Archive for the ‘alternative futures’ Category

We need each other

2017/08/11

Thinking about socialism, and socialist countries got me to consider the countries in the far North, like Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Canada.  These are places where people have to count on each other for survival, and work together to get through winters.  In more temperate climates, people exist without having to share, and can get by without being checked up on by a neighbor.  Going off the road in a car does not mean danger of freezing to death in most of the U.S.

The less we feel part of a community, the less we will sacrifice for that community.  As we become more wealthy, we are reluctant to share that wealth with those we do not consider part of our group.  We have got to realize that we are in this together, and that we will need each other at some point in the future if we want to pass anything on to  generations to come.

The contribution that we make may be small, perhaps only a moment out of a lifetime, but that moment will be a critical one for everyone.  We all have worth, and we need to be reminded of that, frequently.

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Darkness and light pollution

2017/07/25

Many people are afraid of the dark, and lots of light is considered a crime deterrent.  But lots of light also masks the night sky, taking away part of our heritage, the stars and planets making their way through our sky.  Light pollution is so severe in some places that the only objects visible at night are the moon and, occasionally, Venus, the brightest of the planets.

Some people don’t like to see the stars, because doing so makes them think about where they are, and infinity, and they freak out.  Of course, some people don’t even need the night sky to freak out; a friend told me one time that she didn’t like clear, or fair days, because she was afraid that she would float away.  She didn’t feel that way when it was cloudy, though.

Sometimes, I wish that there would be a massive power failure in my area, so that I, and everyone else in the area, could see what night was like without a lot of artificial light.  As it is, I am fortunate to live in a lightly populated area, with very low population density.  But it is still hard to see the Milky Way anymore, that river of stars stretching across the sky.

Moonlight stroll in the quiet

2017/07/10

Just returned from a brief walk in the light of a full moon, enjoying the quiet of early Monday, when most people are asleep.  Sometimes, I believe that I can sense the moods of others, and nighttime is the most stress-free time, it seems.  There is a belief, which I subscribe to, that the moods and thoughts of others can influence our own thinking.  Not drastically, or overpowering in intensity, but discernible.

Looking at the moon made me think of an animation made up of images taken from a space satellite which is between the Earth and the Sun.  The animation   shows the Moon crossing the face of the Earth, and you can see the far side of the Moon.  How would our minds be affected if we were that far away from the rest of humanity for a period of at least a month?  Is the Moon close enough that there would be no difference?  Will we ever find out?  I hope so.

Strength through knowledge, not arms

2017/06/12

President Trump has been talking about spending a bunch more money on the military, supposedly to make the U.S. safer.  But the military cannot make us safer, they only can provide the means to retaliate for any acts of terrorism.  What can make us safer is technology, technology to detect threats and identify the people behind them.

A big part of the justification for increasing military spending is to insure that the high-tech companies that are essential to the military are kept in business.  But these companies are also the ones which make possible our exploration of space.  By spending money on space technology instead of on the military, we can support the development of new technologies as well as keeping the industrial side of the military-industrial complex healthy.  Many of the military’s weapon systems have been impacted by developments resulting from space exploration.

Aircraft carriers, tanks, and airplanes will not protect us against acts of terror.  Spending more on the military will not make us safer.  Spending on space exploration promotes the development of new technologies, while at the same time providing business to companies involved in defense.  The microprocessor was a spin-off from the space program which has affected every aspect of our lives.  Spending on space is a far better investment than spending on the military.

The West in crisis

2017/05/07

France teeters on the edge of a anti-Eurpopean revolt, the United States seems locked in a internal war, and England has decided to leave the European Union, which it was never completely a part of.  Spain, Italy, and Greece, the foundation of the Western mind, are trapped in financial suspended animation.  Germany’s premiere auto maker admits to designing vehicles to cheat on emissions tests.

Social issues, such as financial in-equality, health care, and retirement benefits are becoming very important in the U.S., eroding the dominance capitalism has had for the last 150 years.  Church attendance is at all-time lows, yet many people are interested in spiritual growth.  Evidence indicates that Russia meddled with the American election, throwing the result into question.

The acceptance of capitalism and materialism in areas outside the West is very troubling, because they are not working very well in the West.  Greed for ever increasing profit, disregard for environmental issues, and lack of sustainability are becoming trademarks of the Western world.  The West consumes the majority of the world’s resources, yet represents only a fraction of the world’s population.  That is unlikely to continue, especially as countries like China adopt automobiles in place of bicycles.  We all are going to be riding bicycles soon, I think, and we will consider ourselves lucky to have them.

