Technology, the God who made the world better.

(I had posted this before as part of something longer, but I realized out to have been two seperate posts. This is the first half and the second part, about television, is below. So if you read the first paragraph and realize you already read it, feel, there is almost nothing new, so feel free to skip this.) I think those who lived through the enormous technological growth and changes of last century might be reasonable to conclude that technology, while it clearly has benefits, has been an overall a destructive force.
We had little understanding of the repercussions of our science/technology and in the excitement of finally seeming to crack the secret codes of the Universe, wanting to move forward at almost any cost, we reeked havoc along the way.
Life was made worse in multiple ways. Cities became dirty and polluted, people were compelled to work in dangerous, cruel conditions for long hours with meager compensation. And of course, the two World Wars.

In a way, this seems like it was the inevitible result of societies and individuals suddenly having radically more power to alter the world and interact with each other than ever before.

In fact, it seems almost inevitble that once the technology was invented, countries that had previously been relatively minor players on the world stage but who were unusually smart and industrious would quickly move to exploit this new understanding to try dominate the world before anyone else, which is what we saw with Japan and Germany.
And it seems almost inevitable that once technology gave people more power to join together and fight their oppressors in hopes of instituting new, modern ideas of governing that they believed would make society more equal and more just, they would: just like we saw in Russia and China and elsewhere. It seems inveitble that as we learned we could synthesize dangerous chemicals to solve our problems we would do it before understanding the negative consequences. And it seems inevitible that once we were able to farm on large scales, we would do it so much that we would ruin the soil, leading to apolocolyptic clouds of dust blowing across the country.
And it seems inevitable that with so much change happening so quickly and on such large scales, things would go poorly. For someone who lived in the 40's and 50's, that the world was on the verge of collapse either from our own hands or the apparently fulfilled prophesies of the coming apocalypse seemed difficult to refute. Just as with the ancient Romans, the ills of urban life led to us romanticizing 'The Noble Savage' longing for our simpler past. (the Romans romanticized the Celts in the same way we do tribal people today)

Technology seemed to have taken societies ills and turned up the volume to 11, allowing our self-destructive tendencies to expand faster and bigger than our ability to control or understand them.

But at a certain point, a few decades ago, everything began to change. As Science and technology continued to progress we began to have a better understanding of the consequences, even developing governing boards to regulate and restrict how we used our continuously increasing knowledge about how the Universe functions while the social sciences has helped us better engineer society for good living.
In a way, the prophesied millennium has come. If prophets from the past had seen today, with our long, healthy, peaceful lives it would seem like a golden utopia. This is the most peaceful era of humanity. Crime is at historic lows, fewer people die from war than ever before. It is no longer considered okay to be racist, let alone own a slave. We have recognized the equality of Genders and are coming to recognize the equality of sexual orientation. The rates of rape and child abuse are lower than ever. In nearly every measurable way the the world seems to be improving. Of course, we have done damage to the environment, but it was initially out of ignorance. It is hard to change the inertia of an entire economy based on fossil fuels but we are trying and eventually, I believe, will succeed. All of the chaos from last century seem to be mere growing pains. Yet all of this has come as we've learned to rely more on our own understanding, rather that of Gods or ancient books. The more we as a society have turned away from prophets and scripture the better our world seems to be. The Millennium come, but from our own hands, not Gods except for the God Technology.


How Tv Has Made us Better Humans and the World More peaceful.

