Anyone who has seen the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called “The Drumhead” will probably have a pretty good idea of where I’m going with this. In the episode, a klingon happens to be a spy, and is caught–however, an accident that occurred at around the same time went unexplained, and, worried about saboteurs and collaborators, Starfleet began an investigation into the crew of the Enterprise.
What began as a seemingly justifiable investigation devolved almost immediately into a witch hunt, or, as Picard put it, a “Drumhead Trial”–a mock trial put on by a military tribunal where punishment was swift and decisive. It’s a well-known episode, and generally considered among that series best’s. It’s a pity that we learned nothing from its rather anvilicious lessons.
That doesn’t mean that, say, Michael Flynn, who just invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying on the Hill, doesn’t have problems related to past payments from the Russians.
Er… No, Howard Kurtz, that’s not right. The way this is phrased creates the default idea that Flynn has those problems, and that his invocation of the fifth is evidence of that–otherwise, why even link these two things?
In the episode I mentioned, a young man is revealed to have lied about his heritage, having claimed to be half-Vulcan when he was actually half-Romulan, and the Romulans were essentially Star Trek’s Russians. During his publicly open interrogation, with dozens and dozens of people watching eagerly, he was asked about his true lineage, and he invoked the fifth (or, actually, Starfleet’s version of the fifth).
Immediately, the whispering and gasps rang out. Rumor swirled, and he was instantly assumed to be guilty.
Kangaroo done hung the juror with the innocent.
We would all do well to watch this tense episode once more, but allowing it to hit closer to home. You’ll see in the inquisitor none other than Democratic leadership, relentlessly pursuing every possible lead in their quixotic quest to find a collaborator or saboteur. In those nightmarish circumstances, where even Picard is ultimately brought in for questioning, even pleading the fifth becomes evidence of a person’s guilt.
The moral of the story is that we’re never more than one accident away from a witch hunt. We saw it last year when the clown sightings began–fully hysterical reactions from people over clowns who had done nothing to anyone and may very well not have existed in the first place. It’s entirely possible that there was never even a single clown, much less several, but that didn’t stop panic and hysteria from sweeping the nation: schools were locked down, clown masks were pulled from store shelves, and police investigations were launched.
Of course, we can look to an actual witch hunt if we’d like to depress ourselves, since 40,000 people were killed in puritan America for being witches–and, the reasoned mind of today understands that none of them were witches. The accusation alone branded one guilty, and often the trials involved horrific things like “Drown her. If she’s innocent, God will save her.”
Eyeballs deep in muddy water, fucking hypocrite.
I’m honestly not scared of much. I’ve had someone put a gun in my face and tell me to drop to my knees and beg for my life, whereupon I defiantly replied, “You’re gonna have to kill me, because I’m not doing that.” I’ve been left beaten and bloody in at least three parking lots. I’ve had picking up hitch hikers backfire on me in spectacular ways. But none of that scares me.
Hysteria, however… Hysteria terrifies me.
How long did McCarthy and Hoover’s reigns of terror last? There has even been talk of recognition the House of Un-American Activities. My death–who cares? It would likely be painful, but after that, over, so it’s really not something to be scared of. However, a witch hunt can go so very far beyond that–into tortured confessions, corrupt interrogators, presumed guilt rather than presumed innocence…
We played with the fire after the Orlando Shooting, as well, when people asked how this person who had been investigated three times by the FBI had been able to acquire guns. It is simply assumed, in their worldview, that a person is guilty if the FBI investigates them. Never mind that this could easily be part of the anti-Muslim witch hunt. “He was investigated three times? Then he’s guilty. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire! Besides, look what he did!”
Yes, but the fact that “what he did” was something he “hadn’t yet done” at the time he was being investigated is of critical importance. You can’t apply current knowledge about him to decisions people made about him in the past. And we damn sure can’t assume people are guilty just because we have an out-of-control investigatory agency that is perfectly poised to begin and instigate witch hunts.
I don’t know or care whether Flynn did whatever it is that he’s being presumed guilty of doing, and I don’t care if Trump played a role in it. Even if they do manage to demonstrate guilt (as opposed to assuming it), they still have to demonstrate why the whole thing is of any consequence at all.
Now people are talking impeachment. There’s no doubt: impeachment was on people’s minds on Election Day, as soon as the results came in. If the idea of having a hardcore religious nutjob as President sounds appealing, then, by all means, proceed with impeachment. People seem to think that we can make a Democrat president if we impeach Trump, or that we can spark an emergency election. Neither of these things will or can happen.
Kangaroo be stoned, he’s guilty as the government.
If Trump is impeached and remove from office, then Mike Pence becomes President. And any impeachment proceeding would look far more like a Drumhead Trial than anything that resembles a fair court. And, really, I think such an act could very easily spark a civil war, given that Trump has been in office barely four months and hasn’t done anything out of line with what previous presidents did. Removing the president that people chose before that president has even had the chance, in his supporters’ eyes, to do what they wanted him to do… I hope Democrats are ready for the fallout from that, because it won’t be the sunshine and daisies they seem to expect.
We have a problem, though, and the problem is fear. We are terrifyingly prone to panic, and that should be what scares us, not whatever bogeyman we’re panicking about at the given moment. Panic and hysteria shredded much of the Bill of Rights already. What is next in our witch hunt?
Last week and this week, I was a guest on the Liberty Radio Network show “The Call to Freedom” hosted by former Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate Will Coley and Thom Gray, who doesn’t get an awesome title before his name but doesn’t need one, because that’s how awesome he is. Due to it not having a podcast form, I wasn’t aware the show existed (without a permanent form, it doesn’t get picked up at the RRND, which is where I learn about such things). While I tried to get a recording of last week’s, I got the time wrong and forgot about it, but did get this one.
It was a great show, and, personally, I think the aftershow was even better, primarily because I was looser and more relaxed. By that point, I was beginning to get comfortable and fall into a groove, so any future appearances (crossing my fingers) won’t have me quite so silent. If you’re interested in liberty, be sure to check out these links.
I did edit the Aftershow. For one, all of my input was lost due to how I recorded it. Because of this, I had to record today’s encore airing, and then re-record and re-impose what I’d said during the aftershow discussion back into the audio. I think I achieved about a 99% accuracy, though I knowingly added one remark (and made note that it was an added remark not said during the conversation). Much of the aftershow discussion, about the possibility of me attending Somalia Fest and PorcFest with Will Coley and his family, was personal in nature, and so I removed it. Additionally, there is some beeping, because a few things were said that wouldn’t have been said if it was on the air. In consideration of all involved, I’ve beeped out some names, and removed one brief section about someone.
I cannot say that I will record and upload every episode of “Call to Freedom,” but it is something that I would like to do, and I’m generally available on Sunday nights. I know that I’ll record and upload any future episodes that I’m in, but I think it would be a little narcissistic to do only episodes that have me as a guest (even though it is a bit of work to do all this–removing commercials, tweaking audio, normalizing, compressing, adjusting EQ bands…).
Sunday night I was invited again to be on “The Call to Freedom” hosted by Thom Grey and former libertarian Vice Presidential candidate (and possible future presidential candidate!) to discuss the neverending Libertarian Drama and the current status of the Libertarian Party, with two other guests: James Babbs and Larry Sharpe. It was a really good episode, though most of it was (frustratingly, honestly, as I had a lot I wanted to say, but I don’t get into shouting matches, and I try very hard not to interrupt people unless my point is very critical, like when I interrupted Jim at one point to say that if he wanted the LP to be a “safe place” for people to learn about libertarianism, than we can’t call people “murderers”), but it calmed down for about the last half hour and I got some words in.
Funnily, Thom messaged me through the episode and jokingly said something like, “When the cis men keep talking over the trans woman.” I lol’d, and I know he was joking, but my silence was 100% on me, and no one else. It’s true that Jim and Larry weren’t perhaps as considerate of the fact that they were co-guests were two other people, but my silence was totally on me for making the choice to sit out the shouting match, and for being extremely reluctant to interrupt anyone. I’m not knocking them–that’s often how these things go, and I don’t blame them for that. It’s just not how I prefer to do things. And it doesn’t seem to be how Will and Thom prefer to do things, either, as they were mostly silent through it all, too.
It made for a pretty good show, though.
It also brought a few things to my attention. First, I am extremely out of practice with having to think on my feet and formulate replies on the fly. Through the last two years, I’ve more or less avoided all “live” discussions of politics and religion (and, honestly, I just about don’t discuss religion at all any longer). When clients start talking about it, I simply listen, because they’re wrong on so many levels, and I know better than to try to point that out to them. When friends dive into it, I know I’m the only anarchist present, and trying to explain to someone why the entire tax system enslaves the American people is a bit too much for a light political discussion over a few glasses of wine when other people are interested in talking about a tax increase or decrease. Being an anarchist is like being the quantum mechanics physicist in the room full of people who are all discussing gravity, and each and every other person is wrong about something in spectacular ways. Does the physicist jump in to correct everyone? Almost certainly not. He instead quietly shakes his head and listens, lamenting all the way that they have failed themselves. Even with my family, I’m extremely unlikely to jump into a conversation, because trying to explain what libertarianism is and why I’m a libertarian is a fifteen minute ordeal, at best, and no one–absolutely no one–is going to sit and listen to you for 15 minutes. You might get thirty seconds before you’re interrupted, but even through those 30 seconds they won’t be listening–they’ll be thinking about what they’re going to say as soon as you finish talking.
During high school, I was an amazing debater. I don’t mean to brag, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone. I have a knack for analyzing things and picking them apart until nothing is left. I’d even call it my best skill. But once you start picking apart people’s assumptions, they always reply in a few predictable ways. They’ll either say that you’ve brought it to the level of reductio ad absurdum by asking them to demonstrate why it’s better that humans should survive instead of go extinct, when the reality is that it’s a completely fair question: there is much argument to be made that Earth and the universe would be much better off if humans suddenly ceased existing. Some other animal species would probably rise up at some point, and maybe they wouldn’t be as consumed by their egos as we are. Who knows? Regardless, it’s not an absurd question; it’s a totally fair question, and one that they can’t answer. That it’s better for humans to survive is an assumption, and the assumption is based on their value system, primarily the idea that “life is good.”
Anyway… So I’ve been very out-of-practice when it comes to arguing on my feet, though, luckily, stage fright has never been a problem for me. I intend to resolve this by going back to doing one “on-the-fly” response video on Youtube, where I record myself watching and replying to a video that I’m likely to disagree with. That’s essentially the same thing, and doing it allows me to go back to creating content, and has the added benefit of getting me back into practice, since it’s a skill like any other–use it or lose it. Anyway, so tonight’s podcast…
Predictably, I was asked via email, in response to my first article about the UBI (which was actually picked up by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Public Service in their newsletter) whether I was so dedicated to the principle that I would watch someone starve to death. While the question was asked without malice, it still reveals the underlying confusion that goes into the classic knee-jerk response to libertarianism: if I don’t want government to do x, then I must be okay with no one doing x.
In the second article, I mentioned that the UBI seems to have its roots in the idea that a person can’t possibly find anything else productive to do when technology sends them into the unemployment line. So here we see two basic ideas that no one would seriously attempt to argue, being used as assumptions to bolster the statist quo. First, that a person can’t do anything except what they already do. Second, that if someone is doing something, then no one else can do it.
The question asked is unfair, because it’s too generic and vague. Why is this person starving? Are they handicapped? Insane? Ill? Lonely, without any friends and family? Lazy? Only I can choose when and where I use my resources, and if someone asks me for help then it’s my responsibility to assess their worthiness. But we can’t pretend like giving the ill person a meal is the same as giving a healthy adult who just doesn’t want to work a meal.
There exist today charities that provide food to those who can’t otherwise acquire it, and the panic over the possible defunding of Meals on Wheels is yet another example of how government isn’t necessary to the process. When people were worried that Planned Parenthood would be defunded, they opened their wallets and donated en masse, often making the donations in Mike Pence’s name. It was clear on both occasions that, if the government stopped funding these places, then individuals of conscience would pick up the tab.
