Civilization is a FRAUD – What’s so civilized about it?

 

‘The “civilized” have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their “vital interests” are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death; these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the “sanctity” of human life, or the conscience of civilized world.’  —James Baldwin

POVERTY IS A TOOL

It is in this writer’s opinion poverty, poverty as we know it in the modern world and in the modern sense, does not need to exist.

It is a byproduct of lifestyles, of policies, of politics, of psychologies driven through conscious and unconscious selections. But in recent centuries, the means to abolish poverty came to mean it was possible for humanity to share the wealth among its members, producing an age where poverty did not exist. Despite the occasional protestations about the end of the world or the world’s inability to support growing populations, Humanity continued to exist and grow. And grow more unequal.

Instead of growing more equal and egalitarian, society took a subtle but unpleasant turn toward selfishness, toward personal gain, toward greed and instead of abolishing poverty, poverty was embraced and recognized as a tool by those in control.

Poverty has been weaponized in modern society.

  • Debt is the ultimate expression of power in this, our capitalist-focused pretense of a civilization;
  • Fantastic (as in imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality, definition) personal wealth has become the ultimate billy club, the ultimate expression of force, more powerful than any legal system.
  • The creation of socialized debt and poverty manufacture has become more enabling than any political power. More subtle than the quietly offered bribe and more invasive. More influential than any kind of charismatic leadership.
  • Money has become the ultimate aphrodisiac, lubricant, and problem-solver as long as the problem requires lots of money to be thrown at it, in perpetuity, with subsidies for all (who deserve them and know how to lobby to get them).

Combine the use of weaponized poverty by the fantastically rich who use their wealth to create opportunities of social imbalance:

  • Creating a “need” for education in the workforce while at the same time “providing” the resource at an exorbitant price, driving everyone into debt to participate due to the inescapable “requirement” for a degree to be had by everyone, even if you’re just serving fries across a counter in a fast-food franchise.
  • Altering a police structure from a “protect and serve” environment of civil service to a “fee collection service” managed by local government in place to offset taxes no longer collected against the wealthy and now subsidized instead by taking even more from the already cash-strapped lower-class citizens of major metropolises already struggling to just stay in the rat race.
  • Driving people to homelessness with any interaction with the civil system from a parking ticket to a speeding ticket. Any time a citizen in one of these cities meets a cop, there is a fee involved that will take away anywhere from a day to a week’s worth of pay in one interaction.
  • With most people living just a paycheck from homelessness, to meet the police may be to greet your harbinger to homelessness or even outright criminality as you are forced to choose between feeding your family or paying a fine to avoid getting a bench warrant which will eventually end in your arrest.
  • Creating a medical and health system so imbalanced that millions of people will go into debt through no fault of their own because the medical industry cannot be bothered with tracking and regulating itself so that people can find themselves in debt without even knowing it after a visit to the hospital that might have been thought to be covered by insurers.
  • Meanwhile entire food industries are enriched by the creation of food-like products from industrial food processes which create and exacerbate health problems in societies across the world, shortening lifespans, reducing quality of life and driving people into the arms of a corrupt medical-industrial complex only too happy to capitalize on the dying while making no efforts to change the systems which create these sicknesses in the first place.
  • The medical industry is little more than an accomplice in this orgy of food-product devastation across the planet.

People starve in lands of plenty, eating food that isn’t food, creating lives which end sooner, with a poorer quality of life. If the Sword of Damocles could be asked, it would be embarrassed by abundance of the damned dancing beneath it’s ominous shadow.

A PAUCITY OF JUSTICE

We have the dual justice system adding insult to injury in the lives of those not rich enough to buy JUSTICE and instead are forced to mutter beneath their breaths when the issue of the who the punitive aspects of our legal system are for.

They can reply unequivocally, “just us”.

Everyone who is worth less than a million dollars can agree, just as easily as the news media parades a multitude of cases before you, showing how the wealthy pay a fine when involved in atrocities that destroy the lives of millions and how the poor, even when they are engaged in non-violent, non-lethal crimes can find themselves arrested for upwards of three decades.

They are slaved out to corporate farms, fire-fighting teams, industrial widget builders and thralls-for-hire. Even when the murderer is clearly in the wrong for an act poorer men have hung for, somehow, an excuse, a malady real or imagined (i.e. affluenza) will excuse the wealthy from the punishments assigned to the rest of us.

Being poor in America is having a greater and greater meaning as the systems once used to bring prosperity to the masses creating a middle-class are dismantled under the guise of “de-regulation” when those regulations were put in place to protect all of us from the greed of capitalism run amok, unregulated, unconcerned with the effects of its rapacious growth on the environment, society, and ultimately upon itself as it strip-mines the people whom it needs to buy its products and services.

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‘The man most likely to want to lead government, such as it is, the man most likely to believe government has to do more with what’s in his pocket than in is heart or head, also tends to be the least fit to do so. This delusion should be satisfied by electing such folk as dog walkers, given a collection of various animals according to their nature and ushered out to perform a civic duty they are so aptly suited for.’ —Mark Twain (he didn’t say this, but I think he would have!)

WHAT ARE WE DOING?

Is the final goal of this engine of capitalism to leave nothing but the scorched earth behind it as it absorbs the fruits and the bodies of its laborers toiling in conditions just shy of legally-sanction criminality, under the guise of double-digit corporate growth?

Is the goal to leave no natural rain forest unmolested, no oil-bearing shale deposit unmined, no natural resource unexploited for the sake of the next billion-unit gadget being sold to help folks masturbate virtually?

Is the goal to say “we are so wealthy, the environment doesn’t matter, burning carbon doesn’t matter, clean oceans bereft of all life, doesn’t matter; human lives where people have dignity, respect, education, a sense of worth and belonging to viable communities, doesn’t matter?”

