Chapter 18 (WIP) – False Expectations

Jessica’s alarm clock woke her up, pulling her back into all her fears that she had just cried out. If her schedule worked as planned, she would never need an alarm clock. Go to sleep in the morning, wake up naturally, do stuff in the afternoon, and then go to work when it was time.

But in reality, she had a hard time staying up all night, despite the fact that this was her normal schedule. When she got home she couldn’t sleep, and yet didn’t have the energy to get up and do anything. So she mostly meandered around the house starting a project, and then getting distracted by another until the sun went down. Then she fell asleep, but couldn’t rest for more than an hour or two if she was lucky. The alarm clock was an absolute necessity, and Jessica had deliberately chosen the loudest, most obnoxious one she could find.

Jessica got herself ready in the dark because she didn’t want to face the lights yet. Once she was dressed, she went out and was immediately surprised to find that the sun was up. She stood in the doorway for several moments trying to figure out why she was up at this hour. Finally it dawned on her that she needed to go ID the guy at the police station. She sighed before walking out and locking the door behind her.

When she arrived at the station, Jessica was greeted by a secretary with large dark circles around his eyes, and the same expression on his face that Jessica had when she hadn’t managed to get any sleep. She told him what she was there to do, and he slowly moved to use the intercom to let the detective know. The detective seemed agitated as he said “Well send her back! And step on it!”

The exhausted secretary started his sentence quickly “He will see you now.” but soon his pace slowed down again as he directed her to the room.

When Jessica walked in, it was clear that they had been waiting for her. They didn’t say anything, but everyone was just a little to stuck to their chairs, feet up, several empty soda cans on the floor, that type of thing.

Detective Haskell stood up and greeted her with a confident handshake. “I think we got ‘im, by george I think we got ‘im. Come ‘ere, come ‘ere, take a look.” With that they flipped the light on in the next room.

All Jessica could see was Rodney staring straight into her eyes. It was no doubt the man from her dream. The man she had just trusted with so much information about herself. And now he was staring at her through what was supposed to be a mirror on his side with a big number 4 on a card in front of him. She had a hard time pulling her eyes away to see the other men. But she was able to tell that none of them was the nervous kid with the gun.

When Jessica was able to pull herself away for long enough to make any observations at all, it seemed clear that the police had just cleared out a homeless encampment and brought all the guys in here. “None of them, he isn’t here. He was more put together, he looked more like a college or…” she paused, “or even a high school student. Not a bad kid from the looks of it, the good kid who just can’t make things work anymore I guess.”

Jessica was still very well aware that the Rodney twin was still staring straight at her when Detective Haskell asked her to take another look, and walked with her as she looked at each of the men in their worn out clothes. He slowed way down as he passed number four. “Are you positive that you have never seen any of these men before? I just want to make sure that you absolutely certain.” They continued walking and looking. And number four’s eyes followed her.

Jessica turned to the detective, and gathering her wits a bit looked him straight in the eye and said, “No. none of these men is the guy you are looking for.”

The detective just said “Very well.” before opening the door to let her leave. The heavy door closed slowly, and Jessica could hear the detective say, “Number 4. Book ‘im.” before it clanged shut.

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The AI Will Steal Our Jobs!

They say that starting a post with a bolt statement is a good idea, so here you go: Artificial Intelligence will destroy our current economic structure. How’s that?

While that statement may seem like a gross overreaction and sound a little nutty, it is quite possibly true. As we move forward, AI will take more and more of the tasks we currently do ourselves. Right now they are mostly in highly repetitive tasks, such as manufacturing. These robots have already displaced many workers, they are cheaper and more accurate. But the presence of those robots have also opened up new opportunities in research and development as well as in maintenance. Here’s the catch: displaced employees cannot afford the new education necessary to go into these fields.

In the past, new technology has largely been geared towards making human beings more efficient at their jobs. If one person makes more stuff, the price of the stuff goes down and makes it available to more people. This has been the driver of our economic growth and high standard of living. Thus far technological progress has been the facilitator of our modern world.

But we are at a moment when this status quo is changing. Artificial intelligence is becoming better than we are at tasks we once considered exclusively the domain of human beings. This means that the jobs that were more nuanced and variable, are going the way of the dodo as those get replaced as well.

For awhile there will be new jobs created by this boom, but eventually those will be taken over as well. Eventually there will be very little, of anything, that human beings need to do.

So now it is not only the ‘unskilled’ laborers who will be out of jobs, but the more technical fields as well. The only people who will be able to make money will be those selling the products that the robots make, this will soon include such diverse things as health care and art to add to the products they manufacture today.

That won’t last long, if no one is earning, no one is spending.

So, now that I have completely depressed you; let me tell you why this could actually be awesome, and what we have to do to make sure that it is.

If you think about it, if robots are doing all the work and there is plenty of everything to go around, why should anyone ever have to go without? The only way this would happen is if we stay on our current economic course. If people need to trade their labor for money to trade for goods and services.

