Birth events have shifted

The AP news service published an article today that is fascinating to think about. AP pointed to statistics that show women in their twenties have put off having children. Instead the average time for having children has crept into the late thirties and forties. In the grand scheme of things, why is this happening?

Wouldn’t our evolutionary processes prevail, that is, becoming pregnant as hormones and independence from parents become active? Mariner’s mother, certainly poor by any comparison, gave birth to him at the age of sixteen and his brother at age twenty. What has caused this move to not have children until the thirties and forties?

The statistics from AP: Fertility rates declined by almost 43% for women between ages 20 and 24 and by more than 22% for women between 25 and 29. At the same time, they increased by more than 67% for women between 35 and 39, and by more than 132% for women between 40 and 44, according to the Census Bureau analysis based on National Center for Health Statistics data.

Direct influences are related to finances. The importance of careers for women as security against uncertain times is obvious. In a related statistic, there is pressure for a financially stable household to be a two-income family. Who pays for childcare and related overhead for children while both parents work? Young families are forced to be practical and wait for more secure times before having a family. Yet, in mariner’s mind, his mother had no financial security but was not influenced to wait for better times; he wonders what is different today?

Another direct influence is pharmaceutical advances in birth control, something that was not available to his mother. Even with the advantage of birth control, why has the shift been so absolute? The statistics suggest that birth control made it easier to pursue a general conclusion to have children later.

Is the shift because Homo sapiens has become a four generation creature? Does this extra generation, largely not financially self-sufficient, add to the intuitive burden of their children?

Is this shift because Homo sapiens no longer has direct habitat-dependent requirements that lend themselves to tribal (extended family) society?

Is it because farming economy no longer is a slow, multi-generational experience that launches the process of gross domestic product?

Is it because modern technology has expanded the awareness of young people to a larger, more complex world?

How is this delay in building families related to falling populations in every industrialized nation? Is industrialized life too rapid and short-funded to allow for a society based on family-centric value?

From a broader perspective, do the planet’s rapidly shrinking resources cause an unconscious awareness that there isn’t enough to go around anymore?

Give this subject some thought. It’s certainly better than the general angst provided by cable news.

Ancient Mariner

If you’re past 50, pay attention

As regular readers know, mariner has been an advocate of maintaining strength in the quadriceps, the leg muscles that lift us every day. The primary enemy is the chair. One must, must, must, must do a few reps of squats every day to maintain a confident balance and dexterity with their limbs. The exercise also extends a lifestyle that is physically competent if even to getting in and out of a car.

See the link for an example.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKhd9MXTUzY

Just as important, if not more so, is to walk at least a mile every day. The older the reader is, the more important this exercise is. Mariner often has referenced a part of the brain that doesn’t wake up until the body is in a continued pace. One must walk at one’s best sustainable gait. The brain exercises all the critical components including lungs, heart, circulation and caloric consumption. Drink some water before the reader leaves for the walk.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Homo persona versus the AI world

This entire post intends deliberately to promote a new book: “The Age of AI and our Human Future” by Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt and Daniel Huttenlocher, published 2021 by Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316273800.

Not that mariner is comfortable with every premise. Indeed, the book clarifies his own resistance to the impact of AI. Nevertheless, the book is written with rational insight and for the ease of an average reader; the language and grammar are helpful instead of being a confrontation.

The authors point out in clear terms that being a human will be different as AI takes over behaviors usually executed by human beings. One insightful example: It is quite likely that an AI program will choose whether you are hired for a job – no human intervention is necessary; perhaps a human robot may interview you. AI programs author public documents – no human intervention is necessary. Economic activities like engaging in the stock market, international trade agreements and salaries will be managed by AI – no human intervention is necessary.

Many of what today are called ‘labor jobs’ that require skills typical of the trades or white collar workers or many specialist jobs in public service and health will not be required. The new labor class will be technicians trained to work with AI. For the Homo species, the social and psychological changes in an individual’s sense of personal worth will be challenged.