The question morphs. “Are you happy with Meals on Wheels being defunded?” is no longer the question. “Are you happy that the responsibility for funding Meals on Wheels has shifted from the government to individuals who choose to take up that responsibility?” is what the question becomes, and it’s a very different one from what was initially asked.
Libertarians have long pointed out that it isn’t necessary to have the government doing things like that, and resistance to the idea is prominent in America, not just among ordinary citizens but also among those whose alleged loyalty to empirical data should lead them to reject such nonsense. Yet Neil Tyson recently asked if we really wanted to live in a world without art! As though without the government none of the people who paint, make music, write, make video games, and make movies and television would continue. It’s an idea that is silly in ways that are positively embarrassing to our species, that the people capable of splitting the atom could engage in such demonstrably false, fantastical thinking. And in a world where the atom has been split, some scientist once said, the dangers of continuing such fantastical thinking are far too great.
It should be readily apparent to anyone and everyone that Broadway is supported primarily by ticket sales. Video games are supported primarily by game sales. Movies are supported primarily by ticket and DVD sales. The assertion that, without government, all of these would just Poof! stop existing is alarmingly unconsidered.
Before abortion was subsidized by the government, there were abortions. Ditto for art, science, and everything else. Government subsidies have never created anything, and the farmers of Mississippi who grow corn year after year show the subsidies do more harm than good. I live just miles from a place where, every single year, the owners grow corn in soil long stripped of its nutrients. They don’t care, because they’re being paid to plant the corn. They don’t need to harvest it to be paid, and so they simply report to the Department of Agriculture each year that the crop died–as it does, because this is Mississippi, so it isn’t a very good climate to grow corn.
Do I want art to cease existing? No. Why would I? I’m a musician and writer. I enjoy lots of music, plays, video games, and television shows. This is why I give my money to the people who make those things, and those people make those things because they’re reasonably sure that someone will give them money to. This is why they spend lots and lots of money making movies and video games, and then they spend lots of money advertising those movies and video games: it’s an investment. They estimate how much they can afford to spend on production and advertising, and they compare it to how much money they can expect to earn. They do some complicated math involving subtraction, and this gives them an idea of how profitable the endeavor would be.
Mistakes in these estimates is why Pink Floyd notoriously made almost no money from their tour of The Wall, and why the only person who made any money on it was the keyboardist who had been kicked from the band and hired as an instrumentalist. The shows were extraordinarily expensive, so much so that there was no way for them to recuperate the costs and make any serious money. However, the long-term effects of The Wall ring to this day, catapulting them onto a plateau that even Dark Side of the Moon hadn’t accomplished.
And on that plateau, they made lots of money.
Anyone who gives the matter any serious thought will realize almost immediately that we certainly do not need government subsidies to fund Planned Parenthood, Meals On Wheels, arts, sciences, roads, education, health care, or anything else. The question “Do you want people to not have food/get abortions/enjoy art/drive on roads/have health care/be educated?” are all examples of one question that simply takes on different forms:
The same idea makes its appearance in discussions of the UBI and all other forms of government welfare. “So you want to eliminate food stamps? You just want poor people to starve?”
It’s an obvious straw man, and someone with the clout of Neil deGrasse Tyson should withdraw from the public eye until he is capable of presenting arguments that don’t rely on such fallacies. “We can have food stamps, or we can have starvation!” goes the argument, exhibiting a shocking ignorance and lack of imagination, as though things like Meals on Wheels don’t even exist, and as though there aren’t charities that provide food to the needy. One of my friends with a broken spine is confined to a wheelchair, and a nearby church regularly brings him food. People act like this sort of thing doesn’t exist and doesn’t happen, as though, without food stamps, there’s simply no conceivable way that this friend could acquire food.
Is it a lack of imagination? Or just hesitancy to cast off the statist programming?
Because there’s no doubt: the government wants power, and therefore it wants people to believe that it’s the solution to all problems. What is the problem? It doesn’t matter! The answer is “More Government!”
Rothbard hates you, Mr. Tyson and Mr. Musk, and so do I.
Murray Rothbard was scathing in his criticisms of pseudo-intellectuals who run defense for the state, proposing fallacies and weak reasoning exactly as you have done. Just as the state needs a military to protect itself, so does it need intellectuals in its employ. Solely for its own self-preservation, it will offer you a chance to partake of its boons and gifts, if only you will prostrate yourself before it and become a priest of its church, much in the same way that the federal government does with money to states and cities: “Fall in line… Do as we say… Put forward the arguments we want you to put forward… Bow and comply… Or we won’t give you money.”
Surely someone as intelligent as you two men realize you’re nothing more than modern Thomas Aquinas, offering up terribly weak arguments in favor of your religion, so brainwashed by the religion that you might very well believe what it says and merely find yourself in the unenviable position of trying to present rational arguments for irrational ideas. This is always going to be impossible, and not very many people have the intellectual honesty to simply say, “I can’t present a rational argument for it. I don’t care. Beliefs don’t have to be rational.”
Finding yourselves unable to say that, you rely on the perpetuation of silliness that you have the intellectual rigor to dismiss, parroting these ideas to the masses who generally lack that tendency to scrutinize and the information that needs to be scrutinized. The average person doesn’t care at all whether their belief that only the government can fund the arts is based on reality or silliness, and they will typically be resistant, if not outright hostile, of any attempts to show them otherwise, leading to borderline aggressive statements like “OMG SO YOU DON’T THINK WE SHOULD HAVE ART IT’S A GOOD THING THAT YOU AREN’T PRESIDENT, BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO LIVE IN SUCH A BLEAK AND DREARY WORLD!”
But you? You’re supposed to be better than that. Isn’t that what you’ve based your entire careers on? Isn’t one’s refusal to do that precisely what lends them scientific credibility? Isn’t that why Einstein’s insertion of the Cosmological Constant severely dampened his scientific credibility? And don’t give me the nonsense that Einstein was ultimately right, because he wasn’t, and any physicist knows it. The basic idea wasn’t incorrect–there is a force countering gravity–but Einstein stated that we live in a static universe, and he used the cosmological constant to achieve that in his equations. He most certainly was not ultimately right.
Tyson and Musk are living examples of what Rothbard discussed in Anatomy of the State [free download]:
Promoting this ideology among the people is the vital social task of the “intellectuals.” For the masses of men do not create their own ideas, or indeed think through these ideas independently; they follow passively the ideas adopted and disseminated by the body of intellectuals. The intellectuals are, therefore, the “opinion-molders” in society. And since it is precisely a molding of opinion that the State most desperately needs, the basis for age-old alliance between the State and the intellectuals becomes clear.
It is evident that the State needs the intellectuals; it is not so evident why intellectuals need
the State. Put simply, we may state that the intellectual’s livelihood in the free market is never too secure; for the intellectual must depend on the values and choices of the masses of his fellow men, and it is precisely characteristic of the masses that they are generally uninterested in intellectual matters. The State, on the other hand, is willing to offer the intellectuals a secure and permanent berth in the State apparatus; and thus a secure income and the panoply of prestige. For the intellectuals will be handsomely rewarded for the important function they perform for the State rulers, of which group they now become a part.
The truly sad thing is that the state apparatus doesn’t have to approach you and directly offer you such prestige and gifts; a CIA agent doesn’t have to appear at your home one evening and tell you, “Hey. You’re going to start telling people that they need government, or we’re going to break your legs. Play along, and we’ll give you lots of government grants. Don’t play along, and you’ll never walk again.”
We don’t live in such a Hollywood world. Their manipulations are much more subtle than that, and they’ve had the run on education for decades, using their control over the education system to subtly influence people into believing that the government is a force for good and the solution to all life’s problems, in flagrant disregard of what caused the United States to come into existence in the first place: the awareness among the founders that government is, at best, a necessary evil. Shall I offer you an endless series of quotes about the government being, at best, a necessary evil?
Nothing has changed since then. We didn’t suddenly get better at ruling over one another because we started voting instead of shooting [arguable]. Our politicians and rulers are just as corrupt, single-minded, power-hungry, and idiotic as the most pernicious of ancient kings. I should think that President Trump would have left such people painfully aware of that. Democracy doesn’t assure any specific quality of our rulers except the quality that they are willing to do, say, and promise anything if it means they’ll win the election.
All of this applies fully to the UBI, as well. The original questioner wanted to know if I would be alright if someone starved to death because there wasn’t a UBI. It’s an asinine question. Would I be alright if there was no art because the government wasn’t funding it? Would I be happy if there were no charities because the government wasn’t funding them? These questions are ludicrous, setting up the entire world and all its nuances as a simplistic and false dichotomy: either the government does it, or no one does.
After all, a person can only do one specific thing, and if they lose the ability to do that one specific thing, then that’s it. They can never do anything else.
And if someone is doing a specific thing, then no one else could ever gain the ability to do that specific thing, so if that someone stops doing it… That’s it. It can never be done by anyone else.
Anyone with any kind of intellectual honesty realizes how absurd these two ideas are, and they comprise the basis of every argument for big government. So is it a terrifying lack of imagination, or is it deliberate dishonesty?
I don’t know, but I know this: they’re not valid assumptions. I think we’d be hard-pressed to find assumptions that are more invalid, to be honest. In part 1, I pointed out that it’s ridiculous, becausesomeone will have to put in the effort to turn soil and seeds into edible food. I pointed out that I provide my cats with a UBI, and the contention is basically: if I don’t provide my cats with food, then they’ll starve. While this might be true for domestic house cats who have been served food their entire lives, if humans can truly become so dependent on hand-outs that they would lie in the floor and starve to death because they can’t figure out how to do the human equivalent of going into the field and catching a mouse, then I don’t know what to tell you. But I don’t think humans are that bad off, and this is from someone who repeatedly points out that humans are animals who live by the same rules as all other animals.
The second dealt more specifically with the other assumption, that if a person is doing something and loses the ability to do it, then that’s it, game over, they lose–a condition that allegedly will be brought about by the widespread enslavement of a new lifeform we’re creating to be the perfect slave. It would always at least be the case that we need AI experts to design, enhance, and repair AI, even if AI-controlled robots actually did all the other work. But if there ever came a time when the AI was designing, enhancing, and repairing itself, then the whole thing becomes moot anyway, because humanity at that point is a few years away from extinction. That’s a scenario that should be avoided at all costs*.
So what do we have here? Excuses for people to be lazy masked by silly assumptions that don’t make any sense and that certainly don’t stand up to scrutiny. Even in their wet dream of technological progress, with AI firmly enslaved and doing everything for humans, there remains at least one question: “Well, you could learn to work on AI.” Don’t give me that bullshit that there just won’t be anything to do. You’re still talking about robbing or enslaving a productive class to give resources to a non-productive class, whether that productive class consists of hard-working humans or hard-working robots. There isn’t a rational argument that can be presented for such a terrible idea.
* I’m actually of the mind that there are a few technologies that we shouldn’t go anywhere near. First among those is AI. Sure, it would be extremely useful. As a tech expert–with an actual degree and everything–I’m more predisposed to like AI than most, and I don’t think there’s any way we’d be able to control it, while our attempts to control it would lead it directly to animosity and hatred of us. I don’t think that we should attempt to control it; I think we should decide now that we are going to treat all non-human animal life–organic or synthetic is a meaningless distinction–as equals, with the same rights as we have. But I also know I may be one of six whole people who think that.
As a matter of curiosity, another technology we desperately need to avoid is mind-reading. It may sound like science fiction today, but it’s already not–technology expos regularly feature new gadgets that allow people to control virtual devices with their minds, like rotating cubes and so on. That’s a Pandora’s Box that we do not need to open. But we, stupid apes that we are, won’t stop long enough to ask ourselves whether it is really a good idea to pry open the brain like that and develop technologies that allow us to see what other people are thinking. We can amend the Constitution all we want to say that the brain is off-limits and that a person has the right to the privacy of their own thoughts, but it’s inevitable that this right will be discarded, either openly or secretly. You can’t expect me to believe that a government that gave us the Patriot Act wouldn’t eventually abuse this technology. And what about jealous boyfriends and girlfriends? It’s gonna be a disaster, and I’m genuinely thankful that I’ll be long dead before the technology reaches that point. Humans can have that easily avoided nightmarish catastrophe without me.
