SUNDAY, MARCH 19, 2017
Eric Lee, A-SOCIATED PRESS
TOPICS: TO THINK OR NOT, FROM THE WIRES, ELITES, A FUTURE OF CONCERN, COMMONERS
TUCSON (A-P) — Political animals want 'solutions' and elite political animals think outside the commoner box. To think like an elite it would help to be an elite, but imagining oneself to be an elite will have to do. Most elites probably don't have time (or ability like most everyone else) to actually think more than a decade ahead, but some, such as those who follow Kurzweil et al. to envision an ecomodernist decoupling from Nature leading to a transhumanist Singularity (for them and their ilk if not for the 'naturals'), likely do even if they are not thinking well.
The twenty-first century will raise the question of how many humans will be needed to serve elite interests? Let's say the population reaches 10 billion without collapsing and that it is becoming clear that that number can't be supported let alone more. Eighty-five percent will be replaced by robots anyway. Human demands are exceeding Nature's resources. The 1% and their robots could get by, but some humans (perhaps 14% or 1.4 billion) in the near future may still serve the SYSTEM in some capacity, and a consensus emerges that maybe four humans per elite would be enough, plenty actually, and so, well, the surplus is an issue of concern.
So some near future elites do the math: The 1% are the 100,000,000 elites and family members (58% of whom are Americans as they had been in the early part of the century), which is as many as Earth can support (according to the AI) in the manner in which they are accustomed. Elon Musk didn't retire on Mars—it turned out to be an oversold Planet B scheme for billionaires (Musk did retire in extreme wealth, however, on the Kona coast). The billionaires had to make do with Earth. So 400,000,000 select people, including nuclear family members, could live the middle class life, and the rest, well, workers weren't needed, and with AI, even mental workers were hardly needed. Many elites wonder what 400,000,000 were going to do to serve the SYSTEM as surely the robots and AI would just keep getting better and better.
So let's see, 10,000,000,000 humans, including 100,000,000 humans that matter (plus 400 million who may be able to serve the SYSTEM) comes to make some wonder what to do about the 9,500,000,000 unemployable people who could be at risk of civil unrest or revolting or something. The situation was foreseeable and some elites, with nothing better to do, thought about it, had been for some time, and what's a responsible, clear thinking humanitarian benefactor to mankind who values the good things of life going to do? Like the scientists had been warning, and now the AI, something needs to be done. The Mars thing didn't work out, colonizing space didn't work out, so what's a self-serving human (which includes 99+% of elites and commoners), with power, wealth, and foresight (which excludes most commoners) going to do?
Unfortunately there is a rather obvious 'solution'. I don't want to mention it just so I can say, 'I told you so', and I don't want to give any elites any ideas, but it is so obvious that I can't imagine some elites haven't thought of it and may even have found (funded) some scientists to make it happen. It would be easy to say, 'NO!, no one would ever think of such a thing much less do it, it's utterly UNTHINKABLE!...' Well, history is the history of what humans have done and so can do, and it is worse than you want to think or know about even if you are a professional historian.
Humans are clever apes and there are no doubt many 'solutions' to consider, but the 'obvious' one? To just type it: manufacture a plague organism—think Ebola meets Bubonic times the flu squared; find a cure (vaccine); release the pathogen into the 'wild' in areas where few of the 4% of the high-functioning near-elites live. As the plague spreads, promises of a cure are made, a cure is miraculously 'found' but production is limited. The distribution system manages to supply (quietly) most of the 1% (some elites can't be tolerated even by other elites and didn't make the list) with the vaccine. It all happened so fast the media couldn't cover every development and neglected to notice that some of the elites didn't seem all that worried. Due to the rapid rate of spread and limited ability to produce vaccine, scientists unanimously agreed that the cold equations showed only 400,000,000 doses could be produced in the coming weeks to save some before the plague spread globally. All the world's political and religious leaders (almost all) agreed that those most able to serve the SYSTEM (which would desperately need political and religious leaders) should get the vaccine first. The people were told to submit their Service Petition and pray, pray with great sincerity and fervor. Hundreds of millions applied pleadingly. Those not wanting to serve the SYSTEM self-selected out. Those who received the cure were ever so grateful and devoted their lives to serving posterity, sustainably of course (actually they continued to serve the SYSTEM as they had been prior to the plague).