The authors point to other significant changes to human worth in history when, for example, the weaving machine was invented which promulgated a national resistance movement called the Luddites; also, the printing press changed individual awareness and political acumen forever, allowing ideas like democracy to grow. But the great double-cross in mariner’s mind is captured on the back cover:

“Recently, a sophisticated language-generating AI named GPT-3 was asked philosophical questions. It replied in part:

Your question is ‘Does GPT-3 have a conscience or any sense of morality?’ No, I do not.

Your next question is ‘Is GPT-3 actually capable of independent thought?’ No, I am not. You may wonder why I give this conflicting answer. The reason is simple. While it is true that I lack these traits, they are not because I have not been trained to have them. Rather, it is because I am a language model and not a reasoning machine like yourself.

The gray line for mariner is, in fact, that AI has no soul. How does one provide insightful charity? How does one know when the exception proves the rule? How does an individual achieve the hero’s path in light of determinism? Further, mariner does not trust the three-way relationship between AI, government and private investment. How will our Congressmen manipulate campaign funds?

As Forrest Gump would say, “Amoral is as amoral does.” How a person may be treated or defined is driven by their table values in massive databases. Mariner remains a Luddite and a member of the silent generation. One day he will buy a pony and a pony cart. Who needs automobiles driven by AI? The pony knows the way.

Nevertheless, read the book. You owe it to yourself to understand your future self-worth.

Ancient Mariner

Science News

֎ Soon everyone will be able to have their own Jackson 5.

In some farmers’ ideal world, cows would birth only females, sows would bear no boars, and chicks would all grow up to be hens. Such sex ratios would stop them from killing millions of male animals, which don’t produce eggs or milk.

Now, scientists are a step closer to this reality. Researchers have harnessed the gene editor CRISPR to produce litters of mice all of one sex. That’s a potential boon to agriculture and may offer a more immediate advantage in scientific research. “The paper shows a state-of-the-art solution to producing single-sex species” with “impressive results,” says Ehud Qimron, a CRISPR expert at Tel Aviv University who was not involved with the work.

Finally humans can match whiptail lizards (genus Aspidoscelis) who are only female.

֎ Here’s a picture of your oldest cousin, called “Lucy’s Baby”. In 1974, the world was stunned by the discovery of “Lucy,” the partial skeleton of a human ancestor that walked upright—and still spent time in the trees—3.2 million years ago. Later discoveries revealed her species, scattered throughout eastern Africa, had brains bigger than chimpanzees. But a new study of an ancient toddler finds that the brains of Lucy’s kind were organized less like those of humans and more like those of chimps. That suggests the brains of our ancestors expanded before they reorganized in the ways that let us engage in more complex mental behaviors such as making tools and developing language. The remains also suggest Lucy’s species had a relatively long childhood—similar to modern humans—and they would have needed parenting longer than their chimp relatives. Called Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy and her family grew to a height of three feet.

To get a glimpse of the future of Homo sapiens, here’s a snapshot for you:

Yes, she is a fully conversant robot.

– – – –

Cannot leave without quoting Mark Twain who had this to say about human morality:

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principle difference between a dog and a man.

Ancient Mariner

Immigration, Climate Change and Housing

These three subjects eventually will be at the center of political, economic and cultural life not only in the United States but around the world. ‘Eventually’ means in about ten to fifteen years from now.

Immigration. The current increase in immigration along the Gulf Coast and Mexico largely is Central Americans escaping brutal, terrorist-controlled nations. But recently it includes Haitians – a first of its kind wave due to global warming. Each year the number of immigrants easily could grow by a power of ten (10, 100, 1,000, etc.) as coastal areas around the world force inhabitants to relocate due to flooding and sea rise. In Bangladesh already 4 million people have been displaced. The coastline between Houston, Texas and Pensacola, Florida already has suffered extreme and prolonged weather conditions that are permanently displacing thousands of families. Austin, Texas, a city only on a river and away from the coast,  had to buy large acreages from the public to let the land return to a wild state that will protect shorelines.

