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

A different puzzle

Today’s puzzle is not about algorithms or lateral thinking; it’s about introspective thinking about who the reader is and how they may not be the same person under different circumstances. Read the following from Politico about Carlos Moreno who proposes a new concept for city living.

LIVEABLE CITIES: Carlos Moreno is best known as the man who pioneered the concept of the 15-minute city — the idea that people should be able to access all essentials like work, food and leisure within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. A Professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris, he’ll launch his new book, “The Fifteen Minute City: A Solution to Saving Our Time and Our Planet,” today at the conference.

“The idea is that we need a radical change to our lifestyle and our work style,” he explained in an interview. “The central paradigm of most of the 20th century — inspired by LeCorbusier — was “zonification” where there were residential areas, cultural areas, etc. Rethinking this, relocalizing work for example, has ecological, economic and social benefits.”

So, the puzzle for the reader is to imagine how many ways your life values would change if everything in your life (that is not online) was within fifteen minutes of your front door. Don’t forget entertainment, sports, your workplace and what neighbors you would have.

֎

Give yourself about an hour or so to ponder, then read this paragraph:

“What we’re finding is that the environment in which you grow up, the neighborhood in which you live, the people you’re connected to, the schools and colleges you go to — all these ultimately greatly shape your life trajectory,” he told Playbook. “You take a child and move that child to a different environment, you’ll see completely different life outcomes for those children.” [Harvard economist Raj Chetty ]

Continue the puzzle. How would the reader’s life be different if they were born into a different neighborhood and then add what if their entire life was within fifteen minutes.

Both these ideas remind mariner of the Movie 1984. Throw in computer domination and the movie Matrix comes to mind. Further, they sound like the mouse studies where mice were put in large cages to see what would happen.

Oh, for two ponies and a cart.

Ancient Mariner

Visit with Mariner’s alter-egos

It has been a month or two since mariner visited his alter-egos; their personal perspectives often reveal entirely different realities. So he’ll stop at each ego’s residence to see how they are doing.

Chicken Little is just down the hall because mariner is renting an apartment in his hen house until after the 2024 election. It is a good place to hide because broadcast news on TV is blocked to avoid undue stress. [mariner cheats by going onto the internet]

Mariner asked Chicken Little to give him a general perspective on the United States today.

“You know,” Chicken Little said, “Each day is not fun anymore. Used to be I could wake up in the morning, put on my comb, go out into the yard and just have an easy day with the flock. Now, you have to be careful what you say to a given chicken because the flock is really uptight about so many issues.”

“What bothers you the most?” mariner asked.

“The violence. Chickens don’t have many resources to defend themselves. And I don’t understand why issues like homosexuality and abortion are causing so much conflict. These issues aren’t really the fault of the victims.

“Maybe it’s because the dissenters can’t really address larger issues like the economy and dysfunctional government agencies,” mariner suggested.

“May be.” Chicken Little said. ” But what’s closer to home is gun violence, riots and destructive protests. Thank goodness we chickens have a nice home here but it could be gone in a day because of riots with torches, gunfire, police abuse, tornadoes, and changes in zoning. Most chickens don’t have the resources to start over again.”

Chicken Little was becoming upset so mariner wished him well, left and headed for Amos’s house – mariner’s skeptical alter-ego.

“Hello.” mariner said as he entered the office of Amos. (Amos was named after the prophet Amos in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible). “Hello.” Amos replied. Amos’s office was disheveled, having stacks of newspapers, magazines, books, a television, two phones and a computer. Obviously Amos was an information hound.

Mariner tossed out an obvious conversation starter: “How is the election coming along?” he asked.

“Jesus, mariner, you jump right in the middle, don’t you? I haven’t had the time I’ve wanted to follow the three-year-old and the ghost. I’m too busy trying to keep on top of an all out war in the Middle East, not to mention Taiwan!”

He paused a moment and continued, “And its like Congress doesn’t even know its the twenty-first century – and the courts are trying to recreate the eighteenth century.”

“What’s your biggest concern?” mariner asked.

“Hell, that’s like asking which piece in the garbage do I dislike the most.” He paused. “I think its that corporations and private equity have taken over the economy. Congress is so busy pissing on each other’s shoes that corporations can do whatever they want – and both are ignoring the growing impact of global warming. It is time to modernize tax structure and government spending for a new reality – and get out of paying for wars.”

