Speaking in Metaphor

It is difficult not to focus on the current worldwide crises of economy, pandemic, international politics, global abject poverty, brutal abuses of life and at the center of this swirling storm, artificial intelligence. Not to mention the Planet’s agenda, global warming and climate change.

In the future records of human history, the decades between 1980 and 2050 will be seen as the most tumultuous time in human history. Not that the impact of fire, wheels, electricity, automobiles and technology haven’t had memorable moments but they do not compare to the instantaneous, worldwide shift that the human race is witnessing today.

What is unique to this moment in history is lack of continuity; there is no perceived transition. Typically a change in a social or technical age is singular; everything else in society isn’t changing at the same time so there is an opportunity to plan and adjust. The automobile and the computer are examples in recent history that changed how society operated. But still there were department stores, highways, and general labor that needed only to adjust a little. Even the credit card didn’t change life much despite its significantly different approach to cash flow that certainly changed commerce.

An old metaphor for stepping into the unknown is the image of standing on a high cliff preparing to jump. But today, is it a cliff? Perhaps one stands at the foot of a cliff. Perhaps one suddenly will have the ground fall away. Who knows? Insight into tomorrow is limited.

Another metaphor to see into the future would be looking at one of those posts that tell which direction important landmarks are and how far away they are. Trouble is no one recognizes any of the destinations; the sign is useless and a bit scary. How does the world get from here to there?

The sense that the ground is falling away isn’t too far off the mark. Those department stores of the twentieth century are disappearing faster and faster and Covid-19 has expedited the process; fast food restaurants would rather a customer punch a few buttons for lunch rather than have a short conversation with another human who actually relates to what one says; smartphones have reduced human conversations, thereby eliminating the existential experience normally provided, replacing it with texting; for many income, expense, debt and investment are not hands-on sensations.

But it is more than daily habits. There are eight significantly populated islands that have only a decade or two before they vanish beneath the oceans. Cities on seafronts that represent one fourth of the world’s commerce will have to pick up their skirts and relocate or drastically reduce urban society.

Imagine that every nation in the world is a sailing vessel. Politics represents the power supply. All the vessels are old and worn; the power supply stops and starts and coughs, never providing the power surge required to master the wind and waves. Fuel consumption dedicated to progress leaks profusely. In this era of change with its hurricanes, tsunamis and wind storms, society has no choice but to feverishly rebuild or replace inadequate vessels. Rebuilding is delayed by bewildered citizens causing populism, authoritarianism, oligarchy and war; they cause confusion and delay. Who has a plan? No one, really. Some nations are lucky to be on an economic upswing for the moment but no nation can begin to describe their final destination or set a course to arrive or design the best sailing vessel to get there.

What is emerging very slowly, much slower than Earth’s seasons, is sustenance. Sustenance is like packing an extra sandwich in case things change. Sustenance means don’t be frivolous with what’s at hand – one may need it later. Sustenance means be careful not to cut one’s self in case one is a hemophiliac. When the reader thinks about it, the covid-19 drill is an exercise in sustenance – sort of like an internship for the future.

For legislators, sustenance is a new idea. In recent decades legislators have learned to be experts in consumption and hoarding which is different than sustenance. Today, especially in more liberal quarters, legislation talks about sustaining people’s lives and shoring up public support systems, sort of like putting plywood over windows before a hurricane. In the private sector, covid-19 has given the electorate a chance to practice charity and sustaining some semblance of continuity – well, some of them anyway.

So, it is a time when everyone must make absolutely sure to hire the best boat builders that can be had. Sailing into the future requires modern sailing techniques and flexible, buoyant craft. Vote with craftsmen in mind, not fixer uppers.

Ancient Mariner

 

If Then

The other day mariner had a conversation with a member of the electorate. This member happened to be a Trumpist. They were complaining about the Fascist state of affairs in the United States because the Government said everyone had to leave jobs, stay home, wear self-deprecating masks, etc. The Trumpist was echoing the popular complaint going around that uses 40,000 car deaths and people can still drive cars . . . why can’t 150,000 deaths occur from virus and people can still work.

