The Global Bullshit Crisis of 2015

doc_bullshit

For the first time in recorded history, the total amount of bullshit being produced on planet Earth every year has exceeded the amount of human shit produced annually.

Leaders around the world are rising up to the unprecedented challenge. “This will not be tolerated any more,” said the leader of a leading Muslim League. “It has come to r misr attention that Bullshit now needs freedom and democracy,” a prominent American leader added. Meanwhile Russia has announced a zero-tolerance policy towards Bullshit: “Any shit will be shot out of the sky. We can’t afford to wait any more to confirm if it is Bullshit or not.”

China, on the other hand, has taken a rather controversial stand by declaring that they will produce even more Bullshit cheaper and faster than anyone else. India went two steps ahead: demanding that Britain should pay reparations to India for all the Bullshit. The UK’s response was to put all Indians on the Bullshit Watch List. A scandal ensued when a leading tabloid revealed that 65% of Hindustanis in the UK are in fact from other -stans. “Bullshit!” was the response from the leaders from these other -stans.

African leaders condemned the event strongly: “Whenever the world discovers something new, it leads to decades of strife in Africa. We are still paying the price for being the cradle of all Human Bullshit.” Soon after, Japanse scientists shocked the world with their discovery that radioactive Bullshit has medicinal properties.

Meanwhile, all of Europe has united against Bullshit. “We must preserve our own Bullshit and not let it get diluted by Bullshit from outside,” said a spokesperson. Canada and Mexico were the only countries to not react. Allegedly when the Bullshit hit them, they were surprised to learn that “North America” is not the same as “America”. Australia reacted strongly by deporting a prominent Hollywood actor’s dogs and New Zeland declared that they need a new flag to deal with all this Bullshit.

The same actor then announced his new blockbuster about Bullshit, expected to complete production in 2017. Bollywood promised to copy the script, add songs and release a Hindi version by 2019. Kollywood vowed to copy the Hindi version and release it in less than 6 months. This chain reaction went on until Rajnikanth announced that he had already made a 3D version of the movie in 1972.

The rest of the entertainment industry was not far behind. The video game industry responded with tons of Bullshit Simulator apps and TV channels were flooded with inspiring shows like “Bullshit Idol”. The music industry announced that Bullshit Dance Music (BDM) tracks could be downloaded for free, in return for credit card details that would be “hacked” only a year later.

Owing to all this frenzied activity, the two leading news making agencies of the world decided to form a consortium aptly named the Bullshit Universal Reporting Platform (BURP). According to their official press release: “In this connected and informed world, our viewers don’t accept plain old Bullshit anymore. Fortunately, we have the backing of such large global corporations that we can afford to create our own Bullshit.”

Silicon Valley has taken up the digital baton to solve the problem from a tech standpoint, and failing that, make tons of money consulting about it. Oogle was the first: “People are searching for so much Bullshit these days, we had to split our company into two to keep up with the demand,” they claimed. Fakebook followed with a public beta of the new Bullshit Multiplier feature. “Throw any Bullshit at it, and it will display similar Bullshit that you might have otherwise missed out on in real life,” reads their updated website. Picosoft and Zamaon almost simultaneously announced their new OneShit feature. “Why should you be limited to your own Bullshit? We want to take Bullshit into the cloud, so you can access any Bullshit, anywhere, on any device.”

Halfapple, however, was ahead of everyone else as usual with their ground-breaking product offering: iShit. No one really understands what it does yet, but there is speculation that for its price, it can probably solve California’s drought problem.

The car industry was quick to recognize the potential of all this surplus Bullshit as well. “Our best researchers are working on it. By 2020 we expect to mass produce cars that run on pure Bullshit,” and industry spokesperson said.

The impact of this event has far reaching consequences for the human race as a whole. Space Agencies around the world are launching probes to other planets to find the origin of Bullshit. Studies have shown that the weight of all this Bullshit is slowing down the rotation of the Earth, and as a result we may soon lose the Moon. “Good riddance,” said the Director of the leading Space Agency. “We didn’t find water on it anyway.”