Amos was becoming flushed. Mariner said goodbye and headed for the home of alter-ego Guru, the theorist member of the team.

Guru has a pleasant but simple home on a hillside in the country. He offered a Croatian red wine as we sat down to talk. “I’ve been visiting the other egos”, mariner said. “I would be interested in hearing your concerns about today’s world.”

“Hmmm, that’s a difficult question to prioritize. In all likelihood, there are four global forces that will require civilization to reconstruct the future of humanity in a way that does not exist at the moment: Not in any specific order, they are population, the relationship between humans and dwindling natural resources, a warming planet combined with solar phenomena from sunbursts to magnetic shifts, and certainly the impact of intensive automation that will affect the daily behavior of human society.”

It was mariner’s turn to pause. He asked, “Will any of the great difficulties facing the world today affect the four issues?”

“No. The end of the twentieth century coincided with deep changes in how society will move forward in the twenty-first century. The most subliminal may be the move toward a global or regional economy rather than a separate economy managed by each nation. Another subliminal shift will be a redefinition of human rights from a global perspective. Both these issues will be difficult to experience and will cause consternation.”

“is this the same as the confrontation between capitalism and socialism?” mariner asked.

Guru replied, ” That is a typical shortsighted question. Just as there was a rewriting of human values during the early Persians, just as there was a rewriting of human values during the Great Awakening, so to will humanity have to ‘rewrite the books’ as they say to provide structure for a global society.”

Mariner could sense that the conversation was getting a little too deep. He finished his Croatian wine and pleasantly said thanks and headed for the door.

It is always interesting to visit the alter-egos; they each have a view of reality at very different altitudes. Mariner appreciates this diversity since the alter-egos have a lot of influence in his posts.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Twentieth Century

Roughly speaking, the European era of colonialism existed from the 14th century until the 19th century. A weakening of colonialism began with the creation of the United States in the late 1700s. It was an era when the European nations played a role very similar to today’s venture capitalists. Europe didn’t want there to be too much war because war doesn’t necessarily generate profit. Instead, through political and especially religious domination, Europe invaded cultures rather than territory. Capitalism was the only political game.

It took two world wars to reorder the international relationship from economically constricted nations to an era of independent nations. The twentieth century, all 100 years of it, was a process of restructuring economic theory, redividing political authority and launching an unprecedented pursuit of technology from automobiles and interstates to landing on the moon.

As much as can be expected, democracy bloomed around the world. While wars continued, they were regional, e.g, Vietnam war. The economic reordering of the world economy based on independent nations increased gross domestic profit in all civilized nations, ergo, the richer nations could finance regional wars as a means of political influence.

The concept of power through financial support of war continues into the twenty-first century. Like an addiction, too much war can be bad for the planet. It is clear across all news platforms that war seems not to solve twenty-first century issues. Human society in general struggles with the last century’s version of venture capitalism, democratic concepts being stressed by instant global communication and a restructuring of political power based on stressed natural resources as common as drinking water.

The elephant in the room for the twenty-first century is global warming. Virtually everyone still would rather keep the twentieth century values than have to start over again with a new era. But at what price?

Corporations have moved on and are not controlled by twentieth century democracy. Governments around the world struggle to identify new international relationships. Wealth continues to grow despite the deepening economic crisis around the world. Dictators are leveraging public fear as the world shifts.

Unfortunately, no one knows how things will work out but there are indications that human strife cannot afford to continue paying for the twentieth century.

Ancient Mariner

Watchamacallit

The more mariner reads about the depth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its ability to understand human language and nuance, the more he believes it may be up to the job of communicating with humans. The more examples of AI misrepresentation mariner observes, the more AI seems the same as how humans garble things. Does the reader think AI knows what ‘chaduin’ means? Would AI speak similarly if it were composing conversation? Would AI and Fats Domino understand each other or even someone from Baastn?

Mariner wears hearing aids. Hearing aids are capable of stringing whole sentences into one long string of incomprehensible noises. That sounds like something AI could do. Can AI use euphemisms like ’till the cows come home’ without literally waiting for the cows to come home? Some folks use AI to create procedural documents, instruction manuals and legal briefs. The odds are pretty good that these documents are no more comprehensible than human versions.

