The Big Picture

Like the scene on the battlefront in a war, there is much smoke, flying debris, destruction and conflict, but the scene is a battle for the ethos of the United States. Mariner decided to get above the commotion by sitting on one of 8,000 satellites in low Earth orbit and looking down at the fray.

Battles for ethos occur, on average, every 61 years. Unfortunately, every change in ethos included a military war.[1] The nation has begun another battle for ethos, launched by the election of Donald Trump.

Ethos is a word that describes the innate spirit and purpose of an institution; in this case the institution is the United States. Ethos is an attitude carried by every citizen without conscious awareness yet it shapes the self-perception of what every citizen believes is a national role in society, morality and among other nations.

The political energy required to shift a national ethos is immense. It takes time, economic transition, generational adaptation, international acceptance and a period of stability. Even so, there are citizens who continue to oppose change for many reasons, e.g., racism and, currently, Reaganomics. In each transition of ethos there are always progressives and conservatives but a third issue is necessary – usually requiring cultural adaptation. Today, it is the global pressure on the role of a nation where technology ignores boundaries and global warming threatens global economics.

When will military war occur? It seems there is a point where the old ways want no more change and like the way things are whereas new behaviors, economic opportunity and moral stress want to move on.

Will war emerge in Taiwan and the Pacific Rim?

Will extended war erupt in Europe versus Russia?

Is it possible that war could erupt in the U.S. between populated states and Dixie all over again – a war fought in the Constitution?

Could it be an economic war between plutocracy and democracy?

Sitting on this satellite, mariner perceives one thing: It is far from over.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Independence 1776, Civil 1861, WW1 1914, Vietnam, 1975, in process 2016.

Population

For the last few days mariner has been poking about in information about global population. As a general introduction to the subject, below is a clip from the New Statesman, a British web magazine:

“Japan’s prime minister Kishida Fumio warned last week that the country’s demographic crisis was approaching a tipping point. “Our nation is on the cusp of whether it can maintain its societal functions,” Kishida told the Japanese parliament on 23 January. “It is now or never when it comes to policies regarding births and child-rearing – it is an issue that simply cannot wait any longer.”

This is not an overstatement. Japan already has one of the world’s oldest populations (second only to the city-state of Monaco), and it is ageing rapidly. In 2022, the number of births fell below 800,000 for the first time since records began (in 1899), eight years earlier than the government had predicted. This compares to more than 2 million births per year during the baby boom of the 1970s. Life expectancy has also increased. This means that almost a third of the population – 30 per cent – is now aged 65 or above according to the World Bank, raising the cost of social security programmes, such as pensions and medical care, while the proportion of The working-age people who pay into these programmes is shrinking.”

This perspective pretty much describes the situation for virtually every developed nation. In the United States, the U.S. Census Bureau released estimates showing the nation’s 65-and-older population has grown rapidly since 2010, driven by the aging of Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964. The 65-and-older population has increased by over a third during the last decade.

Couple that with Japan’s other concern about fewer workers to support discretionary funding for things like retirement, Social Security and health care, and the U.S. clearly is on the same path as Japan.

Mariner’s interest in global population began as just a curiosity but the elephant in the room forces a serious fear about the United States comparable even to the devastation of global warming.

The elephant is the ultra-conservative movement in the U.S. Their focus is to reduce taxes, attack Social Security and stop immigration – the big three associated with the subject of population. Does the electorate prefer stupid, self-centered legislators? Consider George Santos, Marjorie Taylor Greene et al. Is the atmosphere in legislative chambers filled with debilitating drugs?

One day, Alfie, the government will represent the best interests of the nation, but not soon.

Ancient Mariner

Emotive Learning – 2

An astute reader is aware that certain emotional behaviors seem not to be dependent on emotive learning as much as others. An appropriate response would be too long for a ’comment’ response so a posted response is provided in case other readers have the same insight.

If there is a fault in mariner’s writing style, it is that he over simplifies bulky, textbook information by using simplistic metaphors and excessively anthropomorphic examples. So here is some textbook information:

We might have a reaction to seeing someone we know with emotional circumstances or have irate thoughts about some event or information. Whatever level of complex emotion we are having, these feelings are handled by the limbic system.[1] The limbic system consists of four areas:

Amygdala, Hippocampus, Thalamus and Hypothalamus

Amygdala

We can thank our amygdala for our “fight or flight” response. But the amygdala does more than tell us to scream or quake in horror. The amygdala is always on the lookout for arousing cues. (In psychology, “arousal” is used to describe a sense of alertness and consciousness. We can reach high levels of arousal for good and not-so-good reasons.) Once these cues are discovered, the amygdala sends out signals to activate our “motivational circuitry.”

