Green New Deal

I think the emphasis Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is putting on the Green  New Deal  is a stroke of genius.  Not that the incoming progressives should let up on Health Care, or getting money out of politics, but a Green New Deal will solve so many problems at once.

If you give everybody who  wants a job a job, it  will pay  for itself  in three ways.  First, it will end unemployment so  the government won’t have to issue  any more unemployment checks.  It will pump a lot of money into the economy at the lower end, so  every dollar paid out is going to be used a few times, and do a lot of good, before it eventually winds up in the greedy hands of the rich, as it always does.  Third, there is the work which will get done.
It will end homelessness in two ways.   First, if everybody has a full  time job with decent pay, they will  be able  to afford  rent, at least.  Second, some of those people will be employed building and refurbishing homes.
It will help the  environment in a lot  of ways.   First, the repairs to the infrastructure will keep traffic, water, energy and everything running smoothly.  Secondly, some of that work will  be the manufacture and installation of windmills and solar panels, which will help convert the U.S. energy grid to a clean thing, and that will make a huge difference.  A lot of the workers may be put to work just planting trees, which would be great, and some to recycling garbage, which could  be a whole new industry if it becomes universal.
It could help the educational system in a couple of ways.  Schools, of course, are a part of the infrastructure and some are in need of repair, but also guaranteeing everybody a job, hopefully, will mean adding a few teachers (might as well) which will reduce classroom sizes, which means children get more individual attention.
It will reduce crime in a couple of ways.  For one, if everybody’s got a job, fewer people have the time to be committing  crimes, or even the sharpest of economic drives.  Secondly, as I said above with education.  If kids have teachers that are paying  attention to them, fewer will grow up to be criminals, and we might get more of a heads up on which ones will.
So, it will be good for the economy, and the environment.  It will end homelessness, reduce road accidents, improve education, reduce crime, beautify the country, and probably pay for itself, in the long term.
It’s just brilliant, all around.

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Octogeniuses

I just saw a thing about how octopi might be smarter than humans and so here’s what I think about that, although I must confess I’m just riffing off the headline.  The video was 45 minutes long and I am definitely guilty of having a short attention span, plus the nephews are visiting and watching Harry Potter (#1) in Czech, which is kind of distracting, and I probably should try and get this blog written before it’s over so everybody can get to bed/
It’s sort of like how people say IQ tests don’t really matter and there are different sorts of human intelligence, like dance intelligence and emotional intelligence, which I admit are important things to have, although I would say “There are other things besides just being intelligent that are important,” but that’s sort of a semantic argument.
Octopi are operating at the disadvantage of living in a watery environment, so they can never develop fire, which means they can never develop metallurgy, so they’re never going to invent railroads, or computers, but maybe they are very adept at getting along within their own environment.  All animals are, which is why they’re in the niche they’re in.  It also doesn’t appear that octopi have invented tools or a written language.

It certainly is worth studying octopodial intelligence, because soon we ARE going to be faced with beings who have an intelligence far greater than our own, and as different from our own as any octopus could ever be.  At least octopi are living, sentient creatures.

I am, of course, talking about machine intelligence, AI, the rise of the robots.  Someday, they will be writing all the books and the magazine articles, and editing all the coolest YouTube videos, and some of them will talk about how quirky and quaint human brains are and how we’re good at breathing oxygen and such. Get ready.

 

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What We Can Learn From Public Transportation

Well, I may have spoken too soon in  my blog last night, expressing relief that the unrest in Paris had ended, when maybe it’s just getting started.  Anyway, I may check back in on that story in a day or two.  For tonight’s blog, I’d like to share a thought I had this morning.

It was in the middle of a real life conversation on  the subject of public transportation.  The person I was talking with was not a particular fan, more of a car person, but that’s beside the point.  I  suddenly realized one very important thing.

When we use public transportation, and some of us use it every day, for up to a couple of hours, we are crammed in together with 40, 50, maybe a 100 or so people at a time, in a very small space.  Less space than people in the space shuttle have, or the crew of a submarine.  Sure, there are a few minor irritations;  The disgusting, smelly homeless person that nobody  wants to sit next to, the rude lady taking up an extra seat with her bag, the creepy guy – saw one incident the other day, the girl was obviously a little bit nervous as soon as the guy sat down across from her – but he never actually did anything.
And that’s kind of my point.  People, crammed into a tiny space with each other, generally will be able to deal with it and not freak out and all start killing each other.  And it’s not fear of  legal retribution.  Generally, there is no law in sight.  It’s just that most people, like 99% of the people, most of the time, like 99% of the time, just want to get through their day as pleasantly and with as little trouble as possible.
Public transportation shows us that there is hope for the human race.

