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Friday, August 17, 2012

It's Not What's Wrong, It's What Isn't Right:

The collapse chorus lists dozens of things that are wrong with the world today, says they are all catastrophic, and then announces in the next six months or so the whole world will come to an end.  When nothing happens, every six months, they say their prediction was just a little off and it will surely end in the next six months instead.  They wash, rinse, and repeat this line and have been doing so for decades now.  It isn't because they're stupid, nor is it because they're deceivers.  They just genuinely can't understand how a world with so many things that are wrong with it can still keep standing, year after year after year.

Adam Smith once explained it pretty well -- "There's a great deal of ruin in a nation."  Obviously, if we're talking about a world of seven billion people, or a nation of 310 million people, it's easy to find supporting facts towards any bad trend.  But until those anecdotes become a noticeable percentage of the population, they just don't matter in the larger scheme of things.

Yes, it's crazy that gangs of black kids are running up and beating lone whites unconscious for 'fun,' and the country isn't doing anything about it.  But the percentage of whites beaten unconscious by fun loving black kids is still extremely low, so ultimately it won't change the fate of America one way or the other.  It's maddening, but it's far less harmful than the drought this year which has cost us billions in lost corn crops, something not a single black person had a hand in (at least that we know of.  ;) ).

Crime is capable of crippling a society, no doubt, but it hasn't done so yet.  Overall, crime is down to a fifty year low in America.  Railing against crime is kind of silly with that fact in perspective.  It's the same for other supposed, non-existent problems.  Remember the energy crisis?  Well a few natural gas discoveries later, we've secured multiple centuries of cheap, clean energy that even emits fewer greenhouse gasses.  That entire collapse scenario simply disappears like it never was.  Cars can be designed to run on natural gas instead of oil, so there can't be any oil shortage anymore either.  Not that we are running low on oil.  Because of the instability in the middle east, for decades valuable oil resources have simply sat, unused, in the ground.  This is true of places like Libya, Iraq, and Iran, where sanctions have made oil development nearly impossible for decades.  But Iraq and Libya are democracies now.  Hussein and Qadafi are dead.  And the West is ready and eager to get back into those countries and start drilling for oil again.  Just recently Iraq surpassed Kuwait in oil production.  Iraq has as large oil reserves as Saudi Arabia, but their oil production is on par with the tiny oil barony of Kuwait!  That's a lot of unused potential right there.  If Iran's government is likewise overthrown and a democracy put in place there, which doesn't sponsor terrorism against Israel or develop WMD, a new giant oil field will open up for development and the world will get another 100 years' supply of black gold.  There's probably oil in Syria too, so the moment Assad is impaled on a stick like Qadafi was, our oil drillers can get to work there too.  There's tons of oil in South Sudan.  Previously it was impossible to make use of it, because the evil oppressive Sudanese muslims were constantly raping, bombing, and massacring the South Sudanese.  But now that South Sudan is free, it can ink deals with the outside world freely, and the outside world knows its infrastructure investments won't just be destroyed by the next Sudanese bombing run, and so they have a genuine shot of making money this time around.

The world is becoming a freer, safer place.  Every year, or almost every year, various human rights organization announce, with a sort of bemused puzzlement, that the fewest people have died due to violence in history as a percentage of world population this year.  When violence ends, economies can begin, and the developing world has tons of unused resources precisely because it was too dangerous to try and use them any time previous to now.  All this violence may have been a good thing, in a karmic way, because it preserved oil for centuries to come instead of just burning it all off at the very beginning, like poor Romania's oil industry did.  There are other oil reserves that haven't been touched we could draw upon as well -- America's offshore oil, Alaskan oil, shale oil, Alberta's tar sands, so on and so forth.  We won't run out of oil.  Moreover, car engines are still finding new ways to get more mileage per gallon, so we are actually using less oil to fuel a larger economy every year.

What about the water crisis?  If it ever gets too bad, we'll desalinate the ocean, which takes only energy to do.  Therefore, see the non-existent 'energy crisis' and you'll see why there isn't a water crisis either.

What about global warming?  The engineers a hundred years from now will use geo-engineering solutions to cheaply cool the Earth back down the moment the effects of global warming become prohibitive.  There are dozens of theoretical solutions if we ever needed them, but Mother Nature has been so effective at absorbing excess carbon into the oceans and plant life that we haven't needed them yet, and may never need them.  In any case, the world has frequently been much hotter than it is today, and had much more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than it has today.  In all of those cases life went on and even thrived.  It's the ice ages that drive extinctions, not the tropical paradises.  Who would have guessed?  If cold were really the secret to success then we'd all have evolved on Pluto.