Is the goal to remind us that all of the things we see in the media exist to serve the capitalist agenda of selling products, moving goods and ultimately pandering to created needs using propaganda, commercials and social manipulation of memes until people are willing to go into debt for the latest iGadget, no matter how many times a year it’s upgraded.

Is the goal really to say to everyone involved in this grand experiment of humanity to say “fuck you if you weren’t born wealthy or aren’t ruthless enough to sell your fellow humans up the river for your personal benefit?”

Is this why Pope Francis pisses everyone off? Because he has the temerity to point out to everyone who uses the teachings of the church as a cover for their cultural duplicity that he, as the titular head of that church, will not sit idly by and provide cover for their reprehensible behavior?

The Pope reminds us:

  • Climate change is bad and we know it. We can lie and say “we’re not sure, but we truly already know its bad and saying anything but that is disingenuous at best.
  • Punishing the poor for being poor, throwing them in jail, pushing them out of their homes is not Christian. Hell no it’s not. Nor is bringing back debtor’s prisons or redlining, or the prison-industrial complex. Making people poor and then arresting them for being poor is criminal.
  • Hydraulic fracturing? How do you square the circle of saying we would rather have oil than water, when there are already millions around the world without enough water?
  • Aren’t there corporations with no problem risking fresh water for millions of people deeming their lives less important than the billions of dollars to be made by using that water to get access to fossil fuels we could, if we were forward thinking, be putting aside for something better, using renewable energies instead.

THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU

This part is for my Sisters and Brothers out there who I trust have figured it out by now. America’s amble bosom does not provide equal nurturing for all her citizens. “With Liberty and Justice” for those who are properly connected and doing what the established system of inequality deems is your place to be.

People say its because the dominant subculture doesn’t take People of Color seriously and that is why they ignore us in the media.

While I use the term People of Color, I realize it is more inclusive to say anyone who isn’t part of the lucky sperm club. If you weren’t born rich, you are the problem and the system does take you seriously.

You are not necessarily a problem individually. After all, you are an individual without much in the way of resources, it’s only when you are part of a larger movement do they acknowledge you. But they have figured out how to keep those movements from happening. See: Occupy.

You see, they take us quite seriously and we are a far greater threat than we realize to them. You don’t marginalize an enemy that doesn’t matter.

You ignore him.

When you systematically make an effort to undermine a particular enemy, demonize him, incarcerate him, kill him, destroy his family, take his women, undermine his way of life, this is how you get rid of an enemy you fear.

If the system is doing that to YOU or someone in the public sphere, they fear them. They fear their power, their influence, their ability to generate a viral idea which might unseat them.

Their fear is of a Black Planet. Genetically speaking we are already a Black Planet since all life started in Africa but what they fear is the visual confirmation of something that already exists and will only continue from this point forward, unless in their minds, they do something about it.

Part of this article came about because of the deaths in Nigeria and why they haven’t managed to draw the attention of the deaths of the cartoonists in France this week.

They didn’t pay attention to Black deaths because, to them, they don’t matter. They never have. Likely, if current trends remain constant, they never will.

Since the end of “chattel slavery” the dominant subculture has done everything possible to attempt to return to the days of free labor. All of its “engines of progress” are simply other ways finding new ways to reduce the cost of labor which can be 50% of all costs for a business.

In other words, how can we make people work for less?

Slavery was the most effective means of wealth-building the United States and the world has ever known. And though it isn’t talked about in polite company, know organizations around the world are trying to find new ways of exploiting a worldwide workforce, without paying for it. See: “TransPacific Partnership”.

“Respectability politics” has never meant anything to the dominant subculture. Even when People of Color were self-supporting and maintained our own separate but equal facilities, towns, places we could call our own, they were never content to leave us in peace.

The bottom line is simple and few of us want to accept it. Racism is an economic ploy, not just a social one. It has allowed entire industries to blossom on the backs of bigotry, hatred and cultural appropriation and destruction.

Note the recent police “slowdown” in New York City where with the reduced activity of the police in across the city, our people are spending less time being arrested, harassed and cited, being forced to spend our already weakened dollars on fines, fees and defenses against a city using the poorest members to fill its coffers.

Adding insult to injury a recent news article by Reuters reports that lawyers and bail bondsmen are experiencing “economic hardship” because the police were funding their “industry” with arrests from our community. (http://www.reuters.com/…/us-usa-police-arrests...) What happened to the question of whether there should be as many of these services in the first place?

What needs to be understood is this: Poverty is a weapon. When you can control what a man earns and how he spends it, you can control all aspects of his life, his future and direct it in whatever fashion you want.

If we want to be more independent of this negative cultural control, we must find a way to free ourselves from the economic hegemony being exercised on our backs. Our children need to step away from the TV and get back to the basics.

Mastery of skills, mastery of self, preparation for the future, first by being educated and second by avoiding the media engine designed to undermine self-esteem, self-worth and self-determination.

Unless we can shake off our generations of “induced poverty” and “media-mentality” we have no chance of making effective strides in this society. If you wonder why nothing appears to change, that is the reason. There’s no profit in treating you as a person, with dignity, respect and a sense of individual purpose and wealth.

You are much more valuable as a brain-damaged, suffering, emotional wreck, barely able to pay your bills, willing to get into debt across the entire span of your life. Early in your life, with college debt, with a house in your middle years (if you’re lucky) and with numerous organ transplants or cancer treatments when you’re old.

They want to make money on you from the cradle to the grave.

Would you like fries with that?

Change Yourself, Then Save the World

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“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
~~ Tolstoy

It’s unavoidable. It is your destiny…

Emperor Palpatine’s words to Luke Skywalker resonate with everyone who heard them because from the time we are young children, we are told we can change the world. It is something everyone grows up considering to be part of their personal manifesto.

