Independence Day, History, Technology, and Making A Better World

Independence Day is a few days away here in USA.  It is a time to reflect on sacrifices of current and previous generations of military personnel during times of war and crisis in my nation’s history.  It is also a time that the public at large gets some refresher courses on American history.  One of my Independence Day traditions is to watch the fireworks after dark while I have songs like “America the Beautiful” playing courtesy of Google’s Youtube (both tech firms that were started in the USA).

While it is a celebration of the USA’s beginnings and struggles to become what we are (and what we can become in future generations), for me it is also a time to remember the efforts of non military personnel and brilliant leaders.  I remember the contributions to the USA and the world of immigrants like Nikola Tesla and Andrew Carnegie (among numerous others) in the fields of science, industry, and commerce.  While they were not born here, it was here in USA that they had the opportunity to follow their dreams.

I remember the science breakthroughs in agriculture and food production led by such people as Norman Bourlag, the Armour family, the Cargil family, and Roswell Garst that made crops and food available to, not just Americans, but to billions of people all over the world that will probably not know their names.  In fact, we now have more people on earth being overweight (slightly over 2 billion) than we do have people suffering from insufficient food (around 800 million).

I remember that it was computer scientists and engineers from America that were among the big drivers in getting personal computers and internet access made available to the public at large. It was this year (2019) that we crossed the threshold where now slightly over 50 percent of the world’s population has access to internet, whether it be smart phones or tablets or full size computers.  It was also primarily American scientists and engineers (and immigrants working in American based firms) that got GPS navigation going.

I know some people (myself included) sometimes get irritated by American pop culture, tv shows, music, etc.  But no one forced me or anyone else to pay attention to our culture.  I, and many others, sometimes get upset about how much war my nation has fought over the course of history.  Yet, most previous powerful nations annexed or colonized the territories and peoples they won wars over. Many powerful nations in past eras colonized territories that weren’t on even the same continents as the home nation. Yes, our practices of slavery and taking land from the Native Americans will be a dark mark against my nation for the rest of history.  But many nations won’t even acknowledge their past sins and transgressions.  A couple of weeks ago I heard there were talks before congressional committees about possible reparations for past practices during slavery.  The idea of reparations can be debated one way or another ad nauseam, but at least there is even talk about attempting to make amends for past sins.  Every civilization as far back as we can tell had some form of slavery, indentured servitude, etc.  Yet it wasn’t until a few centuries ago that people began to acknowledge that the idea of one human owning another the same way one would own a building or a horse, even in past times, as disgusting and barbaric.  Now slavery is officially illegal in every country of the world.  It still goes on in the forms of human trafficking, sex slavery, etc.  But even two hundred years ago, that would have been acceptable in the entire world.  I don’t write this to justify my nation’s past sins.  We certainly made our mistakes.  I won’t hide our mistakes. But I also won’t hide the progress my nation or my species progress.

On another note, many advances we take for granted in 2019 were pioneered in the USA. This includes things like electric light bulbs, telephones, airplanes, people on the moon, common pharmaceutic medications, do it yourself investing in the stock markets, television broadcasts, much of what computers, internet, and cell phones have become.  Even with our current internal strifes and issues, the USA is still a world leader in the emerging fields of Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, nanotechnology, fusion technology, robotics, autonomous automobiles and drones, etc.  Even though our government officially pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreements, many local and state governments, along with private businesses and industries, are still implementing nonpolluting technologies and power generation.  Many businesses and individuals, are voluntarily severely limiting their uses of disposable plastics.  Even the people I personally know who are skeptical of the sciences behind climate change, most of them still recycle their garbage, take car pools to work, limit their uses of pesticides, use less water than previous generations, drive fuel efficient cars, use solar panels to power anything that can be by traditional grids, or allow wind turbines and solar panels to be built on their farms and ranches.  Even though our elected leaders may not see that renewable and recycling tech are the future, most of my countrymen see that it is even if they don’t accept or understand the science behind climate change or environmental pollution.

