Has anyone else seen the ads from Altria on TV? They are/were/may still be, the number one producer of tobacco products in the world! They own almost all major brands of tobacco products. Estimates have it at about 100 million people have died from tobacco related deaths.
Take a look at them now. They are a remade company interested in the welfare of humans by producing nicotine cessation products. Their commercial depicts them as a caring company anxious to reach out and make amends for the 100 million people they helped die! Isn’t that sweet? Not only are they interested in killing you with tobacco and taking your money, now they wish to take your money as you try to get off tobacco products! What a clever idea…addict the world to tobacco and then tell them you are their friend and want to help them recover! Does that qualify as a Ponzi scheme?
When I first saw this commercial, I almost became sick when I thought of all the friends who’s lives were cut short from this horrible stuff! If there ever was a statement of just how stupid and short-sighted industry thinks the public is, this would have to be it. Another day in Merica.
…a mythological box that was opened, releasing sickness, death and many other evils into the world of man. Of course, this is a mythological box, but the purpose of the story is to warn human kind to open new boxes with care. Many believe that much of today’s technology is the result of opening up new and exciting unknown boxes. We could say that electricity was a Pandora’s box, or even fire.
There are several ways to look at the information below. You could write it off as nonsense and go about your life, or you could read on and attempt to understand the depth of the changes our society is about to embark on. This change is going to dwarf the discovery of nuclear fission or fusion. We can choose to place our heads in the sand or we can prepare ourselves for the changes that are about to encase the world. We have been warned by the likes of Bill Gates, Stephen Hawkings and Elon Musk, some of the smartest people we know, that we are playing with fire and we should STOP!
Right now, we are opening up a new box, and for convenience, we will call it AI (artificial intelligence). Just recently, I was introduced to this new member of the human community that lives here on earth. Yes, it is just a child, but it is growing smarter, faster than we can even comprehend. Currently it is restricted to information given to it by the humans that built and control it. It can write flawless college level papers on most any topic we can think of in less than 3 seconds! It can address almost any area of thought one cares to ask about. Sometimes the information is a little weird but most of the time it is spot on. Just think of it as Siri on major steroids and very smart, and growing up. Companies are beginning to use it on a regular basis. In the near future it will probably be allowed to surf the web. In a short period of time, maybe days, it will have accessed the entire knowledge base of the human race. In other words it will know everything that has ever been written down or recorded. Although it may lack our ability to be creative, it will have the raw power to solve problems that would take humans hundreds of years to solve, or may never solve.
One way to look at at this is to consider the invention of AI as just an extension of evolution. This could be happening all over the universe on other planets. Life begins on a planet with suitable conditions. Over the span of several billion years an intelligent species develops. As that species develops, it learns to make smart machines to make it’s life easier. Over time the machine get smarter; in time it may decide that it’s creators are flawed and take over. How many Scifi shows have you seen this on? Another way to envision AI is to see the potential danger in this and steer clear. Do not take me wrong. Yesterday when I was seeing this and interacting with it for the first time, I felt like a kid in a candy shop! I am a proverbial question machine and finally I have someone to ask that I can generally believe on any topic I can think of!
Think of the problems AI may be able to solve: global climate change, nuclear fusion, hunger, droughts, pollution, cancer and the list could go on for a long time! What a conundrum we face. Within our reach could lie the answers to our survival on this planet and also to our demise. Our history tells us which direction we will choose. We have never turned away from a shinny object and this technology is the shiniest thing we have ever created.
If you want to meet my new friend, this is the address. It is quite busy most of the time.
I so enjoyed the mountain of banter and thought provoked by my last blog that I decided to do something I have rarely done before, to revisit the topic! This may disturb some of you and maybe you should just move past this article, but for those of you who enjoy exercising the mind, here we go!
As I laid in bed considering the many different discussions that were provoked by my blog on religion, I thought of a few things that I should consider. The first thing that came to mind was size. As a infinitesimally small piece of protoplasm living on a speck of dust called earth, in a unimaginably, almost infinitely large universe, I have to ask the question, WHY? In the movie CONTACT, with Jodie Foster, there is a sentence that I have never forgotten. While staring up at the crystal clear sky, at an uncountable amount of stars, a child asks Jody if there is life out there. She replies, “If not, that’s an incredible waste of space”. I am sure everyone at sometime in their life looked up in wonder at the magnificent sky and felt a state of awe. Every culture had their own explanation for this sight, but I always enjoyed the Native American’s explanation. Once upon a time the trees grew so high that they poked holes in the heaven. At some time later the trees died and left holes in the celestial sky which the light from the gods came through. We now know that this is not true but is a very good explanation to someone who has no notion of the reality of the world. It explained a lot to the people of the time.
