Category: The Future


It is almost taken for granted in discussions of morality, government, and human endeavor in general that life – as opposed to there not being life – is a good thing. Who knows how long this opinion has been around, and when it was that the first person argued against it.

I know of a few places where this point has been challenged in recent times. There was an opinion piece in the New York Times by Peter Singer titled “Should This Be the Last Generation?” in which Singer makes a case for no longer having children so that we can be the last generation. There are also a couple songs by Bad Religion, namely “Better Off Dead” and especially “Pity the Dead” that express skepticism over the idea that living is better than not living.

And certainly there are arguments for ending it all. I won’t go into them, as that’s not why I’m writing this. If you want some arguments, read Singer’s article or listen to “Pity the Dead” (and read the lyrics while you do so you know what he’s saying; he talks pretty fast, but has some interesting things to say!).

What I’m getting at is that the answer this question of whether or not we should bother living is not a de facto “yes.” But I do want to get past this question so we can move on, so how should we decide? I do not simply want to say “yes, we should live” just for the sake of it. And I also do not want to weigh the merits of living and ending it all, as I have already mentioned.

What I will do is take each answer to their logical conclusions. I will say what I think are the only reasonable things to do if you choose to answer the question. And then, perhaps, based on the conclusions we come to, we can decide how we want to answer the original question.

If we answer “no,” if we decide that life is actually not worth living because it contains more suffering than happiness, more strife than peace, what should we do? I think the only options would be what I call the “quick fix” and the “slow fix.”

The “quick fix” would be for everyone to take their own lives. Perhaps not outright using guns or nooses or razor blades, but perhaps after one last planet-wide party. After the huge feast, after the orgy, after getting drunk and high and listening to the best music our humble planet has produced, we could all take an overdose of something or another and die peacefully in our sleeps, before the next day’s hangover and (probably justified) accusations of infidelity, and especially before going back to work.

The “slow fix” would be, as Singer suggests, to no longer have children. Let us soldier through these painful lives we lead, but at the same time not bring any more innocent souls into the world. As the last human being dies off, our species would finally be free from this Hell on Earth. Perhaps our brains are not equipped for reality. Wolves feed by brutally killing deer, and deer live by constantly avoiding the wolves, but neither are smart enough to realize their horrible positions. To them, living is merely so. Too much knowledge, as the God of Genesis might have said, only led us to understand the suffering we actually face.

As poetic as I tried to make those solutions sound, would you take them? I doubt you would take either, but would you agree you would more likely take the latter (if say, forced to decide)? I think there is an easy explanation for this: people don’t want to die. I won’t go so far as to say they like living. Many people, not even those who are crippled by depression, are not happy. Yet nonetheless they do not want to die. (And some people really want to have kids.)

So, at this point I could very well stop and say since we do not want to answer “no” to our question of whether we should bother living, we therefore must answer “yes.”

I will note here that if you answer “no” to the question, the two options I laid out are, as far as I can tell, the only logical conclusions. You may have a slight adjustment to one of my “fixes,” perhaps modifying the “quick fix” to instead party until we have exhausted all resources that are readily available. (If we allow for resources not yet excavated or turned into something usable, I don’t really see how that’s different than what we have now, or the “slow fix.” Why bother working (suffering) at all if your goal is to enjoy life as much as possible before killing oneself?)

You may have come up with another solution, such as killing 90% of the population so that the 10% remaining may start over with the more resources per person, presumably eliminating the problem of suffering for those who are alive. However, that is not answering “no” to the question “is life worth living period?” In this case you are just saying that life is not worth living as it is now and are therefore saying that life would be worth living ultimately if we could change it. This means life is worth living, if only to ensure that eventually we don’t need to put so much thought into this question. This is a “yes” answer. So far as I can tell, the only things that lead from the “no” answer are killing ourselves and no longer procreating – in other words, somehow ending the human race. (If you can think of another conclusion to the “no” answer, let me know in the comments!)

I am not going to stop at our answer of “yes,” however. I want to take this answer to its logical conclusion as I did with the “no” answer. If life is in fact worth living, if the human race is better around than not, what must we do? At the very least, this will give you something to compare to the “fixes” I proposed in response to the “no” answer. Perhaps you will choose “no” after all!

