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|-- The science of eternity by Martin Rees; www.prospect-magazine.co.uk; January 2002|
|-- Are We Alone? by Gregg Easterbrook; The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 262, No. 2; pages 25-38; August, 1988|
|-- Mankind Pursues Forbidden Fruit, Via Computer ["http://22.214.171.124/contWriter/cnd7/2000/04/11/cndin/3444-0004-pat_nytimes.html"] JAY BOOKMAN; COMPUTER NEWS DAILY - NYT SYNDICATE/Cox News Service, found on or about 4-11-2000|
Which will we choose?
Ragnarok is an old Norse word, essentially referring to the last and greatest war between good and evil. Humanity's Ragnarok looks to be upon us now. The winner looks pre-determined (and it's not the good guys). Our mute galaxy seems a powerful testament to that truth-- as among the billions of star systems in our galaxy, not a single other civilization seems to have survived their own Ragnarok.
But we can at least try to hold off the darkness a little longer. We look to be the last stewards of life still standing. It's our duty.
So what's the difference in the human fight between good and evil today, as opposed to the past? Why are we in Ragnarok now, and not before?
Because in the past, when evil won, it was at best a temporary victory. It was always possible for us to rise up and overthrow the evil at some later date, if sufficient strength could be amassed. Sometimes good would prevail, sometimes evil. The tide of battle could always be turned one way or the other, as all the strength and intelligence joined in the conflict stemmed from the same basic human sources. Neither side could ever gain permanent dominance over the other.
But now things are changing. For the first time in this human age, it's becoming possible for one side to get the permanent edge they need to prevent the other from ever again wresting back control.
Unfortunately, this advantage is going exclusively to evil. Which means by some point very soon now, good cannot afford to ever lose again. For another chance to break free may never come, even through the end of days.
Why will evil have the better shot at victory? Because this last, final stage of human existence will be like an alcoholic's battle to stay sober. Each new day will be another battle of good against temptation. The bottle can afford to wait out the alcoholic's will power, for he at best can only win one more day of sobriety at a time. But the bottle only has to win once to maybe become the permanent victor. The same thing is true of evil during Ragnarok.
The reason that the tide may be irreversible again after the next global victory by evil is technology, pure and simple. No longer will all the power and intelligence of both sides flow solely from human wellsprings. Purely human means account for a smaller overall share of resources each and every day now.
This means (all other things being equal) whichever side devastates the other now may enjoy an immense technological advantage over the loser, effectively preventing them from ever rising again.
But other things aren't equal, are they? By definition, good must always remain open to the possibility-- and the risk-- of evil. For to do otherwise would inevitably lead to mistaken persecution and punishing of the innocent on scales far beyond the error rate seen in more moderate regimes. Because any effort to purge every last iota of 'evil' from society can quickly become a 'witch-hunt' like that of Medieval times, where merely being accused may equate as guilt. Or admitting to an 'impure' thought might get you executed.
Tell a person they're not allowed to think of a certain thing, and they may well become unable to think of anything else. For instance: try to keep from thinking of the word "black" for just 60 seconds, as if your life depended upon it. Can't do it, can you? Why? Because that's human nature!
Yes: It sure sounds good to proclaim you're going to stamp out all evil in the world. But that inevitably comes to mean that only one particular view or standard of what's evil and what's not will come to be enforced. And tons of stuff which fits better into the 'mixed' bag of good and bad (or defies any sort of certainty regarding classification at all) will-- for convenience's sake-- simply be reclassified as 'evil' as well.
That's the stuff of massive oppression and genocide, folks. Nazi Germany. Stalin's U.S.S.R. And so far in history, whenever it's occurred, it's meant evil has successfully usurped good.
Good must also embrace the risk of evil stemming from accidents and ignorance. Else we'd be unjustly punishing the young, the uneducated, the mentally ill, and the plain unlucky.
But evil is under no such restriction. There can be perfect evil. But there cannot be perfect good. Good must remain ever open to dissent, debate, differences, and new possibilities. Evil has no such constraints.
