Faith is a necessary life tool for everyone

Read these words from this old hymnbook favorite – sing along if you know the melody:

Life is like a mountain railway

With an engineer that’s brave

We must make this run successful

From the cradle to the grave

Watch the curves, the fills, and tunnels

Never falter, never fail

Keep your hand upon the throttle

And your eyes upon the rail

The verse asks for a commitment to an ideal, a belief that the run must be successful. A belief in what? It could be any religion’s doctrine; it could be any political vision; it could be a personal life or a person’s sustained commitment against fatal disease.

The point is that all thoughts and behavior of any merit require belief in a valued objective. The only instruction in the verse is completing the run and keeping one’s hand upon the throttle. Could this verse be applicable to Blackbeard the pirate’s belief in his role on the high seas? (Yes, mixed metaphor)

What is missing today is context. At the beginning of the verse, what does ‘Life’ imply? As an ethical compass, what is the world supposed to believe in – not just the United States but the entire world? The confrontation is universal: what is a gibbon to trust in a disappearing habitat; what is a fish living on a dying coral reef to accept as normal; what is the dictator of Kazakhstan to believe about his uncertain future; what about the broken and abused family in Nicaragua; what about the preacher in Kansas or the steel worker in Detroit; what about the billionaire CEO. With our hand on the throttle, where is the rail taking us?

More than at any time since nations have existed, we live in a time of social disruption and turmoil. The job of Homo sapiens is to decide where the rail will take us. Holding on to broken, outdated, even useless railways doesn’t help. The job of everyone around the world today is to build a new destination for our railway.

The hymn cited at the beginning was written in 1890 by gospel songwriter Charles Davis Tillman. He styled it for the repertoire of white southerners, whose music was derived from Gospel. Further verses reference the Bible as a source of context. Life in 1890 was from another time, another reality. Where is Life headed today?

[For several renditions of the hymn see: ]

Ancient Mariner

Humans face Many Problems

In 2015 mariner wrote a post that attempted to distract readers from the campaigns of the last Presidential election. He focused on several natural phenomena that make human problems small and irrelevant. One topic was that the North and South poles switch places every so often. He wrote:

Every 200,000 years or so, the magnetosphere switches poles, that is, the North Pole becomes the South Pole and vice versa. Presently, we are experiencing the very early phases of a polar switch. Scientists have determined that the strength of the magnetosphere has dropped 15% since 1840. There is nothing cataclysmic about the switch. The North and South magnetic waves push through each other around the globe. For example, today the South Atlantic and the Bering Sea have very weak magnetic spots such that a compass can be seen to vacillate as North and South magnetic waves move back and forth. “It may take another 2,000 years,” said physicist Phil Scherrer of Stanford University.

The real danger in a magnetosphere shift is twofold: First, the magnetic waves shield us from strong radiation from the Sun that is capable of causing cancer and other radiation ills; the Earth’s magnetosphere is weakened considerably during a shift and the Sun’s radiation can reach the surface of the Earth. At some point, all satellite communications will be interrupted.

Second, every creature that depends on a compass to get around will experience a topsy-turvy effect that turns everything backwards. Many creatures may be disoriented: Monarch butterflies, geese, whales – anything that migrates great distances without mapping terrain.

– – – –

Mariner’s question today in 2020 is, “Will humans suffer topsy-turvy effects because all the maps and street signs will be backwards? What about life without GPS? Will self-driving cars just wander aimlessly? Will Google Earth even know?”

Ancient Mariner

On Aging

When mariner was very young, he remembers lots of men had a perpetual toothpick in their mouths. No point to be made; just that he remembers – isn’t that enough for an old man?

This post may read like self pity but it is just another pondering from his file on this planet’s biomass. Mariner is provoked, however, to write this post in behalf of his elder friends who sustain their lives in spite of greater challenges than youngsters and society may notice.

But before we start on aging, in a related socio-psychological subject it has been proven economically and socially that breaking down the extended family to a nuclear family has not been a good thing. For the Matrix-sensitive folks, do you think the new isolationist teaching method in schools combined with cloud control of our lives is preparing our species to live in coffins?