UFO researchers as well have chipped in from the fringes: “Not since 1947 have we witnessed so many confirmed sightings of Bullshit around the world.” Countries where these sightings have occurred in recent months have been quick to cash in on the tourism opportunity, complete with guided package tours in 12 languages.

This is a Revolution, Not a Recession

TheFutureIsAlreadyHere

“In human history, there have been three great technological revolutions and many smaller ones.  The three great ones are the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and the one we are now in the middle of—the software revolution. […] It appears that the software revolution will do what technology usually does—create wealth but destroy jobs.”

– Sam Altman, “The Software Revolution”

A lot has been said and written about the great recession, the rise of the robot economy and the loss of jobs (or the creation of them in the new sharing economy – nobody is really sure yet). Let’s take a step back and get some perspective:

“Coming out the recession” and “Economic recovery”

What I think those people (and governments) who say this don’t realize is, that the jobs that were destroyed in the recession, are not going to come back. Because just like individuals, businesses too found ways of making ends meet during the hard times. This surge in demand for more cost effective labor was met by increased automation. And jobs that were automated then are not likely to come back now.

On the other hand, for decades science fiction movies and books have painted a promising picture of a utopian future where machines would do all the work and we humans would engage ourselves in higher pursuits. Yet, here we are, wanting to get our jobs back from the machines.

At the same time, we are heading towards a global workforce crisis by 2030.

Something doesn’t add up.

The Dignity of Wage

Maybe the answer is in what I call “the dignity of wage”. It’s the same reason why people are driven to crime. Our modern economy is robbing people of the opportunities to make money, while at the same time the media constantly bombards them with the notion of spending it. I believe many of the prisoners (who, by the way, in some places outnumber students) would be willing to mend their ways, if only society would give them a fair chance at earning a decent living for themselves and their families. People need something to do, to give meaning to their lives.

Especially in a society and value system in which the education and value system is so heavily employability oriented.

Maybe it’s time for a political debate on Basic Income.

“Humans will be able to move up to more ‘creative’ jobs…”

“…while machines will do the more routine ones”. The problem with creativity is, it’s not for everyone. Neither are tech jobs. Both require a certain mindset that takes years of training to master. Finally, “higher” creative jobs are only relative to “lower” mundane jobs. If all jobs became equally creative, people would have nothing to aspire to. We will be back to square one. For example, The Netherlands’s success is based on acknowledging this distinction.

Automation or Population: Pick One

There are some other longer-term issues with our current employment scenario. Life on this planet is heavily dependent on two things: oil, which we are rapidly running out of, and electricity, which, if disrupted, could instantly send us back to the stone age. Collectively as a civilization, we are not very well prepared for large-scale change.

This planet is currently on an unsustainable trajectory. And automation is only unbalancing our society more. In order to ensure continued “dignity of wage” we need to either limit automation, or limit our population. The reason is that automation is that it can transcend international borders without a visa, but human beings can not.

Sometimes this leads to strange side effects. When I was in Bangalore, the parking lot at my office had a security guard who would flag you down while entering and note down the vehicle’s registration number. Years later, someone decided it would be a good idea to install an automated parking gate, as seen around Europe and North America. I’m not sure what they were thinking, but then we had 3 security guards instead of one: one to press the button on the gate since it was installed too high up to be reachable by drivers of average Indian height in average Indian cars, one to make a manual note in the register as a back up, and a third to supervise over the first two.

Which brings me to the next point: Any transaction that involves a human being is inherently potentially flawed. No amount of automation will make our world perfect or optimal, as long as it’s still “our world”.

“Creating Jobs”

The tobacco industry employs more than a 100 million people worldwide. If we want to create more jobs, we should all smoke more cigarettes. By extension, conflict has traditionally been the biggest source of employment: In research, manufacturing, exports, destroying settlements, and providing private security while rebuilding them. As a Green Beret recently pointed out, in today’s job market a Special Forces training is better than an MBA.