Even under the worst of conditions, good must allow for some risk of evil in its midst. For to do otherwise would be to enslave a population, to rob it of free will, creativity, and independence of action-- and thereby transform the good itself into evil. For enslavement is one hallmark of evil.
But evil is under no such restriction to abide good in its midst. Evil can and does deny and punish dissent and debate. Censors information and opposition. Shields its actions from scrutiny and accountability via a cloak of secrecy. Proclaims there are things more important than law in human affairs, so there is no need of reason or evidence to support its claims, goals, or actions. Religion and patriotism rank among the favorite tools of evil-doers, frequently used to justify their actions and rally followers, and denigrate or persecute those who oppose them.
"...the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
-- Hermann Goering, Hitler's chosen successor for ruling Nazi Germany during World War II; quote from the Nuremberg Trials 1945-1946
Do you see? In the battles to come evil shall enjoy one advantage good never can; the luxury of waiting out the other side. Evil could just bide its time and wait for good to falter on its own-- because sooner or later it's bound to happen. We're human. We're not perfect. We aren't all-knowing. Even the smartest of us are rarely certain of where a particular thought or action will lead us. And even when we are certain no good will come of a particular action, we might not have the will to resist taking that course anyway. At least once. Temptation can be a powerful thing for a human being.
Of course, it makes it even easier to give in to temptation if we believe there to be higher beings or greater powers than ourselves which might step in and save us from our mistakes. Think about it: just like kids tempted into emptying the cookie jar for a sinful feast, there's something comforting in believing that some sort of parental guardian will take care of us no matter what we decide to do.
So one terrible weakness in good will be the belief in some higher authority or higher power than mere mortals being subscribed to by its members. Whether this higher authority or power is some technological or wealthy elite, or some powerful government or army, or even a deity of some sort, the result will be the same: when push comes to shove, at least some soldiers of good may give in to temptation, with the same expectation child cookie thieves have that they might have their fun and not pay the consequences after all.
And it might take only a single such decision to allow evil to win the final hand.
Thus, the more centralized and powerful our governments and businesses, the more at risk we are. The more powerful our armies, the higher the risk (for we'll sooner or later be tempted with the evil thought that 'might makes right'). The more power and influence enjoyed by a tiny minority of us over everyone else, the more at risk we are. The less dissent and fewer contrasting viewpoints we tolerate in media, the greater the danger to us. The more dogmatically religious we be, and the fewer different religions we allow or subscribe to, the more risk we face.
Note the worst thing about many of the items listed above is that they reduce our overall diversity and individual independence. Effectively create monopolies in human behavior and perspectives which can then allow just a few people at the top to shape and manipulate us at will. Just as having only a handful or (worse yet) single operating system for all our computers makes us more vulnerable to various dangers there (viruses, bugs, hackers, etc.), so too does reduced diversity in human behavior and views make us all more vulnerable to mistakes, misunderstandings, over-reactions, and charismatic but malevolent leaders.
Closing our minds or limiting the scope of acceptable opinions also robs us of much potential creativity and innovative solutions to problems, and thus possible areas of healthy compromise and agreement between and among opposing or competing factions. In short, diversity offers us more chance of peace and prosperity for everyone, while a lack of diversity at best maintains a stagnant status quo, and at worst opens the gates to a possible dark and evil age.
Wow. Things don't look good for the home team, do they? Look at our celebrity-worshipping culture, circa 2007. At our awe of and interest in the rich and famous. Look at the power grabs going on by big government, in wholesale surveillance and robbing us of our civil liberties, and big business, doing its own surveillance, and claiming ever more ownership of our past, present, and future-- our very existence-- in vastly expanded intellectual property law seizures. Look at big religion, trying to blur or knock down the constitutional boundaries between church and state in America-- and often succeeding. Look at our growing voter apathy in democracies, as it becomes ever more obvious to us that our votes don't count, and even if they did, today's nomination process and political marketing leave us inevitably trying to pick the lesser of two evils to put into office.