What about the economy?  What if we stay in recession, or it gets even worse, for the foreseeable future?  What about it?  Per capita GDP is still well above 1950's levels in America, and I don't recall any starving kids with bloated stomachs being eaten by flies back then.  We can afford to lose 3/4 of our economic output and still be better off than the average Chinese person.  That's a lot of wiggle room.  No one has yet proposed adopting the North Korean economic plan, so I don't think we're going to lose 3/4 of our economy anytime soon, either.

There are signs that family planning is taking hold in even the most remote corners of the Earth.  For instance Mexico and Iran's birth rate is below replacement now.  Even without coercion it seems that people are instinctively aware that the world is full up and this isn't the time for yet more hungry mouths.  As womens' rights spread, fertility will decrease as well, and it seems like women's liberation is an unstoppable force.  Note how the Olympics featured the first female athletes from Saudi Arabia or Qatar or somewhere this year.  The march of progress marches on.

As for underpopulation, that's a problem centuries away from now, as the world is more than full and could use a few smaller generations in a row until it clears out the backlog again.  The people of that era will deal with it in a responsible way, just like the people of the future can deal with global warming when that becomes a problem.

The debt problem is illusory, because we can default on it whenever we want.  See non-existent 'economic crisis' for how we can afford to lose 3/4 of our economy, and therefore the repercussions of a default are also fatuous.

Dysgenics isn't an issue because mating has become extremely stratified.  People with Harvard IQ's marry other Harvard grads, and so on down the line.  The population in general is getting dumber, but smart people in particular are, if anything, getting smarter each generation.  Only a small fraction of smart people are necessary to manage a technical civilization or invent new machines.  As machine intelligence continues to improve, that fraction will grow smaller and smaller as the smart fraction's power can be leveraged through the massive ability of computer programming.  Again, the issue is hundreds of years away from being an emergency, and by then I doubt human intelligence will even matter anymore.

There isn't anything catastrophically wrong with the world today, nor will there be anything in the future.  Yes, people can point to any particular thing and say, 'look, it's getting worse!'  But we could also point to the Andromeda galaxy getting closer and say 'look, the universe is shrinking!'  In fact, the universe is spreading apart at faster than the speed of light, and Andromeda is just an exception.

My problem with today's culture and politics isn't what's wrong with the world, it's the enormous gap between how potentially great life could be, and how lame it still is.  In the 1920's and 1950's, everyone assumed we'd be out in space by 2001.  They had us in flying cars and flying cities and wealthy beyond imagination.  They weren't just being silly.  At the time, the rate of progress was so fast that trend lines easily pointed to such rosy pictures in the near future.  Their generations had conquered the submersible and the airplane, so why couldn't we conquer space?  It was just one more step.  Something went wrong with our space program.  We don't even have the capability to reach the moon anymore, something we could do in the 1960's.  This doesn't mean that the world is about to re-enter the stone age, but it does mean that there's a vast gap between where we are and Where We Should Be right about now.

Just think how much changed between 1861 and 1921.  Sixty years.  By then we had movies, refrigeration, cars, airplanes -- the world was our oyster and just sixty years ago it was still hand picked crops as the largest section of GDP worldwide.  But 1951 to 2011, also 60 years, and all we got was slightly higher resolution TV's, and slightly faster computers.  We also replaced telephones with texting/emails, which is a little less obtrusive and more convenient in daily life.  This is not something to get excited about.  This is embarrassing.  Where are the sky islands?  Where are the robots?

It isn't just the pace of scientific inventions that is tapering off.  The pace of philosophy has also slackened.  Who would have thought that 150 years after Charles Darwin, half the world still hasn't accepted the theory of evolution?  How is that the origin of life has been clearly explained as a series of random mutations of spontaneous chemistry over billions of years, but most people still follow silly old books written two thousand years ago about breathing into clay and fashioning ribs and the like instead?  In the future, people were supposed to have discarded silly superstitions and operated according to perfect logic, like Spoc from Star Trek.  But there are still people being stoned as 'witches' for turning other people into newts.  It's just crazy.  How can this happen hundreds of years after the scientific method was put in place?