I think one of the greatest moral strengths and moral weaknesses of Human beings is their ability for empathy and putting themselves in other's shoes.
When we put ourselves in other people's shoes, actually imagining how we would feel and react were we in that same situation , it is hard to not be filled with empathy and understanding.
The big problem is, we just don't do it very often. I'm amazed at how frequently myself and others will rail against a person's behavior with annoyance or anger, only to be reminded of some facet about that other person that allows us to see things from their perspective and we are suddenly filled with compassion and understanding.
Not only do we not do this very often, but we tend to be painful bad at imagining how we would act in a situation we have not yet experienced. I am also amazed at how many times I will find myself harshly judging another person for how they behave in a particular context only to eventually find myself in that same context behaving the e same way.
But with Television and movies, all the work is done for us. With no effort at all we are put in someone else's shoes and are able to live their experience.
And what's more, television and movies allows us to put ourselves in the shoes of people we would likely never even meet. People from other parts of the world or people whom we might despise and choose to segregate ourselves from. By seeing them and how they are like us, and by seeing the villains who oppress and persecute them, we are reminded that our supposed enemies are people just like us and that we don't want to be the villains, we want to be the good guys who are understanding of what others are going through.
This is why I think even reality TV is a good thing. While I recognize there is much not 'real' about reality TV, it allows people, like A Gypsy family in Nyc (Ie. one of my new favorite shows 'American Gypsy') who we would otherwise not get the chance to empathize with to become real people that we can't help but wish the best for.
Movies and television can make us empathize with virtually anyone! It can even make a hardcore conservative root for someone robbing a casino as in Oceans 11. (To be sure there is also dark side of being able to make us hate anyone.)

While what I've said holds true for most forms story telling, including books, it has never been so accessible and so powerful until the development of technology to put moving images with sound. Outside of actual experience, few things allow us empathize with other people than getting to see observe other's experience in narrative form, even if fictional.
In fact, we are wired to do so. We have what are called 'Mirror Neurons'. Neurons in our brain that essentially fill the role of empathy. When we see someone lift a cup, mirror neurons in our brain fire that allow us to feel what it is like to lift a cup. When we see others hurt, we feel hurt. When we see others happy, we feel happy. When we interact with others, our mirror neurons cause our bodies to synch up, our vitals get closer together our body movements and facial expressions even mimic each other. I believe this is why every person has a 'feeling' or a 'vibe' about them. Because however they act and move their body, we literally feel it. I think everyone has experienced how a tense, stressed person makes you feel stress and tense and the reverse with a calm, relaxed individual. While mirror neurons can be triggered via our imagination through books, it occurs more powerfully and more easily through our sense of sight making TV and movies the ideal way to trigger this innate part of our biology.

By 1960, 90% of households had a television. And since that time, the world has gotten better in almost every way. The 60's led to an explosion of tolerance and understanding, manifest in hippies and the summer of love. Like never before the status quo was shaken up and people came to value the rights of others and respect the differences and individuality amongst humans. While no do doubt the factors involved are numerous, since the ubiquity of television (and now the internet, which can function in a similar way) we've come to see and value 'the other' like at no other period in time as manifest by the Civil Rights movement for racial equality, enormous strides in women's rights and sexual equality, and as we are now experiencing similar strides in the area of gay rights (and I believe that television, with shows like Ellen and and Modern Family play a significant role). What's more, we've seen a decrease in violent crimes to where it is now at a record low. When we can experience the lives of those we might want to fight in war, it becomes more difficult and perhaps that, (along with mutually assured destruction of the atom bomb) has led to wars being fewer than ever before and, as Steven Pinker has successfully argued (via a book I haven't read, but I've seen his TED talk) in nearly every way measurable the world is more peaceful than at any other time. And Even depression (anxiety and other mental illnesses), the awful thing which makes even the best of environments a living hell for some people has been mitigated through pharmaceuticals.

In a way, the prophesied millennium has come. If prophets from the past had seen today, with our long, healthy, peaceful lives it would seem like a golden utopia. Yet all of this has come as we've learned to rely more on our own understanding, rather that of Gods or ancient books. The more we as a society have turned away from prophets and scripture the better our world seems to be. The Millennium come, but from our own hands, not Gods except for the God Television.

I think one of the biggest potential troubles as we move forward is that as we have continue to have increasing choices and people are able to self select what media they consume, we may be able to go back to something closer to the pre-Tv era where you weren't forced to experience and empathize with people you weren't naturally inclined to.