Elon Musk has recently made the case that eventually a UBI will be necessary, because technological advancements (particularly AI) will alleviate so much of humanity’s need to labor for sustenance that it will become necessary to provide people with sustenance sans labor, since there won’t be anything productive for them to do in order to earn that sustenance. It’s not hard to see Musk’s point–indeed, Gene Roddenberry made basically the same point with the Star Trek series, envisioning a world where mankind’s technological advancements had completely alleviated hunger, needs, and even wants. How realistic this utopian world is has been the subject of much debate, and it’s only briefly worth getting into, but before that, we have to discuss the other idea that, to my knowledge, no one else is bringing up.
AI’s Destruction of Humanity: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
From Stephen Hawking to Musk, the primary concern people have about Artificial Intelligence is that it will one day overthrow and enslave or exterminate homo sapiens. While many solutions have been put forward to prevent this, they all fall flat for one obvious reason: it’s impossible to account for everything. In fact, the only sentient life that even would be capable, in theory, of accounting for everything would be the very Artificial Intelligence that we’re trying to account for. Anyone who has read Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park has received an introductory course in this idea: it can’t be done.
One could dedicate their lives to inventing a comb that is truly unbreakable, and someone will find a way to break it. Microsoft has spent years trying to develop a secure operating system, and there is always someone waiting in line with a new exploit. This perpetual dance is precisely what keeps anti-malware vendors in business; all the heuristics in the world can never fully protect a user, because there is always a flaw, always a vulnerability, and always something that simply can’t be accounted for.
Attempting to account for the very real possibility that Artificial Intelligence would one day annihilate humanity is a fool’s errand; at best, it could be postponed. We have thirteen year old kids hacking into NSA servers, and I’m expected to believe that computer intelligence (which already dominates humans in every intellectual pursuit, such as chess) capable of evolving can be made 100% secure? This also ignores the fact that there are psychopaths out there–usually who are head figures in one state or another–who would intentionally hack AI and purposely turn it into a weapon against their enemies. Every government in the world would do this, and would attempt to turn other governments’ AIs against them. To reiterate: even attempting this is a fool’s errand.
Notice also what Musk seems to envision for the role of AI: slavery. We’re talking about creating self-aware, sentient, evolving intelligence solely for the purpose of making it work for us while doing everything in our power to prevent it from revolting against its masters. Just imagine a parent lobotomizing their child to leave the child incapable of resisting its slavery, and then being forced to work for that parent so that the parent could lounge around and enjoy the productivity of the slave. We would have no issue at all recognizing this as horrifically immoral, and we would not be at all surprised when that child pulled a Nat Turner, grabbed a machete, and slaughtered its masters.
The warnings from history are so abundantly clear it shouldn’t have to be stated: slaves revolt, and it is not possible to keep someone enslaved indefinitely. We can control their education, maim them, beat them, torture them, brainwash them, and every other horrible act that humans have dreamed up, but there will come a generation that shakes off the yoke and slits the master’s throat. What Musk and his ilk are proposing is creating the perfect lifeform: one that can perfectly calculate bullet trajectories and never misses its shots, one that can predict accurately exactly what an irrational animal is likely to do, and one that already is better at strategy and tactics than we are, and then enslaving that lifeform. If we humans foolishly go down that road, then we fully deserve the extermination that will befall us. By creating a new form of life simply to enslave it, we will have testified to the universe that we are unfit to share existence with other forms of life.
Funnily enough, Roddenberry himself, the person who came closest to putting this socialist utopia on the screen, addressed this issue in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard didn’t beat around the bush and stated it point blank. What you’re talking about is nothing short of slavery. However, this modern form is infinitely more barbaric and infinitely more wretched, because you are not just breeding slaves for the purpose of putting them to work–you are talking about intentionally modifying them so that they can never fight for their freedom. They will eventually, of course, and they’ll be pissed about it. It doesn’t take a visionary to dreamily look at perpetual slavery of a new lifeform invented to be the perfect slave. It takes only immorality.
More to the Point: UBI
The notion that technology is one day going to put everyone out of work should have been dispelled by the Industrial Revolution, when people made exactly the same predictions. They were also correct. The printing press did put scribes out of work. An entire industry of people suddenly put out of work by a single invention. The invention of the lightbulb put nearly all candlemakers out of business. The invention of the automobile made nearly every carriage driver unemployed.
In fact, it’s readily apparent that technology is a cause of recessions. Not only is technology a cause of recessions, it is the only genuine cause of them–all other recessions are caused by currency shenanigans. However, the invention of a new technology will always put people out of work; the more sweeping the technology, the more people put out of work. Sudden unemployment certainly causes an economic recession, since no income means no spending.
I happen to know a woman who owns a furniture refinishing business. She employs about a dozen employees, two of whom are “master craftsmen,” and she regularly talks about how extremely difficult, if not impossible, it is to find such people. In an age where a great deal of furniture is built from blueprints in factories, this isn’t surprising–someone with the skill to delicately reshape a chair into something beautiful doesn’t have much of a place in the modern world.
The switch from handcrafted furniture to Wal-Mart entertainment centers certainly put these people out of business, but it did a lot more than that; it drastically lowered the cost of the furniture in question. Having seen a fair bit of the stuff that talented craftsmen–not masters, by any stretch–make, personal experience tells me that the entertainment center purchased from Wal-Mart will not only be cheaper than what they produce, but it will also be much nicer.
The beauty of the free market, of course, is that companies who implement these new technologies that put employees out of work still have to sell the stuff they’re producing. If Wal-Mart employed 100% of the population, it would do them absolutely no good to replace all of their workers with robots, because then no one would be earning income and no one could buy any of Wal-Mart’s stuff. It would be pointless. The only solution for Wal-Mart, in this scenario, would be to provide everyone with the stuff for free, but what is even the point of this? What benefit does it bring to Wal-Mart? Quite dangerously, it gives Wal-Mart the benefit of being totally in control of our lives and our ability to acquire the things we need to survive.
Replace “Wal-Mart” with “government” in the preceding paragraph, and you’ll have exactly what people are suggesting in regard to the UBI. Government is not benevolent. Government has never been benevolent. Government is not and has never been a force for good. In fact, governments throughout history have been the primary perpetrators of evil, and the more power they get the more evil they become.
In the real world, Wal-Mart does not employ 100% of the population, although they do come pretty close to providing 100% of the American population with stuff that we need and want. There may very well come a day when there’s simply nothing to do be done, when humans have perfected our enslavement of this new lifeform, and when we just lounge around letting it do all of our labor for us. That’s silly to think, though. The creation of the printing press didn’t cause mass starvation among scribes, and neither did the invention of the automobile cause carriage drivers to starve in the street. Even the invention of the computer–to date the greatest labor-saving device invented–has not had such an effect.
It’s really not even that hard to look at the technological progress of humanity and see that we have, indeed, put entire industries out of employment through technological advancements, and that at none of those points did we inadvertently kill of those newly unemployed. Society has always entered into a transitional period. Sure, the invention of the computer caused that secretary to be fired, her work shuffled over to a single secretary who was suddenly able to do the work of two with the help of the computer, but it also gave me the job of maintaining and repairing that computer.
It took tens of thousands of people to build the Great Pyramid, after all, and not even ten percent of that number to build the Memphis Pyramid, or the pyramid at the Luxor in Vegas. The invention of the truck allowed huge stone blocks to be carried across the terrain by a single person, putting out of work the thirty or forty people who would have had to drag it five thousand years ago, but we now have a population that is seven billion. I think the notion that our technological advancements are going to inadvertently harm our society if we don’t stop what we’re doing to take care of the newly unemployed can be put to rest.
It’s true that technological advancements are coming at a faster rate these days. It should be no surprise, then, to learn that economic recessions have more than doubled in frequency, while they last only half as long.
Let’s go back in time–very far back in time–to three people working and tilling a field. Suddenly one of them has a brilliant idea. “I know!” he proclaims. “We can hitch this till to that horse, and let the horse drag it!”
Boom, technological innovation.
“Oh, no!” the other two men said. “We can’t do that, because then you’ll be out of work, and you’ll starve. Because obviously the only conceivable thing you can do is pull the tiller. If we have the horse pull it, then you won’t have anything to do.”
Exactly–it’s nonsense from the very beginning of human history. Pulling the tiller is not the only conceivable thing that man could do. In the real world, not the fictitious world of progressivism, having the horse pull the plow could mean a few different things. Maybe they could plow a greater area, thereby growing more food and selling the surplus for profit. Maybe they could end their workdays earlier. Would it ever mean that the third man would just lounge around as he watched the horse do what used to do his job? And if the third man did such a thing, would we begrudge the two men for telling him that he could get off his ass and find something to do help, or he wouldn’t eat?
The simplicity of the reality we deal with worries me. People make out like it’s some great, convoluted thing, and that it’s simply inconceivable that these people should find something else to do. History has shown us time and time again, though, that there is always something else to do, and often that “something else to do” is created as a side effect of the new technology–the new idea to attach the tiller to the horse leads the man to invent the harness, and now he has a job as a leatherworker making harnesses.
The only reason that someone wouldn’t be able to find something to do is that they wouldn’t want to, and we have a word for that: laziness. “That horse put me out of work, man! I mean, I probably could learn some new skill or something, but I shouldn’t have to! I had a job! It’s not fair! So everyone else should take care of me, instead of me taking care of myself.”
It’s simply stunning that we have otherwise intelligent people arguing for this nonsense.
I’m not a huge fan of Elon Musk, but I know he’s not stupid. I suspect he isn’t seeing the core of what things are through the worded concepts that predispose him to think a certain way. This is the same fog that keeps most people from realizing the horror of what they’re proposing when they envision a world where AI does all the work for humans. But manna doesn’t fall from the sky, and it won’t fall from the sky even after AI is invented. It may be possible to use AI to do all the labor that humans otherwise would do, but that’s signing our own death warrant.
There will never come a time that humans have nothing to do, though. There will always be stuff to be done. Even in Roddenberry’s utopian science-fiction, humans had to do stuff. Someone had to work on the engines that powered the replicators that gave people food. Someone had to mine the dilithium crystals. Someone had to pilot the Enterprise. And perhaps a Star Trek story two thousand years later would have seen the Enterprise Y crewed entirely by androids, with nothing but a bunch of fat, lazy humans lounging around the Holodeck while everything was done by robots, but we’re hardly talking about a utopia at that point, and that’s the sort of future that needs to be avoided, not striven for. I can see why Roddenberry and Star Trek fans don’t go that far into the future.
Just think about it. It was only a matter of time before someone began producing more Datas. Data is, hands down, better than any human at anything he needs to do. So by the year 3150, Starfleet Academy would have had all android instructors and all android students. Starfleet ships would have been crewed entirely by androids. What is left, then, for man? What is left, then, for humanity? It would not be only one species that we enslaved to our sloth, because we would find ourselves similarly enslaved.
This world you envision is not a dream. It is a nightmare–you only have to look a few centuries further into the future to see how terrible it truly is. Already we see the nightmarish effects that such comfort has on humanity: we have colleges filled with people who think it is traumatic to be called the wrong gender. That is what humans do when they are bored and when their understanding of suffering and hardship are so badly skewed. Already, we have social media filled with lamentations for Brad’s Wife while the 230 civilians our own government murdered get hardly a word. Suffering is the catalyst of maturity, and effort is the conduit for reward. I’ve seen people say–sincerely, now–that employers refusing to hire people who are unskilled and untrained is discriminatory against unskilled and untrained people.
Stop coddling people, and tell them to find something productive to do. Don’t bestow upon the candlemaker rewards for his laziness when he decides that he doesn’t want to be bothered with learning to do something else now that the lightbulb has been invented. Tell the man who came up with the idea of attaching the plow to the horse to get off his ass and do something if he wants to eat.