Television adds to this mental framework showing us how it’s possible to acquire instant fame (just add water and social media), motivational gurus tell us we need to put it out into the universe and the universe will change to accommodate our desires (Pay for my secret methods, he says, it will help you get rich, he says.) Usually the only person getting rich is the guru. We are lead to believe changing the world is a simply want it to be different.

I suspect the problem with changing the world starts with this simple quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

Cassius:
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

Shakespeare hoped to convince his viewers that it’s not fate that determines our future. It’s our personal volition to take charge of our lives. This is where we come in to contact with an inherent instability in the system. Everyone wants to change the world to suit their perspective of it. Politicians believe they can lie the world into a shape they can control. Warlords believe they can kill their way to the top. Media stars dream of entertaining their way into power. Each believes their talent, their genius is just what the world needs.

If we’re so smart, why are things so screwed up?

Humanity is blessed and cursed with the idea that it is the most clever creature to have ever lived on Earth. We believe we have created technologies and systems so advanced that in a few years, they may begin thinking for themselves.

Unfortunately, while we postulate on the ideas of singularity and transcendence, quantum computers and the beginnings of the Universe, we wage war all over the planet.

We allow people who could be fed, to starve; we dump pollution everywhere in a consumer-driven orgy to create products out of flora and fauna alike. We turn living things into dead things for money and profit.

Makes you question how smart we think we are, doesn’t it?

While the ability to turn natural things into something that can be sold may be laudable and financially lucrative, it has cost us something, a thing so vital and yet so ephemeral, we don’t even recognize that we have lost it.

We have lost our connection to each other.

More importantly, we have lost our connection to ourselves.

Our cooperative drive to make the lives of other people better has been subsumed by our urge to read about Celebrity X or follow Basement Cat and Ceiling Cat memes.

We have turned the trivial into the important and the important has been hidden so the wealthy can acquire more wealth they can never spend, put greater distance between each other in their private enclaves on the hill.

This is an untenable future.

One where we watch the world burn, onscreen, in real-time, in the comfort of our homes, while forests are clear-cut, while children are enslaved, while coral reefs starve and great elephants are cut down for their tusks to make art and penile-enhancement poultices.

It’s not too late to make a difference.

By choosing to be connected to live people, to be invested in their lives and have their lives affect mine. By defying what has been said to be the natural order of things. By resisting the urge to hide, to cower in fears created by others, telling me how to live. I have helped people without profit being the primary goal.

I have changed the world, incrementally, one mind at a time. As a teacher and mentor, my goal is to change people touching one heart at a time. Sharing that transformation with others who see things need to change.

Most importantly, I am making the changes in me, I want to see in the world. I am aware of the constant need for personal change. You cannot make the world better if you choose to support the ideas that are corrupting it in the first place.

I have changed the world by teaching. By learning. My students are aware of the insidious nature of corporate powers who seek to demean them, imprison their minds, their hearts and their creativity in a never-ending cycle of consumption.

My students question authority. Even mine. They ask questions. They challenge all pretenses of authority, requiring it to validate itself through reason, through discourse, through interaction.

The modern world does its level best to prevent our youth from knowing anything; in the United States we price education beyond the reach of most. Those forces now realize if they can keep you clicking your smartphone in a self-celebratory masturbation, they can steal the future from beneath your feet.

The world cannot be changed by any single individual. That way lies madness. The only single individual you can change is you. Being the best you, that you can be will lend itself toward changing the world by proximity.

Change the World by Changing You

Release yourself from the mental prison so crafty created for you. Stop following worthless celebrities who produce nothing; your obsession with them absorbs your most precious of resources. The one thing you have a fixed and finite amount of and can never recover no matter how rich you become…

Your time.

Use your time, wisely. Read works that transform how you think. Experience life, share what you have with others, get out and see the world. Make your relationship to the world one you are excited about.

See the world as something worth having, worth saving. You can only save something you value.

Connect to people, not just on the internet, but in person. See them. Feel them. Know them. Become one with their dreams; value their hopes and ambitions the same way you value YOURS.

You see, in this lies the saving of the world.

If we spent less time finding differences, creating emotional disconnects, promoting fear and loathing, separation for exploitation sake, demonization of our unique natures, we would learn a truth those in power don’t ever want us to know:

We are more alike than different. That our collective fates lie in the hands of each other, more than anyone who believes they have power over us.

In truth, we are not trying to save the world. If science is to be believed, the world has existed for four billion years. It has had six extinction events where nearly all life on Earth was extinguished. Put in a different way, 90% of all Life that has ever walked the Earth has died.

And yet it is still here, teeming with billions of lifeforms engaging in a delicate dance of living and dying in harmony.

It is likely, that even if we make the Earth an inhospitable ball of burning of burning toxic waste, killing all of humanity, the world will find an equilibrium and return to being as fecund as it always has.

We are not trying to save the world.

We are trying to save ourselves – from extinction.

Be protean, be open to changing yourself. Be willing to adapt how you see people you don’t know. Eat a meal you do not know, with a person you didn’t know yesterday. Such ripples are what the future is made of.

So often the complaint goes something like this: “Changing myself won’t make a difference and I sure as hell don’t have any faith in man to change on its on in my lifetime or the next. Evil exist and controls this world. People are sheep, lead by the elite programmed, manipulated, divided, structured in such a way to serve them. You are Borg, you are assimilated, resistance is futile. Just my humble opinion.”

No one asked you to change your mind, you are free to stay exactly the same as you are. But Einstein had a point: “You cannot change the world with the mind that created it.” The future comes from thinking differently, creatively. “Imagination is greater than Intelligence.”

People are often sheep, but not all of them: Fighting back takes will, independence, strength of spirit and character. Things most people don’t realize they even possess until something forces it out of them.

Evil IS prevalent but not OMNIPRESENT: The fact you can make your statement and not find a neo-Gestapo police force breaking down your door for making it means it is still a world where choices can be had.