Mariner responded in a sympathetic tone that he understood the Trumpist’s sentiments but mariner didn’t understand the Modus Ponens (If–then) logic that relates car deaths to virus deaths. Mariner suggested a different argument:

“A similar argument that relates to the virus constraints would be: The Constitution says all men are created equal but the Government can’t stop me from denigrating black people. Further, the Declaration of Independence says every man has the unalienable right to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness so the government can’t stop me from working.”

“But,” mariner continued, “it seems immoral to say just because we let people die in cars that we should also let people die from the virus when, unlike a car accident, death from the virus can be avoided. That’s why the car-virus comparison doesn’t work.”

“You ought to be a lawyer,” the Trumpist said, “and it doesn’t change the fact that we live under a Fascist government.”

Politics can be fun . . . . . and depressing.

Ancient Mariner

 

Ennui

Being a viable shut-in is a skill. Mariner has counted his toes, his nose, his hose and his clothes. He would count the blades of grass but they have six inches of snow on them. Mariner even has cleaned his study, discovering long lost papers, photographs and memorabilia from childhood.

Sad to say, television is inadequate as a source of entertainment. Mariner is certain DISH is charging too much for reruns, reruns of reruns, product shows and B-grade new stuff when something new occurs. Donald is not allowed on Mariner’s TV. He has turned to Netflix, primarily watching hobby shows and game shows – which have run their course. One must exclude PBS from the rest; shows like Nova and Frontline often have excellent content.

Being shut in without even one arcane sports event should be the subject of a lawsuit. There is one Spanish language station that shows soccer twenty-four hours a day. ¡Ay caramba! It is a form of torture after ten hours.

The world experience today is in such disarray that mariner finds himself being redundant in his subject matter and often deriding his mortal enemy, the electorate. He grows tired of spitting into an indifferent ocean. This circumstance, along with same-ol same-ol news leaves little to say.

Mariner, in a problem solving session with his alter egos, has decided to write a book as a curative to being pissed off at the world. He still will write posts that may be a bit more prospective and hopefully insightful. When one writes a book, one is always right.

It doesn’t matter if it’s never finished or ever published. It’s a better pastime than counting toes.

Ancient Mariner

 

To be honest

Mariner is depressed. He is on the verge of tears. He is angry. He is distraught. He casts out those who hold in trust the governments of this and many other nations.

He no longer can listen to political discourse that denies the existence of humanism and compassion. He can no longer tolerate the role of wealth and station as it rapidly rots society. He can no longer abide the greed of corporatism and plutocracy.

Mariner casts out all political parties. He casts out social class prejudices.

Mariner abhors the role of dollars as the foundation and measure of common good.

Mariner believes big data is criminal to the core, sucking human diversity out of every person without constraint, ethic or recompense.

Mariner stands with those who believe the planet already has been irreversibly compromised by the human species.

Mariner believes in unbiased goodness. He believes in caring, sharing and compassion for all living things, for all that exists.

There is not even a trace of these beliefs today.

Ancient Mariner

 

Restricted to the compound

֎ The ‘shelter in place’ has not affected mariner much. He mostly stays at home anyway. However, the garden season is fast approaching and mariner has begun to start many, well, too many projects for garden improvement; he has added organizing the basement and is adding more shelves in his workshop.

Focusing on the compound increases mariner’s awareness of small things. For example, he and his wife maintain a bird feeder outside the kitchen window. A large variety of birds, rodents, squirrels and rabbits are regular visitors. This draws predators as well. Mariner and his wife have seen a red tailed hawk swoop in to capture a small rodent, a large cat visits regularly and a fox was seen carrying a squirrel carcass.

Mariner’s town has had resident foxes the past few years which has kept the rabbit population low. Five years ago there were rabbits under every bush and rhubarb plant. One year he planted 40 perennials in a border; as they started to grow, they all disappeared in one night. In self-defense mariner now has a 117 gauge bb rifle at hand. Recently, the rabbits don’t visit very often thanks to the predators.

