Environment as a Change Agent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ancient Mariner

 

Man’s Role on Earth

It’s the year 1870. Two American Bison are talking. One says to the other, “It doesn’t look good for us, Bill. We’ve been hit with the Man parasite.”

Yesterday, two Parrotfish are cruising along the Coral Reef. One says to the other, “Did you hear they’re shutting down the whole reef? It has a Man infection.”

A Bengal Tiger and A Silverback Gorilla are resting by the waterhole. The Tiger says, “My cub came back to me the other day and said he couldn’t find a place to live and that he’d have to move back with me. I don’t have enough room as it is.” The Gorilla replied, “Tell me about it. That Man infestation will be the end of us all.”

Two wild Salmon are swimming up the Chuit River in Alaska. One says to the other, “You know this is the last time our families will swim up this river – The Chuit open face coal mine and gas wells will cause Man poisoning.”

Mother Nature finally had to call a meeting of the Living Creatures Task Force. The Man parasite had eliminated 600 major species in just 100 years and thousands of species were complaining of disorders from gentrification, disease, poisoning, starvation and unnecessary violence and murder.

In the past, Mother Nature had been a bit conservative, surmising the Man parasite had enough intelligence to curb its excesses. Now she had to concede that things were out of hand. Mother Nature presented to the task force two subcommittee reports; one from the planet climate subcommittee and one from the Committee on Species Population.

“The climate report doesn’t look good,” she said. “Both the atmosphere and the oceans are out of balance from Man infections.”

A flatfish piped up, “I heard Man plans to dredge the ocean floor for increasingly rare minerals – where can I go?” There was a growing rumble rising from the task force.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Mother Earth said. “The Climate report says the damage is irreparable as far out as the next ice age.”

She switched to the report from the Committee on Species Population. Her face grew pale. “The report says species are becoming extinct at a rate higher than the first five extinctions – and there hasn’t been a Solar System catastrophe.” “Except for the Man parasite,” a beaver shouted. There was a general response to the beaver and discussion centered on the overpopulation of the Man parasite at the expense of other species.

Mother Earth turned to the Chairman of the Solar System Committee, an Andean Condor. “Do we expect any surprises from the Solar System?”

The Condor replied that Jupiter and Saturn are in syzygy which likely will cause an ice age at some point. Further, the Condor suggested that a reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field is due. “At least the Sun’s eleven-year solar cycle has been uneventful.” Condor added.

“I saw in the climate report that the world’s estuaries will be flooded by rising water levels,” a mud puppy commented. “To say nothing about shellfish,” a Maryland crab whispered.

Mother Earth gaveled the task force to order. “I’ll have to give this some thought,” she said. “I am concerned that the cure will be catastrophic; we will all suffer mightily.”

She gaveled the meeting of the Living Creatures Task Force to a close.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Apocalypse is Nigh

Mariner often has touted the joy of being married to a professional librarian, serious poet, and bibliophile of the first order. Yet again, reading through the many books by her bedside, his wife came across this amazing likeness in C.S. Lewis’s book, “The Problem of Pain”, published in 1940. The quote below is found in the chapter on hell:

“. . . . Picture to yourself a man who has risen to wealth or power by a continued course of treachery and cruelty, by exploiting for purely selfish ends the noble motions of his victims, laughing the while at their simplicity; who, having thus attained success, uses it for the gratification of lust and hatred and finally parts with the last rag of honor among thieves by betraying his own accomplices and jeering at their last moments of bewildered disillusionment. Suppose further, that he does all this, not (as we like to imagine) tormented by remorse or even misgiving, but eating like a schoolboy and sleeping like a healthy infant – a jolly ruddy-cheeked man, without a care in the world, unshakably confident to the very end that he alone has found the answer to the riddle of life, that God and man are fools whom he has got the better of, that his way of life is utterly successful, satisfactory, unassailable. . . .

