Sunday, 27 August 2017

A Star Trek Future

A Star Trek Future For Humanity, or I Wouldn’t Be Starting From Here,
 If I Were You
Beam me up Scotty!
How many times have people you know, or indeed, yourself, expressed the wish to be ‘lifted’ out of this World, away from its madness and vexatious cruelty, to a fair and equitable technological paradise?
In my case I’ve heard it quite a few times.
Of course, the wish itself is a Fantasy, just a Day Dream, but what if it was really possible, for Humanity to build itself a future, that did indeed resemble Star Trek?
 Technology has progressed by leaps and bounds over the last hundred years. Who knows what might be discovered in the next hundred?
So possibilities are there, maybe not for ‘Warp Drive’ and ‘Matter Transporters’, but for a High Tech egalitarian society, a Planet at peace with itself, and outward looking to the Stars.
Chance would be a fine thing, most people will say at this point.
So, why is that? What is holding Humanity back from focussing its efforts on realising the Dream of a Technological, Equitable, Paradise?
Well, obviously the Humans are.
Humans band together. Humans form groups. Humans steal from each other. Humans embrace feuds and wars that last millennia.
So, the real problem that needs addressing, is how do you bring together the entire planet, so that the whole potential knowledge base and research capability of Humanity can be focussed, on the common good, and on the development of space travel?
I made the big assumption that Space Travel is key to a Star Trek future, and most Trekkies would be nodding their heads quite vigorously right now.
Space Travel does not have to be essential, but it’s nice for the story.
It also gives the boffins something to do.
So, how do you bring people together?
I have the box set of Star Trek the original series, for research purposes, and I will be trawling it for hints of how they may have reached their advanced technological and social state.
As far as I remember, (I was a big fan), they speak of great wars and unrest, to a certain extent mitigated by ‘oppressed parties’ emigrating from Earth, Khan for example, which led to the eventual unification of Earth, and with the Vulcans, eventually the United Federation of Planets.
So, the implication is that the early unification of Earth, was mostly by military force, and the successor ‘Empire’, evolving into a ‘Republic’.
Later films have first contact with the Vulcans played out as a key influence in Humanities unification and advancement.
We have to assume, I think, that realistically, Humanity in its isolated spot in the Universe, cannot expect a Humanoid Alien Race, to just drop by, and say hello.
So, Humanity is on its own for the forseeable future.
The question then must be, how do you organise one country, in such a way, that it is both attractive to outside countries, fair to its own citizens, and economically and militarily dominant?
This would have to be a country, that can maintain a decent and fair internal Government, with fair economic distribution, and yet still have the power to annex, or subsume, other parts of the world into itself?
Which countries then, are likely to fit this description?
Well, of course there aren’t any at the present.
China has some of the necessary attributes, and maybe, with some internal alterations, it might be a civilization that could in effect take over the world, and create the foundation for a highly research focussed society.
Other countries could with more difficulty, make that leap, it all depends on how much blood shed is envisaged in the unification process.
It is clear that the Star Trek Federation, is a Humanist, but tolerant, regime, which, unfortunately means that very many countries around the world at the moment, would be culturally unsuitable in their present state, to take part. For example, they don’t have the Death penalty or indeed, the repression of Women. As far as economic privilege is concerned, they don’t say that much about it.
On board ship, they talk of Military Ranks, Shore Leave, Retirement, and so on. They don’t mention Pay Packets, Pay Rises or Home buying.
It is probably safe to assume they have some Monetary system. They do have travelling Merchants (Trouble with Tribbles), but little mention is made of large corporations.
Robots, and Computers exist, but are not dominant. Just look at the bridge of the Enterprise, quite a large crew, handling tasks you might think could be done by one computer alone. In my novel Metacosmoclypse, I have few shipboard computers, with the justification that Computers had been ‘hacked’ by hostile aliens in the past, and human crew, were less vulnerable.
The crew of the Enterprise, does not include Robots, with crewmen handling every apparent task. Could that be seen as a conscious economic policy? A policy to provide jobs for people maybe?
In a later series, Lt Cdr Data, comes along, with the story arc, that he was a one off, an aberration, a sentient AI, with the implication that such were unknown to Federation science.
In the original series various alien artefacts were purported to have sentience, even a Planet itself in one episode.
All in all though, the Star Trek future depicted in the series, does not show technology replacing Humanity, but working alongside.
This is a major cultural difference between the present day reality of life and the dream of the future.
Technology is almost entirely harnessed to reduce costs, and the chief cost is Labour, Employees. So, a shift in attitude towards technological advancement is required. Technology used and developed, to increase quality of output rather than simply reduce cost, technology to add value to production without simply removing value from the Collected Workforce.  
We live under a system that is entirely dependent on ‘Market Forces’, a system that does not support development that is best for Humanity, merely supports development that achieves a Profit.
And even then the system is distorted by the sheer size and financial resources of some of its Players, people and corporations who can muster finances that can maintain Loss making situations until the competition is gone, who can warp whole markets, societies and communities with the click of a mouse button.
How do you win these people round? How do you convince these people that what they are doing is often quite wrong? How do you get them to focus their resources on creating a future that benefits everyone, and not just themselves?
The answer is, you probably can’t.
This is really sad.
So the question should not be, how do we create a Star Trek future, but how do we bring peace and common sense to the present.
How does Humanity stop its endless cycle of Wars, and Exploitation?
What does it take to make Humans sit back and say, “You know what, we’re going to stop fighting and robbing each other.”