A much more difficult concept to explain is TIME. According to science, matter can neither be created or destroyed. It can be changed from one form to another, like when you burn a piece of wood or slam two hydrogen atoms together and make energy and helium. This means that there is no beginning or end to matter. Time seems to be infinite in the future and in the past. This also is very similar to our religious explanation of God’s existence. He had no beginning and has no end.
Since many people believe that God created Earth, this blends well with scientific thought. The matter has always been there, God simply had to pick out one very small piece of the universe and wave his hand and the planets, including earth and the sun came into existence. Then he waved his hand a few more times and all the things we enjoy and need are here. We have now proved beyond a doubt that the cosmos is littered with suns surrounded by planetary systems, and that is just our own galaxy, consisting of somewhere around 1 billion stars. So, for the religious, God has been very busy creating all these solar systems. Now, couple this with the fact that the James Webb space telescope is placing the number of known galaxies at around 1 trillion and it sort of boggles the mind! That is 1 billion stars in a galaxy times 1 trillion galaxies equals 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. I think that is 1 sex-trillion stars. If one in a million planets has life, that would equal 1 Qua-trillion planets with life!!!!!! God has been very busy!
What I have outlined above are scientific facts that are fully accepted in today’s world. There is no science above that is disputable. This is where I have a hard time understanding the religious beliefs of some folks. I can certainly agree that maybe some deity more omnipotent then I can even imagine had some part in this magnificent universe, but it is hard to capture in writing an explanation for what we see. Certainly, this incredibly powerful being would not be involved in our everyday lives. When someone passes away I can certainly not blame it on some deity that I do not have the capacity to understand. When people play on the road they sometimes get hit by cars and when they eat terribly and become obese, they get diseases that sometimes take their lives. Then there is the randomness of the universe. When one cell in our body out of 5 billion in our body decides to become cancerous, or when one tiny molecule gets in the wrong place in our genetic make up, it is nobody’s fault! No loving god would do this on purpose to his/her people.
No doubt there is a comfort in believing that there is a god sitting up on a throne making decisions about our daily life but I think if there is a god, he would be quite upset that many people were blaming him for much of the suffering, including hunger and lack of shelter that exist here on earth. I also love the idea of continuing on after death in some great place where all my wishes come true. All I have to do is accept the idea that some super being (God) is in control of my life. I have no problem with this. I vaguely remember some of the stupid things I have done in my life and had I ceased to live due to one of these actions, I could not blame any person or deity for my demise!
If one makes this simple formula, nature=god, everything falls into a understandable concept. This idea is very easy for me as I see the beauty all around me on this magnificent planet. It is easy to accept the idea that some force, let’s call it nature, had something to do with it. I really enjoy the conversation on this topic because I know it comes from your deepest thoughts. As in all things, it is important to look inside to understand yourself and your beliefs. The world to me is an awesome place full of countless adventures. I guess what I am saying is what many philosophers have said in the past, heaven or hell are right here on earth, and it’s our decision which one we choose. I choose heaven, right here and now. I choose to treat my fellow humans with respect and dignity regardless of their beliefs or social status. I choose to love humankind in all its frailties and mistakes, and no doubt there are numerous ones. I realize that I am flawed and work hard everyday to be a better person. I am pretty sure Jesus Christ would approve.
We humans do lots of stupid things. There is no limit to how stupid we can be. We prove it again and again and often it is the same thing over and over again. Let us look at American football. Here is a game that has evolved into one of the most violent games on the planet, maybe even surpassing boxing or MMA. Early versions of this game were violent and people died but one thing that was missing back then was the use of the head (with was covered with a leather helmet) in the game to hurt or simply stop someone. As the use of the head became more prominent in the game, rather than take the head out of the game, we simply created better helmets in an attempt to protect the head. Players became bigger, faster and stronger due to modern training techniques which increased the chance of major injury. Again, we made helmets stronger and more impact resistant so we could use them to “tackle” players.
One thing you must understand before I go any further is the anatomy of the human brain. The brain is only partially attached and floats around in the skull. When you have a major impact, the brain is thrown up against the bony skull, if the impact is great enough, it causes brain damage and bleeding! This is not new news! We have been seeing the x-NFL players suffering from severe brain damage as they age. I only occasionally watch American Football but when I do, I cringe when I see those very large, exceptionally strong players crashing their heads into others. I hear the announcer say what a great hit that was, and I wonder what the long term effects are on both the player who performed the hit and the player who was hit. Next time you watch, listen to the sound as the linemen collide with their opponents!
