Friday, June 29, 2012

Part I

How many times have you heard that life is not fair? And it really does seem to not be so fair. But chew on this...if you believe in God then everything in life is perfectly fair. Everything that happens to you is for one of three reasons - for your good, a consequence of not following truth or it is inconsequential and does not matter.

That is what happens when there is an Almighty Being in charge.

Of course when we say 'That is not fair.' what we are really saying is 'In respect to this life, in the short term of my life, these things are not fair.'  We are not taking into account the eternities where everything is brought to account and all things are restored to their natural order. Here is what I mean by these two differences.

The Temporal View -

I had a really rough 58 years. I did everything the way I was supposed to but my life was filled with poverty, sickness, injustice and then I died. Everyone else around me won lotteries or married rich and lived long, happy lives. My life was not fair.

The Eternal View -

I had a really rough 58 years. I did everything the way I was supposed to but my life was filled with poverty, sickness, injustice and then I died. Everyone else around me won lotteries or married rich and lived long, happy lives. My life was not fair. However, after death I found that those experiences either helped me to grow or were a direct result of sin. And those tough experiences tested my integrity, which I maintained. To top it all off, God has now rewarded me with the ability to continue to progress indefinitely throughout all eternity.

So if you believe in an active participating God or just a God who has declared this creation 'Good' then you can not say life is not fair.

Now, as far as this life goes many people think that fighting for justice is a good thing. That things may not be perfect down here but we can try to make it as much so as we can. After all, we do have to spend some time here. This is how government fits in. It is nothing more than a mechanism to make this life as enjoyable to as many people as possible while still making the whole thing work. There are finite resources here and we all can not have what we want. So government helps us decide who gets what. 

Many people have made it their live's work to create the perfect (or just better) mechanism to facilitate this. So I have decided to put down in writing my mechanism. Did you know that Karl Marx would leave home and travel to the library where he had set up his impromptu office very early in the morning and stay there til late at night? He would spend horrific amounts of time studying so that he could finally create the perfect government model! It failed in large part. With hind sight and insight maybe I can add just a little idea to the conversation (I think that literally five people will ever read this, btw so do not think I have a big ego).

Hegel has this idea called Dialectics. You come up with some system/solution. There is an inherent flaw in this system/solution. The flaw becomes the death knell of the solution/system. From the conflict of these two arises the next solution. He applied this to great historical events and eras as well.

The current solution to the previous system is Capitalism. Now we all love capitalism. We often half jokingly say that greed is a good thing. That is, because of greed we go out the door at 6 am to walk up mountains for 10 hours (as in my case) for which I get money to satisfy my greed (it is probably true that it is not greed so much as it is self interest. i.e. this is the first time in history that the every day man can have a chance to live the good life and no one else is going to give me anything so I have to do what I have to do - watch Downton Abbey and follow the chauffeur's character). Now self interest (not greed) is the driving force to the system. As we have the fortune of hindsight we can see now (especially the last couple of years) that when things go beyond self interest it becomes greed. Greed has become the inherent flaw in the system.

We see that in this day things do one of two things - they get bigger or they get taken out at the hands of those that get bigger. This is the only outcome. If you think the local or specialty shops are the exception, wait 20 years. Eventually they will not survive. Of course this is not a hard and fast rule. There will always be exceptions because of human two people are the same. By in large, though, things always tend toward bigger and more complex.

The thing about getting bigger....well, it is very interesting. Growing in size can be more productive in many logistical ways by creating several opportunities for efficiency. However, it also means that some things that may appear to be efficiencies are really cracks and loopholes through which good things can be lost. When an airline buys another airline they gain instant access to each others gates, they can cut redundancy and get rid of a competitor in the process. But their new size becomes more and more unwieldy and as a result the rule put in place for any given situation must cover even more people. Because each person is slightly different, there are more people that the rule will not fit quite right. (If you have five people on welfare and you tell them that you must phone call in your application you would be hard pressed to find a problem with that protocol. But apply the same rule to 50,000 people and you end up with a mess - I do not have a phone, I pressed the wrong button on the options menu, I do not speak English, I did not understand question 5, how do you want me to enter the date with my phone?) You begin to lose the ability to scale management with resources in your quest for efficiencies!

In addition, anonymity creeps in as things grow in size which allows human nature to win out against optimal behavior. Ever flip someone off for cutting you off and then realize you know that person?I have not either and you can thank the anonymity that comes from living in a large city for that. But in the end you should not be flipping people off. so control is lost on a personal and managerial level.