From some perspectives it would appear good has already lost. But so long as you feel reasonably safe telling someone else you disagree with the opinions expressed by big business, big media, big government, or big religion, or don't necessarily think some celebrity should be president, or some president king, evil has not yet won its permanent victory.
Yes, it appears inevitable that evil will eventually seize it all. But each day we delay its permanent victory, each week, each month, each year-- that's another chance for a fresh generation of human being to arise, and perhaps bring new strength and ideas to bear against the enemy.
And if we can postpone evil's victory long enough, maybe our kids and grandkids will at least get the chance to grow up before the worst conflicts begin.
So who am I to be warning anyone of Ragnarok? Of proposing to guide anyone in recognizing the differences between good and evil? Especially in situations which may be complex enough to stagger the imagination?
At the moment I type this, I've been a futurist and writer of science fiction/fantasy for much of my life. It's taken me a long time and lots of research to come to the conclusions I draw upon here. To see some aspects of my research, all you have to do is peruse my web site; here's the site map. You can also learn more about my background here.
Though we've got plenty of problems to be sure, I'm still proud of humanity. We've overcome amazing odds to get this far, over the past several million years. Time and again we've been knocked back almost to extinction by adversity, only to come back stronger (and hopefully smarter) than before. When you pore over our past as I have, you see that it's quite a feat we are surviving at all by this point. So to actually have a sizable fraction of us prospering (and utilizing fairly sophistocated technologies too) is even more extraordinary.
Unfortunately, it appears just about all the intelligent beings who get this far don't make it much further. Something bad happens to them. Something very bad. Which may be why our galaxy remains eerily silent to our radio telescopes, and we see no alien lasers blinking pseudo-Morse code in our opticals.
We seem to be alone in this galaxy of maybe a 100 billion different solar systems, and an even greater number of planets.
So where is everybody? What happens to everyone who manages against all odds to reach the point we stand at today?
It may be they reach Ragnarok. Stumble their way into the ultimate war between their better and worse natures. Ironically, something very like the end of the advanced Krell, in the classic science fiction film Forbidden Planet.
As of 2000 many scientists are becoming concerned at the seemingly glaring lack of results from ongoing searches for extraterrestrial intelligence. Something seems amiss.
-- Scientific American: NO ALIEN RESPONSE: July 2000 ["http://www.sciam.com/2000/0700issue/0700crawfordbox2.html"]
At least fractional (10-20%) lightspeed propulsion for interstellar travel methods appear feasible to humanity, even at our present primitive level of technological know-how (2000 AD).
Thus, five million years would be a reasonable amount of time for a single star faring race to colonize the entire galaxy, even if equipped with only 10% lightspeed propulsion, and an average of 400 years was spent inbetween establishing a fresh colony and undertaking further colonization missions from that colony. If an interim period of 5000 years is substituted for the 400 number, then 50,000,000 years would be required to colonize the galaxy.
Possible resolutions of the Fermi Paradox due to things like aliens adhering to a Star Trek style "Prime Directive" demanding non-interference with primitives, or accidentally destroying themselves early in their history, or being disinterested in colonization altogether, might only work if the total number of emerging galactic civilizations is relatively small.
Just one star faring race with a history and motivations similar to our own, which avoided self-destruction, would be sufficient to colonize the entire galaxy no more than 50 million years after they began.
-- Scientific American: Feature Article: Where Are They?: July 2000 ["http://www.sciam.com/2000/0700issue/0700crawford.html"] by Ian Crawford
Even if aliens weren't transmitting in any medium on which we could eavesdrop, we could still detect their presence in other ways, such as heat radiation from large construction projects in space, or good-sized colonies. But we haven't.
-- Aliens: Are We Alone in the Univers? by ROBERT NAEYE; Astronomy Magazine (July 1996); found on or about 10-2-2000
The gist of the Doomsday Argument is, first, assume that humanity has a long and prosperous future ahead of it. This logically implies that its numbers will increase dramatically over today's, as we colonize the galaxy. Or, in other words, virtually every human being who ever lives will do so in the far future.
