Some Thoughts

Mariner is a potential customer for switching from standard electrical hookup to solar. He believes it is one of the major constraints to the use of fossil fuels in the next decade and will be a cost saving strategy for typical home owners. Even Goldman Sachs thinks so:

Falling wind and solar costs are set to spur even greater investment in renewable technologies. Goldman Sachs Research’s Alberto Gandolfi forecasts that by 2023, renewables will be able to operate without government subsidies. From there, Gandolfi expects wind and solar deployment to accelerate, reaching $3 trillion over the next 20 years.

Picked up this apropos quote in the Atlantic Magazine:

“You are entitled to your own opinion,

but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

— Daniel Patrick Moynihan

And this one:

“We risk being the first people in history to have been

able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive,

so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.”

— Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to

Pseudo-Events in America (1961)

And this:

The Colbert Report went on the air. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing-populist commentator character, performed a feature called “The Word.” His first selection: truthiness. “Now, I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word!’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true. Or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that’s my right. I don’t trust books—they’re all fact, no heart … Face it, folks, we are a divided nation … divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart … Because that’s where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen—the gut.”

Kurt Andersen, the author of How America Lost its Mind, says it much better than mariner could:

…And if the ’60s amounted to a national nervous breakdown, we are probably mistaken to consider ourselves over it.

Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational. We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control.

From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts. Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.

And this was all true before we became familiar with the terms post-factual and post-truth, before we elected a president with an astoundingly open mind about conspiracy theories, what’s true and what’s false, the nature of reality.

We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. America has mutated into Fantasyland.

Back to ‘reality’, On Monday, the President took time away from the lush fairways and greens at Trump National Golf Club, in Bedminster, New Jersey, to tweet insults at Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat who had the temerity to suggest that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, should be allowed to continue and complete his investigation. On Tuesday afternoon, Trump again interrupted his break, this time to attend a briefing in the Bedminster clubhouse about the nation’s opioid crisis. He took the opportunity to threaten a devastating nuclear strike on North Korea.

Is this our future?

Ancient Mariner

A Better Reality

It is important to keep the mind flexible – especially as one grows older. The best way to keep the mind flexible is to have an interest that provides continuous learning and insights. It has been said all along that being fluent in more than one language freshens one’s perspective about life and keeps the brain working with a bit more empathy than would otherwise be the case. One has a different opinion of folks like Bush 43 and other public figures when they can converse comfortably in another language. “What experiences have they had that aren’t part of everyday American?” one may ponder.

Mariner spent some time in Taiwan. The language was Mandarin with a heavy draw – similar to the Deep South, New England, and the ‘Valley’ in California. While he was there, he learned to order a meal awkwardly and perform simple protocols. A year afterward the words had disappeared. For this reason, that is, the difficulty of learning a language and sustaining a lexicon and grammar, mariner suggests immersing oneself in a different culture. Our brains aren’t the same brains that learned language as a two and three year old.

There are as many cultures as there are nations (195). Many have similar cultures influenced by larger nations and surrounding geography. Here are two or three that definitely have preeminent cultures that will never run out of insights, surprises, and intriguing behaviors:

China – a totally different cultural history. One will learn tidbits (China had the first movable type printing press in 1040 during the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127) and cultural differences (public urinals next to sidewalks in remote regions; China and India are competing with one another over who has the most flush toilets – a sign of modernity).

India – again a different culture – perhaps even more intriguing than China. Did you know that the North Eastern Region (NER 101,248 square miles), did not have a government until it was incorporated into India’s central government in sections from 1947 through 1972? What was daily life like without a government? We can only dream… India has six distinct religions (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism). Imagine the daily conflicts between protocol and belief and the hierarchy of animals some of whom may be your relatives! The US can’t handle one of the six.

Most have heard of Mayans, Aztecs and Incas. All are early civilizations in Central and South America. But what about Caral-Supe? Caral-Supe is the earliest civilization in the region existing from 3000-2500BC. There are many more before the Maya and the Inca. The Aztecs, at their peak when the Spaniards came, weren’t around until 1430-1521AD.

The wonder of the Internet is that it is an endless encyclopedia. Using search engines like Google and Bing among many, name a subject, it’s on the Internet – especially in Wikipedia. Even richer resources are on web sites supported by nations, universities, governments and retailers of books, artifacts, furniture, clothes, jewelry, video and anything else that may expand one’s awareness of a different culture. The peak experience is taking a vacation trip to the culture of choice.