I don’t think even the gods can be expected to know the answer to that one.

Monday, 21 August 2017

The How Evil Am I Check list

The How Evil Am I?  Check list.
 Answer each question that follows honesty, scoring one point for a yes, zero points for a no.
1: You're walking in the Park, someone drops their Wallet. They haven't noticed. Do you pick it up and keep it?
2: A Colleague at Work is really getting on your tits. You see a way to drop them in it, without risk to yourself. Do you do it?
3: You're Shopping at the Mall, it's Christmas, and you want a Barbie Doll for your Daughter. There is one left, and a little girl further from it than you, is talking excitedly about that very Doll. Do you take the Doll anyway?
4: You're out with friends, one of whom gets in a fight, do you back him up?
5: You're out with friends, one of whom gets in a fight, do you run away?
6: Your home is being invaded. You have a Gun, do you shoot the invader?
7: Your next door neighbour is arguing with a stranger, do you ignore them.
8: Your next door neighbour is beating his Wife, do you ignore them.
9: Your next door neighbour is loading someone's body into his car boot. Do you ignore him.
10: Your neighbour is really struggling to move the body, do you offer to lend a hand?
11:  A train arrives at a Station. A body has burst across it's front, and the driver hasn't noticed. Do you laugh?
12: Your at the Station, someone clearly in distress, is hovering by the platform edge. Do you ignore them?
13: Someone is at the platforms edge, do you watch to see if they jump?
14: As 13, but do you have your Phone ready to get some You Tube footage?
15: You have a new Job in the City. You have to swindle Pension Accounts. Do you stay with the job?
16: Your Boss says it's victimless crime, and that finessing money from Pension Funds is just normal business and not dishonest. Do you believe him?
17: You walk passed a Homeless Person on the Street. Do you ignore her?
18: You walk passed a Homeless Person on the Street. Do you come back later with an indecent proposal?
19: You walk passed a Homeless Person on the Street. Do you come back with your friends later and beat her to death?
20:Do you eat live vegetables? (Fruit and Grains are exempt)
21: Do you eat meat?
22: Are you prepared to Kill in Self Defence?
23: Are you prepared to Kill for a Religious Cause?
24: Are you prepared to Kill for Personal Gain?
25: Do you Kill for the sheer Joy and Fun of the Act?
26: When you see a Tragedy on the News, do you ignore it?
27: When you see a Tragedy on the News, do you watch avidly, grateful that it wasn't you?
28: When you see a Tragedy on the News, do you get out the Popcorn and beer?
29: Are you jealous of other People?
30: Do you belittle other People you worry might be better than you at something?
31:  Do you wish Ill of other People?
32: Have you ever prayed for the demise of one or more people?
33: Do you want more Wealth than you presently have?
34: Do you hoard what Wealth you have?
35: Do you deny yourself or your loved ones, simply to meet a 'Financial Target'?
36: Do you conspire with others to gain more Wealth, at the expense of others?
37: Do you try to engineer events, in business or in career, to advance you or your kin, over other people?
38: Do you see other People as your property?
39: Do you believe you are more important than other People?
40: Do you keep Friends only so long as they are useful?
If you score over twenty, you're Nasty. Over thirty, shit that's bad.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Humanity has a Big Problem.