We will see that anonymity and loss of control are the two factors that will lead to capitalism's demise. I like capitalism. It has gotten us quite far. Between it and the democracy that seems to buddy around with it we have all benefited very well. But it is beginning to hurt us more than help us. According to Hegel, this is just the nature of things. So what is next? Well I have it. It shares many common things with capitalism but lacks its main hang ups. I call it a meritocracy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

There are a lot of successful religions out there that are not apocalyptic in nature. But what fun are they? There is nothing to look forward to in my opinion. Bring on the horseman! It is kind of like the major global do not want to look but you just keep staring. We are so intrigued by disaster. The bigger the better. 

September 11 was like that with a lot of people and news outlets. Never mind the historicity of the event. The actual event was replayed and replayed and replayed and replayed. Not to bring home the importance but to detail the gruesomeness of the whole thing. We just have to look at the wreckage on the highway. This is why I will take an apocalyptic religion over the hum drum "this is how you get to Nirvana" ones.

Well, I belong to an apocalyptic religion. We are always running around looking for the last days (heck, it is in our name, even!) and signs of the times. If I had lived in the early 40s, I would have been sure that that was it. Maybe the Great War would have been it. Or the Civil War. Or the dozens of depressions in between. Admit it, you are always looking into current events and think that you see it coming too.

Well, let me explain the latest evidence of I see it, mind you.

We have had a tough time in the US over the last several years. They call it the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. (I know a bit about the Great Depression and know that our current state for several reasons is nothing like that terrible period). While it is not horrendous right now, it seems to be just grinding us and grinding us. However I think I see something swirling in the mist ahead. It may not be so pleasant.

There are three major economic powerhouse zones in the world - China, the U.S., and the Eurozone. 

China is a big exporter with a deflated currency aimed at aiding this. They do not want to have all of their eggs in one basket anymore (remember it was not long ago that they had no eggs!). So they are trying to create a large middle class that will begin to consume - they want a service industry/tech industry based economy. Like ours! They began the change. But this takes some time to do. Before they could really get things cooking their export based economy hit a rough road. Exports are down roughly 20%.

The U.S. had the easy credit problem. This easy credit led to the great run on housing. I saw so many houses for sale, bought up, and for sale again. There we were, poor. Every time we saw a house for sale that we might be able to afford we looked into it to find that the price had increased to out of our range. This went on for a couple of years. We knew nothing about economic cycles and we thought it would go on forever. We would never get into a house. I had to sale my drums. Some kid younger than me had three houses and he had to put stuff in them for his kids. Ugghh. 

I wonder what happened to him now. Because it was not long afterwards that the bubble popped. But that is not all. The mortgages had been chopped up and bundled and resold (CDF) to various entities. Little did they know that these bundles were a known ticking time bomb and that the banks selling them had bought huge amounts of insurance to cover their loses and then some. They were going to make a profit when their product failed. They encouraged the bubble knowing that they would make an absolute fortune on the insurance. There was actually not enough money in the insurance companies to cover the losses! So the money dried up and losses were not covered. Everyone was out of money until the government stepped in. 

The bad thing about a service based industry is that there can be some negative feedback loops that can tear up an economy. When someone loses their job they can no longer afford to go out to dinner. Then the waiters are out of a job. They stop working on their homes and then the employees of Home Depot are out of business....and on and on.

Europe has done this horrible thing that has finally come home to roost. They are in trouble. Real trouble. It is not going to go away and it can not be fixed. You can not give a man who has worked for you for 30 years a retirement package wherein they get 80% of their annual pay for the remainder of their life. This just happens to be another 40 years! And the benefits! This could not keep going on. The second something upset the fragile system, it all falls apart. Easy credit destroyed everything. I guess the poor use of easy credit was the actual culprit.

Now put it together. We are super connected economically. When one of the giants go down we all go down a little bit. Here we go.