Studying a different culture will open the mind to the fact that not everything has to do with Donald or his id, the Mooche. Not everything has to do with the United States – in its own right a distinct culture.

The trick is to immerse one’s awareness completely into the chosen culture. Mariner is intrigued by a simple reality that doors are too short for modern folks when historic homes are visited in England. What other idiosyncrasies will broaden our reality?

Ancient Mariner

The Art of Giving

Giving is indeed an art. Few of us cover the art form in its entirety. Each art form, however, provides a different gift to those who give and to those who receive. More often than not, our greatest gift goes unnoticed over a lifetime.

One form of giving is associated with our culture. In the United States, we pay taxes, which is a form of giving – more at sharing – to support millions of people in need; we share roads and infrastructure in general; we help assure that civility and unity prevail. Too often, giving to our cultural norms is the subject of derision and dissatisfaction. Those who dislike taxes do not experience the gratification that comes from sharing. The art of giving is absent and their lives seem diminished – certainly no personal gift is experienced. Hence the word ‘tax’ instead of ‘gift’. Is our culture missing an aspect of humanity?

Another art form is giving without sacrifice. Bill Gates and others in similar financial circumstances give substantial amounts to quality of life programs around the world. There is no question that recipients immensely enjoy the gift. Giving full credit to Bill for his largesse, his own experience likely has little feeling of sacrifice and more a sense of moral responsibility fulfilled. This is very common in gift giving, that is, giving without sacrifice. Knock off a dozen zeroes or so from Bill’s income and assets and the gift is common to most of us – no sacrifice required. True, in form one has given a gift but the experience is light on a feeling of sharing.

There are two circumstances each of which almost qualifies as an oxymoron:

Military basic training inculcates a feeling of intense bonding between recruits. The experience of sharing (bonded commitment) is tantamount to self-preservation.

The second is the offering taken in religious services. One feels little sacrifice and at best that a moral responsibility has been fulfilled. Many congregations will not even commit to a pledge – how dare God impose sharing on a follower. What is this, a tax?

An important art form that, in the midst of great sacrifice and sharing, often is overlooked; the giver doesn’t perceive that they have given a gift over a lifetime. There are many circumstances where lifetime gifting is involved; two are selected:

Parenthood. It is the nature of all mammals and many other species to protect the next generation. In humans, this nature is most complex and requires many years of commitment. Parents, if they are in the range of normal, will sacrifice a great deal to sustain their children in life. This sharing experience is so strong that it continues throughout life even after the children have established their independence. Parents never deny sacrifice. Empathy and compassion are the art form.

Marriage. Perhaps marriage is even more complex than parenthood. A partnership begun in self-satisfaction over the years experiences times of tribulation. Often unspoken, both partners suffer the needs of their spouse. Both have shortcomings to be tolerated. In time, tolerance and mutual support becomes compassion and sharing. Each partner has gifted the other with a bond that goes unspoken, suffered silently and takes a lifetime.

The key words in the art of giving are sacrifice, sharing and compassion. The words together create a sense of sincere commitment and a unique feeling of deep joy – the quiet kind and the most healing for all parties concerned.

Ancient Mariner

 

Notices

Mariner is a noticer. While watching poor broadcasting content on television, he is prone to dissecting the tiniest elements of advertisements looking for irrelevant but irregular details. The most common error is lack of continuity between different takes of the same scene. His favorite commercial is two young men obviously from a low income neighborhood in Philadelphia, PA. They are espousing the wonderful Philly steak sandwich that is a trademark of Philadelphia. As they speak, there is only the tiniest relationship to English. Their elocution is so bad and is subject to colloquial expression that one cannot understand a word they are saying. Mariner misses that commercial.

He mentions this because though not intended as such, ‘noticing’ can be prudish. He used to be a prude about language. For example, during his teen years, pop music shifted from lyrics that were understood to lyrics that were no more than vowel slurs. Today, the art of incomprehensible lyrics is an art form of its own competing with the lyrics of opera. Elocution, along with cursive legibility, long have been absent from our education syllabus.

Further, mariner is an advocate of having a large lexicon, which is having lots of words at hand to provide specificity and nuance in writing and conversation. He is a fan of George Carlin who believed there weren’t enough words; George pointed this out by focusing on seven ‘unacceptable’ curse words whose meanings were specific emotional expressions that could not easily be replaced by acceptable words. Still, mariner has noticed that easy elocution displaces standard elocution. It has taken years of explanation from his philologist friend Robert to accept that language is subject to changing convenience both written and spoken. He and mariner often exchange colloquialisms like ‘skoeet’ – a full sentence.

