Saturday, September 8, 2018

Andrew Yang Wants an Economy for Normal People

We have seen, and will continue to see, market forces that seek to maximize profit potential with the assumption that human flourishing will be an inevitable byproduct. There are clearly problems with this assumption already. But with increasing automation and AI, there is no good reason to believe this will be remotely true in the future.

Consider many (if not most) care-giving positions: home health care, teaching, child care and youth development, social workers, elderly care, animal welfare, environmental protection and cleanup. These and countless other occupations serve vital social functions yet have little economic incentive. People essentially commit to a life in poverty just to take on these careers - yet society would be nearly unbearable without them.

Add to this the ongoing de-skilling of various professions or outright automation of entire industries and we have a very bleak future for most humans ("normal people") in the mid-21st century and beyond. So long as a meaningful life and sustainable living are tied to economic structures which reward disruptive, concentrated monetary accumulation, most people will continue to see their quality of life diminish as a small oligarchy of tech wizards and financial elite consolidate most available resources.

"The War on Normal People" author and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang appears to be among the foremost leaders in the USA discussing this issue. He is certainly worth watching and listening to.

Related to this, Google's AlphaZero AI has become the undisputed champion of Chess. And unlike previous software programs like Stockfish which were programmed by humans, AlphaZero taught itself to play Chess and became better than every human player... in four hours. AlphaZero is actually more creative than most human chess players - another metric that didn't seem likely just a few years ago. Machines appear capable of learning something new more effectively and efficiently than humans could ever hope to.

The superiority of AI won't stop with games like Chess or Go, or even with automated cars and chat bots. Most of the jobs that most of us have will be performed more effectively by machines or with only minimal human oversight, and likely within most of our lifetimes.

If we don't de-couple our sense of purpose from work, if we don't separate how we obtain food, housing, and other essentials from performing profitable tasks, there won't be much of an economy left in which most humans can participate. The more one pays attention to the developments in AI and automation, the more clear it becomes that we are on a collision course with very grim prospects for most people unless economic and social structures are significantly redesigned with humans in mind.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Omarosa Learned from the Master

When it comes to reality TV distractions and high wire publicity spectacle, Omarosa Manigault has spent over a decade learning from the master. And now the tables have turned, in seems, as the disciple is now publishing scandalous writing, audio, and promises video (source). Omarosa is schooling her former guru in the Art of the Deal-breaker.  "The best people," indeed!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Is Universal Healthcare So Impossible?

If I traveled back to the year 1776 and told the Founders that the USA could eventually 1) put robots on the surface of Mars or 2) guarantee every American healthcare coverage, which would the Founders guess happens first?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Bald Eagle is not Conservative

Many people on social media have images like this bald eagle superimposed with an American flag for their cover and/or profile photo. You have seen them before.

After surveying countless conversations and posts on social media sites, I've come to the conclusion that most of these same people do not support strong environmental regulations and many want to defund or dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency entirely - even as the American bald eagle's ongoing existence relies upon government regulation and enforcement of environmental protections.

The bald eagle is not conservative.  This bird shouldn't be a symbol for virulent nationalism or right wing identity politics.  It shouldn't be an icon for deregulatory political movements.

The bald eagle is, first and foremost, an apex predator whose habitat has been established long before the North American land mass was carved up according to European immigrants.  In the latter half of the 20th century, the bird nearly went extinct due to human causes: habitat loss, decline of prey populations, hunting, and chemical poisoning (source).

So to display the bald eagle as a political mascot while supporting an administration that moves to gut the Endangered Species Act is tragic, misguided, and desecrates the honor of all plants and animals, great and small.


The cost of Trump's Endangered Species Act proposal

"The proposed change is the latest in a series of White House efforts to remove environmental regulations designed to protect vulnerable species and their habitats, as well as leave untouched some of America's most wild places.

Environmentalist groups have reacted with outrage, and the Center for Biological Diversity said "these proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife".

"If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the grey whale would be extinct today."  (source)

Monday, July 2, 2018

Michael Cohen will be a Squealer

"President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, who once said he would do anything to protect the president, told ABC News in an interview released Monday that he now puts "family and country first." In Michael Cohen's first interview since federal agents raided his home and hotel room as part of a probe into his personal business dealings, he was asked what he would do if prosecutors forced him to choose between protecting the president and protecting his family.

"My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will," Cohen was quoted as saying by ABC's George Stephanopoulos in an off-camera interview that was reported on "Good Morning America." ''I put family and country first." (source)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The First Amendment and Modern Publishing

Are you going to get sued for saying that?

In this presentation, filmmaker and media activist Danny Ledonne outlines the history, meaning, and application of the First Amendment. Covering notable cases and current controversies, viewers will gain a better understanding of their legal liabilities and defenses when publishing media or exercising their freedom of speech.

This lecture was originally presented to the Conejos Writers Circle in La Jara, Colorado in June 2018.