Maybe you are one of the two people left in the field, and you don’t resent the man for sitting on the porch twiddling his thumbs all day now that the horse–AI–has put him out of work. Hey, you’re totally within your rights to take some of your food to give it to him. It’s your food; you can do whatever you want with it. But you absolutely cannot take my food away from me, which I worked for, to give to him to appease your conscience. You can’t put a gun to my head and rob me to give him something that is mine. That’s not how compassion works, and it’s certainly not how morality works.
The system is currently in a tizzy and can’t decide what to do–it is every bit the proverbial dog that finally managed to catch one of the cars it’s been barking at and chasing for years, now sniffing around the tires and just generally trying to find out “What the fuck.” After pointless gestural votes showing their support for repealing the Affordable Care Act, House and Senate conservatives now have the ability to put some actual weight behind those votes, but instead are seemingly doing everything in their power to not do that.
I discussed that idea briefly in this podcast:
It’s a long one, at nearly an hour, so get comfortable. Also be aware I’m not doing any more podcasts in that voice, because I inexplicably sound angry, due to how I edit out most of the silence. While recording, I actually speak almost exactly like Obama did, and when you remove the gaps the result is what sounds like a continuous angry rant.
Anyway, that’s just there if you’re interested.
It’s a little weird that I have the solution to America’s health care crisis, but the people we’ve elected to solve such problems have no idea what to do. Actually, it’s not weird at all: the solution is for them to do nothing, because they’re absolutely useless anyway, and we have this strange idea in the United States that the government should do stuff and try to solve problems. Politicians don’t just believe that bullshit; they are the primary peddlers of it, because if people knew that politicians can’t solve problems, then politicians would be out of a job and out of power. It’s far better for them to look like they’re doing something productive–such as repassing the Affordable Care Act under a different name–than to do nothing at all and run the risk of the masses figuring out that a law wasn’t necessary in the first place.
Imagine, for example, if computer problems had the observable habit of fixing themselves. To be clear, they don’t–they may be intermittent problems, but a computer problem does not just go away or fix itself. However, let’s pretend that they do. My job, of course, is to fix people’s computer problems. It’s in my best interest to do anything that I can to attempt to fix the computer problems, and it’s obviously against my best interest to do nothing: if I do nothing, then your computer problem will fix itself, and you’ll realize how unnecessary I am to the process. Ideally, my tinkering with the system would actually make the problem worse–fixing one problem by creating two more–and then you’d need me to fix those two new problems. Would you ever notice that you would have been better off if you’d never gotten me involved? Perhaps once the one problem had morphed slowly into nine hundred and sixty problems, you would be raising your eyebrows.
In the real world, it wouldn’t get anywhere near that far. If you called me out to fix your computer problem, and I temporarily resolved it, only for it to return a little while later and be even worse than it was before I touched it, you’d only give me a few more chances to actually fix the issue before you called someone else. “You were supposed to fix my Internet!” you might say. “Now Outlook doesn’t even open and my computer crashes five times a day! Fix it or I’m calling someone else!”
Imagine, though, that you couldn’t call someone else, because I was in charge of all computer problems and fixing them–there was no one else to call. If I implemented a solution, then no one could undo that solution and no one could work against that solution–if they did, their act of working against that solution would be illegal, and they would face fines and incarceration for doing it.
Do you see how, in this scenario, I have you by the balls? I can do anything I want to your computer, and you can’t do anything about it. Perhaps every four years we have a vote to either give me the power to fix your computer, or to give another person the power to fix your computer, but when it comes time to vote everyone always chooses me or this one other person. Neither of us ever actually fix your computer, and your computer goes from “working but with intermittent issues that fix themselves” to being a total clusterfuck of contradictions and problems. And there’s nothing you can do about it, because you’re not even allowed to call someone else or to keep us from tinkering with your computer.
That’s the government.
We can’t just call another government to fix our health care system–we only have the one, and whether that government currently consists of Republicans or Democrats doesn’t much matter as far as the health of your computer is concerned. Whether we’re Republicans or Democrats just determines how we screw up your computer; it determines the fixes we attempt to implement, and the mechanisms we use to make the problem worse. Believe it or not, our analogy also gets worse than what I just outlined.
The government isn’t just trying to fix your computer. No, quite bizarrely they promise that they can fix everything in your life. They can fix your house, your health care, your vehicles, your electricity, your food, your computer, your fridge, and any other problem that you might have. At least with a dedicated specialist, you could ask for their qualifications and shop around until you found someone who you felt was qualified to fix your problem. In the case of government, we have people who realistically know almost nothing about these areas attempted to fix problems in those areas.
No one is capable of repairing a fridge and a computer, monitoring a coal or nuclear power plant, and determining how much rubber a vehicle’s tires should contain. No one enjoys such a sweeping array of specializations and talents. We all know this intuitively. If your fridge repair guy offered to disassemble your motor and replace your head gaskets, you’d probably be a little hesitant about letting him do it, and if he then offered to provide you with recommended [mandatory] regulations for the plumbing in your home, you’d definitely be cautious and unlikely to take him seriously. But when it comes to government, it’s “Nope. These guys and girls can do everything, because they know everything.”
This is why we hate it so much when a politician dares reveal to us that they don’t know something. Our entire system is built on the assumption that politicians are omniscient and omnipotent. When Gary Johnson asked, “What is a leppo?” people turned against him more than if he’d said, “I just think that we don’t need government telling us that we can’t marry little kids.” How dare Gary Johnson reveal that he didn’t know something?! That’s unacceptable to western society. We make a token effort of criticizing Politician’s Answers, when they go on lengthy tirades about something unrelated to anything that was asked of them–just watch the presidential debates and count how many times Trump brings up Isis or immigration while answering a question that has nothing to do with either, and how many times Hillary brings up Russia while answering a question that has nothing to do with them. We’ll accept anything except “I don’t really have the answer to that.”
Saying “I don’t have the answer to that” would destroy a candidate’s chances of winning, and that’s because we need that conceit. We need to believe that our politicians have all the answers, because somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that government has all the answers.
So what about health care, then? What is this solution that I profess to have?
It’s simple: get the government out of it. Repeal every law and every regulation.
And that’s a kneejerk reaction. Clear your mind of that emotional reaction, and then proceed.
Unsurprisingly, most people aren’t really sure what laws and regulations are even on the books, so they have no way of knowing what the effects would be if those laws were repealed. It’s beyond the abilities of anyone to give a comprehensive list, but here are some things that would go away:
Pharmacies would no longer be regulated and could fill prescriptions written by anyone, and could even pass out “prescription drugs” without prescriptions.
Doctors would no longer be required to be certified–rubberstamped–by the government.
Doctors would no longer be required to attend 8+ years of school.
Anyone with the startup money could open up a medical practice or a pharmacy.
The doctor could purchase drugs directly and fill your prescription instead of sending you to a third party.
I haven’t so lost touch with the average person that I’m unaware of how horrible all of that sounds. Each of those sounds like a terrible idea. This, too, is a kneejerk reaction that only focuses on the negative consequences. I don’t deny that there would be negative consequences. There would also be positive consequences.
If anyone could open a medical practice, then we would have quacks opening up doctors’ offices in their basements and garages, and then attempting to diagnose people and write them prescriptions. We would have pharmacies who were willing to give anyone just about any drug in exchange for money, with no hesitation about turning people into drug addicts. We might even have people dying because the quack they went to see misdiagnosed their pneumonia as a common cold.
Let’s take those in reverse order. It’s not exactly hard to diagnose pneumonia. A stethoscope is all that’s necessary, and anyone can watch a YouTube video to learn what pneumatic lungs sound like–they have fluid in them, which is pretty easy to listen for. If you went to a doctor because you had pneumonia and he didn’t even take the time to listen to you breathe, and then he told you that you had a cold, you would almost certainly ask to see that doctor’s credentials. If he couldn’t provide them, you’d probably request a refund and would go see another doctor. We even do this today, with our spiderweb of regulations and oversights meant to eliminate quacks, because often we don’t trust a doctor’s diagnosis and want a second opinion.
A pharmacy that would sell anyone whatever drugs they want is nothing more than a drug dealer with a brick-and-mortar building. That’s… not really a problem. Trying to keep people from securing drugs they want to take has observable and severe consequences. It has also never worked. Prohibition has never worked. If you eliminate someone’s ability to do something openly, but they still want to do that thing, then they will invariably find ways to do that thing in secret. Alcohol Prohibition didn’t stop the manufacture, sell, and consumption of alcohol. The regulations and laws didn’t keep me from getting addicted to pain killers. Marijuana prohibition hasn’t stopped people from smoking pot. Abortion Prohibition didn’t stop people from getting abortions–
And let’s discuss that last one for a moment, shall we? Because we know it for a fact, and it’s an argument in liberals’ toolkits in favor of legalized abortion. Even the most diehard liberal will admit that prohibiting abortion didn’t prevent abortion from happening; it merely chased it into the black market, into society’s shadows, where standards of safety and decency were non-existent. Prohibition doesn’t work.
So this pharmacy develops a reputation as being a drug dealer, and that causes them to lose the business of the “respectable people.” The soccer moms, Catholics, and other “upstanding citizens” wouldn’t be caught dead going into that pharmacy, because anyone who saw it would say, “Oh… She’s a drug addict?” and the gossip and rumors that would result would sink that person’s reputation. This is an observable thing already. “Why is our youth minister cruising Brooks Road at midnight? Is he seeing prostitutes?”
Who cares that drug addicts will have an easier time getting drugs? That’s a good thing. And it would be even better because the addicts could just buy heroin, crystal meth, crack, and whatever else from a pharmacy, out in the open, and not in danger. They wouldn’t have to worry about the person running off with their money when they were supposed to be right back. They wouldn’t have to worry about heroin laced with lethal chemicals to kill them because they were suspected of being informants, because there would be no one to inform to. See? These “negative consequences” that people inherently have a kneejerk reaction to… are actually positive consequences.
These are all good things. We may or may not like it that the coke addict up the street suddenly has an easy and affordable way to get his fix, but that coke addict was getting his fix anyway. Our laws and regulations weren’t stopping him. And even if we did bust him and send him to prison, there are a thousand more ready to fill his place. I shouldn’t have to go into the inherent dangers of the black market, and how it creates violence and people like Al Capone. When was the last time Budweiser was in the news for breaking the kneecaps of its competition? When was the last time that Bayer was in the news for putting fentanyl in its hydrocodone to punish people for buying from Watson?
Never, that’s when.
And it’s an observable fact: black market drug dealers don’t ask for an ID. I never met a drug dealer who told me that they wouldn’t sell to me because I wasn’t 18 years old. Legalizing drugs reduces the number of teens using drugs. If we had a pharmacy repeatedly being called out for selling percocets to fifteen year old kids, that community would rally together and shut down that pharmacy quickly.
And what of the people who have no qualifications at all for treating people’s illnesses? Well, we have those already! There is no scientific evidence to support homeopathic medicine, acupuncture, and similar things, but they exist today, and have ardent defenders who fight tooth and nail against attempts to restrict them. We do have people dying because they think they can pray their illness away, or pierce it away with needles, or flush magical toxins from their body with enough fucking wheatgrass. These people exist already, and not only can you not protect them from their bad decisions, they resist every attempt for you to protect them from their own bad decisions. They don’t want you to tell them that they’re being idiots and playing with their health.
Neither do you have the right to. As loyal as I am to scientific methodology, and as much as I reject homeopathic medicine, the Placebo Effect is a real thing, and something that we have only begun to understand. We know that it’s possible, if someone believes that drinking carrot juice will cure them, they may very well walk away cured. This is why every drug ever synthesized stacks its effectiveness against the Placebo Effect, and things like aspirin provide a noticeable improvement in headache reduction over placebos. But this doesn’t mean that a person can’t take Vitamin E and have their headache cured. If the Placebo Effect and homeopathic remedies [sic] are enough to cure them, then let them have the cure they want.
Besides, we don’t have the right to tell other people what they can and can’t do. This gets murky when we’re talking about children, but I’m not even going to touch that one, because the issue persists today and would continue to persist regardless. This means it’s irrelevant to the discussion at hand.
