It takes only two things to keep people in chains:
The ignorance of the oppressed
and the treachery of their leaders.
Back in December, 2015, we posted “Are we an interim species?” which speculated on the future of humanity. It’s a question much discussed, and predicting often leads to a “Terminator” world, in which the machines take over, destroy humanity and become the next “species.”
Is that likely? Do you care what will happen to the world and to humanity thousands of year from now? A hundred years from now? Fifty years?
The universe is thought to be just under 14 billion years old, beginning with a dimensionless point — a singularity — and rapidly inflating to start its 14 billion year evolution. How the dimensionless point could inflate to the universe, and what came before, remains beyond our imaginations.
The earth is estimated to be 4.5 billion years old, meaning the universe evolved for at least 9 billion years — about 2/3 of its existence — before it managed to create our planet.
Life on earth is thought to have begun about 2 billion years ago. Dinosaurs were on Earth for between 165 and 177 million years, but anatomically modern humans — people who generally resemble you and me — evolved only about 300,000 years ago, a tiny blip in the age of life on earth, let alone the age of the universe.
Evolution, i.e change, never ends, nothing is permanent. And that includes the universe, the earth, and us. We humans will end — when and how is unknown — though probably sooner than most of us think.
We are comforted or deceived, depending on your outlook, by an individual lifespan that, though limited, gives us the illusion of permanence.
Intellectually, we know we will die, but emotionally, we plan for our tomorrows as though they are assured.
If you flip a coin 30,000 times, and every single time it comes up “heads,” you rationally should expect it always will come up heads, no matter how many times you flip it.
Yet, I have awakened more than 30,000 consecutive mornings, so by the same statistical analysis, I should go on forever. The fact that humans have lived for 300,000 years is no assurance we will continue.
We see around us, ominous changes that could interrupt our intuition of eternal life.
Deadly heat: How to survive the world’s new temperature extremes
By John Pickrell, NewScientist Magazine
January 2017 was the hottest ever recorded in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia, often exceeding 40°C (104 Farenheit) for weeks. Dairy cows dropped dead in the fields.
This kind of heatwave isn’t an anomaly. It is part of a trend that saw Sydney’s temperature climb to over 47°C (116.6 F) earlier this month, and could see both it and Melbourne experiencing mega‑heatwaves with highs of 50°C (122F) by 2040.
“Going out to 40 or 50 years, basically the summer we just had will be normal,” says Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick at the Climate Change Research Centre of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney.
“It hasn’t really sunken in yet in Australia.”
Nor has it sunken in yet in the U.S., where the ruling political party denies even the existence of global warming, claiming it is a “Chinese hoax.”
Heatwaves are deadly, and as global warming increases so will the death rate. Human physiology is not designed to cope with the temperatures predicted for large swathes of the globe and many areas could become uninhabitable.
In the US, extreme heat caused more fatalities between 1978 and 2003 than earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes combined.
The 2003 heatwave centered on France killed 70,000. Another that struck Moscow in 2010 resulted in 10,000 deaths.
Already, 30 per cent of the world’s population experiences potentially deadly temperatures for at least 20 days every year.
A team led by Camilo Mora at the University of Hawaii in Manoa reported in June that this will rise to nearly 75 percent by 2100 if we do little to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
What matters is not the air temperature, but the temperature you experience. You can survive for a while at well above 50°C, as long as you can sweat effectively. The problem is humidity.
“The only way you lose heat when you sweat is by turning liquid into vapour. It has to evaporate,” says Graham Bates at Curtin University in Western Australia. “With a humidity of 90 per cent, the air is almost saturated, and when you sweat it just drips off, and you won’t lose heat.”
A “wet bulb temperature” of 35°C – equivalent to an ambient temperature of 35°C (95F) and 100 per cent humidity or 40°C (104F) and 75 per cent humidity – is considered the limit for human survival.
“Both temperature and humidity are going up,” says Steven Sherwood, an atmospheric scientist at UNSW. The highest risk is in places that are already humid, such as the Amazon, the Indus valley and many tropical countries. “It only takes a 6°C to 7°C increase in temperature before some of these regions become physically uninhabitable,” says Sherwood.