These aberrations can be entertaining but newer capabilities like replacing chunks of human brain with an AI look-a-like brain may make it difficult to to trace one’s life history. Further, how does one ascertain who garbled a word, AI or the human?

Mariner also is concerned about AI’s ability to hallucinate, interpret delusions or speak non-answers to questions. Will AI ever comprehend Marjorie Taylor Greene or Bernie Sanders? If AI can’t handles this, politicians will never be automated – mentally – mariner can imagine voting for robots.

There’s a trope that says “It’s a brave new world”; Can one be brave and automated at the same time?

Ancient Mariner

Status versus rights

Guru seems particularly interested in the Supreme Court review of a case brought before the Court about Oregon’s Grants Pass lawsuit claiming it can fine homeless people sleeping on public land. His interest isn’t so much the person-to-person perspective but, typical of Guru, he sees a philosophical issue that cannot be resolved. Generally explained, it is the conflict between a citizen’s right not to be punished for something that is not their fault or cannot be resolved by the citizen personally versus the rights implied by zoning (public land) and regulatory privileges associated with privately owned property (NIMBY and several industrial interests).

The two principles at stake are (a) the status of a person, that is, the person’s actual situation interpreted by various laws and lawsuits and (b) the given human rights granted by the Constitution. What brings the issue to the Supreme Court is the overall circumstances caused by housing shortages, inadequate retirement accountability and, philosophically, the difference between capitalism and socialism.

Capitalism is nature’s law of supply and demand: if there’s enough to go around, then all the creatures are content. If resources shorten and become unsustainable, nature  requires the creatures to migrate to better pastures or, dwindle in body count commensurate with resources.

Socialism is a human behavior largely mandated by necessary conditions (potato famine) and articulated by philosophers during the Age of Enlightenment.

When North and South America were discovered and had unbelievable resources never imagined by Europe, nature’s capitalism exploded, branding the United States as the most capitalistic nation in the world. Over time, as population increased, as natural resources were abused or over-indulged, the situation arose that there were no longer enough resources to allow for all men to be ‘equal’. To avoid recounting the history of the US in a massive tome, it is simple to say that capitalism doesn’t seem to work as well as it did in the beginning when every creature had all they needed.

Unable to migrate in the natural sense, people (and other creatures) moved to locations that at least sustained a minimal survival. And economically unable to reproduce natural resources as humans have learned to do in recent decades, particularly housing and its amenities, a new class emerged called ‘the homeless’.

So, in Guru’s mind, at the core, is the US capitalistic or socialistic? Can ever the twain collaborate as folks did during the potato famine?

The Supreme Court knows.

Ancient Mariner

Assimilation

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the main story around the world. Journalists and authors are beginning to fathom the extent to which AI will change society, personal psychology, industry, science and the human experience of government. What has been reported on recently is AI influence on every sector of life from privacy and security to health maintenance to the workplace and education.

Journalists today are beginning to recognize the power of AI to erase whole cultures thereby turning the world into one perspective, one government, one economy and one corporate reality. [This insight calls to mind the movie 1984]. The enormity of these insights is personal. Consider the following excerpt from Atlantic magazine:

“AI is positioned more and more as the portal through which billions of people might soon access the internet. Yet so far, the technology has developed in such a way that will reinforce the dominance of English while possibly degrading the experience of the web for those who primarily speak languages with less minable data. “AI models might also be void of cultural nuance and context, no matter how grammatically adept they become,” Matteo writes. “Such programs long translated ‘good morning’ to a variation of ‘someone has died’ in Yoruba,” David Adelani, a DeepMind research fellow at University College London told Matteo, “because the same Yoruba phrase can convey either meaning.”

In other words, the core life experiences of whole cultures will fade away because the only language is English. We’ve been here before; how many of us can speak any number of American Indian languages? Mayan? Has not having a broad speaking base also eliminated the associated cultures? More aggressively, remember the impact of ‘superior’ European culture over the destruction of American Indian life? Mariner suspects this dominance of one culture over others will come with AI.

Taken to a more abstract level, will AI reduce the human psyche to one profile, one behavior, one history? Some writers speak positively about this ‘phase’ being required as a requisite for a genuine United Nations polity. Many allude to technical advances and even further convenience in life.