However, if we eliminate the need to pay for those goods and services, why do we panic over the loss of income? In other words, if we make those basic necessities available to all, it won’t matter if the robots do all the work.

Here we get a choice, how do we create an equitable system?

Option 1: Necessary goods and services are provided to all, and money is used to buy luxury goods.

This option is a good middle ground, and very likely to be the solution, but as I see it being implemented, it would be in a simple reactionary way. Like refugee camps, or homeless shelters. Necessities are covered, but living conditions are appalling with no visible path out of the situation.

If we plan ahead, we could create this as a positive way to keep everyone happy and healthy. But it would still leave the wealthy with power and influence over those who just get by on the basics with little upward mobility.

Option 2: Basic universal income.

The results of this option would be very similar to the plan ahead version of option 1. People would get some support, (although that income may not cover everything they need depending on health, implementation, and local economic variation.) but would still struggle to grow. Any growth would depend on the movement of currency to people from all walks of life. This would require that anyone attempting to improve their station from subsistence would have to advertise essentially, to gain the attention of those who do have money to burn. It would just be redistribution of the wealth between the wealthy.

Option 3: Preemptively create a non-monetary based system. No money means that all basic services would be available to all add needed. And anyone willing to grow would not need to convince someone else to part with their money, but only to show that they are providing some benefit to society. Without competition, the existing barriers of the economy would break down.

Everyone could be required to work a certain amount of time in service to community or society as we grow to reach the time of robots doing all of the work. As robots take on more of the workload, the required human workload would be readjusted and distributed equally. Less work for humans would not result in lost jobs creating starvation in a land of plenty.

As a bonus to this idea, if we got rid of money, there would be a huge number of ‘jobs’ that surround the redistribution of wealth that would disappear with it. This means that the starting workload for each person would be much less work than we currently do today. These jobs would include things like cashiers, loan specialists, stock traders, bankers, accountants, investors, and sales to name a few.

Even if we only eliminated that workload and required a lot less work to keep the status quo, I suspect that we would actually make progress toward a work-free future faster. Without all that time spent on the redistribution of wealth, the free time that people would gain would go towards hobbies.

Everyone has a few things they enjoy doing in their free time, and some of those have the potential to drive us to the future. Some people enjoy listening to music or watching movies. Some people enjoy creating neat things. Some people enjoy robotics and coding in their free time. Giving people more free time, and unlimited access to education (one of the most basic services provided) would spawn a massive outpouring of growth in many areas, including STEM. There are many people caught in the day to day grind of living paycheck to paycheck who could do so much for our world if we can unchain them from the money train.

This does require a whole new way of thinking. But in a world without scarcity, we do not need to create a system of artificial scarcity, which is how money works.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Happiness

They say that being happy comes from enjoying what you have and living in the moment. I believe that, and I try my best. Overall, I am very happy. But this is a lot easier when I ignore what is going on in the real world.

The problem is that ignoring bad things allows them to continue. Some people say that the problem is that I care too much. That may be true, but I know that if we allow bad things to happen, it will affect us down the line. If by acting now I can help prevent that, I will act now.

I keep running into the problem that so many bad things are going on in the world that I cannot really be active enough in any one thing. Especially since I am a parent and I work full-time. This frustration that I have is probably part of the reason that so much of what I post are merely rants. I know full well that I am not adding anything meaningful to the debates. I just feel the need to DO SOMETHING.

I sign petitions, but so many of them ask for money after you ‘sign’ that I don’t even know if it gets counted unless I donate. I am not a bottomless pit, and I cannot donate to every worthy cause I come across.

Donald Trump as President

At first I thought this post would say something like, ‘Ok, the joke is up, it’s not funny anymore.” But it is way past that point. I am truly terrified about this. At first it was just as an idle ‘what if,’ but the polling numbers make this a real possibility.

facebook page supporting Bernie Sanders posted a question, ‘What worries you about Donald Trump being president?’ I found that my answer was far too long for a response in the comments.

Entitlement – It started with Trump’s 1% attitude. He thinks that he got himself where he is today. As I have said before, I don’t really believe that is how capitalism works. Our economy does not get people where they belong based on work or ethics, but primarily on family wealth and/or unscrupulous behavior. This is shown with his ‘small $1 million dollar loan’. Little does he realize that this is more money than most Americans will even handle in their lifetime.

Trump feels that he is the best. His success has given him the idea that he can do whatever he wants. And the US legal system supports that. The fact that he has declared bankruptcy makes him feel that he has seen the worst. And the fact that he came back stronger makes him believe that he is even stronger than an ordinary millionaire. He thinks that he is so infallible that no matter what he does he will succeed.

As someone who already benefits from the elaborate protections the wealthy have on their money, Trump is likely to keep those and create more. All of these protections are damaging for those who cannot take advantage of them. For every penny that they keep is a penny out of circulation. Each penny is another one that will not be paid to the hard-working employees to buy food. In the end, each penny they hoard is a penny they don’t have to steal a second time.

