The Need for a New Operating System--Essays on an Alternative to Capitalism


Table of Contents











Introduction

Capitalism is Obsolete


An alternative is not only possible, it is absolutely essential.


Here is where I'm coming from:

I start from a foundation expressed by Marshal McLuhan and his declaration "The Medium is the Message." In this was the notion that new ways to extend our faculties created their own effect space no matter how they were used. As such it didn't matter nearly as much what was carried on telegraph wires, as opposed to the environment of juxtaposition they could provide to the news papers that made use of them. A juxtaposition that was a whole new way to perceive the world. Not surprising when you consider what the printing press, and repeatable type, did to thought. So cheap and easily distributed, this new found emphasis on the segmentation, and linear output, and input, of all experience. Is it any wonder that the segmentation of daily life into numbers on a clock, and the increasing requirement of specialization, and simplification of labor, in order to accomplish more between the space between one clock number and the next, would become so predominant?

This is important when we consider the affect that the electrification of experience retrieval has had on what was once the sole province of human skill. Especially as one thinks in terms of such skill as a commodity. This, as well as other aspects of electrified information (as in its restricted flow, and the amplification that is the hallmark of hyper-marketing) has made Capitalism a mutated monstrosity. Something that the mindset that created it could not have possibly anticipated, or intended.

My motivation is very simply stated as an abhorrence of what is being done to the human condition by the greed, hyper-marketing, and livelihoods based on consumption, imposed upon us by an economic operating system never intended to be electrified.


A collection of essays:

Since the system that is Capitalism, and the society in the United States that has come to be formed, as well as do its own forming of that operating system, is so complicated, what you will find herein are facets of the whole, and my response to them. In each facet is not only a part of the symptoms, and the particular aspect of Capitalism I believe caused those symptoms, but also how I feel an alternative would work to ameliorate those symptoms.

Humanity at a fork in the roadby Jeff Vale



For way too long now we've been in denial about a choice we need to make; hence the title of this video. It's a fundamentally simple choice both in content and in form. We can remain on the path which is essentially doing what we have been doing, or we can recognize that it is time to find a new path.

For the last few decades I've been struggling to not only formulate the why and what of a new path, but also to articulate it in a form sufficient to its importance. I think I've done a pretty good job of the former, but not nearly good enough on the latter. I'm moving to video now in the hopes that I can improve upon the latter.

When you set out on an endeavor such as this you quickly realize that there are two parts two it. First is formulating an argument that would provide sufficient grounds to believe that a new path is indeed needed. The second is to provide something that at least approaches a possible solution. The emphasis for me has always been that the first part is the most important. If we can at least agree that a new path is absolutely essential, we have a common point to start from. My proposed solution, however, was always meant as a way to start the debate on what the new path should be; a debate that should be as large and inclusive as possible; which is where you come in.

So, first things first.

Do we really need a new Path? Certainly there are large numbers of intransigent problems facing humanity today; are they necessarily grounds for a fundamental overhaul of how we operate as a society? Let list them first:

Vast environmental problems, huge lists of underfunded essentials for what ought to be any thoughtful society, the balance of big money as opposed to big government, the gridlock of government as various interested parties vie for leverage and advantage within the previous example, and from that, the age old struggle of who pays and who gets to benefit; And last, but not least, the many ramifications of populations increasingly disconnected from any sense of meaning, fulfillment or linkage to the fact that they matter.

Anyone could probably continue that list, but the point is we've known about most of them for at least two decades now. And any one or two of them pose real threats to any form of social viability across the globe. The question you need to ask yourself is this: do you feel confident that the current dominant social operating system is up to the task of solving any of them? And no matter how you feel about the current operating system, the other question you need to ask yourself is this: Does any operating system remain relevant indefinitely?

For my own part, the answer to those questions are obvious, and have been since 1980 at the very least. Which is why I am before you now, outlining an argument, and seeking your involvement.

In order to ground such an argument you need an idea, or set of ideas, that could provide a structural re-bar of cause and effect. And for me that was found in the theories of Marshall McLuhan.

