More Wild Cards: The Center Cannot Hold

I have been unable to deliver on my promise to make a clean break from Twitter so far.  Recent outbursts of tribal bigotry—not racism, which actually requires a systematic underpinning—have lured me into several conversations.  But I also (and probably more than ever) feel the need of a discussion pitched at a higher level.  As I wait for my mind to clear, therefore (and hope that it does), allow me to continue with more “wild cards” that make predicting the next half-century very chancy.

Where does the next generation come from?  People are having fewer kids all the time, at least in the so-called “developed” nations.  (I’m having a hard time not mentally quoting that word every time it attaches to our degenerate society.)  Parts of Europe where “replacement rate” reproduction is clearly not happening have attempted to supplement their labor shortage by throwing open their doors to all comers… but instead of admitting enough active taxpayers to support their aging population, they have swollen the welfare rolls and literally fomented rioting in the streets (thanks to several varieties of cultural clash).  How does this play out?  What becomes of an aging population no longer able to pay its bills when overlaid with a much younger population also unable to pay its bills?  And the young arrivals are indeed reproducing at a rate far beyond replacement… but their children enjoy no better prospects of finding work.

For bringing this demographic Chernobyl to public attention, Thilo Sarrazin was openly reviled, dismissed from his government position, and virtually hounded from all “respectable” company in Germany.  Yet he writes of cultural environment, not of DNA.  (In today’s steeply dumbed-down world, one cannot ask an arrival from Moola-Woola to wear shoes or cut his knee-length hair because it’s “racism”.)  The facts are these: our new “guest workers” (and the situation is much the same on this side of the pond, mutatis mutandis) do not speak the language.  Adults are therefore unable to help schoolchildren with lessons, even assuming that the parents had received some level of instruction back in the old country.  Young boys, in particular, are not expected to slave over books, according to “tradition”; and while the girls are free to immerse themselves in their studies, their efforts will likely go for naught, inasmuch as their destiny is to marry young and stay at home.

Meanwhile, mechanization is snapping up ever more of the jobs that an unskilled, blue-collar labor force conventionally performed.  High-tech opportunities exist… but not for children who can’t pass basic algebra.  Where does it all lead?

American seniors are perhaps somewhat better positioned to weather the storms of old age than their European counterparts, for the time being.  But the dilemma isn’t going away, especially for the upwardly mobile white majority.  Here, as far as I can tell, the preference for late marriage, few if any children, and even the sterility of a homosexual arrangement or a house filled with dogs and cats is pronounced.  So be it, some would say. Just as many Germans appear to long for racial suicide, so many of this demographic seem unconcerned about expunging their DNA from the face of the earth.  Some are indeed crying out for it from high in the Ivory Tower.  So… what will the world of complex electronic systems serviced by a dozen people and serving billions of analphabetic dependents look like?  How will it work?  At what point will the technicians simply fuse with Artificial Intelligence… and at what point will the new “transhuman” elite decide that it doesn’t need the dead weight of the idle masses?  How will that dead weight be shed?

Will intra-societal clashes be encouraged as a purge—race wars, perhaps, such as one sees looming behind all the verbal fecal matter fling about Twitter?  Or will a sterilizing agent simply, sanitarily be added to the annual required flu vaccine?  One of my own Twitter exchanges (which narrowly escaped becoming malodorous) involved the notion of “believing the experts” in the matter of climate change.  I referred my interlocutor to Paul Driessen and Wolfgang Thune; I observed that being a cardiologist or an archaeologist—or even a meteorologist—does not qualify one to speak with authority about climate, even though –ologist wags its tail in all of these professional titles; but most of all, I stressed that Neils Bohr, Werner von Braun, and Philipp Bouhler were all expert in their field… and that the common folk of the Thirties and Forties reaped a very bitter harvest from their expertise.

With masses of people, even (especially?) among the educated, being so eager to be led, and with the resources necessary to handle human masses being so depleted and finite, our species’ immediate future seems very much in doubt to me.  I really have no confidence that we can seize the reins and direct our progress at this point—any of us, that is, who considers humanity worth preserving.  On the other hand, the leadership of the PRC continues to remove adversary pieces from the global chessboard.  I don’t know why China hasn’t already taken our queen by destroying the unprotected North American power grid… unless persons and entities within our own government have already compacted with the Chinese oligarchy for seats at the One-World Round Table.