The wrong stuff

2017/05/01

America was made great by companies working together with employees to build products which would last and last.  America was made great by governments investing the public’s money into roads, bridges, and water systems.  America was made great by working people sacrificing part of their lives to an employer, or by people who built their own empires from the ground up.

America is being destroyed by greed, the belief that work is somehow demeaning, only fit for inferiors.  Greed which drives corporations to focus on practices which drive away customers; cutting costs often means cutting staffing, so there are fewer people to provide customer service.  The emphasis on profit has become obsessive, driven by shareholders who demand an income from lending money to a company.

Capitalism may have been great during the early years of the United States, but it is doing great harm today.  Wealth is so concentrated that the economy is capsizing.  Debt is considered an essential financial tool, instead of last resort.  Banks no longer are lending depositors money, but money from investors hungry for immediate rewards.  Many dwellings are mortgaged for more than they are worth, and there are vacant homes all over the country.

Taking care of the people should be the most important aspect of society, insuring that there are healthy, educated, well-fed people to perform the work needed to support an advanced society.  Single-payer health care is an essential aspect of an advanced economy, protecting the employer from the costs of employee’s health care for life.  This health care should include dental, vision, and behavioral aspects, as the prevention of problems is far cheaper than dealing with the problems.  Providing minimal housing is another essential government role, insuring that everyone can sleep indoors if they want to.  We don’t need a three-bedroom home for every person, but a shipping container can provide superior protection from the elements for a very small price.  How you fix up the inside is up to you.

Taking care of the people is like taking care of your car.  Unless you don’t care about costs, taking care of tools, vehicles, or plant and equipment is essential.  People are our most valuable resource, and we have been exploiting people without mercy.  The rewards for submitting to the constraints of employment have been diminishing for decades.  Our spiritual lives are frequently empty and barren, amidst a society obsessed with material things.

Our culture  of greed is making people sick, to the point of killing each other, and themselves.  Our society is destroying us, exploiting us to death.  We cannot go back to earlier days, nor can we afford to continue as we are.  Change is inevitable, and the longer it is delayed, the more disruptive it will be.

Science saves lives!

2017/04/24

On Saturday, April 22nd, I joined hundreds of people to march in the streets for Science.  In was also Earth Day, and we were marching for Earth as well as Science.  After chasing down materials an hour before the march, I made a sign that said “Science saves lives!”.  This message was my own idea, and I liked it more than any that I had seen on the Web.  I discovered that it was also an easy slogan to chant, and got people to chant it several times.

Science is under attack, by people who don’t want to believe that our existence is threatened by our own activities, or who feel that profit is more important than the future.  Some people believe that Science is anti-spiritual, anti-religious, because their faith depends on miracles.  I happen to believe that Science does not have all the answers, and that there are things which we cannot measure, or detect, which still have an impact on the Universe.

Science is not bad, or evil, it is neutral.  It can be used to do harm, to destroy, but it also is an important part of survival.  But Science can be hard for people to understand, and even intelligent, well-meaning people can get confused.  Vaccines are beneficial, the square root of negative one does exist in mathematics, and electricity flows from negative to positive.  Investigate, study, question.  These are fundamental to the scientific process.

Living in the cloud

2017/04/05

A friend has gotten me to think about the difference between studying to gain knowledge and learning how to access knowledge quickly.  ‘In an era when I can look up practically anything, why should I spend years studying different subjects so that I can be tested upon them?’ is a paraphrase of what he said.  He also once talked about living in an “effluent society”, but that is neither here nor there.

Human knowledge has far exceeded the ability of any one person to grasp.  We need to decide what are the fundamentals that we must teach each other, what skills are so essential that we should group people together for hours at a time so that they can learn them.  Simply knowing that knowledge exists is not the same as having the knowledge, and knowledge affects our actions and thoughts.  But not all people are going to be receptive to the same knowledge, so we must choose a way to convey it that is flexible, with those who are interested being able to pursue something further.  The ‘classroom’ has become one of the biggest impediments to education, in my opinion, because it stipulates that everyone is going to learn at the same rate, and in the same way.