People ARE divided but still find time for what they think is important: Judging from the quiet protests in the streets, some people are UNITING for a better world.

We are not Borg. If we were, we would all be doing the same thing, in the same ways, with no need for things like social media to share our perspectives. We would already be one large Hive Mind working toward a common goal of absorbing other intelligences. NO. We are not Borg, yet.

Resistance is never futile. I can never be assimilated because I will not allow it. Assimilation is about choice. You can choose to stand there and say, it is impossible to change the world.

You cannot hope to change the world until you are first master of your individual self. World changing comes when you are aware of your individual power to make change. Then change happens around you because you are centered and aware of the ability you have to make a difference.

Don’t change the world. Change yourself and make all the difference.

To quote Ashleigh Brilliant: “If you can’t change your mind, how do you know you still have one?”

Kill Your TV. It’s making you stupid.

Stupid TV

 

COMMENTARY / OPINION

Okay, that’s not fair. TV isn’t making everyone stupid but it IS making some of us, stupider by the second.

My writings on this site address some of these issues. Indeed the very name, A Matter of Scale talks about the fact our problems are no longer solvable by a single person, they have grown too large to address unless we are all involved. It is literally a matter of scale.

I probe into the questions of why we can do certain things like creating food on a massive scale, transforming it into any number of other forms and distributing it to people for what is an amazing economy of scale, while at the same time, we throw away food by the ton at our supermarkets and megastores while people all over the planet are suffering from starvation.

We don’t seem to see the contradiction.

We don’t seem to feel the suffering.

We have become disconnected from our humanity, our sense of feeling, our sense of responsibility.

Our sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves has eroded to just our family, the people we share a blood relationship to, or maybe our religious group who base our affinity on the invisible relationship we have to a divine being who may or may not exist. We devote our time, our energy, our efforts to THAT relationship while allowing our more reachable, touchable, necessary and mundane relationships to people outside of our blood to languish, to fail, to wither away, in some cases right before our very eyes; opportunities for love, laughter, and a life worth leading languishing on the vine.

I wanted to write something as touching as A. Person did, showing I understood his wrath at things like Game of Thrones, where people invest so much of their emotional capital into something that doesn’t exist. Where people are so upset about a thing that happened, not at all, anywhere, while real atrocities which would make the Red Wedding little more than an afternoon of fun for the whole family.

I am with him when people say to him that he is crazed for NOT participating in Game of Thrones, only the most pivotal television to have ever happened ever. Because like him, I say, it is not real.

Are you seeking treachery on the scale of Game of Thrones?

  • How about the financial institutions that gambled with the mortgages of millions of people and lost it all.
  • Then needing to be bailed out by the government, who is in actuality the voice and the money of the people.
  • Then to find out later, the banks would not only fail to be accountable to anyone regarding what happened, they would have a profit that made their previous earnings insignificant by comparison.
  • But the ultimate treachery was made manifest when banks, having been rescued by the government, the agency of the people, turned around and told the people who rescued them “‘Fuck Off’ you won’t be getting any help with your mortgage.”
  • Instead you will be put out of your home onto the street, and I, the banker, will still make money while you and your family rot, displaced and dispossessed, on the street, dodging the police for living in your car, struggling to keep your job and hold your family together and those same bankers will never know a day of drudgery or suffering ever again in their lives.
  • These same bankers will derail the economic policies of the nation by making sure what little regulation that might protect people from their predations in the future will NEVER happen.
  • This did not happen to a single family. This happened to MILLIONS of families. Amplify the anguish and suffering of the Red Wedding, score it like the Nielsen ratings and you would have had a show that would have had epic numbers. No show could compare with the anguish of the Red Financial Crisis of 2008. More people watched helplessly, more lives were affected negatively and more economic value was destroyed than any other financial event in the history of the world, including the Great Depression.

The Red Wedding was a mercy killing by comparison.

I wanted to let you know that as terrible as the Economic crisis of 2008 and its effects continue, there are still a multitude of things taking place out there we are still in denial about and television and its masters ensure we stay divided, broken, unfocused, and unable to marshal the will to make a difference.

  • Instead of a Clean Energy Age we are doubling down on the Remnant Fossil Fuel program, where we poison our environment draining the last of the fossil fuels from every last crevice in the ground to make as much money as possible while killing as many people now and in the future as possible.
  • We lose one Rhino and five lions a day. We also lose one Elephant an hour due to poaching. 15000 species which go into extinction every year while we increase the temperature of the Earth, poison and overfish the seas, and generally make a mad dash to convert the Commons into wealth for an elite few individuals.
  • I acknowledge my share of responsibility because while I am not wealthy, I do benefit tangentially from that wealth being generated by living in the US, a nation of vast and unequal wealth, though I enjoy none of it specifically.

Instead, I am going to let you watch this video which says what I would like to say to everyone. Instead of watching the fake Game of Thrones or Scandal or Law and Order SVU, you instead turn off your entertainment and watch more responsible news. See the events unfolding in your life, sure to affect you, your children and their children. Be the hero of your own story and fight for those unborn billions who WILL inherit a broken planet, displaced millions, and an economic system which will promote the very idea, if you aren’t already rich, you don’t matter. That if your ancestors did not find a way to exploit someone less capable, less rich, less intelligent, less educated, more ethical than they were, then they deserve the spot on the ladder Darwin made for them.

Know such thinking is a lie. Your value cannot and should not be determined by someone who is willing to burn you like a hunk of coal for their personal wealth.

You must value you and your potential contribution to the world. Your value isn’t solely determined by your physical beauty, your physical acumen in sports, or your intellectual capacity. It is determined by your humanity and your willingness to put yourself out for someone who has nothing to offer you but their thanks.

And in a perfect world, their thanks would be all that you would need to get on your way to the next person who needed your assistance.