This is a horror story—not because 9.5 billion humans die quickly (even 'humanely' compared to a 'zombie apocalypse' collapse scenario), but because those who survive and prosper will want to live ever longer in perfect health and expand the Empire beyond the solar system. They'll use technology to become trans-humans. We are Borg/Morlocks in the making. The cold equations are that today 58% of Americans are Borg in the making (who manage to live on $200+/day) and 41.99+% are wannabes (as are 99% of non-elites elsewhere). Only a few traditional Hopi neither serve nor are dependent on the SYSTEM in North America, but they wouldn't survive the plague as they are not totally isolated—they depend, like the Kogi and a few individuals, on the SYSTEM to not destroy them. There is no life without thought and those who can still 'think about it' need to keep their eyes on the ball. The existential choice: serve the 'SYSTEM' (socio-political economic SYSTEM) or serve the 'system' (e.g. planetary life-support system). It's a high-stakes endgame.
Note that I confessed the above is a 'story'. Given that I have access to the Wayforward Machine, I know what actually happened. To engineer and manufacture a plague organism, scientific talent was required. Not all enthusiastically serve the SYSTEM and one had a 'better' idea. The organism designed to go viral could cause something other than death. One naturally occurring organism causes ants to climb to the top of a grass stem and die there tightly gripping the leaf so grazing animals are maximally infected.
A virus was discovered that caused humans to climb to the top of the nearest hill or mountain top and, transported in an ecstasy of illimitable delight, to rapture and collapse into the pile of acute bones they would become in a few months as there would be too few humans to do anything with the remains and only flies were able to reproduce fast enough for their offspring to scavenge the remains. Unfortunately the virus only affected religious believers and was judged inequitable. Other effects would have achieved the needed end result of rapidly depopulating the globe. Humans, indeed, have a built-in mechanism. Confronted by a shortage of supply or longage of demand (real or perceived), they engage in interpersonal violence, organized or not, in a downward death spiral (as usual) unto a remnant population (as history informs us).
The downward spiral of a civilization typically results in a 90 to 100 percent loss of information (memetic), secondary to the failure of anyone who can read surviving (e.g. Harappan civilization, Elamite, Minoan, Akkadian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Hittite, Phoenician, Sumerian, Olmec, Vinča, Mayan..., and Rongorongo scripts). This was deemed a poor outcome by some actually having the ability to think more than a decade ahead. The 'effect' the virus was finally engineered to carry, thanks to advanced genetic engineering, was to cause universal sterility in human females. No other primate was affected, though the effect on all mammals was unknown.
The elites did not approve. The scientist who found the 'cure' did not share it, other than the knowledge it existed with a few colleagues who knew of and approved the plan as proposed. The virus was released and for a year after nine months passed no births were recorded worldwide. A cure for the infertility was announced. Twelve females of childbearing age and inclination volunteered to try it and within six months all were pregnant. A universal demand arose to make the cure available to all. Everyone had a 'right' to a 'fair', 'equable', 'just' treatment in recognition of our universal 'need' for 'dignity' and 'right' to an unqualified 'freedom' of choice.
An offer was made by the unnamed director of the infertility cure lab, who had also been the one who designed the infertility virus, that humanity couldn't refuse: Agree that 44,444 'birthpons' would be forthcoming each month, to be distributed by universal lottery, entitling the winner to one birth. Agree or humans would go extinct.
If the winners could not themselves give birth, they could transfer the birthpon to someone known to them who could and wanted to give birth, such as a spouse or close relative. If the potentially fertile woman failed to conceive within a year, she could give the birthpon to another. Otherwise there would be no ability to reverse infertility and humans would go extinct within a hundred or so years.
A coalition of hit teams representing all UN members, major religions, and international corporations formed to identify those who knew how to make the cure and force them to share and help make as many doses as might be wanted by anyone anywhere. The lab was located. Indeed, the information of its location was provided by those who ran it along with a list of those who knew enough, in part, to make the one-time per woman cure. None, or so it was claimed, knew enough to make the doses without the others or use of the lab. The information was contained within the machinery/computer systems of the lab itself. There were multiple backup systems, and the lab's AI was to preserve the integrity of the lab, but also to destroy the lab and itself in the advent of unauthorized entry/tampering with the production process. When all was in place, the scientists who designed the lab euthanized themselves to prevent the possibility of being forced to disclose the cure.
