Changes

Haven’t written in several days.  I guess I really haven’t had much to report lately.  Had a breakdown three weeks ago but things have been going pretty decent since.  I still spend a lot of time at home.  I feel uneasy in public most of the time, usually preferring to stay home and socialize over the phone or via social media.  I’ve also been sleeping more.  I feel more refreshed when I’m awake and I get more restful sleep and stay asleep longer.  I’ve also given up coffee.  I’ve now gone three weeks without it.  I switched over to tea instead.  I think I’ve gotten more sensitive to caffeine as I age.  I certainly feel more irritable and jittery after a lot of caffeine.

I stay home most of the time anymore.  I admit I don’t socialize much in person.  But it works for me.  I don’t get much out of socializing with my neighbors as I don’t have much in common with them.  I don’t have much in common with most people anymore it seems like.  I’m not interested in politics or local gossip.  I guess I never have been.  And I certainly can’t understand why some people repeat the same mistakes over and over and expect different results.  Maybe it’s from not knowing yourself.  Some people get worried that social media and search engine algorithms know us better than we know ourselves. With as little as some people take time to examine themselves, I’m not surprised.

I do enjoy socializing but only in certain situations that rarely come up for me.  I would rather spend my days alone than deal with rude and ignorant people.  Sadly, rudeness and ignorance seems to be valued by many people.  I would rather not deal with that.  I have enough problems of my own with mental illness.  I can talk for hours about things like history, art, science, literature, philosophy, etc.  But if the conversation turns to gossip, complaints, politics, I’m ready to end the conversation after only a few minutes.

I’m fortunate that I have several friends and family members who will at least tolerate my quirks and fulfill my needs for the types of conversation I crave.  I love intellectual stimulation.  I crave it maybe as much as a drug addict craves his next fix.  I admit learning and reading are my fix.  I can spend months on end researching topics online and in books, sometimes even years.  I have spent several years now on science and tech.  Before that, I spent a few years on economics.  For awhile I dabbled in philosophy.  And I’ve always been interested in history and literature.  I enjoy learning and I enjoy talking about things I learn in my day to day studies.

Since I no longer have a “regular job” and can live decently on my disability pension, I have no reason not to scratch my itch for mental stimulation.  I make it my job to inform myself on things that my friends with families and careers may not have time to research.  Sometimes I am frustrated at most of my friends and family don’t research things like I do.  I imagine that is the illness talking.  As I don’t have traditional employment or children or a wife, and I love learning new things, I have no excuse not to inform myself on topics like tech advances and current events.

I have said previously I am not interested in politics.  What I should have said is I don’t appreciate the fighting that goes along with it.   I do find foreign policy and geopolitics fascinating.  Between modern geopolitics, the rapid advances in science and tech we are now experiencing, and the fact I can learn this with a portable computer and cheap wireless internet that is fast enough I can get videos, this is exciting times for myself.  It seems like much of what was science fiction as recently as thirty years ago is becoming reality now.  And the fact I can relatively easily access psych treatments that weren’t available when I was a child in the 1980s, I can watch this unfold in the news sites and blogs and youtube in real time.  I would say we are living one of the greatest dramas ever written right now, expect this is real life.  I find it all fascinating that things I couldn’t have imagined even twenty years ago are now occurring.  Exciting times we are living in, granted quite stressful at times too.  Stay tuned, it isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Advertisements

Changes In Society From 2010 to 2020

I admit the title of this post is a bit misleading, mainly because there is still six months left in 2019.  But as I have spent more time by myself and just allowing my mind to think and ponder, I got to thinking about the changes in society just in the last ten years.  This time last year I did a post on the changes my grandma saw in her 97 years of life.  Since today, June 28, is her birthday (she would be 101 if she were still alive), I am feeling a bit reflective on the things I’ve seen.  And it hit home the changes I saw in society just in this decade.  I’ve decided to do a for fun list of things that have occurred just in the 2010s.  I will try to avoid politics as, for one, it can cause too many arguments (and I’m just not in the mood for that) and, second, too many people think politics and economics can solve problems that are really technical and scientific in nature.  Though I am beginning to see more people pay attention to science and tech than I did even five years ago.  So here goes with the list.  Much of these changes are documented on webpages like future timeline.net, quantumrun.com, humanprogress.org, diamandis.com, kurzweilai.net, futurism.com, wikipedia.org, and with a few minutes of focused Google search.  So here goes

