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



Clearer insight into future

Yesterday, mariner had one of those moments of clarity when deep wisdom falls upon a person. He saw the future as it will be. The moment occurred as he watched a clip of a man talking in English. Suddenly, the man was talking in a foreign language; it must have been him because the lips and facial muscles appeared to be synchronized to both languages. It was, of course, an example of what Artificial Intelligence (AI) can do – all by itself.

From mariner’s perspective, the real achievement was a finite and absolute separation of the relationship between fact and judgment. When is a fact in fact a fact and not a deliberate falsehood? How can humans make judgments without existential and verifiable fact?

Moments later a small child, perhaps age three, walked by him talking on a toy smartphone. It was then he knew what the future held for the human race: a human shape with a minion’s brain.

Ancient Mariner


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

News can be distracting

McCarthy kicked out, eh. Talk about distraction! Today’s news is becoming so diverse and scattered across the subjects of human life that one may need advanced degrees to understand the nuance, detail and motivation of daily news – maybe even a cheat sheet with meanings for fancy words and acronyms. What follows are a few samples of distraction caused by diversity:

֎ Did you know New York City is sinking? Not just flooding but sinking, too. Here’s a clip from NASA:

“Mapping vertical land motion across the New York City area, researchers found the land sinking (indicated in blue) by about 0.06 inches (1.6 millimeters) per year on average. They also detected modest uplift (shown in red) in Queens and Brooklyn. White dotted lines indicate county/borough borders.”

֎ The new computer/human relationship. Computers are about to be released into the quantum physics world; bits and bytes are passe. Very soon computers will be able to make decisions at the speed of light. Information will not need algorithms, it will capture the shift of electron states. Yes, distracting because no one knows what that means. To assist, mariner copies from an old post metaphor about quantum physics:

Driving down a highway, in front of you a car enters the highway from a ramp; it appeared to you as a known entity called a car.

However, Quantum says, “No, not so fast”. The car just didn’t assemble itself out of nothing the moment you saw it; what events caused the car to appear at that moment?

For example, did the car turn on the highway just over the hill or has it been on the road for two days coming from New Jersey? How did the driver come to be in the car at that moment? Why is it a Subaru? Why is it on that highway? What time did it depart so that you would experience it at that moment?

Quantum computers know all these answers simultaneously. What quantum computers respond to is a change in electron relationships, not the electrons themselves – just like you did when, at the speed of light, you saw a car.

No busy person enjoys wandering around in quantum physics but the point here is that computers will think the exact same way humans do. Will computers do irrational things that Donald or Elon would do?

Ancient Mariner

The times they are a changing

Human society as we know it today began as the last ice age receded, about 20,000 years ago. The earliest known communal societies were during the Neolithic Revolution, a time when the plant environment began to reemerge. Vegetation was becoming sufficient to support stationery communities. The Near East was one of the earliest regions to escape the ice age.

֎ In the late 1980s, a drought caused a drastic drop in the Sea of Galilee in Israel, revealing the remains of a previously unknown archaeological site, later named Ohalo II. There, Israeli archaeologists found the burned remains of three huts made from brush plants, as well as a human burial and several hearths. Radiocarbon dating and other findings suggested that the site, a small, year-round camp for hunter gatherers, was about 23,000 years old.

This site exposed several elements: Humans are naturally inventive relative to their environment. One could surmise that the building of brush huts was the beginning of industrialization. Another element is that gathering more food than was needed at the moment meant that one did not have to remain a nomad; maybe donkeys and the Ford model A weren’t needed but not walking all day is worth hoarding some vegetables. Another element is that there were three huts; family was important although the economics of the time probably didn’t support whole generations. Finally, and easily overlooked, is that there was a burial; the earliest humans had a spirituous principal: life went beyond the existential experience.

֎ Has the human genome changed in 20,000 years? Does evolution ever stop? A branch of zoology has become popular: Scientists are tracing behavioral and genetic modifications of all kinds of creatures as the creatures adapt (or die) to global warming. Are humans adapting? On average, humans live thirty years longer than they did in 1900. One could argue that medicine and modern industry, e.g., air conditioning, are not necessarily genetic – after all, our Neolithic ancestors built huts. The scientists may counter that living longer by itself induces genetic adaptations in human behavior and survival. Did our forefathers experience dementia? Would they have if they did live longer? What would the Continental Congress change if they saw this chart?