China - They way overspent on infrastructure during the good times thinking it would all continue for them. The banks lent so much money to land speculators and the construction industry that when the down turn came they are sca rewed. But it gets worse. Construction is one of the hugest industries in China. They way overbuilt. They have empty cities. But the housing bubble has yet to burst so they sit empty and no one can afford them. The banks are out of capital, so they will no longer lend money which is a great way to get your economy in general to slam to a screeching halt. Never mind that they have a huge housing bubble that will eventually pop. Never mind that they have a massive demographic catastrophe about to come up where in there are not enough young people to support the old people and not enough girls for the boys. (social experimentation is not a good idea) They have been valuing the Renminbi like crazy to help their just-forming middle class have some purchasing power but this has devastated their exporting. On top of that, their two biggest clients (the U.S. and the Eurozone) are no longer buying. Their exports have taken a one two punch. Now what good will this new purchasing power which has come at the expense of their exports do for the middle class when that housing bubble does pop and the middle class loses half of its money when the home they bought is devalued by 50%. One last thing about the Chinese government....when they turned their back on a government based on ideological philosophy and pinned their legitimacy on economic success, what do you think will happen to them when their GDP growth falls below 7% for the first time in over a decade? What about when it hits 5%? What about lower?

The U.S. is in pain too. We have already lost around 1/3 of our net worth from the housing bubble that has already popped. And the bottom has yet to come. There is still a huge shadow inventory that has not yet hit the market. Unemployment is over 8% (keep in mind this does not count a lot of people that were working, became unemployed and then gave up looking for a job or the people that found a job but it pays 1/2 of their last job). The banks were recapitalized at the expense of the Federal Reserve. They gave all of the banks hundreds of billions of dollars at basically 0% to help them recapitalize but that money is just sitting on the bank's balance sheets and not being lent out. We look at Europe and say we are glad it is not us. But it is. We laugh at their debt to GDP ratios. Guess what? Ours just hit 105% this year. Next year will be way higher. We do not just have unsustainable debt, we have catastrophic debt. This is on the federal level so we should be ok, right? I used to think it was ok to spend ourselves out of a recession. But now I think this just kicks the can further down the road. As two examples, look at cash for clunkers and the rebate for buying a new home. Both worked beautifully until they stopped. They were supposed to be jump starters to get things going. But when they ended things just went back to the new normal. So the billions spent on those programs did no good. They just kicked the can farther down the road and increased the bill. On top of the trillions we have spent on temporary band aids we have a hidden cliff coming. Municipalities are going to be going bankrupt in about four years. All of the money they have been borrowing is about to come due. Municipal bonds. This is how they borrowed money. They are about to have to pay back a lot of five year and ten year bonds. But they have lost so much money that they will not be able to cover it all and their commitments. (we are talking roughly 4 TRILLION DOLLARS!) It is almost a guarantee that they are going to have to start making some serious cuts. How bad? Ask Governor Chris Christie. He says his state is not in the worst condition and he would have to cut spending by 20%, increase taxes by 15% for 20 years and retirement packages will need to be cut by similar numbers just to get back to even. By the way, that is extremely draconian. New York is much worse. As are many others. But you will not hear about this for another couple of years (unless you read the secretly leaked JP Morgan assessment!). Our debt levels are projected to grow. When our credit rating is adjusted appropriately, the same thing that just happened to Spain will happen here...our bonds rates will skyrocket. 

Now there is Europe. They are just screwed. Their debt level is astonishing. They have several large economies with negative growth over several quarters. No one is going to get out of there alive. If they go to the Eurobond to facilitate bailing out the PIIGS then that will be the end. It really is like watching a slow motion train wreck. They called out Greece over a year ago that they would default on its loans. It still has not happened (almost happened yesterday!) but they are only 6 months away. By then Spain and Ireland will be where Greece is now. Remember when Greece got its first bailout about 6 months back? Spain just got their first one this last week) And then Italy will be where Spain is now. When they go to the Eurobond as a last ditch effort to spread the pain around, then they will all be basically tying themselves to the same stone that has just been thrown into the ocean. When a country hits 7% on their 10 year bond rate, that is generally considered an unbearable interest rate. You can not go on very long borrowing money at that rate before it catches up to you and it comes due and you can not pay. Well, Greece is in the mid 20s. Ireland is nearly 10%. Spain is over 7% now and Italy just popped over 6%. You can actually handle a high interest rate if your economy is humming along and you are making a lot of money on your investments. But these countries have shrinking GDPs. You can not give people extreme benefits (healthcare, 30 hr. work weeks, job security despite poor job performance, massive retirement packages) and expect everything to pay for itself. The piper has come to get paid.

They are so indebted it is horrifying. 