Hippocampus

The hippocampus is primarily responsible for making memories, but it also influences our emotions. We attach emotions to memories all the time. The stronger the emotion, the more likely we are to recall that memory.

Thalamus
(The part of the brain alluded to in mariner’s term ‘emotive learning’)

This area of the brain handles receiving sensory information. Many emotions begin with sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste. Once our eyes, ears, skin, tongue, and nose pick up on those stimuli, they send up information to the thalamus and we begin to make sense of what is in front of us.

Hypothalamus

When we have highly emotional moments, we can thank our hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is key in keeping our bodies in homeostasis (stabilized) and releasing hormones such as adrenaline.

Mariner could go on and teach textbook psychology, but this should suffice as a response to the reader’s observation. Mariner’s post was an attempt to question whether blocking the Thalamus in our daily interactions was a good thing.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] Mariner credits the website which has its own form of simplification and is used universally by psychology institutions: https://practicalpie.com/what-part-of-the-brain-processes-emotion/

Emotive Learning

Very simply, emotive learning is something that happens in the subconscious; it is the function that converts conscious, real-world, three-dimensional experience into feelings. An easy example: From the day a baby is born, it experiences the real world for what it is but it learns to have special feelings about its mother because of the role the mother plays in providing security, affection, bonding and other intimate behaviors. The baby has subconsciously created a set of feelings with which to relate to and understand their real-world mother.

Without emotive learning we would be incapable of interacting with the material world. Existentialism would not exist. Behaviors related to ethics, empathy, fairness, and being aware of threatening situations could not exist; the idea of ‘family’ could not exist.

There is a number called ‘Dunbar’s Number’ which states that a person can individually relate to approximately 150 people. This capability comes along with a genome that makes us a tribal creature. The brain is sensitive to the role of other people – especially if there is an expected alliance with them.

An experiment that will expose the constant focus of emotive learning is comparing how you think and feel when talking directly to another person and that the brain is constantly scanning behavior, environment and surrounding circumstances which in turn generate feelings about that person. On the other hand, talk to the same person using Facetime. There is a sensation that there is desired searching that is not available.

Feelings derived through emotive learning are the seed for experiencing empathy and, in conjunction with cultural feelings, compassion. Feelings derived through emotive learning are the source for any type of person-to-person bonding, respect, and familial (tribal) association.

In this century, many scientists who study social behavior have begun to write books and articles about the impact of automated communication and whether the blocked availability for emotive learning is contributing to the general consternation of these times. A simple commercial example is the kiosk for ordering food in a fast food restaurant rather than determining what to eat while talking to another person. There is no sense of common purpose when using the kiosk but when engaging another human there is a subtle sense of unity (AKA tribal identification).

Can a person be the product of emotive learning and at the same time be identified as a statistic in a database?

Ancient Mariner

Back by insistent demand

There’s nothing left to say about the world. It is on a roll that cannot be deterred. Mariner is reminded of the old song “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, a Frankie Lane hit. Humans have joined the chase for the Devil’s herd.

Nevertheless, his wife insists that he continue to write a blog. Mariner suspects she already senses his intellectual demise and that to continue to write will ease that demise a bit. He told her his readers already know he is demented.

He has no idea what to write about . . . . . Here’s a thought: Mariner was reminded of an old rock and roll hit by Frankie Lane. What are the significant songs in your life? What song reminds you of that first crush, that first infatuation when the reader was just a young teenager? Mariner bets you can sing the entire lyric.

List three songs that make you feel at ease and oblivious to the world.

Name two popular singers that have superior skill at singing; think big timers like Michael Crawford, Elvis Gospel, Ella Fitzgerald, etc.

Name a song that provides spiritual insight that has remained part of your conscious mind over the years.

Name the one song that makes you most melancholy.

Name the song that lifts your energy and feelings of good times – maybe even breaking into dance.

Name the one song that makes you stop what you are doing and join the song. Mariner admits that any of Fats Domino’s hard downbeat arrangements are distracting no matter what mariner is doing.

Music is magic, kind of a metaverse.

So have at it folks; this is as intellectual as it gets.

Ancient Mariner

 

It is over.