Well, whatever AI thinks we should do.

Ancient Mariner

Yes, Virginia, Armageddon has begun

The post will deal with this issue but first be sure to read Marc Miller’s response under Recent Comments. His lifestyle is right on the mark!

Now, about Armageddon. According to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Armageddon is the prophesied location of a gathering of armies for a battle during the end times, which is variously interpreted as either a literal or a symbolic location. The term is also used in a generic sense to refer to any end-of-the-world scenario. In Islamic theology, Armageddon is also mentioned in Hadith as the Greatest Armageddon  (the great battle).

The Abrahamic religions maintain a linear cosmology, with end-time scenarios containing themes of transformation and redemption. In Judaism, the term “end of days” makes reference to the Messianic Age and includes an in-gathering of the exiled Jewish diaspora, the coming of the Messiah, the resurrection of the righteous, and the world to come. Christianity depicts the end time as a period of tribulation that precedes the second coming of Christ, who will face the rise of the Antichrist along with his power structure and false prophets, and usher in the Kingdom of God. [ mostly from Wikipedia]

Now that we have our Certificate of Understanding, One can define Armageddon as any extended, excessive change and upheaval of morals, economy, global upheaval and comprehensive, diminished value of humanity.

In the news today, Trump, along with a self-interested polity, economic disparity, global population issues, overdue war among Islamic nations, AI, and planet weather on the move, could be described as an Armageddon.

But in his musings, mariner feels that a big list of troublesome times is not what Armageddon is all about. Planetary Armageddons preceded life on Earth by billions of years. Focus on the term ‘end of times’. When an Armageddon occurs, what pre-existed no longer exists.  Pre-Armageddon isn’t upgraded or modified, it is gone. One crude example is the disappearance of nomadic life when money was invented, ways were found to manipulate planet resources for profit, and stationery life made survival more secure. Only one nomadic tribe still exists: in Africa and its days are numbered just like thousands of other creatures on the continent.

Bear with mariner as he focuses on circumstances that predict an ‘end of time’ for humanity.

By far and without question, the potential for an electronically based existence that will push human life into extinction, is the most potent shift that may cause a genuine ‘end of time’ for humanity. With a bit of tongue in cheek, mariner poses some phenomena.

Already, trucks and electric vehicles don’t need humans to run around streets like a loose dog. One can call a self-directed cab, get in and arrive at the appointed destination. Cab driver? Give this situation a broader context: why, eventually, would taxis need to exist if fewer and fewer people travel? By then, will vehicles still exist?

Technology exists today to make sex dolls self-dependent. They will be able to move out and sustain themselves without a ‘sponsor’. Provide them with an especially supportive bordello – who needs human prostitutes?

It is not just less and less need for humans. Does the reader enjoy the presence of their local state bank? Armageddon already is underway for independent banks. Already, large credit card companies have been absorbed by corporations like Amazon. Amazon can then control pricing from manufacturer to customer – including managing a customer’s checking and savings accounts. Then there’s crypto – no one knows what will happen when crypto leaks into the stock market; perhaps we won’t need the dozen or so humans who control stock markets.

To sustain a human’s life is much more complex than plugging into an electric socket. Did the reader know that if every little piece of vein and artery in their body were pieced together into a long string, it would wrap around the planet more than once.

Then there are all the ‘human communication’ robots. Everyone knows Apple’s Siri replaces everyone’s relatives. Then there’s the world of minions who replace secretaries when the reader calls for service. Mariner once got tangled up in a phone answering web that had three levels and about fifteen options – none of which led to a human.

The point is that electronic existence is so efficient when compared to the complex chemistry of humans that any post-Armageddon world will consist only of simplistic biological creatures driven, fed and taught by AI.

Storefront shopping disappeared long ago.

Ancient Mariner

Just for old timers

When mariner was in his sixties and had just retired, he thought, “Being old ain’t so bad.” He felt the new freedom of not having to work long days and forever flying off to some contract. Then he rolled into his seventies. During that time, he moved to his retirement home in a small Iowan town. He did notice that, socially, he had no role in this town. He dismissed this thought and traveled often to see friends and family, take a cruise, have the joy of crewing on the Stars and Stripes, (the America’s Cup winner in 1987), and sailing in the Caribbean.

