Category Archives: Future

Homo deus: what are we going to do with ourselves?

220px-the_creation_of_adam“In a healthy, prosperous and harmonious world, what will demand our attention and ingenuity? This question becomes doubly urgent given the immense new powers that biotechnology and information technology are providing us with. What will we do with all that power?”

Yuval Noah Harari. “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.”

The future is both unknowable and already past, so potentially knowable.  If we can step outside of space-time; perhaps learn to treat that strange continuum as we do space, which seems to us so plain, yet teems with subatomic life.   We experience time, as living creatures; as much as fish need water to exist, so we need time.  But time does not exist; it is an illusion of our mind.  Only space-time.

Light is both wave and particle.   This example of the law of paradoxical Truths to help you see the future as potentially knowable, despite being intrinsically unknowable. You are at the same time, no more than the dust that you return to after death; and the very purpose for the creation of the entire universe.  Ha Olam.

Future space-time exists co-equally with past, but not in human experience where past is set and future open.  In either past or future, energy is spent from the present moment.  We must learn from the past and prepare for the future, but without excess and unhelpful focus on past or future events.  “I lived through many disasters, some of which happened…”

As for the laws of physics, there is nothing special about the present; made unique to me by being alive at this point, and so, aware of this space-time, here-now.  And I think the question Harari asks must be answered; given the exponentially growing power of humanity.  Unless the question becomes redundant, if we manage to destroy our home planet….with that growing power that children fail to acknowledged

 

 

Mythos: Free Will, free choice?

quote-all-theory-is-against-free-will-all-experience-is-for-it-samuel-johnson-53-91-35

Humanity has long pondered the question of free will; and whether  chicken or egg came first. Like Xeno’s paradoxes the questions identify flaws in both language and logic.  What does Free Will (FW) really mean?

Mythos is the ancient Greek counterpart to logos (reason). The two sides of mind. Myths help us understand and live in this world. They carry a deep truth, even if the events are not factual.  This Atlantic article‘s title was “There’s No Such Thing as Free Will –
But we’re better off believing in it anyway.” A mythos.  It was “one of the most read and hotly debated Atlantic pieces this month. The galaxy of philosophical issues called “free will and determinism” is where morals and physics come together. In other words, it’s a subject that genuinely matters, and one that’s a hell of a lot of fun to argue about.”  Want to try?

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Capital gains tax: “too blunt a measure”

Is this true?  Of course, it is – any single measure as compared to a carefully crafted range of strategies is needed to deal with the “Auckland housing crisis”.  The most important measure is to increase not only the quantity of housing, but also its quality.

The Housing & Health evidence is compelling: it can be a cost-saving investment, as well as improving health.  We need warmer and less damp houses, and make sure that we support the poorest to be able to afford enough energy.

So, why does the government not invest in quality housing?  The potential to design new communities always comes at a cost to the old.  And the benefits of the new not evident until it is built.  Can we re-design living around our biological needs, and not just profit?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs implies a certain standard set of needs that all humans need.  Shelter is but one of these, so why not design for the package of food, clothing, transport, and so on.  The main need now is connectivity for access to an incredible range of resources.

If we ask the question how can we most efficiently and effectively achieve this, the best answer till now has been the market.  The magic of the invisible hand that achieves optimal outcomes from individuals serving their own interests.  But new technology offers new opportunities; including to address the over-concentration of wealth in a hungry world.

One simple solution with profound impacts would be to move to a single financial transaction system for NZ.  This could make retail banks redundant;  the optimal solution?

The system would pay for itself by enabling a range of financial transaction taxes that would be collected seamlessly, replacing current income and sales taxes.  A capital gains tax, added to this regime, that would apply to the sale of houses (excluding first homes, unless over $2m) would be fair and appropriate way to reduce demand while the supply is built up.

Eating together: less cooking, more health and connection

Why is the standard unit for eating the household?  We have institutions that provide food to its inmates.  Sadly, the government just blocked a proposed law to provide breakfast and lunch for those who go to schools serving the poorest fifth of New Zealand children.  This is despite the OECD having advised that more redistribution of income would be good for the overall economy.

