Archives for posts with tag: future

‘For things to work as intended, there must be a rule’.

Errr…

‘For things to work, there must be at least some consistency involved’.

This is a far better starting point!

An example would be fine?

Then imagine an Earth where the gravitational field was haphazard. In space and time. Where two lumps of dirt, a k a mountains, sometimes pulled at each other while some other times pushed. With no rules involved whatsoever.
Or where sometimes wood needed oxygen to burn while some other times – or in some other places, the presence of nitrogen was enough for wood to burst into flames.
Need some more? Then how about a place where dogs breed with cows. And also with butterflies. Only not always. And not in a constant manner.

Have you stopped laughing?
Well, this was how our ancestors imagined the Earth.
Sometimes after a mutation had provided them with the most powerful brain ever, our forefathers had learned to speak. To ‘trade’ information. Soon after they has started to develop something Humberto Maturana called ‘the ability of an observer to observe themselves while making observations’. ‘Self awareness’ for short. Or ‘conscience’ in everyday parlance.

Imagine a self-aware observer watching the sun go down. A rather smart one. One with a vivid enough imagination to ask ‘what if the sun will not come up tomorrow morning’…
Stonehenge has suddenly acquired a new meaning, right?

That was why God had so much traction. Simply because it gave sense to everything. It lend meaning to everything under the sun. And beyond!

In time, under God’s protection, we invented science. And, slowly but surely, we’ve started apportioning meaning ourselves.
Meaning we’ve started to take for granted.
Meaning which no longer depended on any third party!

Only we’ve gradually forgotten what science is really about.

Why we had developed it in the first place.

We had forgotten that science is wrong by definition.
That, by following this path, we’ll be forever able to find new meaning but that we’ll never be able to find ‘the’ meaning.

And now, that we’ve ‘killed’ God – as no longer necessary, we rely solely on the meaning we’ve already affixed to the things we already know.
To the things we consider to know… conveniently forgetting what science taught us….

Faced with unforeseen crises – unforeseen, not unforeseeable, we are left powerless.
Having taken so much for granted – our knowledge about the world and our ability to overcome everything the nature throws at us, above all, we find ourselves bereaved of our erstwhile powers.

Are we going to rediscover intellectual humility? And the ability to take advice? From the most unlikely teacher?

Or else?

We’ve been told to go on as usual.

I’m not pointing fingers here.
I just try to convince you how hard it is to make the right decisions. ‘Going forward’ as opposed to ‘looking back’.
I just try to convince as many of you as possible to stop for a moment and think about it. As dispassionately as possible.

We’ve also been told that we need to flatten the curve.
That our systems were not prepared enough for the onslaught that was going to happen.

Some people continued ‘as they were’ while others tried to ‘flatten the curve’.

For a while.
Now, after some time, people from both categories have started to entertain second thoughts.

Trying to figure out what’s going on here, I’ve asked my self a couple of questions.

Who had chosen to go on as usual and who had chosen to distance themselves from the rest of the society?

‘Go on as usual’ first:
– Those who don’t trust the government.
– Those who are convinced nothing can happen to them.
– Those who felt they had no alternative. Who live paycheck to paycheck or who provide essential services to the society. Like healthcare for instance. Or those who bake our daily bread. Pump the water we drink. Tend the generators who lighten our bulbs and power the computer I use to write this post.

Now those who attempt to ‘flatten the curve’:
– People who tend to trust the authorities.
– Those who understand they should really protect themselves. Who are older and/or already sick.
– Those can work from home.
– And people who are otherwise fine but afford to distance themselves from the fray. Those who have enough resources to do it.

Am I imagining things or the picture is already a lot clearer?

And the other question now.
Why the second thoughts?

Because things have unfolded more or less as the government said they were going to.
Because things have started to happen. If not to them, directly, at least to some of those living around them.
Because there still is no alternative in sight. And because there is nothing much to convince them that their efforts are appreciated by the rest of the society.

Because the government might have been right to tell them to ‘lie down’. But because the same government has failed to do enough in the meantime. Not to mention what it had failed to do before.
Because staying put allows you to start thinking. ‘What next? For how long can we go on like this?’

So.
What next?
What are we doing to convince those who actually keep us going to continue doing so?
What are we doing to convince those who have chosen to restrict their lives to a barren minimum that their efforts are worth it?

What are we doing to convince everybody that there will be a life worth living at the end of all this?

Decision is the frontier between action and understanding.

All frontiers are, in fact, links.

Present decisions set the stage where future will be played, just as past decisions have built the theater.
While we, “the people”, are the building actors. The script writers. And the spectators who will eventually bear the brunt.

 

What we currently call ‘science’ is both an activity and an attitude. Something some of us do and the way in which some of us see the world.

