Too Fail to Bail

What’s going to happen during the next economic crises? Surely the public won’t give in to the “too big to fail” strategy next time. These banks should’ve suffered the consequences for their poor business practices in 2008, instead they were given billions of dollars while those who truly needed the money were left to pick up the crumbs that “trickle down”. Maybe things would’ve been worse off initially had we not bailed them out, and I can’t leave out the fact that the bailout money was paid back, but we’re going full circle. Take a quick look at this graph and a majority of you can accurately predict where it’s going in the near-future.

Fannie and Freddie will most likely need ANOTHER bailout, yet their CEOs are making millions of dollars a year. How about we ditch the idea of encouraging corporate recklessness? Let these companies fail and let the victor fill the void, these companies are antiquated and a new system is ready to be built in their stead. I think we all just wanted to buy more time so we could comfortably live in this american dream – well, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee my friends.

White House: Artificial Intelligence will Dramatically Reshape Our Future

The White House recently released a report detailing how artificial intelligence will affect our future and how we can better prepare for it. They give a warning to those working in jobs that are at high-risk for being automated (specifically cashiers and those who work in transportation). Now I have no doubt that most of these people can be retrained for other jobs, rarely do people strive to reach their maximum potential and we must start doing this. This means not only making individuals employable in an area that they show an aptitude in, but continuing their education throughout their lives. We need to somehow incentivize learning and encourage it as a life-long process. If a majority of the unemployed were adequately educated then they would have a much easier time finding or creating employment.

The internet has made knowledge almost too accessible, Coursera and dozens of other websites offer free college classes online. Harvard, a university that charges about $60,000 in tuition per year, is now offering online courses with some of their best professors for free! It’s well known that there is an inverse relationship between crime and education – tip the scale in education’s favor and crime goes down, saving the country money, lives, and needless suffering. Let the general population skimp on education, then you’re going to have more crime. Instead of giving (or perhaps alongside) free handouts, maybe we could better organize all of these free online classes and give the underprivileged and unemployed a bonus for enrolling and passing the courses. This would discourage idleness and increase the chance of them giving back to society.

Assuming we do a better job at educating the public, we will still most likely need to reform our current welfare program (and tax loopholes, healthcare, etc). The state of the lower/middle class will only continue to worsen as wealth continues to be siphoned to the top. The richest 1% now own more than the other 99% put together. An economy and political system that serves only the rich (by and large) is unsustainable, there are very few options in such a scenario, most lead to further suffering of the currently oppressed parties. War can be a tool used by the ultra-wealthy to distract the public from the root causes of their financial and spiritual woes, and also for generating even more profit. War can also sling a country out of a depression, as it did during the great depression, but there must be a superior alternative.

Man and Machine

Biotechnology is becoming more commonplace as these sort of experiments dissolve the boundary between man and machine. We’re already seeing bionic eye implants that allow the blind to see, deep brain stimulation that give Parkinson sufferers tremendous relief, and now we’re beginning to gain control of the human body at a cellular level via nanotechnology.

A recent discovery found that epithelial cells engulf these silicon nano wires quite happily, it’s almost like biology came bootstrapped with the ability to merge with technology. I would imagine if these cells rejected silicon, then the process of merging the two would be quite difficult if not impossible. The implications of this discovery is profound, scientist think they’ll be able to closely monitor the communication that occurs between the organelles WITHIN A SINGLE CELL (think about that sentence for a second), they’ll also be able to deliver drugs via these silicon wires into individual cells (a technique called bioelectronic therapy) – this would have a tremendous affect on the field of chemotherapy.

Universal Basic Income or Bust

Finland is going to see how 2,000 people fare while being supplied a basic income. Their job status, after the experiment begins, will not affect their basic income. This is the whole idea – it incentivizes getting a job while being unemployed, whereas welfare does the opposite. Some people on welfare would actually make less money if they got a job! Should we continue to finance this ineffective method of supporting the unemployed if an alternative method is shown to be superior, especially considering what our future will look like in a few decades?

I’m a firm believer in educating the public and making them employable so they can feel that they’re contributing back to society. However, jobs are going to become more scarce as automation continues “freeing” humans from menial jobs, and eventually even the jobs that require years of training. We’re going to need a more robust safety-net, and it needs to have more of a “bounce” so when people get caught in it, they are almost thrown back on their feet trying to earn more money. Currently, if you get caught up in welfare, it’s easy to become complacent and there’s little reason to climb out if you’re going to get paid the same laying there as you would working 40 hours a week.