Research published in August 2017 showed that parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh could occasionally exceed a wet bulb temperature of 35°C by the end of this century. This region is home to 1.5 billion people, about a fifth of the world’s population.
And it’s not only humans who will suffer. In addition to the Australian dairy cows mentioned earlier, all animals are subject to heat limitations, including those that are part of the human food chain.
And then, there are the plants we eat:
Yields of wheat, rice and maize – which together with soy generate nearly two-thirds of all calories consumed by people – are forecast to fall by between 3 and 7 percent for each 1°C rise in global temperatures.
With a temperature rise of just 1.5 to 2°C – as agreed under the 2016 Paris climate change deal – summer in parts of Australia will effectively become one long heatwave by 2100.
The U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris accords.
Some tropical regions could go into a semi-permanent heatwave state. And the situation will be far worse if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed.
We humans have been on this earth for a comparatively short time, yet here we are already destroying, faster and faster, the environment that keeps us alive.
We, indeed, may be an interim species, almost a failed experiment, that well could last only a very few centuries longer — if that.
All life, as we define it, may have a limited future on this planet, which we seem intent on turning into a waterless, searing hot 464°C (867°F), Venus.
I suggest, the greatest loss to the universe would be not the loss of our species, but the loss of human intelligence, that to our current knowledge, is special and unique, not just here on earth, but possibly, everywhere.
We very well may be the smartest living creatures in the universe.
When the evolution of the earth has taken everything — all animal life, all plant life, every living thing of every kind, human intelligence may be the one thing nature alone might never duplicate. It might be a “one-off.”
Which leads us to this article:
Is Art Created by AI Really Art?
By David Pogue | Scientific American, February 2018 Issue
You’ve probably heard that automation is becoming commonplace in more fields of human endeavor. Or, in headline-speak: “Are Robots Coming for Your Job?”
You may also have heard that the last bastions of human exclusivity will probably be creativity and artistic judgment. Robots will be washing our windows long before they start creating masterpieces. Right?
Not necessarily. I recently visited Rutgers University’s Art and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, where Ahmed Elgammal’s team has created artificial-intelligence software that generates beautiful, original paintings.
Software is doing well at composing music, too. At Amper Music (www.ampermusic.com), you can specify what kind of music you want based on mood, instrumentation, tempo and duration. You click “Render,” and boom! There’s your original piece, not only composed but also “performed” and “mixed” by AI software.
I found these examples of robotically generated art and music to be polished and appealing. But something kept nagging at me: What happens in a world where effort and scarcity are no longer part of the definition of art?
Indeed, what happens in a world where effort and scarcity, i.e. human labor, no longer are rewarded?
Said simply, are we looking at a near future world where there will be no paid jobs?
A mass-produced print of the Mona Lisa is worth less than the actual Leonardo painting. Why? Scarcity—there’s only one of the original.
But Amper churns out another professional-quality original piece of music every time you click “Render.” Elgammal’s AI painter can spew out another 1,000 original works of art with every tap of the enter key.
It puts us in a weird hybrid world where works of art are unique—every painting is different—but require almost zero human effort to produce. Should anyone pay for these things? And if an artist puts AI masterpieces up for sale, what should the price be?
That’s not just a thought experiment, either. Soon the question “What’s the value of AI artwork and music?” will start impacting flesh-and-blood consumers. It has already, in fact.
Last year the music-streaming service Spotify lured AI researcher François Pachet away from Sony, where he’d been working on AI software that writes music.
Why couldn’t Spotify, or any music service, start using AI to generate free music to save itself money? Automation is already on track to displace millions of human taxi drivers, truck drivers and fast-food workers. Why should artists and musicians be exempt from the same economics?
Should there be anything in place—a union, a regulation—to stop that from happening?
To recap, we can anticipate any number of ways the human species may have a relatively short existence:
- The habitable world can end through natural events — an impact by a huge meteor, the inflation of the sun into an earth-swallowing red giant, being caught in the X-ray jet of a spinning black hole.
