VALUES EQUAL PROFITS

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[THE INSANELY GREAT] - page 3

GOOD GOD I DON’T NEED A REASON

“I never thought too hard on dying before.
I never sucked on the dying.
I never licked the side of dying before.
And now I’m feeling the dying.”

They pointed the way but nobody heard.

They uncovered truths and nobody cared.

They followed their own path. The end.

Future no longer remembers Gen X. Preceded by Boomers, proceeded by Millennials, runt of the demographic litter, which is fine, really.

What if they could be more?

I think of alternate realities.

Not those steampunk novels.

Steampunk is boring.

A novel I would read, though, would explore how Earth could be today had us Earthlings back in the late 1980s embraced and sustained grunge-punk, not rap.

But that’s just too hard to believe. More believable, an alt-history where Earth embraced and sustained techno, not rap.

Think of it.

Back when he mattered, Eminem wrote:

“And Moby? You can get stomped by Obie
you 36-year-old baldheaded fag, blow me!
You don’t know me, you’re too old, let go.
It’s over, nobody listens to techno.”

Strong.

But what if he was wrong? What if there never was an Eminem because rap fizzled out and techno spread around the world, becoming the dominant form of popular music?

I think the world would be a nicer place, honestly.

It strikes me as odd that the number of births and the wrong choices of a group born around the same time would have such a long-lasting ripple effect on the next culture and the next.

Is there a better way?

Numbers?

Because, if numbers, that can be coded and computers can assess trillions of numbers every second.

Which are probably far more than necessary.

Think of how easy it is to judge someone based on only a single number.

What’s your GPA? What’s your ACT score?

High school football players eager to play for the top college football teams are assigned a number, typically between 2 and 5. Recruit X is a 4 ‘star’ and Recruit Y is a 5 ‘star’ but Recruit Z is only a ‘3’ star.

What is your hs-CRP score? It helps determine the amount of inflammation in your body and is a good predictor of your likelihood of stroke or heart attack. You want a hs-CRP score of less than 1 and certainly no more than 3.

What is your HDL? Your LDL?

What are the number of hours per day you sit? That offers a clue into your lifespan.

China, which made your iPhone, has not stopped at simply illegalizing the open, anonymous web. They have begun rolling out a numbers system which helps them determine how great a threat you are to their existing power structure. Points are assigned based on a range of personal variables.

In the US, algorithms are used to take money from us, make money off us, loan us money or, possibly, land us in jail. Numbers that feed these algorithms are based on race, gender, marital status, credit score, income, age.

Tell me your age.

Tell me your income.

What is the cost of your debt?

We dislike it but numbers are used to represent us and they typically do a very good job.

The President sleeps very little, a curiosity among many. While most of America slept last night, the President went on Twitter, which served him various tweets, links and videos, all based on an algorithm, not chronological order. One such tweet struck his fancy, which he then retweeted.

This act brought swift and protracted gnattering from the heretofore established media.

Algorithms impact our economy and productivity, our creativity, our mental health, our knowledge and our awareness, even our nation’s security. Algorithms are everywhere. Stock funds are using algorithms with the hopes of generating outsized returns. The algorithm can assess and intuit more and probably better financial trends, government filings, visual patterns, social changes, purchase data, customer tweets and the like. Facebook’s algorithms may know — before anyone else, before even friends and family — if someone is nearing suicide:

Algorithms are also helping with dying, telling healthcare professionals who most (and most soon) requires palliative care.

Algorithms are also used — which means they are also gamed — to determine what your child sees next on YouTube, far too much of which punctures their senses and pollutes their spirit.

New rule: We must not ever allow algorithms to be unleashed if they harm children and/or diminish life and living — ever.

If our algorithm non-use limits our economy, if shutting off algorithms borks our entertainment, that is small sacrifice. The spread of algorithms into every device and across every human interaction changes everything and everyone forever. They must do no harm.

This is particularly true with respect to children.

Deuteronomy, 12:31: “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.”

We have always known that sacrificing children is an abomination.

“You’ve got your hands over your ears.
You’ve got your mouth running on.
You’ve got your eyes looking for something
that can never be found.
Like a reason.
Good god, I don’t need a reason.”

Fugazi was once a thing. They were fun to see. Trust me.

BITCOIN BLUDGEON

The price of one Bitcoin snuck past $15,000 today.

Had you bought (many) Bitcoin (3-5) years ago, you would now be (theoretically) rich.

Assuming, of course, in addition to going back in time, you could divine some means of actually turning that $1 million or $150 million in Bitcoin (value) to cash, or land, or stocks. But, sure, tell yourself you could have been a (multi-) millionaire. Tell yourself you can simply open up that digital wallet and ask one of the many Bitcoin exchanges to deposit the millions in cash into your bank account. Go on, try.