Most people born after 1980 probably don't remember much about him, though if you're a true web-head that might not be true. Wired, after all, has proclaimed him as their patron saint. He was, in any case, very well known in the sixties and seventies.

He really broke new ground in how we ought to consider tools and technique. How most tools are extensions of both our senses and physical capabilities; how these extensions then affect the way we view and interpret reality; creating new environments by their very existence. And especially true in this was how we stored and moved experience; as first with language itself, its later forms of hard copy, and on to audio, video and their final integration.

The upshot of all of this is that at each phase of development the predominant means of storage and utilization carried with it specific kinds of perceptual, and behavioral, tendencies. For example, oral cultures tended to be more communal and inclusive precisely because they perceived, and interacted with, their environment, and each other, in much less abstracted ways. Knowledge was what was in the stories and myths of a people; which were as much in the telling as in what was actually said. As language became more abstracted in the form of graphic characters that could be set upon whatever was the newest material to hold them, so too did a societies view of reality. The pinnacle of this process, in McLuhan's view, was the advent of typography and the printing press. With that did we begin the assembly line of thought.

Based on this model, it has always seemed to me that a very good argument could be made that the industrial revolution occurred in significant part because of the segmented, and linear rationality resultant of this kind of abstraction. From there, the specialized separation of labor, was a natural step. It also follows from such segmentation that you can't do it if you don't also create a means more efficient than barter to translate the output of one specialization to another. And thus the ultimate abstraction came into being; the universal experience translator that we now know as money. A means to accumulate vast amounts of potential social action; action for good or ill that can be wielded by the narrowest of interest or concern. And in that, for context, only the excesses of the religious true believer could be argued to have caused as much, if not more, folly.

There is no doubt that a segmented labor, commercial commodity, form of economy created an engine of incredible material gain. Just as there can be no doubt that a considerable price was paid for that gain; everything has a downside after all. The problem now, however, is that this old, mechanistic system; geared more for water wheels and steam, has be thrust into the age of electricity; pure information at the speed of light. With this do we move, full circle, back to the sensibilities of oral cultures; only now its an inescapable communal-ism as matrices of information flow bring us everything at once, from an ever expanding environment of everything. Holistic thinking, complexity and systems integration become buzzwords lost in the crunch of old structure with mind numbing overload. We've ended up, you see, with a hybridized capitalism and a mutating, elector-oral mind set. You can best describe the former with the song “Locomotive Breath”, which, in my mind, is really a lament of a linear accelerator as seen from the bias of a rear view mirror type of vision. And the latter as chameleons on electric mirrors.

The result is so many contradictions and absurdities now.

Information and money now are synonymous. How can there possibly be the free flow of information that democracy requires when it is also the currency of influence, defining not only the arguments, the language, and the options, but the breadth and reach of voices.

Now that livelihoods and consumption are inseparably linked, to prevent pollution often requires the impoverishment of significant numbers of our neighbors. Better means of doing one thing or another threaten established centers of info-capital so they are birthed within the countervailing pressures to bury, suppress, or co-opt. Because the means to produce become ever more efficient, with less able to do more, not only is the value of a retrievable skill lessened, but the need to increase consumption is accelerated; there are always more of us after all so to keep creating jobs we must consume faster. This creates the situation where more and more of us have ever less to spend, even as we are increasingly bombarded by the manipulation of all of our base instincts to want. Add in the hyper competition, ever spiraling upward, that fuels the inhuman advance of efficiency, and which requires the retooling of every factor of production at increasing rates (whether it can be paid for or not), is it any wonder that we have no connection any more to our tools, let alone the things we create? And without that organic sense of what are essentially our own extensions, is it any wonder we have so much trouble finding meaning?

I am firmly convinced that this clash of organizational forms is driving us all insane. And that as a mash up of insanity far beyond the one formed of the fears based in ignorance, tribalism, and needs based deprivation that we inherited from our primitive ancestors. I think that a growing majority of us have come to recognize that, if we are to survive as a species, we have to find a way to rise above those fears if we are ever to stop the petty bickering that has always been at the root of so many not so petty conflicts. But how are we to ever address those inherited fears if we now continue to heap upon ourselves this new insanity.