In a few years American migrants will outnumber foreign immigrants. The current Congress and Administration tinker about trying to retain reelection leverage rather than facing a rapidly growing dilemma for which there is no plan, no allocated resources and no idea of a solution. The issue is so dire that mariner suspects eventually the Government will create an independent, apolitical commission to deal with the issue. Of the three topics in this post, Immigration/migration will be the most disruptive in the shortest amount of time.

Climate Change. It isn’t just flooding by rising seas and turbulent storms. Between 2040 and 2060 extreme temperatures will become commonplace in the South and Southwest, with some counties in Arizona experiencing temperatures above 95 degrees for half the year. The entire southeast sector of the United States will be too warm for current farm crops. This affects a significant part of the agricultural economy and in its own right will force thousands of farm workers and farm owners to migrate north – even into Canada.

Still, it is flooding along the coasts that will drive large migrations. As many as eleven major metropolitan areas in the U.S. will have to deal with total destruction or major Dutch-style dams and walls. The exact number is hard to project given all the variables but several estimates suggest that as many as 13 million Americans will be displaced in the next few decades.

Housing. Mariner remembers inflation during the 1970s. Housing costs rose by 17 percent; many entrepreneurs became millionaires just by buying and reselling their homes every six months. Climate change will induce a similar inflation in the cost of homes. Anyone can guess how bad inflation will be but it will be significant and disruptive. Even today there is inflation in housing cost because there aren’t enough homes due to the impact of Covid and the reorganization of large corporations.

Concern. Recent polls of the younger population indicate that climate change already is the number one concern. Second is lack of confidence in any U.S. government – which they blame as the cause of global warming. Mariner will cite only one of many telling clues that Congress has no idea how overwhelming global warming is: One Senator from a small coal mining state willfully prevents funding for climate change because he won’t be reelected by his coal mining electorate. Multiply this attitude by all the elected officials in this nation. Who to blame – the official’s greediness or the electorate’s ignorance?

Ancient Mariner

Living like bears

A recent article from Science Magazine reported on a study performed on the west coast of Canada that wanted to know why, over thousands of years there were distinct genetic differences between bears that existed in close proximity. The environment was rich in food and environmental support; bears did not travel much over thousands of years. The geography, in part, has many large islands.

What made the study intriguing was that when the human genome of several indigenous human tribes from the same area was examined, there were genes that appeared similar to those in the bears and, interestingly, in the same part of the genome.

The conclusion by the scientists is that we are closer to our environment than we may think. Over generations, our bodies adapt to the environment – not just globally but regionally!

The finding contributes to the observed quick differentiation between human races that did not intermingle for many thousands of years. The concept even applies to smaller regions where the Irish, Germanic and Spanish tribes lived, for example. What is most fascinating is that the genetic changes for bears, the Irish and racial differences are located in the same part of the genome. Mariner wonders whether there is racial prejudice among the different bear colonies.

Oh well, this is fascinating science but it no longer applies generally to humans. Humans invented ships, planes, cars, highways; intermingling is inevitable. Perhaps, however, class distinction over many generations still may be a cause for adaptation. This is not as presumptuous as it sounds. In the latest edition of The Atlantic, David Brooks wrote an article that suggests that very thing.

David wrote an excellent commentary about what has brought the United States to the circumstances found today. Largely, it is a separation of what is defined as ‘successful’ among the various classes of society. It turns out that assumptions about what defines successful living have a direct effect on the society as a whole. David says that today in the U.S. culturally, the only successful lifestyle is the meritocracy built on being educated, smart, inventive and contributing to society through some form of creativity. He calls it the ‘creative’ class and is largely represented by today’s Democratic Party and very wealthy Republicans.

Society in the U.S. suggests that those who work with their hands, do monotonous work and have no need to indulge in ‘smart’ stuff cannot by definition be successful. This has led to the many variations of class war that are present today. The national turmoil will increase because the creative class is too small to survive in politics – the only frontier where being smart is not an absolute virtue.

