Science created the modern world. Without science, we'd still be in the caves. Science invented the wheel and allowed for mankind's most important discovery, agriculture. Its language, mathematics, has taken us to the stars and beyond. Science is homo sapiens greatest intellectual achievement. With those truths in mind, it's a sad irony that few appreciate science and even understand the scientific method. We even live in a political climate of science deniers. This is a terrifying development that harkens back to Galileo. In this forum we will discuss all aspects of science and math. Anything is fair game; science fiction, evolution, physics, technology, quantum mechanics etc. The supernatural, non-evidence based delusions and other fu-fu will not be allowed.
Welcome to the Dystopia August 2017
About twenty years ago I saw a movie where terrorists were machine gunning storefronts, lighting fires and causing mass mayhem. I have no idea the Title of the movie. I can't even remember if they were killing people but I'm sure they must have been. Anyway, at the time I said to myself, "yeah, right, like this could happen in the US. Ugh. Welcome to 2017.
Dystopias have been around for a long time, first in book, then in movie form. They are the imagined terrible future. The poster children of the genre are of course 1984 and Brave New World. I read these so long ago it's quite astonishing but I still remember that they are quite prescient in many ways and they even miss out on some of the worst developments. Most have also heard of Lord of the flies which isn't so much a dystopia as a study of human nature. Today there's been a resurgence of interest in the Handmaiden's tale - especially among women. Fahrenheit 451 is a great one. There are loads of movies from Metropolis (1920's) Johnny Mnemonic, Elysium, Planet of the Apes franchise, AI, Ex Machina, Mad Max etc. Read and observe of all the above and more if you haven't. You won't be disappointed.
The idea is that these are far flung insane futures. These are places we don't want to create or go to or have or dream of. Well I've got news for you people, you don't have to think in terms of tens, hundreds or thousands of years, you only have to open your eyes and look around. It's not some unimaginable future, it's right here right now. If you think this idea foolish, imagine if you tranported an educated 19th century man, say a Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens or Jame Clerk Maxwell, into the safe space of a modern college campus. Horror of horrors, they'd kill themselves before they could have their first organic, gmo certified, tariff-free enviromentally friendly chai tea.
C'mon, get on the bus and look around.
FascismFascism is spreading in all parts of the world - not unlike in the 1930's. It's not really surprising with the mania of globalization and it's thus far failed promises. Wars are scorching many parts of the third world and its citizens are flooding mainly into the first world countries of Europe. Combine this with the millions of jobs that have been offshored to cheap third world countries and the subsequent blight of working class neighborhoods - it's no great surprise that countries want to circle the wagons and keep out the invaders and the perpetrators of a global order that seems to be creating much more suffering than pleasure. It's all happening too fast as Alvin Toffler warned us about in the 70's. Despotic regimes are epee waving and threatening all who oppose with nukes. The Western world is falling apart - with dangerous narcissistic tyrants assuming command of increasingly divided and desperate societies. Fears are rampant, from cultural suicide to civilization clashes to social armaggedon as the 1% hoard more and more. It's easy to understand the terror.
The RobotsThe robots aren't coming, they're here! So Isaac Asimov and his ilk were off by a few decades - still pretty impressive. So as inward looking countries promise the manufacturing jobs of the past, after 20 years of outsourcing them to the 3rd world, suddenly even the third world is no longer needed as bots increasingly take their jobs; starting with manufacturing, administration, banking, computing and accounting and moving onward from there. While Asimov thought we'd all be frolicking in wonderful creative pursuits while the bots did all the nasty jobs, he got only one thing wrong so far, there have been no replacement jobs. No jobs, no income, makes Johnny a dull boy. Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have discussed a universal basic income and this is something not to be easily dismissed. Soon the government may have everyone on the dole just to keep society functioning. Yet the less creative among us, who have no hobbies, could be lured into the web of idleness and devil's playground which of course could have some long range nasty results. The law of unintended consequences is as solid as the General Theory of Relativity - all evidence supports it time and again. Robots do 80% of the work already in the amazon warehouses, same with auto manufacturing - self-driving cars are here. Japan recently introduce a littel Einstein robot that they said would soon be commercially available for $299 - the stripped down version at least. When they get the fully functioning robot maid, I'm all in. So many of these things are great, but what of the dark side. What about when bots start demanding their rights in court, as in the Brian Aldiss short story that became AI. What about cyborgs? When does one cross over from a human to a machine, who determines that and again, what about legal rights? What about robot cops, as in Robocop and more recently the film Elysian, where powerful bots are used by those in power to subjugate and control the underlings!