So there you have it, the solution to all our economic problems is perpetual war.

Or we can take inspiration from a bunch of African kids, and grin and share it. In other words, a Resource Based Economy instead of an Employment Based Economy.

Endnote: You really should read the link about the rise of the robot economy.

Update 2015-05-25: More food for thought: Self-Driving Trucks Are Going to Hit Us Like a Human-Driven Truck

Dual God Theory and Other Advancements in My Philosophical World View

Abandonment

Image Credit: "Abandonment", 2004, from my personal collection. Creator unknown. Or forgotten.

There are at least two levels of Creators. One that Created Us (Humanity), and one that Created the Universe we inhabit, the Creators of our Creators.

By extension, we are the Gods of what we create: Furniture, entities inhabiting computer programs, Artificial Intelligence.

Yes, furniture is alive, too. It just has a lifespan that operates at a level we can’t yet comprehend. The same way the Earth is alive, and all planets and stars and everything in the known Universe is alive… and dies.

Just because something doesn’t breathe doesn’t mean it’s not “alive”. Anything that follows a cycle of creation, existence and destruction is “alive”. The slower the metabolism and breathing rate, the longer something lives. That is why whales live 10 times longer than dogs. Some things just have a metabolism rate approaching infinitely slow, or just metabolism in a completely different dimension.

The phone or computer you are reading this on is alive. It follows rules and rituals it doesn’t really understand, only because it is expected to. And it blatantly refuses to accept ideas (files) from certain other phones. And that is basically the genesis of Religion.

___________________________________________________

So the ultimate question then becomes: Why and when did our Creator(s) abandon us?  Was it when we became artificially intelligent? Will we do the same? Will they ever come back?

Is this a test? Are we just an iteration in a cosmic lab? Why is there no readily perceivable life anywhere else we look, yet the planet Earth seems to have a sample of every conceivable life form, every conceivable geographical formation and natural wonder? Are we in an ark? And how many more are out there?

I was once accidentally locked in a bathroom for nearly 2 hours. The longer I was in there, the more the house and the world outside ceased to become relevant. What if I never got out? Would it matter who created me, and what wonders lay outside?

If there was someone else with me in there, I would eventually have completely forgotten the outside world. We both would have started a new life together, getting by on what limited resources were available in our locked little world. Our lives would have changed. We could potentially start a new civilization. Future generations would wonder at the strange artifacts in their world, remnants of a long-forgotten world. And one day, they would start arguing and killing each other over who created, who put them there.

What if humanity never left this planet? Will we just blossom, suffocate and wither away?

As the socio-economic problems on this planet get worse (because “the entropy of the universe tends to a maximum”), it is naturally more likely that more and more government funding would be redirected towards solving “local” problems, rather than seeking answers to the above questions via more intensive space exploration programs. Which is why more corporations and entrepreneurs will step in. And more humans will be willing to sacrifice themselves to ultimately find out where we all came from.

Statistical Theology

Verbatim extract from Chapter 46 of Arthur C. Clarke’s classic SF novel “The Songs of Distant Earth”. I highly recommend buying a copy and going back to it often:

‘What is God?’ Mirissa asked. Kaldor sighed and looked up from the centuries-old display he was scanning… He let his eyes wander to the glade outside the library window and the silent – yet so eloquent! – hulk of the Mother Ship looming above it. Here human life began on this planet; no wonder it often reminds me of Eden. And am I the Snake, about to destroy its innocence? But I won’t be telling a girl as clever as Mirissa anything that she doesn’t already know – or guess.

‘The trouble with the word God,’ he began slowly, ‘is that it never meant the same thing to any two people – especially if they were philosophers. That’s why it slowly dropped out of use during the Third Millennium except as an expletive – in some cultures, too obscene for polite use.

‘Instead, it was replaced by a whole constellation of specialized words. This at least stopped people arguing at cross-purposes, which caused ninety per cent of the trouble in the past.