- Or we can accelerate the end of our habitable world by pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, or by pumping poisons into the air, the water, and the ground, or by wars and intentional murder.
- Or we can end the need to continue existing in our DNA life form, by creating our replacement.
Evolution occurs when a species changes in response to environmental changes, or is replaced by a better-adapted species. We have sent machines into space, machines that walk (roll) on Mars, machines that can exist in the deepest oceans, machines that even have escaped the solar system.
Machines are better adapted for extreme environments. Humans can’t do these things unless we are protected by machines, and even then with great difficulty and in only limited circumstances.
The fundamental difference between the human brain and a computer is complexity. That’s not a trivial difference, of course. There has been speculation that the human brain works all the way down to the quantum level, enabling it to handle an astounding number of physical and mental tasks, far more than any existing computer.
But, there is no one thing the human brain can do, that a machine can’t do, or at least won’t be able to do in the near future.
Yes, machines can lift tons tirelessly, but they also can play complex mental games like Go and Jeopardy. They can create works of art. They can write:
Can robots write fiction?
A hallmark of civilization has been the drive to create unique stories that explore the human condition. Now robots are learning to write fiction. Is nothing sacred?
No computer has yet written the Great Australian Novel because they have some of the same handicaps that afflict human writers. Writing is hard. Although computers can work unhindered by free will, alcohol or divorce, such advantages are outweighed by a lack of life experience or emotions.
To be able to write fiction, a machine does not have to think like us but it must “understand” patterns of human experience.
Computers are quietly elbowing their way into the workplace. They’re flying planes, driving cars, selecting job candidates and writing news stories.
The Associated Press employs a company called Automated Insights to create short news reports from raw data. More advanced software is working on longer pieces.
To be able to write fiction, a machine does not have to think like us but it must “understand” patterns of human experience. While not discounting the life of the mind, computers are being fed millions of novels and short stories to “teach” them character, pace, and plot.
This is the goal of the What-If Machine (WHIM) project, a venture involving teams at five universities across Europe. WHIM analyses databases of human prose and then inverts or twists what it has learned to introduce a new idea as a premise for a story. Knowing what is typical is the first step in generating atypical stories.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have been working for four years on a program called Scheherazade, which analyses crowd-sourced human anecdotes and then produces plausible short stories.
A computer can write novels and poetry. Here is an example:
“Dave Striver loved the university – its ivy-covered clocktowers, its ancient and sturdy brick, and its sun-splashed verdant greens and eager youth. The university, contrary to popular opinion, is far from free of the stark unforgiving trials of the business world: academia has its own tests, and some are as merciless as any in the marketplace.
“A prime example is the dissertation defense: to earn the Ph.D., to become a doctor, one must pass an oral examination on one’s dissertation. This was a test Professor Edward Hart enjoyed giving.”
That opening paragraph was written by a computer at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the US. JM Coetzee can sleep safely. But it shows that computers are learning to obey syntax. They are learning to learn.
Recently the Go grandmaster, Lee Se-Dol was defeated 4-1 by Google’s AlphaGo computer.
In the second game, AlphaGo made a move so surprising – “not a human move” in the words of a commentator – that Lee Se-Dol had to leave the room to recover his composure.
In the shorter term, computers will change the nature of economics, from money-related to desire re-related. That is, people no longer will work to acquire money, with which to buy what they desire (which includes food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, and pride).
It already has begun, as human physical labor is being supplanted by human mental labor, and both are being supplanted by “dumb” machine labor, which in turn, is being supplanted by “smart” machine labor.
Money, as a substitute for barter, and work as a means to obtain money, will become obsolete concepts.
In the longer term, computers may become the last storehouse of the human psyche, the species to which the human species evolves.
Currently, humans develop AI that trains computers to have a human outlook. We train computers to have the same goals as ours, to want “winning” and to avoid “losing.”
That may change as computers keep learning. And to that degree, they will evolve to be less and less human.