Life is mean, brutish and short is the message of Game of Thrones. Our world replicates that quite nicely.

But the idea that it could be more is always there in all of our minds. That fairness is a possibility, helping your fellow man does NOT take food out of your mouth, being aware of where your food comes from does not make you less of a cool person. That saving animals, trees and our environment in general does not make you a tree-hugging liberal.

It makes you a decent person to think about what we do now affecting the future.

Stop listening to the lies. Trust the voice deep inside you buried under all of the failed aphorisms of television, of Darwin, of a dog-eat-dog world and know WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

But we have to stop listening to the lies being propagated to keep us poor, divided and uninformed. Kill your TV. Take your mind back. Change the world, one smile, one hand, one heart at a time. Game of Thrones can’t even compare to the feeling you get when you do.

The Great Global Distraction

Published by A Film for Action

Words by A. Person

Music, edits and talking by Jordan B.

Mashed footage used from various sources with credits to respective creators.

Connected with: You Get What You Pay For

The Workforce of The Future Could Be Tiny

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This was once the face of the Robot Apocalypse.

A terrifying unified metal organism crushing humanity under its robotic heel, exterminating the humans who once gave it life and whose robotic perfection could no longer tolerate our imperfect nature. We as humans have grown to fear this meme more than nearly any other; the machine finding humanity’s flaws a reason to remove us from the Earth. Okay, perhaps that was a fictional account of the robot apocalypse designed to play on our fears of the unknown, robots, and the ever-encroaching wave of technology swallowing up our lives.

But the robot apocalypse may look more like this: Robots coming to work, first in our factories and then later in our offices, programmed with capabilities which allow them to displace the less qualified workers engaged in tasks that can be replicated with algorithmic procedures and programming. (That may be more jobs than we are willing to admit.)

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Illustration by Roberto Parada

I predicted the future of work and the economically debilitating effects of robots, automation, and the replacement of the workforce with machines on the populace in previous articles. In Death to the Labor Class, I postulate the consideration that the culture of America and the world at large may need to re-evaluate how we deal with compensation and the nature of work in the future, as machines put laborers out of the workforce in greater and greater numbers.

I tried to remind people that automation has been taking your jobs for years, you simply still had other choices of work to get and still bring home the bacon. Now I am postulating not only will the potential for automation take your job, it will take it higher and higher along the social-economic food chain. Once only blue-color workers were affected, now the potential for algorithms can take any job which can be proceduralized and structured based on databases of stored information.

For example, there are already computerized journalists in use today. See: NYTimes: In case you’re wondering a human wrote this article. A market for such technology will continue to grow as the databases they draw from become more intelligent and sophisticated. Will they replace real journalists? For some types of articles the answer is assuredly, yes.

 See: Death to the Labor Class: http://storify.com/ebonstorm/may-13-2013-monday-s-musing-death-to-the-labor-cla.

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How the Tesla Model S is Made — Behind The Scenes

A sample of how robotics are slowly changing manufacturing from Wired Magazine and the Tesla Automotive company

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The opinion of the masses: So what?

The comments I received primarily indicated those jobs needed to be replaced since robots COULD do them, they should. Mostly this would affect people with less education, blue-color workers and the disdain of the white-color workers was palpable because they thought their jobs would be unaffected by technical automation of any kind.

I mentioned the idea of algorithms or procedural decision-making based on experience. This is how experienced doctors, lawyers and other professionals decide on courses of action. What if you could write a program or algorithm to do the same thing? The program would learn from decisions made in the past and predict what possible outcomes and their potential chances for success. This could mean an entirely new class of workers, including middle managers could find themselves unemployed as intelligent agents make the same decisions they did without preferential treatment, emotional attachments, or favoritism to muddy the economic water.

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Christoper Steiner
Steiner is an engineer, a skier, an author and one of the founders at Aisle50. Before starting Aisle50, he was a senior staff writer at Forbes magazine for seven years. His book “Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World”, chronicles the march of algorithms from the very first hack of Wall Street to their current role as disruptors of the creative class in fields as varied as music, writing, law and medicine.

© Chris Steiner

Engineer Christopher Steiner has an interview in the European Magazine discussing the idea that white-color jobs that are low in innovation are indeed next on the list of people made unemployed by technology. And there are a lot more jobs at stake than in the manufacturing industry.

Here is a telling quotation from the article. It is definitely worth your time to read. The effects are worldwide and potentially socially catastrophic:

The European: We tend to think about unskilled labor as the most precarious form of labor – machines could easily do it. Yet one of the arguments you make is that algorithms threaten many mid-level, white collar jobs…

Steiner: Being an expert in a field, having worked for fifteen years in that field, usually means that you have accumulated enough expertise, seen enough cases, read enough studies, dealt with enough clients, that you develop your own pattern recognition system within your brain. In medicine, experienced doctors are valuable because they have seen and treated many patients and diseases. Experienced lawyers know very well what information they need to pursue litigation, where to find that information, and so forth. But algorithms are very well suited for pattern recognition, much more than humans. If you can feed algorithms with data about a patient’s symptoms or about a legal case, I can’t see how that would not take away many of our jobs.”

http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com/christoper-steiner/7226-algorithms-and-the-future-of-work

Dystopia or Utopia – What’s your poison?

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I wrote an article a few months ago talking about using science fiction for social change and activism, Science Fiction and Social Awareness

Since then I have been reading a number of discussions talking about writers preferring to write dystopias rather than utopias.

David Brin would like to see more positive representations of the future and thinks Utopias need to make a comeback. He is not alone. A number of other famous scientists and science fiction writers are also in agreement about the idea of writing new books where utopias, positive futures where mankind is not only still around but thriving in positive ways as a necessary force to change the future. See: Project Hieroglyph

I know they are necessary but they are difficult to write and I suspect only the most gifted and optimistic writers should try. Here’s my reasoning:

Dystopia and Utopia have the same problem. They are talking about a period where what we know has evolved into what is now the order of things. Why is one more difficult to write than the other?