Manna

I ended a recent post by mentioning Universal Basic Income which segues quite well into this post. There’s a short story called Manna that describes what looks to be our very near future – a growing lower class which is fed by machines putting people out of work. Now, if you haven’t already realized, this will probably be a theme of this website because I foresee automation being a very serious problem if we are unprepared for it. A problem which will be the root cause of many other serious issues; I hope I’m wrong and this never comes to be, but considering that it can (and most likely will to some degree) happen I’ll continue writing.

The protagonist starts out living in a dystopia where he’s segregated off from the working population, if he (or anyone else) tries to leave the premises then a security bot will come rolling up and give a warning before forcing him back to the slums. Luckily, a relative of his invested in a project where they were attempting to build a Utopia in Australia, he was then given a one way ticket to this new world. When he arrives, he finds out that he must sacrifice most of his privacy so he can conform to the basic rules of this new society. They are:

Everyone is equal
Everything is reused
Nothing is anonymous
Nothing is owned
Tell the truth
Do no harm
Obey the rules
Live your life
Better and better

Basically, he has a few body modifications done that allow him to have completely immersive virtual reality, access to a Google-like search engine just by thinking of a question, you can even detach your consciousness from your body and have set it (your body) to work out while you read a book or whatever you want to do. It’s all very strange and far-fetched, but the idea of relinquishing control over your own privacy and body in order to reduce crime to nearly nothing is what is intriguing. How bad does the state of humanity have to become before we consider this a possibility?

Self-Checkout without Checking

Amazon recently released a video that shows off their new no-checkout store. Just walk into the store, grab what you want, and then walk out. I think this is great, but when I was talking to someone in line at Walmart today, her first reaction was “oh, but it’s taking jobs away” – which was ironic because we were in the self-checkout line. I think this is a concern for a lot of people, the real question is whether enough new jobs will be available once cashiers, taxis/truck, janitors, etc are phased out. Someone recently told me that this process of automating people out of jobs has been going on since computers were first created, but enough new jobs opened up and it really wasn’t a problem . I wonder if this give-and-take balance can last indefinitely.

Realistically, if you take artificial intelligence and robotics to its ultimate conclusion, it’s very difficult to think of any job that won’t be done by a machine. We need to figure out where these new jobs will be since we know what jobs will not be in the future. If the number of jobs that are to-be and not-to-be are extremely out of balance, then something must be done. Some very wealthy and knowledgable people are certain that this problem is right around the corner – one of the proposed solutions is a Universal Basic Income.

Self-Driving Cars

Uber is giving the middle finger to the DMV basically saying that they don’t need a permit to implement their autonomous vehicle technology in California. To be fair, Tesla didn’t have a permit when they did the same thing but there were some differences. Should Uber apply and wait until they’re granted a permit? A case can be made for both sides, autonomous vehicles are statistically safer than human drivers already – so human lives will be saved as this technology becomes widespread. On the other hand we have a corporation doing whatever they want in an industry that literally moves human beings around. In this case it seems to be in the best interest of the consumer so more power to you Uber!

I think the important point here is that this technology is not decades or even years away, it is here, today.

Medicine used by Children with Seizures labeled Schedule 1 by DEA

The DEA now classifies a specific type of hemp oil as a Schedule 1 substance which puts it in the same category as heroin and meth. According to the DEA’s website a Schedule 1 substance is defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”.  This is literally an attack against a treatment that demonstrably alleviates epileptic episodes in children, AND the compound that gets people high is removed before use.

The DEA has grown out of control, like many other 3 letter agencies, and frankly with a move this bold they are asking to be dismantled – this is the inevitable outcome. The war on drugs has failed and was doomed to fail, it is an INCREDIBLE waste of tax-payer money. The DEA catches about 1%  of the drugs coming into this country. The demand for these substances is astronomical, and it’s never going away – so we either do away with them or we continue to throw away money at an entity that’s making the entire problem worse.

Here’s one video of hundreds showing how CBD has greatly improved the quality of life for someone (a child in this case).