Aside from the fact that our chromosomes stop reproducing, thereby making death inevitable, humans have one characteristic that no other creature has: humans can change the environment. Think about the impact of changing nature. Opossums can’t do that, nor Monarch butterflies. If another ice age came, would we evolve with a hide and have a different fat structure under our skin or would we ask Amazon to send us a furnace?

Mariner has wondered whether a hunter gatherer could sit still for four hours like we can when we watch television. Perhaps today’s humans are different.

Ancient Mariner

All over again

We live in a time of change, no doubt about it. Not just the normal change between generations or the systemic changes brought on by cyclical weather eras or the changes in economics brought on by political shifts. Today it is a time of change commensurate with the first time, about 15,000 years ago, when humans discovered economic trade and the political advantages that went with it; nomadic cultures quickly disappeared.

Today is a time of change commensurate with the technology of the printing press when, for the first time, ideas and history were available to the common citizen, not exclusive only to the tiny elite of theorists and theologists. At a time when the Americas were discovered, the Great Awakening, the Reformation, and the Industrial Revolution rapidly emerged and changed human life around the world.

Today is a time of change commensurate with the invention of the internal combustion engine in a global moment when natural resources were unlimited – allowing global trade and global warfare, and the quick dissipation of tribalism replaced by a new wave of politics called colonialism.

Today, computer-based communication replaces the printing press; today, advances in travel, technology and economics have released a new age of exploration – not across the oceans but from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere.

Today, global politics enters a new age when nationalism will be replaced by corporatism.

Today, an uncontrolled warming of the planet replaces cyclical weather eras.

Today, the number of humans on the planet exceeds the limits of the planet’s environment.

Today, the era of European white dominance will shift to a non-white majority, leaving the United States in a disadvantaged position because of its intense racism.

One wonders what the next era of change will look like, starting all over again.

Ancient Mariner

Regarding the Apocalypse


Mariner’s alter ego Guru, responsible for wide ranging philosophical and futuristic insights, claimed in a recent post that the Apocalypse already has begun. There have been queries about definition.

From his safe house in Chicken Little’s hen house, mariner will lay out the timeline implied by Guru.

It all began innocently 2 million years ago when a new species evolved that had a growing brain. The species was Homo. 1 million years ago, Homo began splitting into variations. Many failed to sustain themselves and became extinct but a few with names like Neanderthal, Habilis, Australopithecus and Erectus survived into the age of humans. Together they would become Homo sapiens.

In those days, Homo had no choice but to live within the natural confines of their habitat. Living a plenteous life in an agreeable environment, a typical lifespan was about 40 years. Homo’s predators were meat eaters, infections and serious injury.

These characteristics are similar to the few indigenous tribes that still exist in remote areas of Africa and South America. These tribes to this day sustain themselves only with the restorative resources their environment provides.

About 10,000 years ago, Homo discovered how to grow more grain than he needed, hence the beginning of commerce by acquiring more grain than would be consumed by a local tribe. In a subtle way, this is the first abuse of the natural relationship between Homo and the environment.

Centuries roll by and Homo learns more ways to consume the environment beyond his natural relationship with nature. Homo extracted from nature other creatures like donkeys, horses, and wolves that would help expand the ability to acquire excessive amounts of Nature’s resources. Then Homo discovered iron, tin, lead and carbon-based energy. Now Homo could consume many times his need from Nature. Homo was consuming Nature faster than Nature could replenish itself.

This imbalance was the seed that has grown into the apocalypse we have today.

After I million years of living in accordance with the rules of Nature, in the last 1,000 years, Homo has trashed Nature; Homo has trashed the basic tribal society; Homo has trashed multiple generations that cohabit as a protective wall against difficult times. Homo quickly learned to ignore Nature and lived by the rule ‘If you can do it, do it’. He developed elaborate tools which, at every step, diminished the evolutionary potential of every Homo. For example, the use of coal and gasoline in the last 150 years has destroyed the security provided by extended family and tribe (town economy). Its method was to produce trains, automobiles, mechanized, oversized farms, superhighways and national and globally based industries.

In just 150 years the apocalypse gained speed. Isolated nuclear families became the norm – left defenseless without the human support of multiple generations and tribal support. Giant corporations became the norm, slowly eliminating local economies, local jobs and the existential satisfaction found in smaller towns and cities.