Utopia: a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions

The term Utopia was invented by Thomas More as the title of his Latin book De Optimo Reipublicae Statu deque Nova Insula Utopia (circa 1516), known more commonly as Utopia. He created the word “utopia” to suggest two Greek neologisms simultaneously: outopia (no place) and eutopia (good place). More depicts a rationally organised society, through the narration of an explorer who discovers it — Raphael Hythlodaeus. Utopia is a republic where all property is held in common. In addition, it has few laws, no lawyers and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its war-prone neighbours.

Generally speaking, utopias are generally societies whose author believes either perfect, or as perfect as can be attainable. Ernest Callenbach‘s Ecotopia is a contemporary example. This can cause some confusion, in that some works generally recognized as “utopian”, such as Plato’s Republic, can come across as much less than ideal to a modern reader. They are one of the smaller subsets of political science fiction, possibly because it is difficult to create dramatic tension in a world the author believes is perfect. –Wikipedia, Political ideas in science fiction

nausicaa_by_syntetyc-d582s57

My favorite eco-dystopia: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Dystopia: an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives

Dystopias are societies where the author illustrates the worst that can happen. Usually this encompasses extrapolating trends the author sees as dangerous. During the 20th century many examples were written in reaction to the rise of NazismCommunism and Religious Fundamentalism:

  • Double Helix Fall (1990) by Neil Ferguson portrays an America where a person’s social status is determined by their movements in the womb, an extension of the concept of original sin.

It is important to keep in mind that scenarios which some would describe as dystopic, others would describe as utopian. Norman Spinrad’s novel The Iron Dream was generally recognised to be a dystopian novel, but lauded by neo-Nazis as a utopia. –Wikipedia, Political ideas in science fiction

Janus-dimon21Janus-topia: A utopian society which is actually engaged in abusing and dehumanizing its citizens using social manipulations of one sort or another. (No, its not real, I just made it up to prove a point.) Janus was a two faced deity, looking forward and backward at the same time. I liken a Janus-topia to the idea that a society might be forward-thinking but using repressive, deviant or oppressive means to accomplish its goals rather than the forward sound ideals it may espouse in its public face.

Given these two simplified definitions, it is easy to see why Dystopias outnumber Utopias 10-to-1. Most readers (editors and agents) want stories where the conflict is easy to recognize, can be filled with intrepid adventurers who die at just the appropriate moment to tug at our heartstrings and make us believe we are experiencing a transformative event.

The problem of addressing a Utopia is by definition, it is already a perfect place, where we have to be willing to be patient, walk with the protagonists while they show you the dirty, hidden underbelly of the Utopia, where all is not what it seems. This is by far the harder row-to-hoe because writers are under fire to “show, don’t tell” or my other favorite “exposition is dead/death” so you must find a way to expose people to your Utopia without actually describing it in any detail that might bore our attention-addled readership.

Given these two conditions, there is not a question in my mind why we see Dystopias outnumbering Utopias. The curve to creation isn’t that difficult. Look at modern society, allow it to continue unabated and poof, Dystopia.

Welcome_To_Dystopia_by_crystalRyu

Try that with creating a Utopia, and you have to, by most reader’s perspectives alter the fabric of space-time to reach a place where Humanity, especially as we see it now, doing anything such as curing disease (do we do that anymore? Polio was the last one I can think of) getting rid of hunger worldwide, reversing our position on global climate change, reducing corporate power (is that even possible?) enhancing educational opportunities for everyone, ensuring any form of social parity, correcting enough social ills you would deign to call your world a Utopia.

As far as I can tell, no Utopia has ever survived for the same reason most Dystopias eventually get replaced by something else. Human nature is fickle. If society is actually working, we distrust it, and assume something must be rotten somewhere. If society is failing, human nature dictates at some point we fight back or get ground into the dust.

So the real question is, why aren’t we writing more books about correcting the reason we can’t have Utopias in the first place; the moral, social, mental, cultural, religious, failings of the Human race? If we could fix that, maybe people might believe Utopias, corrupted or otherwise, might be possible enough to write about and worthy enough to read through to see the underlying messages for what they are.

Messages about us and our relationships to each other and the Universe at large. This is where Janus-topias come in. So many of our works that describe utopian societies are actually Janus-topias, two faced worlds where we believe we are living well to find out we are not. Most of our works which postulate a possible Utopia are really Janus-topias.

Utopia is not a place where stories are easily written, by definition, if you made a real Utopia, where would the conflict arise? What we are really hoping for are clever Janus-topias which hide their flaws well, are interesting enough to pay attention to, and when their flaws are revealed, we learn something about ourselves in the process.

Death to Utopia! Not enough happens there.

But the route to Utopia is rife with storytelling possibilities…

cities_of_the_future_by_jonasdero-d5jkvqs

Can we stop worrying about Millennials yet?

I know it has been fashionable and even acceptable since Time magazine (pay-walled article) made it okay, but it is time to stop hating on the Millennials.

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As a social group, they have enough issues without the socially acceptable, yet completely reprehensible treatment they receive in the media, particularly from the conservative side. But no one treats them particularly well, no matter which side of the fence you find yourself perched.

As an employer I have never had any issues working with them, understanding their expectations from work, or dealing with their often peculiar work ethic. I tried to treat them the way I would like to be treated with the understanding, their job was not the center of the Universe. And given how the workplace environment often treated them, I could completely relate to their viewpoint.