So what might we do as an alternative? Something that's already been percolating within the web for years now. A thing based in the “Open Sourced,” “Do it yourself” movement highlighted by Umbutu, HackADay, Make, Raspberry Pi, Ubi, and Aurduino, just to name a few. I like to refer to it as effort based instead of cost based. It assumes that, if you had a plausably effort effective, and environmentally sound, source of energy; as well as suitably high level of technological development, you could organize communities to be nearly self-sufficient providers of their own material well being. These groups could make the best of free flowing information to provide a good balance between automation and personal involvement; a situation where you wouldn't try to do away with specialization, you'd just try to demphasize it. Communities where you would have your automation create the basics (as much as possible) in all realms of material need; that is to say the bits of anything required to build end use objects. Each member of the group would then be required to select a certain minimum number of tasks, from a list the community would generate, that would be needed to keep the whole going. Participation would give each member an equity share of all the basics the community produced, not to mention an equal vote on anything that needed to be decided (as well as being able to vote with their feet). And the bottom line on what you would be able to have as processions would be the initiative you could summon to build them yourself.

What I am talking about is not the poverty necessitated, collectivism enforced at the point of a gun, but the best mix of social cooperation with enlightened self-interest towards personal liberty. It would certainly be ungodly difficult to phase in. It would also be unbelievably argumentative. It would slow scientific progress down tremendously (at least for a while anyway). The only thing I feel anywhere near certain about, however, is that it may well be our last hope at saving not only our own sanity, but the planet itself. And in the context of that latter statement, if there is nothing else we can agree on, I would hope that we could at least agree on this: A cost based economy, and especially one so focused on self interest, cannot hope to come up with the ability, or even the institutional will, to confront what must be done to save our place within the fragile system we have abused so profoundly.
There is one other thing that I am certain of. This kind of fundamental change will only occur if it is started, and led, by the United States of America. We are the only ones who have not only the necessary underlying material advancement required, we are the only ones who still have a chance at forming a consensus to work together to achieve it. I hasten to add, however, that the potential to form this consensus may well be slipping away. The insanity based intransigence, and hardening lines around the various us versus them confrontations that mark that intransigence, erodes our ability to form what has always been our greatest strength; the ability to form a shared vision of where, and how, we should proceed as a nation. I have maintained before that America, with a shared vision, is a force of nature. I still believe that. We may think that there is a vast gulf of beliefs and attitudes that separate Tea Party conservatives and Liberals or Progressives, but I don't think its is nearly as great as both sides might hold. This is why I label myself as a Libertarian Socialist. There is a way to better balance personal liberty with the greater good. To achieve that, however, we need to remove the inhuman abstractions that prohibit involvement in depth. Only by being directly involved in that which sustains us can we take, and effect, both personal, and group responsibility for the quality of our lives.

Please I beg of you. Help me make this the primary focus of public debate. On every site, every chat group or blog, the why and how of this needs to be discussed. More questions need to be asked. More voices added to discovering and addressing the many difficulties that this path will no doubt create. We must start that even as we start demanding of our leaders to begin to accept that the fundamental change of course is required, and that they need to help us bring it about.

Make no mistake. This will be hard. It could be the hardest thing any civilized society has ever tried. It will certainly require sacrifice from all of us. The sacrifices of World War II may well pale in comparison. The evil we face is no less, however, then that of the ignorance, and psychopathic rationality of the fascists. The only difference is that this will be the evil of good people who, seeing the insanity of what is now blithely referred to as the norm that they live in, do nothing about it. If we continue down that path only then can we truly say that we have seen the enemy and they are us.

In the first few years that I did IT work I did it within the DBA of Old Softy Computer assistance. When I started actively expressing my take on the need for change (around 2000), I did it under the domains of OldSoftyConcerns.com and Oldsofty.com. I urge you to go there and take a look at the site. It's an eclectic mix of essays, music, and specific technologies, that were meant to articulate and facilitate the change I have outlined here. There is also a link there to my pamphlet on Cosmolosophy, the philosophical foundation that I wanted to serve as support for my take on change. I think you will find the content at least intriguing even if you don't agree with all or parts of it. As I said before, it is meant only as a starting point for the debate to begin.



