The New Age

Scientific American has focused on modern issues, particularly those related to a new AI world:

It Is Too Soon for Clinical Trials on Artificial Wombs

A technology meant to help severely premature infants raises questions of inequity and may some day threaten parents’ rights to make decisions.

 

 

Who Owns Your Voice in the Age of AI?

Emerging AI services present scenarios that could challenge the laws over rights to a persona.

 

 

Remember when the moral question was whether it was right to prefer building roads through indigent neighborhoods? Remember when party lines on telephones became an invasion of privacy? Remember when purchasing anything only required anonymous cash or paper-based checks?

The point is that no one, not even the technicians, has a moral understanding of what an automated world looks like. How will routine judgments based on human dignity be altered? In the extreme, will Wiley’s cartoon about buying a newborn from Microsoft become a reality? Who made a rational decision about the merits of conception?

The public domain, ruled throughout history by the idiosyncrasies of each individual as a unique individual, no longer will have that discipline because AI can produce as many copies of an individual as it chooses; They will be exact copies complete with gestures and voice.

Which brings the situation to this: Do Senators John Boozman (73), John Hickenlooper (72), Richard Blumenthal (78), Tom Carper (77), Rick Scott (71), Mazie Hirono (76), Mike Crapo (73), Jim Risch (81), Dick Durbin (79), Mike Braun (70), Chuck Grassley (90), Jerry Moran (70), Mitch McConnell (82), John Kennedy (72), Susan Collins (71), Angus King (80), Ben Carden (80), Elizabeth Warren (74), Ed Markey (77), Debbie Stabenow (74), Roger Wicker (72), Deb Fishcher (73), Jeanne Shaheen, (77), Bob Menendez (70), Chuck Shumer (73), Sherrod Brown (71), Ron Wyden (75), Jack Reed (74) Marsha Blackburn (71), John Cornyn (72), Mitt Romney (77), Peter Welch (77), Patty Murray (73), Joe Manchin (76), Shelly Moore Capito (70), and John Barrasso (71) [36 Senators out of 100] have the life perspective capable of comprehending the social and moral ramifications of the AI age?

Humans finish grasping a subconscious moral perception of reality by the age of 25. Does a Senator who developed a moral understanding of the world when Abraham, Martin and John were assassinated really have the wherewithal to manage Corporate AI? So far it seems not. Mariner knows he doesn’t.

If the reader has the possibility of voting for a young representative no older than 55, seriously consider that candidate.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

 

 

Distracting mini-thoughts

֎ Mariner will not speak disparagingly about the future if it exists.

֎ From the 1990s until now, humanity very much resembles a pot of boiling water. Has the reader ever watched the process? At first, there are small wisps of steam rolling about in the pot; After a bit, one can see tiny bubbles on the bottom of the pot that show up then quickly disappear; moments later there are lots of tiny bubbles and they no longer disappear but seem to be waiting; they don’t wait long before starting to dance and grow; then the bubbles grow large and violent. Finally, the water itself begins to roil pushing bubbles to the side. Where in this process is humanity? Even Denmark, the most liberal nation in the world, went red in its last election.

Will the pot boil over in a giant rage only to vaporize in the end to a scorched pot of nothing? Is there anyone who can turn off the burner? (Don’t be ignorant enough to suggest the three-year-old or the ghost). Examples of roiling bubbles are US financing of any war, Putin, Netanyahu, the genocide war in China against Muslims, and the military leaders of thirty different state wars in Africa! An example of a roil is the Middle East.

֎ Mariner quickly is distracted by tiny, irrelevant things. He was sitting on his back porch the other day when a tiny, really tiny black bug walked by. The bug has a brain that is fully functional for bugs. In it’s own way, it interprets the world just like humans do except from a bug’s perspective. It turned out to have wings. Wow! My son is going to college to learn how to fly but this bug has it all in it’s tiny brain! Could the human brain handle six legs? Mariner wondered whether the bug could rationalize the presence of an escalator – now that’s something the human brain excels at: inventing things that make life easy. As the bug flew off, he wished it well in it’s disciplined reality.