Anyway, unlike the “no” answer, I do not think there are multiple options in this case. I think there is just one thing that needs to be done, as well as a number of things that would probably be a good idea.

I think it is safe to say that if life is worth living, if living is good, then if something happened to us (either you or I personally or the human race as a whole) that killed us it would be bad. So what do we need to do to ensure that this bad thing has as small a chance of wiping us all out as possible?

Simple: we need to get off this rock. As it is now, there is far too much possibility of self-destruction. I won’t get in to the fact that people with Iron Age beliefs are getting access to 21st century weaponry. I won’t get in to the fact that we have enough nuclear weapons on this planet to destroy it many times over. I won’t get in to the fact that we’re slowly killing the planet through our over-use of fossil fuels. I’m sure you all know enough about these things already. But there isn’t just our self-destruction to worry about. If an asteroid hit Earth, we’d be done for. If aliens attacked us, we’d be sitting ducks here on this single planet.

We need to spread beyond our planet. We need to colonize the moon. Colonize Mars. We need to invest in new methods of transportation to get us even further away. This will ensure that no intentional act or accidental disaster could wipe us all out. Because that would be bad, as we’ve established.

That’s pretty much all I can think of that absolutely must be done. Leave the governance of the people, what moral systems we should have, and so on to the ebb and flow of human culture to decide. All that needs to be done is to ensure that we’re around for as long as possible.

I think there are a few things that are “strongly recommended” though. We need to improve the lives of everyone on the planet. If killing ourselves is bad, why give people the idea in the first place? By this I do not mean to censor media so that it does not mention suicide. I also do not think that suicide should be illegal. What I mean is that we should make every place humans live a place where nobody would want to kill themselves. Let’s feed the hungry. Let’s end prejudice and hatred. Let’s eradicate human slavery.

So there you have it. If we’re going to say that life is worth living, if we’re not going to be hypocrites and cowards, living when we think we shouldn’t, then let’s at least look like we mean it. If we’re going to live, then let’s live, and spread, and try to bring happiness to everyone.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com :)

We as a species have come up against a quite a few problems, (at least) two of which related to energy. First, there is only so much energy on the planet in the form of fossil fuels — coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Second, the burning of these fossil fuels, according to research done by climate scientists, is warming our planet, which could have negative impacts on our environment in the future.

Is it even possible to solve these problems? Are the solutions to the problems related? Can we kill two birds with one stone?

I think the answer to all these questions is “yes.” The question then becomes not can, but how? How should we go about solving these problems that will come back to bite us in the future?

There seem to be two schools of thought that are most prevalent in the political debate that has formed around this topic. The first is the conservative notion that the second problem isn’t a problem at all, and to deal with the first problem is an attack on our liberty to use whatever fuels we please as well as potentially harmful to business. The second is the liberal notion that we have to do anything we can to solve the second problem before it is too late, and doing so should solve the first problem at the same time.

I would like to propose that both approaches to our energy problems are flawed, either in their premises or in their approaches (or both).

Let’s start with the conservative approach. It is wrong on its face due to its denial of global warming. The science tells us the earth is warming, and we are most likely the cause, plain and simple. (I again encourage you to check out this series on the subject, which is very well done.) The latter piece of it, a hodgepodge of offense at the idea of being forced not to be an idiot and typical conservative defense of big business (which has plenty of resources to take care of itself), is similarly flawed, because it does not even make an attempt to solve the first problem we have (that we’re running out of fossil fuels). However, I do not necessarily blame them, due to how the liberals are handling things…

The liberal approach, while at least based in scientific accuracy, is not completely based in reality. It places far too much emphasis on global warming and the environment. While it is noble to fight these issues from a liberal standpoint, it is akin to insanity from a conservative outlook. Liberals do not seem to understand that by making the issue global warming, they have given conservatives an easy out. Conservatives are comfortable with ignoring facts, especially scientific ones, so they are more than happy to turn the whole thing into a public referendum on the legitimacy of climate science.

Here is what I propose: drop the global warming issue. Not outright, because conservatives would jump on that and claim they were right all along. But over time, increase the emphasis on the need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, lest we have to bow to the Middle East to get our country to function.