I know I am often tough on my friends, family, countrymen, etc.  But I am tough because I know even ordinary people are capable of accomplishing great things.  Even though I see ignorance and stupidity every day, I also see people doing great things and changing for the better every day.  Sure the ignorant and hurtful actions catch our attention more because it is natural for us to pay more attention to negativity than positive news.  I wasn’t born an optimist.  I had to become one by forcing myself to find out the good that is going on out in the world and in my hometown.  And thanks to inventions like internet, search engines, and social media, it is far easier to find such good news than even twenty years ago.  Sure some people will abuse such tech.  Every tech in history has been abused by at least one person or group.  A sharpened stone tied to a long stick can kill a deer and feed a family just as easily as it can kill another man and be used to enslave his survivors.  And on it goes.

I should wrap this up.  Sure much bad has been done in the name of my nation and science.  Yet, much good has been done too.  We rarely acknowledge anyone’s decency simply because we are not hardwired to do so.  Many cool things are happening right now.  And among the leaders forcing these positive changes are American scientists, engineers, medical personnel, teachers, craftsmen, construction workers, factory workers, farmers, students with dreams, business people, etc.  It is an eventful and hopeful time to be alive.  I am grateful to live in a college town in America in the early 21st century.

Popular Sucks

Have felt quite decent the last several days.  I have been getting adequate sleep and leaving my apartment for longer periods of time.  I’m keeping my apartment less cluttered lately.  It doesn’t take my cleaning person as long to do her job these days.  Maybe after several months of adjustments and regular maintenance I’m getting on top of hanging issues.  I haven’t had much for flare ups or anxiety for over a week now.  First time in months I can claim that.

I think I don’t feel much for anxiety or depression anymore is for a handful of reasons.  For one, if I don’t feel like socializing I don’t do it.  I don’t socialize unless I want to.  Granted it means sometimes going entire days without talking to anyone.  Which is alright with me.  Some of my happiest times came when I was alone and allowed to read, write, and research answers to my questions without input from anyone else.  And I no longer feel guilty for not wanting to socialize.  Sometimes I will let the phone ring if I’m not in the mood to talk.  Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to interrupt my tasks to listen to a sales pitch, or take a phone survey, or listen to my friends complain about how much their jobs suck, or about something my retired parents heard from one of their neighbors or saw on tv.

Sometimes I just don’t want to be interrupted.  And most of the time mundane crap like talking about the weather, politics, the latest episode of Game of Thrones or The Kardashians, how work is going, or how my favorite sports teams are on a losing streak doesn’t interest me much. Yet most people I know want to talk about these things. Want to talk about it, okay:  The weather is cloudy and humid.  Politicians can’t solve technical and social problems and aren’t the gods mass media and party members make them to be and never were.  Game of Thrones really laid an egg on their farewell season and angered millions of fans all over the world, including many of my closest friends.  The Kardashians are famous just for being rich, pretty, and famous. Come back when they invent nuclear fusion or safe artificial super intelligence.  Most people hate their jobs and work them only for the money (which isn’t that good in most cases anyway). My Huskers have had three losing seasons in the last four years but hopefully the young hotshot we have as a coach can get us winning again and the Rockies are barely breaking even and probably won’t win the pennant.  I discussed all of that in less than a minute.  No need to rehash it.  Let’s move on.

Of course this doesn’t make me popular with my neighbors or family.  Then I’ve never been popular.  Popular is lowest common denominator.  Popular is mundane.  Popular doesn’t change the world for the better.  Popular doesn’t catch the attention.  Popular isn’t thought provoking.  Popular is boring.  Popular sucks because it stands for nothing, has no feeling, has no courage, has no magic, and inspires no one to their highest nature and capacities.  I don’t care about popular.  I care about making people think.  And if it makes my friends, family, readers, critics, etc. angry and uncomfortable, so be it.  I’d rather be persecuted for being beneficial to people than honored for catering to the base nature of our humanity.

Dealing with Loneliness, Landlords, Luddites, and My Love for My Fellow Humans

Feeling better overall more or less. About the only issues I have now are that I am still kind of afraid to socialize in person.  So I spend much of my time alone.  I have gotten to where I can’t stand talking to people in person for fear of them becoming angry and rude.  And it’s causing me stress.  I know I’ll have to just fight through it because I have to get my lease renewed within the next few weeks.  I always hate this process.  I have to fill out tons of paper work reporting on what I do and don’t earn money and whether or not I have a job or investment funds.  I haven’t had a regular job since 2012 and I haven’t been cured of my schizophrenia.  Until I get cured that isn’t going to change.  And of course, they need information from my bank.  And my bank is always a a pain about giving out that information.