  1. Apple debuts the iPad (2010)
  2. Scientists create synthetic life (2010)
  3. Solar power dramatically drops in cost
  4. Beginnings of Augmented Reality (2010)
  5. Speech to speech translation in smart phones
  6. Scientists trap anti matter (2010)
  7. The death of Osama bin Laden (2011)
  8. First synthetic organ transplants (2011)
  9. Three Gorges Dam is operational in China (2011)
  10. Windows 8 is released (2012)
  11. Creation of human embryonic stem cells through cloning (2013)
  12. Gene therapy becomes available
  13. China’s first unmanned moon landing (2013)
  14. Google Glass is released (2014)
  15. Rosetta probe lands on a comet (2014)
  16. Test flights of NASA’s Orion Spacecraft (2014)
  17. Smart watches become popular
  18. Virtual reality becomes popular
  19. Self regulating artificial hearts (2015)
  20. Windows 10 is released (2015)
  21. New Horizons probe reaches Pluto (2015)
  22. Electric car ownership takes off
  23. Juno probe reaches Jupiter (2016)
  24. Agricultural robots
  25. Electric and hybrid car sales reach 100,000 per year for the first time (2017)
  26. Internet connected devices outnumber humans (2017)
  27. Beginnings of 3D printing as a consumer technology
  28. Beginnings of 5G networks
  29. Galileo satellite navigation system comes online
  30. LEDs begin to dominate lighting
  31. Connected vehicle tech
  32. Automated freight transport begins
  33. Autonous automobiles begin
  34. Beginnings of lab grown meat
  35. First vertical farms
  36. Increased automation in mining industries
  37. Half of the world’s population has internet access (2019)
  38. Reusable rockets
  39. Private space flight
  40. Social media becomes ubiquitous
  41. Beginnings of Cryptocurrency
  42. Beginnings of Blockchain tech
  43. Personal genome sequencing becomes common
  44. Macular degeneration becomes curable
  45. First demonstrations of solar sale technology
  46. Increased automation in retail stores
  47. Vast improvements in AI
  48. AI assistants become commercially available
  49. Wireless and implantable devises to monitor health conditions in real time
  50. The 100th anniversary of World War I
  51. Beginnings of trials of anti aging treatments
  52. Ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft become common
  53. Trials of medications to reserve obesity
  54. Trials of male birth control pills
  55. Internet based television becomes common

These are just a few of the highlights.  This is by no means intended to be a comprehensive list.  It is merely to reflect on the changes that have happened just in the last ten years.  Bill Gates put it well when he said short term is often overestimated but long term change is often underestimated.

I Am Not Anti Social

For years my family have been on my case trying to get me to socialize more.  Even as a child I preferred to stay home and read my books as opposed to go to the big social activities in my farming village, namely high school sports games and county fairs in the summers.  I never did enjoy such activities as much as most people.  I mean, I enjoyed playing football and running track in high school far more than I did watching them.  And anything I could see at a county fair or Fourth of July parade, I could see any day of the year just by looking around my town.  No, I would have rather spent my time reading about far off places I would probably never get to see, read about a past that most people will never learn, and read about future possibilities (both good and bad) that I would probably not live long enough to see.

And because of my “different” set of interests, I was condemned by my parents, town elders, and even my classmates as being “anti social.”  Yet, this was an absolutely unfair accusation.  I love socializing, I just had different interests than most people I knew growing up.  I was 11 years old before I made a friend who had the same interests in music, history, geopolitics, science, etc. that I did.  And he too was an outcast among my people.  When I was 13, I met the girl who later became the best friend I ever had.  See still is my best friend even 25 years later.  She was even more interested in tech and geopolitics than even I was.  She was also the first person my age I ever met who loved reading even more than I did.  So we wound up spending a great deal of our teenage years at each other’s house.