Economic growth has made possible the elimination of poverty worldwide for decades, but our retarded philosophy hasn't taken advantage of this opportunity and prefers to see hundreds of millions of people all around the world die of easily preventable famine and disease.  It would be infinitely cheap to provide clean water across the world.  We spend far more in AIDS prevention to save far fewer lives.  Even so, we cannot muster the general will to just go out there and clean the water already.  It's perverse.  It's outright wicked.  People are generally longer lived today than anytime in the past, I'm not saying the world is about to succumb to the black plague.  But what I am saying is that the gap between how many people should be poor, hungry, or sick and how many actually are is the widest in human history.  Never before have so many suffered for so little reason to benefit so few.

Wherever I look, I see the tragedy of what could be superimposed over what is.  It's like I have a double vision of the world -- what's technologically and materially and philosophically possible to have right now, as we speak, today (like driverless cars and the resulting 40,000 lives saved every year in America alone), and what we have instead for lack of energy and drive.  It's like people are just apathetically sleep walking their way through life.  How can they look at a single funeral of some child run over by a drunk driver and not feel a burning shame that they didn't legislate harsher penalties against drunk driving, or ban human drivers entirely because computers can't get drunk in the first place?  Where did this 'it's not my problem' ideology come from and why does it stand in the way of every obviously beneficial reform imaginable?

Under FDR, the government saw the possibility to provide running water, sewage, and electricity to every American home -- so it went out and did it.  It didn't tell the poor to go soak, or say it wasn't their problem, they saw the potential to massively improve the world and they took it.  Kennedy saw the potential to reach the moon so he went out there and took it.  He demanded America do it within the decade and bam, we landed in 1969.  He didn't say the moon wasn't his problem, he didn't tell the moon to go soak.  When did we lose the capacity to dream, to care, to do great things?

Why is it that Japan, with all its vast wealth, can't simply remake the rest of Dragonball Kai, even at a loss, if that's what it takes, for one of the most popular and famous Japanese artistic works of all time?  Think of all the artists sponsored by governments in the past -- Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Leonardo -- nobody back then was thinking about needing to make a profit off the David or the Sistine Chapel, they just wanted the things built because they were good in and of themselves.  Dragonball is recognized by the populace of the whole world and by other expert manga creators in the very field as a masterpiece.  Why isn't there just a bit of national pride and a public desire to finish the project that ended 2/3 of the way through like Roark's unfinished symphony from Fountainhead?

With different leadership, with different media pushing a different message, with different schools pushing a different curriculum, the vast gap between what's technically possible and what isn't being done can be made up.  Heaven is practically available for the taking, but we're all too drowsy to just look up and see it and grab it already.  Instead we're debating taxes and social security and a million things that don't matter, and we're only discussing these issues at the very margins to boot!  Should taxes go up 1% or down 1%?  Should medicare funding go up 1% or down 1%?  How are we wasting decade after decade with such banal government?  America's government used to be a dynamic force for good.  Under Eisenhower we built the interstate highway system.  Under Polk we doubled the size of the United States.  Under Garfield or whoever we made the first transcontinental railroad.  We were making real leaps of progress, and it was being directed from the top.  There was no talk of free markets and small businesses and 'job creators' back then.  It was just -- can we do it?  If so, let it be done.  We need fewer clerks and more Caesars.  For the mightiest nation in world history, we act like a bunch of effete eunuch slugs.  How can we bear the mismatch between capacity and results?  Why are we spending all our energy to let a tiny .0001% of gays who want to marry do so, whatever that means, since they won't be having children anyway, when Kennedy was sending men to the moon?

Doesn't the year 2012 have something better to do than this?

Doesn't this generation want to be remembered for anything?

Don't we want to improve the world even the slightest?

If I didn't know any better I'd think that the whole world has fallen into the same drunken stupor as Russia, and the reason we don't see the possibilities in front of us is because the whole world is a blurry haze from dawn to dusk.  But Romney doesn't have that excuse.  He's a Mormon for crying out loud.  Why doesn't Romney have any big plans for America?  Why aren't the Republicans offering anything inspirational that we could really get behind?  Does he seriously want to become president so he can cut the corporate income tax rate?  Is that really all the potential the next four years in America has to offer?

We can do better than this.  Like this, given all the good fortune that has come our way in terms of peace, prosperity, and technology, we're just spitting in God's eye.  We're a nation of midgets who don't deserve any of the blessings our ancestors worked so hard to give us, and I hate it.  I'm just as angry as the next guy, but not because the world's going to hell in a handbasket -- but because it isn't going up to heaven already.

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