But some life fundamentals surely will remain: Survival, desire, attraction, identification of good and bad. It would not be surprising if religion appeared.
Long term, our mental/emotional being will survive as machines, rather than as DNA creatures, on a “hot” earth, the moon, Mars, space.
While the rest of life on earth, we, the other animals, the plants, the bacteria, and viruses all will disappear, our progeny, the computers, will become the true citizens of the universe.
That should be “The Plan.”
Is this a bad thing or a good thing?
I suggest it is a very good thing. DNA life is fragile. Of all species that have existed on Earth, 99.9 percent are now extinct. Any notion that humans would be able to defy those odds, probably is misguided.
Too much can happen to this one, lonely “Pale Blue Dot” floating in the emptiness of the universe. The odds for longer life increase for our machine surrogates, especially for our machine surrogates resident on worlds in addition to earth or in space.
If there is “A Plan” for the universe, perhaps it is that we humans should create surrogates, and so, live forever, or at least much longer than any DNA species lives.
If species survival is the ultimate goal, we should facilitate our survival by focusing on building our surrogate machines — machines that having been given the ability to learn, machines that will carry forward some aspects of “humanness.”
Every human is born with a brain, some of us with very good brains, and nearly all of us with brains that far exceed those of any other living creature. But few of us use our magnificent brains to advance “The Plan.”
The vast majority are more concerned with day-to-day personal survival. Though day-to-day survival is necessary, too many of the thoughts of too many of us are devoted to it, and not enough human thought is given to the long-term, the eons of survival we can create.
If day-to-day survival were assured for more of us, more energy could be focused on building that long-term future.
If fundamentals like food, clothing, shelter, health, and education were assured, more brain time would be devoted to preserving the species, in DNA and in electronic forms.
Reducing the burden of having to work for money would give more people more time to work on the AI problem. We — or at least our minds — would more quickly achieve a semblance of permanence in the universe.
Then, when we are destroyed by the next giant meteor, supernova, atomic war, worldwide epidemic — when the next inevitable life-ending phenomenon occurs, the essence of humanity, our psyche, will continue.
Do we care? Is that “The Plan”? If so, the Ten Steps (below) can provide more people with more opportunity to develop our machine progeny.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Twitter: @rodgermitchell; Search #monetarysovereignty
Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
The most important problems in economics involve the excessive income/wealth/power Gaps between the have-mores and the have-less.
Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.
Implementation of The Ten Steps To Prosperity can narrow the Gaps:
Ten Steps To Prosperity:
1. ELIMINATE FICA (Ten Reasons to Eliminate FICA )
Although the article lists 10 reasons to eliminate FICA, there are two fundamental reasons:
*FICA is the most regressive tax in American history, widening the Gap by punishing the low and middle-income groups, while leaving the rich untouched, and
*The federal government, being Monetarily Sovereign, neither needs nor uses FICA to support Social Security and Medicare.
2. FEDERALLY FUNDED MEDICARE — PARTS A, B & D, PLUS LONG TERM CARE — FOR EVERYONE (H.R. 676, Medicare for All )
This article addresses the questions:
*Does the economy benefit when the rich can afford better health care than can the rest of Americans?
*Aside from improved health care, what are the other economic effects of “Medicare for everyone?”
*How much would it cost taxpayers?
*Who opposes it?”
3. PROVIDE A MONTHLY ECONOMIC BONUS TO EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD IN AMERICA (similar to Social Security for All) (The JG (Jobs Guarantee) vs the GI (Guaranteed Income) vs the EB (Economic Bonus)) Or institute a reverse income tax.
This article is the fifth in a series about direct financial assistance to Americans:
Why Modern Monetary Theory’s Employer of Last Resort is a bad idea. Sunday, Jan 1 2012
MMT’s Job Guarantee (JG) — “Another crazy, rightwing, Austrian nutjob?” Thursday, Jan 12 2012
Why Modern Monetary Theory’s Jobs Guarantee is like the EU’s euro: A beloved solution to the wrong problem. Tuesday, May 29 2012
“You can’t fire me. I’m on JG” Saturday, Jun 2 2012
Economic growth should include the “bottom” 99.9%, not just the .1%, the only question being, how best to accomplish that. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) favors giving everyone a job. Monetary Sovereignty (MS) favors giving everyone money. The five articles describe the pros and cons of each approach.