Cruel – The television show, The Apprentice, is known for Trump’s coldhearted treatment of the contestants. While one could hope this was just for sensationalism, it is precisely that sensation that propelled him to where he is today. It is that attitude that has earned him fans. Having anyone in charge who thinks that people are disposable is a recipe for disaster. I doubt the people who work for him are treated very well. And these people we see on the show have been mentored by him, sometimes for several weeks. Even that does not help him to show any sympathy. What can we expect him to feel for people he has never even seen?

Bigot – Trump has gained his thunder through cruelty in general, but now he is directing it. He knows that he needs certain individuals to support him, and is directing their existing fears and prejudices to his advantage. His hate speech is terrifying to me. We forget that Hitler did not round up everyone he disliked at once, he started small and gradually worked his way up as fewer and fewer groups were there to protect one another. This is one of the reasons that we must protect other people’s freedoms as well as our own. American history that I grew up learning was a consistent progression of gaining equality and rights for the disenfranchised, but within my lifetime we have gone back centuries when it comes to this progress. Trump is even more overt about it than Bush.

Followers – The most terrifying thing to me is not that there is someone in the world like this. I know they exist. The fact that he has power is frightening, but what scares me the most is that people follow him. He has supporters who believe the outrageous claims. He is working them up to a fever pitch, allowing people who were considered ‘fringe’ before for their radical views to come into the limelight. This is the Tea Party, but perhaps even more extreme. This is dangerous.

 

Republicans & Gun Laws

I am honestly confused that in the minds of many Americans it is Republicans who are the ones who support gun rights. I know I normally try to keep party politics out of my discussions, but in this case it is the actual affiliation that confuses me. I have had conversations with people who heard my opinions on gun laws and assumed I was a Republican, to the point of questioning my other values.

Let me explain my views first, then I will explain why I have a hard time understanding the affiliation, and why I believe it exists.

I am a big supporter of the second amendment. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” There are several reasons that the founding fathers saw fit to include this right in our constitution. Hunting and personal defense are the most oft cited today. Some people think that both are outdated. I disagree.

I do not support hunting purely for game. I believe that hunting is a good skill to have, and acceptable as long as the animal is not endangered and over-hunted. Most numbers permitted by the Department of Fish & Wildlife are created with this in mind. But the most important part to me is that all parts of the animal are used. If you kill an animal, eat what you can, tan the hides, carve the bones. Find a use for every part of it. The animal gave its life to you, the most respectful thing to do is not waste it.

We do have police to keep people in line, but they cannot do anything about a crime that has not happened yet, and they may not respond fast enough in a crisis. That said I know that shockingly high numbers of gun-related deaths in this country are of household members with their own weapons. This does not mean we should not have guns for our own protection, it means that we need to make sure that guns are out of the reach of children. It also means that we may need to find a way to make marriage counseling more normal. I cannot imagine a scenario where a person in a healthy, functional relationship would ever pull a gun on a member of their household.

The main reason that we have the second amendment though is just as important now as it was in 1777. Fighting the government. And I think I can hear my name being put on a government watch list right now. Thomas Jefferson believed that in order for the government to remain fair, we should have a revolution once a generation. I agree. This revolution does not need to be bloody, but it does require awareness of the populace. At some point I would like to go through the history of this country and point out the types of revolutions I am referring to.

The founders of this great nation had just been through a war against the tyrannies of a government, and knew that they alone could not create a perfect system. They left us the ability to improve upon it, and evolve it. Voting, protesting, the process of constitutional amendments are all examples of this power. The founders knew that they did not win the Revolutionary War with a traditional military, but rather a loose militia. Our soldiers did not stand in neat little rows and fire off vollies in unison. We were the original guerrilla soldiers, the snipers and the spies. When they gave us the right to have a militia, they did not mean a government backed military. They meant that the people should have the ability to stand up for what they believe in. That is the principle of The United States of America.

So why am I confused about the party affiliation?

Republicans are doing all they can to take away these rights that every American should hold dear. They are making voting more challenging for millions, under the guise of stopping a few fraudulent votes. They are changing the voting boundaries (Gerrymandering) in order to maintain power. The Patriot Act took away many of the rights that we had as Americans to change how the system works. They are trying to make decisions for us by taking away the choices of patients and their doctors.

So why are they fighting to keep a right that I associate with keeping governmental power in check? They blatantly ignore this part of gun ownership, along with the NRA. Republicans have been able to distract from the fact that they have been taking so many freedoms by championing that they are protecting this one. They control us with the fear of our guns being taken away.

The truth is that Democrats are not trying to take them. They are trying to limit access to ever-higher powered weapons. My personal opinion on this is still open. I do not think that everyone should have access to nuclear warheads, but I do believe that those who protect the constitution should be able to do so. Democrats are trying to limit who can buy guns. This is supposed to be about making sure that people who are unstable and liable to go shooting up a school should not be allowed to have them. That is a short-sighted solution.

Despite a massive amount of research and science, there is still no way to predict this behavior. What would be better is providing accessible, normalized mental care for all. In the meantime, preventing people with a proven track record of violence from owning firearms is a good first step.