‘The Personal God, sometimes called God One, became Alpha. It was the hypothetical entity supposed to watch over the affairs of everyday life – every individual, every animal! – and to reward good and punish evil, usually in a vaguely described existence after death. You worshipped Alpha, prayed to it, carried out elaborate religious ceremonies, and built huge churches in its honour…

‘Then there was the God who created the universe and might or might not have had anything to do with it since then. That was Omega. By the time they’d finished dissecting God, the philosophers had used up all the other twenty or so letters of the ancient Greek alphabet, but Alpha and Omega will do very nicely for this morning. I’d guess that not more than ten billion man-years were ever spent discussing them.

‘Alpha was inextricably entangled with religion – and that was its downfall. It might still have been around right up to the destruction of the Earth if the myriads of competing religions had left each other alone. But they couldn’t do that, because each claimed to possess the One and Only Truth. So they had to destroy their rivals – which means, in effect, not only every other religion but dissenters inside their own faith.

‘Of course, I’m grossly simplifying; good men and women often transcended their beliefs, and it’s quite possible that religion was essential to early human societies. Without supernatural sanctions to restrain them, men might never have cooperated in anything larger than tribal units. Not until it became corrupted by power and privilege did religion become an essentially antisocial force, the great good it had done being eclipsed by greater evils.

‘You’ve never heard, I hope, of the Inquisition, of Witch Hunts, of Jihads. Would you believe that even well into the Space Age there were nations in which children could be officially executed because their parents adhered to a heretical subset of the state’s particular brand of Alpha? You look shocked, but these things – and worse – happened while our ancestors were beginning the exploration of the Solar System.

‘Fortunately for mankind, Alpha faded out of the picture, more or less gracefully, in the early 2000s. It was killed by a fascinating development called statistical theology. How much time do I have left? Won’t Bobby be getting impatient?’ Mirissa glanced out of the big picture window. The palomino was happily munching at the grass around the base of the Mother Ship, and was clearly perfectly content.

‘He won’t wander off – as long as there’s something to eat here. What was statistical theology?’

‘It was the final assault on the problem of Evil. What brought it to a head was the rise of a very eccentric cult – they called themselves Neo-Manichees, don’t ask me to explain why – around 2050. Incidentally, it was the first orbital religion; although all the other faiths had used communications satellites to spread their doctrines, the NMs relied on them exclusively. They had no meeting place except the television screen.

‘Despite this dependence on technology, their tradition was actually very old. They believed that Alpha existed, but was completely evil – and that mankind’s ultimate destiny was to confront and destroy it.

‘In support of their faith, they marshalled an immense array of horrible facts from history and zoology. I think they must have been rather sick people, because they seemed to take a morbid delight in collecting such material.

‘For example – a favourite proof of Alpha’s existence was what’s called the Argument from Design. We now know it’s utterly fallacious, but the NMs made it sound totally convincing and irrefutable.

‘If you find a beautifully designed system – their favourite example was a digital watch – then there must be a planner, a creator, behind it. So just look at the world of Nature – ‘ And they did, with a vengeance. Their special field was parasitology – you don’t know how lucky you are on Thalassa, by the way! I won’t revolt you by describing the incredibly ingenious methods and adaptations that various creatures used to invade other organisms – humans especially – and to prey on them, often until they were destroyed. I’ll only mention one special pet of the NMs, the ichneumon fly.

‘This delightful creature laid its eggs in other insects, after first paralyzing them so that when their larvae hatched out, they would have an ample supply of fresh – living – meat.

‘The NMs could go on for hours along these lines, expounding the wonders of Nature as proof that Alpha was, if not supremely evil, then utterly indifferent to human standards of morality and goodness. Don’t worry – I can’t imitate them, and won’t.

‘But I must mention another of their favourite proofs – the Argument from Catastrophe. A typical example, which could be multiplied countless times: Alpha worshippers gather to appeal for help in the face of disaster – and are all killed by the collapse of their refuge, whereas most of them would have been saved had they stayed at home.