So what was my point? Oh yeah, apocalypse. So this is what is going to happen. The world economy is going to continue to nose dive. Someone will start a war. Pretty basic history lesson there. That is what happens. So let's see what the social fabric is made of. Let's see if it can hold up. I think we are too spoiled to hold up to anything much. 

Maybe this is how Babel will long singularity, it was never meant to be.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Babel is Falling! Or is it?  

The story of the tower of Babel is interesting. Perhaps it is allegorical (some are sure this is all it is) or perhaps only partially true, based on a kernel of truth - an 'inspired by true events" story. The story goes like this. The human race decided that the path back to Heaven that God created was too difficult. Why not instead go straight to Heaven on your own terms? The arm of flesh will vault fallen man to godhood without the work required by God.

Now, God may have created a way back to His presence, but it was no easy task. In essence and in vague terms God's path was to create an environment wherein each individual would be subject to trials specifically designed and tailored to them in order to test them to their utmost. The purpose of this testing is to change the very nature of the individual. Into what? 

God wants to give you everything He has. That means all of His power. Peter Parker is almost right - "with great power comes great responsibility".  But think of total power - "if power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". You can not wield power like that unless you are completely in control of yourself. You need to control all natural instincts, resist all temptations, obey all truth. Very very few people can do this. But the trials that God designs for each of us is geared to this end - to make you a perfect man. 

But who wants to go through all of that to get to Heaven (you must read "Get to Heaven' as "Wield all of God's Power"). Why not just grab for that power yourself?

So they decided to build a tower to the seat of power.

Now, when viewed as an allegory it is rife with lessons. 1. God's power is all encompassing and all powerful.  2. God has a correct path which when traveled will train the individual to correctly wield that power. 3. You can not get that power any other way than what God has designed. 4. The arm of  man is inadequate.

So.....why is Babel Falling today?

We as a people have begun building our modern day equivalent of the Tower of Babel. Adam partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. Cool. Thanks Adam. We needed to fall to gain this knowledge. And this knowledge is an essential step. A Cherubim and a Flaming Sword were placed at the foot of the Tree of Life to keep him from partaking and therefore living forever in his fallen state. We are NOT to live in this fallen state forever. We are NOT to create life in our image. We are NOT to wield all power. Yet these goals are exactly where technology is quickly leading us. 

By some heady but apparently fairly accurate estimations (Hello you Singularitarians out there!), we will have finished our tower in less than 35 years. Technology will allow us to know all things (omniscient), be aware of all places (omnipresent-ish, see the Heisenberg principle....if only there were a Heisenberg Compensator out there, better check with Gene about that), and wield all power (omnipotent). It will allow us to live forever (in our fallen state). 

Ultimately the greater and greater advances in technology are creating ever larger  consequences. These consequences are both terribly beneficial and amazingly destructive (steel, engine/electricity, atomic power, telecommunications, genetic manipulations and on and on and faster and faster). We are, in my humble opinion, careening toward a future wherein the power we place in our own hands is becoming unwieldy. One false step and terrible destruction awaits (ever hear of the nanotechnology nightmare scenario termed gray goo? oh boy! See the final scene in The Day The Earth Stood Still for a sneak peak.).

So if we are closing in on the upper levels of our modern tower to Heaven, from my perspective, only two possible outcomes are eminent. 1. God will strike us before we can finish the tower and partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life (thereby living forever and holding God's omnipotence). 2. We make it to Heaven to find nobody there.

The outcome will be nothing more or less than the revealing of God to man (or the revelation that there is no God)!!

As a man of faith, I feel it my duty to continue my quest of self perfection and spiritual growth. I feel that God talks to me, which is an essential part of this path. I also feel in fair confidence that the tower and it's builders must be struck. (I hope that this does not become a crusade of Christian versus science!) But I admit (as even Mother Theresa did) that there is somewhere in the back of my mind the thought that the tower is being built at incredible speed and no one has struck us yet.

Will Babel Fall? At the current pace of construction, we will know by 2045.


Friday, June 15, 2012

I am in no way a scientist, engineer, geek or any other sort of technorati. I can do math if needed and I can appreciate the niceties of science. But I am not putting myself out there as any sort of expert. I am, however, someone who is attempting to pay keen notice wherever breakthroughs promise to heavily alter our landscape (cultural and otherwise).