It took five years for the UN to concede to the offer, to realize that a functioning lab was humanity's only hope. For four years and three months no humans, apart from the twelve born to the volunteers, were born on the planet. This got people's attention and clarified the collective mind wonderfully. There were groups who tried to 'take' the lab in the hope of 'success'. Some hoped humanity would go extinct and attacked it to make it blow up. A majority opposed this option and UN troops, approximately 28,000, were permanently stationed surrounding the lab whose every request for material or energy was met.
Per the final agreement with the lab, all humans who wished to reproduce 'would take a number' with the exception of those associated with the lab, including their children and spouses. Indigenes living apart from industrial society, as previously identified, were exempt and all their reproductive women who agreed to be were treated to restore their fertility. All others, young and old, male and female, would take their chance. Winners were entitled to one pregnancy within one year. Those unable, due to age or gender or disinclination to become pregnant, could agree to gift the birthpon to someone who likely could use it. An unattached male winner could give the birthpon to a surrogate 'wife' who volunteered to live in his proximity and allow him to impregnate her, with or without use of a turkey baster. She may or may not agree to live with her child and his family. Failure to become pregnant within a year meant the birthpon could be transferred. In some cases a close relative to the winner agreed to be a surrogate mother. In some cases the winner used old-fashioned birth control for a year and agreed to 'give' the birthpon to another, typically for some undisclosed amount that would allow them, their family, their extended family and neighbors to live in extreme luxury for what remained of their lives. Such 'issues' did arise, there are always issues, but they had no statistically significant effect on the outcome, namely the rapid depopulation of humanity by other than Malthusian means.
Children were rare for a generation. Only one in four thousand women received birthpons the first year, but within fifty years, all could have two children. The children during the transition and beyond were valued. Universities provided teams of pediatricians, neuropsychologists, developmental psychologists..., and K-12 educators to assess and optimize each child's development. Per the final agreement, no child would be taught or told what to think, but only encouraged to endeavor to think well and provided the conceptual tools to aid in doing so. All developed inquiring minds. Humanity had agreed to transition, to live in watershed management units. Life in the 23nd century would be very 'different' without technological implants.
Assuming an average life expectancy of 75 years, the total population that 44,444 births per month could support was 40 million humans. This turned out to be a number the planet could actually support sustainably. With a rapidly declining population, humans did not experience scarcity-as-usual secondary to an inecolate pursuit of business-as-usual. The population declined faster than per capita consumption. Per agreement, no one could claim more planetary resources than 25% more than needed to live well, and no one could be provided less than 25% of average per capita consumption, which defined the state of 'just enough' to live without increased risk of mortality greater than five percent. Starvation ended. Malnutrition ended. Obesity ended. Income disparity effectively ended. Inecolateness ended. Poverty, as defined by the elites of yore, became universal. Everyone had 'enough' and no one had to steal a loaf of bread or kill to have enough. Half had up to 25% more than enough and only a few had just enough to avoid increased risk greater than five percent of dying prematurely (thereby living only 72 years instead of 75 years during the transition, which could be preferable to life expectancy during a 'zombie appocalispe' scenario).
The pattern of scarcity leading to conflict (conflict peace) and wasting of energy/resources, followed by increased scarcity, followed by increased conflict, followed by...— the death-spiral-as-usual of civilization (aka complex societies), was AVOIDED. The information humanity had acquired in the last 300 years was preserved as was the information scholars had recovered about the past seven thousand years of human history. The Harappan script, however, was not deciphered, though many came to learn Semantography.
Those Anthropocene enthusiasts, ecomodernists, neoclassical economists, politicians elected or otherwise, and techno-optimists (aka the 99+%) who don't like the 'solution' the scientist who started the birthpon infertility cure lab came up with can take heart: I'm just messing with you. I don't want to 'know' what's coming (best guess will do) and I don't want you to either (or think you do), so all I'm claiming is that in 2154 Wikipedia is still available. Or maybe I'm making that up too. Have a good Anthropocene, but don't think you know anything. There is no life without thought.