֎ If small things entertain the reader, the biggest small thing is the neuron. The human brain has 86 billion nerve cells (AKA neurons). 86 billion!! And that’s just one brain. One wonders how many neurons exist in the Universe. How would anyone consciously be able to manage 86 billion cells? As a human, we can’t manage 86 commercial airplanes. Thank goodness the brain brought along a cerebellum to handle things.

֎ It is the busy time of year for gardeners. It seems every plant wants attention – especially weeds. But there are some plants that earn respect by not asking for much, by returning every year for decades and which provide a fine display, anchoring other flowers around them. Mariner recommends this quiet, unassuming shrub that performs well as a plant and as a player in the quality of the garden:

Spiraea Double Big Bang

Ancient Mariner

Spirituality

As every news-wise reader knows, spirituality is suffering staggering setbacks not only in formal religions but in politics (spirit of democracy), finance (plutocracy) and culture (weaponized classes). Spirituality is one of the cosmetics a person uses to present themselves as a human creature. Spirituality sets the tone of all personal beliefs from the subconscious self to general personality and to one’s role in society. Yet, it is a will-o-the-wisp phenomenon. From where does spirituality arise? How does a person apply this ‘cosmetic’?

It is difficult to disseminate spirituality from cultural reality. For example, the Holy Bible has a huge impact on what spirituality is, as well as do all sacrosanct sources and ideological writings. How does one present an example of the dynamics of spirituality? After all, it is the foundation of ethics, morality, socialization and personal stability.

Mariner has decided to demonstrate spirituality through a valid but not often used premise: naturalism.

The Universe is God – unending, omnipotent, multidimensional and pervasive of all energy and context.

The prophet, AKA Jesus, Mohammad, et al, is Planet Earth. As Earthlings, the planet sets our ethics and morality through the manner by which humans respect and count on a solid, meaningful and compliant role within the planet’s biosphere. When we feel “all is right with the world” we are experiencing the impact of a spiritual bond with the planet.

As readers are aware, the very terms ethics and morality are easily misinterpreted, irregularly revalued and can be distorted for immoral reasons. To keep this treatise short, amalgamate all the pros and cons related to global warming – a confrontation with, possibly an abuse to the spirituality of the planet. Examples of violating spirituality in other religions is the crucifixion of Jesus, cutting off clitorises in Islam, and, just maybe, slavery.

An imbalance in spirituality caused by immoral interpretations of the biosphere will lead to disruptive behavior in the context of planet ethics. For example, the abuse of oil and the artificial interference provided by automation slowly have allowed chemical, cultural and population issues to be disruptive – creating turbulence in the biosphere. In other words, our cosmetics are smeared.

In this bare-bone example, it may be hard to imagine the phenomenon of bliss or spirituality. Like all moments of spiritual awareness, it is a fleeting moment of complete belonging, something as simple as feeling a fresh breeze or freeing a trapped animal or perhaps preventing an industrial project that would lead to the extinction of local biomass. The cosmetic has doses of compassion as well as biological territorialism but there always is a sense of belonging to the planet rather than to one’s self.

Belonging is the lock-in. Do we belong to democracy? Do we belong to Jesus? Do we belong to our community? Do we belong to a greater existence? Do we belong to our planet?

Ancient Mariner

Keep your world real

As readers know, mariner is an old fogie. He has learned, however, to pretend he still is a young person. He has also learned that, rather quickly, he is kidding himself. He has adopted a gardener’s life as a replacement for a career. As his wife will attest, he has more projects than he can handle and deliberately sustains this overload. “Keeps me thinking”, he says.

One project was to build a rabbit-proof garden space for vegetables, plant management and a supply depot for the tools and paraphernalia associated with gardening. Well, mixed with all the other chores associated with gardening, the project was not moving. Add to that the mariner’s constant trope that he belongs to a special union that requires him to work eight hours a day but allows him two and a half days to complete it, and there is no hope that his physical limitations and his work plan together were achievable.

Enter a life-long friend living on the East Coast. Last November, he traveled to mariner’s home in Iowa for a week to set posts and make gates. The weather that week had temperatures in the thirties with constant snow, sleet and rain, and a soil of a very muddy nature. Still, with great persistence, he set the posts and made the gates.