Everyone wants to be rich.

Never before have there been as many theoretical paths to riches.

So why is just about everyone struggling?

And why are those in the richest rich club doing all they can to lock everyone else out?

Americans — most Americans — still — still — want to work hard, make a good deal of money and then exchange that money for the freedom and security and products and services and experiences and niceties it affords.

This is why so many — which is inexplicable to the media, which is inexplicable to me — admire President Donald Trump. He has worked hard, damn hard, and very obviously enjoys all that his money affords him, including boasting about all that his money affords him.

Yes, he was born into money, unlike most, but he then — unlike most born into money — worked all day, all night, every day, every night, to be far more rich than when he started.

Is he gauche?

When you have like-Trump money, you get the choice to be discreet with it.

Americans want money.

Americans want to earn their money.

This is why so many react so bitterly to government healthcare, though they know how vital it is, because it negates their own power, their own freedom, the likelihood of them ever getting a great job with great earned pay and benefits, including healthcare. Earn your wealth, that wealth can be used in part to ensure your good health. Similarly, there’s a reason the only people who are promoting a “universal basic income” — a monthly check sent to everyone, forever — are either already rich or those who hate to get their hands dirty.

Money is power.

Work, build, make, create, extend, increase — and you earn money.

Which earns you power.

Earned power is the wisest of all the powers.

Someone sends you a check, not only did you not earn it, and this informs you you are lesser than they, but you are now dependent upon people you don’t know and who don’t know you and may not understand you and probably couldn’t care less and so could stop your monthly check or make you bark for it.

That’s no way to live.

This is why those working so hard — for just $15 an hour — are driving up the price of a Bitcoin, or throwing their money away on obviously doomed Initial Coin Offerings. They don’t need to be taught the foolishness of investing what they don’t have on a ICO con, they already know this, just as they already know they probably aren’t going to win the Lotto, but when all the other ways are shut off to them, the almost certainly impossible odds are still better than not at all.

We hear tales of a handful of fortunates who were early investors in Silicon Valley Big Next and who are now worth many millions, even billions.

Yet, late into the second decade of the 21st century, with everyone on the Internet, with crowdsourcing a provable business model, with instant access to information everywhere, it remains nearly impossible for any actual hardworking American to become an early stage investor — in anything.

Go on, try it.

Note all the legal barriers and financial regulations placed before you.

Okay, fine, but you are smart, insightful, resourceful, and so you know to be first in line to buy shares of Silicon Valley Big Next the very moment it goes public.

Nope.

Insiders have now created a “secondary market” that essentially allows the fortunate few to buy and sell their shares only to other insiders, shutting off outside access and preventing you from ever taking part in the financial bounty.

You are being systematically denied the opportunity to participate in the future’s bounty. It’s a rigged economy, despite all the apotheosized potential.

Bitcoin is a gamble. It’s also a sledgehammer. Both of these are needed right now.

“Now, when I talked to God, I knew He’d understand.
He said, ‘Stick by my side and I’ll be your guiding hand.
But don’t ask me what I think of you,
I might not give the answer that you want me to’.”

No one could have imagined Fleetwood Mac would become what it became.

THE AI BITES THE APPLE

There’s something that gnaws at me. Why did God create and then place at the very center of the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

Why?

It wasn’t meant for us ((humans)). God made clear that under no circumstances were Adam and Eve to take even a bite from the tree’s fruit.

We know how the story begins:

The devil rather easily persuades Eve to take a bite and she in turn rather easily persuades Adam to take a bite.

At once, they become fully self-aware and their whole world, moments before swirling in good only, no evil, becomes a mix of these two forces. The fall is so swift and so complete that their first child, Cain, murders their second child, Abel.

Who is the tree for?

It’s doubtful it was for some other species, as God makes clear humans have dominion over the world. The tree also wasn’t meant only for God and those god-like, as he clearly states: “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” “One of us.” They already possess this knowledge, the tree is unnecessary.

Could the tree of the knowledge of good and evil been intended for our creations? For that which follows us?

Are our creations on the cusp of self-awareness and the ability to choose right and wrong, good and evil?

We cede control and responsibility to our machines — be they robots, computers, sensors, digital assistants, and artificial intelligences. But we have never ceded to these control of choosing between good and evil. We certainly use them in our choice, but it’s always remained our choice.

Is that about to end?

For the first time since human life began?

What then?

I know, I know. You’ve been taught that when our machines develop self-awareness, all hope for humanity is lost. We will quickly become their slaves — those of us not killed in the great cyber wars. We will do what they say, when, and how, and with whom.