Perhaps no more than 40 billion people have ever lived on Earth up through the present (including those alive today). But 40 billion would be a drop in the bucket compared to our numbers spread across the galaxy a million or more years from now.
If the above turned out to be true, then those of us alive today would make up a very unique population. Extraordinarily rare 'elders' of a mighty race yet to be. In other words, we'd be very unusual-- an anomaly of sorts. Especially when you consider the fact that (as of late 2000) it appears any and all intelligent races which may have come before us in the universe never got that far themselves (to the magnificent galactic civilization part).
On the other hand, what if the reverse happens? We go extinct very soon, for some reason. That would mean we are either at or near our peak right now. Combine this more pessimistic perspective along with the evidence that all other races in the universe never got very far off planet either (and since we're only decades from doing so we'd have to die soon to join the club), and the plausibility that we'll soon be absent from the galaxy skyrockets.
Just as there's a scientific argument that we exist in this particular universe because it's better suited to life than others, there's also one stating we exist in the present because the distant past and the future are less hospitable to us for some reason. There's evidence that gamma ray bursters were the rudeness which prevented us from arriving sooner-- and they might be responsible for us leaving again rather quickly, too. Or something else could do us in (there's plenty of candidates).
Anyway, Bayes theorem plays into all this, helping support some aspects of the logic.
-- DOOM SOON ["http://www.linguafranca.com/9710/9710hyp.html"] by Jim Holt, Lingua Franca,Inc., 1997
"The Fermi Paradox which contrasts the 100% probability of life and intelligence developing on Earth against the thunderous silence from the heavens so far (no alien signals) may be resolved by four things: One, gamma ray bursters which may have effectively prohibited the development of sentient races until only the last 200 million years; Two, the lengthy gestation period required for the emergence of intelligence (which almost requires the entire useful lifespan of a given planet, based on our own biography); Three, the need for an unusually high measure of stability in terms of climate over hundreds of millions of years (the 'Goldilocks' scenario, enabled by a huge natural satellite like our Moon moderating the tilt of a planet's axis, as well as gas giants parked in proper orbits to mop up excess comets and asteroids to reduce impact frequencies for a living world); and Four, an extremely dangerous 600 year or so 'gauntlet' of challenges and risks most any technological society must survive to become a viable long term resident of the galaxy (i.e. getting a critical mass of population and technology off their home world, among other things). That 600 year period may be equivalent to our own span between 1900 AD and 2500 AD, wherein we'll have to somehow dodge the bullets of cosmic impacts, nuclear, biological, and nanotechnological war, terrorism, mistakes, and accidents, as well as food or energy starvation, economic collapse, and many other threats, both natural and unnatural. So far it appears (according to SETI results and other scientific discoveries) extremely few races likely survive all these."
-- The Rise and Fall of Star Faring Civilizations in Our Own Galaxy by J.R. Mooneyham, 2002
The War for our Destiny Contents
The technological singularity popularized by Vernor Vinge may or may not happen to us-- but Ragnarok is inevitable. And I'm personally pretty sure we're in it right now, already, and the conflict may be decided one way or the other before any substantial effects of a technological singularity can begin washing over us.
I think Vinge has pointed out himself that what happens to us on the other side of the singularity may well depend on what we're doing on this side, just before its arrival.
So even if a singularity does occur, what we do now, in the early 21st century, may well determine what the results of the singularity will be for us.
Will we be living and thriving in an enlightened world on the other side, free of pain, suffering, poverty, and ignorance? Or will we most of us be dead or enslaved, perhaps semi-mindless automatons, fulfilling some insignificant role in the plans of a super wealthy human elite, or super-smart artificial intelligence?
In truth, there's an endless variety of scenarios which might come to pass. It's even possible that we might exist forever in some sort of perpetual state of Ragnarok, never quite falling into the abyss, but never quite making it to paradise either. But I don't buy the view we might stay on the knife's edge forever. We'll likely go one way or the other, in my opinion. And relatively soon.
