Friday, May 17, 2013

A recent anniversary

Recently I turned 20,000. It seems a suitable time to review.

Things are going well, thank you for asking. I hope they continue to go well, and have tried to make prudent plans about that, while having fun now. My legs are generally less cranky by the day, and everything else internally seems to be well. I was recently reading that if I can hang on 20 years or so, we'll have a confluence of nanotechnology and genetic biotech that will enable us to all live substantially longer in good health. Me in particular, in case you were wondering. I plan to be as close to the front of the line as possible. Things will be wearing out.

The problem is that the world seems to be going to hell in a hand cart. Why a hand cart? Because the pipelines and storage tanks leak, so there is no gasoline for an auto car.

My only reassurance is that things have been going to hell for generations according to various authors throughout history, and yet nobody until very recently carried around an iPhone. Or, given a slightly longer time frame, had reliable hot showers and flush toilets, which is one of the major hallmarks of a civilized society. I note the Burg Dubai has a fleet of tanker trucks to empty the septic tanks beneath the building. I guess they haven't figured out how to build a sanitary sewer system yet.

One of the recent examples that one of my high school teachers gloated over was The Club of Rome. They noted that population went up geometrically, and food supplies only went up arithmetically. The teacher gloated that would leave us starving about the time he kicked the bucket. The laugh is upon him, however, as two things happened. The food supply went up through the green revolution and other changes, and lifespans increased. As far as I know he's still around, probably being a pain in the ass to his children and grand children, if any.

That's the thing. Throughout all of history there has been a persistent "Doom is upon us" school of writing. Generally the "solutions" proposed are to make things worse for people here and now as a sign of devotion to god. Which is idiotic, but that's all of a piece. Another school of writing is to propose a solution that directly or indirectly benefits the proposer, while making things worse for everybody else. The religious get in on this act too but there are no shortage of secular con people willing to give it a try. There is a great deal of it happening now.

There is a much smaller school of thought noting there are problems, and they might get worse, or not, and that it might be prudent to do certain things, or stop doing certain other things. There are usually a lot of numbers in this school of thought, which makes the great unwashed masses very uneasy. Generally this school of thought gets overlooked till it's much too late. Sometimes there is a new invention out of the deal that clearly solves old problems, and then later introduces new problems. There are nay-sayers that say this proves that technology is a bad thing, and we shouldn't try new things, because they create new problems. They conveniently overlook that they would have starved to death, or died in a plague, or been tortured to death by religious fanatics had the old technology not been put into use. In case you missed it, the three I'm referring to are agriculture, modern medicine, and the printing press.

Of course, there is lots of doom for the "doom is upon us" crowd to point to. You don't even need to fudge your numbers or edit your sources. There is no shortage of shit happening, and problems that need solving. Idiot politicians are only the most obvious problem.

I am reassured that about half of the smartest people that have ever lived are alive right now, and have access to information sources that people a generation ago couldn't even dream of. When we have to, we can build amazing stuff. Three words, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. They hoped the those first two rovers would last 90 Sols. Spirit was alive for about 2200 Sols, about 24 times longer than expected. Opportunity is just starting it's 10th YEAR, or 3300 Sols, about 36 times longer than expected. Curiosity survived a sky crane descent onto Mars that boggled my mind. Some engineer buddies of mine were in awe about it. There was so much that could go wrong.

Until very recently, stupidity has always been a capital crime. Historically speaking, stupidity got you killed very quickly. Even just being unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time got you killed. Even just talking to the wrong person could get you killed. It's a Darwinian process. Generally speaking the smart and the lucky survived to breed. If it wasn't a plague, it was a war, or a revolution, or religious hysteria, or a famine, or climate change, or any number of other things.

We are smart enough now, and well organized enough to mostly deal with most of those things. We are getting on the flu bugs quicker, and the world has never been more peaceful than it is now. There are easily enough calories being produced to give everyone on earth all the food they need, if only we stopped losing so much by cycling a significant part of through cows for beef. We're still trying to get a grip on climate change, but the problem isn't the science, it's the idiots sabotaging the discussion at every opportunity, and going over the top to prevent anything from actually being done. Because, of course, they profit from things the way they are. Duh.

Overall I'm pretty positive about the future. I can't wait to see what happens next!

One thing I never in my life expected to see, I got a photo of the other day on the way home from work. Look carefully at what the window washers are wearing. Of course, the first thing I thought of was an old movie called Carry on Up the Khyber.


  1. Revelations and the belief in an apocalypse has wired everyone to expect the end of the world. Another way a belief in the hereafter shits on the here and now. Fuggin god botherers are stinkin up the place!

  2. Revelations and the belief in an apocalypse has wired everyone to expect the end of the world. Another way a belief in the hereafter shits on the here and now. Fuggin god botherers are stinkin up the place!


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