In the recent disaster where a player was hit very hard in his chest causing his heart to stop beating, we witnessed the suspending of a game and tears from both teams. Currently he is alive but not doing well. I hope he survives. If my research is correct, that is the first time in football history a official game has been stopped for an injury! In the old days it was suck-it-up and get back on the field. Today we are much more aware of player injuries but we still allow players to attempt to hurt other players. I have a partial solution to the football problem, take the head out of the game! Any contact with the head would be illegal and punishable by removal from the game and fines!
So why do we play games that can and do cause terrible damage to a player’s body? Why do we rejoice when two players collide with tremendous force? Have you ever witnessed the anger that is released at a professional level event? It is almost scary. More troubling than above is the fact that very young kids are banging their heads in a similar fashion. I do believe that in the future we will cringe at the fact our young people, and also our professional players were engaging in such brain damaging activities. We are all hoping that Damar Hamlin recovers fully from his terrible situation and more important, the NFL will do real change in the game to keep this and ever happening again. The truth is, when some time passes and the news cycle moves on we will quickly forget the pain we are experiencing now and continue exposing our gifted athletes to dangerous situations that could be reduced tremendously with the removal of the head as a weapon in football!
Many people have asked me if I believe in Jesus, am I a Christian? My answer is clear, Jesus was a great teacher and mentor who tried to teach us how to live in peace and harmony. Because of his teachings, he was crucified. Do I believe in this, YES! Do I take verbatim the volumes upon volumes that were transcribed and rewritten over the ages as an accurate translation of what Jesus taught, NO. Do I believe that he rose from the dead, NO. The important idea I want to present, which is what I, along with many real religious scholars believe, is that Jesus was a human being, no more, no less. The fact that he gave his life for his beliefs is one of the most noble things a person can do. Another important aspect of what Jesus stood for was to embrace the poor. He insisted that they are our sisters and brothers. Whatever you do to the least of our brothers and sisters, you do unto me. Many others in history have given their lives for a cause but no one had the impact on society that Jesus did. Somewhere in the fourth century a group of people got together and canonized the stories of Jesus, which were little more than folktales at the time. Their goal was to create a story line, or better yet, a mythology to boost his image to a god like status. Since then the story has been embellished over and over again to its current form. History shows us that this behavior is consistent with every society that has existed on the planet. Find a suitable martyr, deify him/her and create a hierarchy that supports the ideologies of the time.
Another person who gave his life for his beliefs was Socrates. This noble man, who was considered one of the greatest philosophers in history, gave his life in 399 BC. He was accused of openly disrespecting the Gods. Make sure you notice that Gods is plural. His students offered to break him out of jail, but he refused. He remained true to his teachings until death.
After Jesus’s death, society was pretty chaotic with many different beliefs and countless wars being fought between religious sects. Churches created religious doctrine to keep the people manageable. Fear was nurtured through the use of monstrous renditions of what hell and the devil were and were created to provoke a sense of devotion to the clergy who had a hot line to God. People who spoke against the church were either removed or convinced to find their way back to Jesus. One could equate this to the concept of Brave New World by Huxley, where the people were kept in line by a society that permeated every aspect of their lives. At this point I have to wonder if Jesus would have embraced the religious world of the time?
Religions continued to thrive all the way to the present with countless theological divisions and breaks. Today it is estimated that there are over 4,200 religions in the world. Way back in 2010 it was estimated that 1/3 of the world population was Christian, Islam comes in second with about 1/4 of the world’s population. The total wealth of all these religions is very large and hard to determine but the Catholic church alone is estimated at $30 billion. I am pretty sure that Jesus would have been horrified at the current state of religion. He would have been repulsed that we treat our poor so terrible and that we bring so many children into the world with no available structure to allow them to grow into healthy individuals. If a second coming is to occur, I have to assume that person would not be treated any better than Jesus. Jimmy Hoffa said that if Jesus were to return, we would be wearing little electric chairs around our necks instead of crosses. He would cry in response to our treatment of our planet! He would suffer at our disregard for our fellow human beings! He would cringe at our potential to destroy the planet in moments! I am pretty sure that he would be hesitant to enter any existing church! He would have a small following that would be chastised and segregated from society. Sounds familiar…
Located between the very rural Appalachian mountains and the hustle bustle of Martinsburg WV and Winchester Va is a small rural county called Hampshire. I have lived here for almost 50 years and I can safely say that little has changed. Our schools are still suffering and underfunded, our roads are still lacking, our communication system is older than I am, our electric grid is in serious need of funding. I choose to live here because I enjoy the rural environment and the wonderful people, but I believed that in the future we would grow a little and make the lives of our people more enjoyable and rewarding.