Let me give you an example. In ten years we will have the capability to control all electronic devices on the planet with nothing more than a thought. Creepy? More than you might fathom. In actuality, you can do it now! There is even an app for that. Let me start at the beginning. All electronics (any system, really) can be controlled by a simple binary code (0/1, on/off, etc.). This is great news because we are human and humans run on analog systems. Because we are our own starting point (we do not want machines to run the world.....we want to run the world) we are starting with our bodies - an analog system. But everything that we colloquially call technology is in a digital format. So how can we get our old analog systems to control digital systems? Especially when it comes to controlling them by thought? Well, pretty easy stuff actually. They started by looking at the very light electrical charge that your brain creates when it thinks. So if you think left your brain will light up in certain areas in a unique way. If you think right it will light up in a different way. So if you were to put some kind of ECG on your head and record and catalog those patterns you can cue each of those patterns with a command. So if you were in a car with an ecg strapped to your head and the car was controlled by commands can you get it to go where you want?

So they took these monkeys and put a joystick in their hands. The joystick controlled a robotic arm.  They soon found that when the joystick was moved to the left, the robotic arm moved to the left. It probably did not take long for them to learn that if they controlled the arm right it would reach into a bin of fruit and give the fruit to them. Now that these monkeys could control a robotic arm to give them fruit, they cut open their heads (of course). They stuck wires into their brains at the locations that executed a light electrical charge when a particular thought was thunked. So when the area that lights up when you think left the light charge sends a signal to the arm just as the joystick would. Interestingly, the joystick was still in the monkey's hand. So the monkey moves the joystick to the left, thinks left, sends the charge down the wire to the robotic arm and it moves left. The next step - remove the joystick. Picture this now and get excited. The monkeys put their hands down to their side and sat there thinking 'left' and the robotic arm moved left. Finally they put the monkey skull back on their heads and used a wireless transmitter that went from an implant in the monkey brain to a receiver on the robotic arm. Now you see nothing but a monkey a robotic arm and a bucket of fruit. The monkey thinks left and gets a banana.

They do not need to do implants any longer. There are cute little caps. I am sure that it will not be long until there is nothing on your head. If you can control a car or robotic arm you can control anything electric. That means drones, computers, lights, garage doors....anything. Help me fill in this list. I am sure I have not even scratched the surface.

I feel that we are creating some massive abilities out there that we have not thought through. We can not stop it from coming. So we had better start thinking ahead about the consequences.

Computer brain interface:

Car brain interface:

Brain robotic arm interface:

Cool games use Brain Computer Interface:

Is anyone awake?  Why are we making games with this technology? Can you guess what the government/military is doing with it?

Friday, June 8, 2012

The end of last January, my wife noticed a flyer somewhere that mentioned that the deadline for the Executive MBA program at the University of Nevada was mid-April. "You should do that." She was right. I was in the midst of growing my small business (read "one employee") and I had several more ideas I wanted to turn into companies. Without even realizing it I had fallen into my third career path. I got everything together for the application and scheduled the GRE test ten days earlier than suggested by the GRE Exam people based on when they report results. (One thing I learned in college is to double check everything.  This is its corollary - prepare for worst case scenarios). The test results made it on the same day as the deadline. Everything was in and I was eventually one of 20 that were accepted.

I have always loved education. I had always planned on going back to school for further degrees. I just assumed that day would be after my business had become enough to support us and I had both more time and more money. I had intended on receiving my masters in classical archaeology and my doctorate in education. I love education. But I never intended to be on just one side of that equation. Little insight - I actually prefer the other end of didactics. I substitute taught for two winters when I was unemployed and first married. In fact, I had early on wanted to institute a private high school.

This high school was going to solve all of the problems in our current educational system. Parents were to be deeply involved. Both hours per day and days per year were to be greatly increased. Teachers would completely lack a teaching degree, instead being led by in-field education and a native talent. The school budget would be almost entirely for educators. There would be no more textbooks (when I saw the tblet I instantly thought of Google's Guttenberg project - goodbye textbook costs), only historic texts. Math would be taught using Copernicus and Kepler, chemistry from Lavoisier and physics from Einstein.

I know that the field of education is rife with problems. I used to blame it on a terrible bureaucracy. Then I blamed it on the parents. Then I blamed it on the lowered expectations where everyone is a winner. Michele Rhee was right, but she was only removing the first rotten brick in a quickly collapsing wall. My idea was to change attitudes of everyone involved and hold everyone's hand along the way. The teacher, the administrator, the student, the parent...everyone needed to change what they considered normal and forced to give more. 