Poverty sucks

The Trickle Down Theory: The principle that the poor, who must subsist on the table scraps dropped by the rich, can best be served by giving the rich, bigger meals. –William Blum

Seeing how I don’t happen to agree with that happily Reaganesque mindset either, enjoy playing a wide array of video games, like leaving work on time (screw unpaid overtime), focusing my time for things and people I enjoy like skateboarding, hang-gliding, pub-crawling, playing with my son and utilizing social media technology, in some ways, even though there are a few decades between our ages, I am completely in sync with their viewpoint.

The Boomer generation which currently rules the economic world and is giving themselves the best of executive pay, exotic homes and off-shore bank accounts seems completely dickish by complaining about a social group that starts with so little all things considered and expected to handle the worst of the Boomer excesses while starting off in debt, with poor credit, with criminalized poverty, no homes, no cars and little in the way of effective training in “How to Screw Over Your Fellow Workers While You Dine, Shark-like, on Their Inner Organs.”

Lately, I have been questioning the wisdom of indenturing out children with the idea they should have to pay for an education. I recognize we are a profit-driven society, but I believe paying for education should be something society does for our children, not the other way around. We invest in them so they can, return that investment in the development, improvement and effective management of the Commons. In countries like Sweden, Finland and places where reason is still a facet of their social consciousness, they recognize investment in youth, improving their lifestyles in the future. They look at us with nothing but contempt. I secretly sneer with them…

This should be a no-brainer. Instead, someone decided they should not only pay for education, but it should cost them as much as a home in the Midwestern United States. Anywhere from $30,000 to $250,ooo ended up seeming like a reasonable amount of money to pay for an education.

But wait, there’s more. We have also told them they should leave college in great debt, bearing great responsibility (paraphrasing Spider-Man) and do it with minimum wage pay. When you do the math, using the debt they leave college with and assuming minimum wage pay, it will take nearly as long as a 30 year mortgage to pay off and cost double the amount of the starting debt.

We have told our children that they have to save the world while being handicapped with major debt while starting off poorly socialized. Consumer technologically literate and hyper-connected but only interested in things which promote their internet meme of choice and assorted cat videos. Cursed with short attention-spans and the entire bulk of the world’s knowledge at their fingertips, they flit from info-bit to info-bit, full of memes and fury, signifying nothing.

So, how about we get off their backs, give them some tools, get away from our partisan political bickering, stop putting wealth and profit before streets, sewers, bridges and opportunity to participate in what was once one of the greatest economies in the world and find a way to help them with the long, damned list of things that have been screwed up under our watch during the era of Saint Reagan and the Greed Over People party. And no, I won’t give the Democrats a pass because they did their share of dirt too. They just appeared to care a bit more (and seemed more emotionally disturbed when they were caught doing dirt) while they were doing it.

The Millennials with our help will have to tackle a long list of issues. What issues? Here is a quick and dirty list:

  • reasonable and affordable health care,
  • a collapsing economic structure that needs a complete retooling,
  • reducing military interactions in foreign countries,
  • feeding and caring for the disenfranchised members of our societies,
  • our failing education system and improving its quality,
  • economic disparity between the rich and poor,
  • the digital divide all over the world and in all layers of economic strata,
  • effective socio-economic relationships with other sovereign nations,
  • global climate control and management,
  • toxic waste and overall waste management,
  • desertification of our food producing areas on our planet,
  • destruction of our planet’s rain forests at 20 square miles a day,
  • eradication of cancer,
  • HIV, AIDS, and management of growing list of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, 
  • renewable energy development,
  • loss of fossil fuels and what that means to our lifestyles,
  • failing infrastructures of power and roads and
  • corporate malfeasance just to name the few I could think of in about 30 seconds. 

Can we stop worrying about Millennials yet? We have so many other, more important things to deal with…

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Don’t get me started on Instagram…

Science Fiction and Social Awareness

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Can science fiction function as a means of creating social awareness around technology and its future developments?

In advance of my interview on #SCIFICHAT on Friday, April 12, 2013, I thought I would write a quick article about my interests in science fiction, fantasy and how I use my love of the genre to promote and pursue ideas around science, scientific achievement, technology, social development under the guise of science fiction (and occasionally fantasy). I happen to agree with Ray Bradbury and believe a little fantasy hiding underneath one’s science fiction never hurt anyone.

I am a writer of all kinds of genre fiction including hard science fiction, social fiction, space opera, fantasy, urban fantasy, sword and sorcery, epic fantasy, and a bit of pulp and horror when no one is looking. I grew up reading the required classics from Asimov to Zelazney: Dune, Foundation, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Chronicles of Amber, The Eternal Champion Sagas, Xenogenesis, Lord of Light and The Hyperion Cantos.

My guilty pleasures included the hard science styling of Ben Bova and Larry Niven, the wild space romps of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat, Steve Perry’s The Man Who Never Missed and Jack L. Chalker’s space operas, The Well of Souls Saga and the Four Lords of the Diamond series and so many others…

The failures and the cowardice of modern science fiction

Though I missed the conversation a few years ago on the internet which talked about the failings of science fiction in recent years, I could completely relate to the idea that science fiction wasn’t taking the risks it once did. Its protagonists were mostly white, mostly male and moving further away from being accessible to the readers. Some of those failings included:

  • social/racial inequalities in the writing the marginalizing other social groups.
  • the rewarding of primarily white men as the best writers of the genre and as the main protagonists
  • A failure to acknowledge writers from minority groups who may have different views of the future
  • a failure of the genre to address near-future issues due to potential scientific complexity
  • science fiction becoming more like fantasy or westerns in space
  • losing the exploration of scientific ideas 
  • the increasing marginalization of the genre due to lackluster efforts of writers to explore more risky ideas
  • the increasingly doom-centric orientation of the genre and the preponderance of dystopian fiction
  • the lack of ideas of working toward a positive future
  • The lack of scientific interest in the potential audience which reduces the potential quality of stories

As a long time reader of the genre, I am aware of how science fiction has been used to address a variety of social ills. Many such works exist. A quick sampling include:

  • The Left Hand of Darkness – deals with a world where gender is almost non-existent except for periods of reproduction. Considered a work of feminist fiction, it addresses a world where many of our planet’s polar extremes of behavior simply don’t exist.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – a tale where the rights of women are completely removed when a neo-Christian movement takes over the government and uses religion to brutally subjugate women.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four – a world of perpetual warfare, psychological manipulation, mind control and the creation of a surveillance society.
  • Brave New World – promotes a society which at first glance resembles a utopia, where want has been eliminated along with a segment of free will. Population is regulated, children born in artificial wombs, a caste society is instituted with regimented behavior, drug use and recreational sex being the norm of the society.

