Monthly Archives: February 2017

New Laws

scene_at_the_signing_of_the_constitution_of_the_united_states

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/United_States_Constitution#/media/File:Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States.jpg

There’s a great rule that someone once came up with – “Rule Zero: Don’t do anything that would make us create a new rule!”   It is food for thought.  If people didn’t do silly/stupid/problematic things, we wouldn’t need a rule or law against those very things.  Kinda simple, but of course, simple and easy aren’t the same thing.   We do keep piling on rules and regulations, and as one book puts it “you commit three felonies a day.”  Kind of frightening.

In spite of all this, there may be times when new rules or laws are required.  Certainly, as technology has boomed, our legal system has struggled to keep up.  As our energy consumption and resource picture changes,  what sort of new rules or laws could you see enacted that might help us ease the transition into the Long Emergency?   Or is simply a bit of Flatland/wishful thinking that any laws or rules will help at all?

A few rules/laws that have been proposed; some may not affect people personally, but some could radically change our society.  Some thoughts:

  • Re-establish a national rail system,
  • Re-establish a system of national service (which could cover everything from a military draft, to a new CCC, or to a teaching corps),
  • Institute a carbon tax,
  • Increase retirement age,
  • Remove the cap on Social Security taxation,
  • Reverse the Citizen’s United decision, and possibly, the 19th century decision that “corporations are people,”
  • Reinstate Glass-Steagall.

Now, some of these are seemingly non-starters.  But at some point, some event may happen that could make one of these unpalatable laws or rules start to “make sense.”

Questions:

  • So, which one of these happens first?
  • Which one will never happen, and why?
  • If we do have a Constitutional Convention, which is the granddaddy of rule making in the US, what amendment might be added?  The list is long.
  • What event correlates with what law/rule?  Would another stock market crash mean a severe curtailment of Wall Street?   Would an ice-free arctic mean some sort of carbon tax?

 

Hope

helpmeobiwan.jpeg

“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope” – Star Wars, Episode IV

The interesting thing about that word hope – the dictionary definition (choose your online dictionary of choice; wordnik, Merriam Webster online) is simply:

  • v.To wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.
  • v. Archaic To have confidence; trust.
  • v.To look forward to with confidence or expectation: We hope that our children will be successful.
  • The belief or expectation that something wished for can or will happen.

Perhaps the last underlying additional bit that accompanies the definition (in Merriam Webster) is what irks those who are trying to base our lives and futures in reality – “hope implies little certainty but suggests confidence or assurance in the possibility that what one desires or longs for will happen.”

When people say, “I hope things will be OK,” it seems to translate to “I hope things will keep going the way they always have been going, with little change in my life.”   This, of course, is said with little knowledge of the reality most of us in the Peak Everything world have absorbed.

If there is any ‘hope for the future’, my own view leans towards this –  hoping for solutions isn’t a realistic thing.  We’ve got lots and lots of predicaments, not just a few solvable problems.   Hoping for anything (in the wish fulfillment sense) is truly wishful (not based in reality) thinking.   If we can ‘hope’ for anything in this mad future of ours, perhaps we should hope (in the archaic way) that at least some of us can greet the future as honestly as possible.  Yeah, we are going to have our Flatland biases, and yeah, lots of people are going to ignore reality, and yeah, it is going be painful (and a pain in the ass).   My own efforts in this regard are very mixed, but there are a few fraction of folks who are trying to greet this unpleasant future head on.

Questions:

  • Is this just some sneaky selective usage of an archaic definition?  Should we just ban the use of the word ‘hope’, and be done with it?
  • ‘Hope’ always does sound so… “positive.”  Knowing what we know, can we “hope” for anything negative, or is this just being a pessimist with wish fulfillment?  There’s a classic Woody Allen line, “More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”  If we choose extinction, are we choosing hope?

 

 

 

A digital Geneva Convention…

… you read it hear first! 🙂

This was written a few months ago:

https://peakfuture.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/indiscriminate-warfare-for-the-21st-century/

Now, it is in the news:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/02/14/microsoft-brad-smith-digital-geneva-convention/97883896/

Let’s see if this can get done.   Anyone know of other earlier attempts at bringing up this issue? (Yep and Yep!); ah, “There is nothing new under the sun…”   I wonder why this is coming up again.    Of course, protect yourself first seems to be apparent, from this article:

“No targeting of tech companies, private sector, or critical infrastructure.”