The battle to sustain individuality and Homo sapiens authenticity has been won by AI. Watch the following clip then read on:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s11k0yAA8ZQ

Already AI is good enough to write novels, essays, legal briefs and singlehandedly manage most trades on the stock exchange. The ability for anyone to write any style of entertainment is just one database away.

With the invention of the gene splitter Crispr, AI will be able to pool all human variations into a massive database so parents can pick any child they want. Who wants a Donald Trump lookalike? How about triplets that are the Kingston Trio?

But then AI will perceive that it is much simpler to have one version of humans; just think how efficient that would be for politics, medicine, and one would need only one football team.

Perhaps it will be less expensive if humans had no need to travel.

Welcome to Matrix.

Goodbye.

Ancient Mariner

Blur

The conflagration of our global society continues unabated. Around the world political leadership is absent. In the US, governments at all levels are narcissistic; while Rome burns, Missouri is preoccupied with what women can wear to the legislature; abortion medication, clearly a private and personal situation is threatened by legislatures unaware of the real, critical issues that face the American citizen. Housing alone is a devastating issue far beyond a family’s ability to manage.

But we already know this. The cultural war that began over slavery continues today. It was as keenly about economics as it was about race; today economics still remains a divided issue between Dixie/isolationist states and highly populated/industrial states. For most of the nation’s history this cultural impasse has smoldered but in just a few decades modern telecommunication has allowed verbal armies to form instantaneously and reach every State. The American culture reeks of rotting oligarchs, gun murderers, increasing starvation, homelessness and obstructionists who destroy society rather than fix it. But we already know this.

The new ingredient is speed. Changing culture, economics, classism and standards of morality are flying through very little time at very high speed. Can the reader count the individual wing strokes of a hummingbird feeding at a flower? Is our same unknown factor, speed of change, an added consternation? Is the increased angst caused because we can’t step through change? Rather, it is stepping through us and not waiting for our judgment.

No one, not the citizenry, not Congress, not State legislatures, not Wall Street manipulators, has been able to harness this stallion of change. It runs free with virtually no control. How far afield will the stallion run before it is caught and reined into usefulness?

We stand aside and watch massive corporations take over government functions.

We watch forlornly as storefronts go the way of horse and buggy.

We shudder as powerful communication devices steal the dynamism of individuality.

We cower as incompetent governments hurt our lives more than they help.

Will it all end in apocalypse? Will it suddenly rise out of the night like a bright Sunrise? Who knows?

Let’s try to count those hummingbird wings to give us some insight.

Ancient Mariner

 

Do you have CCTV in your home?

Mariner knows most of his readers are calloused to the abuses of privacy but perhaps one should know about another nosy source:

Smart TVs are just like search engines, social networks, and email providers that give us a free service in exchange for monitoring us and then selling that info to advertisers leveraging our data. These devices are collecting information about what you’re watching, how long you’re watching it, and where you watch it, then selling that data—which is a revenue stream that didn’t exist a couple of years ago. There’s nothing particularly secretive about this—data-tracking companies such as Inscape and Samba proudly brag right on their websites about the TV manufacturers they partner with and the data they amass.

The companies that manufacture televisions call this “post-purchase monetization,” and it means they can sell TVs almost at cost and still make money over the long term by sharing viewing data. In addition to selling your viewing information to advertisers, smart TVs also show ads in the interface. Roku, for example, prominently features a given TV show or streaming service on the right-hand side of its home screen—that’s a paid advertisement.

Whatever you’re watching on your smart TV, algorithms are tracking your habits – when you watch, how long you watch, what you watch . . . This influences the ads you see on your TV, yes, but if you connect your Google or Facebook account to your TV, it will also affect the ads you see while browsing the web on your computer or phone. In a sense, your TV now isn’t that different from your Instagram timeline or your TikTok recommendations. There’s an old joke: “In America, you watch television; in Soviet Russia, television watches you!” In 2022, TVs track your activity to an extent the Soviets could only dream of.[1]

Today this is old hat privacy invasion to us. It’s the projections into future capabilities for controlling life decisions that is dangerous. As more and more data about social status, religious affiliation, medical detail, personal fetishes, 24-hour awareness of our location, a history of one’s purchasing habits, genetic history – – can be combined to effectively eliminate a need for the gumption mariner often refers to. Humans are one step closer to a Matrix life. Maybe in a recliner instead of a coffin but still a Matrix life.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Adapted from Atlantic Magazine.