Matte Cars

On Sunday Marissa and I went to Expo Chicago, a brand new contemporary art fair and the first such art fair I've been to (it was a lot of fun and we saw some good stuff, but it was yet another confirmation to me that I fit better with a literary crowd than a high art crowd).

But the reason I mention it, is because there was some sort of luxury car in the lobby (I'm not much of a car person so I can't remember what it was. BMW? Mercedes? Something European) and it had a matte finish!

I had never seen a car with a matte finish...well, I guess I've seen a handful of custom paint Jobs that are matte, but never on a brand new factory made car. I loved it.
Since lesser brands tend to draw their inspiration from luxury brands, it made me hope this was the beginning in a big trend and that in ten years matte finishes will be common place. Not that matte is inherently better than gloss. But too much of either gets boring and we've had many decades of nearly all gloss.


Objectophiles and the Presence of God: In Support of Objectum Sexuality.

Recently Marissa watched an episode of the National Geographic show 'Taboo' about people who are sexually attracted to objects.
You may have seen the guy who has sex with cars, he seems to have been featured by a variety of media.

The episode included not just the car guy but also a woman whose object of desire is the Berlin Wall! (every night she sleeps with a 4ft (looking) model of the wall. Sleeping with a model of their object is apparently not uncommon for objectos(my term))

What I hadn't realized about these people is that it isn't just a fetish. It is not simply that they get off on objects, rather it is their sexual orientation in the same way as people who are straight or gay. Meaning: for these people, the innate human desire to partner with others is only fulfilled by objects. While they enjoy friendships and other human interactions, they would be no more fulfilled by a romantic relationship with a human, than I would be with an object. Or a man.

But what I found most interesting is how incredibly happy and fulfilled these people appeared to be. The only other humans I've seen with the same level of glassy eyed love are those in the first few months of courtship. When with their object or speaking of them, their faces beamed with affection and adoration.

It makes a certain sense. These objects don't change. Their lovers can invest their entire hearts to the object and never feel hurt or rejected. The object doesn't have good days or bad days. It doesn't get angry or depressed. Every day it is as good as the first.
There are probably few, if any people alive with normal sexual orientation that have the same level of satisfaction from their relationships as objectophiles.

To be sure, part of the value of relationships is that they are challenging. It is hard to share your life with another person. It requires a great deal of compromise and introspection. Few things bring a persons flaws to front and center more than romantic pairing. It is painful to realize you aren't quite the person you had thought but ideally it can also be one of the best vehicles for overcoming those weaknesses. But then again, for some people it just brings out their worst without any improvements.

Although Objectophiles do not have that same sort of push and pull learning experience from their coupling, they get something else:

True unconditional love.

Something almost no one has in their relationship (and if you do, your relationship is likely unhealthy because it is probably best to not continue loving in the same way a person who abuses you or cheats on you every day etc. The very nature of romantic love, unlike parental or friendship, requires it to be conditional)

Part of the deal in being an objectophile is that, not only do you feel romantic love TOWARDS an object, but you feel it FROM the object.
Apparently one form or synesthesia (you know, tasting colors, hearing smells, that sort of mixing of the senses) is sensing personhood in objects. That whatever sort of vibe or energy we get from humans, these people get from objects. It is thought that object lovers have a form of this brand of synesthesia. They feel some sort of emotional energy coming objects. I suspect, that like with regular synesthesia, most of us have this in small portions (It's why metaphors make sense). Anyone who has a cherished tool or object probably feels, in a much much smaller way, some sort of positive presence from it. Artists and craftsman likely feel this slightly more than the rest of the population, but nowhere near the level of objectophiles.

The best comparison I can think of for what these objectos seem to experience is God.
For believers, God is the one source of unconditional love. No matter what, she or he is always there, sending his or her loving spirit.
But however much one might feel the presence of God in their hearts, it is something altogether different to be with someone/thing face to face. The car lover even referred to his relationship as spiritual. If you imagine feeling overwhelming love towards AND from a a being that is consistent every single day, it is easy to imagine why.