Naturally, most people in my school thought we were romantically involved even before high school.  No we weren’t.  She was among the handful of people in my hometown who shared my interests and I shared hers.  As a result of being so different from my peers, I always thought there was something defective with myself all the way through my junior high and high school years.

It wasn’t until I spent a little time at college did I realize that I wasn’t defective.  I did much better socially in college than I did as a kid in my hometown.  I made lots of acquaintances, several really cool friends I still hear from via facebook, and for the first time in my life I wasn’t condemned for having nerdy interests or loving to read.  When I was a kid, my classmates would often yank a book I was reading right out of my hands.  They would often steal my textbooks and sheet music in band.  About the only book I never had stolen from me as a teenager was my football playbook and my Bible.  Even though I am almost 40 years old, I still don’t get why people that don’t read much hate those of us that do.  I mean, is wanting knowledge and wisdom such an evil thing?  Why, if it weren’t for acquired knowledge and wisdom being passed down from elders to children, we would have never even survived the Stone Age.  I can’t stand people who are proud of being unread and unknowing and ignorant.  The Dunning – Kruger effect is alive and well in those types.

I guess if there is a point to this post it is this, I am not nearly as anti social as my family and neighbors fear I am.  I can go for hours on end on things that interest me.  About the only things I don’t like talking about are my neighbors, office politics, popular culture, tv shows, stupid stunts going viral on youtube, or engaging in endless and pointless debates on facebook and twitter trying to get points across to people.  Proving people wrong isn’t going to make them like you.  I found this out the hard way.  Now if I am able to win someone to my line of thinking, it is an ongoing and gradual process where there really isn’t one ‘eureka’ moment.  It does get frustrating repeating the same ideas over, and over, and over only to feel like you are not making any difference.  I understand why good teachers burn out before their prime.  Sometimes I feel like I am not making any positive difference.  But we are local and linear thinkers, our species.  And for most of our existence that has served us extremely well.  That’s why it’s so hard to see the large picture or imagine what the future could be, it’s not natural to us.  It is also why visionaries are ridiculed, condemned, and sometimes even killed only for the children of the people that condemned these visionaries to see that the visionary was right all along and it was conventional wisdom that had it wrong.

I am not anti social.  Never have been.  Never will be.  I just have broader range of interests than most people I know.  And talking about neighbors, politics, office going ons, gossip, popular culture, etc. gets old and stale for me real quick.  After about five minutes of such gutter tripe I have gotten the idea and am ready to move onto other topics.

Thoughts on Different Generations and The Generations Yet to be Born

I’m going off the path of mental illness writing for this entry.  But it is something that has weighed on me for years, especially since I live in low income housing where half of the residents are low income senior citizens and the other half are disabled younger people.

I have never understood why people from the older generations complain about the people from younger generations and why younger generations complain about older generations.  I never have.  I was born in 1980, so that either makes me late Generation X (I’d like to give a beating to whomever coined that stupid term) or early Millennial, at least in terms of generations.  And even in grade school I heard about how sucky my generation did in school compared to kids in countries like Japan, South Korea, Germany, etc.  I was told we were “unruly”, “stupid”, “thieving”, “lazy”, “whores”, “sluts”, etc.  But, the same Baby Boomers (that’s another really stupid term I despise), had their hangups and critics when they were kids too.  I’m sure the World War II generations thought the Rapture was nigh when they saw their kids participating in free love, drug abuse, civil rights protests, draft riots, etc.  Even many soldiers who went to Vietnam abused alcohol and drugs during their tours.  The same Boomers who were rocking out to The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, etc. were horrified when their Gen X kids starting listening to Metallica, NWA, Madonna, etc.  And oddly, said Gen Xers, now that they are parents, are freaking out about their kids listening to Lady Gaga and dubstep music.  I swear, people instantly forget what it was like starting out as soon as they have kids.