He returned this past week with a wonderful new girl friend as well. He set the fencing while his girl friend weeded mariner’s gardens. Needless to say, this was not a come-and-go event. It took a lifetime of mutual support in life’s good times and bad times for their allegiance to become firm and unchallenged. Unlike the political clouds and economic storms that make up life today, these personal experiences among genuine friends (and family) are what REAL life is like.

Try to find a pattern of life that depends on genuinely loved friends and family. Use it or lose it.

As to the other reality, from a stratospheric view, Armageddon progresses.

Ancient Mariner

Wafting thoughts

֎ Several weeks ago mariner read an article about why old people don’t wash. ‘don’t wash’ isn’t an absolute term; the article was suggesting that cleanliness became more arbitrary and a matter of necessity rather than maintaining cultural norms for cleanliness. The larger point was that it is the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries that set social norms. When at work, we may feel obligated to shave or smell a certain way or perhaps not wear jeans or certain styles of clothing. When retired from the daily obligations of society, old folks don’t feel the need to maintain a supply of different odors, sixteen different teeth whiteners and unnecessary chemicals to alter wrinkles and eye shadow. A bar of soap, a tube of toothpaste, maybe a deodorant if the oldster is wearing diapers; maybe a sponge bath at the sink instead of showers.

The article reinforced the notion that, if any influence can reach the subconscious, our behavior will be modified. It is job one for the subconscious to adapt to the external world – that is a critical survival skill. It’s just that the external world is jammed with artificial information to take money from you or get you to vote a certain way, or maybe marry someone you saw on the smartphone. Those $1,000 sneakers would sure make me look good! It’s all about surviving in the real world – however humans choose to define it.

֎ Culling through several polls over recent weeks, he saw that a noticeable percentage of Gen Z (today aged 12-27) were favoring Donald. On those occasions when the respondents were interviewed, their feelings were that everything was a mess and, more importantly, no one seems to be fixing anything – perhaps Donald appears more rambunctious and may at least try. Gen Z choices reflected other perspectives as well, a new generation whose roots are not buried in the soil of Reagan’s indifference toward labor, feel more liberal about social mores (homosexuals, abortion, importance of college, and don’t carry the scars of the past century, etc.). Mariner assumes that Gen Z is more accustomed to 21st century electronics thereby not being as distracted as older generations may be. It’s all about surviving in the real world – however humans choose to define it.

֎ The economic, scientific and environmental objectives affected by global warming are producing a Shakespearean drama. Each emphasis is taking independent paths in response to the claims (and current validations) of a warming planet. Each claims that it’s approach is the only moral path to managing the climate. Economics is trying very hard to pretend it is helping by inventing new processes for offsetting the impact of fossil fuels by storing gases in the ocean, for example.

The scientific approach is exploring new ideas like blocking the Sun’s heat in the atmosphere, growing food in miles-large greenhouses with recycled water and vertical gardens and incorporating useless deserts and swamps to support endless solar panels.

The environmentalists are planting trees, promoting home gardening on the front lawn, advocating changes in people’s habits relating to water usage and reducing food dependence on herd animals – or better yet, become a vegan. Environmentalists also pursue re-balancing nature, e.g., reintroduce wolves in Wyoming, saving the polar bear and curtailing dependence on seafood.

Each approach is pursued with an ethical assumption about how to make the world cooler. Yet the approaches are distinctly different in how they would change human behavior. For example, economists would say “continue to drive cars”, scientists would say “Don’t worry, we’ll invent something new” and environmentalists would say “Turn back the behavior of humans”.

Stay tuned, all three  will make entertaining news.

Ancient Mariner

How to us divers in a sentenc

Mariner is in trouble again. He used the word ‘divers’ in his post. He apologizes for using an anachronistic term crowded out by words like type, option, choice, difference and, yes, diverse. Having apologized, he must say that divers is a legitimate word. It has a different, albeit subtle, definition.

He does not know why his brain chose to retain rather acutely the difference between the two words; divers is an active word in his lexicon as is diverse. Divers is spoken di’ vers whereas diverse is spoken di-verse’. Perhaps using a chart with columns and rows may help.

