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December 9, 2013

From the hidden recesses of Evernote. Strange that I haven’t posted this yet. Maybe I thought it was incomplete. Or maybe I didn’t want it in point form. Whatever. Looks good enough to me, so here it is:

Title – People…

are inherently selfish.

– Look at me (and look at you), sitting or standing in our cushy houses reading crappy blogs on the Internet. Think of Africa. (Not just Africa, but it’s a classic guilt trip mechanism). Poor starving children et cetera ad nauseum. Compassion gets us nowhere. Unless you are Bill Gates or the United States, nothing will change. It doesn’t need to. In a social perspective, yes – end the genocide and forced military enslavement, dictators and blood diamonds. But to reference Battlestar Galactica, “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.”. In any case this is beside the point.
– Consider, for instance, the lights. What goes into keeping our lights (and screens) on? Products are one-time cycles; purchase, use, destroy, purchase, use, upgrade, destroy, purchase – an endless cycle of (very! profitable!) rebirth. But electricity, lights, water – we take it for granted, we really do. Power generation (be it sourced from coal, dams, gas, nuclear reaction, the sun, the wind, geothermal vents or magic pixie-fairy dust) underpins the operation of the modern world.
– Why are there so many people on Earth? Why do people have so many kids? I postulate two reasons – the first: lack of birth control (or knowledge thereof) and the second: to have them work. Back in the dark ages (and yet that’s pre-1960 for most of the world, imo) kids were put to work as soon as they could take it – more often, regardless of whether they could. Productivity was the goal. These days people (the kind who have access to this post) have kids because (umm – I dunno. Why do people have kids? To not be alone with each other? To carry on genetically? To have someone to give their stuff to when they die?) they…. um, ah, I dunno. In any case, modern children are a massive expense, and it’s not easy to say the cost is worth the potential utility. Which is perhaps an underlying reason for declining birth rates in the parts of the world where kids actually ought to be raised – emotional scarring aside. PTSD from violent gun trauma is worse than being a NEET, maybe.
– There is massive unemployment in the ‘first world’, that’s been in the news for a while. Consider again the lights. There used to be lots of jobs in the basics sector, grinding, back-breaking work like coal mining, or assembling cars, or smelting steel, or construction. Profoundly unsexy, but essential to keep the (human) world spinning. But nobody wants to live like that. It just sucks. So we give our work to the machines. Corporations are of course happy to do so – people are messy: they unionize, they have conflicts with their bosses and each other, peoples’ fingers get sliced off by sharp objects, they need insurance and pensions. So the backbreaking goes to the machines, who don’t have backs [duh]. And the people are free to do what they will. Explore, dream, discover. Beautiful and utterly selfish.
– [Of course, all this applies to me as well.]
– Man makes a machine to do his job. Machine does man’s job. Man is out of a job and looks for work. All the jobs that reqire his skills are taken by the machines. What is man to do but upgrade and move on? Problem: too many people, not enough skills and not enough jobs. And yet if these jobs were open once more, would people still want them?
– Is this a bad thing? Being a dreamer isn’t bad at all – electricity and robots are the stuff of our wildest fantasies – but being jobless is, in practice, rather sucky.

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