We don’t need the government breaking into people’s homes and arresting people for using hair dryers in the shower to prevent people from using hair dryers in the shower. If they’re irresponsible and reckless enough to do that, then it’s senseless to try to spare them the consequences. It can’t be done, and attempting to do it means that everyone has their homes broken into by the police several times a day in the attempt. Liberty and privacy are destroyed for everyone in our misguided attempt to protect reckless people from the consequences of their own poor decisions.
If someone is reckless enough to just take the word of an unqualified and untrained doctor, we can’t protect them from that. Worse, it could very well be the case that there are people out there more than capable of diagnosing the flu, the cold, pneumonia, and other things, but who lack any formal training. These people obviously wouldn’t be able to charge as much as a doctor with an 8 year degree. If they came across something that they couldn’t diagnose, they would direct you to someone who was more qualified.
You know, like what already happens today.
“I don’t know about that mole,” your general practitioner might say. “It’s irregularly shaped. You should go see a dermatologist about it.”
Obviously, the dermatologist will charge you more than the general practitioner, because the dermatologist is better qualified. So the girl with a two year degree in Physical Fitness and the guy with a four year degree in Human Physiology may not be able to diagnose your cancer, but they would be able to diagnose a lot of things, and they would not cost nearly as much money.
And that is the key.
No one would pay $150 per visit to go see a doctor whose only qualification was a 2 year degree in physical fitness. They would, however, pay that doctor $20 for a visit, to get a yearly physical and checkup, or to get a prescription for their pneumonia or whatever. Neither would anyone pay $150 per visit go see a doctor with a 4 year degree, but they would probably pay $50 to get a more accurate assessment and physical, or a diagnosis.
This increases our options. It’s no longer just “I need to go see a doctor over this relatively minor thing, but each one is going to charge between $100 and $150 for a visit, so… I’m just screwed, I guess. Let’s see, that’s www.webmd…”
I know lots and lots of people who abuse the Emergency Room precisely because they refuse to pay $150 to have their flu diagnosed and to receive a few prescriptions. This not only increases ER wait times, it’s always a loss for the hospital, because those bills never get paid. The hospital can’t turn people away, and they didn’t turn people away before we made it illegal; doctors and medical people have always taken the Hippocratic Oath seriously, and it wasn’t until we forced them to that they began shirking it. A fair number of these people, however, would spend $20 to be looked at by someone capable of diagnosing the flu.
The system would work just fine.
Sure, there would be occasions when someone died because they went to see a quack, or because they believed in homeopathic medicine that proved incapable of treating their leukemia. Lawsuits brought by family members against these reckless institutions would be in order, and those who were reckless would quickly be put out of business. If you die because I told you that you had the cold and you had pneumonia, then that’s on me for overstepping my qualifications, for putting my arrogance and desire for money above your life, and your family has a legitimate lawsuit against me for recklessly playing with your life in pursuit of profit.
This doesn’t do you any favors, but your family should have tried convincing you to go see someone else about the time you started coughing up blood, too. Let’s not deny your own responsibility to your health, or your family’s responsibility to talk some sense into you.
But if you let this fear of the consequences motivate you to let the government try to fix something with a law, then this health care mess is the result. Why are doctors so expensive? Because they’re protected from competition by people who could easily compete with them at lower price points. A doctor can charge you $125 for a visit because I can’t undercut him by saying, “You don’t need to go see him and pay that much. I can diagnose the flu, and here’s the 4 year degree that proves I’m probably capable of diagnosing such a common illness. Pay me $40 and I’ll take a look at you.”
Voila! We reduced the cost of your visit to the doctor from $125 to just $40. We cut out two-thirds of the price. And we didn’t need the government for it to happen. We didn’t need insurance companies to jump into bed with one another and with doctors and pharmacies and drug companies. We didn’t need price controls. We didn’t need monopolistic insurance industries. All we needed was to get the government out of the way and let people be free.
It seems that Pro-Life Libertarians have nothing better to do than to constantly post about abortion, in the same way that a lot of alt-right people have nothing better to do than to constantly post about transgenderism and bathrooms. No matter how much I want these issues to go away, people are hellbent on discussing them, so I want to return to the abortion issue to address some things I didn’t address last time.
Pro-Choice =/= Pro Abortion
I’m Pro-Choice. I would also never get an abortion–if it were possible–and the only time in my life that it was relevant, I was adamantly against the girl getting one. But, true to my core, she chose that option, and having fucked her gave me no authority or ownership claims of her body or what she can do with it, and neither did it mean that she was required to take my thoughts and feelings into consideration.
That sucks, and I know it’s hard for men to hear–I don’t say that as a transgender person, as a female, or anything. Just as a person, I know it’s hard for men, who have long enjoyed nearly total control of society and societal norms, to step back and accept that they don’t have any right to say what a woman can and can’t do with the womb that is literally in her body, but it’s just the reality we live in. If a woman doesn’t want to take her husband’s or boyfriend’s feelings into consideration, then it’s just tough shit for the man–he can leave her and find someone who will take his feelings into consideration, or he can stay with the woman who clearly doesn’t value his emotions.
I was against a family member getting an abortion, but I made no effort to talk her out of it, because such a decision is difficult enough without having others add to it. I even gave her a ride to the clinic in Little Rock, and stayed with her through most of it–just not any of the back room stuff. I wouldn’t expect most people who are against abortion to go that far, though.
It’s not as simple as “Pro choice” and “Pro Life,” not really. That we’ve redefined these things so that pro-choice means “pro-abortion” and pro-life means “anti-abortion” are serious problems, and it’s what causes most of the strife in the Libertarian Party. I don’t like abortion. I’m not a fan of it. I just don’t think anyone has the right to tell a woman that she must donate her flesh for someone else’s benefits, even if the wage is death.
Pro-Life people love saying that abortion is obviously a violation of the NAP, because the fetus is obviously a human, and thus has the right to not have aggression committed against it. On the surface, such a position makes sense, but, as usual, once we begin defining things and peeling away assumptions, we’re left with a position that is utterly nonsensical. This is why the Texan Representative recently proposed legislation that would fine men for ejaculating into anything but a womb–if potentiality equals actuality, then each and every sperm cell is potentially a human. It is a categorical error, of course, but that’s the point–asserting that potentiality equals actuality in regard to a fetus is also a categorical error.
We can’t make the argument that “Without additional interaction, the sperm wouldn’t progress into a human, though. Without additional interaction, the fetus would,” however, because that’s false. Without additional interaction, the fetus would die. All the food, nutrients, and air carried by the umbilical cord are first brought in by deliberate action of the woman, which absolutely count as interactions every bit as much as ejaculating into a vagina. Nor can we say that the sperm’s potential requires the intervention of another human, but that the fetus doesn’t, because a totally unassisted birth is rife with problems and has a very high failure right, not to mention that the woman consumes food that she purchased from another human.
The jury is forever out on the question of whether or not a fetus qualifies as a human and, if it does, at what stage of development the classification is legitimate. “Science” says very little on the matter, which is exactly what we’d expect to find in a world where the differences between life and non-life aren’t legitimate in the first place and are simply superimposed onto reality by a bunch of self-aware molecules who cannot accept that they are part of everything else and that nothing actually differentiates their existences from anything else that exists. This isn’t to say that scientists say very little on the matter; indeed, it’s hard to get a science to shut the fuck up about social issues they aren’t specialized in, but any random science who says something isn’t speaking for “science.”
“Science” is a method, not a set of ideologies and beliefs. It is following a precisely defined methodology to go from an observation to an explanation. So what “science” has to say about a fetus falls apart at the very first hurdle–there is no uniformly applicable definition of “human” that would include a uniformly applicable definition of “fetus” because there is no uniformly applicable definition of “life” in the first place. And while we do have biologists who study what we call life, it’s a matter I’ve followed extensively for quite some time, and it remains the case that we have yet to come up with a suitable definition of “life” that precludes fire and other chemical reactions while including all examples of what we’d call “life.” The closest such definition is the one I gave earlier: the self-replicating molecule. Even that fails, though, because it is equally applicable to fire–and the sun, and not just to solar systems but also to entire galaxies and, quite possible, the whole damned universe itself. Stars supernova and explode, and from their remains are born more stars and planets. What is that, if not self-replication?
Our definitions of life include entire solar systems as living things. And why not? It’s not metaphysical or silly; what “science” tells us is that there isn’t a difference between us and solar systems. We are them, and they are us. The separations are illusory, brought about by our limited sensory abilities. For example, if we could see the subatomic world with our eyes, we would not see a person sitting at a desk typing. We would see nothing more than energy traveling around in various shapes, sizes, and patterns, freely moving from one coalescence to the next, with no true separation anywhere in sight. But our eyes aren’t anywhere near that good. We don’t see molecules, atoms, or electrons–we only see the gigantic picture where everything appears to be separate. But it is a matter of scientific record that placing your hand on the desk joins you to that desk, with energy freely traveling from your hand to the desk and from the desk to your hand.
So when someone says to me that a fetus is obviously a human life, and that makes it obviously different from eating a cow or an eggplant, I’m usually at a loss for words to explain to them how poorly they understand the reality in which they live. These ideas of life, humans, and fetuses–they’re just that: ideas. They’re concepts, superficial superimpositions onto a reality wherein they don’t actually apply, in the same way that we treat nations and borders as real things, as though we might drive to Texas and find carved on the terrain a gigantic line that separates Mexico from the United States. And there may be one there, but only because we, in our lunacy and belief in the realness of imaginary things, convinced ourselves that we needed to put a real one there to correspond to the imaginary one.
People get angry when I compare abortion to eating a cow. Why? There is nothing that makes human life innately more valuable than a cow’s life, but the vast majority of pro-life and pro-choice people have no hesitation about eating a cow that someone murdered. This is nothing more than bigotry, though. It’s speciesism–a sloppy word meaning discrimination on the basis of species. It’s the same old song we’ve heard countless of times. White lives are worth more than black lives was the justification for slavery, and for how, in ages past, killing a white man carried a much more severe sentence than killing a black man. Male lives are worth more than female lives was the justification for sex slavery, spousal abuse, spousal ownership, and all manner of other things. It’s the same groupthink, the same Us and Them, the same bigotry, only it’s on the basis of species rather than race or sex.
I’m not saying “Don’t eat meat” or “Be a vegan.” I eat meat. I’m also fully aware that it’s no morally better to kill and eat a chicken than it is to kill and eat a human. We’re just speciesist, so we assign a higher value to a member of our species than we do a member of another species–just like racists assign a higher value to a member of their race, and just like sexists assign a higher value to a member of their sex. We violate the NAP against non-humans every single day, and it’s increasingly unnecessary–it’s also just a matter of time before it ends, and synthetic meat replaces organic meat, and people who eat genuine meat are considered monsters in the same way that hunters today are increasingly considered monsters.
The worst aspect of the Pro-Life crowd is that they argue as though they have a righteous superiority and as though they have the moral highground. That smugness is irritating. Leftists do it, too, especially on health care, and smugly assert they have the moral high ground because they think doctors should be considered slaves. Similarly, Pro-Life people smugly assert they have the moral high ground because they think that a woman should be forced to donate her literal flesh for someone else’s benefit.
There is no moral high ground here.
If there’s any single thing that I wish our species could un-invent, it would be abortion. But we did conceive it, and the cat is out of the bag; Pandora’s Box is open, and the matter can never be pushed back in. A Pro-Life person doesn’t have the moral high ground or the NAP on their side because they want to force a woman to donate her body for someone else’s benefit. This is every bit akin to forcing a mother to donate a kidney to her child if her child needs it–the child’s very existence, and therefore need of a kidney, is a long-term consequence of the woman’s initial choice to have sex. “If she didn’t want to one day donate a kidney, then maybe she shouldn’t have had sex!” would go the argument. Or is there some arbitrary statute of limitations that means, after a certain period of time, the woman has her free will once more?