Well, it looks like technology will completely change the face of education just as it has or will with so many other areas.

And it looks like it will be quite disruptive as well.

The first clue I had that education will forever be changed was watching the new Star Trek movie a couple of years back. The Vulcans had a "school" where each individual sat in a depression in the floor and was taught in a one-on-one format with a mentoring program. It quite shocked me. It instantly became clear what Kurzweil had been saying - today a young boy in Africa has more access to information than the President of the United States did 30 years ago. Or something like that. (did I mention that this blog is not well researched?) 

I knew early on when mentally forming my school that there are at least two parts to an education - the information and its digestion. The former is no longer the sole property of the belongs to everybody. Knowledge has become democratized. Let me give you a few examples - Google and Wikipedia to start, Sal Khan and the Khan Academy, EdX the child of MITx and Harvard jealousy, and Sebastian Thrun with Udacity. (I had an office mate who was the Jeopardy player type. She knew history QUITE well. She would always bait me by asking a question about Churchill or Egyptian Dynasties. As our backs were to each other I would quickly go to google or wikipedia and go tit for tat. When she found out how I knew details she did not she became flustered and upset and called it cheating. It may have been cheating ten years ago, but now it just is). 

Now that the information is out there, it only remains to determine that latter part of an education, teaching digestion. This is where the current battle is playing out. How will we teach our children how to gather, digest and synthesize? It will be exciting to watch as it unfolds. Let me give you a hypothetical view of the future (15 years)....

The children are given access to several types of mentors in elementary school. The main purpose of these mentors is to keep the questioning mind alive. Why do rabbits run from coyotes? Why does wood float? These mentors will be in several forms including software, robotic and flesh. This stage will be devoted to learning facts  in order to build the foundation. You will know the alphabet, what wood is composed of and why there were 13 colonies. From here the child will begin to specialize - science, social science, creative, or what have you. An introduction to an advanced set of knowledge will be given. Finally, the student will know how to access all knowledge and the focus will become on how to use the current knowledge to create new knowledge. 

OK, duh. But here is the kicker. At what pace? At what location? Who will say what you know? Right now we all go through at the same pace in the same building and receive a certificate. In 15 years your son may be done with extensive math training at 14 via software at home. My son may become expert at economics at 18 and attend a group in a community building mentored by someone in the field.  There will be staggering decisions and choices. Certification will be replaced by ability tests and your resume will be a list of projects you have completed.

I am not saving up for my childrens' college fund. At first it was because I paid my way through college and it taught me a lot. My grades suffered but I learned what an education is really worth. I actually want them to have that. Now I put off any savings program simply because there will be no college. If you do not believe me, check out what Mark Cuban said about it. Check out the inflation rate per credit and the growth in student debt. I do not know what will happen to these universities (maybe become completely research oriented I suspect) but people will no longer go there for credits and degrees. That era is over.

Obama just finished paying his loans off 8 years ago. It is no longer worth it. I am using my student loan to subsidize my business. Get as we know it is done. It will become what it should have been about - learning. 

Have fun.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The world is about to change, my friend.  Technology Review has confirmed something that I just did not does not create more jobs than it destroys.  Thomas Friedman lied!  Who can you trust? A few months back, I came across a great example - the Google Car.

I hope that you have seen the many Google car videos on Youtube.  The one on top of the parking garage is amazing.  They have also had two Google cars drive from Italy to Beijing with only one accident.  Think about that have to cross all of the "-stans"!  By the way, the single accident happened when they forgot to turn off the second car after turning off the first one.  So far, there have been no real accidents reported from the millions of miles driven by Google cars. The Google car now has a legal license to drive in Nevada.  They are coming.

Try to imagine what this world will be like when they are ubiquitous.  Everything that now involves a car will be replaced by a Google car.  Taxi?  Google car.  Truck driver?  Google car.  Trains will have the Google car technology as will planes (both of which kind of already do).  Everything that moves.  You no longer go grocery shopping because you have them place your order in your car which then drives back to you.  You no longer go to pick up and drop off your kids....they just jump in the Google car. You have your pizza delivered by Google car which then alerts you to its arrival.  I think a slight majority of cars will be empty not too far down the road.  

