until 1600 when William Gilbert identified the phenomenon and coined the word ‘electricus.’ Throughout the next 300+ years, humans were able to organize electrical resources to make life easier with motors, tools, light and energy in many forms. In the early 1900’s, Einstein and Fermi expanded electrical knowledge by entering the world of nuclear physics and quantum theory – the very building blocks of the biosphere and the Universe itself.

Humans are rearranging the biosphere to fit their species’ needs – nothing more than super intelligent beavers. But there is a difference. The human brain is a genuine mutation. A new branch of evolution’s tree is emerging. It is a species that will survive as the planet’s environment experiences significant changes.

One marvels at the synchrony between environment and evolution. We humans live lives and have known families in just a hundred years or so; written history goes back only a few thousand years. Modern Homo sapiens has existed only about 90,000 years. Our scale of change isn’t worth the blink of an eye. On the planetary scale, environment and evolution are changing every moment but at such an insignificant pace that it takes eons to notice.

Serendipitously, we live at a time where both the environment and the world’s specie profile are changing more rapidly than usual. The question to ponder is how much change is forced by our beaver habits and how much is caused by planetary shifts and cycles? Mariner suggests the combination is algebraic, changing more rapidly and more drastically than a normal curve of change would suggest.

Speaking in broad terms, it appears the human brain prefers the world of artificial intelligence, that is, an environment less dependent on mammalian characteristics and more dependent on an environment of electromagnetic existence. As our brains wrestle with this odd transition, the mammalian behaviors still hold on to make life awkward; sort of having one foot in and one foot out, so to speak. CBS news covered the fact that electronic giants like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs limit the use of smart phones by their children; just one small incident of struggle between the mammalian instincts and the brain’s preference for electronic communication.

We have pondered the end of the Earth and Sun since primitive times. The idea of Armageddon and the idea that we can escape to a heaven reflect our awareness that the mammalian age will not last forever. Will a life of artificial intelligence enable survival for a longer time as the Earth moves through ages of growing disruption to the mammalian environment? Perhaps the forces of environmental balance push species survival – invoking evolution one day at a time.

Ancient Mariner


God’s Christmas Garden

There is a strain of theology that suggests the phenomenon we call history is evidence of a God who is not necessarily a god of intercession but who has set certain conditions in place that cause reaction and compensation to occur. This is true of the stars, planets and other astronomic phenomena as well as the conditions of living things – including living things on Planet Earth. This strain of theology is a subset of pantheism; the difference is that God didn’t create everything and just walk away; before departing, God set a timer of sorts to avoid a static, unchanging universe. We perceive this timer as history – the ongoing reaction to and compensation for events. Mariner’s more colorful analogy is when he sets up the garden under the Christmas tree the last thing is to plug in electricity. Lo and behold! Immediately mariner must react to and compensate for unexpected conditions. There is an eventful history in mariner’s Christmas gardens.

So it is that humans continuously and unconditionally react to the vagaries of God’s timer. Humans devised a concept of God in such a way that a relationship could exist between humanness and Godliness. On the other hand, some suggest that being superior and distinct is self-serving and grandiose; that in truth Homo sapiens is nothing more than a smart gorilla. This dichotomy may be the essence of human life on earth and perhaps provides the electricity that creates history in our Christmas garden: we are hedonistic idealists.

So much for theology. Let’s move to dogma. For clarity in our metaphor the smart gorilla will be divided into two separate persons: Smart and Gorilla.

Gorilla is a product of evolution, of the laws of creation set in place before God left. Gorilla is no different than any other mammal insofar as the need for safety, nutrition, sex and comfort. Frankly, this is as far as dogma goes for Gorilla: pursue safety, be sated, have sex, and be comfortable while performing these acts. Provide a male Gorilla with a handful of gorilla maidens and existence is complete. Should any of these requirements be challenged in some way by another gorilla or any other beast in creation, Gorilla becomes Mighty Joe Young and will defeat any challenge. This aggressive behavior is more a ritual than a dogma; it will be addressed later.

Gorilla had been around for millions and millions of years before Smart came along. Evolution has positioned Smart as the junior partner, a Charles Darwin type of experimental mutation. Like many other unnecessary mutations, Smart is a troublemaker because Smart turns out to be an abuser of Gorilla’s environment and has an unbearable ego. Smart’s egotistic tendencies lead to the importance of sanctification, validation, modification and self-promotion; a set of terms that are Smart’s dogma.

Now Smart and Gorilla will be rejoined to live in one brain. Because Gorilla is the dominant self, Smart does not often get a chance to express independent behavior. In fact, Smart in many ways uses Gorilla’s behavior to a level that damages Gorilla’s environment and causes unnecessary fights with other Gorilla families. Survival of the fittest is now laced with survival of the most vain. Still, all in all, evolution’s law that the fittest will survive is in play. In the Christmas garden analogy, vanity may be electricity – the active ingredient for further evolutionary history.

Stay with mariner here – mariner decides to have an interview with Smart:

“How are you and Gorilla getting along?” he asked Smart.

“Being a mutant is not an enjoyable experience,” Smart replied. “I’ve been living in an old fashioned gorilla body for a long time; seems it’s about time I took charge of this new branch of evolution’s tree.”

Mariner was puzzled. “What do you have in mind?”