Seeing things incorrectly, and the effect on the IT mind setby Jeff vale

As a student of Marshall McLuhan you get an interesting perspective on this sort of thing. Calling a car a horseless carriage was an example of what he called seeing things through the rear view mirror of an old environment. One of the messages in the Mechanical Bride was to debunk the notion of “labor saving” machines. In McLuhan's view this was not what they did at all. What they actually did was to simply allow for the cramming in of more tasks to fill a day.

I am reminded of this now because of two things. The first was the swirl of protest over the court ruling against “Net Neutrality,” and the second by the growing worry within the ranks of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of their bad public image. It makes me want to shake my head in frustration, but you have to wonder if this might not be rear view mirror vision in reverse.

I say that because, in the IT entrepreneur context, they aren't looking in the rear view mirror at all. If they checked it from time to time, perhaps they might realize that the momentum that they enjoy, as well as the direction they are heading in comes from what preceded them. Not to mention the fact that what they think they are driving isn't just the new technology. It is, in fact, a hybridized and mutated amalgamation of the old engine of progress with the channeling of electrons and photons.

So many of them seem to be aghast at how internet providers would possibly dare to tear down “Net Neutrality;” forgetting, of course, that information and money are now synonymous. The whole point of capitalism is net gain. Even though what we have now are grand matrices of processing nodes, trading one form of information for another (whether it be as a hard copy or not), applying jealously guarded techniques, and then pushing forward a new packet (hard copy or not) in the hopes that other nodes will want to make use of it. At every node at every level, the whole point of this process is to accumulate more information than you let go of. To think otherwise is to be naive in the extreme. Of course net providers want tiered tolls. The biggest packet movers have the deepest pockets, and make no mistake, a packet is worth what it's buyer is willing to pay.

In one sense the “Net Neutrality” debate is the corollary of the “Private Schools vs. Public Schools” debate. Education in this context is just another information pipeline/processing node. People who have already accumulated large piles of information want to access the higher tiered pipeline/processor, but they want a rebate from the government to do this; a rebate from the property taxes levied to pay for the government's version of this pipeline/processor. They call this form of rebate a voucher. But again, this is just another form of the maintenance of net gain.

I mention the above because it is part and parcel of the dance that now goes on with corporations and government. Precisely because information can move so easily now (however much it must be traded for), venture entrepreneurs must have their own rebates if any state wants a slot on the investors dance card; and how easily do they play the states against each other. More importantly, however, is how this process reinforces itself in an upward spiral of effectiveness.

As the rebates pile up, the states have ever less information with which to trade for infrastructure of all types. Does this necessarily dissuade these investors though? Of course not. Why should it when they can set up their own, targeted transportation systems, for example. It becomes a great talent inducement after all. Not enough educated employees? No problem. Just lobby to increase the B1 visa program. Not only do you get a new source of cheap labor, you also get increasing leverage against wage rates in the local talent market.

Most damaging of all, perhaps, as income inequality soars beyond all credulity, are the astronomical returns given to certain entrepreneurs who's creations are manifested almost entirely in the ether. Bright, shinny, interactive, and seemingly informative. But of things tangible in the work-a-day worlds lives of ordinary citizens, where tangible equates to more equity, more expectation of a higher standard of living, more confidence in the future, and more fundamental meaning in their lives, there is very little. It's all smoke and mirrors where even those two things aren't real. And if the manifestations aren't of the soft variety, the hard copy they create, in many instances, either makes another skill set obsolete, another skill set worth less, our relationship with work and tools more disconnected, or the inevitability of our being replaced altogether more certain.

Within all of this do they then wonder why they are not popular any more. Within all of this do they not question the very thing that, they of all people, should be questioning. Does any operating system remain valid indefinitely? Is there a point at which any further attempt to update, or correct, become victim to the law of diminishing returns? Just as adding more and more thrust to a rocket will yield ever decreasing amounts of velocity? Only in this case, of course, it is complexity itself that creates an ever increasing mass of uncertainty as to what any one change might affect; thus making the corrections required to fix the original problem worse than the problem itself.

