Relapse and Feeling Vulnerable

Been having some truly down days for the last week.  Finally had a breakdown a couple days ago.  I hate those.  Seems to be the only way out of those is to just rant and rave to an empathetic person, namely my parents.  I am thankful I didn’t have said breakdown in public, otherwise I’d be in jail or dead.  It saddens me to read stories like the one about the kid at Georgia Tech getting killed by police while undergoing a breakdown. Now I know most people don’t care about the mentally ill, I get that.  It’s tough to relate to problems you can’t see or imagine.  But it does scare me that this kid could have been me if past situations were a little different.  Now I don’t hate police officers, I have a couple in my extended family.  I know they have a difficult and thankless job.  But I just fear them.  I fear people with power.  I’ve seen people with power abuse it too many times.  Makes me fear that power is supposed to be abused and that normal people respect those that abuse power more than those that don’t abuse their power.

I guess that I am still depressed and fearful.  I know it’s not manly to feel fear and depression.  It’s seems like it’s not manly to feel anything at all.  My breakdown wasn’t helped any that I finally had to deal with internet trolls on my blog’s Facebook page.  I didn’t write back to them, I just blocked them.  Seems to be the only real effective way to deal with fools and bullies online.  Seems to me that Facebook brings out the worst in people.  As much as I love science and tech, I truly fear for our species when mind reading tech is perfected.  I fear this far more than I do AI our automation taking millions of jobs.  Maybe we won’t solve our current problems.  I just fear what the average person is capable of anymore.

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Work, Education, Future Tech, Minimalism, and Mental Illness

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Even though mental illness has cost me any potential career, wealth, or family, I am still quite happy overall most of the time.  I would say that age 37 I’m far happier and content now than I was 10 years ago.  I have come to the acceptance that I don’t need a career to validate my life and existence.  That is something most people in modern civilization never come to realize.  I still get the questions of ‘what do I do for a living’ all the time when I’m out in public.  Anymore I just tell people I do online computer stuff from home, which isn’t a lie.  I just don’t get paid for it.  For years I lied to people about what kind of job I had.  And I felt guilty about it because the very question seemed to imply that I had to validate my existence by what I did for several hours a day.  What does it matter what I do all day as long as I’m not breaking the law or hurting other people?  I know some exceptionally brilliant people who more or less dropped out of modern society because they saw the whole idea of a 40 hour work week and family and house in the suburbs as self defeating and pointless.  I mean I don’t need to have a job paying me six figures when, as a minimalist, I can live comfortably off less than 20 grand a year.  Besides, with soon to be eight billion plus people living on our small planet, we’re going to have to learn how to do more with less anyway.

What does it matter what a person does for a living in many cases anyway?  There are studies out there and can be viewed online that state that as many as 50 percent of current jobs could be assigned to machines and done better within the next 20 years.  When this happens, and it will happen despite political interventions and social upheavals, we as humans will have to find new ways to define ourselves outside of paid employment.

And I can’t figure out why people are so scared senseless of having their jobs assigned to machines.  Practically everyone I know hates their jobs.  I have heard that old “Oh God It’s Monday” and “Thank God It’s Friday” nonsense since I was five years old.  Seems to me that griping and moaning about how much your job sucks is as American as baseball.  If I were a business owner, I think I’d install machines just so I have to deal with as few bad attitudes as possible.  Most jobs are in the service sector anymore that don’t pay as well as the old unionized factory jobs.  And most people that work in these sectors are treated poorly by bosses, customers, and even fellow employees.  I will never voluntarily work in customer service ever again.  I have enough problems of my own to be working maximum hours for little to no benefits while taking abuse from customers and bosses.  The way normal people treat customer service employees is really heartless and uncivilized.  I don’t understand why anyone would put themselves through that except for the need for money.  And I don’t need the money, so I won’t put myself through it.

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Seems to me that we are running out of low skill jobs while many high skill jobs like doctors, engineers, teachers, trades jobs, technicians, etc. are going unfilled.  Our schools, for whatever reasons, simply aren’t producing the quantities of people that are needed to keep our high tech civilizations functioning and advancing.  That concerns me.  We know my country doesn’t do a good job teaching science or math in our grade and secondary schools.  We have known this for over 40 years now.  And nobody seems interested in updating the American school systems for the high tech realities of modern times.  Our civilization cannot afford another 40 years of poor science and math education.  Why aren’t we making the changes?

Yes, our schools served us well in the industrial revolution.  But they are a poor design for the information revolutions we have been in for at least the last 30 years. Then again, with as fast as things are advancing, much of what an 18 year college freshman learns will be pointless and obsolete by the time he/she graduates from college four to five years later.  So we may have to teach kids to learn how to learn rather than give them certain facts and expect them to spit them out on a test only to be forgotten a week later.   I would love to see some kid write on her high school tests, “Why should I clutter my mind with facts I can look up on Google?” That kind of testing seemed pointless to me as a teenager and it seems even more pointless now in 2017.  Fortunately for older people like me there are mediums like youtube, khan academy, free online course through places like MIT, etc. that are keeping us more informed than we would have been in previous generations.  Used to be that a person could rote learn facts and then spend the next 30 years working on a farm or in a factory simply because the science and tech didn’t advance very fast.  Of course many people didn’t live past age 50 either, so retirement and the diseases of old age like heart disease and cancer weren’t very big problems.  Those days are as dead and gone as the draft horse and wagon.