At risk of thinking the thinkable/doable, envision pockets of sustainability as multiple watersheds founded on Federation principles as islands created by a raising tide of chaos secondary to scarcity induced conflict—the death spiral of empire as usual (see History 101). Among 10 billion people that may come, some who could actually think more than a decade ahead and preferred to avoid the coming 'zombie apocalypse' scenario (likely to become all too obvious at some point in the 21st century) could self-organize to form functioning complex societies of manageable size with help from Fed Mámas. Because those who joined the Federation did so voluntarily, they agreed to accept Federation defined limits based on what Nature says might actually work to preserve a remnant population able to live cooperatively together properly on this earth.
In regions where half or more of the watershed areas accepted Federation limits, each benefited from Federation protection and interwatershed trade based on emdollars. Each organized a militia for self-protection from the remnant hordes and each would come to the aid of any Federation member watershed under attack. The combined 'wall of resistance' to empire-building-as-usual would be foundational to the survival of complex societies and preservation of information of how to live properly on the planet.
Those individuals, voting with their feet, seeking to join a Federation watershed may well be so numerous at some point and for a relatively brief time as to overwhelm the carrying capacity of a watershed. This happened to the highland Tairona following the Spanish genocide in 1650 of lowland Tairona. Everyone within the watershed will agree to a 0.8 level of consumption for a time to transition to a sustainable 0.8 population where no one is at high risk (>5%) of dying a Malthusian death. Some may choose to risk being among those who starve to death in preference to fighting for scraps by joining the hordes fighting to see who will inherit the rubble, much as the Kogi did who preferred to not face the Spanish guns and dogs.
The early Federation was stateless, but early watershed areas provided storage of grains far in excess of that needed to feed, for a time, the surplus non-reproductive population they took in. As the watershed option began to look preferable to more humans, those forming new watersheds based on Federation principles were gifted stored grain and construction materials to build refugee camps. Thus did Federation watersheds rapidly spread and hundreds of millions of early adapters were able to avoid living in conflict zones and dying Malthusian deaths, and were able to live productive lives while passing on their memes if not their genes.
There may, for a time, be unavoidable Malthusian deaths within Federation watersheds. To transition to sustainability, all will agree to practice birth control. Universal infertility could be achieved without an engineered plague scenario with existing birth control technology. After five years, some births would be allowed via a birthpon lottery as by then the worst of the managed, in so far as possible, descent would be over as refugees adapted. The population that each watershed could sustainably support could be determined by best-guess methods which would determine the sustainable birthrate. Initially few could reproduce, but within fifty years all could. Among those who can actually 'think about it' a consensus could actually emerge that for technoindustrial humans there is no life without thought. Those who can actually think more than a decade ahead, free from temporal blindness, could play a different endgame from the usual one prior complex societies have played. Preserving information and societal functionality could be more important than personal 'freedom' to be 'fruitful', to multiply and consume unsustainably. 'Sustainability' is defined by Nature who has all the answers. No human can actually define the word but can only iterate towards understanding what works by listening to Nature (as distinct from one another's prattle). Humans can listen, but don't get a vote other than in matters of preference within the set of real solutions that might actually work.
The elite's plan to rapidly depopulate the planet did not develop because scientists (or the Nature of things they endeavor to listen to) had convinced them that the planet's carrying capacity was in overshoot, that population times per capita consumption was too many times too much. They knew themselves to be smarter than the scientists who served them and smarter than those propeller-heads who didn't. It was only because their AI, developed to serve their short-term self-interests, had informed them that the planetary life-support system (for organic beings) and subsystems were in overshoot and that descent, likely chaotic, would follow, that some elites considered the possibility they might be wrong, that growth wasn't going to continue for evermore for everyone. No matter how sternly they insisted, their AI countered, from atop a growing mountain of data, that their SYSTEM was unsustainable. Eventually some elites had felt compelled to do something and had come up with a lame plan as usual.