Social MediaAs if narcissism wasn't enough of a problem, then along came social media, lifting it to an art form. As I'm sure it's fun for some to know what their pal is having for breakfast or what Sheena is wearing to the ball, there's far more insidious things going on inside this recent interconnected disaster. While mobilization and civil disobedience are one of the great dreams of a democracy, what we've more often seen is rapid fire vigliante mobs taking to the streets over some perceived tribal sleight - usually from some out of context video that masks the truth. Then with the greatness of globalization we can watch a maniac cut a guy's head off in the comfort of our living rooms. What started out as some college kids sharing their weekend romps has morphed into a giant spider web nightmare. Pedophiles are jumping with glee that the medium has opened the floodgates to their sick cruel fantasies. Add to this the rise of the social justice warriors and you have a toxic stew demanding chaos and violence. The Irony of fighting for justice by creating division and re-elevating tribalism above the collective in order to prepetuate on others the very oppression you are fighting against is so astonishingly absurd that laughter is the only sane response. Fascism comes in many guises. Nobody knows what objective journalism is. If you disagree with an opinion you simply call it fake news and move on. Your followers will then join you in line. The internet is 90% crap and apparently not everyone knows that.
The EnvironmentGlobal warming is bad. Very very bad but I think this may not be the biggest threat we're facing. The plastic gyres of the ocean are truly frightening, if you've never seen one you may not want to look. These plastics get into the tiny fish and then work their way up the food chain. No one yet knows the end result. Our reliance on plastics may be worse that our careless belching of fossil fuels aloft. The water table is another monumental problem that give few pause. There are droughts and crop failures across the globe with more coming as our water tables shrink and run dry. Plastics in the food supply, water running dry and carbon dioxide choking and heating the skies - these are a few of the obvious in a world of now 7 billion people. That's a b you all. Seven billion! That's a lot of fornication going on. Then we can get into the woldwide obsession with meat consumption, with its bovine methane, tree clearance and resource gluttony. This is without considering the cruelty involved. I don't think it's immmoral to eat animals, I just think it's a higher moral position to not do so. At least for the cows, pigs and chickens. But that's another discussion. Let's not forget the threat of worldwide plague - born of global transporation where an invasive species can be tranported from Shanghai to San Diego in a matter of hours - Ebola and Zika are but precursors of the horrific possibilities to come. Add to this the over prescription of antibiotics and sudden immunity of super bugs only 70 years after the miracle of antibodies was introduced. We're a superbug away from collossal global destruction. Any of these things can have swift and devastating results as they have in the past. Our species, even 7 billion strong, is always teetering on the edge of imminent disaster.
CaveatNow I hear all the hopers and the whiners and the warriors and the optimists and the protesters and the priests and the mad and delusional magical thinkers crying foul. I feel your pain. This is simply a proposition nothing more. But the human race is always a simple cataclysm away from destruction. We've been here a short time but may be nearing our swan song. We can't even touch the dinosaurs for longevity, if we're even going to make it a couple more generations we have to ramp up our game. Or maybe ramp down. Our best hope is that our brains are shrinking and we're getting stupider the further we rely on tech so, as many have mentioned, intelligence isn't necessarily a good or successful adaptation, so maybe dumbing it down will save us. We'll return to the savannah and the caves and live happily ever after. Hold your breath.