– – – –

Back to aging and speaking as an ancient member of Homo sapiens, a branch of the hominid family, mariner is taking science to task – especially the study of anatomy and medicine. Scientists laud their achievements in extending the human life span more than twenty years beyond the norm for hominids. What the scientists forgot was to include normal functionality along with the additional years.

For example: sex. If the reader thinks Jeff Bezos is rich, think how rich the scientist would be who discovered a way for guys over 60 to continue having an active sex life. And dementia – what good is living if a person doesn’t know they’re living? And Parkinson’s, heart disease, arthritis and palsy. How about incontinence and disappearing bone mass? Making hominids live longer without simultaneously extending functionality doesn’t improve anything except more opportunity to be depressed, in pain, isolated and ill.

Old folks’ skin looks like lizard skin because muscles and their inherent potential energy simply are vanishing. Case in point: can mariner still play football? Not.

Anthropologists suggest that evolution cares only about procreation, i.e. sustaining the species. While scientists were extending lifespan, why not extend fecundity? It boils down to this: living longer may avoid facing the end of life for a while but for a majority of folks it is a life of depression, pain, dysfunction, despair and medical bankruptcy. The best to be had simply may be a feeling of irrelevance.

Some youngsters may think old people are useless and in the way – especially when it comes to government support. But the elders are monuments to strength and perseverance despite the meddling of medical science. Let’s see what trouble will be stirred by tinkering with the genome.

Ancient Mariner

The Frontal Lobe versus Planet Earth

The frontal lobe is responsible for abstract thinking. It is the youngest and largest region of the human brain located just behind the forehead. While the rest of the brain abides by the normal mammalian genome adapted to Earth’s biosphere, the frontal lobe of a human brain is not bound by such mundane relationships.

In an exercise to pass time while sheltered, mariner developed an analog which eliminated conflict between humans and the biosphere by stepping backward in history until the conflict had yet to occur. An example everyone is aware of is the fossil fuel conflict. By tracking backwards to the point where the cause (a frontal lobe invention) did not exist, one can deduce the lifestyle, politics and what at that point would be compatible with the biosphere.

Herewith is a summation of the results:











Well, there it is. Humans get in trouble when they let the frontal lobe do its thing without respecting the rest of the simian brain and its agreeable relationship with Planet Earth.

So much for shelter-in-place.

Ancient Mariner


[1] The asteroid just hastened the end of a declining existence for the dinosaurs; Covid-19 tried hard to bring an end to humans but came up a little short. Humans will have to end it on their own.

Evolutionary Change

For those readers who have an interest in the evolution of species on a grand, Earth-time scale, they may have learned that significant changes in the basic form of living things occurs in a relatively short amount of time. A couple of examples: The most significant ice age in Earth’s history lasted from 720-635 million years ago. The ice age caused a complete extinction of single celled flora that thrived on microscopic fungi and dissolved chemicals. As the ice age receded, a new form of life rapidly emerged: diversified plankton, similar boneless creatures and importantly, primitive sponges – the first evidence of the animal kingdom.

Another more popular example is the end of the Paleogene Extinction 66 million years ago when dinosaurs disappeared and the age of mammals literally exploded into the many branches of diversification that are familiar today.

Mariner apologizes for the lesson in paleontology but it sets a clear model for the absolute dissolution of social history as humans have known it since the Roman Empire and now, in the early decades of the twenty-first century a sudden, brand new, seemingly unevolved society – the age of artificial intelligence – is emerging. Thanks to Covid-19, one generation of humans can experience the rapid extinction of the industrial/technical age virtually overnight, leaving a new form of society ready to explode into the future.

The whole premise for future society is different. For example, capitalism is too slow for future society; capitalism has been the core economic philosophy all the way back to ancient times; it’s a horse-and-buggy single flow movement of resources. Cash flows only in one direction and ends up wasted in the coffers of the super-rich. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will redistribute static assets in a flash.