One of the most entrenched changes that separates written language from spoken language is the word ‘wud’. For clarification, mariner will use it in a sentence: “Wudjoodo?” Still not sure? How about “Wudydo?”

Oh well, don’t blame prudishness, blame old age. Mariner grew up in a low income neighborhood. It wasn’t until he was sixteen when his father moved the family to a middle class town that mariner realized he said ‘nuffin’ instead of ‘nothing.’

A final thought about cursive. It is truly obsolete. Internet based communication has established a new age where letters, if one must use them, are intensely abbreviated (widely known example: LOL). Letters can be avoided if one chooses to create a glyph. We do the ancient Egyptians proud (We haven’t discussed grammar).

Only recently we have seen that chickens can learn to peck simple decisions. So can smartphone users.

Ancient Mariner

 

WAR

So very slowly, so very, very slowly, notable numbers of H. Sapiens realize that war is horrifically expensive in every measurable way. War kills people and makes hard core enemies that can last for many generations.

War destroys commerce. Commerce means the way people live, put food on the table, grow families and sustain community scruples; commerce identifies what is fair and expected in daily life and allows people to fall asleep with dependable, secure expectations.

War destroys history. Not only cultures and ingrained identities but also the physical evidence – the identity and presence of nations, edifices, faiths and myths.

War is expensive. One instrument of war can cost more than a billion dollars. War requires armies that consume immense budgets to house, train and transport.

The problem is that war is easy. One person in a position of relative power can launch a war – an act that is personally gratifying and in victory “justifies” self-worth. Avoiding war is complex and difficult. Avoiding war requires compassion and other sophisticated feelings. The old saying ‘might is right’ isn’t right.

This will be an interesting age as humans struggle with a future that will not have room for war. The cost of war will be too high for the resources at hand. Nations will choose other solutions to preserve resources and global-scale economics – to say nothing about saving lives.

Still, this is no guarantee that lives will matter. The right to life is more than a cultish battle about birth control. It is a great mountain to climb in our species. Do we as Harari[1] suggests, ignore people we don’t need? Let two billion displaced and starving humans die because they aren’t needed?

Or does our species take into account the sanctity of life, of the right to breathe and grow and carry out the life we were intended?

Today, we turn our heads away in disinterest as small armies similar to Boko Haram that wreaks devastation and death on small towns in Nigeria. Are Nigerians not necessary in our future?

Eliminating War will be difficult. Saving lives will be more difficult.

REFERENCE SECTION

Mariner hasn’t referenced Nate Silver’s website, fivethirtyeight.com, in a while. Nate offers a weekly email report for free. The latest is copied below:

—-

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

By Walt Hickey

39 states

According to investigators who spoke to Bloomberg, Russian intrusions into U.S. voter databases and software systems occurred in 39 states. [Bloomberg]

69

Three astronomers spotted two additional moons of Jupiter in images they took looking beyond the planet into the Kuiper Belt. This would bring the number of moons of the gas giant to 69. [Scientific American]

196

Number of congressional plaintiffs — all Democrats — who have joined a lawsuit against President Trump accusing him of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which requires the president to get the OK from Congress before accepting foreign gifts. The suit claims that the president’s financial involvement in his businesses violates the clause. [The Washington Post]

436 percent

Urban areas have tried to cut down on the number of people incarcerated before their trials to reduce the population behind bars, but rural jails haven’t followed suit. The pre-trial detention rate in urban centers has dropped over the past several years, but the rate grew 436 percent from 1970 to 2013 in counties with fewer than 250,000 residents. [Wired]

$4.48 billion

Verizon has completed its purchase of aging internet giant Yahoo for $4.48 billion. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer scored $23 million in severance on the way out. [Business Insider]

If you see a significant digit in the wild, send it to @WaltHickey.

The Morning Story

Donald Trump Is Making Europe Liberal Again

—-

Ancient Mariner

[1] Yuval Noah Harari, a renowned futurist who has provided books, articles, lectures and opinions about how to interpret today’s reality and project the interpretations into mankind’s future. Citing current human behavior, which ignores unneeded people, he believes useless classes of workers will be set adrift in the future.

Drive On.