If we can get the debate focused on how to solve the energy problems (be that with wind or solar or nuclear energy) instead of whether there is a problem at all, I think we can actually make some progress.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

Backscatter Bullshit

…or, if you’d like, “My Argument Against the TSA’s Advanced Imaging Technology and ‘Enhanced’ Pat Downs.'”

Recently, there has been a slight increase in the outrage regarding the TSA’s security policies at various airports across the country. The current policy, as far as I understand it, is as follows: At airports with the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), you may be randomly selected to use one of the machines, or may be told to use one if you set off the metal detector. You may, if you want, opt-out and instead get a pat down. However, so many people were opting out of the AIT that you now get an “enhanced” pat down, in which women’s breasts will be touched, and both men and women will have their thighs felt until the screener meets “resistance” which is touching the testicles of a man and the labia of a woman. Children were subject to this as well, but recently the TSA has stated that “modifed” pat downs will be used for children under 12. (More on this later.) You may request to be taken to a private room for the “enhanced” pat down, and also bring a friend if you wish. If you opt-out of the AIT and also decline the “enhanced” pat down, you will be asked to leave the airport and may be threatened with a $10,000 lawsuit. (It is apparently illegal to leave the TSA checkpoint without fully complying with either the AIT or the pat down if they request it.)

Now, I am against the use of the AIT scanners as well as the “enhanced” pat downs. In this post I will outline the multiple reasons I have for being against these measures, put forward what I would request the TSA do instead, and provide you with information on what you can do to help the cause if you so choose.

1. Health Risks

The TSA claims that the two varieties of the AIT, Backscatter X-ray and Millimeter Wave, do not pose any health risks to travelers. This is backed up by studies done by organizations such as the FDA and NIST. However, many scientists have since come forward and raised doubts about these claims. At any rate, there are some things we do know. First, that no amount of X-ray radiation is “good” for you. And second, due to the nature of the devices (being used for security purposes), we are unable to get the details on how much radiation they actually do emit, and are hence unable to do independent testing.

2. The 4th Amendment and Privacy

The text of the 4th Amendment of our Constitution is as follows (emphasis mine):

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In other words, you cannot search someone unreasonably unless you have probable cause that they have done or are trying to do something illegal. A policeman cannot just ask you to show him whatever is in your purse or backpack. A policeman cannot just walk into your house and walk around. A policeman cannot search your vehicle. None of those things without a warrant, and you cannot get a warrant unless you convince a judge there is reason to get one.

Yet it is quite obvious that buying a plane ticket and wanting to take a flight does not provide sufficient reason to assume you will try to do something illegal. So at this point they do not have a legal right to perform unreasonable searches. But are the searches unreasonable?

Well, you would (I assume) wholeheartedly agree that making you strip naked would be unreasonable. And while the current-generation Millimeter Wave AIT has somewhat low resolution (as evidenced by the leaked images that the TSA promised cannot be stored, printed, transmitted or saved), the Backscatter X-ray AIT has a much higher resolution. These machines are effectively giving you a virtual strip search. (And again, we cannot trust the TSA’s claims that the images will not be saved, allowing them to be potentially leaked.)

The “enhanced” pat downs also fall into this category of unreasonable searches. What is more unreasonable than someone touching your genitalia? The TSA quizzically reminds us that “you can always request to be screened in a private area,” apparently completely ignoring the issue at hand. I don’t think anyone cares if they are patted down in private or in public — the issue is the extreme nature of the pat down. Now you have to tell your children that they shouldn’t let anyone touch their private parts… unless they are wearing a uniform.

I would also argue that such a pat down or the AIT imaging is much less reasonable than having your backpack or car searched, but those things are most certainly not allowed without a warrant. Seems pretty clear to me that these airport screenings are unconstitutional.

3. Security Theater

Okay, you may now be thinking to yourself “alright, maybe the AIT machines pose health risks, and maybe our privacy is being — perhaps even unconstitutionally — invaded by these practices, but don’t they make us safer?” I think now would be a good a time as any to pass on these words of wisdom from one of our founding fathers, Ben Franklin: “Those who would give up Essentially Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

But let’s address this concern on a more practical level. Bruce Schneier, a cryptology expert and security consultant, refers to the TSA’s methods as “security theater.” This is because they are just a show put on to make people feel as though the government is doing something to make them safer, when in reality the methods do not do so. He says that these methods “won’t catch anybody,” and that if the terrorist is from a well-funded group like Al-Qaeda, “nothing can be done” to stop them.

