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

 

 

 

 

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.

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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

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

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

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

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

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