“. . . . Even mercy can hardly wish to such a man his eternal, contented continuance in such ghastly illusion.”

– – – –

In Apostle Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, he describes the antichrist:

“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.” [Thessalonians 2]

Is who we think we’re talking about the antichrist? Is his base the nonbelievers deceived by his message? He is eager to use nuclear war. Is the Apocalypse nigh?

“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the Earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The Sun shall be turned into darkness,  and the Moon into blood, before the coming great and awesome Day of the Lord, and it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the Name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Joel 2:30-32)

Ancient Mariner

What is it?

You can feel it. Everyone can. It is similar to flying through the Universe faster than the speed of light. It feels like a tennis match using a dozen balls instead of one. It whirls you about like a carnival ride. It feels like you are crawling under barbed wire in the mud while bullets fly around you.

It is change. Change in religion; change in life style; change in deep-rooted national values; change in economic dependability; change in the Earth’s environment; change in self-confidence; change in the workplace. It is change. Change happening faster than ever before. Change so pervasive as to leave the entire world in disarray.

War is changing. Fresh water is disappearing. Work is changing. Seas are rising. Vital food chains are disappearing. Human life lives too long to be supported. Changing weather drives millions out of their habitat into starvation. The mammalian age is fragmenting. Sea life is dying.

If you are older than the Millennials, it feels like passing out in a spinning centrifuge. If you are a Millennial, reality is a hodge podge of artificial experiences that lead nowhere.

Change is so disruptive it begs the question, “How can we change change?” We can’t. Change is not arbitrary; change has no speed control; change cannot be reversed. And, to identify the cause of change, as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Broadcast news services cannot bring us all the changes. There are too many changes from too many diverse sources. News agencies are busy chasing down nothing more than political frivolity and gossip. Most viewers aren’t interested in change; viewers are interested in viewing frivolity and gossip which require little thought and action. Yet change rumbles the ground beneath us. Rock solid virtuosity is changing to flowing currents of ineptitude. Human life is in the midst of the largest quake in human history.

Ancient Mariner

 

Global War already has begun

On last Sunday’s broadcast of Global Public Square (GPS), Fareed Zakaria covered the prospect of modern warfare. The point was raised that the new bullet is hacking a computer system. Just as the world is tackling fossil fuel as a global conflict, nations of the world are moving from gunpowder to cybernetics.

The US had a good taste of modern warfare in the 2016 election. Obviously, great harm can be visited on a nation if any adversary, nation or otherwise, can disrupt basic political functions, electrical grids, economic status, or major services like health care. Ronald Reagan had a project that was to invent a bomb that would kill people but not hurt buildings. Today, why bother; a single hack can shut down the whole of Manhattan.

The key adversaries capable of a cyber invasion are Russia, China, Iran and North Korea – setting aside the European Union, Canada and Australia who can hack against the US but don’t. Frankly, none of these nations, including China, would be better off after a conventional war with the US. But now war is ongoing: recently it was reported that North Korea literally has stolen billions of dollars from other countries and corporations around the world. Here in the US, we take great umbrage when a citizen fraudulently claims tax refunds belonging to another citizen; think what a cyber invasion from a nation could do . . .

Amos thinks the antiquated Congress (and the President) has no idea how to fight wars anymore; two recent useless wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) were launched by a Congress unaware that global economics, cyber warfare and international collaboration were capable of containing internal religious conflict to be settled internally whether by war or better means. Yes, oil was a major reason for meddling but the Middle East, oil and all, could have been managed differently than with tanks, land mines and gunpowder bullets.

Many, especially veterans, remember battling for territory. Maps were important because wars had battlefields. A few veterans have had a large influence in the nation’s handling of wars; think about Eisenhower, Kennedy, the Bushes, and John McCain. A new movie is out about LBJ and how he knew the Viet Nam War was unwinnable. Barack believed he was elected to get out of wars. Donald, never a veteran, never a statesman, has no idea what war is (nuclear, gunpowder or cyber) and may cause one for useless reasons.