For several reasons including fuel efficiency, more electric vehicles, and the degradation of tax value because of inflation, the fuel tax at the pump may be on its way out. Ready to pay by the mile? Below is an excerpt from Atlantic Magazine’s ‘city scape’ section.

“The national gas tax has been, for many years, a “third rail” for tax-averse Republicans and Democrats alike. Americans pay Uncle Sam 18.4 cents per gallon at the pump, a number that hasn’t budged since 1993 as lawmakers are loathe to levy what many view as a regressive fee.

Every year the Highway Tax Fund drags with it a multi-billion dollar shortfall. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it’ll be up to $18 billion from 2021 through 2026.

Taxing miles instead of fuel better matches the current transportation landscape: This is, after all, an era where technology is rewriting the rules on how people move, and how they relate to transportation.

The mileage fee, or VMT tax—seems to be one whose time has come. The tax reorients the transportation “product” that users are paying for with a philosophy more in step with how people travel now. Simply put, drivers pay for their travel based on a per-mile rate. It’s almost like slapping a toll on every road, except that mileage could be measured and billed based on a low-fi transponder, or a high-tech piece of cellphone gadgetry. Drivers could alternatively pay through a one-time annual fee, if they hate the feeling of being “tracked.”

Mileage fees would still need to be kept up with inflation, but they wouldn’t be sensitive to gains in fuel efficiency. They could also be adjusted to reward environmentally sensitive vehicle choices, and policymakers could send chunks of VMT tax revenues towards transit investments, so the fees needn’t be punitive or regressive.”

– – – –

Hope Exists!

Sometimes, when things are at their darkest, something will occur that renews our hope. Hope is a critical survival tool; without it, life fails, if not ends. Michael Bloomberg (NY ex-Mayor) and Carl Pope (a former executive director of the Sierra Club) bring us a book full of hope. Despite the ravaging of the EPA, the abusive priority for fossil fuels, the cutting of funding for all things reasonable and humane, progress continues to be made. Even the natural forces of supply and demand ignore the Administration’s policy abuses.

The book: Climate of Hope, How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet, Bloomberg and Pope,

ISBN: 9781250142078

ISBN-10: 1250142075

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: April 18th, 2017

Pages: 272

“We are writing this book because we believe that it’s time for a new type of conversation about climate change.”

The premise throughout is that businesses, cities and market forces are operating independently of the Federal Government. Mayors, in particular, see cost saving technology beyond coal and other fossil fuel solutions; there is more to be gained in local economies if renewable fuels are used – in some cases at near zero cost.

The book documents the surprising use of renewable energy that already exists. All electricity generating plants have converted or plan to convert from coal to natural gas – a program pushed by Barack Obama.

– – – –

Facts.

The mariner’s curiosity noticed that we have created variations of facts. In the past, a fact was a fact, that is, something that physically occurred at a given point in time. Recently, more than one interpretation of fact has become common usage. Why is that?

Of course, the primary reason is that the current administration manages circumstances by lying. That’s a fact. The President will change a lie to fit the situation; Kellyanne Conway is famous for creating “alternative” facts. But it can’t all be blamed on the current administration.

Even before the President campaigned and took office, news programs – all news programs – added pundits and arbitrary experts to their programs. Older folk will remember that Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite didn’t have guests; they just gave the facts as they occurred. The facts were the news. Today, the news can’t be broadcast without panels, experts, even other news anchors that work for the same broadcaster. More often than not, it’s a newspaper’s interpretation of events that becomes the version of facts broadcast as ‘facts.’

The public has become accustomed, if not irritated, by politicians who, without difficulty, can create alternative facts about a fact to the degree everyone isn’t sure what the original fact is. Just ask a democrat and a republican to describe the new health bill pushed through the House. At the end of it all, does any voter know the facts? The facts about what?

Somewhat arbitrarily, the mariner submits a handbook with the different kinds of facts and how to spot them.

FACT. What really happened – no more, no less, no value judgments. More often than one may think, the original fact is difficult to identify. The best way to know a fact is to know the true source and the actual witnesses or creators of the fact. Too quickly, however, the trail cools as pundits, experts and politicians add their interpretations of what the original fact is.

ALTERNATIVE FACT. The interpretations of a fact provided by second and third sources. Commonly in broadcast news, this is everyone who did not have direct involvement when the fact occurred. In the day-to-day world, we call this gossip. An alternative fact is used by anyone with time to kill and someone to listen to their stories – especially if the story teller didn’t like the original fact. Rush Limbaugh actually makes his living this way; Saturday Night Live does, too.