Every car in the city will be completely aware of all of the other cars. The route it will choose will be decided instantaneously. If your friend is coming over to hang out you can ask him how long it will take and the car will tell you 12 minutes and 54 seconds. (this does not account for the hundreds of new cars that will be joining traffic while you are in the middle of your commute but I am sure that instantaneous rerouting will mean minimal differences.  If I am in the middle of my commute to the museum and am expecting a 4 minute trip and you just get into your car and design a destination that cuts across my path my car will slow down a few miles per hour to adjust for the moment your car cuts across my path. I know that is a simple picture and it will not be that ideal but you get the idea) It will know that driver X across the city is planning on taking I-80 West in 3 minutes and 33 seconds and you can cut across his path 2 seconds before.  

There will be no more stop lights. Every car can go 100 miles an hour on freeways.  There will be no more traffic jams. Commute times will be drastically cut. 

Here is the best part.  I actually entered a future business idea contest (and was not accepted for it) based on this. There can now be near complete freedom in car design. I want to design a courier car that has a footprint of 2' x 4' and rises maybe 3'. It will just scoot around all of the other bigger cars as it delivers and picks up documents or small loads. Send that thing on its way and off it goes. It would have a subscription based fee program and there would be dozens running around town at any given time.  When something was needed those who subscribe would put in an order and immediately the car could predict within several seconds how long to deliver the item to you. 

Car sizes and shapes will begin to drastically change. Personally, I will have a bed in my car with mega tinted windows (you will not even need windows!). I will become uber productive. I suppose the real result will be that the car interior will turn into another room in the house - home office, bedroom, living room whatever.

The point is that millions of people will be out of a job. Obviously anyone that drives a car will be out. There will be many more too, though. There will be fewer glass windows in cars, fewer air conditioners (my courier cars will not need them), and far fewer mechanics (at least no collision repair shops).  Fewer accidents will mean fewer car purchases which will affect car dealerships and even auto manufacturers.  These adjustments will all be small on an individual level but taken as a whole it will be felt. This will affect a lot of sectors and cause a lot of unemployment.

So Google cars is just one example of how technology destroys more jobs than it creates.  I am not going to debate this. I know some people will not believe this and will have questions that seem to disprove it. I am neither smart enough nor informed enough to tackle that debate. I will just take Technology Review at their word.

Before I end this post, just for a second, imagine that it is clearly true....that technology creates a net loss of jobs.  That any job destruction has been hidden by the creation of silly jobs like masseuse. This is not a real job. (Do not be insulted!) We just have more wealth and can afford trivial things. I was an archaeologist for nearly ten years. It began to become ridiculous. We surveyed and recorded constructed material from 1960! (Anything older than 50 years is historic) Because we are soon going to have to record plastic bottles on the side of a dirt road I feel fine saying that my old job as an archaeologist is becoming a silly job. There are going to be many more. I just think that at some point (as we see in Greece) the number of silly jobs will grow so large that it will become unsustainable. We can not all have silly jobs and just hope that no one notices....imagine if we all worked for the government. It would eventually collapse.

O.K., I know I am not the first person to come to this conclusion...but capitalism can not persist in a world that is rapidly developing new technology. At some point the unemployment will become too high as technology destroys job. No one will be able to buy the new technology (or anything else) and capitalism will just collapse. If you check out, they have an article that suggests that corporations will be the natural enemy of technology and the singularity.  That is because technology destroys jobs and therefore capitalism.

I guess that we will see. But I am pretty sure that things will not keep going the way that they are. This is the reason I am trying my hardest to break the ol' get a job, work 40 hours for 40 years and retire scheme. I feel that I need to get rich (not awful rich, just comfortable rich) now. And no regular job will cut it. (I saw a bulldozer operator run a dozer for 10 straight hours, then climb out and go home. He was near retirement and when he did retire he was just gonna live a few years longer - he was not healthy - and then die. All for what? He spent most of his time in the cab of a dozer. I can not live a life where I see my office mate's face more than my wife's....but that is another post).

Anyway, think about it a bit. Technology is only going to become more and more disruptive. Who would have thought ten years ago that there would be no more car drivers? Look at the rate of cell phone adoption and then smart phone adoption ( I think it is like 50% adoption rate in 12 years and 6 years respectively - this is not a well researched blog btw). You need to start planning ahead.

p.s. - I personally do not think that people just graduating from medical school will retire as doctors...there will be no more doctors is Watson and DaVinci have anything to do with it.