In current lingo, those who ‘do science’ are involved in ‘technology’ while those who see the world ‘scientifically’ partake in a certain philosophical tradition.
If we look at things in this way, it becomes obvious that doing science and thinking scientifically might not be the same thing.

Science, as an attitude, had sprung up in Ancient Greece, been kept alive by the early Islamic scholars, rekindled by the Medieval Catholic theologians, come of age during the Renaissance and ‘exploded’ after the Enlightenment.
Technology, on the other hand, is way older. And had been developed mainly elsewhere than the scientific attitude. China and India had been technological powerhouses and thriving civilizations in times when Europe was still learning to wash its hands before dinner.

‘Modern’ science – what we have now, appeared only after technological prowess had been married to the right attitude. 

OK.
It is easy to accept that technology, the more widely distributed part of ‘science’, had appeared as a consequence of mere necessity. People needed things in order to survive, then wanted things in order to increase their comfort… things which had to be produced… as efficiently as possible… hence people had put their minds to it and … voila!
But what had driven some of those around the Mediterranean Sea to develop the scientific attitude?

The same thing which drives us?
The attempt to find out the future, one second earlier than it really happens?
Because they thought, like we do, that reality is unique and that man is meant to master it?

Man, the guy who was made by God in His own image and who was told to rule the world?

Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, Occam,  Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Georges Lemaitre… some of them might have been persecuted by the church – personally or had their their ideas ‘challenged’, but they all had been raised in the Christian tradition and had been active members of their religious communities. Even Galileo, the only one among these who had been ‘physically’ affected by the way in which his ideas had been received by his contemporaries, had a more or less ‘functional’ relationship with the heads of the Church… he had died in his own bed, arrested in his own villa, not at the stake …



takes-a-village-quote

I’ve spent the first 30 years of my life under communist rule.

One of their many ‘mantras’ was: ‘Children are the future of mankind’.

Communist rule had brought about so much happiness in Romania that people had stopped making children.
Concerned about the future the communists had decreed that from then on abortion was to be considered a crime – after it was freely available until that time,  October 1, 1966.
As a consequence more than 10 000 women died after botched abortion attempts – all other methods for birth control had been banned also.
Add to those deaths the individuals, mostly youngsters, killed while attempting to flee communism by sneaking across the borders.

But there was one good thing that communist rule had brought to the people. Not that much because the communists really cared about the fate of the individuals but because they needed skilled laborers in order to put their plans into practice.

Schooling was free.
You could learn as much as you wanted without having to pay a dime.
One had to pass some exams, positions were limited for higher education, but if you were smart enough and diligent enough you could go really high. Specially in the area that is currently known as ‘STEM’. ‘Humanities’ were somewhat off limits, because one could get ‘funny’ ideas when delving too deep in that area but STEM was OK.

Fast forward to our days.

Half of my University mates – I have a MSc in Mechanical Engineering – have emigrated right after Ceausescu was toppled while political power in Romania has fallen under the constant grip of a small coterie which doesn’t really care about what’s going on and/or has not enough intellectual flexibility to understand that we are currently running towards a dead end.

In the end the ‘good’ thing has proved to be a poisoned apple. By tuning the schooling system towards their own goals the communists had created many generations of  superb engineers – who were welcomed by the ‘greedy capitalists’ – but also had completely discouraged independent thinking – the kind needed to breed honest politicians and effective public figures, if you can accept those concepts as anything more than empty words.

Gazing over the borders I became even more despondent.

Forget, for a minute, about child pornography, sweat-shops and so on. These are absolutely horrible but we might console ourselves with the thought that those who are involved in them are either mentally disturbed or blinded by greed.

But something like this?

rape threats

Supposedly a feminist writer is followed by either like-minded people or opponents of her ideas only both categories belong to the wider category of ‘intellectuals’ – people concerned with ideas, human rights, philosophical thinking, etc., etc….
In this context to threat a mother that you are planning to rape her child is way above anything that was imaginable until this moment.
It’s as if being able of sophisticated thinking is no longer one of the venues towards becoming a better person – by simply being able to understand how much pain is produced by evil or careless behaviour.

Then I came across the meme at the top of my post.

I must confess that I don’t like her. For various reasons that do not fit here. Enough to say that while watching the DNC 2016 I had the distinct impression of being transported back in time to one of the congresses organized by the Romanian Communist Party.
Because of my dislike of her I had the tendency to believe that she had actually wrote that.

trust-but-verify-quote-2

So I did that.

false

“While it’s true that Hillary Clinton published a book in 1996 called It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us, it does not include the above-displayed quote, and Clinton (a parent herself) has not said at any point that she believes that children should be raised by the state with parents taking a secondary role.