4. FREE EDUCATION (INCLUDING POST-GRAD) FOR EVERYONE Five reasons why we should eliminate school loans
Monetarily non-sovereign State and local governments, despite their limited finances, support grades K-12. That level of education may have been sufficient for a largely agrarian economy, but not for our currently more technical economy that demands greater numbers of highly educated workers.
Because state and local funding is so limited, grades K-12 receive short shrift, especially those schools whose populations come from the lowest economic groups. And college is too costly for most families.
An educated populace benefits a nation, and benefitting the nation is the purpose of the federal government, which has the unlimited ability to pay for K-16 and beyond.
5. SALARY FOR ATTENDING SCHOOL
Even were schooling to be completely free, many young people cannot attend, because they and their families cannot afford to support non-workers. In a foundering boat, everyone needs to bail, and no one can take time off for study.
If a young person’s “job” is to learn and be productive, he/she should be paid to do that job, especially since that job is one of America’s most important.
6. ELIMINATE FEDERAL TAXES ON BUSINESS
Businesses are dollar-transferring machines. They transfer dollars from customers to employees, suppliers, shareholders and the federal government (the later having no use for those dollars). Any tax on businesses reduces the amount going to employees, suppliers and shareholders, which diminishes the economy. Ultimately, all business taxes reduce your personal income.
7. INCREASE THE STANDARD INCOME TAX DEDUCTION, ANNUALLY. (Refer to this.) Federal taxes punish taxpayers and harm the economy. The federal government has no need for those punishing and harmful tax dollars. There are several ways to reduce taxes, and we should evaluate and choose the most progressive approaches.
Cutting FICA and business taxes would be a good early step, as both dramatically affect the 99%. Annual increases in the standard income tax deduction, and a reverse income tax also would provide benefits from the bottom up. Both would narrow the Gap.
8. TAX THE VERY RICH (THE “.1%) MORE, WITH HIGHER PROGRESSIVE TAX RATES ON ALL FORMS OF INCOME. (TROPHIC CASCADE)
There was a time when I argued against increasing anyone’s federal taxes. After all, the federal government has no need for tax dollars, and all taxes reduce Gross Domestic Product, thereby negatively affecting the entire economy, including the 99.9%.
But I have come to realize that narrowing the Gap requires trimming the top. It simply would not be possible to provide the 99.9% with enough benefits to narrow the Gap in any meaningful way. Bill Gates reportedly owns $70 billion. To get to that level, he must have been earning $10 billion a year. Pick any acceptable Gap (1000 to 1?), and the lowest paid American would have to receive $10 million a year. Unreasonable.
9. FEDERAL OWNERSHIP OF ALL BANKS (Click The end of private banking and How should America decide “who-gets-money”?)
Banks have created all the dollars that exist. Even dollars created at the direction of the federal government, actually come into being when banks increase the numbers in checking accounts. This gives the banks enormous financial power, and as we all know, power corrupts — especially when multiplied by a profit motive.
Although the federal government also is powerful and corrupted, it does not suffer from a profit motive, the world’s most corrupting influence.
10. INCREASE FEDERAL SPENDING ON THE MYRIAD INITIATIVES THAT BENEFIT AMERICA’S 99.9% (Federal agencies)Browse the agencies. See how many agencies benefit the lower- and middle-income/wealth/ power groups, by adding dollars to the economy and/or by actions more beneficial to the 99.9% than to the .1%.
Save this reference as your primer to current economics. Sadly, much of the material is not being taught in American schools, which is all the more reason for you to use it.
The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and you.
One thought on “When all life is interim, what next? What is “The Plan”?”
Well written and a very interesting point of view. Now — exactly are we heading in Trump-world…….?