Humanity has a big problem.
Humanity has several big problems.
Technology, Humanities greatest aid and comfort, is out stripping the imagination of the people who use it.

Resources, by their very nature, are limited. Skilled and Unskilled Human Labour is one such Resource.
It is however, a Resource for which Technology has become a perfect substitute.
The problem this poses affects everyone.
A glut has been created in the Labour Market. There are now far too many people, who previously would have undertaken Skilled or Unskilled Labour, who just aren’t needed any more.
This situation is only going to get worse, as Robotics and Computer systems replace more occupations.
Now the Market is in a quandary.
Everyone knows the Markets are rigged to suit the dominant players, who vary depending on whose star is rising or falling at any one time, but in a Consumer Economy, you need Consumers.
You need the Little Guys, who have a job or a small business, to be able to go shopping.
As more of these people fall by the wayside, as their Jobs and Businesses are destroyed by Technological advances, Demand for Consumer Goods will fall.
Now, everyone cannot be a Day Trader, unless the Market is Rigged in perpetuity to create rigged profits for everyone (or everyone in a select club).
So, some kind of Plan, some kind of provision needs to be drawn up for those people who are being disenfranchised, disinherited, dispossessed, of livelihoods, businesses, and communities, by unregulated technological change.
Many people hold the Tough Luck, Sink or Swim view of life, and let’s get something clear, these people who say that would be the first to complain if their neighbour did anything to reduce the value of their home for example, or dared to trespass on their business. Some people who say that now, WILL be victims of technological change in the near future.
Now, taking action that is to the detriment of another person is usually frowned upon, except when technology is concerned, then it’s all gung ho, let’s steam ahead with no thought for those affected.
Now, the number of people who will be left able to have a job, in the next fifty years, could fall as low as five or six percent of the working age population.
Robots and AI can almost certainly, replace 94% to 95% of all existent jobs.
So, to ignore what is a major change in the whole nature of Human life, and to just say, ‘people will work things out for themselves’, is foolish.
Look at History, violence will not be the last resort of people dispossessed from the economy ‘en masse’, it’ll be the first resort.
To say people will find new occupations is foolish. They said that in Britain about Mining Towns under Thatcher, and guess what? The towns withered away.
People cannot compete with Robotics and Automation, and they shouldn’t have to.
A new definition of what it means to actually be a citizen is needed, while a State actually exists.
Technology should, and could quite easily be made to serve all Humanity, false mantras about Free Enterprise and ‘Market forces’, are just the smokescreen of people wanting to protect their own entrenched economic privilege. A privilege they will lose, if change isn’t managed effectively and to the benefit of the majority of people. Now, certainly over the years, many non jobs, and partial jobs, have been sustained, often in the Public Sector as a means of dividing up the Surplus of Production. Now of course, higher home prices, has led (in Britain) to a surge in Buy To Let Landlords , who’s Rents are provided, often in full, by the Taxpayer, through Housing Benefit.
In other words, the State is choosing to provide an allocation of Resources to one part of Society, almost entirely on Arbitrary grounds.
British families, outside of the top echelons, usually have little or no inherited wealth, the surge in House prices, has created some, which Gov’t policy changes, for example to Adult Social Care Costs, has helped to remove again.
So, it brings us back to the looming disaster for the Labour Market.
How do you allocate resources, fairly, equitably, between Citizens, when you have entrenched, fortified even, positions of Wealth Ownership and Control, who frankly don’t want to share a penny more than they have to.
Now, the only real limit to physical wealth creation, is the natural resources consumed in production.
The potential production of products to satisfy Consumer needs , and wants, is far in excess of the actual need, or want, within reason. No one is suggesting that everyone who wants a Yacht should have one, that’s ridiculous. But the ordinary things, suffer no limit of scarcity other than that imposed by Manufacturers and the Price mechanism. 
The Price Mechanism, in all Markets, is being rigged, by a select few players, to what they want it to be. Even so, gluts in Raw Materials exist in most categories, the main exception being Rare Earth Elements, but even those supplies are not actually ‘Strained’ in any way.
What Humanity is actually short of, is Imagination, and Guts.