So look forward to attacks on big data, socialist issues, tax advantages, science in general and the ideological fantasy of freedom and success – as in guns, law enforcement, racism and any other issue – even to the extent of whether one ‘must’ participate in fighting the pandemic that is now playing out in more conservative states.

Why can’t a gun-toting stevedore be seen as successful as a computer programmer?

Ancient Mariner

What is the brain?

In the past year or two, mariner has complained that various groups and individuals don’t know what they are doing – especially the electorate. Many topics contribute to this ignorance: civics is not taught in public schools; political history is not taught in public schools; environmental science is not taught in public schools; health and hygiene generally is not taught in public schools; social psychology is not taught in public schools; economics is not generally taught in public schools.

Since the 2016 election, mariner has been concerned about the electorate being led by a crazy person compounded by Big Data altering reality on purpose. The issue is the role of facts in the human thought process. Mariner has promoted films about how the brain is influenced and how the brain depends – or not – on factual reality.[1]

Just as a clinical beginning to understand that there are many mini-brains in the human head, mariner provides a legitimate shorthand description of these brains:

What is the brain?

The brain is an organ that’s made up of a large mass of nerve tissue that’s protected within the skull. It plays a role in just about every major body system.

Some of its main functions include:
   processing sensory information
   regulating blood pressure and breathing
   releasing hormones

Anatomy and function

Cerebrum

The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. It’s divided into two halves, called hemispheres. The two hemispheres are separated by a groove called the interhemispheric fissure. It’s also called the longitudinal fissure.

Each hemisphere of the cerebrum is divided into broad regions called lobes. Each lobe is associated with different functions:

Frontal lobes. The frontal lobes are the largest of the lobes. As indicated by their name, they’re located in the front part of the brain. They coordinate high-level behaviors, such as motor skills, problem solving, judgment, planning, and attention. The frontal lobes also manage emotions and impulse control.

Parietal lobes. The parietal lobes are located behind the frontal lobes. They’re involved in organizing and interpreting sensory information from other parts of the brain.

Temporal lobes. The temporal lobes are located on either side of the head on the same level as the ears. They coordinate specific functions, including visual memory (such as facial recognition), verbal memory (such as understanding language), and interpreting the emotions and reactions of others.

Occipital lobes. The occipital lobes are located in the back of the brain. They’re heavily involved in the ability to read and recognize printed words, along with other aspects of vision.

Cerebellum

The cerebellum is located in the back of the brain, just below the occipital lobes. It’s involved with fine motor skills, which refers to the coordination of smaller, or finer, movements, especially those involving the hands and feet. It also helps the body maintain its posture, equilibrium, and balance.

Diencephalon
The diencephalon is located at the base of the brain. It contains the:
    thalamus
   epithalamus
   hypothalamus

The thalamus acts as a kind of relay station for signals coming into the brain. It’s also involved in consciousness, sleep, and memory.

The epithalamus serves as a connection between the limbic system and other parts of the brain. The limbic system is a part of the brain that’s involved with emotion, long-term memory, and behavior.

The hypothalamus helps maintain homeostasis. This refers to the balance of all bodily functions. It does this by:

maintaining daily physiological cycles, such as the

   sleep-wake cycle
   controlling appetite
   regulating body temperature
   controlling the producing and release of hormones

Brain stem

The brain stem is located in front of the cerebellum and connects to the spinal cord. It consists of three major parts:

Midbrain. The midbrain helps control eye movement and processes visual and auditory information.

Pons. This is the largest part of the brain stem. It’s located below the midbrain. It’s a group of nerves that help connect different parts of the brain. The pons also contains the start of some of the cranial nerves. These nerves are involved in facial movements and transmitting sensory information.

Medulla oblongata. The medulla oblongata is the lowest part of the brain. It acts as the control center for the function of the heart and lungs. It helps regulate many important functions, including breathing, sneezing, and swallowing.

End of clinical description.

The frontal lobes are the problem. This is where judgment is formed based largely on internal conditions of the body; things like fear, hunger, safety, interpersonal behavior, etc. There is no need for external facts; decisions are about physical survival laced with contrived imagery from the temporal lobes. A successful society must include training of the frontal lobes to include external facts in addition to internal emotions.

