How will change come?

Let’s face it: the world we experience today, with its reminiscences of the last century, with an international consortium beginning to look ragged and stressed and the culture is not the public dynamo it once was. Acknowledging the passing of political and cultural time, add to that a new and very dominating influence by intellectualized computers; add to that significant worldwide changes in population where wealthy nations are losing population generally then add that the entire planet is exacerbated by global warming that shifts farms into deserts, valleys into seas and expensive devastation to urban life.

The new age promises better management of health, a new interpretation of the work week, increased agricultural economy, a burst of jobs to upgrade old technologies, old roads, improved water management, stronger and more flexible supply chains and a new economy that is international and replaces some of the role of nation-specific economies.

But the vision isn’t clear. There is fog everywhere and rumblings are heard. For a hundred years the white collar culture was the spine of American society. A college education with its focus on liberal arts and a college experience that instilled a unifying grace among graduates. Even with fog about, one can see liberal arts fading rapidly; one can see that what has become important is job training, not intellectual perception.

There is a sense that the relationship between capitalism and democracy is crumbling. This has led to dysfunctional governments from the Federal Government to County districts. The cultural spine has disappeared. Lack of cultural spine has allowed big corporations to expand without obligation to the citizenry and has allowed oligarchical greed to flourish.

But isn’t it supposed to be a big new world? Isn’t progress a way to grow society? isn’t a changing world the secret to sustaining life? The trouble is that humans have been taking out loans from the biosphere; extinct species have passed 20,000 and what’s left is threatened – because humans haven’t repaid the loans.

Clearly, the three-branches of government have been compromised by weaponized political parties. What events will occur to regain unity through grace? What economic shift will bring 25 percent of the nation’s citizens back to an ability to survive?

There are some bad thoughts. Since the beginning of human existence when major shifts in religion, culture or economics occurred, the shift included a war. Will we have a war with China? The Middle East? Economies everywhere are unsteady because of overpopulation and the stressed biosphere. Will the US have another civil war?

We will have to wait and see.

What are the tools society needs to build a new cultural spine? All the tools are handy at the individual citizen level. A powerful tool is one’s right to vote. Has the nation used this tool appropriately and with good judgment? Make an effort to casually connect with all your neighbors – without politics as a subject. Bring the whole family together for a week. Occasionally attend a legislative hearing or a staged conversation with politicians. Look for fresh candidates.

All-in-all, however, no one knows how the future will play out – yet.

Ancient Mariner

Beyond Matrix

Yes, our bold scientists have moved beyond Matrix. Read this excerpt from Science Magazine:

“By squirting cells from a 3D printer, researchers have created tissue that looks—and acts—like a chunk of brain. In recent years, scientists have learned how to load up 3D printers with cells and other scaffolding ingredients to create living tissues, but making realistic brainlike constructs has been a challenge. Now, one team has shown that, by modifying its printing techniques, it can print and combine multiple subtypes of cells that better mimic signaling in the human brain.”

This article gives mariner a better idea of how humans will evolve into the technically driven creature of the future. As pieces of the body are replaced, the chromosomes will be modified in a manner that will alter future offspring. This way, humans won’t have to wait 260,000 years for a new species; just a few generations is all the time that’s needed.

How will 3D printers modify the brain? Perhaps arms and legs will disappear in three generations. Perhaps pregnancy can be triggered with a radio signal. On the other hand, perhaps life expectancy will be variable, maintaining a finite population/environment relationship.

Don’t be concerned about this. Your Apple goggle reality won’t expose this process.

If anyone wants to visit the mariner, he’s in his apartment in Chicken Little’s henhouse.

Ancient Mariner

Life is relative

Today, mariner was skimming through Associated Press news and came across an article about the discovery of a new flying dinosaur called Ceoptera:

It was unearthed on the Island of Skye in Scotland. It survived for 2 million years between 168 – 166 million years ago. The article caused mariner to think about time as a ruler with which to measure the biosphere. For example, today the Isle of Skye is nothing but jagged, treeless mountains and not the warmest place to be. What was it like 168 million years ago? In fact, Skye emerged in the Precambrian Age 538 million years ago and was a torrent of volcanoes; certainly no Ceoptera could have survived until 370 million years later!

The Earth stabilized into a planet 4.5 billion years ago. Is there a constant time called ‘Earth time’? Earth seems to have its own calendar of activities from totally dry to covered in oceans, to ice ages and even an occasional meteorite. After 300,000 years of stable weather, it seems the planet has decided to grow warmer. Ultimately, Earth abides by Sun time – a life span of about 15 billion years.