Today, one knows the Internet has no map. It is ubiquitous. In fact, there is a new phrase, ‘ubiquitous computing’[1] that allows anyone, any nation in fact, to wait until a situation presents itself then take targeted action against that situation. Simple example: cash transfers between nations. Technical example: jamming signals coming from military satellites. Social example: interjecting false information into major broadcast networks about a spreading disease or the decorum of a political candidate.

Who needs gunpowder when one can control information? Reminds mariner of all the movies about controlling the weather.

The new bullet is an automated transaction fired from anywhere, anytime for rational and irrational reasons. Information is the new cloud over the battlefield. Pun intended.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Ubiquitous computing (or “ubicomp”) is a concept in software engineering and computer science where computing is made to appear anytime and everywhere. In contrast to desktop computing, ubiquitous computing can occur using any device, in any location, and in any format. For us old timers in programming, it means platform doesn’t matter; that an application will adapt to platform and to data status.

Heaven is Taking a Beating

Way back in time, before mariner was a grandfather, he worked for a living. He had an interesting job as a consultant who designed computer system upgrades for large corporations then developed the project parameters for accomplishing that upgrade.

It was a busy job that had a lot to do with stress, timelines and budgets. Consequently, for a number of years in January, mariner would take the family sailing in the Caribbean Sea – specifically up and down the Lesser Antilles. Mariner often has said that the Lesser Antilles is where Heaven touches the Earth.

But storms have taken a devastating toll on the northern group of islands, the Leeward Islands. Most of us know about major islands like the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands but there are many dozens of smaller islands that virtually are uninhabitable at this point. Populations on these small islands always have been fragile and originally consisted of Arawak and Carib Indians who migrated from South America. During the period 1990-2000, there was fascination and joy in sailing to various islands to discover differences in dialect, cuisine, and subtle, unsophisticated economies. The islanders mariner met then were survivors of centuries of brutal colonialism beginning with Columbus and the Spanish invasion in the early 1500’s. Even today, most islands are protectorates of many European nations and the United States.

Sadly, at least to mariner, a new age of colonialism has invaded the Antilles from Puerto Rico to Granada: tourism. Over the past twenty years wealthy folks have purchased whole islands, destroying the cultural uniqueness of those islands. Further and even more damaging to uniqueness, large tourism corporations like cruise ships and spas (one example is Sandals) buy up habitable portions of islands thereby completely wiping out Carib culture.

When mariner sailed the Lesser Antilles, there was a sense of experiencing a natural bond between nature and humanity. Though meager, the islands were balanced in the needs both of humans and the island ecology.

Mariner finds it painful to watch the cruise ship and spa advertisements on television. It is profane. It is an artificial and ecologically expensive reality that humans continually create. It is arrogance and disrespect.

The new rule is, whether technologically or economically, just because you can do it, you must do it.

It’s not mariner’s rule but he’s a grandfather now; He isn’t in the game anymore.

Ancient Mariner

The Fullness of Time

The phrase, Fullness of Time, is an official term among historians depicting great expectancy in history that goes beyond the norm. Sometimes one waited hundreds of years with expectation as in the 600 years describing the plight of Israel as it waited for the fullness of time when God would send a mighty king to save the citizens of Jerusalem.

We don’t have to wait 600 years this time. Unfortunately, God isn’t the Great Decider – it is Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, two egomaniacal leaders who cannot prevent the demise of civilization. With regard to the Korean Peninsula, China has a block of influential politicians very similar to the GOP Congress in the United States: they are from another time; they remember the brutality of the Korean War and the threat to their homeland if MacArthur had had his way and bombed across the Yangtze River. This time, it isn’t Harry holding the reins, its Donald.

Mariner is reminded of Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist who walked a high-wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. This time, it is civilization walking the high-wire with Donald and Kim each holding an end.