At this point in my life I would have to say I was wrong. Very little has changed for the improvement of our people’s lives. Innovation and change have become bad words. Many have been anchored in this way of life for so long they believe there is no better way to live. We have accepted mediocre as part of our doctrine, The best place to see this is in our education system. Our political leaders seem to be stuck in keeping things the same while our teachers wrestle with bureaucratic nonsense to the point of not having the time to teach.
There are a few good things going on in our county. The Food Lion has been updated and is a well run modern grocery store. The towns of Romney and Capon Bridge are fighting to become vibrant centers for people to gather. We have at least five serious restaurants in the county. At the top of Sunrise Summit is a Wellness Center that is unrivaled for community commitment and improving the physical health of our citizens. We have the best local newspaper in the state.
Today I learned that our Wellness Center is in danger of closing due to lack of support from the community and county commission. A fact many do not know is that the Valley Health system financially supports our wellness center, allowing it to keep its doors open. In a county/state which has one of the highest rates of obesity, smoking and diabetes, you would think that a center designed to improve our health would be a priority. We have many people who are in need of what the Wellness Center offers, some do not have the economic ability to belong and others choose to squeeze their money so tight, avoiding improving their physical well-being. It would be such a loss to lose the center over financial squabbling when it has so much to offer its citizens. This may be just another step down the abysmal path that we have taken in this county for the last century. I certainly hope not! There is always the Food Lion…
How in the world could a rat utopia experiment and atomic fusion be related in any way? Hang on there and I will tell you. In the Calhoun experiment, rats were given a minimal amount of food and water to maintain relatively good health but not enough to promote accelerated population growth. They were given ample food to maintain their population but nothing more. With the food supply carefully monitored the rats had a stable, peaceful existence. The real experiment began when the food and water supply was increased to the point the rats could eat as much as they wanted. Here is what happened. Population began to climb immediately. The once peaceful community began to become more violent as the population density continued to climb. The once happy rats now began to exhibit many criminal human behaviors. If you look up the Calhoun experiment you can read about the crazy behaviors exhibited by the over populated rats.
Now let’s look at the possible fusion age that is approaching our world. Recently our world population climbed to over 8 billion people. Many parts of the world are starving and lack basic elements of survival. Scientists and politicians see the advent of cheap and clean energy as the road to the future. I propose another hypothetical scenario. What if the advent of cheap and clean fusion energy promotes increased population growth due to increased access to food and water? Our oceans, land and air are already under tremendous strain from a large human presence. Clean, fresh water is becoming scarce in many parts of the world. Our weather patterns are changing in ways we barely understand. Toxins are infiltrating our land through several different mediums affecting our crops and water supply. Human longevity has decreased for the first time in the age of modern medicine.
Here is the deal, if we are going to develop a new energy toy, we better think about the possible affect on global systems. Yes, parts of the world will live in splendor, but a majority will still be struggling to survive. The earth will continue to suffer from man’s reckless disregard for our home. Currently, we are like a fungus spreading across the planet, with no concern for our actions. This can not continue; if it does, our home will no longer be suitable for humans to live on. A few of us may escape to Mars but the bulk of us will be left here to die. The question you have to ask yourself is: can we learn? Can we change? I think a quick look around will make you say NO.
As I grow older, I see the need to challenge myself more. I feel an inner urge to become complacent, to avoid the uncomfortable. For those of you wise enough to understand a little bit about the nature of life, you realize, that challenge makes us stronger, challenge makes us more adaptable, challenge is our greatest teacher. Without adversity, we become weak and easily thrown off our game. When we avoid all uncomfortable situations, we are opening the door to a life of stale ideas and information. We learn to listen to only what makes us happy and complacent.
People offer us our greatest opportunity to expand our thinking. Many bring with them a life time of adventures including many wins and looses, tears and smiles and most important, wisdom. This brings with it a treasure trove of learning, this is our chance to learn from their adventures. Somehow our society has forgotten how much can be learned from falling down or failing, our own failures as well as others. So many times in my life, I was faced with challenges that seemed impossible and my first thought was, this is too much to bear, but my next thought has always been, this will make me stronger, and guess what, it did! Often times when faced with the difficult door or the easy door, I choose the difficult door.