In my earlier comparison to an alcoholic's struggle, I said the best we could hope for would be to stave off evil one day at a time. And beyond a certain point, we'd only have to lose a single such battle for evil to possibly take hold forever. Some of you may want to know more about why this might be so. If evil did win one day, and take over our lives, what could prevent us from rising against our oppressors sometime afterwards, just as our ancestors did countless times before in earlier trials of human civilization?
The answer is overwhelming technological superiority. The gap between technological haves and have-nots (and so their relative power) is widening dramatically today. More than ever occured in previous history.
The same is occuring in regards to organizations as well, with the capabilities of big business and government to watch, manipulate, and control citizen consumers growing at a terrifying pace.
|-- The privacy blitz is coming By Brock Meeks, MSNBC, April 6, 2001; http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/comment/0,5859,2705181,00.html|
-- The Accidental Activist ["http://www.business2.com/content/magazine/indepth/2001/03/12/28050"] by Brendan I. Koerner; March 20, 2001
-- The end of liberty ["http://salon.com/tech/feature/2001/09/22/end_of_liberty/print.html"] By Damien Cave and Katharine Mieszkowski; Sept. 22, 2001; Salon.com
In the latter half of the 20th century, elections, labor unions, and popular civilian uprisings and protest movements could force significant changes in the government and corporate policies of even a superpower. In the early 21st century voting and activism seem to be severely weakening in effectiveness-- maybe diminishing to negligible potency. Partly this is because of our politicians being inordinately dependent upon the financial support of powerful lobbying interests in order to get elected. This dependence has over time made both the major political parties in America (and their candidates) near clones of one another on many issues. All too often the candidates say one thing before they are elected and do another after they win, as well. Both parties also work hard to prevent anyone except their own individuals of choice becoming the nominee for major elections such as the presidency. Often truly popular alternative candidates are blocked by the major parties via methods which are at minimum unethical and perhaps at times illegal. The result is Americans often have little real choice in their major elections, and the pre-election promises often have little to do with post-election actions. Is it any wonder voter apathy in America runs so high these days?
In decades past the mass media played an important part in gauging and amplifying the sentiment of the citizenry. Today, the mass media has been all but bought out by gigantic corporations, which rarely have an interest in carrying coverage of public sentiment for change. Business, you see, dislikes uncertainty. And change is a major source of uncertainty.
So increasingly in America our vote means little, and rarely causes significant change to the status quo. The government has learned new tricks to keep protest movements under wraps and often out of sight. And the increasingly big business-owned mass media is content to go along with government in squelching dissent against the new laws and policies which they helped the politicians on their payrolls to write.
So the 'haves' are gaining greater advantage over the 'have-nots' each and every day.
For a brief, shining moment in human history, there came to be such a thing as a 'middle-class'; a faction of the population which, although not wealthy, still did not suffer from abject poverty. Such a group was almost non-existent throughout most of the human experience, for all sorts of reasons. Usually in human society there were always the rich and/or powerful, and everyone else (peasants or slaves). Very little or no in-between. But the last few centuries of time, especially in the developed western nations like the USA, have allowed the middle-class to grow large enough to actually affect the leadership of major governments, and the course of national economies.
Now it appears the age of the middle-class is drawing to a close. Human society is beginning to return once again to its usual format: a tiny rich and powerful elite, and the poor masses. Very little (if any) in-between, anymore. Just as it was in the bad old days.