Mariner suspects there must be different clocks for different types of biosphere. 538 million years is a long, long time for Ceoptera to wait and then live only 2 million years.  The first primitive life form that can be called an animal emerged 550 million years ago. Trees have been around for 450 million years;

Moving forward, the first mammal emerged 225 million years ago; the first primate came along 65 million years ago; monkeys showed up 40 million years ago and primitive homo types split from chimpanzees 6 million years ago.

Australopithecus is a genus of hominin that evolved in eastern Africa approximately 4 million years ago and went extinct about 2 million years ago.  H. erectus appeared approximately 1.8 million years ago and we came aboard 260,000 years ago.

Readers may recall this paragraph from a recent post:

“Readers know that recently tech scientists were able to create a self-producing biological app by connecting an electronic sequence with the chemical sequence of a chromosome. Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein both said that if electronically-driven devices can reproduce themselves, the humans would become extinct because of the overhead of mammalian survival.”

Is sapiens already on notice? Every species in history survived only within a viable relationship with its environment. Today, there are headlines about overpopulation, inadequate food sources, and a disruption of the atmosphere that has urged Earth to move on from 300,000 years of stable weather, give or take a couple of ice ages.

Given these numerical references, perhaps there is a singular life time for planet Earth – tied to its parent Sun. The measuring tool is in units of 10 million years incremented by tenths. Time moves constantly toward that moment when a dying Sun will consume the planet – about 5 billion years from now.

On the other hand, evolution seems to accelerate across time. For example, Ceoptera hung around for 2 million years. We Homos have been around only for 260,000 years. Our successors already have arrived. How long will a robot-driven animal survive?

This leads mariner to surmise that evolutionary time is not a constant time. Measuring evolutionary time behaves more like the algorithm for falling through gravity:        distance = 1/2 gt

For each second one falls, they fall the square of the previous second. For example, one falls 1 foot in the first second, 4 feet the second, and so forth (see chart).

Similarly, changes in evolution happen faster and faster as time passes. There are few folks who think humans will be around 2 million years from now as ceoptera did.

Mariner will not dwell on examples of Armageddon. We shall experience existence as due course in the timeline of evolution.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Data Breach

Suddenly, mariner’s two favorite magazines, The Atlantic and Scientific American, are writing articles about mariner’s favorite topic, the demise of the human race to be replaced by electronic life – the Armageddon of us. It’s as though the magazines have accessed mariner’s unknown library of posts and have decided to frighten him to death by implementing his assumptions.in quick order long before he expected it. He was speculating the transition of power from human brains to total computer domination sometime 30-50 years into the future. No, no, the magazines say. They say “Surprise, mariner, it happens today!”

Readers know that recently tech scientists were able to create a self-producing biological app by connecting an electronic sequence with the chemical sequence of a chromosome. Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein both said that if electronically-driven devices can reproduce themselves, the humans would become extinct because of the overhead of mammalian survival.

The news this very day is that no less than the honorable and wise Elon Musk has been able to implant a socket into a human brain – a socket that allows a computer to plug into the brain. Those who have watched Matrix know this is exactly what the evil electronic empire did to the entire population including Neo. (Actually, Neo volunteered to have the plug inserted so he could access the fake world of the evil empire).

A much publicized Congressional hearing was held yesterday with the Big Six of the technical world trying, but not successfully, to introduce humanist values into their tech world. It already has been proven time over time that they control too much of the daily behavior of humans and ignore the laws against monopolization to assure there is no corner where the human subconscious can operate without tech influence.

Beyond mariner’s magazines are the special intellectual streaming channels that speak of the future impacts on the biosphere, not to mention society. Even in the curricula of the most successful trade school in America, YouTube (mariner calls it ‘Junk University’; he has a degree in gardening), the TED Talk series has had recognized professors suggesting that there will be three major controllers in the future: Eastern politics, western politics and, managing the economics of the entire planet, Artificial Intelligence.

Remember horse carriages, ponies and chopping wood for the fire to cook homegrown pork stew?