I wish the creativity, and drive, of all entrepreneurs were less focused on net gain, and notoriety, and more on being willing to ask more fundamental questions about our social operating system. Is it really the best we can come up with now? Does it make the best use of the tools and techniques we have at hand now? Are we seeing those tools outside of a rear view bias? Will continuing with it give us the best chance at surviving through this new century?

As I have said before, the answers to these questions are a resounding no. If the IT community worried about “Net Neutrality,” or their latest pol numbers think otherwise they should ponder the line that Patrick Swayze gives in Next of Kin (paraphrasing): “...You haven't seen real trouble yet. But don't worry, it's comming.”



A Comment on “Tea Party's fringe isolation: How a conspiracist mind-set poses long-term electoral danger”by Paul Rosenberg

Note: A summary of Mr. Rosenberg's article appears below.


This is a remarkable piece of journalism; in both it's width and depth. Mr. Rosenberg is to be congratulated at what he has been able to articulate here. I just wish he had given it a different title. I say this precisely because of it's width and depth, for what he has here is an indictment of our current economic and political operating system.

How can this not be so if we need a "...restatement of American ideology..." What is especially interesting in his piece, for me, though, is how he has captured the essence of one of the main effects of an old operating system model being warped by the new mindset that electrified retrieval of experience has brought upon us.

I know that's a head bender when you read it, but it is the essence of what you come to understand when reading Marshall McLuhan. You can, in fact say, that Mr. McLuhan predicted the "schizoid" state of affairs that Free and Cantril spoke of in their study. This is so precisely because one can make a very persuasive argument that the specialized, commodity form of economy that is capitalism, came about in large part because of the linear and segmented mind set fostered by Typography. Electrified retrieval of experience, on the other hand, fosters the very type of holistic thinking that Mr. Rosenberg indicates as being needed to formulate a new ideological statement.

What this article underscores, in my opinion, is a message I have been repeating a lot lately on the web; the fact that we need to begin a major new dialogue on coming up with an alternative to capitalism. If you check out Oldsofty.com, as well as my posts on Google+ (under Jeff Vale) you can see this message. I would urge you to do so.

Since I come at this from a Systems Analyst/Developer's point of view, I tend to articulate it along a systems and IT perspective. That is why I have framed the call for this new dialogue thus: Does any operating system remain valid indefinitely?

I would also like to suggest that there is a way to characterize this new ideological statement: Libertarian Socialism. I call myself a LibertarianSocialist in fact precisely because I believe there is a better way to balance personal liberty with the greater good. This can only be done, though, if we start over from scratch; if for no other reason then the fact that the current operating system has become far too complex to modify any further.