In the last 175 years, the apocalypse has shifted into a higher gear. 16,000 species are extinct because of Homo indifference. Around the world potable water is becoming scarce. Seafood from the oceans is 20 percent of what it was 100 years ago. And obviously the excess use of fossil fuel has launched serious changes in air quality and of the planet generally.

But in this century the chains are off. What easy transportation did to tribes, the Internet is doing to society. Communication technology makes war easier and more horrific; interpersonal skills and rewards are replaced by artificial behavior that dismisses 1 million years of evolutionary sophistication; privacy and security are fallacious assumptions.

Now a new age is upon us: artificial intelligence (AI). AI can emulate the entire reality of Homo. The final bridge to the apocalypse is that AI can reproduce itself. Who needs Homo?

Ancient Mariner


Check the sky – is it falling?

Mariner allowed Guru to offer a spontaneous thought about the state of things. Guru said, “Armageddon isn’t going to happen because there won’t be enough souls around for Jesus to bother coming back. However, the Apocalypse already has begun.”

Mariner has built a small apartment in Chicken Little’s hen house. He’ll be living there now. Amos has been put on leave.

Book to read: “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” by Stephen Hawking published 2018. Stephen Hawking is beyond reproach as one of history’s premiere theoretical physicists; he picked up where Einstein left off. He answers questions like:

Is there a God?

How did it all begin?

Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?

Will we survive on Earth?

And six other questions.

If the reader needs me, check the hen house.

Ancient Mariner

About Fabric

Has the reader noticed that among cloth generally, there are many different fabrics? Each has a unique feel to it. For example, one can clearly tell the difference between silk and denim, or suede and wool, or nylon and hemp. What if, in fact, all cloth felt the same? Would that not really matter? Cloth is cloth and it’s the fashion that is important; it’s usability for whatever; it’s the style that counts; it’s what is popular that matters more.

In virtually every fiction book and film where mariner has observed ‘the future of mankind’, the plot is about humans becoming nondescript, that is, the fabric of life changes. It happens in a piecemeal way. Consider what effect the internal combustion engine had on daily society: Towns no longer had to be only twenty miles apart because that was the limit of a day’s horse ride; agriculture shifted from local market to national market; shared resources among large, stationary families shifted to independent career income no longer bound to the home town or the family.

Even the fabric of riverside cities changed from river shipping to rail, leaving dozens of river towns with dwindling resources. Today local business, the enjoyment of life, the vitality of society is a pale remembrance. Perhaps it could be said these towns lost their fabric.

Readers will quickly challenge loss of fabric versus endless increases in the economy, freedom of new life opportunities, better health services, etc. After all, it’s not about fabric, it’s usability, fashion and style that counts.

Several months ago he read a book, ‘The Way Home – tales from a life without technology’ by Mark Boyle. It is an accounting of Boyle, an economist, who deliberately spent three years without money – zero dollars. The only economy he had was what he could muster with his own hands. What gave him the idea to retreat from industrial society was that he was aware of what it took to pump a glass of water from the ground; it required steel, copper, plastic, dams and endless pipelines including what to do with wastewater. It wasn’t about Mark Boyle being thirsty nor was it about any other individual being thirsty. Individuals were nothing more than a device used to discharge water from a very large, self-important industry.

His key discovery was that the farther away a human is from his core, natural environment, the more damage is done to that environment. His second discovery was that the few families that were close enough to his cabin to interact, were genuinely friendly and willing to help Boyle survive in his stark environment. He and his few neighbors came first instead of last. They had human fabric.

For more philosophical insight into the idea that humans are at the center of life, not abusive corporate trashing of the biosphere, read Gandhi.

Ancient Mariner


Does anyone have a plot line?


By Wiley:

Is it possible that our eager scientists are consumed by the phrase, “I do it because I can”? Is Homo sapiens ready for an automated lifestyle? Is the biosphere ready for Homo sapiens to have an automated lifestyle?

Scientists have created Xenobots, computer cells that can reproduce. Even Steven Hawking predicted this will be the demise of humanity.

Over the millennia, humans have learned to adapt to significant changes in the biosphere status quo; everything from ice ages to rocket ships and nuclear bombs. But each epoch was singular – just one at a time.

It isn’t the same today. There is AI, collapsing nationalism, global warming, social abuse, over-population and the waning of Adam Smith economics.

Can we Homos handle it?

Ancient Mariner