As he neared his eighties, he experienced a few significant illnesses, began to have back problems, arthritis and palsy. He had adopted gardening as his new raison d’etre. In his eighties, however, the body disappeared. (See Tim Conway’s oldest man at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-QqmJimv_U ). Where once mariner could lift two concrete blocks and toss them into his pickup, yesterday he almost needed a hand truck to move one block five feet.

But the body is its own story bound by genetics, health history and life experience. There is a more important side to being old: mental health. The time comes when we must change who we think we are.

While work rules and government policy suggest when to retire from full employment in the sixties, it is the decisions we make in our seventies that set our future happiness. Perhaps now you have a parttime job in a grocery store or perhaps you belong to organizations like PEO, Masons or even a bowling league. The time has come to move on.

Do not make the mistake of just jumping out of your social role into a deep pit where a recliner-casket, a television and delivered groceries shape who you are. The subconscious brain (the real boss) needs to communicate with other humans no matter how old you are.

Instead of cutting strings and disappearing, develop a new plan for how you will fit into society. For example, set a specific pattern for visiting friends, having friends to your home, perhaps joining a volunteer organization or a hobby-based club like reading, arts and crafts, etc. If you are fortunate, perhaps its time to move to a retirement community – designed to fulfill your new but antiquated needs. Perhaps move closer to your family to retain that togetherness that families provide.

While one is alive, it is a mistake to retire to a closet. Just reshape the way one can still have a good time in a different way. Be with people!

Ancient Mariner

Report from the alter egos

As regular readers know, mariner is spending the 2024 election living in a small apartment in Chicken Little’s hen house. His television in the hen house blocks news channels and stations. It’s a simple environment, though more existential because one cannot watch the news. One is free to sense reality in its sunlight, rain and snow, early blooms in the bulb garden that hint spring is nigh – and the ability to communicate with neighbors in a friendly, unstressed atmosphere. (Via his laptop, mariner does smuggle a few of the better independent news links on the Internet.)

Mariner visited Chicken Little the other day. He’s in bad shape; he trembles so much his feathers are falling out. Mariner asked, “Plain and simple, what is your biggest fear?” Chicken Little sat silent with a strange look on his face. After a moment, he said, “The MAGA people.”

“Why?”

“They have guns. If Trump wins, he will use the military to shoot us; if he loses, the MAGA people will shoot us. Trump will only shoot his detractors but MAGA will shoot anyone they can find and burn houses – even my hen house.”

Mariner left him still very stressed and anxious. He decided to visit his skeptical alter ego, Amos. How are you doing, Amos?” “How do you think, mariner, with a dysfunctional Congress that is the oldest and most plutocratic in American history at a time when everything old has disappeared, two historically misplaced Presidential candidates, a collapsing biosphere, runaway corporations and untaxed billionaires?”

“Do you have some options?”

“Don’t vote for anyone over 55 – regardless of party; throw out the two party system and replace it with rank voting; shoot Trump and bury Biden. If the US wants to support Israel and Netanyahu, the US had better prepare for war with the Middle East, which I’m sure will be just as well managed as the Putin war.”

Mariner left Amos, who is still overwhelmed by a world without good news. Mariner moved down the block to visit Guru, mariner’s super-intellectual, intensive ‘why’ observer.

“Hello, Guru, how’s the planet?” “In a word, Armageddon” Guru replied. “Twenty-nine nations have no reportable Gross Domestic Product, the US is becoming isolationist at the worst possible time, computer technology has disrupted the normal transition of society leaving society without a rudder and, lest we forget, global warming has just begun.”

If you could redirect just one issue, what would it be?” There is a long pause, then another one. “Give the United Nations ultimate authority over any international event; the world has grown too small for nationalism; cap the world’s wealthy to redistribute GDP evenly around the world – there’s not enough food, too many people and a failing biosphere.”

Well – there seems to be a lot of negativity from the alter egos. Mariner wants to leave the reader with something positive. Living here in a small apartment, mariner’s diet often has leftovers. Often, he would eat dried, tough leftovers except for this tip: If the reader is reheating leftovers in the oven or the microwave, use a spritzer bottle to cover the food in water. As the food heats, it will not become even drier and tougher and may actually be restored.

Happy eating!

Ancient Mariner