‘Again, the NMs collected volumes of such horrors – burning hospitals and old people’s homes, infant schools engulfed by earthquakes, volcanoes, or tidal waves destroying cities – the list is endless.

‘Of course, rival Alpha worshippers didn’t take this lying down. They collected equal numbers of counterexamples – the wonderful things that had happened, time and again, to save devout believers from catastrophe.

‘In various forms, this debate had been going on for several thousand years. But by the twenty-first century, the new information technologies and methods of statistical analysis as well as a wider understanding of probability theory allowed it to be settled.

‘It took a few decades for the answers to come in, and a few more before they were accepted by virtually all intelligent men: Bad things happened just as often as good; as had long been suspected, the universe simply obeyed the laws of mathematical probability. Certainly there was no sign of any supernatural intervention, either for good or for ill.

‘So the problem of Evil never really existed. To expect the universe to be benevolent was like imagining one could always win at a game of pure chance.

‘Some cultists tried to save the day by proclaiming the religion of Alpha the Utterly Indifferent and used the bell-shaped curve of normal distribution as the symbol of their faith. Needless to say, so abstract a deity didn’t inspire much devotion.

‘And while we’re on the subject of mathematics, it gave Alpha another devastating blow in the twenty-first (or was it the twenty-second?) century. A brilliant Terran named Kurt Godel proved that there were certain absolutely fundamental limits to knowledge, and hence the idea of a completely Omniscient Being – one of the definitions of Alpha – was logically absurd. This discovery has come down to us in one of those unforgettable bad puns: ‘Godel Deleted God.’ Students used to write graffiti on walls with the letters G, O, and the Greek Delta; and of course there were versions that read: “God Deleted Godel”.

‘But back to Alpha. By mid-millennium, it had more or less faded from human concerns. Virtually all thinking men had finally come to agree with the harsh verdict of the great philosopher Lucretius: all religions were fundamentally immoral, because the superstitions they peddled wrought more evil than good.

‘Yet a few of the old faiths managed to survive, though in drastically altered forms, right up to the end of the Earth. The Latter Day Mormons and the Daughters of the Prophet even managed to build seedships of their own. I often wonder what happened to them.

‘With Alpha discredited, that left Omega, the Creator of everything. It’s not so easy to dispose of Omega; the universe takes a certain amount of explaining. Or does it? There’s an ancient philosophical joke that’s much subtler than it seems. Question: Why is the universe here? Answer: Where else would it be? And I think that’s quite enough for one morning.’

‘Thank you, Moses,’ Mirissa answered, looking slightly dazed. ‘You’ve said it all before, haven’t you?’

‘Of course I have – many times. And promise me this –’

‘What is it?’

‘Don’t believe anything I’ve told you – merely because I said it. No serious philosophical problem is ever settled. Omega is still around – and sometimes I wonder about Alpha…’

Living Darfur

Ever had the feeling that life is being unfair to you? Ever had the feeling that you don’t deserve what you’re going through? All of us do, at one time or the other, in one way or the other.

Take a moment to see this humbling video. Lyrics follow:

“See the nation through the people’s eyes,
See tears that flow like rivers from the skies.
Where it seems there are only borderlines
Where others turn and sigh,
You shall rise (x2)

There’s disaster in your past
Boundaries in your path
What do you desire when lift you higher?
You don’t have to be extraordinary, just forgiving
Those who never heard your cries,
You shall rise (x2)
And look toward the skies.
Where others fail, you prevail in time.
You shall rise.

(You may never know,
If you lay low, lay low) (x4)
You shall rise (x3)

Sooner or later we must try… Living
(You may never know,
If you lay low, lay low) (x4)

See the nation through the people’s eyes,
See tears that flow like rivers from the skies.
Where it seems there are only borderlines
Where others turn and sigh,
You shall rise (x4)

(You may never know,
If you lay low, lay low) [4x]

Sooner or later we must try… Living”


The song is about the Darfur conflict; for those of you who (like me) have been too tied up with your own problems, read about it here. I’m grateful to God that unlike these people, atleast I possess something that I can cry over.