Food for thought

The agricultural industry is entering an increasingly rapid pace of change. It was only yesterday (and today) that farmers were encouraged to use no-plow techniques for large crop fields. Basically, the intent is to let indigenous plants provide a cover crop so that (a) good soil will not continue to blow away or wash away (b) the indigenous plants will provide better chemistry and require less commercial plant food in the soil and (c) the indigenous plants would retain CO2 in the soil. Changing farming practices is very difficult for farmers.

There are other practices that are changing. A small number of commercially large farms have decided to pursue zero fossil fuel in their operation. Manure, crop waste solar power and chemical conversions are used to produce electricity, feed and fertilizer.

These and other similar efficiency-based crop practices are an excellent effort but the circumstances surrounding a human population approaching 8 billion by 2030 and little land left to increase agricultural production has taken farming in a different direction.

Everyone has heard of hydroponic gardening (grown in water without soil) but aggressive corporations are taking hydroponics to extreme levels. Soil and vast acreages have a small role to play in large quantity production. Combined with the use of solar and wind energy, these farms have no season – they are year-round.

 

Add to the plant operation the quandary of what to do about cows. Long a joke, it is a fact that through flatulence and digestion, cows produce 40 percent of atmospheric methane. Cows generate methane in two main ways: through their digestion and through their waste. Cows are part of a group of animals called ruminants. Ruminants have stomachs with four distinct chambers. Sheep, goats, and giraffes also are ruminants. Even on television there are ads suggesting that everyone fight climate change by not eating beef.

The other side of cow economics is provided by Mother Nature. She is causing drought and water shortage in the primary wheat-growing regions of the southwest. Cows et al eat wheat – and a lot of water!

There are critics who say “Why eat the cow? Eat the grass the cow would eat.” As mariner mentioned in an earlier post: Perhaps anchovies, scrapple and spam may become popular again.

Ancient Mariner

 

Just between you and your yard

GRILLS

The carbon wave is getting close. Is your yard grill the best choice? Output at the end of the process, that is, as your 10 filet Mignon cuts turn brown, has been measured:

Gas grills win hands down. In an hour charcoal briquettes emit 11 pounds of CO2 while gas emits 5.6 pounds. Further, briquettes aren’t just wood; briquettes have additives that are not good to breathe. But even authentic wood, which is biodegradable, loses to gas. Like the US Government, (a prime example of divided forever opinion) advocates of charcoal have a low opinion of gas as a flavor enhancer. However, scientists suggest that smoke and briquette debris may change flavor during longer cooking times but in truth is not noticeable.

[Mariner’s personal experience suggests that if a cook needs hot, hot temperatures, for example in an old fashioned Weber kettle grill, charcoal produces a better fire – but this has nothing to do with taste.]

LEAVES

Everyone likes trees until the leaves fall. For several weeks the leaves blow about like loose trash, getting caught in everything from roof gutters to shrubbery to lawns and sidewalks. It is true that in urban areas there may not be a tree in sight, not in whole blocks or neighborhoods. But in more suburban and rural areas, trees and open yards are de rigueur. And so are fallen leaves.

It has been tradition, in the likeness of a Norman Rockwell painting, that each neighbor would gather leaves into a pile and burn them. While this still is practiced generally, many towns and cities have begun a ‘yard waste’ collection day to recycle leaves, branches and typical lawn and garden waste. Some towns have ordinances against burning leaves (and trash barrels).

This new pressure is raised for climate change reasons. Rather than burn leaves and thereby participating with grills in CO2 production, shred them into little pieces and put them into a compost pit or spread them directly into garden patches and lawns. By spring most of the leaves should be well into decomposition and preventing excess CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere.

EQUIPMENT

Many folks still use old fashioned yard tools that require arm and shoulder labor in order to function. Manufacturers, however, have a different vision of yard tools. For most of mariner’s life, gasoline powered equipment was the answer. Still, a person had to separate a shoulder to get the single-cycle engine to fire up. Today things are changing quickly. “In the name of climate change” manufacturers are pushing battery-powered equipment. It is smaller, lighter, self-starting and typically requires a Lithium battery. As the reader may have read in the news, Lithium is a scarce element. So we will see what future prices will look like for toy-sized equipment. A devotee of gasoline powered equipment can still find whatever they may need – for the price of a 2022 Chrysler Town and Country van.

All said, gardening is an excellent pasttime that gets you back to nature, gets you outside and works the old bones a bit. Give it a try while watching over your shoulder for climate change.

Ancient Mariner