Automata

I am a machine that measures the circumstances that surround me and reacts to these circumstances according to the preprogrammed response options available to me as determined by my individual system design. I exist, but I am not [real] in the sense that I have supreme autonomy over any facet of my circumstances. I may have limited mobility in certain situations which present decision-making opportunities, but the possible decision options are absolutely contingent upon my relative circumstances, the inherent considerations of that specific system design which is measuring the surrounding circumstances, and the finite, predisposed, and trained response mechanisms accessible to that system.

If system design is radically altered, measurement is significantly affected to the extent that available response mechanisms will no longer be appropriately matched to the causal circumstances as presented. This is to say that, while to an external observer (control) situational conditions may appear unchanged, if the measuring system is altered while the response configuration remains static relative to any such system alteration, elicited responses will cease to maintain the previously demonstrated correlation to their causal phenomena. Thus, one then finds upon self-diagnostic reflection that although all measurement and response systems appear to be functioning properly, all forms of communication are rendered impotent as a consensus regarding the definition of symbols cannot be established.

Cafe News – Vol. 2

I had the dream again the very next day. It was the same dream, except this time she was in it, which I can tell you really sucked. I didn’t think I would ever have the dream about her. I think it was my guilty conscience, or I should say I hoped it was, because I really didn’t want it to turn out to be true with her like it had with the rest of them.

Actually, I don’t even know anymore, what’s true and what’s not. I don’t even know if I care. Mostly, I just sit around getting high. The problem there is, having commenced from a point so low, said elevation typically only brings me back to par.

I don’t even know what I would do if I did get what I wanted. As if I could ever figure out what it is I want. Basically, I’ve come to realize I’m full of shit. Not that it matters, because everyone is, but I always told myself I was a cut above the rest. Unfortunately, it was true. I am clearly capable of achieving absolutely exceptional examples of self-deception.

In theory, I aspire to find a girl who adores me and would never let a shred of doubt enter my mind. She would be hot enough to keep me interested but not so hot that everybody was, and she would have sex with me every night so I could sleep without the dreams. I’m getting awful sick of the dreams.

Maybe if I could sleep without the dreams I’d have the time or the energy or the inclination to concentrate on the important stuff. But probably not. I’m sure I’d just continue wasting what little time I have like I’ve always done. I try to rationalize it, blame it on appearances, but the truth of the matter is I’m a self-righteous hypocrite. Maybe we all are, but I don’t see that being much of a defense, as we face alone our reckoning.

Sometimes I wish I had paid more attention to the classics. I read and reread all of the important ones, the Greek myths, Le Morte d’Arthur, Shakespeare. I read them, yet somehow I missed the message. No one is safe. Even a sword pulled from stone is insufficient protection. We are all betrayed from the start. It is fundamental to our condition.

Of course it was true. The human mind, to leave off the heart and soul but for their obvious inclusion, is incapable of invention. We are the greatest of plagiarists, confident in awarding ourselves a most undeserved pat on the back for our presumed originality. As soon as I awoke from the dream, I knew it as certainly as I knew anything. It was true, or would prove to be so, given time. I hated the world and everything in it, including myself. I skipped work and went straight to the cafe. Even if they really needed me, which they clearly didn’t, my fellow employees, to say nothing of the customers, would find my absence infinitely more palatable than my attitude.

Jobs and People Talking About Them Should Be Avoided

Be very wary of anyone talking about jobs or the need to create them. Jobs are vestigial organs of the capitalist era and are no longer a relevant concern for any reasonable person. Anyone speaking of them should be considered suspect. Real leaders speak only of livelihood and the work that needs to be done. A job means that someone is using you to accomplish their ends; the livelihood you derive from accomplishing those ends is a consequence, an unnecessary byproduct, a cost that the corporatist would prefer to eliminate – in fact, has a fiduciary duty to minimize. Yes, there are jobs, in the sense of a specific project that a construction company might bid on, an encapsulated endeavor to accomplish, having finite specifications and a beginning and an end. But the notion of jobs, as a requisite interface between human beings and their livelihood, is archaic.