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Unfortunately many people of my generation and the previous generations made the mistake of ending their education once their school years were over.  This we could afford when science and tech weren’t advancing really fast and people weren’t regularly living into their 80s and 90s.  But as fast as things are advancing now, it’s hurting us that our citizens and elected leaders aren’t able to keep up with the advances.  I doubt most people in my government even understand that robotics, computer programs, and AI are getting good enough that many jobs will be disappearing within the next decade or two.  My politicians are talking about bringing back old style manufacturing jobs.  As good as automation is, that’s not happening.  The U.S. is already the number two manufacturer in the world, behind only China.  Even China is automating much of it’s manufacturing now.  And when 3D printers get really good and easy to use, that’s going to end even more manufacturing jobs and retail jobs.  When I get a good 3D printer someday, I will never set foot in a Wal Mart or mall ever again.  As it already is, I do most of my shopping online.  I even get delivery pizza and deli online anymore.

I don’t even have to go back to school to learn new things, thanks to online learning.  For all I know, our grandkids’ generation may be able to have all their education online without having to set foot in a classroom.  I’ve already learned as much online through five years of rigorous study on youtube and khan academy as I ever did in my years of formal education.  And I absolutely love it.  Maybe one of the reasons I’m not scared of the avalanche of changes our civilization is and will be facing in the next couple generations is because I have had to reinvent myself several times because of mental illness.  We as a civilization will have to reinvent ourselves to avoid destroying ourselves.  Maybe my schizophrenia inadvertently sling shot me ahead of most of the crowd.  We are heading towards some really cool things in the future, but whether or not we as a species make a successful transition is not certain mainly because we are stumbling around without much of a plan to manage the transition.

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How The Internet Made My Mental Illness More Manageable

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Even though I haven’t gotten out of my hometown all winter I have still managed to keep in contact with friends and family.  Thanks to the internet I keep in contact with my old friends via Facebook.  And I’ve made several new acquaintances that would be friends if only we lived in the same town through the forums and groups I participate in.  I’m involved in a few futurists’ pages as well as some science pages.  I guess I really don’t interact much with other writers or bloggers, not as much as I should.  I used to belong to the Nebraska Writers’ Guild but I let that membership lapse as there weren’t many guild members living near me and few of the guild members were my age or younger.  I guess even mentally ill people like to spend time with people similar to them.

With my Wal Mart special smart phone I keep in contact with family members a couple times a week.  If my dad happens to be in town, he will send me a text message asking if I want to have lunch with him or mom will ask me if I want her to pick up something from Wal Mart.

Speaking of shopping, I don’t really buy that much in traditional stores.  I still go to the all night supermarket to get groceries every couple weeks.  But even there I find out about their sales and specials through the store’s web page.  I still get my psychiatric meds through a traditional pharmacy.  But even there I get automated reminders that tell me when I’m due for refills.  The only time I actually deal with another person is when I go to the pharmacy to physically retrieve my refills.  Even that may become a thing of the past in a few years if automated pharmacies and delivery drones pick up traction.

Most of what I buy anymore outside of groceries, fuel for my car, and basic home items, I now buy online.  When I buy books, it’s online.  When I buy computer games, it’s online.  When I buy movies or tv shows, it’s through amazon’s digital service.  I get all my music online through spotify.  Most of my tv watching is done via youtube or netflix.  Many of my computer games now have online support and updates.  I now buy most of my clothes online as I do have rare sizes.  Sure it is a little more expensive, but I can find exactly what I want as long as I’m willing to look.  As much as I appreciate second hand stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army, even they can be a roll of the dice in terms of finding what I need.

Comparing what I spend now to what I spent several years ago on my living expenses, I’m now actually spending less than I was ten years ago.  With my social security disability pension being what it is, I make less than fifteen thousand dollars per year.  Even though that puts me below the poverty line, at least by American standards, I don’t feel poor.  I have access to treasure troves of music that would put any music collection of twenty years ago to shame.  Thanks to wikipedia I’ll never have to buy an encyclopedia set.  Thanks to online clothing stores, I don’t need to settle for clothing that doesn’t really fit or doesn’t look good on me as long as I keep my measurements up to date.  Thanks to online news and entertainment, I really don’t need cable tv.  The only thing I use cable tv for anymore is live sporting events.  Even at that I watched some college football games online last year.  So I really don’t need to buy a ticket, navigate a crowded stadium, and sit in the freezing cold to watch Nebraska Huskers football anymore.  I can sit on my own couch, grill my own meats, and not worry about anyone blocking my view or having to go down several flights of stairs to get to the restroom.  I’ll keep watching sporting events online even if I really have little interest of seeing them in person.  Unless, of course, the Colorado Rockies ever got back to the World Series or if the U.S. ever hosted the World Cup soccer tournament again.

I can get even medical advice online anymore, thanks to services like WebMD.  I can type in my symptoms and see if what ails me is serious enough to go to the doctor or not.  So I don’t usually have to go to the doctor unless I’m really sick or my mental illness problems are really out of line.  I haven’t had to go to the psych hospital in over three years but it is good that the option is still there.  Since I spend so much time online, I have developed some friendships with people I’ll no doubt never meet.  And I get to post about mental illness and it’s ups and downs in a forum that didn’t exist even twenty years ago.  Twenty years ago I would have had the same thoughts, but no means of recording them for a public audience.  I would have had to suffer in silence if I had these problems as recently as the 1980s instead of the 2000s and 2010s.  We are living in a totally different world than the one I grew up in during the 1980s and early 1990s.  And I’m completely glad for it.  I can hardly wait to see what other cool stuff and finding come out in the next twenty five years.  Thanks to the internet, I can watch this new world unfold and take root from the comfort of my own living room and not even leave my small home town.