The tight, dark age relationship between work and wage will be separated so that work is an act of participation in society and wage is more related to sustaining an optimized GDP. This allows AI to utilize income as a fluid resource throughout the economy rather than the very slow, piecemeal process of distributing wages to each person one-on-one – another horse-and-buggy process.

The stock market already has acquiesced to the presence of AI. Twenty-nine percent of all transactions are decided by self-learning computer algorithms without human intervention – doubling since 2013.

Although at the moment many social behaviors are in turbulence as the dynamics of change already are shaking things around, new forms will emerge relatively quickly. For example, the bipolar political situation around the world is a sign of pushing out the old and reforming differently. In the US, it is quite plain that the republican concept of capitalism isn’t working well and is on the verge of losing dominance. New economic concepts will be a combination of capitalism, socialism, communism and AI’s philosophy, pragmatism – whatever works best in a market situation is what will set the –ism.

At the personal level and involving emotional comfort, secure identity, sufficient privacy, and the right to human judgment versus AI, things will be sticky. Human feelings and behaviors, bound by genome, don’t fit as smoothly to the bit and byte world of AI as economic policy does. There will be a struggle between the public and the never ending encroachment of AI psychology, Pavlovian control (witness how humans have adapted to smartphones and Alexi) and environmental manipulation, e.g., who can live where and in what kind of housing.

Add to personal uneasiness the issue of race. By 2045 caucasians will be a mathematical minority of US population. This will affect long standing social taboos and class definitions. Worldwide, mariner has mentioned in a previous post that Indians and Chinese will constitute one in every three humans.

And finally, the center of civilization will leave Europe, the Balkans, the Mediterranean and the Middle East and settle on the boundaries of the Pacific Ocean and the Southern Hemisphere.

Don’t bother packing bags, AI will do that.

Ancient Mariner


About that cat

Mathematics has always been a numbing topic to most people. Yet, innately, all people utilize math in their everyday lives. The human brain doesn’t call it math; the brain may concede a visible logic to things, for example, don’t put on your coat before you put on your shirt but usually it isn’t about math, it’s about common sense. So the brain helps out immensely by learning wordless formulas to make sense of everything. Just as spoken language has a structure behind it called grammar, science of every kind depends on a similar grammar but not about words, it’s about physical laws – Nature.

To make things more complex, there are different kinds of math that use different realities to construct mathematical truths. Most everyone suffers through algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and perhaps laws of motion in Physics class. All these categories are in one realm of reality: Newtonian Physics – remember the guy that had an apple fall on his head so he devised a mathematic definition for gravity. Well heck, humans don’t need math to know about gravity – what goes up must come down; the brain has a handle on it.

Then along comes Einstein, AKA Einsteinian physics or the theory of relativity. Einstein said that the Earth moves toward the apple as much as the apple moves toward the Earth. Wait a minute, the brain doesn’t know about the Earth moving. That’s because the movement is relative to the mass of the apple and the mass of the Earth. If one thinks about this situation hard enough and is lucky to fathom Einstein’s version of common sense, the passing of time also is involved. Time must move around mass. As the Earth and the apple move toward each other time is slowed because it must flow around their mass. – but just in a really, really tiny space around each object. Should a person have two sensitive clocks one at the front of the apple and the other at the back showing identical time, surely (hah) one realizes that the time at the front of the apple will be ahead of the time behind the apple when all is said and done. Somewhat associated with this is the phenomenon that if astronauts spend years in space moving at high speeds, when they return they will be much younger than their classmates.

Einstein is a prerequisite before moving on to really weird mathematics about reality. It’s called Quantum Physics. Newton’s reality was about normal stuff like apples and snow. Einstein was more comfortable among very large bodies like stars and planets and time at very high speeds. Quantum physics deals with reality in subatomic space, that is, how electrons, neurons, quasars and other tiny stuff behave. It is also the reason mariner has written all this math stuff.