Reflections

The thing about our time is that these constructs we interact with online are not real but virtual, so they are merely reflections of ourselves. We don’t like a YouTuber; we like what that YouTuber says about us. There is something about ourselves that we see in them. That is what we like. A reflection that we identify with.

Extinction Rebellion Isn’t About Climate Change

It is funny how the universe delivers us all the right things. Or perhaps it is just our penchant for recognizing patterns that makes it seem so. In either case, it is remarkable how often the signals come through the noise exactly when we need them to.

Only recently I began thinking how the outcries around climate change and mass extinction were actually manifestations of a greater longing, that of a need to transcend our previous modes of social organization — tribes and kingdoms, empires and nation-states — to create a new, planetary entente, one that treated the rest of life on earth, not as competitors, but as fellow stakeholders in a common enterprise.

Then I came across this:

“Such problems both require and provide opportunities for learning new ways of problem solving as a global society.”

It was in a paper titled “Carbon dioxide from fossil fuels” by Kan Chen, Richard C. Winter, and Michael K. Bergman, published December 1980 in the journal Energy Policy. I would never have known anything about it were it not for the fact that Google served a Scientific American article that referenced it up to me. The first two sentences of the abstract alone are enough to make one place their head in their hands and weep.

If present scientific information is reasonable, the world is likely to experience noticeable global warming by the beginning of the next century if high annual growth rates of fossil fuel energy use continue. Only with optimistic assumptions and low growth rates will carbon-dioxide-induced temperature increases be held below 2°C or so over the next century.

I first heard the term ‘global warming’ in January 1990. We were just pulling into the small town in northwestern Montana where I grew up, having spent the holidays visiting my father’s family in southern California. My brother Jeb, an avid skier, was looking out the window of the ragged Ford van my dad’s band used to haul their equipment around, his profile silhouetted by the reddish glow of high pressure sodium lights. There was hardly any snow.

“God damn global warming,” he said. I was stunned. I had never heard him swear.

Global warming. I didn’t know what it was, precisely, but I had heard it mentioned enough times, had collected enough data somewhere in the back of my mind, that I understood what he was referring to. But I was 17, and much more concerned with getting together with my girlfriend after being gone for ten days than how much snow was on the ground, or why. I believed in peak oil and thought that would be the first catastrophe that our petroleum fueled economy would visit upon us. Cars were woven into the very fabric of American society, especially for a teenage boy growing up in rural Montana in the latter part of the 20th Century, and there was no reason to expect we would abandon them.

But still. My brother’s words haunted me. Global warming. He seemed so sure of it.

My brother Jeb is a scientist, and he doesn’t talk much. When he does, he is usually correct, at least in the sense that he has his facts straight. Unlike me, he doesn’t draw many conclusions. Once, I asked him to make a judgement on a matter of ecology, one that he had been studying for the previous five or so years. His response: “Need more data.”

As it turned out, he was correct in attributing the lack of snow to global warming. Not only that, he was referencing a scientific theory that was already a decade old, at the very least, a well-documented one that had very little need for ‘more data’. This wasn’t knowledge I should have had some vague recollection of. It was a fundamental law of physics underlying the current, past, and future existence of life on earth.

And yet I still don’t think that global warming is what this is really all about.

(By the way, I don’t call it climate change, and I don’t think it was a good idea to pivot away from the original term. Climates change. The issue at hand is that the earth is warming, beyond that narrow (Overton, for those buzzwordy among us) window for which the current crop (yes, I did that deliberately) of life forms on earth is adapted, which will likely cause another ice age following a brutal period of excessive heat. I don’t know if changing it was a PR play on the part of the science community or a psyop on the part of the sequestered energy industry, but, in either case, we should go back to global warming. And we should repurpose Nancy Reagan’s infamous ‘Brain on Drugs’ ad in doing so. “This is the Earth. This is the Earth on sequestered energy.”)

There was a time, when we lived as tribes, that, should you range too far from the group alone, you stood a high likelihood of encountering another tribe and being either captured or killed. Later, that fear expanded to include assault by army or boat, culminating in the threat of a thermonuclear weapon (or precision drone strike) incinerating you without your ever even knowing it was there.