Article Summary:
  1. There is a major disconnect between the Republican Party leadership and citizens who identify themselves as Republican.
  1. The Republican leadership is, for the most part, and for a host of issues, locked into the Tea Part's view that: “...The problem is a morally suspect out-group, being coddled and encouraged by big bad government, which is trying to destroy America, because of Evil...
  1. This sets up the dichotomy of a: a large segment of Republican voters won't vote for them, and b: they have to play to their T.P. Base to survive the primary process.
  1. Two polls, Pew (does government aid to the poor do more harm than good by making people dependent) and CBS (asking the specific question of whether unemployment made people less motivated to look for a job) found the following: “On all the questions Sargent looked at, Tea Party and non-Tea Party Republicans differed by 20 points or more. Republicans oppose doing something to reduce the income inequality gap, 66-28, while non-Tea Party Republicans support doing something, 60-35.  Those are the kinds of figures you expect to see between the two parties, not within them.  Likewise, on raising the minimum wage, Pew found the Tea Partyers opposed, 65-33, while the non-Tea Partyers supported it by the exact same margin.”
  1. The disconnect of supporting an economic strategy in the abstract, while opposing it in practical application is not only not new, but exists in the boarder public as well, but not as acute. What is new is that attitudes have morphed as a result of the economic failure of 2008.
  1. The 1964-67 effort of Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril, “The Political Beliefs of Americans,” determined, among other things, that there was a profound disjunction between what they called “operational” liberalism (based on support for specific spending programs) and ideological conservatism (based on agreement with a set of five questions about “government interference” versus individual initiative).
    a. Rosenberg connects ideological conservatism with the “free      
        market” policies that lead to the Great Depression, and 
        operational liberalism with the New Deal policies that ended     
        that debacle and created the foundation for our post-WWII 
        prosperity.
  1. Free and Cantril found that 50% of all Americans qualified as ideological conservatives, but that 65% qualified as operational liberals; indicating the 23% qualified as both.
     a. This number was doubled in the Deep South states that 
         Goldwater carried in 67.
  1. This could be explained as a: pragmatism (spending money on what works) over idealism (faith in the market). b: Indication of profound confusion. c: The lack of readily accessible, and well articulated, alternatives. As pertains to c: Free and Cantril wrote:
The paradox of a large majority of Americans qualifying as operation liberals while at the same time a majority hold a conservative ideology has been repeatedly emphasized in this study. We have described this state of affairs as mildly schizoid, with people believing in one set of principles abstractly while acting according to another set of principles in their political behavior. But the principles according to which the majority of Americans actually behave politically behave have not yet been adequately formulated in modern terms.
There is little doubt that the time has come for a restatement of American ideology to bring it in line with what the great majority of people want and approve. Such a statement, with the right symbols incorporated, would focus people's wants, hopes, and beliefs, and provide a guide and platform to enable the American people to implement their political desires in a more intelligent, direct, and consistent manner.”
  1. Such a restatement — conceiving of government as promoting the general welfare, and of the economy as an organic whole, not simply reducible to individual actors — lay at the heart of Johnson’s War on Poverty and Great Society programs, and was explicit in Martin Luther King’s economic agenda as well, as seen in his 1967 speech “Where Do We Go From Here?
  1. Race, reformulated into new buzz words (as in “government favoritism”) sunk Johnson's war on poverty.
  1. Rosenberg calls it “racialized rhetoric”, but I think a better term would be systematized “new speak”, because this sort of thing occurred with a good deal more than race. Whatever one calls it, for the last 50 years after 1964 it has stymied the emergence of that restated American ideology, and he sites the “General Social Survey” to support this contention, as well as the fact that the Republican dichotomy of pragmatism over idealism still exists.
  1. A major component of what affects the perception of the desirability of social spending can be found in how broad a demographic is affected by economic hardship. As Rosenberg states: “...[if] The victims they are shown look just like them,” “...it's an easy connection to make...” Or, stated another way: “...When times get hard, we tend to see ourselves less as two nations, and more as one, willing to share a common burden, even a majority of self-described conservatives.”
  1. After 2008 this 50 year pattern changed, led by a “sharp right-wing refusal to pull together as one nation...” This even though the opinion pattern seen in the GSS still held up, even if at a lower ebb.
  1. The factors involved in this shift were as follows:
    a. The presidents race and the irrational demonization of him from 
        the right-wing.
    b. The sheer magnitude of the 2008 financial crisis, and not 
        having anything near its equal since the Great Depression.
    c. The convergence of elite opinion and outlook, which not only 
        didn't see it coming, but couldn't even begin to accept the kinds 
        of radical actions required of a catastrophe of this magnitude.
    d. The total ideological failure of conservatism that lay at the core 
        of the crisis.
  1. A through c above thwarted the needed political response to this crisis and its aftermath.
  1. The ideological failure of conservatism “...sent the right into an unbounded frenzy of self-deceptive reinvention, in which all of the old balancing of pragmatism vs. zeal went out the window...” This was the Eisenhower pragmatism that accepted the New Deal, and which came about only after the Republicans accepted, and apologized for , their part in the Great Depression.
  1. The radicalization of the right brought back the “John Birch Society” kind of mentality that the Republicans themselves tried to bury.
  1. What we are left with now is not only an excessively timid president, but political discourse that revolves around economic issues that have little importance to the rest of the nation; as in deficits, deficit limits, and whether the whole budget process should be held up to pursue these narrow concerns. A fact that, even with draconian budget cuts, and deficits starting to come down, job growth is still stymied.
19. As a final note of my own, it should also be pointed out 
      that, out of the trillion plus spent on the bailout, nearly all 
      of it has ended up in the hands of the very people who 
      were unable to see it coming, and who remain obtuse as 
      ever towards efforts to prevent any further occurrence.