An intervention that would eliminate the bravado between the dysfunctional leaders is hard to imagine. It would require Xi Jinping, President of the Communist Party, to imagine and execute an intervention that could literally take Kim’s finger off the button for good. The same is true of the US Congress and the Department of Defense, which must literally remove Donald’s authority and ignore his command to attack or retaliate.

Many would think retaliation is justified. It would be the end of mankind. This is a nuclear war, not Syria. Every human being would be affected whether they wanted to be or not.

Of all the nonsense our President causes, the North Korean issue is one he should not have the authority to engage. It is up to China to save civilization with the full acquiescence of the US. Making that possible requires China overcoming something similar to Congress resistance to immigration, racism and voter suppression in the US.

It is the fullness of time…

Ancient Mariner

 

Dear Mister Trump

Dear Mr. Trump:

It is hard to steer a boat in stormy seas. The nations of the world, each and every one, are sailing in extraordinarily stormy seas – each and every one including the United States.

It is especially hard for the United States. Intentionally, the nation was founded with importance given to the spirit of freedom and equality – a new perspective on governance by law that evolved over many centuries of European history. The new perspective paid off with the United States becoming the premier nation of the world – the most powerful, the wealthiest, and the leader of all nations. Some say that the golden years occurred in the middle of the last century. Too soon we have discovered these troubled seas.

We learn from history that humans reorganize themselves according to the circumstances at hand. Some say that in a natural environment we are happiest being members of a tribe. But reality drives a hard bargain. Soon humans had to reorganize into territorial kingdoms. After that, problems were too sophisticated for simple kingdoms. Nations had to be formed usually with authoritarian leadership like Russia and Turkey have at the moment.

However, reality now calls the people of the world to smudge the edges of a nation’s independence. Reality calls not for authoritarians, and not for personal riches that temporarily protect the super wealthy. Reality calls for a global mentality because the problems are too big for individual nations to solve.

Collaboration in economics, population management and planetary behavior is the solution today. Nations are linked together according to the issues they have in common. Today, many issues truly are global – no country can stand alone anymore. The Earth is moving into a new planetary age. It will take all of us participating together to survive.

Blog of the Ancient Mariner

 

Blame it on the Weather.

The late winter weather in Iowa has been exceedingly warm. Consequently, many fruiting and ornamental trees have started to waken much too early and are subject to damage if the temperature drops to normal levels before spring really arrives. Weather all over the US has been temperamental this year. We have been conditioned to ponder whether the weather is affected by global warming. Meteorologists suggest that the weather is still just the weather but also suggest that global conditions are changing.

In other words, our major weather patterns still follow familiar seasonal patterns. What may be new are annual averages of temperatures across regions, stronger storms, and near the polar zones more ice and permafrost melting than in the past.

Global warming changes planetary conditions more rapidly than it shifts weather patterns. In the oceans, three significant global circumstances are apparent: (1) Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed into the oceans making the water noticeably more acidic – killing coral reefs and shellfish and generally making life difficult for ocean plant life. (2) Melting ice at the poles is altering ocean temperatures to the point that major currents that flow from the tropics toward the poles (e.g. Gulf Stream) are slowing down and further, the sinking cycles which recharge nutrients in the currents as they flow back to the tropics are not as defined as in the past and nutrients behave differently. (3) The change every one hears about is the rising depth of the world’s oceans due to melting icecaps, threatening shorelines by estimates between 9 and 30 feet; current measurements indicate that oceans have risen 3 to 6 inches at an unusually rapid rate.

Most scientists who study the Earth believe no one will alter the impact of global warming. It has been suggested that global warming is on a 2,000 year path that is the Earth’s cycle[1]; humans only have exacerbated the effect. This insight enables some oil-dependent politicians to deny that people cause climate change. In fact, people do – to a damaging degree. People make the next 2,000 years a lot, lot worse than they need be.