In summation - Disruption City, here we come!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I have NEVER seen an alien movie that I enjoyed.  Fill me in if there is one out there that can even remotely begin to describe how a true alien invasion would take place.  It even makes me angry, especially when it is Independence Day.  Let me explain what I mean.

Here is how the 'aliens take over Earth' movie should go.

1. The aliens will not show up, they send surrogates  (Ever see that movie? I really liked a lot of the ideas in it. Did you realize that our simplistic 21st century military is becoming nearly completely surrogates?

 "DARPA's goal when it opened the competition in 2004 was to encourage development of vehicles that could operate autonomously in war zones, meeting a congressional mandate that 30% of the military's vehicle fleet be robots by 2015."  

What will it mean to go to war when you just strap into a sun tan bed device and start shooting Taliban?  This whole idea definitely deserves it's own post.  Anyway, the aliens will have this idea down.  If they bother with us at all, they will clear everything off before they even get here with surrogates.  

2. It will happen in less than an hour......probably more like a handful of minutes.  There will be no emergency broadcasts.  Let me give a little perspective.  Do you remember in History class when they mentioned the French cavalry running up to the German tanks in the opening scenes of World War II?  The cavalry had just kind of stayed around from the War to End All Wars (World War I). Nobody really was thinking another horrendous war was around the corner. So the cavalry just kind of sat around.  When the tanks came they did not know what else to do so they sent the cavalry in.  A flesh and blood horse against a tank!  And when the trench battles began they were in a similar situation.....they literally had gangs of men charge the opposing line KNOWING they would all be mowed down.  Just brutal when an enemy gets that advantage before their opponent does.  Can you imagine that World War II technology against Civil War era armies?  There would be no chance! If Patton had to face off against Lee the war would wrap up in several months....tops.  (That is without the atom bomb)  

Now just try to picture our military in Afghanistan going against Lee or picture against Washington.  I do not doubt that 100 or 200 troops from today could decimate Washington's army, even the British army.  They would have the logistics, supply chain, materials, intelligence, weaponry, training and strategies that would let 100 men take out 1,000s of the enemy.  They would conquer the colonies in weeks.  How about our military against men with swords and long bows?  They would sit at a castle for a couple of hours, take it out and move on.  Plundering the castle would be the only thing that takes any time.  

Do you see where I am going?  These aliens would be so far ahead of us that their technology would wipe us out with only a thought - literally (more about this another day).

So it makes me puke when the plucky humans come up with some ingenious way to destroy the aliens.

3. They will never come to take us over in the first place.  Have you been reading the news lately?  We are finding earths left and right.  Do you remember those alien movies trying to come up with a reason to take us out?  There was 'using humans for food', there was the 'water is the most precious resource in the universe' crap.  There is nothing here that anyone with the ability to travel inter/intra - galactic space would bother with!

Carl Sagan's son, Nick, agrees with me

"Humans having any kind of sporting chance against hostile alien invaders armed with superior technology," Sagan said. "Good luck. If they're advanced enough to cross the enormous distances of interstellar space, they're advanced enough to wipe us out without breaking whatever in their physiology passes for a sweat. Why not just lob a few asteroids at us? How are we going to handle that? The conceit of plucky human underdogs triumphing at the end might make for feel-good popcorn movies but in reality there's just no 'there' there."

Here!  Here!

The purpose for aliens to bother coming her stopped making sense, so they started coming up with the 'aliens are like us, they are just violent' idea.  They crashed here. There was an intergalactic highway excuse too. But we should get over ourselves and admit that there is nothing here worth an alien's time (not that there will be such a thing as time...but that, too, is another post) unless it is beneficent in nature. A cultural exchange.

Keep this in mind too....if this earth has been around something like 5 billion years and you are going along with the Drake Equation that there is likely life out there, then on one of those similar planets, there would be one thing early on that advanced their progression rate just a bit so that they developed sentient life just 200 years earlier than us.  200 out of 5 billion.  Realistically it would much more likely be a few thousand years.  But even 200 years.  Those two hundred years will easily be so technologically potent that the before and after of those two centuries would look nothing alike. (this is Kurzweil's accelerating technology idea....again, another post).

So, to summarize, it will not happen.  If it did it would be over in minutes. We would never see an alien, only their surrogates.  That is why there are no real alien would be more like an alien invasion commercial.  Uh, maybe an alien invasion tweet.