Do people have the right to be stupid?And is there a way we can accommodate the stupid in all of us?by Jeff vale


This is a question that has been causing me a great deal of consternation lately. How is one to resolve this when it swirls with permutations that are pregnant with contradiction.

You can start with the word itself. In the beginning was the word after all, which is metaphor to the power inherent in the naming of things. As I have said elsewhere naming a thing is too often passing a judgment on that thing; which is no more than to say that nearly as much evil is done by those who would apply a handle too freely, as is done by those who might actually be deserving of it.

Then there is the relativity of things. You know them. One man's poison is another man's caviar. Just as one man's stupidity is another man's genius. Having said that, though, any average person would think that the boundaries surrounding what is and isn't stupid would be pretty distinct; and most times they probably are. The problem comes in when you throw belief systems into the mix.

Is it stupid that the Amish cling so tenaciously to a life style so lacking in variety, curiosity, exploration, or adventure? Maybe. Maybe not. Everything has tradeoffs after all. It is, in any case, easy to cut them a lot of slack as they tend not to affect the rest of us all that much. Have someone, while still pretending to be a part of the modern world, proclaim that children should only be taught things that don't contradict the Bible, or a couple of the same sex that want to get married, and you will see the slack disappear all too quickly to a line in the sand. This gets especially pronounced when belief systems get in the way of one part or the other of science and faith; a place where you may have damnation on the one hand, and disease, habitat survivability, and fundamental choices of a person and their body, on the other.

But this is also where another aspect of this question comes into prime concern. Majority rule.

It is interesting to me that this notion can be in one instance so universally accepted by everyone, and yet so continuously railed against. This occurs of course because we all, at one time or another, find ourselves in the minority. Most times, when we end up on the short end of the stick, we entertain a certain frustration, grumble, shake our heads, and then go on about our business. When you really believe in something, however, this is not nearly so simple a thing to do.

Take the idea of moral outrage for instance. Some things are more than simply stupid certainly. But in this we risk the too easy to hold notion that the argument, and its supposed rational, underlying that outrage are stupid. This also gets more complicated by the fact that the actions that this outrage might demand (or the inaction demanded) might entail possible moral conflicts of their own.

In civics we are taught that a democracy is best judged by how well the majority treats the minority. We all aspire I think to the goal of trying to balance several important social priorities. Personal liberty. The well being of the whole. Justice under the rule of law. The problem arises when the majority has to finally make the minority do what they have decided is law. The beliefs of one or the other, and the outrage—moral or not—underlying those beliefs puts both parties into positions where the actions contemplated quickly come to rival whatever ill was meant to be remedied in the first place.

It has, I think, been easier to see this dilemma when you consider it in the wider context of our place amongst a society of nations. We struggle as a world of people to articulate what should be a set of bedrock rights for all. So many cultures have ingrained belief systems, little changed over centuries, that reflect the cruelties of life when superstition, and ignorance, were in abundance, and food or other material necessities, were not. That they remain this way is a thing for which they and the modern world both share responsibility for. History has shown, however, just how bloody it can be when one group or the other decides to enforce their view on what is “the right way” to live. And in this has moral outrage played so significant a part.

Even more difficult in this conundrum is that fact that, every once in a while, it is more than obvious outrage that has to be addressed; as it can come down to the plain fact of a diversity of nations surviving at all or not. The outrage engendered by Hitler was buttressed significantly by the very real consideration that such madness would see no limit in its expression; which is to say that sometimes a belief system has become no more than an ugly disease, and the fact that those infected have to be put down. But as with the power of the word, and the naming of things, we have to be very, very, careful indeed on how this kind of determination is made. The righteous, if they become a majority in any particular place, will never see themselves as the disease, and all of the “others” on the outside of the “true” conviction are all too easily labeled as exactly that.

