digging ditches: the ultimate human achievement?

How many Potential Einsteins, Hawkings, or Nabokovs or Woolfs or Monets or O’Keeffes are out there stuck digging ditches or scrubbing floors in order to survive? How much art and literature and scientific discoveries are the rest of us missing out on in favor of that floor being cleaned by a person rather than a machine?

We have the means to eliminate huge swaths of labor via robotics and AI. But with the current structure of our society focused so hard on earning money via labor, the elimination of those jobs would harm people rather than help them. But it doesn’t need to be this way.

Imagine you and your family live in a big house, and the only thing required of you to live there is to keep it clean and repaired. You wash the windows, wax the floors, fix any electronic problems, repaint the walls, vacuum, dust, sweep, mop, etc, and in exchange for all this work, you can live in some rooms in the house.

Now imagine you and your family invent a robot that can do all this cleaning for you. Cool! Now all the required labor is being done, and you can relax and use your time for other more meaningful, human activities.

Except that’s not what would happen in our society. The member of the family that just happened to have his name on the deed of the house would buy their own robot, and kick everyone else onto the streets and have their big empty house with no one living in it. Then they’d take the money they save from not having to feed so many people, and buy another house, also with no one to live in it except the robot that cleans it.

Our society is that family. We, most of the members of that family, work hard to keep the infrastructure running, to keep things clean and functional. We, the family that is our society, are also on the verge of inventing a tool to do all this work for us, to keep up the maintenance for us. But instead of celebrating this, we’re worried. All because our rich uncle feels we have to be working on the house in order to live in it.

When the robot workforce comes–and it will–huge numbers of people will be functionally forced out of society because there are no more floors to scrub. If we want to avoid this, we need to change the way we think about work and money.

We need socialism if we are going to survive our own technology. We need to change the mindset toward labor as a means of survival, and instead look at it as crude necessity that we are about to eliminate. We should enjoy the results of that elimination, not punish ourselves for it.

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Little islands of life

I like to take breaks at work to walk around and think, but it was raining so I walked around in the parking garage. With springtime arriving, the spiders are out in force, and I noticed that nearly every overhead light I walked under was surrounded and covered in spiderwebs, with multiple spiders clearly visible–a few I even saw in the process of building. These were not dead webs piled up over time, but new arrivals, and all of them centered on light sources that would draw insects into those webs.

How could these spiders know to build their webs around the lights? Light sources other than the sun like that are a new invention that the spiders could not have yet adapted to…

But of course, it’s not the light attracting the spiders. Instead it’s the same thing that draws them into your house in the winter: the heat.  Each light fixture is a hospitable planet in the cold emptiness of space.

Temperature differences are often a focal point of life. Life on earth is thought to have started at thermal vents in the deep ocean, those cracks of heat in the icy depths…

I wonder, if life capable of interstellar travel exists in the universe, whether it would even bother dealing with planets. Would they not go straight for the greatest temperature difference of all, that of stars and space? Maybe the alien life we’re looking for is orbiting our sun, and soaking up endless energy, instead of bothering with little, cold, rocky us.

 

 

 

Cultural evolution produces hot garbage

Evolution is not a ladder. Even the tree metaphor is flawed because it gives the faulty impression of ‘progress’ upward. Evolution is only change in whatever direction leads to the most reproduction.

Cultural evolution is the idea that our ideas and way of life evolves generation to generation much the way an organism does, based on how easy the ideas/traditions/etc are to imprint on the next generation.

In much the way that you could sit down and design a self replicating organism that is way better at existing than a lot of life on earth, you can also come up with ideas and art that are way better than whatever music/art/entertainment gets passed on and on and on.

If evolution produces junk so often, maybe it’s time we start trying to influence it. Biologically, we can do this by editing our own genes. We are well on the way to doing this already.

But culturally, how do we do it? How can we change what is popular so that it’s something beautiful and meaningful that is gets created, instead of Transformers 8, season 10 of Jersey Shore, or a billion copies of 50 Shades of Gray?

The answer is probably education, as it seems to be with almost every problem in society. Someone who’s read history’s greats, and seen the most elegant art and been taught enough about the world to appreciate its most amazing creations, is going to have a lot less interest in the basic, surface level schlock that floods the market every day.

 

Knowledge is power–that’s why it’s so expensive

In America, you have to pay lots and lots of money to get an education. So much so these days, that if you aren’t born well off, it’s pretty prohibitive. The steadily rising costs of education could be seen as the natural end result of a capitalist society–a product in demand will rise in price. Or if you are the sort to see conspiracies, it could be something else.

Those in power naturally want to stay in power. And if knowledge is power, the best way to keep it from getting into the hands of others, is to prevent the average person from being able to get an education.

The rich stay rich, and their kids stay rich and pay for a nice education, and so on. The poor stay poor and their kids can’t afford an education, and so on.

After all, if everyone was well educated, who would the rich have to exploit?

our world is just vibrations

What is light? It brings us information but is itself insubstantial. Sound is has no mass, or weight. Light and sound aren’t objects or material in themselves, only energy… motion… but they seem to be most of what our human experience is made of.

Someone or something that knew how to manipulate light and sound could alter our whole world without us ever knowing…

Which world is the dream world…

What does your mind do while you’re away? Could your dream world be more important and enriching than waking life?

Our days so often seem like meaningless survival, as if our consciousness is just a way to keep us eating and procreating, the same way a section of our brain keeps our hearts beating and lungs breathing.

Is consciousness just an autonomic function, while our subconscious in the dream world is where our important mental lives are?

How could one unite those two consciousnesses for the full experience…

Invented dangers

It seems to me, that when people have no danger or threats, they make up their own.

In a country where we can prevent almost every major disease we’ve encountered, people decide to find danger in the cure… be it doctors, or vaccines.

In a country where we produce so much food that we throw away 40% of it, people find danger and conspiracies in the food itself.

In a country where anyone can study and learn any subject, people find conspiracies in the information, and value their own opinions over the knowledge of the experienced.

in a country without war, people find danger in their neighbors, see threats in the disenfranchised and in the helpless.

In a country where anyone is free to practice any religion, people find threats to their own religion in the practice of other religions, or in the non religious.

In the richest nation in the world, people feel threatened by the loss of the scraps the poor consume just to get by.

In a country where we’re working toward racial/gender equality, people perceive the equal rights of others as a threat to their own rights.

Take a step back. The things people find threats in are often the things preventing real danger.