The insult added to injury is that H. sapiens is so trashy and disrespectful toward their planet. Elizabeth Kolbert[2] is right: we are the cause of the Sixth Great Extinction. Some thinkers, most notably Stephen Hawking, believe our species will be counted among the extinct.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Ends with major ice age due to orbit tugs from Jupiter and Saturn.

[2] Author of best selling The Sixth Extinction, stating that there have been five major extinctions during Earth’s history that wiped out 90 percent of all living species. Most are aware of the fifth extinction caused by a meteorite that killed off the dinosaurs. Humans are causing the sixth.

Samples that confirm Harari

A few posts ago, mariner introduced the writings of 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. His new book is Homo Deus; he was interviewed in The Atlantic magazine for February 2017.

Harari takes a simplistic view of humanity, saying that humans may think fancy thoughts in the frontal lobe, but human behavior does not roam far from opinions controlled in the Hindbrain (Reptilian Brain). As you might guess from its name, it’s a piece of brain anatomy that we share with reptiles and is the most primitive. It’s in charge of our primal instincts and most basic functions – things like the instincts of survival, dominance, and mating. Freed from obedience to history books alone, Harari can project very broad patterns that are predetermined by the hindbrain. [think Donald]

Harari’s book is one of several new books on our culture, economy, morality and politics that, even as a small amount of material, provides the new core concepts that are driving H. sapiens history today and tomorrow. The handful of books is a fine college ‘major’ that will prepare you for judging new and sometimes disturbing values. Although touted as college material, all the sources are pleasant and frequently entertaining texts.

Mariner includes the above preface to aid in understanding the economic upheaval occurring today. There are two examples: the emergence of oligarchy and the phenomenon of the haves taking as much as they can from the have nots, specifically the Republican health care legislation designed to replace the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare or ACA.

The current emergence of oligarchy was launched by Ronald back in the 1980’s. It has exploded into our culture because of powerful advances in communication technology which naturally give an edge to those who have the resources to leverage rapid information; do not give credit for the healing GDP and historic stock prices to the election of Donald. Unpoliticized economists have long said the economy rises and falls regardless of who is President. Data storage and massive processing capability have allowed corporations to be virtually transportable, cutting costs and sending profits through the roof. Why hasn’t profit been shared with the lower income/little income/no income folks? Generalists say that this is just the cost of new economic growth; Harari says it’s the hindbrain protecting unfocused fears associated with survival and dominance – and sex if it applies. The hindbrain, incidentally, has little ability to manage morality; that’s managed by the limbic system. [think Donald]

This tennis game with the brain is informative but Harari suggests this leads to a troublesome future. It is simpler to ask readers to reflect on Bernie’s comment that 1 percent of the population holds 90 percent of the wealth. Over time, there will be less and less available to sustain this ratio. Overpopulation, diminishing resources, and increased imbalance in the biosphere will take its toll on “unneeded” people.

The second example, the new health bill, shows the same preference by conservatives to squeeze out humans who, not because they aren’t permitted but because they can’t afford the health services – a clear echo of hindbrain decision making. Conservatives rationalize that every resource must contribute to a safer economy or, frankly, it weakens the economy.

These examples are presented with the ideas Harari would utilize. This approach certainly has its detractors. What seems critical to the mariner is that if one takes a fair view of human history, it behaves very much like Harari suggests whatever the historical situation. That being the case, humans are in for some troubling times within a century or so.

Two thoughts predominate: overpopulation (implying disappearing resources) and globally based natural issues; near horizon is the effect of global warming; far effect is a major ice age (not that we have to wait for the ice age, the shift in orbit will catch the attention of tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, and disruptive shifts in the weather.

See why some don’t like Yuval Noah Harari? There are no cuddle blankets. However, his no nonsense, no comforting fantasies about political theory and no guarantee about consistency, give us a clear image of the future for Homo sapiens, all things being equal.

Have a nice day.

Ancient Mariner