FAKE NEWS (Fake Facts).

This isn’t about the fact itself. This is a term used by an individual to describe facts that are not beneficial to that individual. The administration’s cabinet has been using this phrase to disavow the information gathered by the Departments they intend to eliminate, for example, the EPA information about climate change is fake.

Ancient Mariner

 

Potpourri

It has been a while since mariner submitted a post. Apologies. When one ages, there are other responsibilities one is obligated to perform. Primarily, health systems are associated with these responsibilities and have no compassion for other priorities or entertainment. So one must submit.

Except for tiny details, the mariner seems to have fared well. The tiny details will take care of themselves but, alas, he will never play football again. If any good has come from this distraction, it has been that the mariner has been weaned from television news. Not one program has made it for more than a few minutes. It has been pleasant not to have Donald in his life. Mariner’s frustrations about the electorate aside, the best commentary on Donald was published in the May 1st issue of The New Yorker Magazine by its editor, David Remnick. It is by far the most insightful, balanced and true commentary on Donald since his emergence in politics. Mariner implores you to do what you do not want to do: uplink to this article! See:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/01/a-hundred-days-of-trump?mbid=nl_170424_Daily&CNDID=49421095&spMailingID=10881576&spUserID=MTg3Njg2NDM4MTg0S0&spJobID=1141896563&spReportId=MTE0MTg5NjU2MwS2

It is the mariner’s last foreseeable comment about Donald. As far as the mariner is concerned, nothing has been done as long as he remains in office. Many will complain and feign or experience actual pain but until he is removed, they have done nothing and nothing will change, nothing will heal, nothing will move forward. Any complaints, visit your electorate representatives.

The mariner’s attention to the world was slightly diverted during his visit with the health industry (yes, an industry; where else would 30 pills cost $489?). Lying in bed long hours, his mind wandered the halls of his memory to stumble on a factoid he learned in 12th grade Chemistry: there are only three chemicals that will support life: Carbon (us), silicon and Chlorine. This is because these are the only chemicals that can simultaneously bond with Oxygen, Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Phosphorus. All these years this factoid lay on the dusty, cluttered floor of mariner’s memory. It has only occurred to him at this moment that we Carbon-based types have been creating Silicon-based life since 1935: computers and electronic transmissions! So it may be true that computers may one day turn around and bite us to erase the competition from another life form. (It doesn’t pay to lose control of one’s thought processes).

Another odd thought that occurred while watching science shows which replaced news shows, is the phenomenon of Now. The experience of NOW. Mariner knows most readers are not interested in space-time physics but the mariner was freshly intrigued about his perception of NOW when listening to a CSPAN book review by Richard Muller, author of a new book, ‘Now: the Physics of Time.’ Mariner had always perceived NOW as an infinite moment, that is, it crosses the Universe like a wave comes to shore – the same wave for the whole universe, i.e., NOW on a distant star occurred at the same moment as it occurred here on Earth. Muller challenges this thought, saying that NOW is relative, just like Einstein said about relativity. Mariner ordered the book through SILO (State of Iowa Library interlibrary loan); it arrived today. The CSPAN interview can be seen on CSPAN’s website.

Well, this is enough for a first post in a while. Mariner will do his best to restore the potpourri of the past.

Ancient Mariner

 

Dry Rot

Do you know what dry rot is? Have you ever seen old wood that looks like wood but is hollow because there is no pith left? Have you ever lifted what seemed to be a piece of cloth but it crumbled into a dry powder in your hands? Have you ever found an old box of cards exposed to dampness and when you tried to read them they would fall apart in fragile disarray? It is a condition of decay. It looks okay until one tries to use it in a useful way. Suffering from dry rot, it is not up to the task. It is a ghost, an ash of its creation.

Humans are susceptible to the same decay.

We work from day to day surviving the constant pressure that wears us down until one day we are in dry rot. We look human; we look functional; we feel we are the substance of our birth. But we are a ghost who breathes, eats, pontificates, and pretends to be valuable. We are just dry rot. Called to task, we crumble into uselessness.

This is too bad. Just as in material things, there are defenses to prevent dry rot in ourselves. Just as we seek to prevent rust in our tools; just as we maintain our houses; just as we maintain functionality in our vehicles; just as we maintain static rituals that keep order in our lives – we can introduce defenses that keep our lives rich and full and pliable against the vagaries of living. We can avoid dry rot to our last day.