The other irritating creature is Japanese beetles. Mariner has advice for readers: don’t ever use beetle traps because every Japanese beetle in town will swarm to the reader’s garden. Mariner tried it once; he had to replace the little bag that comes with the trap with a 40-gallon trash bag. That bag weighed 23 pounds and mariner still had thousands of beetles in his apple trees, rosebushes, and shrubs.

֎ So much for mariner’s shut-in world. As the ‘shelter in place’ restriction and the accompanying crowd limitations spreads to significant portions of the United States, mariner is fascinated by the way social interaction changed. It’s as if the virus has forced society to do a training drill for how society will change as new concepts of economy emerge, how working from home will be a major aspect of jobs under artificial intelligence, as the retail world finally succumbs to online purchase and delivery and how active group experiences among friends, neighbors and extended families is adapting to Internet communication.

A new Skype-type product, ZOOM, is a fast rising software product. A full harmonic orchestra was able to play classical music together with ZOOM. Check it out with the reader’s search engine.

It is, however, a harrowing time. Pandemics have and will change the path of the future. Given the nation’s political conflicts, it is a good feeling to have everyone united for a common cause.

Ancient Mariner

 

Sheltered

 

It’s been a few days. Herding humans may be a lot like herding cats. Even in mariner’s household of two, the days are drawn out and have empty spots. It used to be before sheltering that in mariner’s retired family they had two or three trips to visit friends, attend meetings and other gatherings, and shop. This busyness has stopped, of course, leaving just a run to get groceries. What else has stopped is sports – all sports! What fills this empty time?

Communication must go on. Every social media site has had a notable increase in usage. So has porn, gaming, email, telephone, smartphone and picture telephone (Skype, Facetime et al). Siri and Alexa have started to complain that the signal is bad and they have to hang up for a while. Interestingly, television programs haven’t shown an uptick. Late shows and afternoon talk shows are suffering in quality even though they are doing their best with a hopeless situation. Scanning the cable guide, one realizes they have seen everything at least twice – including Roy Rogers and Ozzie and Harriet. What has increased is viewers of live streaming and On Demand options.

That leaves TrumpNews. No matter how lonely or how bored the reader may be, don’t be tempted. Check out PBS, NPR, Newsy, Politico, The Atlantic, Protocol, RealClearPolitics, Axios, Propublica and The Economist. All these websites have an ethic about the difference between gossip, news, fake news and uncontrolled political bias.

The psychology types both online and in print suggest that family members deliberately attempt to make the whole family the focus of daily activity. This is a lost motivation because most of the time parents are working, children are at school, and the smartphone has cleaved relationships into small pieces.

Everyone should put on their ‘pass it forward’ hat to find ways to help with the financial hardship that far too many citizens will suffer from job loss, cut hours and the virus itself. These genuinely are historically terrible times.

Finally, although many months late, Congress has passed a decent fiscal package to see citizens through the economic uncertainty. Congratulations.

Regarding the virus, stay in touch daily with trusted news sources.

By the way, Happy Easter . . .

Ancient Mariner

 

It’s Monday

The Monday morning gossip around the keyboard is speculating about Joe Biden’s VP, cabinet positions, etc. The most succinct list is produced from Axios:

“Joe Biden confidants are privately discussing potential leaders and Cabinet members for his White House, including the need to name a woman or African American — perhaps both — as vice president.

John Kerry would love to take a new Cabinet position. Mike Bloomberg would be a top possibility to head the World Bank.

Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general under Obama who stood up to Trump and was fired is a leading contender for attorney general. Sen. Elizabeth Warren as Treasury secretary.

Jamie Dimon — chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, and mentioned over the years as a potential presidential candidate — would also be considered for Treasury.

Another possibility to head Treasury: Anne Finucane, vice chairman of Bank of America.

Behind the curtain: Campaign officials say the name game isn’t where Biden’s head is — he knows he has major primary and general-election fights ahead.