To add insult to injury, The Atlantic wrote an entire, lengthy article about the evils of being Chicken Little. Chicken Little has been a dependable alter ego for mariner since mariner began his post in 2013. Chicken Little’s behavior is different but logical. If one is burned by a fire, one learns not to get burned by fire. The article suggests that one should take the offensive and stick their hand back into the fire in an effort to take control of the situation. Any social psychology evaluation would acknowledge there are moments when retreat is the best option. Consider the innocent population of Gaza: Should they stay at home and be bombed to death or retreat (in unconscionable conditions)? Much of middle America has scant resources to spend in a battle where they will have little influence.

Neo, where are you?

Ancient Mariner

The Matrix approaches

Did the reader see Walmart’s press release about how they plan to use AI? Their plan is to manage your purchases for you. They will track your purchase history a la Google and assume what your purchasing choices will be and when they will occur. Then your purchases will be delivered to you in an automated driving EV.

This will require Walmart to create a home network that includes your refrigerator (dare mariner say ‘icebox’?), tracking items with guarantee end dates, expiration dates and time-specific items like prescriptions and consumption history. What Walmart doesn’t mention is only they know the real price of things; shopping for best price is no longer an option for you.

Isn’t progress wonderful? First, having a telephone means you don’t have to leave your nest to talk to a neighbor; Second, having a television means you don’t have to leave you nest for entertainment; Third, having online purchasing means you don’t have to leave your nest to visit a store to buy things; Fourth, you don’t have to leave your nest to purchase groceries and other household items – including furniture, curtains, etc. Fifth and most important, if you are lonely you don’t have to leave your nest for company when you can hook up with facebook and other social media services – you can even look for a spouse or sell and buy your automobile without leaving your nest.

So the reader is at great liberty and freedom just to sit in their electric recliner (dare mariner say ‘rocking chair’?)

Has the reader seen the movie ‘The Matrix’? The screen is filled with human-like action seen in online gaming shows but what is important to note is that all of civilization lives in electrified coffins living what each person thinks is a real life but it is provided electronically by the evil boss of artificial intelligence; they are maintained in this dream state so the evil boss can use them as batteries.

Modern technology has improved things quite a bit. The residence is roomier and the human is allowed to remain physically supple; the coffin is replaced by the electric recliner. What is different today is that you are confined to your nest so the evil economy can take your money. Well, maybe your battery power, too, at some future date.

If you would like to electronically visit mariner, he has a showing in his rocking chair every Tuesday. Your credit card balance will be affected automatically.

Ancient Mariner

Snow

Sitting out a very cold day with 7 inches of new snow, a seemingly useless and interfering stuff, mariner wondered if anyone was glad to see the snow. Serendipitously, the Atlantic published an article about how critical snowpack is to millions of people. Scientists recently discovered a constant temperature where snowpack will begin disappearing for good. An excerpt from the article is provided below:

“That threshold is 17 degrees Fahrenheit. Remarkably, 80 percent of the Northern Hemisphere’s snowpack exists in far-northern, high-altitude places that, for now, on average, stay colder than that. There, the snowpack seems to be healthy and stable, or even increasing. But as a general rule, when the average winter temperature exceeds 17 degrees (–8 degrees Celsius), snowpack loss begins, and accelerates dramatically with each additional degree of warming.

Already, millions of people who rely on the snowpack for water live in places that have crossed that threshold and will only get hotter. “A degree beyond that might take away 5 to 10 percent of the snowpack, then the next degree might cut away 10 to 15 percent, then 15 to 20 percent,”

This situation reminds mariner that when Mother Earth acts, the entire planet and its biosphere are included. We frequently hear news about the mountain ranges melting and providing fresh water to lower habitats. It is another thing for snowpack residents to suddenly lose their water. Conversely, there are many regions in the American west that already suffer from disappearing water and some towns already are dry. One thinks of the warmer temperatures melting ice floes and leaving the polar bear in a difficult situation.

It is ironic that the oceans are rising because of melting polar ice while the amount of drinkable water is decreasing. We’ll have to wait to see how humans handle the situation.

Meanwhile, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Ancient Mariner

Living life on carnival rides

Spending some time in Chicken Little’s henhouse, where news broadcasts and publications are not allowed, mariner has become aware of how myopic news programming is. Many readers will agree that if one watches the news on Monday then watches the news a week later, it’s the same news. Perhaps Fox news, MSNBC, all the social media sources and ‘streaming’ news together have set the bar very low in terms of other topics that, while not blowing things up, starving people, giving coverage to useless and mostly conspiratorial congressmen, may have more impact on the near future of mankind. Below are a couple of topics that are very important and are changing reality on a daily basis.

