Monday, January 23, 2023

"What Are People Thinking?"

I say that a lot, both herein, and in real life, often to myself but also sometimes out loud. I also talk about the ability to separate fantasy from reality, mostly in connection with the now general failure to notice any difference at all. Wilkommen zum Wolkenkuckkucksheim. The legendary home of the cuckoos in the sky!

We have been placed in the awkward position of receiving way too much new information every day. Much of it sounds perfectly reasonable, but may have been fabricated to manipulate our better natures. Much of it sounds fatuous, but may turn out to be true. An uncomfortable amount of it is in a kind of gray area in the middle, where anything is possible and any failure to recognize the importance of some of it may place us at a disadvantage. Now you can add the mischief of deep-fakes and ChatGPT.

We ordinary humans are expected to sort all of this out.

We are exposed to commercial programming that seeks to sell us gold. “Gold,” they say with confidence, “is the ultimate hedge against inflation.” You may wonder if they want us to lug a bunch of the stuff back to our houses and sew it into the mattresses. When I was a boy, this was one of the jokes that adults made about the French. (The other common joke was that the French are too cheap to heat their houses. They prefer to wear sweaters and smell bad.)

Mais non! These companies don't want to give us any gold at all! They want us to buy into their “precious metals exchange.” After that I'm pretty sure it's like a game of Three-Card-Monte. “Where is the Queen?” Oh, sorry Charlie, there is no queen.

Bitcoin, anyone?

Now we are forced to navigate this world. I read in the NYTimes this morning an article about nice young people struggling to save money. They know which way the wind is blowing, and they're not expecting any help from the Land of the Free after they have the gall to stop working. No, they see clearly that they must prepare for the worst when another sixty years have passed and they have become frail and sickly. They know that the long range plan is to turn that entire demographic out into the street. That's freedom! Freedom to take advantage of and exploit the gullible and the old, frail, and sickly. And freedom to discard them when they are no longer useful.

It was so poignant to read about earnest, intelligent young people talking about how they are still living with their parents, post-grad, and making forty or fifty thousand dollars a year, and how they struggle to save any money. Most still had large student loan debt. One admitted that all she could manage to save per month was about twenty dollars. One was saving quite a bit more. He wouldn't say what his income was, but he admitted that, “most of the people in my neighborhood earn between $150,000 and $250,000 per year.” But riddle me this? How much will be enough to save you from financial disaster forty-five years from now? That's almost the year 2070.

May I be blunt? Is anyone reading this even willing to hazard a guess what name the United States of America will be going by in 2070? Will Tom Cotton's face still be on the money? Or will it be the face of the ruling Pope/ Emperor? Will there still be a Florida? How many dollars will it take to buy a can of tuna? Will $500 cover it? Will there still be fish? Who fucking knows?

We are a race that is blessed with a large cadre of very talented scientists. We are also a race that is in danger of losing its entire ecosystem and life support system. This dynamic always leaves me breathless with terror, because our scientists act as though nothing were threatening our existence at all. They stay focused on their work figuring out what happens in the interior of black holes. They are fascinated by the incidence of volcanism on certain moons of the outer planets. They sit, essentially, and twiddle their thumbs. (That was me being very, very polite. Did anyone catch it?)

Our pharmacologists are also hard at work. Working on nonsense while strangely ignoring the existential problems that are staring us in the face. Here the problem is corporate. While warming temperatures and shifting latitudes are moving the “tropics” northward, along with its bacteria and its bugs, those companies remain focused on products that will produce short term profits. There may be a few Jeramiahs among them, warning of the new disease vectors rejoining us after millennia stuck in the permafrost, and the like, but most of the pharmacology business remains dedicated to more profitable products, like boner pills, mood lighteners, and expensive cancer treatments. Antibiotics are expensive to develop, and they don't pay off in a business sense.

None of this is surprising to me, because we are a people of supernatural folly. Rather than make an effort to extend the presence of humans on the earth beyond the next one or two hundred years, our decision-makers prefer to spend our money on really boss hyper-sonic missiles, smaller and lower yield nuclear weapons, submarine yachts, and space-tourism.

It will be interesting to observe, if you live to see it all play out. Look especially for the major crop failures. Those will be fun. It turns out that temperatures rising by less than you'd think interfere with plant pollination. How exciting it will be when one of these “little proxy wars” reaches near-earth space. Three to six months of no Internet? Over the whole world? That should be fun. Is there a plan to deal with that scenario? Why, certainly not! We're busy investigating the Biden family.

The really rich, and our wonderful statesmanlike politicians, will be fine. Don't worry about them. They will have plenty of food, total security, and limitless credit. Regular folks can forget it. You may have money in the bank, but no Internet means no access. No ATMs. All Branches closed. The banks will only be keeping track of all of the houses that they can seize after the computers come back online.

Food and water? That will become an unpleasant subject quickly, so let's leave it out.

My guess is that the inside of black holes is solid, and black. It will be fun to find out for sure!

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