Because Quantum Physics is so unlike the other very finite mathematics, it takes more than an apple to comprehend Quantum Physics. For example, the line between past events and future events is blurred; in a sense, there is no present. What the past brings to the table, however, will determine any number of outcomes. To help those who haven’t grasped this past-future relationship, a famous metaphor is ‘Schrödinger’s cat’:

Mariner brings to the reader a box. In this box is a cat. Is it alive? Is it dead? A rational reader would say, “How do I know?” That’s because humans are born and bred to reason in finite terms. The correct answer, in Quantum Physics is, “Yes.” Until an event occurs that opens the box, only then will the finite answer be known. This is an example of how the past and future are interdependent without a present.

But now to the title of this post. Mariner has construed another example that may be easier to accept. Imagine the reader is traveling on an interstate. There is a ‘fast’ lane and a ‘slow’ lane. Frequently along the Interstate there are signs that say ‘slower traffic keep right’ (Let’s not open a box full of irritating comments about other drivers). As it turns out, the reader has the only vehicle in sight. Is the vehicle slow and moves to the right lane or is the vehicle fast and moves to the left lane? Logically, the answer is ‘yes.’ There are other factors like speed limit, weather, heavy load on a hill, etc. These variables give insight into the fact that scientists have predicted as many as 16 different futures for a subatomic particle in the same moment.

Thanks for tolerating the pontification.


Mariner watched an episode of “Dirty Money” on Netflix. It turned out to be free of pundit interpretations and approached the Wells Fargo abuses from the point of view of line staff that had worked for Wells Fargo. The wrong doing, which is now in court and has the attention of the House of Representatives, is what Wells Fargo calls ‘cross-selling’, that is, in an honest sales pitch, convincing customers to open more than one account. For example, a customer should have at least two checking accounts, a debit card, a credit card, a retirement savings account, a loan or mortgage and a few more savings accounts. To the stock market and shareholders, all these accounts represented growth so Wells Fargo stock kept rising in value.

At the line level, called personal bankers, it was run like a sweat shop. The bankers had quotas that were unreasonable and even irrational. Eventually, with awareness on the part of management all the way to the CEO, the personal bankers ran out of friends and family members to foist accounts onto and began creating accounts without consulting the customers. Large numbers of customers had many accounts they were not aware of until collection agencies began calling them for not paying account fees.

Needless to say cross-selling, while legal to an extent, is not a good banking practice in any case. The documentary was above average. If Elizabeth Warren watched it, she would need a tranquilizer.

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



Increasingly, mariner sees the word ‘sustainability’ popping up in news releases and articles. This is a good sign. It is raising the political thought that classism, elitism, nationalism and identity politics don’t really solve the problems of today’s world.

Were it not for the presence of a global pandemic, failing international economies and global warming, the idea of sustainability may not have emerged so quickly. Thinking in the abstract, as Guru is wont to do, the world may not be able to support oligarchy much longer. The liquidity and business investment value is needed to assuage true hardship experienced by everyone else in the world.

Beyond economics, global warming and pandemics don’t recognize borders or class distinctions. The politics that must deal with these subjects requires sustainability – by everyone. Sustainability is a unification word; it means the solution is more important than individual nations, individual cultures, corporations or individual political movements.

For several decades nations have been trying to deal with global warming by any means that will work other than sustainability (none do). The prime example is the fossil fuel industry dodging sustainability at every turn because its investment value will diminish greatly as the world population insists on moving to more sustainable energy resources.

As to pandemics, if properly funded and given direction, science will slowly make progress in dealing with pandemics from the perspective of sustainable practices, economics and politics. For example, it is not a sustainable behavior when items like face masks suffer price gouging under the not-so-sustainable concept of supply and demand.

One can hope sooner than later that war and its destructive conclusions will be seen as a solution that does not support sustainability.

Sustainability is an updated word that no longer means just surviving on a homestead; it also means surviving on a planet. Perhaps finally the United Nations may come into its own as THE organization responsible for sustainability. Goodness knows it has been trying.

Ancient Mariner



Chicken Little stopped by today to bring to mariner’s attention a news item from National Public Radio (NPR). An excerpt follows:

“For the first time, scientists have used the gene-editing technique CRISPR to try to edit a gene while the DNA is still inside a person’s body.