Extinction

Back in 2014 Elizabeth Kolbert wrote a scholarly treatise about the rapid decline of the world’s creatures. A quote from the flyleaf of The Sixth Extinction – An unnatural history:

“Over the last half billion years, there have been five major extinctions, when the diversity of life on Earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us.”

Elizabeth cites the disappearance of over 16,000 species of every nature and every family of creatures. There are too many humans (see Overpopulation below) taking up way too much space, consuming way too much of the planet’s reserve of chemicals, and by their nature, deliberately and wantonly destroying critical balances in the Earth’s environment.

Through technology and industrialization, humans have been able to flaunt the natural restraints of Mother Nature, enabling humans to live longer, live conveniently and ignore disturbances in the planet’s biosphere – at the cost of 16,000 innocent creatures and, since the 19th century, destabilizing the careful balance of global weather; an issue that is important enough to make the news. For the last 300,000 years, the weather has been unusually stable, allowing an excellent opportunity for all creatures to flourish. That stability is rapidly disappearing. The inability of humans to evaluate human economics versus planetary economics may be the doom to life on Earth as we have known it.

Humans, being the smarty pants that they are, abide by a major perspective: “If it can be done, do it”. In this vein, humans may be adding themselves to the list of species that are becoming extinct. Less than a year ago, scientists celebrated a special accomplishment: They were able to marry a computer sequence with a chromosome such that the computer sequence can reproduce itself. Now computer programmers themselves may be out of a job. Two scientists, no less than Albert Einstein and  Stephen Hawking, held that if artificial intelligence can propagate itself, humans are too inefficient to compete and will become extinct.

Overpopulation

Regular readers know that mariner has placed great stock in the similarity between mouse and rat overpopulation studies done in the 1960s and 70s and the state of human society today. Quoting managing scientist John Calhoun’s observation about the study:

“At the peak population, most mice spent every living second in the company of hundreds of other mice. They gathered in the main squares, waiting to be fed and occasionally attacking each other. Few females carried pregnancies to term, and the ones that did seemed to simply forget about their babies. They’d move half their litter away from danger and forget the rest. Sometimes they’d drop and abandon a baby while they were carrying it. The few secluded spaces housed a population Calhoun called, “the beautiful ones.” Generally guarded by one male, the females—and few males—inside the space didn’t breed or fight or do anything but eat and groom and sleep. When the population started declining the beautiful ones were spared from violence and death, but had completely lost touch with social behaviors, including having sex or caring for their young. At least the rodents had unlimited food and water – not true with the human population.To human advantage, humans have guns and bombs, shoot children and anyone that seems different. Is this enough to reduce population?

A special carnival ride is the combination of not enough food with climate change. The combination is trashing whole nations’ economies.

And with war on every continent, rising authoritarian governments that will enforce inequality, and artificial intelligence cutting society from the past like a pair of scissors, this is a grand carnival ride!

Ancient Mariner

 

 

 

Do you see what I see?

The reader should know mariner has returned to his rented one-room apartment in Chicken Little’s henhouse. News? What news? A poc of lips? What’s that? So the reader must endure whatever subject pops into mariner’s head.

What pops today is that mariner wonders what the really, really real world looks like. One of his annoying habits is to ask young children questions they must ponder but cannot answer. For example:

We have two eyes and a snail has two eyes. Do you think a snail can see television? Can they see birds flying? Did you know dogs don’t see color? Only black and white like an old photograph. Do you think the world really is black and white but our brains add colors just like when we color a coloring book? (Surprisingly the answer is yes; people’s brains add color. Let’s not go there, though, the brain and spectrum analysis is a very detailed subject).

To provide some perspective, the famous author Bill Bryson, who writes entertaining books that take the reader into a world of great detail about mundane subjects, wrote a book about the human body. He lists all the chemicals needed to create a living body. He marvels that a couple dozen chemicals can create life. If the time ever comes that you want to do something besides watch television or scroll a phone, check out “The Body – a Guide for Occupants” by Bill Bryson, 2019, Doubleday.

Bryson’s point is that a human cell isn’t really ‘alive’. It is a collection of about one million atoms that react with one another as if to simulate being alive. An analogy is watching a cartoon on television – they sure look like they’re alive.

Mariner’s focus is on what existence really looks like. Sure, the snail, the dog and humans will claim their world is the real one but perhaps not. Try to imagine the world as a collection of what atoms, protons, neutrons and electrons would look like. The measures of the five senses are a highly tailored complexity that is irrelevant to atoms and their proximity to other atoms. (Let’s not go there, though, nuclear physics can  be dreadfully boring and has no end).