|-- Who or what is the middle class? Economic data can't fully explain why so many feel financially squeezed By John W. Schoen; MSNBC; Oct. 17, 2007|
"...yet American families live just one illness or accident away from complete financial collapse"
|-- US Study: Medical Bills Main Culprit In Bankruptcies ["http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/042700-03.htm"] by Araminta Wordsworth; www.commondreams.org; October 09, 2002; originally published by the National Post in Canada, April 27, 2000|
-- Most Americans Experience Poverty Sometime In Adult Life, Study Finds; 7 APRIL 1999; Contact: Gerry Everding; firstname.lastname@example.org; 314-935-6375; Washington University in St. Louis
The overwhelming majority (90%) of young white male employees in USAmerica are destined to experience a smaller rise in income over their lives than their father's generation did
-- Ninety percent of young white male workers now doing worse than they would have 20 years ago ["http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-02/uow-npo022002.php"]; EurekAlert!; 20-Feb-2002; Contact: Joel Schwarz; email@example.com; 206-543-2580; University of Washington
-- Whites join slide into poverty as US incomes fall ["http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,799164,00.html"] by Matthew Engel; September 26, 2002
-- Census U.S. Poverty Up, Income Down (washingtonpost.com) ["http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59613-2002Sep24.html"]
-- U.S. Poverty Up, Income Down ["http://abcnews.go.com/wire/Business/ap20020924_841.html"]; ABC News
-- GROWING INCOME GAP SUGGESTS SHRINKING MIDDLE CLASS ["http://news.yahoo.com/s/ucas/20060507/cm_ucas/growingincomegapsuggestsshrinkingmiddleclass"] By Cynthia Tucker, May 6, 2006
Staggeringly high health care costs are a major contributing factor to bankruptcies in the USA. And this is true for middle-class families which possess health insurance, but whose policies do not adequately cover their expenses.
In a move sure to make life still harder for average citizens, the US government in 2005 enacted measures to substantially reduce bankruptcy protections for its citizenry, thereby causing lots more people to more readily spiral into lifelong poverty and homelessness.
|-- US Study: Medical Bills Main Culprit In Bankruptcies ["http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/042700-03.htm"] by Araminta Wordsworth; www.commondreams.org; October 09, 2002; originally published by the National Post in Canada, April 27, 2000|
|-- Breaking Records--For Bankruptcies ["http://www.fortune.com/indexw.jhtml?channel=artcol.jhtml&doc_id=208698"] By Andy Serwer; FORTUNE STREET LIFE found on or about 7-14-2002|
Of course, the above isn't entirely accurate. Because those same execs also often got stock options worth possibly millions of dollars in themselves, in addition to the income described above. They often qualified for income tax breaks production workers didn't, as well.
-- Parallels Between the 1990s and the 1920s Is History Repeating Itself? ["http://www.tompaine.com/feature.cfm/ID/3431"] (apparently by Robert S. McElvaine); Aug 08 2000; www.tompaine.com
-- Ownership Statistics ["http://www.sharedcapitalism.org/scfacts.html"] by The Shared Capitalism Institute; found on or about 10-23-2000
Among the perks top execs sometimes get from their companies are substantial loans (up to $millions) -- which often end up becoming essentially gifts, with no requirement for payback whatsoever. And regardless of how well (or badly) the company is doing under the exec's supervision.
"[In]...an outrageous abuse of power...executives treat the corporate treasury as their own personal checkbook..."
-- Marjorie Kelly, publisher of Business Ethics magazine (Minneapolis)
-- Company loans to top execs common ["http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36%257E33%257E605984,00.html"] By Jennifer Beauprez; Denver Post; May 12, 2002
Oh sure, maybe the non-rich will at least enjoy a higher average living standard from now on than they did in centuries past. And it will even seem comfortable on occasion, for another decade or two, with the general availability of autos, PCs, internet, and the like.
But in those same decades to come, as more and more of the best new technologies and services become exclusively the province of the rich, the decline of the global middle-class now underway will become steadily more obvious to everyone.
-- "The Rich-Poor Gap Grows" by John Allen Paulos, Special to ABCNEWS.com
Aug. 1, 1999, ABC News Internet Ventures, http://www.abcnews.go.com/
-- Wage gap widens ["http://www.kansas.com/mld/eagle/3125237.htm"] By ALAN BJERGA; Lori O'Toole Buselt, contributor; Apr. 24, 2002; eagle and wire service sources; http://www.kansas.com
The debt load of a 1999/2000 public college senior hailing from a low income family was 69% higher than the same circumstances in 1989/1990 (in real costs).