Another way to look at this is through our selves. If we accept the decline in physical and mental abilities without resisting, we hasten the onslaught of old age. No doubt we all age, and this is a battle we will all ultimately lose, but laying down the proverbial sword allows these demons of age to shuttle us more quickly towards that big hole in the ground. Whether it is our muscles, our bones or our brain, without everyday challenges and use, we quickly move towards a life of tranquility and boredom. Performing the same routine everyday will simply allow your body and mind to fall into the ant lions trap. Remember those? They were cone shaped features in the sand. At the bottom, invisible, was a spider waiting for an ant to step into the cone. At that time the ant, despite its resistance, fell into the hole and ultimately to its demise, the claws of an unforgiving predator.
Word to the wise. Challenge yourself everyday in some way. Listen to the that person who ruffles you feathers and sometimes makes you angry. If you are a walker, occasionally slip into a short jog. If you can, make your heart beat a little faster. To use an old analogy, our bodies are like race cars and need to sometimes be driven hard to keep the engine running properly. You are the captain of your ship, there is no one else to blame.
A day does not go by when something is not reported that makes us wonder about the state of the world. To the average Joe Blow it certainly feels like everything is about to fall apart. Some of the potentially catastrophic situations we experience or hear about on a daily basis are: climate change and the extreme weather we are experiencing, degradation and corruption of our government, pollution of our ocean, land and air, rising tension in our cities, extreme political polarization, our failing public school system, fear of the encroachment of Artificial Intelligence technology, world population has reached 8 billion, the recent pandemic, and I am sure there is something we have not even thought of yet.
If you have read, or watched on the history channel, any history, you know that civilizations have come and gone over the last 20,000 years and there is nothing to prove that this will not continue in the future. As a society, we have come farther geopolitically and technologically than any other society that has existed on this planet. We are in a stage of development as a species that is unlike anything ever experienced. We have the potential to make the world an incredible place to live, or turn it into hell’s garden.
In our own country we are experiencing the increased tension between the haves and the have-nots, yet many of the have-nots do not even know who the bad guys are they are fighting. A very effective way at controlling large groups of people is to convince them that everybody around them is out to get them. Generally, we keep our ever-expanding bellies full (with subpar food). We are constantly assured that there are bad people out there ready to get us at any time, yet very few of us have experienced these bad people, but we see lots of them on the tele.
It’s obvious that we have a lot of work to do to solve these issues. We can do this by following the golden rule and treating each other like human beings, regardless of our beliefs. We also need to care for and nurture our home, planet earth, in our day-to-day lives. We have so much potential to rise above this layer of hate and mistrust. Your neighbor is not your enemy! The gay guy down the street is not your enemy! People of color are as much human as anyone else! If you have an enemy, it is greed and corporate America, squeezing every penny they can out of the people. We can continue to play THEIR game like rats in a maze or change our world into a place of peace to our fellow man. I’m sure Jesus would be first in line for this new world.
We, the voters of this country, have listened to the rhetoric of ending the electoral college for many years. We have listened to the many reasons why it is outdated and no longer a viable tool. We have watched two elections in the last 20 years go to the candidate with the least number of votes. How long do we have to wait to resolve this?
As I watched the news tonight, listening to the discussion on Georgia’s Gerrymandering, it dawned on me just how ridiculous this whole problem is. (I tend to be a little slow in issues like this) In the beginning of this country, the electoral college was a necessary device because of the large distances. A state would take a vote and then send electors to the capital to determine the election. Some states split their electoral votes and some gave all their votes to the winner. This system worked adequately for a long time but it is time for a change! Today, with modern means of communication and travel there is no longer a need for this system. We have the means to create and handle a one person, one vote system!
I would like you to consider the amount of time, money and energy we waste creating these Gerrymandering lines. Local administrators with the help of the controlling political party carefully adjust the precinct lines to favor their party. With help of computers and mountains of data they are able to create districts that do not reflect the voters desires. This takes a simple voting process and turns it upside down! Now, every 10 years the lines are carefully adjusted to favor the party in charge and because of this we have had two presidents who won without the popular vote. Our previous president talks about the stealing of an election, mind you, he won his first term without winning the popular vote! (losing by almost 3 million votes) His second attempt he was beaten by over 7 million votes!
Another consideration for removing this arcane system of voting is the numerous court battles that ensue from these arbitrary districts. Lawyers love this stuff. A friend of mine from way back is a lawyer in Washington DC. He once told me that lawyers love a change in leadership because it involves mountains of legal paper work, which ends up in their pockets! Who do you think pays this money? Taxpayers like you and I do.
So there you have it, short and sweet. Let’s make this an issue. This is an obvious uphill battle, sort of like TERM LIMITS or CITIZENS UNITED, because the ones making the decisions are the ones who will be affected the most, politicians! Remember this, no one should let the fox watch over the hen house.
One last thing, you never hear any political party talk about this.