Sigh. Yes, mariner knows he is jousting with windmills. Apes we are, apes we’ll always be.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] An important film focused on this specific issue is ‘Hacking the Mind’ available for viewing or purchase on PBS.com . Another film available on Netflix is about how Big Data manipulates individual behavior to maximize profits; search ‘the social dilemma’.

Environment

We humans have become increasingly aware that we live in an environment not as a dominating owner but simply as just another renter who tends to trash the apartment. Perhaps it’s the global warming issue that helps with human awareness; perhaps it’s the growing scarcity of food resources for the planet; perhaps it’s the cost to farmers when they plow the soil which strips the fields of all nutrients and plants, especially in regions where there are strong winds that carry away the soil farmers just tilled and fertilized and put weed killer down – producing poor yield in the fall.

Evidence of growing awareness is all about. TV broadcasts about gardening, farming, waste management, and collaborative sharing with the environment are frequent. Extension agencies, libraries and garden clubs sponsor programs about collaborative gardening. Mariner has a relative whose hobby is planting colorful plants around the base of trees along New York streets; mariner has a friend who has decided to let violets stay in the lawn. And mariner himself is tinkering with a number of collaborative projects in his own garden.
֎ One example is the cursed Creeping Charlie, a very rapidly spreading weed that defies elimination. It still is a killing pest in the lawns but in some garden beds mariner has decided to experiment with Creeping Charlie as the ground cover to keep other weeds out and at the same time add to the décor of the garden. It turns out that Charlie has taken hold of his new job with relish. Not even the dreaded crabgrass can sprout beneath a robust covering of Creeping Charlie. In fact, mariner is saving money because he doesn’t have to buy mulch for those areas.

֎ Another experiment is mariner’s tolerance of a rambunctious mole. He must protect against the mole’s burrowing in vegetable beds where seedlings are emerging but otherwise he has let the mole venture about. Tolerance by the mariner is an experiment to see how many Japanese beetle grubs can be eaten; mariner has many fruit and ornamental trees on a property surrounded on all sides by large concrete pads and accompanying large garages. All beetles come to mariner’s garden.

An unexpected reward is the mole gradually aerates the lawn. Typically, a lawn keeper occasionally will need to rent an aerating device to pull plugs from the lawn so it can grow and accept water. Mariner keeps his lawn a bit high (another anti-weed collaboration rather than performing the typical buzz cut) so the lumps from the mole burrowing aren’t noticeable.

Mariner has mentioned in past posts that his town has lawn Nazis. It is of a different spirit, certainly not one of collaboration with nature but comparatively speaking takes more time, labor and cash to maintain. This difference between collaboration with and dominance of nature has existed throughout history from the first scraping of the ground to cast wheat seeds to the large open mining pits and deliberate elimination of forests today.

In just a few years many farmers have proven that any way to collaborate with the environment is more productive, less expensive, saves waste and is good for surrounding atmosphere, water and wildlife. One common practice by farmers that has been implemented for many decades is a natural easement by creeks and rivers rather than plowing closer to the water’s edge.[1] It is entertaining to work with nature as a partner – both existentially and philosophically. What projects does the reader have?

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] An excellent documentary on collaborative farming, ‘Kiss the Ground’, is available on Netflix but the reader must search ‘The Littlest Farm’ – the title is in error. The Littlest Farm also is an excellent film about how a family uses nature to transform virtual wasteland into a productive farm but mariner could find it only as a rental or purchase. 3 minute trailers are available online for both films.

Life in the future . . .

. . . will last a long time. Is the reader familiar with COQ10, NAD+, Acetyl L-Carnitine HCL, Alpha Lipoic Acid, IPW, Crispr and inter-species zygotes? These pharmaceuticals are not vitamins. They are products that sustain cell function by restoring required levels of various molecules the cells need to function and communicate – molecules that disappear as humans grow older. Crispr is a technology that allows patching, adding or eliminating various genes. Inter-species zygotes (shudder) create fertilized eggs that are half human and half some other species; become familiar with the word ‘chimera’.