While I don’t as yet consider myself in such august company, I have tried to use science fiction to address a variety of social ills and challenges facing humanity today in my collection of short stories called Hayward’s Reach:

  • Genetically Modified Organisms –  in my story of the same name, I posit the idea of our constant experimentation with GMOs without a real understanding of how such interactions might affect each other over time. Reinforcing of genetic traits could lead to an alteration of human consciousness.
  • Suicide Seed – In a similar vein, I posit the idea of transgenetic mutation of plants by corporate entities using transform viruses. These viruses while originally designed to affect plants cross over into human populations, potentially rendering the human race sterile in the same fashion as large agro-corporations want to do to control seed development and food production.
  • The Great White Spot – a story in which I posit an Earth whose runaway greenhouse effect cause by global warming creates a storm similar to the Great Red Spot on the surface of Jupiter. A storm of immense size, ferocity and because of the inability to cool off, eventually erases all life on Earth.
  • Pax Cyridian – a tale where genetic engineering of insect-like lifeforms results in new forms of life able to work and live with humanity in relative peace. Instead of an industrial age, the people of Cyridia use organic life to perform the work of machines until a military leader decides to create new lifeforms adapted for war and conquest.
  • Paper – a world where the internet has become infected with self-replicating virus programs, information held in books is now more important than ever. A young man in Mexico finds a cache of old magazines and has been selling them to bidders anonymously. His brother’s selfish greed puts them both at risk when he reveals the cache of reading materials and tries to sell them to a criminal enterprise.
  • Hub City Blues – in one of my largest projects I am experimenting with creating a positive near-future world where humanity is trying to put off the future of impending global warming by creating a variety of new world arcologies. These super-cities use the most advance sciences known to man in an effort to create a new way of life utilizing a variety of alternative energies. Much of the technology used in Hub City is based from technology being created daily such as programmable matter, diverse solar and wind technologies, new underground building and waste management technologies.
  • The Last Divide – I am not above using a variety of different memes to address ideas around our modern world such as the proliferation of social media and its complete invasion of all levels of our society. This piece plays with the idea of social media after death; who maintains our social profiles, could we pre-program our responses after our passing? Could programs be written to approximate our social media habits and continue them, extending our social media existence?

I have to admit I was a bit embarrassed to be writing stories such as these because they are so far removed from much of the science fiction I see being written today.I’m not disparaging such science fiction because it is both popular and from a writer’s perspective quite profitable. I keep hearing the litany of the writers everywhere: Readers don’t want challenge, they want escapism. So if you make them work too hard, they will put your book down. I just don’t happen to agree with it. Eventually, I believe they will want more. So I write and wait.

Can we as science fiction writers make any changes in our society through our work?

Once upon a time science fiction propelled engineers and scientists to create ideas and technologies which are only now becoming a reality.  Look at our cell phones, submarines, computer monitors, space craft, and wireless technologies, many of these started in the minds of early writers of the genre fiction. For a time, successful science fiction television inspired an entire generation of scientists, astronauts and engineers. We see far less of that today, with science fiction instead promoting a fear of technology or a return to superstition rather than embracing scientific curiosity.

Can science fiction tell potential stories about the human condition and potentially guide policies toward the effective use of science in society?

Some of our science fiction has lent itself to predicting trends in human behavior such as Nineteen Eighty-Four prediction of a surveillance state, similar to the one we find ourselves approaching in 2014. There does not seem to be quite as much of that kind of writing today. I believe part of the reason is the breakneck pace of scientific advancement. It is hard to write a novel about a piece of technology or a technological idea because by the time you finish the novel the idea has been superseded by a more advanced piece of technology in two years it took for you to finish your tale. I think it is a risk few writers are willing to risk their careers on.

After reading Should Science Fiction Die, and other such screeds on the failure of science fiction writers to innovate, to solve problems, take risks, ask questions, challenge the status quo and include complex themes within their body of work, I feel much less like I am on the wrong track and instead just working on a different kind of story-telling.

I’m done being embarrassed about asking questions or trying to find answers with my science fiction. I’m quoting one of my favorite space westerns, Firefly’s Captain Malcolm Reynolds: “So no more runnin’. I aim to misbehave.”

Other related articles: 

Science Fiction Goes McDonald’s: Less Taste, More Gristle; Huffington Post, 2013, 

Should Scifi Die?: In the plane of the ecliptic, 2009, 

Racism and Science Fiction; The New York Review of Science Fiction, Samuel R. Delany

Where is the World in the World Fantasy Awards?: World SF Blog, 2009, Lavie Tidhar

Superficial Darkness and Luminous Ink: World SF Blog, 2013, Athena Andreadisoriginally posted at Starship Reckless

Stranger and Happier: A Positive Science Fiction Platform; Strange and Happy, Jason Stoddard

What is Human Wave Science Fiction?: According to Hoyt, Sarah A. Hoyt

Barbarian Confessions; Asimov’s Science Fiction, Thought Experiments, 2006, Kristine Kathyrn Rusch

Mundane Science Fiction; founded by Geoff Ryman

Megastructures: Artwork by Steve Burg © 2012-2013

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