Why is this? Well, let’s think about what these machines and pat downs cannot detect. They cannot detect anything within the body. So if there was a something stuck up a guy’s ass, or surgically implanted in a woman’s breasts, no dice. And remember what I said about children under 12 being subject to a “modified” pat down? Well, doesn’t that prove it right there, that this is security theater? We know terrorists are not against using children in their plots. The reason the TSA has backtracked on this issue is because they are worried that public outrage will grow so much (after seeing videos like this) that they will be out of the job.

Not convinced by some computer nerd? How about the former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority? The airport in Tel Aviv has some of the toughest security in the world, and they do not have these machines. He calls them “useless” and says that he could “overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747.” The Israelis use behavioral screening rather than AIT machines to improve security.

You should be convinced by now that these machines are nothing but show, but if not, consider this: the TSA has never caught anyone with them. They might say they aren’t allowed to divulge such facts, but that is (as Bruce Schneier says) bullshit. With all the horrible PR they have been getting, they would jump at the chance to show they’re actually effective. And this is the story of the life of airport security. We didn’t stop the 9/11 hijackers, so we started banning stuff. We didn’t stop the shoe bomber, so now we take off our shoes. We didn’t stop the underwear bomber. We are always one step behind, and that is because our methods are just for show and do not provide any real security that a determined terrorist could not overcome.

4. My damn paranoia 🙂

If you aren’t against these things yet, allow me make a final push by barraging you with some paranoia built up from reading a lot of blogs and dystopian fiction!

Do you want to know what I think they could be trying to do with these machines? Getting us ready for them to be put elsewhere. I mean, these things aren’t at train stations or subway stations. Why is that? Since they are used for domestic flights at airports we are assuming the terrorists are already in the country. Does nobody think they will just skip the plane and try the bus, train, or subway instead? They aren’t putting them everywhere because they are expensive (why waste the money on something you know doesn’t work) and because a little too much invasion might ruin the whole endeavor, causing a public backlash.

I’ve already talked about cameras being put everywhere. Do you know that the powers that be are trying to introduce new “security” measures that the public has not yet seen? At my place of employment I saw retinal scanners being demonstrated. This would be a better way of identifying people than fingerprints because they can be used from a distance. Think Minority Report. But do you know what’s stopping them? It isn’t so much the technology as it is the public backlash. They admitted people do not like these things. Well, how do you get people to like them? You force people to use similar measures like what the TSA is doing, and get them used to it. Over time, being used to less privacy will quell the fire that would be shown today.

Alright, if you aren’t already convinced you probably never will be. If this is the case, you better leave a comment and say why, dammit! 🙂

Now, what would I like to see done by the TSA?

  1. Stop the use of the AIT machines
  2. Stop the enhanced pat downs
  3. Implement behavioral screening from trained law enforcement officers (TSA officers are really just rent-a-cops), like we have at our borders

And finally, if you’re interested, what can you do?

Well first, Ron Paul has introduced new legislation in the form of HR 6416 that would stop all of this quite assuredly. If you want to read the bill, it is very short:

“No law of the United States shall be construed to confer any immunity for a Federal employee or agency or any individual or entity that receives Federal funds, who subjects an individual to any physical contact (including contact with any clothing the individual is wearing), x-rays, or millimeter waves, or aids in the creation of or views a representation of any part of a individual’s body covered by clothing as a condition for such individual to be in an airport or to fly in an aircraft. The preceding sentence shall apply even if the individual or the individual’s parent, guardian, or any other individual gives consent.”

Please call your Representative and tell them to support this bill! I will be doing so, perhaps today. (I gotta figure out how that works first. Never have called in for anything before.)

Second, you can sign this online petition to stop the scans.

