12 Years

12 years is not a long time at all and yet that’s the amount of time some scientists say we’ve got left in order to turn the world around (metaphorically, we don’t need to do a superman thing where we’ve actually got it spinning backwards or something) or else we’re doomed.
The horrifying, unbearable part of all this is that we could, with a concerted effort and very little imagination, pull it off, we could convert the world from a doomed planet to a blooming paradise under the sun, we could create an environment that is stable and sustainable, with oxygen at pre-industrial revolution levels, plastic free oceans absolutely teeming with fish, a tremendous diversity of pesticide and herbicide free, fresh vegetables.
We’ve mostly got the technology, and it’s still improving.  Some of the problems could solve each other.  For instance, we have a problem of rising ocean levels.  We also have a problem off desertification.  So, we need to move the water from the oceans into the deserts.  Of course, it’s salt water.  So, we need to desalinate it, which is energy intensive.  Well, you know what else the desert has plenty of, besides land that’s waiting to be reclaimed?  Sunshine.  Lots and lots of it.  That’s why they’re deserts.  So, put up huge banks of solar panels to power the desalination plants, bring water to the desert and grow all the food that people need and a few problems solved all at once.
Then we need to set up high speed rail all over the world, switch everything over to clean, renewable energy, plant about a trillion trees, and get the plastic out of our oceans, and a few more things.

But most of them will save money, and all of them will have more than a single positive effect.  So, we should start doing all of it, hard core, right now.

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Yesterday’s Blog Today

Last night I didn’t sit down to start writing my blog until almost 1 a.m., partly because I couldn’t think of a good topic, and partly because I was watching some cool stuff on TV about aliens, which  I’d seen before but it is a very good series, mixing in real science with a compelling story line just the way I like it.  So, when I went to write my blog, suddenly I couldn’t access the internet at all.
That happens sometimes, but most of the time when it happens it seems to be about 1 a.m., and just at the time I’m starting to write my blog.  If I were a more paranoid, conspiracy minded person than I am, I might thing that Mark Zuckerberg and the powers that be are out to get me.  But, I’m sure there’s a more rational explanation.  I’m just not that important.  Which  makes me a little bit jealous sometimes of my Facebook friends who make posts saying “I’m back, I was just blocked from Facebook for a month for posting controversial material” and I think “Damn, I’m more controversial than they are” but that’s not really what it’s about.  They have more followers.  Also, I may feel a bit envious, but I don’t actually want to be banned, at all.

You know who should be banned?  Not from Facebook, although I’ll bet he has an account, but from public office.  Brian Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State and candidate for governor.  He’s managed to put aside 53,000 voter registration applications (70% of them from black people), thus giving him a huge leg up in his run for governor against Stacey Abrams, a black woman.  53,000 is no small amount.  That’s easily enough to swing a close election, and even enough to override a fairly substantial Abrams win.  If he manages to get away with this, she will have to win by an absolute landslide in order to win.
Now, it would be nice to think that the honest, upstanding citizens of the Peach State would rise up in anger and give Abrams that landslide, but I don’t think that’s likely.  Kemp’s supporters, his hard core base, are gun toting, bible quoting, Trump adoring Hillbilly extras from the set of Deliverance, and they are perfectly happy with preventing black people from voting.  There must be lawsuits, and there must be lawsuits now.  November will be too late.

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The Case For More Computers in Politics

I’m already hearing reports of rather large voter purges happening right now in Georgia, Indiana, and Texas.  It’s shocking but not surprising, and I don’t have a clue what to do about it, I hope some lawsuits get brought, but that’s not the subject of tonight’s blog.
Gerrymandering is a serious problem, but that’s not the subject of tonight’s blog, either, although it’s what made me think of it.  I’m assuming everybody’s seen those memes of maps of congressional districts, if those districts were designed by computer algorithm, instead of by some sleazy weasels in congress.  Pretty impressive, huh?  Radically different, and obviously fair.
Then I thought, what if Supreme Court justices were picked by computer.  The program could filter for a certain amount of experience on the bench, number of cases worked, give extra points for attendance and punctuality, deduct points for any time their rulings were over-ruled, stuff like that.  Party politics wouldn’t even need to come into it.
The only reason this isn’t done is that back when the founding fathers founded the nation, back before that, deep in the mists of time when people started doing things in the way that we know say “we’ve always done it like that,” they didn’t have computers, so it  was up to humans to make the decisions.
And the human beings who make the decisions are almost always assholes.  I trust computers more.