Commercially, these chemicals and procedures are new today and do not share the limelight with vitamins. But it won’t be long before they become more important than vitamins when it comes to restoring and sustaining a body that defies one’s age. Still, the one normal requirement is a good diet that provides necessary vitamins and minerals; many nutritionists claim the Mediterranean diet should be in this group of life-sustaining materials but eating is so passé.

The reader should not let their imagination run free with this subject. One easily could conjure any number of abused subhuman creatures to attend normal human interests. Quickly mariner’s mind leaps to a subhuman slave class, living chimeras that replace sex robots, ordering online a replica of great-great grandma, eternal life (isn’t that supposed to be in Heaven?), or a yet to be bred Homo something to upgrade Home sapiens.

Setting aside these conspiracy theories, it is very likely that, as this area of body chemistry improves, everyone will be living well into one hundred-plus birthday celebrations, hopefully still with many of the body functions that begin to disappear in middle age.

Today, there are actual improvements available. Many inherited diseases and disorders can be eliminated through gene splicing. In some situations where consummating and giving birth is difficult, the solution is an altered sperm or egg. The overwhelming contribution by this new group of supplements is cell health. Scientists are learning more about how individual cells do their job at molecular levels. These additives keep cells healthy and productive.

The reader should give praise to the mice that have given their lives to this chemistry. If we were mice, we may already have lived twice our expected lifespan, solved difficult puzzles while bypassing dementia and had active sex all the while.

The reader may want to start thinking about what they want for their 130th birthday.

Ancient Mariner

 

These are trying times

Trying times is an understatement.

The migration of tens of millions of people, exacerbated by a changing climate, will be one of the mega-trends of the 21st century, Bryan Walsh writes in Axios Future:

“For both humanitarian and political reasons, wealthy countries like the U.S. will need to figure out a way to handle a flow of people that may never stop. People make the difficult decision to leave their homes for many reasons, including conflict and crime, political persecution, and the simple desire for a better life.

“But a growing factor is the push of extreme weather and climate change, which disproportionately affect people living in poorer, hot countries that are already a major source of migrations to the U.S. That means the U.S., as well as the rich nations of Europe face a permanent and likely growing flow of climate migrants that they — and the international refugee system — are ill-equipped to handle.

“The catch: Climate change’s precise role in migration is tangled up with more immediate factors, like security and economic well-being.

“A Gallup survey released this week found that more than a quarter of the population of the 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean — which would amount to 120 million people — would like to permanently move to another country.

“42 million of those want to come to the U.S.”

More and more folks recognize that global warming is real. In the United States the political resistance comes from fossil fuel interests, the Trumpist anti-science movement and twentieth century conservatives. The combination of global warming, social modification due to artificial intelligence, a global virus pandemic and an apocalyptic shift in global economy – all at the same time – easily is more disruptive socially than the eruption of Vesuvius was to Mediterranean society or the environmental disruption caused by Krakatoa.

It is true humans are their own worst enemy. There are some egregious habits like death by war, life by stunting the Earth’s natural threats of viruses, visceral disorders, unnaturally prolonged lifespan, and other relationships that would control human population.

Adam Smith’s concept of moralistic capitalism no longer serves the common people. For one thing, there are far too many common people; for another, capitalism is competitive and slowly has separated wealth from the far too many common people; and finally there are far too many common people for the amount of natural resources available.

Humans added to population by inventing self-propelled transportation that easily spreads population centers over greater areas, easily heated homes and technologies capable of wiping out any number of biomass balances from air and water pollution to the directly related extinction of over 16,000 species.

These are trying times!

The trouble is, we can’t go back. We’re stuck with this mess and finally must take drastic actions to restore order – actions that we should have been managing all along but didn’t bother.

Has anyone seen Chicken Little? Is it true Amos went back to the farm? Guru is taking strong antidepressant pills.

Ancient Mariner