One way is to keep the mind flexible. Deliberately pursue new ideas that test your opinions. Deliberately allow yourself to be confronted by social progress. Deliberately investigate the value of lifelong beliefs. Deliberately pursue new physical experiences and challenges. Dry rot cannot accumulate in the presence of newness.

Another avenue is to pursue new information as literally as you pursue physical fitness. The precursor to intellectual flabbiness is lack of intellectual exercise. The best avenue is reading. Television will draw you away; Internet will draw you away; weariness will draw you away. Where can you find new nutrients to prevent the emptiness of dry rot?

The answer is both far reaching and personal. As a simple example of maintaining flexibility in our contemporary lives, the mariner and his wife scramble for first read of the Atlantic magazine. We have observed that the Atlantic, along with the New Yorker magazine, Scientific American and an array of Internet websites, provide us with a constant barrage of new ideas, new reports on a rapidly changing culture, new interpretations of old, dare we say sacrosanct rituals, and new views of the future that emerge beneath our feet.

Using the technology of broadcasting, deliberately check in on other news channels besides NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. One would be surprised at the perspectives of news channels sponsored by China, Great Britain, Arabic broadcasting and European news networks. Even Canada has a different slant on the importance of news.

Certain channels like Bloomberg offer educational programs that broaden one’s understanding of the world. Exploring newness is the best defense against dry rot – even new physical experiences.

The mariner can attest that age is an ally of dry rot. It makes the challenge of being a purposeful human being in the world even greater. One must overcome frailties; one must garner strength from task to task. But one should never allow retreat from an active life about which to take control.

At the other end of the spectrum, the young have no perspective on the amount of energy wasted on frivolousness. The young must discipline themselves to ask what the future holds and how they will play a role. They, too, will be challenged by the willingness to recede into dry rot.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Yuval Noah Harari talks about the Future

Frequent readers know the mariner has three alter egos: Chicken Little, whose fears are a response to imminent events, Amos, a skeptic and critic of human ethic and behavior, and Guru, a futurist, generalist and philosopher at large. Mariner mentions this because this post reflects, to a great extent, mariner’s perception of reality for all three. The post cites a number of quotes from an interview on the Atlantic website with Yuval Noah Harari, a renowned futurist who has provided books, articles, lectures and opinions about how to interpret today’s reality and project the interpretations into mankind’s future.

Read the interview.[1]

Here are some samples:

Derek Thompson: First, work. You have a smart and scary way of looking at the political implications of mass automation. At the end of the 19th century, France, Germany, and Japan offered free health care to their citizens. Their aim was not strictly to make people happy, but to strengthen their army and industrial potential. In other words, welfare was necessary because people were necessary. But you ask the scary question: What happens to welfare in a future where government no longer needs people?

Yuval Harari: It’s a very scary scenario. It’s not science fiction. It’s already happening.

The reason to build all these mass social service systems was to support strong armies and strong economies. Already the most advanced armies don’t need [as many] people. The same might happen in the civilian economy. The problem is motivation: What if the government loses the motivation to help the masses?

In Scandinavia the tradition of the welfare state is so entrenched that perhaps they’ll continue to provide welfare even for masses of useless people. But what about Nigeria, South Africa, and China? They have been encouraged to provide services mostly in the hope of advancing prosperity, [which requires] having a large basis of healthy and smart citizens. But take that away and you might be left with countries with elites who don’t care about the population.

Thompson: Americans might be richer and better educated than they used to be a generation ago, with better health care and superior entertainment options. But the fact of progress doesn’t seem to matter. The story is all that matters. And the victorious Trump story was that America’s cities were falling apart and “I alone can fix it.”

Harari: [White Americans without a college degree] are a declining class within a declining power. The U.S. is losing power compared to the rest of the world, and within the U.S., the Trump voters are losing their status. Even though they are experiencing better conditions, the narrative self which is dominant in most people tells a story of decline, which says that the future will be worse than the present. And most people’s happiness depends on their expectations, not their conditions.

—-

There is a good section on the demise of humans in the future computer age. See the interview.

For the present, however, use it while you have it:

It is not too late in February to select a pleasant day to visit an outdoor place like a park, forest, botanic garden, or walking trail to take in the fresh whiffs of Cancer thaw. While enjoying this pleasure, stop by a restaurant akin to such pleasures.