Finally, you can participate in National Opt-Out day. It is officially November 24th, but any time you go to the airport you can opt to not get the full body scan. Do this to show people that it is possible to step up for your freedoms! And if you want extra credit, when you get the enhanced pat down, make some loud sexual noises to make the TSA scumbag uncomfortable. If anybody looks at you funny, recommend that they get a pat down from that agent, as they give a good rub!

I greatly appreciate your support on this issue. Feel free to share this post on facebook or twitter, email it to your friends and family, or just be a voice for freedom and privacy in your daily lives with the knowledge you have gained. If you don’t want to associate yourself or this message with my other posts, I do not mind if you just copy/paste the text into an email or something and send that. I just want the word out.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

My plan for world peace

Hey all, longer post today, but I hope you’ll enjoy it. Some comments/criticisms would be great, too! 🙂

Recently TheAmazingAtheist put out a YouTube video in which he criticized Obama for seeming to be willing to compromise with the Republicans on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. (I think he made the video before Obama clarified his position. Not sure.) Anyway, at the end of the video he had a really interesting idea to fix the economy:

“I’ll tell you what, America. You really wanna fix the deficit? You really wanna fix the jobs problem? Here’s what you do. You get rid of all these foreign bases that we have all over the world, but you don’t stop spending the money. What you do is you bring those troops home and put them to fucking work improving our infrastructure. Our infrastructure gets Fs and Ds across the board. Get those motherfuckers building roads, building bridges, building a mass transit system, building better schools, better hospitals, so on and fucking so forth. Get the American people employed. Take that military money and instead invest it in infrastructure.”

For being a YouTube celebrity, I think it’s actually a really great idea. The other day I was in a discussion about what to do to fix the economy, and someone suggested we could cut spending by shutting down our bases overseas. However, someone brought up a good point: what do you do with the troops that are now out of work? At the time the only response was that regardless it would probably help, but this idea from TheAmazingAtheist solves that problem and then some.

I’m not going to claim that his idea would completely fix our economic issues, but I think it would do more good than harm. A boost to our infrastructure and a cutting of costs related to maintaining oversea bases would probably be a good thing.

Anyway, this idea had me thinking the next day. I came up with a sort of continuation of his idea. But rather than attempting to fix the economy, my idea is how to achieve world peace.

A little background before I explain my idea. At this point in history, we are probably the most imperialist nation in the world. (Only other option being China, and they are much more low key, and mostly economic in nature rather than military.) We have bases in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Central America. We are not as imperialistic as Great Britain was when they owned half the globe, but we certainly have our fingers in more pies than any other country.

We aren’t attempting to conquer other countries, but we are doing some serious stuff. We are influencing elections, assassinating leaders we don’t like, and trying to spread democracy to places that might not be ready for it. Furthermore, we aren’t primarily doing this to help these countries. We’re doing it primarily to make the world better for us.

And this breeds a lot of animosity towards the United States. I mean, when we are using drones to kill the Taliban in northern Pakistan, and kill some kid’s parents, who’s he gonna hate? The Taliban? The Pakistani government for not taking care of it sooner? Or us? Obviously, us.

Alright, now that we have a little background, step one. We bring the troops home from all these bases. Or don’t. Doesn’t matter. If anything bringing the troops home would be a simple gesture of “we’re not trying to colonize your continent anymore.” However, we’re really just bringing them home so we can… send them out again! (If you want to fix our economy before fixing the world, you can do that while they’re here.)

What I am going to advocate here is (making up terms here) “aggressive pacifism” or “imperialist pacifism” or “militant pacifism.” I’m using these terms to emphasize the active nature of my plan. You can do absolutely nothing and be a pacifist, because you aren’t going to war. What I’m talking about is definitely not war, but definitely not sitting around and doing nothing, either.

The first phase of my plan is to have our foreign diplomats, ambassadors, etc. (even the Secretary of State or President, if you want) go to all the other countries and ask them “what do you need done in your country?” Do you need some infrastructure built? Do you need hospitals? Do you need schools? Do you need some drug warlord in the jungle taken out? Do you need help drawing up a constitution?

I would focus, though, on things that are not militarily-related. We could certainly do those kinds of things. I’m not entirely against them just because they are military operations, but I’d want to avoid them as much as possible because that’s not really doing anything different than now. It would be a little different because we’d be actually asking these countries beforehand if they want us to come mess with their shit.