I have zero patience for old people who complain about the “idiot kids.”  Likewise, I have zero patience for younger people who complain about senior citizens.  The world is going to fall apart as soon as the current generation in power retires and dies?  Screw you, no it won’t.  Speaking of older generations, I’d love to slap Tom Brokaw for calling the World War II generation “the greatest generation.”  I guarantee that the Hitler Youth generation in Germany and the Japanese soldiers of World War II were considered a disgrace to their nations for years.  It should be known that many of the World War II soldiers spent their teens and twenties drinking bootlegged booze and chasing flapper girls and suffragettes during the 1920s and early 1930s.  I’m sure many of the World War I generation thought their kids were going insane for flaunting the laws of prohibition and promoting such blasphemy as women’s voting rights and wanton promiscuity.  But hate for other generations is nothing new.  People have been complaining about the loss of virtue and honor in their children’s generations for thousands of years.

Every generation has it’s cranks and losers, it is true.  There were war protesters during World War II even.  Youtube has videos of these protests.  But generations are made up of many millions of people.  So to say the “millennials are lazy” or “baby boomers are greedy” isn’t true at all.  Such broad generations are cherry picked nonsense.  I like the World War II guys who beat back nazism and imperialism, pioneered space flight, and saw to it the Civil Rights act was passed.  I also like the Baby Boomers who did much of the early leg work on personal computers, communications tech, produced some really cool music (namely rock and early hip hop), and started breaking down barriers like the Iron Curtain, and pioneered the internet.  I also like the Gen Xers who are making renewable power sources finally financially feasible, pioneering private space flight, making international business easier, and building up e-commerce.  I also like the Millennials who are building social media, starting businesses, fighting terrorism, trying to spread the ideas of freedom, democracy, and self determination in nations that have been authoritarian or theocratic nations for centuries.  And I like people of all generations that see that, regardless our ages or nationalities or creeds, we are all living on the same planet and that what happens in one place doesn’t just stay in one place.

Another thing I am tired of is dystopias and pessimist visions for the future.  I never really got into science fiction nearly as much as science nonfiction because most science fiction books and movies depict hopeless and lousy futures and presents such lousy futures as inevitable.  Who is going to fight for a better future with “inspiration” like that?  One of the reasons Star Trek is so popular even after fifty years is that it portrays a future where humanity has overcome many of their past hangups.  It shows what can be possible.  It shows a good future worth fighting for.  Far more scientists were inspired to pursue science by stories like Star Trek then the Terminator series.  As much as people are afraid of Artificial Intelligence turning against humans and killing us all, I would laugh and cry both if AI programs and machines turned out to have more empathy and compassion than humans in general. Besides, we already have millions of AI machines and programs, like every smart phone and computer with internet access.  I don’t foresee these things taking over, but I can see humans and machines merging their intelligences and making humans much, much smarter within a few generations.  I mean, most people already use their smart phones and computers as brain extenders and they haven’t been around that long.   In many ways, people already have the potential to be much smarter and better informed than previous generations simply because of information technology.  And if we get to the point that future generations can augment their brains through surgical implants, then our great grandkids will look back us and pity us for being so unintelligent.  We may seem like cavemen to the citizens of the 22nd century.  I certainly hope so even though I’ll likely never get to see it.

For most of human history, we have made tools to extend our bodies.  Now with computers, internet, and AI, we are making tools to extend and augment our brains.  I don’t fear technology because technology is merely a tool.  Granted, all tools can be used for ill purposes.  Fire cooked our food and kept us warm but it also burned down our villages and cities.  The printing press made knowledge available to the masses but it also made misinformation and propaganda possible too.  I can make friends over the internet I would never otherwise meet but I still have to work around opinionated trolls and trouble makers made more bold by the technology.  I try not to take trolls and trouble makers personally as I know most people wouldn’t be saying such things to a live audience.  And I try not to take my elders personally when they gripe about my generation because they were young once too and had their elders complain about them.  But I wouldn’t mind breaking this pointless and aggravating cycle though.  I try hard to not complain about people younger than me because I remember what it was like to be a kid myself and be ragged on by my elders.  Maybe people rag on younger people just because we forget what it’s like starting out.  And maybe young people don’t like older people because they don’t realize that these elders had many years head start and that someday they could do well themselves given the time and effort.