Since the only thing that has changed about my finances or condition in the last several years is the cost of living adjustments I get from Social Security,  I honestly don’t see why I can’t do some of this nonsense online. I mean, it’s 2019 already.  Why should I have to fill out reams of forums that probably no one is going to read when we have the tech and science to do it online or at least by certified mail?  I was filling out my tax forums online over ten years ago.  I was paying for laundry at my college on a chipped card twenty years ago.  We have developed cars that can drive themselves better than any human.  The U.S. government recently demanded that NASA get American astronauts back on the moon by 2024, and they don’t care if they have to use private companies to do so.  About the only things I probably can’t buy online these days are firearms and street drugs.  And I probably could do both if I didn’t care about breaking the law.  I swear some things I have do deal with on a day to day basis is truly obsolete and out of touch with modern reality.  And it can be frustrating.

I know some people will think I’m overreacting.  Maybe I am.  But, I’ve lived in my current complex for twelve years.  Most of this information hasn’t changed any since the day I moved in.  I’m frustrated with how much of what I have to deal with is just hap hazard in organization and I have to deal with several different agencies, none of whom are in communication with each other.  It doesn’t have to be this much of a headache.  And do not give me this “well, suck it up because we’ve always done it this way.”  Well, we didn’t used to let women or minorities or anyone who didn’t own property vote either.  We used to believe kings and emperors were gods.  Things change.  Societies evolve.  Bad ideas die and end up on the ash heap of history, exactly where they belong.  It’s only a matter of time before much of social security’s paper work goes online or even automatic.  When I applied for Social Security Disability Insurance back in 2006, I did all that paper work online.  And that was thirteen years ago.  A lot has changed since then, though you wouldn’t know it looking at some institutions and people.

Of course having mental illness where I’m paranoid and irritable some times only makes things worse.  I do not enjoy interacting with my land lord.  I do not enjoy interacting with my social security man.  I fear dealing with authority figures.  I have had mostly bad experiences with authority ever since grade school.  I have rarely been helped by anyone in authority.  Most times I’ve had to rely on family or myself.  Besides, most times anyone in authority cared to talk to me was to threaten me and tell me what a screw up I was.  Happened at school.  Happened in the work place.  And it happens when I deal with Social Security and my land lord.  There has to be easier ways.  And don’t give me this “toughen up buttercup” nonsense.

If all our species ever did was toughen up and not try to improve anything, we’d either be living in caves still or would likely be extinct.  I am not a misanthrope, never have been.  I don’t hate my fellow humans.  I don’t want to hate my fellow humans.  Sure, the sometimes rude and stupid actions of my peers weighs heavy on my conscious and I fear for the future of my species.  But if I sound like I’m harsh and demanding of my fellow humans, it’s because I love humans.  I am a fan of mankind.  I hate those questions that ask ‘what is your spiritual animal’, as if it can’t be another human.  I have see the cool things we are capable of.  I have seen the kindness and compassion we extend to each other and the lower species.  I see it every day.  That’s why when I see arrogance, stupidity, rudeness, and violence towards other people and nature, it makes me sad.  Every time I see that, I think ‘those people are not living up to their potential.’  We can solve our problems.  Hell, we’ve been solving problems for many thousands of years.  You wouldn’t know it listening to some people, but those attitudes don’t matter.  And we can continue solving problems for millions of years as long as we don’t allow ourselves to become short sighted and clinging to old ways when they no longer serve their intended propose.

Civilization is not falling apart regardless of what our rulers and doom porn peddlers in the media want us to believe.  It’s going through a transition that is even greater than the Industrial Revolution or even Agrarian Revolutions of the past.  We are living through transition to a different type of civilization.  What will it be on the other side?  Don’t know.  But we didn’t know when what would happen when be built the first steam engines or planted the first seeds of wheat and rice or domesticated the first farm animals either.  We are living in a critical turning point in history, we are not living in the end of days type things.  We can make this transition.  It’s just that outdated institutions and obsolete ways of doing things will make the transition more of a headache than it needs to be.  The biggest thing we are lacking right now is not morality or decency, it’s original ways of thinking and new ideas.