 

OK, some of you will tell me that Snopes is leaning towards the left and that you cannot always trust its findings.

I can agree with that. Sometimes you should not believe your own eyes, let alone what you read over the Internet.

But my argument still stands.
What has happened to us?
Why are we so willing to involve even our children in our political lies? It doesn’t matter here who lied – Snopes or those who ‘cooked’ this meme…

What are politics for if not for securing a future for our children?

What kind of future can be build on lies?
On this kind of lies and on this kind of threats…

When are we going to understand that the state which side-lines the parents is a fascist one – fascism and communism are close authoritarian cousins, that no one can survive for long outside a community and that the community, as a whole and each of its members, fare better if all its members have a real chance to develop their potential?

Education and health care should not be treated as ‘individual rights’.
It is obvious to the naked eye that societies who take good care of their members while simultaneously respect their freedom fare better than those who let their members fend for themselves without helping them train for today’s job market and without extending them any safety net.
We keep saying that we need better skilled individuals and do nothing about it. We keep saying that in a free market there are risks that have to be taken yet we step back when a risk taker who happened to have failed, honestly, asks for our help.

OK, I understand. The communists dissuaded their children from studying ‘humanities’. Simply because they might have started to ask the very same questions that I’m asking today.

But what happened to the rest of the world?

Who is thinking about the future, beyond planning for future cash-flows (extremely unreliable in the first place), anyway?

Some of us go by ‘the winner takes it all’.
For them each ‘win’ is another step that must be climbed on the ladder towards ‘success’.

Until the inevitable failure, and a single one is enough for the kind of game this people choose to play, brings them back at the foot of the ladder.

Samuel Becket suggested and then Nicholas Nassim Taleb amply demonstrated that there is an alternative to this scenario.

Next time ‘fail better’ was how Beckett taught us to deal with life’s inevitable downs while Taleb’s notion of ‘antifragility’ is the key that unlocks the door towards the understanding that the real success is to be able to survive everything that life throws at you.

In fact that’s what we’ve done, as a species, until now. We are still here, right? Even more, we managed to overcome all hurdles and became the dominant species on  Earth.

There is one small thing though. We’ve apparently grown close to the limits of our planet. We’ve explored almost all of the land mass and we’ve discovered many of it’s natural resources. And now we have become aware of all this.

We have some obvious venues in front of us.
Start fighting among ourselves for the control of what ever resources still are out there. Depending on what kind of weapons we’ll use this scenario might lead to total destruction or to a long war of attrition that will be won by those who have the less to loose. Any of these two will lead to a lot of misery.
Or extend competitive cooperation – the kind that is currently known as ‘really free market’, no monopolies/bullying allowed – to cover up the entire planet. The demographic pressure will ease up considerably – what we currently describe as ‘advanced nations’ have a lot less children than the rest of the population – so we’ll be able to stretch out existing resources for longer. This way we’ll have a lot more time at our disposal to develop sustainable technologies that will enable us to survive on the really long run, potentially until the Sun will grow nasty on us.
And who knows what will happen until then.

But to find out what the future has in store for us we’ll have to survive til that moment. And in order to do that we’ll have to re-learn what it means to trust, respect and love our fellow human beings. All of them.

http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/4362/

https://www.facebook.com/PrinceEaHipHop/photos/a.10150198151749769.315787.71760664768/10153123610239769/?type=1&theater

 check first    stop for the school bus
‘Supposed to stop’ and ‘will stop’ are two completely different things. We dearly need to teach our children that their safety is primarily their responsibility and that they need to check first (that the incoming driver has stopped, for instance) and act only when the circumstances allow it. Hoping that the adults will behave in a responsible manner is a legitimate wish but nothing more than that.
Educating the reckless drivers (punishment is a legitimate teaching tool) can make a difference indeed so we should pursue this venue also but there is a catch here.
Don’t you think that our current attitude towards the children conveys some sort of indifference about ‘tomorrow’?
Treating our children like they were totally irresponsible morons only encourages them to behave as if they really were so. And do you honestly imagine they’ll morph into ‘grown-up adults’ in a jiffy when they’ll reach the ‘magical’ age of legal drinking after being treated like that?
And something else.
People not only don’t stop for the school buses but also rip off children financially (high tuition and huge public debts that will fall in their laps), nutritionally (kids are among the preferred targets for the advertisers who promote junk food), emotionally (we abandon our kids in front of their computers, laden with stupid video games we sell to their parents for a hefty profit) and even sexually [ (long time) “Child abuse victims in Britsh town claim compensation” ] .

Is it because we don’t care anymore? Have we lost all our hope for tomorrow and trust in our fellow human beings?

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