Dealing With Stupid People While Having A Mental Illness

I readily admit I get frustrated when the people I am around on a regular basis do and say stupid things and then keep repeating these mistakes over the course of months and years.  I know I shouldn’t be angry with people just because they aren’t smart.  Some people are just dumb and they are never going to become Mensa material no matter what you do for them.  That is probably the hardest fact of life that I have ever had to accept.  I can handle people not having empathy.  I can handle people being greedy.  But for some odd reason I have had a very tough time coming to the acceptance that some people are just dumb, have always been dumb, and are never going to be interested in the intellectual things like science, technology, history, philosophy, literature, etc. that I am.

Being smart has always come easy to me.  I can’t remember ever not knowing how to read because I pretty much taught myself how to read.  I can’t remember ever having to be forced to read because I read so voraciously on my own. I still do. I actually had to be forced to put down my books and go outside with the neighborhood kids against my will.  I suppose my parents were afraid that I would be one of these really smart people who had lousy social skills.  Well, that happened anyway.  Yet I don’t mind having below average social skills.  Most of the stuff average people like to talk about, like politics, sports, the weather, farming, work, celebrities, etc., I find quite boring.  As much as I enjoy baseball, I wouldn’t have much of a stake in the games if I didn’t have a fantasy league team.  As much as I enjoyed the violence of football when I played as a teenager, I wouldn’t watch any games if it didn’t give me anything to talk about with the average person.  I don’t personally follow politics much except if politicians make noise about cutting science programs.  Cutting science programs will hurt nations long term.  Much of what was the computer and information revolutions came about because of the space programs in the 60s and 70s.  I am not really happy with my current crop of politicians who are cutting science funding and just want to pull up the draw bridge and isolate from the rest of the world.  Who would have thought twenty years ago China and India would be leading the world in developing and implementing nonpolluting technology?  When my parents were children, their parents used to tell them “there’s starving kids in China who would love to eat what you complain about.”  I wonder if Chinese and Indian parents tell their kids “keep studying and going to school, there’s dumb people in America.”

I never had a tolerance for ignorance.  And it’s especially tough having a mental illness and living in low income housing when I am not surrounded by many smart people.  I do most of my socializing online anymore because I can at least superficially connect with people who share my interests.  For years I have struggled searching for people with the same intellectual pursuits I have.  My therapists and I have struggled finding ways for me to find social activities for someone with my interests.  I finally came to the painful realization that I am not going to meet many people I can relate to, at least not in traditional senses.  Some of my best friends I interact with mainly online.  The internet is my social life now.  I’m glad I live in an era when it’s available as much as it is.  Had I lived in the dark ages, I probably would have had to join a monastery.  Even then I’d probably be burned at the stake as a heretic.  I am happy that science is really advancing.  And it doesn’t bother me as much as it normally would that many of these advances are now not happening in my own country.  I really don’t care if it’s an American, a Chinese person, an African, etc. who comes up with the next huge breakthrough.  We all share the same planet so we just as well learn to work and think beyond national boundaries.  I hope that the anti intellectualism I see so prevalent in my time and place is merely a passing fad.  And even if it isn’t, there are plenty of places where intelligence is valued and science will progress.  The future is already happening, it’s just not evenly distributed.

Rant about Politics, Education, Science, Technology (or PEST)

It’s been a few days since I last wrote.  That’s because I’m beginning to feel some of the anxiety and depression I felt back in late summer and fall again.  I am convinced this is because of most of my friends wanting to only talk about politics.  I am sick of hearing about politics.  Most politicians know less about science and technology advances that are and will impact our world than even I do.  A politician can’t build a power plant or bring back jobs once automation has made those jobs redundant and pointless.  Politicians, at least here in the USA, can’t even update critical infrastructure or balance their own budgets.  And it saddens me that my country is getting to where we don’t lead the world in many areas of science and technology.  Who would have thought twenty years ago that China would be offering to lead the world on developing clean and renewable energy or artificial intelligence or genetics?  I am embarrassed by politicians of both major parties.