This might seem a bit difficult to parse.   After all, companies build weaponry for countries, and those might be considered legitimate targets (ball bearing plants in Schweinfurt, for example in WW2).   And critical infrastructure, such as electric power plants were and are targets during wartime.

 

On investing, redux (the rich folks)

$$$

Sheesh.

Last year, a small bit was written on investing.  Nothing too radical, nothing too outrageous; investing in yourself and your community seems like a good idea (and always has).

Yet a recent article came out about really rich folks, thinking about holing up in bunkers, hiding out, (not forgetting their servants, and their servant’s families), and waiting until the dust settles when things go pear shaped.

Does anybody think of getting alternate viewpoints anymore?   It’s been written a few places that when things go south for society, the folks with the weapons, training, and capabilities of being the bad guys can suddenly turn on their masters.   As much as that may work for N weeks, months, or even years, at some point, you’ll have to rejoin society, and no matter how much you’ve got stored up, it is going to be reduced, and then… you’ve got nothing.   People will know you’ve been hiding out, and are they going to welcome you with open arms?   If society was to get that crazy, where living in a bunker worked for a bit, rest assured all those numbers in a bank account probably wouldn’t mean much in a post-normal society.

Cutting to the questions:

  • Why is the alternative option, of making a large community that actually likes you , not seem viable?
  • If things go really bad for a few weeks/months/years, who is to say if you hole up for that time, that the world won’t pass you by, and reorganize along lines you might not like?
  • Short of nuclear weapons, most scenarios allow people who are hungry/wanting to show up to your doorstep, en masse.   What sort of planning can cope with that?  If ten people try to crash your homestead, sure, you might be able to deal with them.  But one hundred?  Two hundred?  A thousand?
  • How do you plan on getting to your favorite bolt-hole, if things happen quickly?
  • The best quote from the article:

    To Levchin, prepping for survival is a moral miscalculation; he prefers to “shut down party conversations” on the topic. “I typically ask people, ‘So you’re worried about the pitchforks. How much money have you donated to your local homeless shelter?’

    What else would you tell people to do, who’ve got hyper-wealth?

 

 

One plus one

1+1=?

While we still have time to eat food that we haven’t grown or caught ourselves, it is still possible to go out to small gatherings (eat, drink, and be merry), and sometimes, even be entertained and enlightened at the same time.

This past weekend, some folks in my sphere held a salon, with the topic being Truth.   There were a few presentations, but the most notable and mind blowing was one by a young university mathematician, who clued us in to the workings of mathematics, and of how some proofs are, in some sense, “more equal than others.”

The idea of this was a bit shocking.  There are some mathematical proofs, as Paul Erdős, has said, that are “in the Book;” some that are so elegant that, “if you don’t believe in God, you can at least believe in the Book.”  We’ve all seen beautiful proofs, say, of the infinity of primes, or the Pythagorean theorem, but when math starts to get in nosebleed territory, things can go awry, and awry fast.

In one set of papers shown  (on “Tarksi’s Decidability Problem”),  one paper, in response to another, even refers to the classic line, “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”  Not exactly the stuff you find in high-end academic mathematics papers.  You may not be able to follow the math, but you can certainly follow the vitriol.  That there are controversies in science isn’t new; the theory of continental drift that Wegener put forth wasn’t accepted widely until the middle of the 20th century, and there are other examples as well.  Perhaps what made my eyes go wide (like that of the lecturer at this salon) was that in some fashion (even in spite of things like Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which was known to me) mathematics still had a sense of ‘pureness’ about it.   So long as that some axioms were assumed together, the rest would follow, and  some sort of common knowledge could be arrived at.   Mathematicians, of course, are human, and subject to the same forces as the rest of us, and even the logic of mathematics cannot always survive Flatland, selfishness, and ego.

This all may seem trivial, given what we “know” to be true, regarding our common predicaments.   It does point up, however, that even in something seemingly as abstract and ‘pure’ as mathematics, that there are controversies, and they can get pretty heated at times.

One trick answer, and a few questions:

  • For the record, 1+1 = 2.  Or 10, depending on your counting base!
  • Is this sort of high-altitude mathematical quibbling about how many angels are dancing on the head of a pin any use to us?   The one example that comes to mind is that yes, it may have an incredible impact on us.  If someone could prove (or disprove) some mathematical conjectures regarding prime numbers, this might affect things such as encryption, the backbone of our modern computerized world.
  • Is there any field that is honest about their own biases?   The one that comes to mind is Buddhism; one great quote they’ve got is, “If Science proves us wrong, we will change.”  Any others out there?