A table has columns. It needs columns because the definition of each column is different from the other columns. Each column, however, has many rows where each item is about the same header but not about other columns because each column is intrinsically different while members of a single column have a common definition.

For example, the human life form has many races like Hispanic, Asian, White, etc. One could say that there are diverse (more comfortable may be ‘a diversity of’) races in the column about the human life form. But there are many different, exclusive life forms, each having their own column and unique row values. One could say there is a divers number of life forms.

True, mariner knows most folks would not choose ‘divers’ but each of us as a divers creature has a diversity of idiosyncrasies – his is an awareness of header relationships versus column relationships. At least they come from the same Latin word; check their entomology.

Ancient Mariner

2024 – the age of juggernauts

A good analogy for the definition of ‘juggernaut’ is a huge cargo ship running into a bridge, splintering the bridge apart as if it were made of matchsticks. The 2000s have been years for growing juggernauts culminating with an election in 2024 that may well splinter a nation.  The registry of juggernauts is awesome: Middle East oil, Middle East war, Middle East international conflict, Putin’s war, Sudan genocide, Pacific war over Taiwan; in the US, the recent pandemic, immigration, unbridled economy, cultural collapse, social isolation expressed with mass shootings, Federal and State governments and courts operating under antique theories about governance and further stressed by the presence of plutocracy, the age of super-automation and the stress from violating the rules of nature for centuries.

It makes one feel they are walking through an entanglement of giant rosebushes with significant danger from life-threatening thorns.

There are three relatively unnoticed juggernauts that will bring collapse to our nation – not the movie versions with high energy explosions and sudden destruction of the countryside. What will happen is similar to the ripening of an avocado – looks good on the surface but spoils more rapidly inside than expected and is inedible before one would suspect. The three juggernauts are:

֎ Health Industry. Even today the economics of health management are destructive. Too few physicians are graduating from medical school, nurses and other staff are overworked while working for wages that have not kept up with inflation. US governments/insurance agencies are over-managing medical science and the implied authorities of medical professionals. Private investment is turning medical service into a profit-only model of service, demanding more patients with less care per patient. There is a growing trend for physicians to disassociate from their medical institution and set up an independent, fee-based patient relationship (eliminating access for poorer patients). In mariner’s state of Iowa even standardized health care may be an more than an hour away.

There is promise from new technology that will ease an individual’s workload but this is only a mechanical solution to a national population that cannot survive to current age expectations without personalized healthcare. In 1900 the average life expectancy was 40 years.

֎ Retirement. This is a cousin juggernaut to healthcare. The population in the US has begun to slow because births have fallen below 2.1 per fertile woman; by the end of the century population will reflect an annual decrease. At the same time, an increasing percentage of the population is moving into retirement. Today, this population dilemma goes unnoticed. As more and more citizens retire, fewer and fewer citizens comprise the national workforce. Who will, or can, pay for retirement and healthcare? On this very day Social Security faces a huge political confrontation in 2025. The only solutions offered to date are sidewalk tents and tiny ‘homes’ for the homeless.

֎ Education. In the 1850s the idea of grading students was implemented. This has been the norm until the internet began to offer divers ways to gain an education. Today’s society is so divers that the letter ‘A’ or ‘C’ can have very different meanings across different education administrations. Colleges in particular suffer from the undermining idea that knowledge cannot be totally scored by a set of letters. The desire to tie education with a direct link to a job is more important than a letter.

It has been a blessing over the decades that the ‘white collar’ class maintained a steady, independent function for education. This is gone today as citizens attack libraries and otherwise intercede the authority of trained teachers – similar to interference by governments with a physician’s professional decisions.

Over the centuries with many cultures and religions, education was a matter of compliance with behavioral norms or religious mandates. Neither is an influence today because of the diversity of society and, in particular, because of confrontations with many juggernauts.

While there are many techniques for keeping one’s self sane and worthy, that does not dismiss one’s job to sustain survival as a nation.

The closing analogy is one of a polar bear trying to walk across melting slush in a warming world.