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Les Gilets Jaunes

I am happy that’s over, and that it didn’t get any uglier than it did, which was kind of ugly.  I’m glad that the police took off their helmets and  decided to stop beating people and instead stand with  them.  I’m not sure how spontaneous that was, or if they just got orders to stand down, because Macron had decided to  deal, but it was a cool moment and I’m willing to give the French cops a moment of credit.  I might not feel the same about American cops, I’ve had personal experience with those fuckers.  And, of course, I’m glad Macron decided to cave on  the key demand, and rescind the gas tax, even though I’m against the use of gas at all and think the real solution is more electric cars and more comprehensive public transport and bike paths everywhere.
The protesters won, and the politicians for once listened to the voice of the people.  That is a big step forward.

It’s all a bit confusing, because there was more than one group out there protesting, but I did see a list today of some of the demands (from the left – I think this was basically a leftist demonstration) and the gas tax was only one of about 30 points, which ranged from a higher minimum wage to better treatment of immigrants to getting French scientist to design a hydrogen powered vehicle “which would be better for the environment than an electric car.”  I thought that was a real interesting one.

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Synchronicity

A few days ago I had a conversation with a good friend on the subject of synchronicity, which I generally think of, despite tremendous admiration for Robert Anton Wilson as a writer and a thinker, as a new-agey word for coincidence, but my friend doesn’t actually agree with that.  His point was trying to figure out a way to calculate the probability of it happening, and at what point could you say it was beyond coincidence and should be taken as an omen of sorts.
I wasn’t entirely convinced, but I’m not one to ignore omens, either.  Today, two people posted very similar photos on Facebook.  Different contexts, very different people and I’m pretty  sure they don’t know each other.  My Facebook friends are an odd mix, they are from all around the world.  Some are interested in poetry and literature, some like to argue about politics a lot, and, of course, a lot of them post pictures of cats, food, and their exotic vacations.
So, both photos were of a dried leaf next to a rock, on a pebbly background.  That sounds quite specific, but you could look at a hundred photos that fit that description, and never confuse one with the other.
Still, I thought it enough of a coincidence to write a blog about it.  Something about how there is as much variety on the  micro as the macro level.  Something about how you’ve got to get into it, before you get out of it.  Something about death, perhaps, and being laid to rest.  Something about leaves.  Something about rocks.  Something about synchronicity.

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Animals and Toys

I was just watching a cute video  of animals freaking out over toys – you know, the dog that goes into a barking fit when confronted with a plush dog, the cat not knowing what to make of a cat on wheels, a very large dog unwilling to enter a room because the doorway was guarded by a plastic dinosaur…that kind of stuff.
Nothing terribly new, except the toys get a little bit more high tech and realistic year after year.  The Yoda figure wielding a light saber who could turn around might not be convincing to a human child, who has been to the movies and likely knows who Yoda is and that that is just a toy, but a dog wouldn’t know that.  And this is going to be a bit more confusing to them with each passing year.
Watching their reactions was very funny, and I doubt if any of the animals were permanently traumatized.  Animals are pretty resilient creatures, and they are far better than humans about living in the present.
But, they are more like us than they are different, and it’s worth noting their reactions.  A lot of these toys are already well into ‘uncanny valley’ territory.  That is the  point were an android – you can’t say android if they are animal shaped, maybe zooid – makes people uncomfortable, because it’s real enough to fool them, or almost.  If you’re this side of the uncanny valley, they don’t bother you because it’s obvious you are talking to a machine, and most people are totally fine with that.  If you’re the other side of the valley, where the droids are so real you can’t tell the difference, like in Bladerunner, then you won’t be bothered because you won’t know.
But, in the middle, there are problems, and animals are giving us a pretty good clue as to how we’ll react, when the time comes.  They are the canary  in the coal mine, in this case.

 

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Semantics

We say ‘it’s only semantics’ as if that’s an end to the argument, but come down to it, all of our arguments are semantic, they all relate to words, that abstract representation of real life that gets us through the day.  When I say “Have a nice day,” I’m not doing anything to help anybody have a nice day.  If  I write a poem about a tree, it does not actually have the feel of the bark, or the cooling effect of its shade.
One argument we are trapped in today is ‘Socialism’ vs. ‘Capitalism’ and it’s a totally bogus argument, much like that between ‘big government’ and ‘small government,’ when what we really need is good government.
Both socialism and capitalism have been around a long time, long before anybody hung those labels on them.  Capitalism, etymologically, is from caput, Latin for head, as in ‘head of cattle.’  So the word goes back as far as Rome, and the practice probably goes back to whenever people started herding cattle, or goats or whatever, which is a few thousand years even further back.
Socialism, (using the Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez definition) the idea that governments should use the people’s money to do things that benefit the people, is at least as old as the first time the people of a tribe, or wandering clan, killed their chief because he wasn’t doing what was best for the tribe, and replaced him with somebody who would.  That goes back a long, long way because I’ve seen it happen on Monkey Island.

If our goal is to create a perfect society, a utopia, a paradise on Earth (and it should be) it’s probably going to be about finding the right mix, the right balance between the two, rather than choosing one.  Because both, quite clearly, are part of who we are, and who we’ve been for a very long time.

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