The 19th Century Model of Economic activity, has never worked very well, for anyone, and with the dawn of an age, wherein a Computer can do the work of Ten Thousand Clerks, in less than a Second, and one Factory Robot, the work of Fifty Men or more, there is a real serious need for a replacement model.
Such a model could be phased in gradually, perhaps over a century, with good planning and foresight.
As Robots and Computers replace people, people need new purposes in life, and new sources of income so they can participate in Society.
Perhaps a form of Universal Basic Income is the way ahead. In Britain in effect, through Housing Benefit, available to those who Rent property only, there sort of is, already, because Working people are its main recipient, especially in the expensive cities.
It makes a joke of the old notion of a Free Market, because it represents a subsidy to the cost of Workers for any Employer whose Employees receive it. People who own Property do not receive this form of Basic Income, despite that they might be paying for a Mortgage or indeed be Unemployed. It could be argued that they get Tax Free Annual Gains from House Price appreciation, but you have to sell your house to realise that! And of course, you need somewhere to live afterwards!
So in Britain we have a situation where, even as Jobs vanish, the Wealth divide is being expanded, widened, arbitrarily.
The obvious solution is to slowly expand the Cooperative, Social Employment Sector, enabling people, who have no money, to start or get involved with activities that create ‘Social Wealth’ in their locality. It would give them a sense of purpose, and would help create Communities, and provide care for those who need it.
Robots will eventually replace Doctors and Nurses, without doubt, but in the mean time Carer and Social positions are an option.
But they need to be funded. Because we struggle on under a 19th Century system, such funding can only reliably come from the State, waiting for Charity or Corporate sponsors would inevitably lead to certain areas being unfairly supported above others, the prejudices of the Sponsors coming through.
The idea of supporting local Cooperatives, with State Funding could be a good one, but of course, as 85% of new small businesses in the UK fail within the first three years, it begs the question how? One off Grants? That could be an open opportunity for Fraud. Long term Grants, same problem.
So, a structure needs to be in place, to Police the uses such funds are put to, to keep the whole thing honest.
Unless the system was organised centrally.
Unfortunately, whilst the Gov’ts in Britain and America both love Centralising Power, they do not like taking responsibility at a local level, and certainly in Britain, Gov’ts have done everything they can to cut the Public Sector to the bone.
These cuts have been, for the most part entirely for Dogmatic reasons, not for reasons of efficiently. Many examples exist (see Private Eye) of Privatisations, and Outsourcing, that have ended up costing the Taxpayer far, far more than the original Public provision.
To me, the obvious way to ensure that local Social Cooperatives spend their money wisely, is to have the Staffing, Payroll, and Budgets, centrally administered by a branch of the Civil Service.
So each Cooperative member would have a pay grade, and a salary. The Director of the cooperative, would present requests for purchases and so on, for authorisation to the central body, who following rules agreed by Parliament, would approve or not such requests depending on whether they fell within the remit of the Cooperatives activities. Various categories of Cooperative could be defined for various purposes.
Should the Cooperative undertake trading activities, such Cashflow should pass through a central Accounts system, any profits, being used to offset the whole Departments expenditure.
So, you could think of the whole Cooperative system as a Corporation, if you wished, but one established to address local Social needs rather than the self aggrandisement of a few Executives.
The Dogmatists will of course hate the idea of anything that does not make them or their cronies a profit at some point.
But what price do you put on having Safe, Happy Communities? How much incidental trading profit would arise in private business, from having Cooperative Employees in their area? We all live in one Goldfish bowl, and the ripples of happiness or unhappiness reach us all. Unless you are going to build yourself a Bunker, and what would be the point of living like that?
Now, Gov’ts have demonstrated themselves as being perfectly happy to PRINT MONEY, in order to look after the very few, surely the economic benefits of funding a wide reaching, pervasive and equitable Cooperative system would justify the creation of extra Tokens of Authority, which is all money is, at the end of the day.

With a system in place to cushion and absorb surplus Labour, you could then march your Robots in with a clear conscience and with less resistance.