The primary concerns of maximising our time and our health are at a trade-off. We can optimise this by reducing the time we spend on preparing food.  If you are rich, you can employ people to provide you food.  (And we can all indulge in this luxury for one meal when we go to a restaurant).  But is there a community-wide way to reduce time in food preparation while improving the nutrition, and hence the health of the population?  If so, this would save all of us money, by reducing the burden of disease that we all pay for through our national health system.

Community kitchens provide food as a safety net to the homeless.  One reason for eating at home, is its convenience.  But if food could be provided as cheaply, as tasty, and also more healthy   – eating in a communal setting would meet many needs; especially for those with the least resources of both time and health.

Mass food production is usually with food that has had its nutrients processed out and additives to enhance taste or shelf life.  While this has provided cheap and tasty food, the adverse health consequences are increasing important as diet-related diseases account for large and increasing public health costs.  The other key aspect here, is that the food industry is such a massive enterprise.  Perhaps, the most powerful lobby in the US.

Can we change from food industry to food for health?  Can we develop communal eating options that can meet the needs of most people?  Perhaps the real question is why don’t we?

Declaration of Independence

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for people to re-form bonds which connect them one with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the different yet equal station to which the Laws of Humanity entitle them, a decent respect to those most in need requires a Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all life is created equal, that the power we have as humans comes with responsibilities and duties. That government is established only to guarantee all peoples their Rights. Chief among these Human Rights are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

WE depend on each other in increasingly complex and interconnected ways as global networks develop. These networks were initially developed as a government military tool has now generated a new economy a new generation of billionaires. Most of the world is connected; and now we need to complete the process of linking every person in the world to each other. And build the global systems to provide local resources and control.
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How would this work?

With a global network for all, all can contribute to global decisions. And create global governance with local control.

What do we need from government: safety and security; stable currency with secure transactions; regulatory oversight to protect consumers and prevent cheating. We have also got used to the benefits of government provided services for health and education; perhaps this needs to be extended to provision of housing, food and sex, given the importance of both to health.

Communities can decide on how best to provide such services, and perhaps even which services to provide. As long as certain agreed global standards were achieved in outcomes.  But there is a need for global infrastructure: war, money, regulation, and more.  I touch on the first three.

A truly global military force, by definition, would means no more war between nations. The military resources of the world could be directed to internal security and community building, with a focus on preventing any abuse of Human Rights abuses such as actions of the so-called Islamic State and Warlords like Kone.

A single global financial system for money exchange and storage enables easy introduction of the fairest tax system with virtually no transaction costs: financial transaction tax. It could eliminate the need for income taxes, especially if ‘vice taxes’ were also used. The distribution of tax revenue to  communities would also be automated and based on the source of the revenue; implicitly requiring communities to be financially viable to continue to get funding.

Any grouping of at least 150 people can form a community; but such small communities may not be viable for delivery of social services. Probably there should be no upper limit. Whilst there may be some dangers if any single community gets too large/powerful, the principle of local control must prevent interference by system design. This will need careful building; other safeguards may be needed?

People are not limited by geography in the communities that they can join; there may need to be some transaction costs to prevent excess mobility; or perhaps incentives will become common to encourage people to join certain communities.

The need for market regulation is reduced by the consequence of a single global financial transaction system, that removes the need for much of the current financial sector.  The new information infrastructure would include many other elements, linked to the financial transactions and the capacity to use Big Data to monitor commercial activity to prevent abuse and cheating.  The IT would be developed and run by those currently doing this in the private sector, rather than government. But reconstituted into a global public good company, whose primary role is to keep the interweb safe, monitor and prevent unproven claims, and ensure smooth operation for the increasing demands of data. Specialised agencies for medicines etc. will be more efficient as a global network, rather than as multiple national agencies, each repeating each other’s work.

At present, most new money is generated by private bank lending. The global financial transaction system can create money with the flick on an electron. But the amount of new money generated must be linked to overall economic activity to help maintain the stability of prices. Investment decisions will be made mostly by local communities, but there is also a need for global infrastructure and indeed of a global governance. One vote per community; no elected officials except those chosen at random to limit lobbying influence. A professional global bureaucracy to support communities in developing service delivery models to meet their needs; and to manage the global infrastructure, including financial transaction system.