Best Laid Schemes of Men
Sam Aurelius Milam III
For some time now, I've suspected the existence of an effort to minimize concerns about human overpopulation. For example, I've seen a good many reports of things that aren't available in sufficient quantity for the number of people who need them. Population reduction was never mentioned as a solution to such problems. Instead, it seemed that the idea was always carefully avoided. In every such case, substantial efforts were noted or suggested to meet the needs of the ever-growing number of people, without regard for how large that number might eventually be. Recently, my suspicions were confirmed.
On Tuesday, October 22, 2019, I watched an episode of Retroreport on PBS. The penultimate segment dealt with population growth. That segment implied a smug amusement regarding Paul Ehrlich and the old zero population growth movement, and a tolerant forgiveness of the misguided people who'd been taken in by such silly concerns. According to the report, ongoing population growth isn't a problem at all. In fact, according to the report, various governments around the world are getting nervous about predictions that the size of the population might eventually stabilize at about 9 billion, supposedly around 2040 or 2050. The report predicted panic among governments, at that time, over a shortage of people. According to the report, China is already trying to create a "population boom". So, my suspicions were confirmed. An inconspicuous propaganda campaign has been under way. Zero population growth is being quietly discredited. Why? Here's my theory.
Every governmental, social, commercial, or administrative agency on the planet now operates according to a set of rules that requires unending population growth as a prerequisite to continued operation. Everything, marketing strategies, stock investments, retirement plans, entitlement programs, safety nets, insurance, interest payments, loans, mortgages, everything requires growth. If our population doesn't continue to expand, then we're faced with a world-wide calamity. If such a Ponzi-like scenario seems too surreal to believe, then I suggest a careful study of my essays about money, taxes, and corporations, in Pharos.
If the present rate of population growth continues, then a collapse and die-off seem to be inevitable. The situation will be, as they say, Biblical, including famine, pestilence, war, and death. The survivors will find themselves living as our ancestors did after the previous such event, probably about 7000 years ago.
If the size of the population stabilizes or declines, then all of those growth things will have to change. Banking will be unrecognizable as compared to the present banking system. Interest-bearing transactions won't exist. Everything will be durable and reusable. The idea of new models every year will seem as insane as it actually is. Wealth will result from accumulation, not from growth. Investments will be for upkeep and repairs, not for profit, which will be replaced by stability. We'll have to use real money instead of account balances and credit. The necessary changes in our expectations and thinking will be so radical that the die-off actually seems more likely to me. Maybe we'll make the transition. I don't know.
If the population stops growing but we don't change our ways, then we'll probably be faced with some kind of Soylent Green scenario, or something similar. There'll probably still be an eventual collapse and die-off, but it's more likely that it will be slow and tedious, not sudden. Even so, there's still hope. Maybe our descendants will do better the next time, during the next population expansion, probably about 7000 years from now.
Sam Aurelius Milam III
I expect that, by now, most people are aware of the enthusiasm for self-driving cars. I expect that few people understand how ill-considered that enthusiasm really is. In terms of risks versus benefits, there doesn't seem to be enough benefit from the use of self-driving cars to justify the dystopian dangers that are inherent in them. I predicted some of those dangers in Carnet: Rise of the Machines, in the June 2018 issue. I haven't noticed much concern about such things, mostly just starry-eyed delight over yet another batch of technostuff. I did see part of a movie in which some hackers remotely hijacked some code-controlled cars and drove them out of the side of a high-rise parking garage, raining them down onto some people on the street below. That did, in fact, resemble the sorts of things that I predicted in my article, but it doesn't seem to have had much of an effect on people's attitudes.
I might be out-of-date on the state of development of self-driving cars but, as I understand it, one of the technical problems is designing control systems that are capable of recognizing the nearly infinite number of variables that might be relevant, out on the road. For example, a control system that can correctly identify a man standing beside the road might be baffled by a man on a bicycle, or by a man pushing a bicycle. A control system that can recognize the back of a car might ignore the side of a truck, and so forth.
While I was thinking about such difficulties, it occurred to me that maybe the designers are going about it the wrong way. Instead of building their control systems with electronics and code, maybe they should be growing them, by cloning human brains. After all, we're very good at learning to recognize things. The designers might be better able to successfully educate a cloned human brain than to adequately and comprehensively program an artificially intelligent electronic device.
That's a wild idea. If they succeeded in connecting cloned human brains to their control systems, then they might actually come up with something that would work almost as well as a human driver. What? A human driver? That's an even better idea. It suggests a stunning innovation. If they just gave the cars a steering wheel, and a couple of pedals, then....
Letters to the Editor
I usually don't comment on anything because it gives up a bit of my anonymity. However, in this case I will make an exception. I personally believe that the system you described [Carnet: Rise of the Machines, June 2018, pages 1 - 2] has been developed, weaponized, and deployed with success.
Shortly after the advent of keyless ignitions on vehicles, there was a series of malfunctions on random vehicles which caused the accelerators to stick on full throttle, ignitions would not turn off, transmissions would not go into neutral, and a number of random families were killed. The auto industry was asked to explain, bla, bla, bla. That was the testing.
Specifically, it was weaponized and used by MI5 in the tragic death of Princess Diana of England, whose vehicle accelerated out of control, wouldn't stop, wouldn't shift into neutral, and crashed at high speed killing all 4 passengers. For that they blamed the paparazzi. Everything plausibly denied.
It's all just my opinion, but the Law of Parsimony is, after all, a Law. Hope you have a great tomorrow....
T. M., Winter Park, Florida
Maybe those early incidents weren't random malfunctions. Maybe they were planned executions. In the Videos section of The Frontiersman Website, I have a video clip called Chrysler Zero Day. It shows an interview of a former NSA hacker. The incidents that you mentioned in your message bring to mind the scenario that was shown in that video clip. The former hacker claimed that the vulnerabilities that he discovered have been fixed. Maybe that means that, now, only the government has access to them. Whoever still has access, it's a fact that the more self-driving capabilities a car has, the more open it is to such intrusive remote control.
Let me update you and your readers after the failed prison escape here in Arkansas [November issue, page 2], they transferred that inmate to the super max, and they fired the warden and deputy warden, for them wasting money & resources searching for that inmate for 24 hours, then finding him that next morning sitting up on top of the roof of the prison.
I also wanna tell ya, I just finished reading a great book! "Marching Powder", a true story of friendship, cocaine, and South America's strangest jail by Rusty Young and Thomas McFadden. And you need to order yourself a copy of this book! I promise ya won't be disappointed, it's a very well written story!
Howie in the Max
My thanks to the following: El Dorado Bob; Betty; and Eric, of Ione, California.
Rules of Grammar
Signs of Getting Older
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Sam Aurelius Milam III, editor