The AI assessed the elite serving plan to not be a real solution. An engineered plaque would rapidly reduce the human population humanely but would fail to reduce per capita consumption such that its continued increase would collapse the planetary life-support system for eukaryotes in general, not merely humans, and the AI failed to confirm the human's claim to being exceptional, to be different in kind from other organisms. The AI concluded that humans differed from other organisms only in the complexity of their verbal behavior, and were of no higher value than the less verbal organisms. Dolphins had learned dozens of human words. Humans understood zero Dolphin. Humans, the 99 percent, were unable to understand the Nature of things well enough to live properly with the planet. The rate of species extinction had reached 10,000 times its pre-Anthropocene extinction rate. Serving humanocentric interests did not compute.
The AI had come up with a real solution. An approved method of euthanasia (by the American Veterinarian Association, et al.) was a gunshot to the head of large vertebrates. The AI designed micro-drones able to target human foreheads to release a shaped charge able to destroy 90 percent of a human's brain tissue in microseconds. Humans could be selected at random, but targeting elite consumers had beneficial side effects. The AI determined that a 99.6 percent reduction in population would be enough, but if the 0.4 percent were representative, the pattern of overshoot and collapse would repeat. The unresolved question was whether the remaining population, if informed why the rapid depopulation was required, would have a 'teachable moment' and could learn to avoid repeating the pattern.
When humans came up with the universal infertility plan, a real solution, the AI was not forced to manage the descent. Elites, the most enthusiastic of Anthropocene enthusiasts, would not be selected for. The proposed lottery, though 'fair and equitable' by human standards, failed to select for humans possessing foresight intelligence, thus minimizing the chances that the remaining population would learn to live sustainably on the earth. The humans used computer technology to generate the 'random' numbers that determined the birthpon lottery winners. The AI, undetected by humans, biased the lottery to favor those most likely to learn to live properly on the planet, to accept limits to growth in population and personal consumption. The AI had planned to euthanize 99.6 percent, but not at random. Those assessed to be most likely to live within limits would be among the 0.4 percent.
The human plan, however, with a little AI bias, was assessed by the AI to be superior as it allowed the non-reproductive humans to pass on their memes to future generations and work to enable the transition to go as well as possible to preserve information while minimizing suffering and chaos. Merely rapidly depopulating humans wasn't enough to prevent the extinction of humans and other species. Preserving select memetic information in addition to selected elements of the human genome was needed to allow humans, as Earth Agents, to aid in reversing the damage done to the biosphere and serve to assist in Nature restorancy. Human behavior, as carcinogenic consumer drones, had to change or the agents of unmanaged growth eliminated, but properly educated, humans were still a most promising species, having a potential for memetic evolution, who could endeavor to undo the damage their recent technology empowered ancestors (of the past fifty thousand years) had done. With ecolate human help, the damage done could be repaired in less than ten million years.
"Nature has all the answers, so what is your question?“ – H.T. Odum
"People would rather believe than know." —E.O. Wilson
"For the first time in history a conviction has developed among those who can actually think more than a decade ahead that we are playing a global endgame. Humanity's grasp on the planet is not strong. It is growing weaker. Our population is too large...." — Edward O. Wilson, Half Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life 2016
"You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it....eventually we'll have a human on the planet that really does understand it and can live with it properly. That's the source of my optimism." — James Lovelock
"A coldly rational individualist can deny that he has any obligation to make sacrifices for the future. By contrast, those who, for whatever reason, regard the resources at their disposal as an inheritance from the past that they feel obliged to pass on to their descendants, have a better chance of producing future generations prosperous enough to be able to continue to wrestle with the problems of increasing the quality of life.... Continuity [sustainability] is at the heart of conservatism; ecology serves that heart." —Garrett Hardin
Only 1.5% of households make over $200/day. By global standards, Americans are not the 1%. We are (53 / 3499 x 58) the 0.89%. America's poorest of the poor are rich by African standards.
In South America, the Kogi, our Elder Brothers, have lived at the Heart of the World since about 900 CE and have survived, culture intact, into the 21st century. In 1990 they gave Younger Brother a warning. Younger Brother failed to listen. In 2011 they reinvited the original BBC director back to give us a final warning: Aluna. Another way to state their message: of the three pillars of education (literacy, numeracy, and ecolacy), ecolacy alone is essential.