With the rest of us being so powerless or so clueless… well, well.  Who knows?  I won’t say there’s no hope, because evil has a way of undoing itself even after it appears to have neutralized every force for good.  I can only say, “Tend to your garden.  Find a source of clean water.  Keep plenty of blankets around.  Know where your children are.”

How the E-World and Its Transhumans May Bring a Glorious New Day

I think most professional educators are in my situation: they’re under constant pressure to shift more and more of their teaching further and further into the e-world. Now, I wouldn’t be writing these words with any expectation that someone might actually read them if the Internet didn’t exist. My objections are not Luddite: I do not dream of an EMP which will wipe out every trace of manmade electricity. What I deplore is the indiscriminate embrace of every new device and application to come down the pike as if its mere novelty were adequate proof of its superiority to earlier ways. I’m bothered by “instant access”. It induces young minds to become impatient with sifting evidence and easily reconciled to the first answer to pop up. I’m bothered by the “keyword search”. It trains novices to reduce complex issues and intricate connections to a bumper-sticker simplicity.

Perhaps most of all, I’m bothered by something that might be called the “cattle in the slaughterhouse chute” phenomenon. Young people who have been fed on the Internet and its attendant technologies the way chicks are fed on seed may think that the path of their Web-surfing is wholly self-directed—but in truth, it’s being tirelessly and minutely monitored so as to produce an ever straighter, faster-running mainstream. Creativity and individuality are vanishing. As people define themselves more and more in terms of what they see and what they post on the Net, on Twitter, and the rest, they unconsciously grow more and more tribal—more wedded to “trending” formulations and more conditioned in their thought by a rather narrow range of clichés.

Yet, as I say, the pressure to cave in professionally is irresistible. I must take care to speak only in veiled terms here, because I might indeed lose my job if I were to denounce what I see with blunt precision. The craze is too general, and backed by forces too powerful: it has reached the proportions of cult hysteria. Enough to say that, in the very middle of a complicated semester full of classroom challenges, I and my colleagues have all been commanded to make time for learning the lingo of still another software program. The orders issue from the offices of functionaries who have never sat through any of our classes and never taught any of their own… yet they warble to us, in endless emails and tutorials, “This will make your grading so much easier!” or, “This will involve your students so much more deeply in the class!” (Pardon me if I amend the warbles with proper grammar… though the intensifier “so”, properly speaking, requires a result clause that never seems to appear.)

A few days ago, a colleague half-commiserated with me by confiding that she, too, once shared my misgivings. Then she undid the consoling effect of her words by adding, “Later I realized that my students actually learn better online. They don’t pay any attention to me in class since their eyes are always on their Smartphones. So use their Smartphones.” I wanted to cry out, “But you’re making my case for me! That’s exactly why we should not be doing this! They’re already in Stage Three, and we’re facilitating their transition to Stage Four instead of trying to heal them back into Stage Two!” I just kept quiet, however. What’s the use?

As I’ve written before (in venues besides this one), the fusion of the human and the robotic—mystically called the Transhuman by strange beings like Al Gore—is supposed by many to be a lead-pipe cinch by mid-century, and we will only accelerate that glorious day by making our children think more like computers as AI is fine-tuned to think more like us. Maybe my colleague is right: maybe I’m looking at it all the wrong way. Maybe, if those who want to climb on board the Starship Horizon all rush out to dive into the robot’s waiting arms, we few recalcitrants will be left in peace. Maybe when the Hybrids launch vast expeditions to colonize other solar systems, they will leave a smattering of us lesser primates to tend our gardens, bury our dead, and rear our young. In their environmentally awakened higher consciousness, why would they want to exterminate us, in light of how much they do for the kangaroo rat? And in the amplitude of a quasi-life that needs no food and drink other than a wall socket, why would they tax us into misery? We shall represent mere curiosities for them, on rare occasions when they notice us at all.

I can live with that. Bring it on.