If a person were to dedicate their lives to encountering God through prayer and meditation as a monk or a nun or as an ascetic, even if it is through a tradition one does not share, it is usually seen as admirable or at the very least, not bad. If someone gets that same feeling through an object, is that so different?

If there is ever a movement in support of equal marriage rights for people and objects, I would like to be on the front lines.(the metaphorical front lines. If it involves actually leaving the house or doing something that involves physical energy then I'm out. Maybe I would even lead the opposition group, if I could do it from comfortable chair.)


Muslim reactions, Mormons and the Youtube trailer.

While I've always sympathized with Muslims in the Middle East, it has been with mixed emotions. Like many people, I find it difficult to understand their extreme sensitivity to any perceived disrespect of their religion by The West. It's as if they are looking for something to upset them and even the smallest provocation sends thousands into the streets for protest. But recently I had what felt like a breakthrough in being able to understand their actions. It was sparked by the remarks comparing the infamous youtube trailer mocking Mohammed and the Book of Mormon musical. If you have not heard this mentioned, the two strains of comments are: If it is okay to mock the Mormons in the Book of Mormon Musical, then it is equally okay to mock Mohammed and Middle Easterners are entirely unjustified in their outrage. Or: if it is offensive and unacceptable to ridicule Islam, then it is equally unacceptable to make fun of Mormons and the Book of Mormon Musical should be seen in the same light as the 'Innocence of Muslims' trailer. I think it is important for rules to be fair, so it seemed like a good and reasonable comparison, but it didn't sit right with me in a way that I couldn't put my finger on. I pondered this until it occurred to me that when mocking or criticizing someone, it makes a big difference what your status is compared to theirs. If a person who is poor and struggling makes a video critical of politicians, perhaps even slanderous, it is a reasonable act of protest and opposition. But if a rich, successful person made a video that was critical and slandering of a poor, struggling, single mom, it would just seem like bullying. Mormons as people, do fairly well for themselves and are generally accepted by mainstream America, even if the religion itself is seen as wacky or heretical. And of course, a Mormon is running for president of the conservative Republican party, the group that would most likely be their enemy. So when a musical is produced poking fun of Mormons, it comes across as the light hearted ribbing it is. Equals satirizing equals. No big deal. Middle Eastern Muslims however, aren't doing so well. They are poor, have little power in the world and for many Muslims, the war in Iraq and Afganistan was not simply against those two countries but a war on Islam as a whole. For people in their position, who already feel beaten down by the most powerful nation in the world, to have a video or cartoon appear in western media that is disrespectful to their beloved prophet, the main source of hope and inspiration in their lives, from a country where one of the the worst possible things a presidential candidite could be is a Muslim, to the point where even having a Muslim sounding name has been a point of concern for some. A country where a sizable minority would genuinely like to see Muslim culture destroyed, these scornful depictions would seem to confirm their belief that The West hates Islam and their presence in the Middle East is as an oppressor trying to displace their culture, even if that may not actually be true. It would feel like bullying. The helpless feeling of being antagonized by a force so much stronger that you know you could never hurt them. Being bullied makes people behave in ways that are not always rational and even counter productive but very understandable. This doesn't mean I think people should be prevented from criticizing, or mocking Islam, or even that it is necessarily wrong to do so. It also doesn't mean that I think killing people is a proper response to feeling bullied by a larger country. But it does help me see that, like always, situations are complex and when looking at a person or groups behavior from their perspective it usually makes their actions understandable and even sympathetic (in the 'deserving of sympathy' sense of the word).


A theory in which the broad outlines of Mormon Theology seems plausible.

This is transhumanist theory I thought of recently. Although I wasn't thinking it at the time, in retrospect I realized it has a rather Mormonish character.

I don't necessarily believe it is true or even likely, but it seems plausible. I suspect the idea not unique, and has probably even been posted it on the Internet, but I've not personally encountered it.