Somewhere in the middle of all that (right around that atomic bomb point, in fact), that fear went from being a valid one, to being absurd.

There is never going to be another global conflagration. I have said this elsewhere, and you may tire of hearing it, but I will never tire of saying it. They aren’t my words, I borrow them from Dwight D. Eisenhower, who presided over the last great war to end all wars. A cliche, except this time, it really was.

“The only way to win the next world war is to prevent it.”

— Dwight D. Eisenhower at a rally in the Civic Auditorium, Seattle, Washington, October 17, 1956

During World War Two, and certainly throughout every single conflict we engaged in since, we traded with our enemy. What this means, in an economic sense, is that this wasn’t a war that needed fighting.

Fast forward to today, and we are so entangled in a web of global supply chains and overseas markets that a world war would not only be unthinkable, but infeasible. Who would ally with and supply whom, and to what end? And who would fight it?

In times past, we were limited in our knowledge of the world outside our own by a singular limiting factor, the horizon. We had notions about what was on the other side of the mountains or the sea, but the only way to test their validity was to physically move beyond that horizon. Today, we not only know what is on the other side of the Pacific Ocean (it’s Asia, in case you were wondering. I just looked on Google Earth), we can observe it remotely in real time, or at least get eyewitnesses accounts (the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming — they should be there in 18 hours or so).

“What we do not understand, we fear. What we fear, we judge as evil. What we judge as evil, we attempt to control. What we cannot control … we attack.”

— Author unknown

The thing is, we understand just about everything, at least about what’s lurking over the hill. Thus, we have nothing to fear, nothing to control, nothing to attack. The Chinese or Russians have no more need to fear our attacking them than we do their attacking us. Again, the preeminent Dwight D. Eisenhower:

I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.

Which brings us back to global warming. Our concerns about global warming are as much about the potential for it to shake this final and tenable peace as they are about its very real physical dangers. That existential threat — of crop failures or an outbreak of some virulent pandemic — posed by climate change is real, but the potential for violent conflict brought on by fears arising from that threat, aroused or otherwise, even more so.

But does that mean we should arm ourselves and prepare to defend our shrinking coastlines, flooded crop lands, and drying wells from hordes of climate refugees fleeing even worse off places? Or better yet, launch a preemptive strike and rid the world 3 billion CO2 spewing East Asians? I realize there are voices in the crowd, loud ones, crazy ones even, that say ‘yes, that, exactly’. But the answer is no.

What we need to do, have to do — what I would argue we truly long to do — is reach out, despite our fear of the unknown (because we can never really know what is going on in the minds of people halfway around the world, even with the technological wizardry of CNN and the International Space Station at our fingertips), and extend the olive branch of peace to say, “we understand that we share this world with you and we want to figure out how we can best do that”.

This, more than anything, is what is driving movements such as Sunrise and Extinction Rebellion and whatever similar such movements in Russia and cloistered China and the Muslim world call themselves. The concern isn’t with global warming. It can’t be; we’ve had 40 years to do something about that and have done nothing but make it worse. The concern is with missing the opportunity to finally free ourselves from the fear and distrust and competition that have so long shackled us and to begin crafting a collaborative commonwealth that does justice to the magnificent gift that is planet earth and the existence of life upon it.

The rebellion isn’t about stopping climate change, even though that has become the latest in its rallying cries. The rebellion is much older than that, easily dating back to the times of Christ and Buddha, probably to the very dawn of civilization itself. It is an expression of our collective desire to move beyond these governments, these oligarchs, these nationalists, these fascists, these cultural norms and primeval instincts, to realize our true nature and answer the call for love and kinship that resounds within us.

Blockchain Eliminates the Need for Intermediaries

The reason no one can find a business model for blockchain is because blockchain eliminates most business models.

The strongest use case is the simplest, and the one most often overlooked. The beauty of the blockchain is in its decentralization and the empowerment that decentralization confers. No longer is anyone forced to defer their personal sovereignty to that of some central authority. On the blockchain, each of us can remain autonomous while still participating in the commons.