 

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Don’t Let the Screen Door Hit Ya, Nikki

Nobody except Nikki Haley knows why Nikki Haley resigned, but there is plenty of speculation.   It could be about the investigation that was about to open up on her (and  I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t proceed), about accepting free  rides on corporate jets.  That would strike me as small  potatoes amid all the major corruption of the Trump administration, but still…it might be a big deal to Nikki Haley.
It is possible, as many have suggested, that she’s hoping to be appointed to the vacant South Carolina Senate seat that would come to be if Trump fires Sessions and replaces him with Lindsay Graham.  In that case, she either has advance knowledge or is taking a huge chance.  Lindsay might very  well get no  more than a condescending pat on the head from Trump for his theatrics during the Ford hearing.  The position may  not even be open.  Some have suggested she might be planning a run for president, but it  seems to me U.N. ambassador would be a pretty good stepping stone to that – that is, if she weren’t the topic of an investigation.

In any event, good riddance to her.  She’s a global warming denier, and spent her term at the U.N. acting like a belligerent jerk and threatening to start WWIII all the  time.  Fortunately, most countries of the world have governments which are not so  insane as the American  government, and none have quite risen to the bait.

I can’t imagine who Trump is going to replace her with, either, but I am certain it will be somebody horrible.  I’ve heard both Ivanka Trump and Kanye West suggested, and I  don’t think either suggestion was actually a joke.

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Humans

This blog is not going to change the world, but I’m kind of sick of talking about the real world anyway.  There is no rational way to explain the right wing wave that’s sweeping the world -WTF, Brazil?!  Fun loving, carnival hosting, multi-racial, tropical paradise Brazil??
Either it’s massive fear due to environmental and demographic factors (i.e. overpopulation), or there’s a river of money flowing from the hidden spring of dark capitalism, but it’s scary either way, and I’ve got no suggestions, but tonight…
I was very pleased with my  TV viewing.  One of my favorite programs in recent years has been Humans, and I was quite bummed when it ended, I thought “Damn, what a bogus  spot to end a mini-series, just as things were getting interesting.”
So, when I saw it advertised again, I thought they’d be rerunning the last series, which I never did see from the beginning, so I was looking forward to that.
But, no, this is season two, and it has gotten very interesting, indeed.  Terrorist humans killing robots, terrorist robots killing humans, mad bombers killing everybody, and a cute, little girl who punches her classmates who bully her for being too robot-friendly.
Ethical questions galore, and even though Agnes is obviously  a cyberpsychopath who is itching to kill human beings, she’s hot.

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Proofreading

I’ve spent most of the weekend on proofreading, and an awkward exercise it was.  A lot of changing a to the and the to a, of course, and rearranging sentences so the subject comes first, which is standard.  I was told before I started to leave all the abbreviations  alone, that they like their abbreviations, and for the most part I respected that, and I continued to as long as they were the acronymic kind that bureaucrats are so inexplicably fond of.
But, they were abbreviating number as nu, and million as mio, and for some reason about half the time they would abbreviate animation as anim. and then in the next sentence they would spell it out, so  I changed all those so it was more normal.
There was one point where they had the word teather and I figured it was a simple typo and changed it to teacher, and then my wife pointed out that it was a slightly more complex typo and the intended word had been theater.

And we laugh at Google when it screws things up.  I’m not really sure I’m that much better.  In fact, if I was doing the translations instead of just the proofreading (my wife has already done the translation), I’m sure I couldn’t do as well as Google, in any language –  and Google can do it in every language.  Sure, they  make some comical mistakes, and they are funny.  They are like a child’s humorous malapropisms, based in simple and innocent misunderstanding.  The child eventually learns, and adopts all the preconceptions of their elders and society at large.  The computers will do the same, except that once the computers get to an adult level, they will keep on going.
Someday, computers will  not only be able to translate our words, they will be able to interpret them, psychoanalyze them, parody them, weave them into brilliant poems and songs and novels and screenplays, collate them with others  words by other people on related and tangential subjects, and get far more mileage out of them than we ever did ourselves.
Keep your words sweet.  Soon we will have to eat them.

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The Kardashev Scale

I was watching a program today, one of those I’ve  seen pieces of many  times like that, about the deep future – Year Million I believe it’s called.  There was a lot of talk of Dyson spheres and the Kardashev Scale, and how people will have moved into cyberworld entirely, leaving our corporeal existences behind and reveling in the painless bliss of a digital existence.
The Kardashev Scale strikes me as a ridiculous scale, on a couple of levels.  A type 1 advanced civilization, according to the good professor K, is one which manages to use all the energy of its own home planet.  A type 2 has harvested all the energy of its solar system (that’s where the Dyson sphere comes in) and a type 3 has harvested the energy of a whole galaxy.  Isn’t that just a little bit greedy?

I mean, the whole mark of a civilization, according to Kardashev, is how much it can consume.  Not whether it can produce great music, or great literature, or beautiful paintings and sculptures.  Not whether it can create a just society, or an intelligent and knowledgeable society, living and trading between hundreds of planetary utopias living in harmony.  Not whether it can sustain its own existence out to a theoretical eternity by living in harmony with the natural universe, but whether we can quash it.  It is the worst instincts of mankind, codified.
In addition,  of course, it’s just a scale made up by some guy, with very little bearing on where we are at our current stage of development.

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