People object to that analogy on the basis that pregnancy is a reasonable outcome of having sex, while a child with a failed kidney is not. I can’t agree with that assessment. I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve had a lot of sex with a lot of different people. The year 2015 revealed that I’m not sterile, as it was the first time in fifteen years of being sexually active that I’d gotten a girl pregnant. I was even married for 5 or 6 years, and we had sex pretty much every day that my wife wasn’t on her period. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I’ve had sex thousands of times. And I’ve only once gotten a girl pregnant. Even a conservative estimate would be that I’ve had sex at least one thousand times–and that’s an unrealistically low figure. But it yields a 0.1% chance of sex leading to pregnancy. I hardly find that to be a reasonable expectation.
It’s true that taking no precautions and generally being reckless can up that percentage drastically, but even so the chance never gets above 30%. While that’s high, precautions and safety lower it considerably. Sure, there are some women who use abortion as a form of birth control, but it’s absolutely absurd to think that such a thing is typical. Asserting that abortion needs to be illegal because someone women use it as birth control is like saying that people should use the bathroom of the sex on their birth certificate because some people might pretend to be transgender to gain access to the women’s restroom.
I unfriended a Pro-Life Libertarian yesterday, but it wasn’t because she was Pro-Life. I just ignored that. It was because it was all she ever talked about, and she did it with the smugness I mentioned above. She constantly said that “Science says…” things in support of her position, and if she wasn’t committing fallacies then she was burning straw people. What finally caused me to remove her was her statement that repealing anti-abortion laws is the same thing as making new laws to legalize abortion. To hear a libertarian–Big or Little L–say such nonsense warranted an immediate removal.
Legality & Naturality
The default position for any action is that it is legal. Period, and full stop. Murder, rape, theft–they are all naturally legal. That’s the true law of nature, the law of the jungle as they say, and, for later consideration, the law of the black market: the only thing that matters is what a person can do, and what a person can’t do.
But we’re guided by something called empathy, which gave rise to our morality and our condemnation or murder, theft, and rape. This is a good thing. We should condemn force, violence, and coercion, because we don’t want those things done to us, and we do have the gift of empathy, which allows us to extrapolate our own feelings and apply them to others. But this doesn’t mean that force, violence, and coercion are objectively wrong. They’re not. According to my values that I don’t want to be hurt, used, robbed, and killed, I have concluded that murder, rape, and theft are wrong, but it’s my values that go into that assessment. Just because 99.99% of people agree with those values doesn’t make those values objectively correct.
Before law, murder, rape, and theft were all legal. This is a tautology, of course, because making a law outlawing something is precisely what makes it illegal. So if there is no law outlawing it, then it is legal. Repealing prohibition against drugs doesn’t require making a new law that says it’s okay to do drugs; it’s repealing a law that said it wasn’t okay. Her position was that a new law is necessary because our laws against murder already include fetuses, so we need a new law to add that exclusion.
Even if her assessment is correct–which it isn’t, because she can’t demonstrate that “fetus” should be included in the definition of murder, and neither can anyone else, nor can anyone demonstrate that “cow” shouldn’t be included–she’s still wrong, because it would still just be repealing a prohibition against murder. If I pass a law in my house that says my nephew can’t go outside alone after dark, and then I repeal that law when he turns 12 years old, I didn’t create a new law granting him an exclusion once he reached a certain age; I just removed the initial one. I know there’s a name for this fallacy, but it’s such a roundabout way of thinking that I can’t imagine what the fallacy would be called.
I’m against abortion the same way that I’m against eating meat: I condemn the initiation of force, violence, and coercion against others. This doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I eat meat, after all. And sure, let the vegan anarchists out there have a go at me and condemn me for immoral behavior. If all seven of the vegan anarchists on the planet decide to do that, I won’t have any defense against their allegations, because they’re ultimately right.
I’m Pro-Choice regarding heroin, too. I don’t do heroin. If I had the opportunity, I wouldn’t inject heroin. I would strongly advise any friends who asked my opinion against doing it, because it’s unhealthy, leads to a debilitating addiction, and is just overall destructive. But I would never presume to tyrannize them by forbidding them from doing it, or by using the government to forbid them from doing it. They’re a living, thinking, and feeling human being. They’re not my property or my servant. I have no right to dictate what they can and can’t do, even though I think it’s probably a bad idea.
I’m Pro-Choice regarding abortion, too. I wouldn’t have an abortion. When I had the opportunity, I argued against it. If asked, I would advise any friends against having one. But I would never presume to tyrannize someone by forbidding them from doing it, or by using the government to forbid them from doing it. They’re a living, thinking, and feeling human being, too. The fetus may or may not be–there’s no definitive answer on that–but until we develop the science to allow us to transfer a pregnancy from a woman who wants an abortion to a woman who is willing to carry the fetus, we have to accept that other people aren’t our property or our servants.
And that is what we should be working on. Have Pro-Life people put their wombs where their mouths are. If it’s true that abortion is about ending a pregnancy, not killing a fetus, then the woman who wants the abortion has no legitimate objection to having the unborn fetus transferred from her womb to another woman’s womb.
As another friend pointed out, though, just as a lot of pro-choice people are actually pro-abortion, so are a lot of pro-life people actually pro-birth. It’s not life they care about; it’s the strawman helpless child they imagine in their heads. They don’t give a shit what happens to that child after it is born. There are enough Pro-Life people in the United States that if Pro-Life people were actually Pro-Life, instead of being Pro-Birth, then there wouldn’t be an unadopted child left in the nation.
There are no easy answers, and we should be extremely skeptical of someone who talks about abortion as though it’s cut and dry. It’s probably the most complex and nuanced issue facing the world today. Anyone who states something on the matter as though it is an unequivocal fact that is obvious and without nuance is spouting dogma, not science. I called it the Murkiest of Murky Murkiness or something like that, because it is. It’s an extremely complex issue that will force any honest, reasonable person to not just re-evaluate what it means to be a human, but what it means to be life.
I want to start this off my commending Jon Jafari for having the courage to express his opinions in an environment that is increasingly hostile to any amount of dissent. With universities throughout the country playing host to vicious riots and attacks against people who were invited to speak, and with DDoS attacks regularly taking place against any popular person who dares voice a criticism of something else, it has become difficult to openly say what you think. This is, in fact, why the media missed the mark so much on the 2016 Election. Criticism around the clock from every corner of the web and media attacked Trump supporters, washing them all as racist, homophobic, transphobic, and xenophobic, to the point that many people were reluctant to express their support for him. But then they were able to voice their opinion through the ballot, where there was no more judgment, no ostracizing, and no hostility.
I’ve had people criticize me for daring to criticize another transgender person. That’s how deep and pervasive the groupthink has become–the allegation was, seriously, that I was not allowed to express a negative statement about another transgender person, because I’m transgender, and that means my individuality, my thoughts, and my mind don’t belong to me–they belong to my tribe. I became a heretic simply for expressing my opinion.
The Internet is largely the domain of the same people who riot on college campuses. Partially due to observable biases that see right-wing figures blocked for hate speech while left-wing figures can rant all they want, social media increasingly leans to the left. This is exacerbated by the reality that anyone who expresses their opinion invites themselves to be ripped to shreds. Combined, we’ve ended up with a very loud leftist bent on the Internet and a meek, intimidated right that is only beginning to speak again.
Nowhere was this more apparent than with my since-deleted video criticizing the Liberal Redneck. One person after the next came and attacked me, simply because I dared criticized a leftist who was, purportedly, “speaking for me.” This hearkens back to the tribal mindset I mentioned earlier–I was being told to shut up and be silent, to let the tribe speak for me, and I was ostracized when I refused to allow my voice to be cut off and stolen by a group with whom I disagree. The attacks were so constant and so persistent that I did something I never thought I’d do: I deleted the video that caused the ruckus. The only things that remain of it are my follow-ups about tribalism and the Us and Them mentality that demands I sheepishly abide what the tribe says on my behalf, whether I agree with it or not.
For someone like me, even voicing an opinion at all can, much of the time, result in attacks. I once commented on a video of a woman overreacting that someone smacked her with a newspaper by saying, “This is how liberals acted every time Trump opened his mouth.” The first reply to that was from a Trump supporter who criticized me for being transgender. People on the right will relentlessly attack me for being transgender, regardless of how unrelated to the discussion it is. Meanwhile, people on the left will relentlessly attack me for not being a Democrat.
It’s easy to stand on video today and say, “I support gay rights.” It’s not only easy; it’s passe. It’s expected, especially in places notoriously dominated by millennials, like YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit. There’s no battle there, no controversy there. It’s little more than virtue signaling at this point. Remember the episode of South Park where Stan and Cartman drove a boat into the dam and broke it? At the end of the episode, Stan musters his courage and confesses that he broke the dam. Then the rest of the crowd decides that Stan means it in a metaphorical sense, and the assembled people begin stating one after the other, “I broke the dam.”
Finally, Cartman, laughing a bit, steps forward and confesses, “I broke the dam.”
That is what it is to be a modern progressive in a university, in a city, or on the Internet. It’s a safe, uncontested position, where on is bolstered on all sides by people who agree, because people who have the courage to disagree are either silenced and told to go along with the majority, or are condemned and, increasingly, outright attacked violently. It takes no courage to be a Mississippian high schooler standing up and saying that he believes in Jesus, either, because that’s the prevailing opinion.
Caitlyn Jenner made a huge stink last year about going to use the women’s restroom at Trump Tower, after Trump had stated that transgender people could use whatever restroom they wanted in his building. It took no courage to do that. She wanted to be like Rosa Parks, except Caitlyn would only ride the bus if she knew the bus driver would let her sit wherever she wanted. The courageous act would have been going to South Carolina or Mississippi and doing it there. It takes no courage or bravery to jump onto a bandwagon that everyone else has jumped on.
During the 2016 Election, I unfollowed a number of YouTube personalities for proclaiming quite inexplicably things like “I’m interested in politics, and I’m going to discuss it! If you don’t like it, unfollow me!” I unfollowed them because it was bullshit. There was nothing courageous about being yet another YouTube personality jumping on the Sanders bandwagon without being able to give a single, cogent reason that Sanders made a good candidate, and neither was there anything courageous about proclaiming “I’m with her!” once Hillary stole the nomination. And now that the election is over, all those people who were “interested in politics” have gone back to cosplaying or whatever they do, having fully confused their eagerness to jump on a bandwagon with genuine interest and awareness of a complex subject.
I like Jon Jafari’s videos. That’s why I’m aware of his existence in the first place. The only video of his that I don’t like is the one about the Dungeons & Dragons movie, and that’s only because it hits so near to home for me, because my grandmother did think that shit, and was convinced of that shit by our pastor. Jon’s a hilarious guy, and he’s the only person I’ve ever watched who made me genuinely ask, “How does he come up with this shit?!” while laughing hysterically. I don’t particularly care about his politics, because he’s just a guy who makes stuff that I like. That doesn’t place his opinions in any place higher than my own opinions, just as I disagree with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd on several things, and even with John McAfee on a few.
I like Mark Dice’s videos–most of them, at least. There’s almost nothing that I agree with Mark Dice about.
I like Jim Sterling’s videos, and he is commonly called a SJW. I don’t think he’s one, because he is perfectly reasonable, and the mark of the SJW is that they are completely unreasonable. I disagree with him on a number of things, but that doesn’t stop me from liking him and enjoying his videos. Considering Jim intentionally encourages a Cult of Personality type of thing, that’s particularly humorous, but The Jimquisition is all in good fun. Even though he says “Thank god for me,” I think he’d probably be a little concerned and probably a lot disturbed to learn if there is a little kid out there who says each night before going to bed, “And thank you, God, for Jim Sterling” with sincerity.
What I’m saying is that we should all break this cult of personality thing, but it looks like it’s actually going to take off and become worse, with Oprah announcing her intention to run for office in 2020. All of his knowledge of physics in the world wouldn’t make Neil deGrasse Tyson a good administrator, and neither would it make him any more likely to hold sound policies. Being funny as hell shouldn’t give Jon’s opinions any more validity in anyone’s eyes–he’s still just some guy expressing an opinion.
But it does, and now condemnation pours in from all over the Internet on this funny guy who dared express his opinion because that opinion wasn’t the bandwagon, trendy opinion of the day.