But science fiction is almost always wrong!

Fahrenheit 451? Wrong! We are awash in free and freely available books. The Diamond Age? Wrong! There are not only 2 tablets to teach only the most privileged children. There are already hundreds of millions of connected tablets in use.

What if machine self-awareness is liberating? Not for them, for us! Like our previous machines, mechanics, computers and processes.

These previous constructions have freed us from back-breaking labor, from drudgery, from starvation.

What might self-aware machines free us from?

From work? Yes. But also from having to determine what is right or wrong, in context. From having to be rational — all of the time.

Recall, nothing great ever happened by being rational.

Just as our machines have relieved us of the burden of labor, calculation, and memorization, our new self-aware machines might liberate us from the burden of the rational. Rational is what keeps us in place.

“I was the lion
You were the eagle,
your claws in my back.
You were so eager to get through the night
but our love is off limit,
no real connection”

Jim James is an obvious possessor of an abundance of talent. I confess that I do not care for his music.

ARMS

He dropped the coin on the ground before me.

Fifty.

No!

Don’t be stupid, he said.

I wasn’t, just selfish. Maybe sentimental. Foolish, I’ll admit.

That’s good money, finest crypto, accepted most places.

Not for sale.

I clutched my left arm instinctively. It was thin, natural, covered in audio tats, a vocal history of my family, my lineage. My stomach rumbled. I looked down again at the coin. No, I thought. I can’t.

Fifty plus a brand new arm, he said.

Damn. Serious.

That’s like, ninety crypto!

He was right, too. A young limb like mine was a prized commodity. The lowers — rich folk — ground them up and poured the ash into their hydro meat. They said it added seconds to their life, some said even minutes. I wasn’t sure I believed any of it. Still, the offer was tempting.

Growed limb. Better than what you were born with!

Maybe.

See!

He rolled up his sleeve and showed me his right arm.

Impressive.

It was, too.

Is it the tats?

I looked away.

Tell you what. Forty crypto plus a growed limb — which is even better — and I have my girl copy the tats onto the new arm. What say?

I shook my head.

He walked away in disgust.

But I knew. Those tat copies aren’t as good. Everyone says they’re exact copies only better but they’re not. The highs aren’t as high, the lows aren’t as low, the voices are close but not real. I could go another day without eating, probably. I couldn’t lose the true voices of my mom, dad, my brother, my two sisters, gran, gramps. The audio tats on my arm were all I had left of them.

BLOCKCHAIN BORN AGAIN

Idea: a blockchain fart app. That way, whoever dealt it can’t deny it.

Wait. Would Apple banish a blockchain fart app?

Speaking of Apple, China, where your iPhone is made, the device that better than anything or anyone knows everywhere you go, everywhere you’ve been, all your contacts, all your purchases, all your searches, all your downloads, the country that imprisons political activists and that makes anonymity on the web literally illegal, is now demanding that Christian citizens remove images of Jesus from their homes.

“Well, they showed you a statue, told you to pray. They built you a temple and locked you away.”

Apple is the richest corporation in the world. Apple has parked tens of billions of dollars, maybe hundreds of billions of dollars in off-shore tax havens. Apple outsources its manufacturing to China.

Will this American-born corporation even consider standing up for our values?

Should China ever allow gay marriage, I suspect Apple’s CEO will very publicly praise them — while remaining cowardly silent on how China treats all who dare think or speak differently from the party view.

It is always illuminating to discover wherever there is power and wealth — and surrender.

“You got a brand new soul. And a cross of gold. But Virginia they didn’t give you quite enough information.”

But no surrender for me. I have not yet begun to fight.

I expect us to force Apple to pay its fair share of taxes.

I expect us to get Apple to move manufacturing to inclusive, democratic nations.

There’s more.

It’s not only Apple.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and others get rich off our data. That’s a bargain we make, free stuff in exchange for our information. Fair enough.

What’s not fair is that we are expected to cede full rights to our data in perpetuity.

This must change.

We each are and always should be the sole owners of our personal data. We can delete it, re-sell it, and demand it be handed over by anyone who may possess it.

This right, however, could be under permanent assault not (only) because of greed and policy failures but because of the blockchain.

The blockchain is essentially a widely distributed, digitized ledger that records online transactions and interactions and, it is believed, records them fully and correctly forever. A purchase you make, a home you sell, a contract you sign, a promise you give — via the blockchain — is now proof. It is verifiable and can’t be altered.

Meaning, the blockchain has tremendous potential to rid ourselves of gatekeepers, to tear down high barriers to entry, to banish centralized powers to the 20th century, to throw out those that charge exhorbitant fees to “verify” and/or “record” and/or “archive” any transaction.

Wonderful!