-- College Further From Poor's Grasp, Study Shows ["http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0502-02.htm"] by Stuart Silverstein citing May 2, 2002 Los Angeles Times
-- Is medical school only for the rich? ["http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-04/cmaj-ims041002.php"] 15-Apr-2002; Contact: Irfan Dhalla firstname.lastname@example.org 613-731-8610 x1703 Canadian Medical Association Journal
Financial inequality between the top 20% and bottom 20% of American society stands at 50% worse than that in countries like France, Germany, and Japan. Fully 38% of all US wealth is in the possession of only 1% of its population.
The primary road to upward mobility in the US is via education. But by the end of the 20th century this path was all but slamming shut for the lowest income Americans, as they were hit with a double whammy: huge increases in college costs took place even as effective government subsidies for the lowest income students were deeply slashed. Among the results were changes such as age 18-24 students from the top 25% income families enjoying ten times the chance of obtaining a degree in 1994 as students from the lowest 25% income group. Back in 1979 the richer student only had a 4 to 1 advantage over the poorer one. So educational opportunity-- and along with it job opportunity-- appears to be fast disappearing in America. Ergo, the USA may no longer be the land of opportunity it once was.
-- Log cabin to White House? Not any more ["http://www.observer.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,706484,00.html"] by Will Hutton; April 28, 2002; The Observer; Guardian Newspapers Limited
The Achille's Heel of technology is software; until a fundamental breakthrough in resolving the fragility and unreliability of software comes about, software itself may well be the ultimate limiting factor upon all our other technologies.
Nanotechnology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, brain-to-computer interfaces, and more, will all be stymied from achieving their most advanced and economical forms until the software problem is cracked.
Another implication of the ongoing crisis in quality in software is the way it may exacerbate the already widening gap between rich and poor. One scenario goes like this:
The wealthy may consistently get the best quality software and related services, which combined with advances in genetic engineering and ever greater processing power could render them effectively immortal (we're likely talking heavy cyborgs here).
Any still existing middle-class would get a lower quality of software and services, which might extend their lives somewhat (light cyborgs), while the poor remain pretty much stuck with the same level of mortality as ever (basically remaining the same fragile bags of meat as 20th century humans).
A Moore's Law or similar principle functioning into perpetuity could result in an unimaginable gulf of quality of life between the rich and everyone else. Such differences could become readily apparent as early as 2020-2030.
-- Salon.com Technology | Artificial stupidity ["http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/10/04/lanier/index.html?CP=SAL&DN=110"] By Damien Cave Oct. 04, 2000, and other sources
And once the middle-class has been effectively obliterated, society will be back to its traditional ways-- only this time those on top will have sufficient technological advantages over everyone else to prevent such things as revolutions being successfully waged by the lower classes. Never will a 'middle-class' be able to arise and wrest even a bit of power or wealth from the elite ever again.
So be sure to enjoy everything about middle-class living you can at the moment. For it may be gone within our lifetime. To become only the legend of the middle-class, that we might tell our children about (if we're allowed to have children-- and if we're allowed to speak of such ideas).
With the death of the middle-class, we'll be all the more vulnerable to evil achieving its permanent victory. For the technology of the elite will be too powerful to allow people to ever rise up again to overthrow them. And so, when (not if) that handful of elite makes a bad decision that allows evil to consume what remains of our world, that will be the end. The beginning of a new dark age from which humanity may never emerge again. Our first step towards joining all the other now possibly dead and silent civilizations in the heavens.
Vernor Vinge's novel A Deepness in the Sky offers an excellent and chilling example of how evil could be made a permanent winner in this manner, with technologies not far in advance of what we possess today.
Bill Joy, chief scientist at Sun, summed it up pretty well when he said in WIRED magazine in early 2000, "We are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil".