Ancient Mariner

Myth and Mystery are alive and well

In today’s email was a news item about a new direction in data gathering. Everyone is aware that Google is King Snoop on the internet today but a new data source is growing that may challenge Google’s monopoly. Microsoft, among others, is launching AI data gathering software that can search ChatGPT products, adding scope to BING, Microsoft’s smaller version of Google.

Already, serious internet users have a number of sophisticated search engines similar to COPILOT which can search online documents for substance, not just a noun phrase.

This is comforting. Already we know that ‘official’ documents like term papers, legal agreements and corporate reports that have been produced by ChatGPT have serious errors and lack comprehension. It’s as though humans actually wrote these documents themselves. Now AI is adding second generation software that can interpret these ChatGPT documents. Does this compound the confusion? Is Donald’s Truth Social produced by this new software?

There is a mental disorder called savant syndrome (street term ‘Idiot Savant’). These are folks who have difficulty with the substantive experiences of daily life but are true experts about one small, narrow subject, truly beyond the capability of a ‘normal’ person. While the savant’s expertise in a narrow subject can’t be replicated, certainly AI is creating the ‘idiot’ portion.

So life will go on just like the old days before the internet – a world based on myths, misunderstandings and mysteries that emerge from nowhere – just like humans.

There is comfort in that.

Ancient Mariner

Midlife

Another chapter from a book mariner wrote 25 years ago about what’s important and forgot he wrote it! Must not have been important . This chapter continues the theme of what is important in different stages of life.

Mid-life
Perhaps the hardest age game is the mid-life game. The mid-life game is important to folks from about forty-two to fifty-eight and being a true existentialist really helps. This is a strange and challenging game. As usual, what’s important is anything that’s not really important. What’s important is the hair that’s not there, the career that won’t happen, the young girl who isn’t interested, and the prince who won’t come. What’s important in this game is what the shopping malls, automobiles and other augmentations can do to hide the rapidly climbing years. You can’t look backward to vitality and forward to wisdom at the same time. But you remember the thirties games. To hell with wisdom. Naturally, it’s the wisdom that’s actually important about mid-life: you’re old enough to be wise and young enough to have the energy to put it to use.
The mid-life game has gambits (a word from chess that means going out on a limb), a technique which other ages don’t use very much. Some examples are: extramarital affair, divorce, changing career, obsessing about something that is not important, like immaculate lawns or golf, and even some scary gambits like alcohol and abandonment. Each gambit is a deliberate way of looking for what’s important. These gambits are dangerous because what seemed important before isn’t important any more and what’s important now may not be important later. That’s why it’s called a gambit. It is possible to come out ahead but it’s a chancy way to find out what’s important. Someone almost always gets hurt during these gambits — including you.
So much for looking back to the virile thirties. If you make it through the mid-life game intact, it’s on to wisdom.

Next: Sixties and seventies

Ancient Mariner

Athens but not the Greek one

Mariner and his wife were enjoying a wonderful, sunny day with comfortable temperatures. “Why don’t we go on an outing”, his wife said. “You don’t have anything to do, do you?” Mariner said, “No.” (Of course they were lying; each had gallon job jars stuffed to overflowing). An ‘outing’ is an occasional adventure they take just to get out. Typically, they would look for small, out-of-the-way spots not on the normal tourist path. One time they decided to visit Oquawka, a river town in Illinois. When they arrived, the town had not made it through the COVID pandemic. Every store and business was closed except a riverfront restaurant.

Recently, they decided to visit a nearby historical spot: Athens, Missouri. The reader may remember that Missouri was okay with slaves but some of the population wanted to secede while the rest wanted to stay in the Union.  During the Civil war, Athens was a small town that suffered a battle between town citizens because some wanted to secede, others did not.

What makes Athens relevant is that the town is directly across the Des Moines river from Croton, Iowa. Iowa’s participation in the combat action of the Civil War amounted to a cannon ball that inadvertently made it across the river from Athens.

The Athens State Park is a pleasant visit. The grounds and few remaining buildings are well cared for. But the accounting of the skirmish between town residents made mariner think.

Whether Trump wins or not, could there be a release of ‘feelings’ that would entice riots, attacks on organizations supporting strong opinions, and even street fighting with guns?

Times certainly are a-changing.

Ancient Mariner