Officials point out they don’t yet have a transition — and haven’t run a process that would surface new talent, like Dr. Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize physicist who was Obama’s first secretary of energy.

It’s a sign of the sudden optimism around his candidacy that some in his circle of trust are starting to think down the road.”

It’s Monday morning and it will rain all day. No garden work today; mariner likely will stay in his workshop to make trellises for tomato plants.

As many families plan to do, mariner’s family is having a family get together this spring. This involves airline flights, interstate travel, old folks, children and dogs. The question for family gatherings is whether the virus will permit them.

In response to Ben’s speculation about the disappearance of Earth in the storm of the Sun’s death and therefore sustainability in the long run is not sustainable, Guru chimed in with his typical abstruse comment: There is no ultimate sustainability in the Universe. The Universe is the result of an explosion and, like explosions, will continue to dissipate that original energy until it is gone. This fact resides in all objects in space and in every living creature on Earth and elsewhere. There is no object or circumstance that does not dissipate energy from that original explosion.

First, however, humanity must make it to the twenty-second century. In the meantime, mariner is off to his shop to dissipate some energy making trellises.

Ancient Mariner

 

Examining Existence

The planet is embroiled in many confrontations. It has its own issues regarding its tendency to grow warmer and warmer; something Earth has been doing since the last ice age over twenty thousand years ago. Further, hominids have pitched in for the last 12,000 years, putting Earth on something akin to Cocaine. More on that later.

Earth, given its proximity to the Sun and carrying its own moon around, permits a certain pattern of life to exist. Hominids call it environment, ecosystem, life, nature, laws of physics and quantum mechanics. For the planet, though, the patterns of life are very much trial and error; Earth is indifferent to any intellectual perception that there is meaning to this randomness. Every evolutionary change is totally arbitrary.

This randomness is a characteristic of the entire universe, its stars, planets, moons and any order of nature that may exist in or among celestial reality. Consequently, all modifications to life are indifferent and may enhance an environment or may damage that environment. For example, recently an asteroid collided with the Earth in Mexico destroying ninety percent of life on the planet. On other occasions, volcanoes and earthquakes have stressed the environment to the point of having to start most of evolution over again. On the other hand, the assimilation of oceans of water placed on the planet allowed a supportive, temperate climate to emerge. Life was free to effortlessly experiment and has created a highly diversified environment.

The ethical premise of the universe and Earth is “what happens is what happens.” This applies to evolution in its entirety. In general, what keeps evolution going and surviving is, if mariner may borrow a politicized phrase, a quid pro quo arrangement between a species and its environment. A species takes from the environment to survive but also in the final analysis gives something back to the ecosystem. Overall there is a balance between species and environment.

If evolution is to be sustained, there is a need for predators. Many species in ignorance will over indulge their environment and breed to the point that nature becomes imbalanced; consider the cougar versus white tailed deer or the Peregrine falcon versus pigeons.

There is an exception: parasites. Parasites will consume an entire ecosystem even to the point it becomes fatal for the parasite. In the bacteria-virus world, parasites are common: the black plague, measles, sexually transmitted disease, ebola, etc. In the mammalian age, there are hominids.

– – – –

The ‘what happens is what happens’ phenomenon in this case is intelligence. Hominids are subject to the same quid pro quo as other mammals but after a while, intelligence learned how to break that deal between nature and the species. And by the time Homo sapiens sapiens evolved, brutalizing nature was an art form. Humans had become parasites of the planet’s environment. No aspect of nature was protected. Mining, chemical farming, destruction of large ecosystems like the Brazilian rain forest, and the extinction of 83 percent of the world’s species is de rigeuer. Atmospheric pollution took a back seat to profit – a classic parasitic move.

Elizabeth Kolbert, author of ‘The Sixth Extinction’, believes that Homo will bring about the global extinction of the mammalian age. Species are driven to extinction by simple but thorough intrusions into sensitive biospheres. A blatant example of parasitic behavior is to open the world’s largest surface mine and the largest oil drilling operation in Alaska – thereby wiping out the salmon that must use the same rivers to populate. As the reader reads this post, profiteering (AKA parasitic behavior) has moved to the bottom of the Earth’s oceans in search of new profits.