“I’ve started making changes where I can,” Smart said. “The planet has adapted to electricity; then I started introducing devices like the telephone, radio and television. That moved faster than I thought it would and already has become integrated with gorilla physiology.”

“What do you mean integrated?” mariner asked.

“If I am ever to take charge of my own being, I have to swap out parts of Gorilla’s body for parts that fit my own nature. The medical field has made the most advances by using electronic replacements. Think about Gorilla’s sense of hearing – Gorilla couldn’t hear more than one hundred yards away until I introduced the telephone. Now Gorilla can hear around the world. Or should I say Smart can hear around the world. For that matter, hearing aids let Smart hear even when Gorilla can’t.”

Mariner was intrigued. “You’re suggesting that your body is quite different than Gorilla’s body. Is there any part of your body in common with Gorilla’s body?”

Smart paused for a moment. “I am alive just like Gorilla but even that requires redefinition. What is ‘alive’ made of? Is the Sun alive? It has a lifespan; what is the definition of life – not by defining parts but by defining function?”

Mariner responded. “You are a new branch of a tree that contains carbon-based life forms. Whatever the definition of life’s functions, Smart still will need a body of some sort.”

“That assumption is spoken like a true carbon-based creature” Smart retorted. Look around at the new devices that are moving Smart to the edge of Gorilla’s capabilities: Remember that old movie ‘The Stepford Wives’? They exist today and are sold as sex toys; there are robots that can carry a real conversation with humans; there are robots that can learn a thousand times faster than humans; for the first time intelligent electronic devices don’t have to look like humans – consider Alexa, Google, Cortana, Siri and the like.”

Mariner commented, “These are excellent electronic devices that foretell the promise of Artificial Intelligence but I don’t see the connection with your statement about replacing Gorilla parts.”

“I don’t use the term ‘artificial.’ Intelligence is intelligence. Pay particular attention to advances in brain-related technology. Did you know mental imaging can be captured in an electronic device? Did you know that for some time now the brain can actually command dexterity in artificial limbs without an electronic box? Did you know that recently electronics were able to replicate human thought outside the brain? Do you see what Smart is doing?” Smart paused.

Not really sure,” mariner said.

“The time is rapidly approaching when I will exist in an electronic state and no longer require Gorilla’s mammalian body.” Smart went on, enjoying the vision of a new state of being. “I am making rapid progress now. It won’t be too many decades before human lower court judges will be replaced with Smart – sans the gorilla suit, of course.”

What will a Smart lower court judge look like?” mariner asked.

“In the beginning, androids may be necessary but all one needs is my brain linked to a data source. Eventually, perhaps a small box attached to the global network. My brain will be integrated with external intelligence devices providing a unified super intelligence.” Smart stopped.

Mariner mused a bit. “That sounds like using a virtual reality mask.”

“Now you’re getting the drift of things – just remove Gorilla.”

Mariner opened a new direction. “How does Smart eat without a body? Is exercise important?”

“Nutrition is chemically based; I will eat through tubes. My body is still evolving; my existence will be a combination of network integration and mobility of some mechanical sort. Have you ever watched the show ‘Battlebots’? It’s truly primitive but the technology is solving issues around mobility. I’ll need some type of mobility. I like the idea of multiple bodies at once; something the Battlebots have introduced with their second and third attack aides.”

“So all you will keep is the brain you and Gorilla share?”

“Yes. Likely the physiological support will fade away over time.”

Mariner closed the interview. There was the whole issue of society, politics and freedom but mariner had to give more thought to that before he could talk to Smart again.

Ancient Mariner



Another Animal at the Zoo

In an effort to remain sane and to maintain rational emotional feelings, for several weeks mariner has avoided American news programming, tolerating only BBC, CGTN (China), selected CSPAN and, with the aid of the fast forward button, The Eleventh Hour on MSNBC. For years mariner has been saturated by the home and do-it-yourself networks. He tends not to watch fictional programming.

What is left? Science channels (seen all the programs), geological and environmental programming (been everywhere, travelled through time and space, seen all the conditions); mariner knows how to be a junk dealer, bootlegger, hotrod mechanic, gardener, and furniture maker. Scrounging about for anything, mariner uncovered the veterinary shows. There are several series. The theme is that animals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish of all kinds are brought to a vet’s clinic having all kinds of maladies.

Mariner suffered a binge watch the other night. He had enlightenment. As he watched the animals, he wondered how they dealt with human creatures while not knowing the intellectual dimensions, knowledge and cause and effect processes that are foisted upon them. In most cases the patients had learned to tolerate humans, even accepting dependence for comfort and care. But intellectually, there had to be an immense gap between patient reality and human reality. When they were healed, did they have a causal awareness between newfound health and the creatures wearing masks and poking with needles?

Then mariner had his burst of insight. In 150 years, when artificial intelligence has been thoroughly ensconced in human culture, humans will have the exact intellectual experience as the animals. There will be no way to link human consciousness with the surreal reasoning of a robot. This insight applies not only to visiting our electronic vets but also our electronic government, our electronic softball game versus robots and (one wonders) our spousal relationships.

We will be no more than a baby opossum experiencing the AI world in complete ignorance; tolerating them and even accepting dependence for comfort and care. There’s always a concern that AI vets will, just as human vets, decide to have us put down.

Ancient Mariner