History of Humanity in Less than 100 words

Take biology and psychology that developed over many thousands of years in the Stone Age, throw in Bronze Age spirituality and religions, mix in legal, finance, and government institutions developed in the Renaissance, toss in jobs, consumerism, work ethic, and education developed in the Industrial Revolution, add mass media and instant communications of the early 21st century, and possibly add machine automation that will make the work force far smaller and resources far easier to get as icing on the cake. Stand back and watch mayhem and chaos ensue or work toward bringing about the Star Trek future.

Changes Over One Lifetime

I’m going off subject for this post.  Today, June 28 2018 would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday.  She died of a stroke in 2015 at the age of 97.  Fortunately for our family, she was very sharp mentally right up until her stroke.  She would often talk about the things she saw and experienced in her lifetime.  Grandma Foster could just as easily recall events from her teenage years during the Great Depression as she could events that happened within the last week.  In some ways, she was like having a local historian in our family.

Today I would like to talk about some of the changes that occurred since my grandmother’s birth that early summer day in 1918.  One hundred years isn’t really a long time in terms of our recorded civilizations, let alone on the time frame of the cosmos.  But we have seen many changes.  And I would like to mention some of these.

In 1918, when my Grandma Foster was born, World War I was still going on.  The Spanish Flu Pandemic was at it’s hight.  The old Ottoman Empire was still in existence.  The Russian Revolution was going on.  China was still a very poor country.  India was still a possession of the British Empire.  Much of Africa was divided into European colonies.  Automobiles had been available to the working and middle classes for only a handful of years.  Industrial magnates like John Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla, etc. were still alive.  It was mostly urban areas in America and Europe that had electricity.  Coal and steam powered almost all industrial processes.

Technologies that my Grandma Foster saw rise during her lifetime included regular radio broadcasts, anti biotic medications, hybrid crops, nitrogen based chemical fertilizers, radar, reliable rockets, nuclear weapons and energy, jet propulsion, reliable airline travel, television, computers, more fuel efficient automobiles, plastics, reliable contraceptive pills, super highway systems, easily available credit cards, lasers, the beginnings of space exploration, organ transplants, test tube children, cellular phones, active searches for alien intelligences beyond our solar system,  high speed railways (granted not so much in America as in Europe and East Asia), the internet, near free information via wikipedia, near free self broadcasting via youtube and podcasting, social media, the beginnings of inexpensive renewable power, the rise of automated drone technology, the rise of robotics, the human genome project, the beginnings of affordable electric automobiles, the discovery of anti matter, and the early research into fusion power, genetic engineering, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence.

Cultural changes my Grandma Foster saw witness to involved women’s suffrage, the beginning and end of Prohibition, the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Communist Russia, World War II, the decline of children in the work force, the increase of women in the work force, the assassination of Gandhi, the Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, the rise of rock and roll music, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John Kennedy, the turmoil of the 1960s, the rise of cable and satellite television, the first people on the moon, the fears of nuclear war and it’s after effects, the popularization of hip hop music and urban culture, the launch of space probes to almost all of our solar system, the Hubble Telescope, the popularization of science fiction and futurism, the rise of awareness of industrial pollution and the beginnings of the efforts to undo the effects thereof, the AIDS epidemic, the end of colonialization, the rise of China as an industrial and scientific power, the rise of the United Nations and globalization, the beginnings of the decline of nationalist furvor that was the norm for most of civilization, the rise of the European Union, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the War on Terrorism, the first black man to be U.S. president, the first women Supreme Court justices, the beginnings of the declines in the marganializations of religious, sexual, cultural, etc. minorities, the beginnings of plans to colonize space, the realizations of the potential benefits and drawbacks of artificial intelligence, and the rise of better treatment for the disabled, mentally ill, and pretty much anyone who didn’t conform to the average norm.

All of this I mentioned was just in the lifetime of someone I was blood relation to.  As you could see, the rate of changes only accelerated as time went forward.  I’m sure there are changes I forgot to mention.  My grandmother was old enough to remember people who were Civil War veterans and probably met people who were born into slavery or at least their children.  I write all of this to state that yes, the world changes over time.  People change over time, and not just because older generations die off and younger ones take their places.  I think of some of the changes I’ve seen just in my 38 years living as a human.  I really don’t recognize much of what I saw in the mid 1980s now and some of the attitudes and practices of even my childhood has me wondering “what were we thinking” and even “what was I thinking.”  Change is constant.  Change is inevitable even if not predictable or even in coming.  Or as one science fiction writer put “The future is already here.  It just isn’t evenly distributed.”