What I would want to focus on are the infrastructure projects. What do countries need? Broadband internet? A power grid? A nuclear power plant? A telecommunications network? A system of roads? An airport? Hospital? School system? Water sanitation plant? Water desalinization plant? That’s what I’m talking about.

They’d tell us all the stuff they want, and we’d take our troops (that we train to do these sorts of jobs), officers being project managers, and we’d go do this stuff. We’d do nice things for them, aggressively doing all these nice things for these countries. And how could you not be liked for that? How could that not lead to everyone loving the United States?

The only thing I can think of is the sort of “boo hoo, you’re helping them, but we need help!” mentality. I would first say that we have a very large military so we could certainly do more than one thing at a time. Second, maybe it’s time for compulsory military service. Plenty of countries have this. But in this case military isn’t military! Nobody’s going to get killed. It’s just going overseas and helping. And if people didn’t just up and volunteer for something like that, I bet they wouldn’t be as against compulsory volunteer work as they would be against being sent to die in the desert.

Now, some specifics. We would still need generals and the like. We would still need a Department of Defense. (Not sure if it would be renamed. I don’t care as long as it isn’t called the Ministry of Peace.) The reason we would still need a military-type structure is because a lot of strategy would have to go into deciding which places we would go first. We just could not go to Lebanon first. Hamas, Al Qaeda and other organizations would try to disrupt us because they do not like peace. We would need a very military-esque strategy in determining the order of operations.

We would select countries to help in a combination of two ways. First being what the country needs. A country that is relatively well-off shouldn’t be our first priority. Let’s focus on putting hospitals and roads places before bringing broadband internet to 2nd world countries. Second factor would be the difficulty in accomplishing the task. I am not talking about the difficulty of the engineering — I think we are more than capable of accomplishing any task. I am alluding to the difficulty in completing the job without being interrupted by terrorists.

Using these metrics, you pick off the best targets first. Do the most good for the least money (hospitals, for example) and move slowly but surely closer to areas where people do not like us. Go to Egypt and Turkey. Then to Saudi Arabia. Then move into places like Iraq, and before you know it, word will have spread and public opinion will make it easier to do these jobs in places like Gaza, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. (Focusing on the Middle East to roughly demonstrate my method of selecting countries.)

Another point of clarification: it needs to be get in, help, and get the fuck out. No more of this oversea bases crap. Again, they do nothing more than breed anti-American sentiment throughout the world, and would severely undermine our pacifist mission.

And that’s about it! Hopefully overtime, as we help more and more and more countries, people would like us more and more. And maybe (a bit of a stretch) if everyone had this common like, “I like the United States,” “oh I like the United States too!” that would be one step closer to peace.

Maybe it would spur other countries to do the same thing. Japan, China, Germany, the UK, France, these people have the resources to do these sorts of things. I don’t think they’re doing them because they don’t want to be tied up in our imperialist label. But if we do something like what I’m proposing, these countries might feel better in joining us in helping to make the world a better place. All of a sudden, there would be people doing good works all over the planet.

And if that doesn’t lead to world peace, I don’t know what would.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

There will always be problems

As sentient beings, we seek pleasure and avoid pain. As social beings, we work together to experience pleasure and eliminate pain. This has brought us things like government, education, medicine, and science. Every action groups of people take (that are not simply attempts to subjugate and control) are toward these simple goals: increase pleasure and decrease pain.

In a way, all people acknowledge that problems exist. Otherwise, why would we bother doing anything? It’s a problem if don’t have food or a place to live, so we get a job. It’s a problem that children aren’t born with knowledge, so we send them to school. Even Buddhists, the group people would probably associate most with active separation from problems, meditate and practice their religion(/philosophy) in response to the fact of suffering.

What are we trying to accomplish? Most of us probably just try to eliminate pain and increase pleasure for ourselves and our closest friends and family. However, some of us actively try to improve the general good of all people. Take STAND, for instance, a group of students trying to stop genocide around the world. Some act for themselves (which isn’t necessarily bad, by the way) and some act for others. All act for the same thing.

With increases in technology (brought to you by science!) we are starting to see the real possibility of ending many of the problems we face today. Disease, hunger, many things can be (and will be if certain parties don’t get in our way) stricken from the planet. Wouldn’t that be great?