Mariner believes that the imminent recession in the world economy, the inability of governments around the world to find an ethical compass, and the disregard of individual citizens to take responsibility for the state of the planet, all may lead to a great collapse made more punitive by a planet on cocaine. How Homo and Earth’s creatures will recover is open to question.

If nothing else, vote to sustain the future, not to repair the past.

Ancient Mariner

 

A Nation Coming Apart

Mariner finds this letter to subscribers a very important and astute perspective of the state of the nation at this point in history. There are so many imminent, huge shifts in every aspect of the world’s situation. The US is vulnerable to life changing circumstances that may end the nation as we know it.

This topic is carried out in detail in the forthcoming The Atlantic Magazine.

This is not an advertisement but a tribute to the goals of a first class magazine.

 

A Nation Coming Apart

Jeffrey Goldberg

Editor in Chief, The Atlantic

The 45th president of the United States is uniquely unfit for office and poses a multifaceted threat to our country’s democratic institutions. Yet he might not represent the most severe challenge facing our country. The structural failures in our democratic system that allowed a grifter into the White House in the first place—this might be our gravest challenge. Or perhaps it is the tribalization of our politics, brought about by pathological levels of inequality, technological and demographic upheaval, and the tenacious persistence of racism. Or maybe it is that we as a people no longer seem to know who we are or what our common purpose is.

This dispiriting moment was the backdrop, and the impetus, for The Atlantic’s new special issue, what we have called “How to Stop a Civil War.” We don’t believe that conditions in the United States today resemble those of 1850s America. But we worry that the ties that bind us are fraying at alarming speed—we are becoming contemptuous of each other in ways that are both dire and possibly irreversible.

By edict of our founders, The Atlantic is meant to be the magazine of the American idea. In November 1857, when our first issue was published, the American idea was besieged by the forces of slavery. The Atlantic, then as now, stood for American unity, but it also stood for the idea that America is by its nature both imperfect and ultimately perfectible. The untiring pursuit of a more perfect union is at the core of the American idea.

When I discussed the notion of this issue with the editors of our print magazine, we reached the conclusion that any Atlantic journalism confronting questions of American unity and fracture would have to be both analytical and prescriptive, and would require the services of some of America’s best writers and thinkers.

– – – –

In addition to the printed magazine, see: https://www.theatlantic.com/

If one could move out to space far enough and could unfold the planet into some kind of Mercator map, the colors of war, dissent, economic instability, cultural decline and global warming would obscure the continents and the oceans with the tumultuous colors of an explosion.

Indeed these are not normal times; the scope is hard to document in daily news. One characteristic of the Internet is that nations aren’t really isolated by distance or geography. What happens in the many places of the globe immediately affects the many places of the globe.

At the moment, the United States suffers the incompetence of a president who is no more than a symptom of deep-rooted conflict that has quickly eroded the essence of Americanism – so much so, it may not be reparable in its traditional perception.

In the US, we must stop focusing on hoarding pennies and elitism and turn our focus to the horizon. Consider the planet similar to the California and Australian fires; except that it is not forests being destroyed, it is humanity.

The black plague from 1347 to 1351, just 4 years, killed over 20 million people and changed society in the western world. This is a similar time – a global crisis that so far has not drawn together a global team that can avoid disaster. Many nations prefer to contribute to the mayhem with parochial, destructive priorities that are irrelevant to the future of the human species.

Ancient Mariner

AI

Mariner doesn’t know how to say this but . . . Donald’s base is wiser than most of the US citizenry. The base understands the future and is trying its best to thwart it – in the nation’s behalf as well.

Every world citizen should view the latest FRONTLINE presentation on Artificial Intelligence (AI). It won’t be idle entertainment and it takes a couple of hours. But the reader’s existence in the future is revealed.

Click https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/in-the-age-of-ai/ . Pay attention, think, stay awake – it isn’t a sit-com.

Ancient Mariner