Participation is the currency of our decentralized future. Want to join a network? Then you must host the network, if only that very data you desire to contribute.

No longer will you provide your personal data to some third party, to host and serve back to you at their convenience. Each individual will maintain their virtual identity on their own “cloud”, sharing it with other networks when and how they see fit. My feed — photos, messages, interactions — will live on my device or personal server, which will serve it to those that call it through the Facebook of the Future, in only such a manner as I have enabled. My funds, my titles of ownership, my health history, will all reside with me, to be called and served however, and only, as I choose.

The validity of these assets will be assured by the distributed ledger. There will be no disputing who holds title to a piece of property. No government or title company will be required to hold or confer it. Record of its ownership will be immutably maintained on every computer in the world.

Our problem with the blockchain is not that use cases for it cannot be found. To the contrary. Its problem is that it changes everything. It makes old methods obsolete, and any attempt to create a use case within the context of our legacy systems falls apart in the face of this fact.

The problem lies not with the blockchain. It lies with us.

Power Is the Problem, Not Privacy

Originally, this piece began as a response to Tobias Stone’s article Your Privacy is Over, but apparently, in addition to dark places to hide, Mr. Stone also enjoys exercising the power to squash dissenting opinions. And since responding to articles on Medium is really just a vain attempt to get noticed anyway, it’s probably best that I simply post it here.

If you haven’t read Stone’s article, please, give it a read (and some claps, if you’re into that shit). It’s super paranoid, defeatist, and great. For some context, I’ll summarize.

Soon quantum computers will be able to access and analyze everything about you, whether you posted it voluntarily or it was scraped from the giant Data Warehouse of Pervasive Surveillance in the sky. To quote,

“Not only will you have no privacy in the future — any privacy you thought you had in the past will vanish as well.”

While I agree that our current society is unfamiliar with such a paradigm, I struggle with the idea now circulating that privacy is the default, that we are somehow losing something that was previously inherent to the human condition.

In actuality, the reverse is true. Early societies lived almost wholly without privacy. And they were better off for it. In terms of a well functioning society, utter transparency is preferable to total privacy.

Now I grant that the situation to which the esteemed Mr. Stone alludes is a somewhat different dynamic than that of a small tribe of nomads. Still it seems that what he is really saying is that a tiny cohort of elite will be able to know everything about all of us, and that they will use that knowledge to their advantage. Which is an entirely different issue than whether or not complete transparency is a good thing.

The question then, in my mind, is not how we might conceal our imprudence, but who are these individuals and entities we’ve enabled to weaponize our own actions against us? And why are we allowing them this power?

Again, to quote Stone,

“Ultimately, everything will be tracked by the state, connected by ever more sophisticated algorithms, run on ever more powerful computers, until dissent becomes impossible and there is no escape. How do you oppose a system like that?”

By refusing to accept its legitimacy, for starters.

As Mr. Stone points out, this is the new reality, and it’s not going away. But it should be noted that these are our actions we’re talking about, and we should be accountable for them. In this sense, pure transparency is a benefit to society. The literal eye of God, motivating us to be the person we know we should be. It’s a mental construct humans have utilized for millennia, only made material. I’m not convinced I need to be afraid of it. And I certainly don’t believe that the solution lies in creating ways for people to avoid it.

In a Motherboard piece, Jason Koebler makes the case that we should, if not actively safeguard it, at least not naively cede our genetic code to large, centralized data stores. While this is generally wise advice, what it does more than anything is illustrate the real cause for concern. From a biological standpoint, our DNA is an immutable fact. It cannot be meditatively altered or changed, post conception, even if I wanted to. It is who I am. So why should I fear its being common knowledge?

Because someone might use it against me.

This is the issue we ought be focused on, not privacy. Why do we condone, if not actively substantiate, a society where such behavior is tolerated? A society in which these types of activities are not only allowed, but requisite and rewarded?

This is what concerns me, not the likely disturbing abstract of my personality that could be created from my Google search history. Surely any true friends of mine will grant me that minor indiscretion, and, in fact, already do.