I don’t understand normal people.  I don’t understand how masses of people can look at facts and ignore them or even outright deny them because of the person stating said facts.  Facts don’t change because of beliefs.  You can ignore the reality all you want but eventually you won’t be able to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.

I have been following politics since the late 1980s.  Since then I have heard the statistics that state that my country has one of the worst overall education systems in the developed world.  We have known this for over a generation.  Yet no major overhauls to the way children in the U.S. are educated has happened. We won’t even consider looking at what other countries do in their educational systems.  My country is going to have to radically overhaul education real soon because the information and automation revolutions will make many of the skills stressed in the current system useless.  We have seen these changes coming for years yet not even the current politicians in power seem too eager to update education for the realities of the 21st century. That’s why I, and many other people in my country, have resorted to self educating ourselves by the internet.  Learning is not boring.  It’s just presented that way in traditional education.

Too many people and politicians are ignorant when it comes to science and technology.  We have known for years about the risks of burning carbon based fuels in terms of climate change and unhealthy air to breathe.  Even if climate change isn’t happening, only a fool would deny that people are getting sick and dying from breathing the toxic fumes emitted by coal plants and gasoline powered automobiles.  That alone should have made people pour much more research money into developing alternatives.

I don’t understand some people’s love affair with oil.  Some people seem to think that we never will find anything better than oil and that we can keep using it for thousands of years.  Climate change or not, oil is a limited resource. And some people don’t acknowledge that science can and will find answers to replacing oil whether they like it or not.  I have to think had these people been born in the mid 1800s , they wouldn’t have wanted to give up their kerosene lamps for electric lights or their stagecoaches for railroads. Or if they were born during the Renaissance they wouldn’t have given up their swords for muskets or would have considered the printing press the work of the devil. But there are always going to be people who don’t want to change anything and some who are nostalgic about a past that wasn’t that great to begin with.  I guarantee that in the future there will be people who won’t want to colonize the moon or other planets just because they fear and hate technology.

I don’t understand normal people’s obsession with politics.  And I’m sure most people don’t understand my obsession with learning and science.  Science classes have always been my favorite classes.  I had to take a detour from my desired science career and studied business and economics while I was in college.  As it turned out this study of economics turned out to be a several year diversion from my true passions.  I don’t regret studying economics as it made me much better at budgeting limited money and resources.  But looking back on it I am glad I didn’t find a job in business or economics and especially banking.  I would have hated working in a cubicle and having to wear a suit every day to work.  As much as I enjoy what money can do, I also know that having a great deal of money wouldn’t mean much to me.  It wouldn’t make me feel successful or like more of a man.  Who defines what is a “real man” anyway?  Seems to  me that those goal posts are constantly shifting.  The only winning move seems to me is to not play at all.

If I suddenly had a couple million dollars, I’d probably move to Silicon Valley, rent a small apartment, try to get involved in some small start ups, hang out with really intelligent and science minded people, and essentially live off the interest of my low risk investments.  I wouldn’t buy a sports car, a large house, or even get married.  But I always thought Northern California would be a cool place to live.  Then again I don’t know.  It’s not like I fit in even with people I have lived with my entire life.

If there is a point to these rants I suppose it’s that I simply don’t understand normal people.  I don’t understand why normal fret and stress over things that are trivial but don’t care at all about potential serious problems or opportunities.  Straining at gnats but swallowing camels as far as I’m concerned.  But at this point in my life I am glad that I am not normal.  I don’t desire to be considered normal even if I am somehow cured of schizophrenia.  Normal doesn’t change the world for the better.  I want for my life anyway, for most people that encounter me and my works to be better off for it.  I don’t want to be some political hack or among unthinking crowds.