Treating us as individuals means stepping away from the industrial ‘assembly line’ method of instruction.  Focusing on a persons strengths, helping them to overcome weaknesses, developing their personalities, these are the role that the public school system must fulfill.  We can have a room full of students, but we should not view them as a ‘class’.  American society has gutted the family, destroying the network of relatives and friends that were responsible for the raising of the young for thousands of generations.  Nurturing means showing the world to someone, while helping them to cope with it.  The world is a vast mix of ideas, cold realities, and ignorance.

The electronic world offers us near instant feedback on our efforts, if we are strong enough to pay attention.  Living in the cloud means being aware of each other in near real time.  This promotes a group consciousness, a multi-mind, which can occur when a number of people are thinking about the same thing at the same time.  We may be evolving into a single sentient organism, if some science fiction writers are correct, but we still need to get along with each other in the meantime, and schools are where we will learn how.  People have to be taught how not to get caught up in emotions, how to say ‘no’ to themselves, and to others, and how to believe in themselves as people, with intrinsic value.  We have to care about ourselves before we can really care about others.

Debt: Destroying us with money.

2017/03/14

“Money and debt make it possible to influence people without having public executions.” Justin Michael Barnett 2017/03/14

Money has been fundamental to human development. Debt has been an instrument of mass destruction, which is ravaging our society, our entire planet right now. Debt is funny money, money which has not been made yet. However, debt can be recorded in American accounting as an asset, increasing the monetary worth of the lender, even though collection of a certain percentage of debt is impossible. Debt is the American contribution to the world, a slavery made possible by using material things as a basis of our self image.

Americans probably were not the ones who came up with the idea of a company store, where employees can charge food and other goods to an account. The company never paid quite enough to get by on, so most of the employees were in debt to the store. But if they quit, they would have to pay off the company store. American companies went into Nicaragua, bought up most of the countryside, and planted bananas. Then the locals were offered employment with the banana company, (Day-O! Daylight come and me want go home.) or they could starve. Or move.

But that was not the worst. In order to keep consumerism from collapsing due to the American public having spent their savings completely, easy credit was introduced. Debt. This was a creation of the banking industry, the idea that someone would be allowed to purchase something with money that they had not earned yet. The idea of individuals being able to borrow money is exceptionally recent, compared to the immense history of banking. But then, so is the economic model of consumerism, which is the structure of the American economy.

As consumers, we are expected to consume. However, we are not making enough to consume very much, in spite of how cheap everything has gotten. Things are so cheap because they are made from American materials shipped half way round the world, processed into goods by people making a dollar or two a day, and then shipped back to the United States. That is a simplistic generalization to illustrate the insanity which prompted manufacturers to abandon a labor market which demanded health care benefits, retirement benefits, and vacation time. Calculating the worth of products in money makes it seem worthwhile to ship materials to China to get finished goods back. There is no monetary way of calculating the value of jobs, health care, extended families, and happiness.

Those are some of the things that we have lost because of money and materialism. We should also include the environment, courtesy, patience, and sharing. Money allows us to live outside of the community, not dependent on group resources to survive. Debt shackles us to the past, destroying our future.

Keeping the sky from falling

2017/03/06

Most people seem to have little interest in space.  They perhaps believe that nothing that goes on off-planet will affect them.  Yet, it has been shown that rocks falling on Earth can affect us.  Most recently, a city in Russia, Chelyabinsk Oblast, was nearly hit by a meteor large enough to destroy a building, and the shock waves damaged hundreds of buildings.  There are geological remains of impact craters kilometers across, and photographs of the results of a meteor blast which leveled trees for kilometers around.

Detecting these rocks from here on Earth can be very difficult, because they are dark and do not reflect very much light.  Also, some of them spend most of their time between the Earth and the Sun, so they are nearly impossible to see.  Back in the early 1990’s, a rock over a kilometer across passed between the Earth and  the Moon, and no one knew it was there until it was between the Earth and the Moon.  A rock that size would destroy an entire region, and could potentially cause extreme weather which would make life on Earth very difficult.  An impact of a similar size 65 million years ago is almost certainly what ended the long reign of the dinosaurs.

From outer space, rocks are much easier to detect, because they reflect some of the thermal energy of the Sun.  A satellite close to the orbit of Venus would be able to detect any large rocks with orbits near the Earth’s, and could also detect any intruders from the outer Solar System.  A few hundred million dollars for such a satellite does not seem too expensive to insure that we do not get blind-sided by a big rock.