The answer, certainly qualified, is reality looks like a cloud of atoms buzzing all over the place – whatever that looks like. Human dimensions don’t exist; perception doesn’t exist; .touching doesn’t play by creature rules. The real world looks like a heavy fog – a heavy fog that can bump into itself here and there making something that may be a lump of some kind or a nuclear explosion.

So, what’s news with the reader?

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Population

Regular readers may recall that mariner would mention rat and mouse studies done in the 1950s-70s. The focus was to document what happens when populations grow too large; the animals were given all the food and water they needed. For the mice, the cages were a 4 foot cubed cage; the walls were lined with little nest ‘condos’ from floor to ceiling. As the population grew, the mouse society began to show disarray. Continuous fighting, raping and disregard by females for birthed young became common. Eventually, the population topped out because most females did not become pregnant and any opportunity for nesting had disappeared. The population began to shrink back close to the original population.

Today, scientists have reevaluated the studies. Examining the films and behavior from a broader perspective, the habitats created weren’t really that overcrowded, but enabled aggressive mice to stake out territory and also isolated the ‘beautiful’ mice to live at the top of the cage above the fray. Instead of a population problem, one could argue that the experiment had a fair distribution problem. In other words, social stress created classes of separation. The ‘beautiful’ mice lived at the top of the cages and as the rows approached the floor of the cage, living standards dwindled because there weren’t enough condos to go around. On the floor, mice were homeless and lived in constant danger of physical abuse and death; the floor mice lived in a crowded and threatening society.

As he read the article, Chicago became a matching image. The upper condos were the luxury condos in the high rise downtown area; The better condos were the comfortable suburbs; southwest Chicago, with its gang-laden violence and lack of civil discipline was the floor. What seems more threatening is that, unlike the mice, not everyone has adequate housing, food or water.

Two circumstances come to mind: the size of the cage is planet Earth; the second is that the measuring stick is not condos, its nations. There are about a dozen countries rich enough to have a ‘balanced’ distribution of oligarchs, middle class, labor and disadvantaged poor – a circumstance of lacking enough resources. As nations grow poorer, the social stratification becomes more aggressive, often authoritarian, and the poorest nations, or those in deep social transition (Israel, Middle East, most of Africa) incur open warfare.

However, the mice had a stable environment that humanity lacks. Many nations will suffer economic collapse, e.g., Pakistan, as the weather and other environmental damages collapse national economies. Even wealthy nations will experience disruption and turmoil as the segregation of class wealth becomes too broad. Events such as mass migration, supply chain collapse and rich-nation bickering about the spoils of a new internationalism provided by the internet will stress the philosophies of government.

So the situation becomes one of starvation, homelessness, class warfare. The current evaluation of the mouse studies seems to be the better insight. We don’t have to wait for our population top-off at 11 billion; already there is too much population to sustain even cantankerous class distinction, let alone “all men are created equal”.

Happy Hallowe’en

Ancient Mariner

Getting bored with the same old news?

The reader can probably quote the subject of the top four headlines without turning the television on. Give it a try. Here is a sample: Trump, Biden, climate disaster and cost of living; there are variations. The news is tiring so let’s get some new news:

Peak solar activity is arriving sooner than expected, reaching levels not seen in 20 years. The Sun’s flare-ups can threaten satellites and electric grids, highlighting need for better forecasts.

Corporatism has arrived. Crazy Elon Musk has the same power to redirect the Ukraine war as crazy Vladimir Putin.

Meet your new gossipy neighbor ChatGPT: In April, lawyers for the airline Avianca noticed something strange. A passenger, Robert Mata, had sued the airline, alleging that a serving cart on a flight had struck and severely injured his left knee, but several cases cited in Mata’s lawsuit didn’t appear to exist. The judge couldn’t verify them, either. It turned out that ChatGPT had made them all up, fabricating names and decisions. One of Mata’s lawyers, Steven A. Schwartz, had used the chatbot as an assistant—his first time using the program for legal research—and, as Schwartz wrote in an affidavit, “was unaware of the possibility that its content could be false.”

A special on PBS explored the phenomenon that many species of fish, amphibians,birds and mammals are morphing themselves to meet new requirements to survive our man-made biosphere. After all, they have to pay cash . . .

For more unique news, turn to your local newspaper – if you still have one.

Ancient Mariner