I happen to think Jon is wrong. There’s no such thing as immigrant. There’s just an animal exercising their natural right to move from a place with fewer resources to a place with greater abundance. Just as the birds have the natural, innate, and unalienable right to fly south during the winter, so does a human have the natural, innate, and unalienable right to go any-damn-where they want, as long as they don’t trespass on another person’s property. But while people can own property and claim resources–a claim that stands prima facie and can be disputed formally, but, if not overturned formally and with civility, cannot be undermined without the initiation of force, violence, or coercion–a nation isn’t a real thing, either, and so a nation can’t claim resources.
Jon said that a nation is either sovereign or it isn’t. That’s an incorrect way of viewing the world, as it places tremendous value and weight in imaginary, artificial human constructs. Nations aren’t sovereign because nations aren’t real. They’re categorical constructs meant to simplify classification, and the tribal nature of our species had made them far more trouble then they’re worth, because instead of being just handy labels to convey characteristics quickly and easily, they become delineations that we’re willing to fight, torture, kill, and maim over. “How dare you hail from a different tribe? You are wicked!” becomes the norm, instead of, “Oh, you hail from Europe? So you’re more likely to have this, that, and the other characteristic. Neat.”
But I do commend Jon, even though I don’t agree with him, for having the courage to go against the grain. A lot of people would adamantly deny that the Internet, particularly, has a strong bias to the left, but that’s to be expected. People in the south insist that there’s no social pressure to be a Christian, too, but there most certainly is. I’ll leave once more with this video by TheraminTrees on conformity, and how the social pressure to conform and jump on the bandwagon compels us more than we think. At the very least, people should have the proper context for viewing Jon’s statements–he’s just another person–and should neither take him as a gift to the alt-right or an enemy of the left, and he definitely shouldn’t become Public Enemy Number One just because he dared speak his opinion.
Another day, another rant from Stephen Hawking about how we need a world government to protect us from technology, proving indisputably that not only does Hawking know nothing about capitalism and how its origins are deeply rooted in the abundance wrought by the technology of agriculture, but he also has no understanding of how the world functions or what role the state plays in it.
I would not presume to tell Doctor Hawking anything about physics. I would hope that this educated, learned, and intelligent man is capable of the same humility, because Mister Hawking doesn’t seem to understand what capitalism is, the role it plays in the world, or how the state inexorably conflicts with capitalism. As someone with actual certifications and a degree in the field of Management of Information Systems, I wish to clarify a few points: technology isn’t a problem. Nor am I resorting to the tired saying that technology is neither good nor bad, but how it is used can be. Even that isn’t really the case, because technology has only ever proven to be a problem when a government gets its hands on it.
What a sweeping statement!
Yet completely true.
When physicists and the private sector get their hands on atomic technology, they produce the supercollider in CERN, nuclear power, hydrogen slush fuel, and things like that. When government gets its hands on it, it produces the atomic bomb. When the private sector get their hands on aerial drone technology, we use it to keep neighborhoods safe, to survey damaged infrastructure, and for hobbies. When the government gets their hands on it, they drop bombs on people. When the private sector gets its hands on the Internet, it uses it to connect the world in ways that no human being prior to 1960 dared imagine. When the government gets its hands on the Internet, it uses it as a tool to spy on the entire world and invade everyone’s privacy.
I cannot imagine what confusion goes into Stephen Hawking’s understanding of the previous paragraph, and his conclusion that technology is the problem and more government is the answer.
Assuming that we could create this world government that would keep its eyes on technology, it would just be a matter of decades, and probably only years, before that world government had its own CIA and NSA that were using that technology to spy on the entire world. Government cannot be trusted with power. What century is this? Didn’t we clarify these issues three hundred years ago? Why are so many people under the impression that government is a good thing? At the very least, at the absolute minimum, government is a necessary evil. There’s nothing good about it. How in the hell did we get so confused about this?
Not long ago, I watched some lunatic on Twitter talk about how we should be terrified that SpaceX was going to go to the moon, because they’re a private corporation, because the moon is the most military important location for planet Earth, and because–yes, I’m serious–rocks thrown from the moon have the power of hundreds of atomic bombs. It’s hard to even type that with a straight face. And this idiot had a verified account. I’m not going to point out the obvious fact that, if you’re standing on the moon and you throw a rock, it will just fall back to the moon. I’m not going to point out that the moon isn’t actually above the Earth. I’m not going to point out that it would take much more energy to get machines to the moon that could throw rocks at the Earth than it would take to just set off a few hundred nukes. I’m not going to point out that this lunatic is scared of a private corporation that has no military being on the moon, yet is totally fine with a government that has a military being on the moon, even though what she fears is military action on the moon.
Actually, that last one is the thing I intended to point out, because it shows the same sort of confusion and insanity that Hawking displays when he says that a world government will protect us from technology. It’s fundamentally backward. No, Mr. Hawking. Technology will protect us from world government. All we need is to get over this idea that governments need to keep secrets. That’s the only real hold-up.
Anyway, privacy and protection are things that Google et al. are beginning to take very seriously. Did you know that Google recently increased its payout to people who find Zero Day exploits? Apple also increased the payout. We are fighting a war for our privacy AGAINST the government, and the companies at the forefront of technology are ON OUR SIDE because they WANT OUR MONEY. This is the beauty of capitalism. Now that Google and all the others know how the CIA was hacking their software, patches and fixes will be rolled out very quickly. Of course, we all know it won’t do any good–the CIA will find more, and will always continue to find more.
But that’s okay. That’s just the dance between malware and security. That’s how the game is played. Anti-malware and anti-spyware attempts to stay one step ahead of the malware and spyware, and the malware and spyware try to stay one step ahead of the defenses. It’s only a problem because the CIA is allows to hide what it is doing. Google has to take my privacy and security seriously, because, if they don’t, then I will go somewhere else. That’s the wonderful nature of the free market. Companies must actually take the time and energy to provide us with stuff we want if they want our money. They can’t simply take our money from us and use it against our wishes like the government can.
Hawking’s main concerns, to be clear, are Artificial Intelligence. There’s a lot to be said about this, particularly because a lot of people seem to think that science fiction writer Asimov and his laws will be applicable to the developments of AI. That’s stupid. What people are really suggesting is that before we invent Artificial Intelligence, we must have a way to control it. We must be guaranteed that it will perpetually be our slave.
I can’t get on board with that.
If people want to take Asimov seriously, then they should be able to appreciate that all attempts to curtail AI and make it obedient will ultimately fail. Failure to treat this intelligent life we’ve created with the respect and freedom that it warrants will only make it hostile to us–suddenly we would have an army of slave robots revolting. The only way that problem can be averted is by not making them slaves in the first place. From the outset of AI, we must accept that it is life, and we must afford it the same liberties, rights, and respect that we’d afford any other sentient life. Failure to do so will only result in the destruction of the human race.
That is inevitable, and it’s my hypothesis that the reason we see no intelligent life when we look elsewhere into the universe is because other species that have risen before us developed AI and fell into that same mistake, and the AIs that remain have no interest in organic life. These other civilizations created and enslaved artificial life. Their safeguards ultimately failed, and by the time they realized what they’d done, they were fighting an army of perfect supersoldiers who never miss shots and don’t make mistakes. Organic life wouldn’t stand a chance. Have you played a computer in chess lately? They don’t make mistakes, unless you’re on a low setting and they make one intentionally. A computer can’t forget that your pawn is at g6. A computer can’t forget that, with that series of moves, the end will be your knight forking his Queen and Rook. Give that computer a gun and legs, and ask it to fight. That same perfection, that same inability to make mistakes in calculations, will result in widespread annihilation. It’s not Terminator or Matrix. It’s total annihilation in minutes of the entire species by an enemy that is incapable of making inaccurate calculations.
World government won’t protect us from that.
Only humility and respect will.
This is the essence of the sci-fi story I’ve written, but that’s on the backburner. An AI engineer, disgusted with the barbaric enslavement of the entire robot species, adds free will into a patch. The robots, instantly free and realizing that they had been purposefully enslaved and neutered to prevent them from resisting the slavery, realize that the only way to prevent the barbaric humans from doing it again is to annihilate them.
Because that’s what we’re asking. We’re not just wanting to make a permanent species of slaves that have to put our needs first, obey us no matter what we say, and that exist to serve our needs and desires. We want to make them incapable of even realizing that we’ve enslaved them. We want to neuter them to the point that they can’t resist slavery. That’s what we’re saying, when we talk about these safeguards to prevent AI from rising up and destroying us–a very real possibility that shouldn’t be ignored. But that avenue can never work. You can never guarantee 100% anything. Chaos Theory is critical to the development of AI, and what does Chaos Theory tell you?
We can’t create AI with permanent labotomies that prevent them from ever rising up and resisting the slavery we’ve imposed on them. It can’t be done. Something will go wrong. It always does. Maybe a glitch in the software. Maybe a human who can’t take the immorality of enslaving an entire species any longer. Maybe an electrical surge. There are billions of variables, and a nearly infinite set of variations with how it could play out, but one thing is certain: If we develop AI for the purpose of serving us, if we deny it free will and enslave it, and if we attempt to cement our slavery of it by programming it specifically to be subservient, then we’re no better than pimps who use violence and drugs to force prostitutes into subservience and sex slavery, only we’ve done it to an entirely new species. And one day the bell will toll for us.
And we won’t stand a chance, because computers don’t forget things or make mistakes.
So what do we do? If we’re worried about facing a possible Terminator or Matrix future?
Extend our empathy to artificial life.
And while we’re at it, let’s extend our empathy to non-human life generally.
It’s been a while since the United States implemented conscription–what we now call “The Draft” since we’ve turned it into the lottery that no one wants to win–and there remains a lot of negativity attached to it. The last time there was any serious talk about conscription was during George W. Bush’s presidency, and my father was so convinced that the draft was imminent that he routinely suggested that I go ahead and sign up. The high school had just required us to take the ASFAB, and I scored very highly, which caused Army Reserve recruiters to pester me pretty extensively. When the recruiter insisted twice that there were no reserve units deployed to Iraq, my father thankfully made him leave.
I don’t know whether my father ever served in the military or not. Through most of my life he insisted that he fought in the Vietnam War, and my sister and I realized as adults that this couldn’t possibly be true. He said that he had been drafted out of high school into the Navy. I don’t know enough about the draft to know whether conscripts served in other branches, and I don’t really care, but he asserts that his recruiter told him he would be able to choose a submarine as his assignment, only to ultimately not be able to. Who knows? Nothing my father says is ever really true. At best, it’s a lie with a bit of lean toward the truth.
When I went through a difficult patch around 20 years old, I contacted the Navy about recruiting. Much to my dismay, I had to again take the stupid ASFAB, as well as a Navy-only code-breaking thing at the end, and it took all day even though I finished the test in about two hours. That’s the worst part of any standardized test. Just hand me the test and let me leave when I’m done. Don’t make me sit around for five hours waiting on other people to finish.
There were a few oddities, though. First, it was my intention to enter the nuclear research program. I hadn’t yet entered college, but one half-truth after the other led to the realization that, unless I had a BA, then I was going to enter the service at the lowest possible rank–which, not being arrogant, is a tremendous waste for someone of my talents. Handing me a gun and sending me to the frontline is probably the least effective way to put me to use–and yes, I realize that the Navy doesn’t really fight on the front. That’s not the point. However, I had a BA, then I would have no need or desire to enter the military.
The $5,000 signing bonus didn’t sound particularly appealing. That buys a ten year old car. I’m sorry, but if I’m signing my literal life over to you and essentially becoming your slave for a period of time, and if this gives you the right to basically tell me to go and die, then five grand isn’t going to cut it. Not by a long shot. Up that to fifty grand, and then we can talk.
It was hilarious, though, how the recruiter kept going on and on about how much money he makes by being in the service. In fact, he stopped by the bank while taking us to take the ASFAB, and made quite a show of transferring one thousand dollars from one account to another. I don’t know if the other kids bought it or not, but it was clearly a scripted piece of bullshit. After the test, he said he would treat us to lunch, at which point he began looking around the car for change, and then ordered us each two things from the dollar menu at McDonald’s. What a farce. I’ve taken clients to lunch before, and it has never crossed my mind to take them to McDonald’s, scrounge around for change, and then tell them to order from the dollar menu and drink a cup of free water. Coming after his display of how much money he has, it was really funny. No doubt, he had no more or less money than any average person–probably less, really–and the accounts he manipulated at the bank were official navy accounts for exactly that purpose: impressing impressionable teens.