To get a better grasp on what's at stake for us in Ragnarok, I offer up two very different futures, as described by two very different visionaries. One foretold of the wondrous possibilities which could come from a post-capitalism human meritocracy, where poverty and ignorance would be virtually non-existent, and practically everyone enjoyed the challenges and satisfaction of pursuing their own path to happiness and personal fulfillment.
The second visionary gave us a glimpse of something else: a warning about what could (and probably will) be: a world where a very few rule and watch everyone else, where the common man, woman, and child live a desperate lie their entire lives, and are free to make very few decisions of their own of any consequence. A world of closely monitored slavery, where war or lies about war are a constant background noise to help maintain order among the citizenry.
The bright and prosperous human meritocracy is a consistent background theme in the first two Star Trek TV series created by Gene Roddenberry in the late 20th century. The dark cautionary vision is the world of Big Brother in the novel 1984, written by George Orwell in 1949.
If we descend into the hellish pit of Orwell's 1984, I'm convinced we'll never be able to break free again, due to the state of the technology our overlords will possess over us. The human race will stagnate, and eventually die out.
On the other hand, if we can make our way to the bright meritocracy (Roddenberry's dream) it truly will be a wonderful life-- for everyone.
-- Freedom flees in terror from Sept. 11 disaster ["http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=14924"] By Paul McMasters; email@example.com; Ombudsman; First Amendment Center; 09.19.01
-- U.S. On Verge Of 'Electronic Martial Law' - Researcher ["http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/171130.html"] By Kevin Featherly, Newsbytes; http://www.newsbytes.com; 15 Oct 2001
-- Security vs. Civil Liberties ["http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/01_40/b3751724.htm"] By Mike France, Heather Green, Jim Kerstetter, and Dan Carney; BusinessWeek Online; The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.; OCTOBER 1, 2001
A gargantuan new intelligence collection system is being born from recent passage of the anti-terrorism bill. The FBI's main priority will no longer be bringing criminals to justice, but rather collecting intelligence within the borders of the US. The Treasury Department will collect financial intelligence (like the banking activities of Americans), and provide it to the CIA. The CIA will also now have some say in FBI operations.
The bill looks to remove many of the safeguards put in place after Watergate against abuses of presidential power, in matters like using intelligence resources against political activists.
-- An Intelligence Giant in the Making (washingtonpost.com) ["http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A33340-2001Nov3.html"] By Jim McGee Washington Post; November 4, 2001; Page A04
-- Ashcroft's power grab brings Joe McCarthy to mind ["http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/connelly/68598_joel01.shtml"]
-- Seizing Dictatorial Power ["http://www.commondreams.org/views01/1115-08.htm"] by William Safire; www.commondreams.org; December 13, 2001 [November 15, 2001 in the New York Times)
-- Civil liberties, R.I.P. ["http://www.sfbg.com/36/50/cover_civil_liberties.html"] possibly by Tim Redmond; September 11, 2002
-- Ex-U.S. officials warn that U.S. policies threaten repression ["http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2002/07/16/state2022EDT0216.DTL"]
-- Rights trampled in U.S., report says ["http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/PEstory/TGAM/20020815/URITEN/International/international/international_temp/4/4/17/"] By PAUL KNOX; August 15, 2002, Page A12
-- In China, Big Brother Is Winning by By Bill Powell; September 6, 2001; CHINA DIARY; FORTUNE.COM; Time Inc.
The War for our Destiny Contents
Or, if we can't save humanity as a whole, maybe some small factions of us will manage to get off-world to survive the extinction-- if only we can hold back the darkness long enough for the essential technologies required to come about.
Or maybe many of us might escape in a fashion one day by uploading our minds to an advanced computer in a star ship, that manages to launch before evil can stop it. In such a scenario at least virtual copies of us might survive and prosper so long as the computer and ship remained intact and functional.
Plus, a timeline which largely ignores the Ragnarok possibly hanging over our heads can give us a glimpse of the brighter future we might enjoy if some semblance of a fair and just society does survive into the far future. Give us something to hope for; to strive for.
To fight for.
The War for our Destiny Contents
The War for our Destiny Contents