Here it is:

In the distant future, well after the singularity where humans use computer technology to enhance their mental abilities (which has already been done in rudimentary ways with rats. Boffins have not only implanted a memory in a rat but they have replaced a damaged part of a rat's brain with computer hardware) and our intelligence increases in ways we cannot know imagine, we will undoubtably alter our genetic code so any child born will have a large array of senses we currently do not have (like birds ability to use quantum entangled electrons to see the Earths Magnetic field or many animals ability to sense a being by their electricity or have dogs awesome power of smell etc etc) and powers or abilities like levitating objects with your mind or
Teleportation or things we can no better imagine than the Vikings could imagine Facebook.

Anyone born into this world, despite their incredible powers, would lack the experience and wisdom to properly control themselves and not be serious danger to the safety of other beings and perhaps even the entire world.

To allow children a chance to gain wisdom without being a threat to humanity, everyone could be required to spend their earliest times in a simulated environment where they have less power in order to learn the ability of co-existing with other beings. In this environment, children would learn how empathize with people so thoroughly that not destroying the world is something freely chosen, since no other means would exist to prevent such a thing. In this world, it would be as if everyone, from the time they were a baby, had access to a button that launches all the world's nuclear bombs.

So our world, their past, is that simulation. One would enter at various stages in a simulated recreation of human history, starting from the beginning.
Each individual runs through a full cycle of the simulation where, like re-incarnation, they experience being a human throughout all the stages of history and every station of life, from a tribal chief 20,000 years ago to homeless murder victim to douche bag murderer homeless people.

Basically, as an individual one must go through the thousands and thousands of years of biological and cultural growth that the human race went through as a whole, up until the point in time that, for these future beings, is the present. In this scenario the only way for an individual to have the proper maturity needed for handling the powers humanity has slowly developed, is to experience the same course of progression humanity itself required to develop and control these abilities. There is no short cut.

However, because it is a simulation, the experience of time may be manipulated and what feels like thousands of years may only take a few weeks in 'real' time outside the simulation.
Since these future beings fit most all the criteria of 'God', It is like the concept of 'Eternal Progression' and 'Exaltation' within Mormonism. The Gods, ( future beings) birthed us in, what for us would be the pre-existence, sent us to Earth, (the Simulation) so we can learn how to live in their presence again without destroying all of existence. So we continually progress until we become like them. Those who, for whatever reason never gain the maturity needed, to be one of the Gods must, for the sake of humanity, be cast out. Perhaps put in a simulated world with others like themselves where they can live destructively in an otherwise enjoyable realm without the risk of non virtual damage.
You could even work prayer into
this. Perhaps the parents of the child in the simulation could observe them and their feelings and be allowed to, in subtle ways, manipulate the simulation to better accommodate the needs of their child.


Old people.

I wonder if one reason why old people were treated with so much more respect in earlier times is because technology and culture changed and evolved so slowly that by the time you had become a geezer, you had experienced most all there was to experience in life. Plus, since it was so much easier to die before modern medicine, the difficulty of making it to old age, weeded out the foolish along with the unlucky.

By the time you had a long wizard beard you would wellspring of knowledge and wisdom about living in the world.
Whereas today, the opposite is almost true. The way we live our lives and interact with the world changes so rapidly that by the time one becomes an old person, the world is almost an entirely different place than the one they were born and came of age in. Eventually, one is almost like a child, knowing close to nothing about the basic tools people use every day. Calling someone a 'grandma' or a 'grandpa' means they don't understand something that is entirely familiar to most everyone else.
Of course there are caveats and exceptions and one certainly does gain wisdom with age, they just lose relevance.
Which is unfortunate. Some part of me enjoys the idea of there being a segment of society that has already experienced all there is to experience and thus being a source of wisdom.

Perhaps eventually, when we've figured out everything there is to figure out, societal changes will plateau and we will go back to our former attitude towards old age. Although by then people will probably be living forever. If not physically than in some sort of of computer database.


Whenever I am in a bad mood and acting grumpy, it reinforces to me my lack of belief in free will. Because try as I might, I cannot stop acting grumpily.