I think it’s so great that some people might also dream of a day when there are no problems at all. Everyone has a place to live, food to eat, water to drink, and there are laws in place that are perfectly fair and protect everyone equally. How nice that would be.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but that will never happen. Well, that might, but we will never eliminate all of our problems. One of the things that would drive the Utopian society I described would be energy. And coming up with all renewable energy would not solve the energy problem in a strict sense. (People who have read Isaac Asimov’s The Last Question know where I’m going with this. If you’re curious, go have a read.)

There is a finite amount of energy in our universe, and entropy means that we will never be able to completely solve all of our problems. Even if we mastered our sun, what about when it goes out? Alright, move on to the next one. Sorry, dumb idea. They all go out, eventually. And some day, they’ll all be out. And that’s one problem that cannot be solved.

However, I don’t want to come across as negative. For the record, I’m just being realistic. But anyway, I think there is something to strive for in spite of the fact that there will always be an unsolved problem.

What we need to do is reach a point where the vast majority of people don’t have to care about anything. If we provide food, shelter, and medicine to all people for free, that would be an amazing start. From the perspective of the general public, we would be in a world without problems. All that’s required is a small group (a few thousand, maybe more) to focus on solutions to the “bigger” problems like how to harness the sun’s energy or how to migrate to the next solar system before our sun dies completely.

The question is, how do we get there? Any ideas? 🙂

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

So last weekend I took the light rail into town. Nothing special, except for the cameras on the ceiling every 5 feet. Then I see this on a sign on the wall:

“For your safety, this vehicle is equipped with video monitoring.”

This got me thinking, how are these cameras for our safety?

Is it for your safety, or the safety of others? Is it for the “general security of the train”?

It isn’t as though the cameras will prevent someone from beating the shit out of you, or mugging you, or murdering you. If you live through whatever ordeal comes your way, all the cameras would do is show you being the victim of a crime, most likely at the hands of some unidentifiable assailant. “I’d like to present as evidence exhibit A: video footage of a man with a hooded sweatshirt attacking the defendant. Jurors, can you tell who that is? Me either.”

What the cameras could do, especially on a slow-moving light rail train, is alert authorities of any funny business before the train gets into the city. Terrorism, or something. (If that word wasn’t already overused.)

And what an odd way of justifying the cameras. “For your safety” we’ve put cameras here. How long until such justification is used to put cameras on street corners? In privately-owned cars? In houses? It’s the same justification as the train. The cameras themselves won’t prevent you personally from anything, but they will let the authorities know what’s going on and where, so they can protect you from that. And with that reasoning, you could justifiably put cameras ANYWHERE.

It doesn’t even matter, with that reasoning, if you have an “expectation of privacy.” This is typically the argument used against police searches and the like. If you can reasonably expect privacy, you cannot be searched. For example, in your car. Yet the Obama administration is (sadly) attempting to push for the tracking of cell phone data, saying that Americans have no “reasonable expectation of privacy” when it comes to cell phone data. And where do you use your cell phone? Uh, anywhere? You cannot have a conversation on your cell phone and expect privacy. (Or, at least, it’s possible that you won’t in the future.) Nonsense.

A scary precedent, or what?

Anyway, you know what those cameras are really for? Control. They also have signs in the light rail trains that say no food or drink, no spitting, and no listening to the radio without headphones. Who would listen to those rules (that don’t really hurt anyone) unless those cameras were there? Unless someone was watching them? Unless they could be easily caught and punished?

Yes, I’m sure that putting cameras everywhere would prevent a lot of crime. But is that really a world we want to live in? *cough*1984*cough*

~peace, Big Brother — I mean… RR 🙂

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com

The future of education

I have a somewhat grim prediction for the future of the education
system in this country (and perhaps around the world).

To understand why my prediction might come true, we first have to look
at some of the problems the education system currently has, and why
these problems persist.

Problem 1: teachers are underpaid for the importance of their work

What is the most important resource a society produces? Its people.
Without educated people, you cannot accomplish much as a country.
Smart people are necessary to do technical work, to govern
effectively, and to create new technologies that keep the country
competitive. This is a well-known fact, and despite study after study
pointing out that our kids are falling behind the rest of the world in
math and science education, we aren’t paying good, smart people with
real degrees in math and science more money to come teach.