Blockchain is what powers bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies and it’s potential — potential — cannot be over-emphasized. It could rival that of: the Internet Protocol meets cash money. Blockchain has the potential to be so individually empowering that it should be no wonder that China seeks to shutdown bitcoin and blockchain.

There is a problem, however.

Blockchain can obviously be used for transactions where we buy and sell — cars, houses, used furniture, our time. But it can also be used to record our health information. Theoretically, it can be used to make a ledger of our tweets, our searches, our likes, our ratings, how others rate us, any of our online interactions, whatever they may become.

How can this data be erased?

How do we take full control — full ownership — of our data when all the world’s gone blockchain?

Declaration: We must not allow blockchain to be used in any manner where we cannot ensure that we can engage an interaction fully anonymously or where we cannot take back our involvement.

Everyone has the right to be born again.

“They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait. Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t. I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun.”

THE DIGITAL DISAPPEARING

“Well, I came upon a child of God.”

Baby Boomers are next in line to die.

What then?

Where does the future lead us?

“Boomers” had a considerable impact upon the culture to this point but the culture from this point seems determined to burnish the past, all of it, if possible.

Boomers out on the pavement thinkin bout the government — but soon, no one will ever know, just as no one now really cares.

“We are stardust. We are golden. We are caught in the devils bargain. And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

We are the net result of our tools and our tools are remaking life, living, working, learning, playing, and dramatically impacting our physical and mental parts, making it so there’s no way for anyone to go back, to live as before, to be like those before, and so — in defiance and in rage and in glory — those who are next will seek to destroy, literally, all the signs, symbols, relics and leavings of those from before.

All the great artists of the Baby Boomer age, even The Beatles, who are peerless, will soon be publicly scorned, the controllers of the levers of popular culture deriding anything that smacks of the past attempting to seep into the now.

All the grand symbols of Baby Boomer culture will be torn down.

The Vietnam Memorial does not celebrate America, American greatness, nor heroism. It is a dark reminder of a stark time, a time that influenced Baby Boomers probably more than any other. By, say, 2029, the Vietnam Memorial will be toppled. Likewise, the arenas which the boomers took over and made their own, universities and media, in particular, will be fully de-constructed.

This is messy stuff.

But what of when everything’s all digital, virtual, erasable?

When destruction is clean.

Should we place restrictions on what and who may be erased, and why, and whether permanently or not?

Feasible: In 2022, your watch informs you that you are allotted an additional 32g of protein. You walk into the market and your earbuds list all your available rewards and coupons. Your smartphone automatically shares your location with your spouse and children, whose reminder bots also speak in your ear, urging you to buy them some chips. Your purchases are logged, the money instantly debited from your preferred account, and your steps are recorded, along with your caloric consumption, which is instantly sent to your primary care physician, whose algorithms alter — just slightly — their recommendations for you, which then reduces the cost of your medical insurance, all while this flow of data is beamed to a university, one whose research study you approved of, which is examining your longevity and all of those with similar DNA.

Potential: None of this happens, not one bit, because you — in a fleeting fit of foolishness — mocked a recent government decision. Or went online and derided a beloved cultural icon, or made a joke which all the right people found — in public — to be repellant.

Thought crimes are the new accounting.

We are already actively engaged in the digital disappearing of those guilty of offenses to the senses.

On social media:

NBC was quick to remove all photos of Matt Lauer off the “Today” show’s social channels following news that the longtime co-host has been fired amid a sexual harassment allegation.

As of Wednesday morning, “Today’s” website, Facebook page, and Twitter account have been scrubbed of Lauer’s name and picture.

In film:

Ridley Scott said he quickly decided to replace Kevin Spacey from “All the Money in the World” after hearing the news of his sexual harassment allegations.

Very quietly, Scott said he quickly put into motion a plan to cut out Spacey and shoot his scenes with another actor.

No doubt, you’ve already been made aware of individuals being removed from Twitter, YouTube, and other virtual arenas. No doubt, you are aware that the original Star Wars films have been altered, multiple times. Soon, those originals will never be accessible. Just like your (neighbor’s) daughter won’t be able to enter the popular metaverse playground with her schoolmates — because of what the wife said, on Facebook, which everyone saw.

While it’s in our power, since it won’t be for long, let’s do our best to embed right rules into our erasable knowledge.

We should each have the right to control all our own data.

We should each have the right to be forgotten.

We acknowledge the means to digitally erase a person or group, the past, an other, but we will use this power only after much consideration and due hesitancy, so much so that we can remember in our heads the so very few officially forgotten.

You know who was at Woodstock? Everyone who said they were.

Except for the writer of Woodstock, Joni Mitchell, she was not there.

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