The groundbreaking procedure involved injecting the microscopic gene-editing tool into the eye of a patient blinded by a rare genetic disorder, in hopes of enabling the volunteer to see. They hope to know within weeks whether the approach is working and, if so, to know within two or three months how much vision will be restored.”

“Don’t be fooled,” Chicken said. “There may be good intentions today but gene splicing in living humans opens the door to permanent slavery, super human football players, over-sexed men who will never need Cialis and a class of super smart people who will control everything.”

“Do you remember Matrix?” he said. “CRISPR is how they will prepare humans to live in caskets for organ donation and battery power. Or maybe CRISPR is how everyone was made identical in the book 1984.”

Mariner wishes his father knew about CRISPR; maybe it won’t take zillions of years to evolve a three-fingered hand.

Actually, the emergence of CRISPR gives one pause. It wouldn’t take much to breed humans who could live for two hundred years (Lord, who would want to?). Conversely, sperm and egg production could be stopped as a way to limit an over populated world. These are extreme ideas, though. How will CRISPR be used in the general population? Have a propensity for a disabling disease? Have it removed with CRISPR. Any deformity can be repaired or removed with a few gene modifications; bad allergies? Use CRISPR. Lose a limb? Grow a new one with CRISPR.

What concerns mariner is not the science but how it will be managed by governments. So far government isn’t controlling the use of data distribution and its effect on privacy. Government has no idea how to manage the age of artificial intelligence. Mariner is more anxious about today’s moral discipline than he is about the potential of CRISPR.

So, add CRISPR as a path to a new world – along with global warming, plutocracy, and tropical, disease carrying mosquitos moving up the coast from Florida because the weather is warmer. Mariner told Chicken Little not to worry about CRISPR, worry about normal people.

Ancient Mariner

Nationalism under 5G


Fifth-generation wireless (5G) is the latest iteration of cellular technology, engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. With 5G, data transmitted over wireless broadband connections can travel at multigigabit speeds, with potential peak speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second (Gbps) by some estimates. These speeds exceed wireline network speeds and offer latency of 1 millisecond (ms) or lower for uses that require real-time feedback. 5G will also enable a sharp increase in the amount of data transmitted over wireless systems due to more available bandwidth and advanced antenna technology.

– – – –

A big conference will be held in Germany soon. Its primary speakers are the foreign ministers of China, Japan, India and South Korea. There is concern in Europe that the nations of Europe will never have 5G independence. Germany’s cybersecurity chief struck a pessimistic tone at a pre-Munich cyber conference: “If you talk about digital sovereignty, we don’t have it. And we’ll never have it.” There will be presentations by Pelosi, Pompeo and Zuckerberg as well. [Politico]

The idea of sovereignty may undergo significant political transformation if, as feared, whole nations are just uplinks to a few communication systems owned and operated by a few nations like China and the US. National privacy, very much like personal privacy, may not be available. In the old days the spy business used to be a face-to-face transaction but with China manufacturing its technical equipment and the US eavesdropping, no nation will have secrets.

The US already is pushing back on China for a number of manufactured items used in smartphones and cloud-based games. The US asked the European Union not to install Huawei hardware but, said the EU, what else is there? The US is behind China in 5G development.

Nations, just as with a person’s decision making, will be influenced by 5G operators who already know what the target nation is thinking, what its economic conditions are and where its vulnerabilities lie. What will this do to traditional diplomatic relationships? Will a robot wearing suit and tie replace Pompeo?

A current model may provide insight. At the turn of the millennium there were 12 significant stock exchanges around the world. The differences in time zone meant that transactional business for a given stock exchange was local and finished before other stock exchanges opened. Today, that is not the case. An investor can issue trades to any exchange in the world at any time of day. An investor doesn’t have to miss daily opportunities that would be gone had the investor had to wait until the exchange opened for business the next day.

Continuous access has the effect of leveling the monetary value of daily interactions between exchanges. It also reduces the range of highs and lows relative to other exchanges.

Applying these causes and effects to nations using 5G, the positive side may be the prevention of surprises that lead to political or military conflict. The downside may be a new form of authoritarianism – similar to the direction AI is taking with US citizens.

Ancient Mariner