Category Archives: Uncategorized

Message in a bottle

 

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Message_in_a_bottle#/media/File:Flaschenpost.jpg

The future is coming, whether we like it or not.  Some of us might bow out early, due to environment, catastrophe, heated interpersonal squabbling, or just a tiredness of life.   If you are around for the long haul, you might reach an age where most of the way the world works today is a distant memory.  Automobiles, aircraft, Internet – all could be gone, or reduced.  Or, they might exist for decades, failing in the stair-step way that has been discussed elsewhere.

Due to the nature of our society, a great deal of what we’ve got is in digital form.  Our pictures, our words (including this rant) may not survive.  And if they do survive, it will be a pretty interesting read for whoever is around to do the reading.

In my own paper-based correspondence, especially with younger relatives, my habit is to always make reference to the current state of affairs; politics, environment, business, adventures, daily life.   It makes for a more philosophical letter, and hopefully, a better read.  Perhaps some future descendant will find some of the ideas alien, but may also see some commonalities with our world.  It’s kind of neat, writing to the future.

Questions

  • What do you want to say to future folks or creatures?
  • Would you apologize?  Or ask for forgiveness?  Or just give a description of the world as it is now?
  • Do you think it will help them understand us, or help them avoid our fate?
  • Have you read letters from older relatives or ancestors?  Do they tell of mundane things, or do they talk of war, social unrest, moon landings, and other historical things, blended in with regular items of personal interest?

These short essays are getting shorter, yes.  There seems to be less left to say.

Starship Troopers

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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starship_Troopers#/media/File:Starship_Troopers_(novel).jpg

Last week, a comment was made about some sort of national service being reinstated in the United States.   One novel that encapsulates a lot of that thought is Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.   Starship Troopers gets a lot of flack, yes, but a good part of the book deals with the commitment to a common cause.  Having a society that thinks that having people commit to a worthwhile and useful common cause, either by serving in uniform, serving as a volunteer crossing guard, or helping run a library does seem prudent.  Helping run a library isn’t being on the front lines; very few folks die in the book stacks.   Yet some sort of common vision does seem to be required in order to make sure things stay on track.  Nation-states may go the way of the dodo, as large systems naturally collapse, but community service and community thinking, as many cli-fi and other near-future fiction stories have opined, isn’t a bad thing at all, and will always be the ultimate currency.

A colleague this week made an interesting comment/observation.  The idea may be old, but the phrase that was used was new to me;  “The reason corporations are so corporate,” they said, was that “they have replaced trust with rules.”  Likewise, it attempts to replace real  community with things like stock options.    An interesting observation, and something that makes a lot of sense.

Questions:

  • What level of commitment do you need to feel like you are serving the common good?   What is the level of commitment that everyone needs to make a society work?   Can you have a measure of such devotion and worldview?
  • How do you get people to become community minded, when they aren’t?
  • How does community-mindedness fall by the wayside?  When a system allows money, rather than trust to be its main currency?
  • Just as we have cycles of history, with empires rising and falling, we’ve got cycles of trust, where in some time periods, people don’t trust outsiders, and in others, they do a bit more.  Is this just due to resource issues and the programming of our Flatland monkey brains?

 

New Laws

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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

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“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?