It has been a long, stressful election season. Discharge some tension by visiting the following website:

http://www.politicalcartoons.com/

Turn off the television for 24 hours and use your phone device only for phone calls – not even texts! Wander around your property to see what’s going on, discover some interesting but small tasks at hand, maybe rummage in the attic or basement. The inner you needs exercise just like your quadriceps do.

Arrange a family gathering perhaps around Memorial Day or Independence Day – include a generation in each direction.

Arrange a summer fête for neighbors.

Be glad you are alive today!

Ancient Mariner

[1] See https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/02/the-post-human-world/517206/?utm_source=nl-atlantic-daily-022117 Also check out Yuval Harari’s new book, Homo Deus. In other words, turning ourselves into gods. There are critics, e.g. see http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/book-review-homo-deus/ however it is difficult to perceive other directions than Harari suggests.

Generalisms

Mariner has been writing often about myths. Myths are a legitimate, indeed critical part of religious understanding; without myths, the indescribable spirituality we draw from our faith would not be possible. From the same box of tools for explanation is the generalism.

Everyone uses generalisms every day. We use generalisms to express opinion without having to give a lecture and in the context that offering the generalism does not mean it is absolute. A simple and innocuous example is:

Larry says, “Hello, Tom. I plan to have a Thanksgiving dinner this year. What do I need?” One knows instinctively that Larry does not want a half-dozen recipes dictated or directions to the library or a show and tell about Tom’s last four Thanksgiving dinners. Tom uses a general statement to offer Larry an opinion: “Oh, maybe the common items are a turkey, potatoes and gravy, some vegetables and desert, like a pumpkin pie.” A generalism is an excellent means for expressing a large, unofficial collection of information. It should be noted that a generalism is not an idea; it is an assimilation.

Like myths, while absolutely critical to insightful communication, generalisms can be abused:

One can adopt a literal value for a general statement. This is called prejudice. Good or bad in intention, a generalism is not a specific, formulated entity; making a general statement innately means there are many exceptions and diverse perspectives included – one cannot legislate by means of generalism. It is this error that confronts Donald at every turn. Further, one cannot live a healthy and insightful life trying to act according to a set of prejudices.

One cannot infer a further generalism from an existing generalism. That is the same as executing a split-middle in a syllogism: All cats are four-legged animals; all horses have four legs; therefore all horses are four-legged animals. The derived generalism: all animals have four legs; ducks are animals; therefore ducks have four legs.

However, it is this abuse, building a generalism referencing another generalism that is the foundation of racial prejudice in the US: Whites are successful; blacks are less successful; therefore blacks are not the same as whites. The derived generalism: Successful whites are ambitious; blacks are not as successful; therefore blacks are not as ambitious. One can imagine the multiplicity of prejudice by those who believe generalisms to be literally true.

Broadcast news has drifted from investigative reporting to information of viewer interest, that is, generalisms and placating viewers. This weakness has allowed Donald, among many other misrepresented issues, capable of running an entire campaign and Presidency leveraging generalisms. Donald’s flamboyant pontifications were the news – invalidated by facts. News organizations have lost credibility as a consequence; individuals and legislation hurtful to our culture succeed without scrutiny or public awareness. Generalisms are not always the proper form of communication for the task at hand.

Three cheers and a gold plaque for NBC White House press reporter Peter Alexander when he corrected Donald’s claim to have the Electoral College’s highest win votes in history since Ronald. Peter had done his investigative homework and called out Donald on his blatantly touted falsehood; Donald wasn’t even fourth. Asked how the public could have faith in him if he lies, Donald said someone else gave him the information. Except for Peter, would the public have accepted the generalism not knowing the facts that make the generalism false and self-serving?

Generalisms are not facts, they are presumptions.

Yet, because the public prefers not to spend time postulating and judging facts, generalisms are more entertaining therefore draw a larger viewer share. As the official prevaricator of information, broadcast news owes the public more than entertaining generalisms. A condition lasting several generations, the public will require therapy to restore the requirement for facts.

[The first news center was converted from a public service to a profit center in 1977 (20/20). By the late 80’s all news was competing for profit rather than better news based on facts.]

The public has become lax about being correctly informed – paradoxically, during an era when more facts are free, more information is quickly accessible and more available than ever. If the news won’t investigate, the viewer is vulnerable unless the viewer decomposes news generalisms into the ‘facts’ that may or may not support them.

Ancient Mariner