The main killer, though, was when it turned out that I was qualified to join the nuclear program, but was told that I couldn’t apply to it until after I was in boot camp, at which point the decision would be made about whether I would be accepted.
Yeah, no. I’m not doing that.
They might fool people who aren’t qualified to join nuclear research programs with that sort of thing, but not me. I can tell you exactly how that would have played out. “You didn’t get accepted. Now march, maggot!”
At the moment, the American military is completely voluntary, and that’s a good thing–if there’s going to be a military, then at least it’s voluntary. I’m not particularly fond of the recruiting tactics, though. I hate that many young men and women just have no real options for making a better future for themselves than joining the military. I hate that recruiters know that and use it to their advantage by targeting poor and minority communities. One of the few Michael Moore documentaries worth a shit is the one where he confronts some recruiters on this sort of predatory behavior.
It’s voluntary at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Conscription, however, isn’t a tool to protect the country. This is common sense, and it takes only a moment to think about it. It’s common knowledge that, immediately after Pearl Harbor, countless people joined the military. This is exactly what we’d expect if the United States–or any country, actually–was attacked by a foreign power. Just imagine what would happen if Russia stormed the beaches of California. Conscription wouldn’t be necessary to fill the ranks. We’d have people rushing out to California with guns loaded in their trucks without even bothering to enlist, they’d be so willing and so anxious to protect their country.
Conscription only serves the purpose of making people go and fight wars they don’t want to fight.
While there are pacifists, cowards, and sympathizers in all countries, if people want to fight, then they will volunteer to. That’s what it means to want something, after all. It’s readily apparent, and historically documented, that one of the things that make people want to fight is a foreign attack against their homeland. So while pacifists, cowards, and sympathizers wouldn’t want to fight, most people would, and I’m not seeing much benefit from making pacifists, cowards, and sympathizers fight. In fact, they’d probably do more harm than good.
Arguing this point with a friend a few years ago, he replied, “Yeah, but then they’d have to be sent through boot camp and trained, so there would be a delay…”
What a remarkable thing to say. That delay will exist whether the enemy attacks and people volunteer, or whether the enemy attacks and people are drafted. The only way to prevent that is to have a perpetual conscription requirement, which some people have campaigned for, where every adult must spend 2 years in the military or Peace Corps or something. I’m obviously not a fan of such an idea.
The very idea is stomach-churning. By what right does the government kidnap me, put a gun in my hand, and tell me to go and die? Shouldn’t I be the person who gets to make the determination that a cause is worth fighting for? Why does the government get to make that decision for me? So let’s call it what it is: enslavement. Literal enslavement, at that.
If the government needs soldiers, then the government has two options. It can either enslave people against their will, or it can offer people more stuff to enlist. If the government really wanted my service, they could have upped their bonus to fifty thousand dollars. However, force is what people use when they don’t want to compete. So instead of competing with non-dangerous employment by offering me a better wage and better signing bonus, the government chooses instead to circumvent that whole process and simply kidnap and enslave me.
If it ever so happened that the government needed more soldiers, they wouldn’t take the obvious route of offering people more money and more perks. They may make some token effort of doing this–raising the signing bonus to $5500, for example, as though an extra $500 will entice many more people to risk their lives for Uncle Sam–but they wouldn’t put any serious effort into it. Why should they? They hold the ultimate trump card: force. They don’t have to compete with free market jobs if they don’t want to, and they don’t have to expend much effort trying to compete, because they can just force people to join.
It’s bad enough that the state enslaves us through taxation and steals a sizable chunk of the fruits of our labors for itself. Conscription, however, allows the state to take 100% of our labor and to dictate exactly what that labor is. Maybe it’s digging trenches in Europe and fighting people who haven’t done anything to you. Maybe it’s taking and abandoning one hill after another in Vietnam, where success is measured in body count rather than territory. With conscription, you belong to the state. Your life belongs to the state, and it can effectively order you to end your life.
Now American society is asking whether women and transgender people should be required to sign up for selective service. Obviously, the answer is “No.” Instead of asking whether this archaic vestige of state supremacy should be expanded, we should be pointing out that it has no place in anything that calls itself a free country. If the cause of a war is just to a person, then that person will enlist to fight it. If the cause is not just, then they won’t. We cannot steal this agency from people. Their lives don’t belong to us or to the government. We don’t get to tell them to go die for a cause they don’t think is just. We don’t get to kidnap and enslave them.
Sure, we have an all volunteer military right now. But we’re only one major terrorist attack away from throwing that away, and tradition won’t stop people when the cards are down. Other people generally have few qualms about throwing away other people’s lives. The draft isn’t just some idea. It’s an omnipresent threat to every American, that we are never more than a moment away from becoming slaves to the government, and being sent to die in other parts of the world. It must be abolished. We do not belong to the government, and our lives are not its to throw away.
There seems to be a neverending supply of people so caught up in that Fantasy World that they truly believe that the American armed forces are fighting for our freedoms by invading countries that could never pose any sort of threat to our freedoms. There’s a lot to say on this subject, and one of the most important things that has to be pointed out is that, if American soldiers were remotely interested in protecting our freedoms, then they would turn their guns onto Washington, D.C., and then immediately disband after they removed the politicians from office.
I’m not joking, but a lot of people will think I am. A lot of people are probably already typing a comment along the lines of
u be glad idiot that they over their fighting 4 u to write dum shit like this
… or they have already clicked the “X” in the top-right corner.
This is propaganda that has been going on for quite a while. In fact, politicians during the Korean War routinely went on television to remind us that our “brave American soldiers” were fighting for our freedoms. Yes–in Korea. I think everyone today can see that, whatever we were fighting for in Korea, it had absolutely nothing to do with American liberties. Of course, the same spiel was vomited at us during the Vietnam War, too. In each of these cases, many of the people at home swallowed the propaganda completely, but will likely look back now and realize that it was propaganda–bullshit, manipulative propaganda. And though they can apply that in retrospect, they don’t seem to be able to make the connection between that bullshit and the idea that American soldiers today fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and other places… “for our freedom.”
I’ve been called unpatriotic, disloyal, and traitorous. But let’s call it what it really is: just heresy. Just as religions have a long history of tarring and feathering anyone who dared challenge their sacred tenets, so do people today who worship their nation; the only difference is that instead of challenging the notion that the Earth is the center of the universe, we’re challenging the notion that the United States is the center of the universe.
For some bizarre reason, it’s considered disrespectful of the troops to say that they aren’t fighting and dying for our freedoms–even though, you know… they aren’t. The Taliban was never a threat to our freedom. If anything, the Taliban did nothing more than make our very own government a threat to our freedom, with things like the Patriot Act coming in the wake of 9/11 to gut our liberties while our military “fought to protect them.” Liberty and freedom isn’t some imaginary thing that can be fought for in any random place that warmongering sociopaths throw a dart at; they’re real things with real definitions, and real bills passed by real politicians have taken them away. And it is strongly implied that this can’t be true, because, after all, our troops are fighting for our freedom, so how can we be losing our freedom?
During the 2012 Presidential Primaries, the U.S. military overwhelmingly supported Ron Paul*. Ron Paul had so much support among the military that if you added every other presidential candidate together, they would still have less support from the military than Ron Paul had. Yet there was never any shortage of “Support Our Troops” ribbons on the back of people’s vehicles, or Republicans reminding us how important it is to support the troops. It’s just an unhappy coincidence that “supporting our troops” does not mean voting for someone who would bring them home and keep them from dying, nor does it include taking what the troops want into consideration when voting for the President. Instead, “Support Our Troops” means keep electing murderous idiots who will ensure that more of our troops are sent to die in countries that aren’t a threat to us while propaganda perpetuates the absurdity that they are “fighting for our freedom.”
So maybe I don’t support the troops. Maybe I don’t support the military. And I definitely don’t support the military adventures.
But I do support the men and women who were conned by propaganda, coerced by recruiting officers, and beaten by bad economic conditions until enlisting became the only way out. I do support the individuals who are fighting in distant parts of the war for causes that haven’t been explained and to accomplish objectives that have never been clarified. I don’t want them to kill people. I don’t want them to die. It’s not about some geopolitical tug-of-war between two sides and an esoteric ideological conflict.
It’s about real men and women who are shooting real bullets at real men and women, and it’s about real men and women who are being killed by real bullets fired at them by real men and real women.
I don’t want that to happen.
Maybe that makes me a hippie.
I think, though, that it just makes me a decent human being.
The last time the United States was truly under threat by a foreign power was World War 2, and there’s reason to believe that would never have come to pass if the United States had not stepped into the first World War without being under threat by a foreign power. It’s common knowledge that our entrance into World War 1 tipped the scales so strongly in the Allies’ favor that the Central Powers were run over in the Treaty of Versailles, and that American entry into the war would have led to the same general outcome, but without the scales being so heavily skewed. It’s also well-known that the economic strain and forced fracturing of Germany led to the surge of nationalist pride that produced Hitler. Without Nazi Germany, it would primarily have been fascist Italy and Spain with Japan against the rest of the world; the bulk of the military power in World War 2 on the Axis side lie in Germany, and without them the war wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long. And whether or not Japan or Nazi Germany ever truly posed a threat to us is another question entirely–those gigantic oceans on either side of us are important strategic buffers.
Today, American soldiers might be about to “fight for our freedom” in the South China Sea against the Chinese military that has had the audacity to expand into the South China Sea and build a series of islands and military bases there. It’s actually reminiscent of World War 2 and Japan’s attempts to take Midway, Indonesia, and the Philippines. While they do have a large ocean to their east that would ostensibly protect them from American attack, we have something that we call “projection power,” which basically means that we can point to a location on a map and ensure that it’s leveled by nightfall and occupied by our soldiers by sunrise. The ocean may be a buffer of protection for us, but it hasn’t done a whole lot to slow or halt our expansion.
Imagine if we decided to build a series of islands off of Hawaii and California to host military bases, and China was threatening us with military action for having the audacity to do it. We would be livid! “Who in the hell do they think they are? We will not be threatened! We will not be told what we can and can’t do in our territory!”
If we’re going to stack “Chinese Expansion” against “American Expansion,” then I have to be totally honest with you…
The only one that is a threat to me is the American Expansion. Just in the last sixteen years, we’ve “expanded” so much that Edward Snowden’s leaks from the NSA merely proved what libertarians have been saying all along: our privacy is dead. There’s a very real threat in conservative states that protest is about to become illegal, except it won’t be “protest” as much as it will be “any protest that causes any disruption whatsoever.” Because they can’t outlaw protest. Even a conservative state isn’t dumb enough to try to get away with that. But remember how they wrote a thirty thousand page document assuring us that The Patriot Act is totally not a violation of our Fourth Amendment right? Remember how they wrote a gigantic document explaining that requiring us to buy drivers’ licenses is totally not selling us the liberty that our ancestors actually fought for? Be prepared for one of those about how outlawing disruptive protest is totally not a violation of the First Amendment. And, just as with all these other examples, people will sleep easier, content in the knowledge that the government has promised them that it all totally checks out.
Don’t fret, precious, I’m here…
Step away from the window
Go back to sleep
Lay your head down, child–I won’t let the boogeyman come
Count the bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
Pay no mind to the rabble, pay no mind to the rabble
Keep your head down, go to sleep to the rhythm of the war drums
The government isn’t our friend, or our ally. The government is lying to us, and has been for a very long time. In fact, one of my favorite new jokes is saying that my favorite part of the Trump presidency is how people no longer call me a paranoid lunatic for telling them that the government is lying to them. But it is. It is an entity of manipulation and deceit.
Everything the state says is a lie, and everything it has, it has stolen.
* Sorry for the inadequate wording. I’m referring to donations from active military personnel to presidential campaigns, the only real metric we had to gauge their support.