Why is this problem persisting? There’s no incentive to fix it. Who’s
going to pay for it? Taxpayers? Would this get the taxpayers jobs or
money? No. The only benefits they would see would be abstract
(“improving the economy”) or in decades when they get a supposedly
higher amount of social security. Anyway, this is how we currently pay
for public schools, and it isn’t doing the job. How about companies?
That’s a funny one. Why would they ruin their bottom line to produce
workers that won’t necessarily work for them? (Hint: the future is
related to this problem.)

Problem 2: lack of funding for state-of-the-art facilities

Essentially the same problem as #1. No money to improve facilities
that desperately need to be improved (especially in inner-city
schools) and no incentive to do so.

Problem 3: there’s no guarantee a student will get a job after school,
no matter how well they did or how much schooling they received

Can you think of a better way to encourage working hard in school than
telling students about the horrible job prospects when they are
finished? No, neither can I (sarcasm). And it isn’t as though we can
lie to them about it. Only a moron (who isn’t going to work hard in
school anyway) wouldn’t have looked ahead to the crummy situation
awaiting them. And get this, you can be more educated and less sought
after! Some people with Masters degrees can’t find entry-level work
because they are over-qualified (whatever that means). Plus, you can
be an amazing student a know more than most people, but still be
beaten by some jackass who’s good at BS-ing at interviews. Soft skills
sadly often win jobs that don’t require soft skills. Which leads to
the last problem I’m going to talk about…

Problem 4: lack of a set of standards for many disciplines that
employers can use to select the best candidates

You may think that problem #3 persists because anybody can do any job,
so employers don’t really care. This is not the case. Employers HATE
hiring worthless employees. Businesses waste tens of thousands of
dollars on crappy employees that are difficult to fire and don’t do
work. You have to realize that employees are investments. Businesses
pay you, sure, but they’re banking on getting out more productivity
from you than they pay you in salary.

But why does this happen? How do employers end up hiring bad workers?
Well, the reason is that there aren’t a good set of standards for many
disciplines out there. Take computer science, for example. It’s
possible to come out of school not knowing barely anything about
programming. This makes it really hard to determine who is
actually a good candidate. And perhaps companies, because of this,
feel more comfortable assigning more work to employees they already
have than risking hiring new ones?

Okay, so what does all this mean? What could this very easily produce
in terms of an education system?

Check out this story I read earlier this month. IBM is going to
sponsor a school that will produce qualified IT professionals. This is
the first step. IBM is doing it, from what I can tell, as a service to
the community. But this isn’t where it will stop.

Think about this scenario: Company X is seeking qualified employees in
a time when people are increasingly underqualified and increasingly
looking in other places than Company X for work. What do they do? They
build a school. That’s right, a corporately-funded school. Why? What
does this solve?

What Company X gets out of it are people that are guaranteed (by
Company X’s own standards) to be qualified for work. They also get
their money’s worth training them because those students will be
required to sign a work contract to attend the school. Of course,
depending on how much companies spend, the contracts might have to be
for a long time, perhaps the student’s entire professional career (40+
years).

Who in their right mind would agree to this? What could the student
possibly get out of it that would justify signing their life away?
Well, let’s see… how about a job? What if the economy had a 20%
unemployment rate? As a teen you’d probably see the wisdom of a
guaranteed good education and a guaranteed job after school. Plus, the
students would get great educations, with top-notch schools and
teachers, because everything Company X puts in to that, it’s
guaranteed to get back. And if the work contracts aren’t for their
entire career, the students will have legitimate work experience they
can take to other companies. Looking ahead, multiple companies might
team up to make standards that students could take to either Company
X, Y or Z.

This solves all of the problems I have outlined with our education
system. We’d get better teachers, better schools, guaranteed
employment, and standardization of skills. Yet somehow I don’t like
the sound of this future. What do you guys think? Is this an
all-too-possible dystopian future in store for us? Or am I overlooking
something obvious that will save us from this hell? Or do you think
this situation wouldn’t actually be that bad?

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com