I ask this question now because I am wondering if we, as a nation, have become far too diverse to be ruled under one, all encompassing, set of laws; as in our constitution. Could we be better served by being a much more granular set of “communities” where only, say, a dozen or so laws were universal, and the rest was up to the communities themselves? Knowing full well that, to one degree or another, every community would be convinced of the stupidity, and even immorality, of at least a good portion of the others?

These kinds of questions are essential for consideration to anyone who would think to advocate the sweeping kinds of changes that I am proposing. I bring them up now not only for that reason, but because I believe that there would be a vast difference of conditions surrounding them if the primary organizational model for society was an effort based economy as opposed to a cost based economy.

Leaving aside for the moment of the merits (or lack thereof) of the argument to make the change (see Oldsofty.com), and assuming we could bring about the elimination of money, the freedom to apply automation to our advantage, along with assuming responsibility for not only governing ourselves, but also being directly involved in maintaining the community, as well as for making our own possessions, would give us a lot of options we don't have now. We could set up a Federation of communities where each could set their own rules just so long as they stayed within the articles of Federation.

And what, you ask, might they be? Would they allow for a lot more diversity?

It's going to take a lot more input and debate for any final conclusions, but I'm hoping that this list is at least a good place to start from:

  1. Universal freedom of information. Which is to say that all technique, and knowledge would be shared, including the conditions that prevailed in any one community. This would also entail shared maintenance of the infrastructure to provide the conduit for distributing this information, as well as the creation and distribution of hydrogen as a universal power source.
  2. The freedom of any citizen in a community to move to another and, if vested in the community being moved from, to take their share of resource accumulated as a part of participation in the moved from community's upkeep with them.
  3. All citizens in all communities who participate in community upkeep get an equal vote in decisions to be made by their individual communities.
  4. All participating citizens get an equal vote in decisions to be made by the Federation as a whole.
  5. Each community has the right to trade or not trade in material goods with any other community.
  6. Each community will always provide the ability for all other communities to move through the boundaries of their community, even if they are not trading with them.
  7. All communities will make their young available, at the age of 18, for mandatory Federal service for a minimum period of 4 years. This service will be organized around military command structure, discipline and conditioning, with the type of final training and posting being the option of the individual, unless overridden by priorities decreed by Federation vote.
  8. The Federation will designate Federal basic resource, and item output, priorities within which all communities must participate (taking priority over article 5). These resources and items will then be allocated thus: Half will be apportioned to all communities based on a formula that combines their population, and the number of their people currently in Federal service. The other half will be apportioned according to the dictates of the Federal military leadership as they see fit to accomplish the tasks assigned to them by vote of the Federation as a whole.
  9. The Federation military will be organized into 3 main groups: Navspar for the defense of water, space and air. Mobile infantry for all boots down defense. And FedEngEm for all Federation wide engineering and emergency response requirements. The military leadership will promote their own up to the point of the top 3 tiers of officers; which would require certification of a 51% majority Federation vote. The military will also not be allowed to favor any particular belief system, either in its organization, procedures and operational requirements, held by the federated communities.
  10. Communities can be added or removed from the Federation by a 65% majority Federation vote.
  11. Any community can appeal a Federation wide decision by obtaining a 30% Federation vote of petition, whereupon a new vote of the original majority would be required to say yea or nay. A petition vote of 20% can also be used to put any new items before the Federation as a whole for an up or down 51% majority vote. The military leadership, by unanimous vote, can also place any item, or an appeal of an item, before the Federation as a whole for an up or down 51% majority vote.



Of Droughts and water and the dregs of energy productionBy Jeff Vale


With the potentially long term drought in California, as well as the ongoing difficulty of making fusion a reality, being in the public eye of late, not only does it look bad for the survival (both economically and physically) for folks on the West coast, the prospects for alternative power are looking pretty glum as well. And the fact that these two items are fundamentally linked to the effects of carbon and extreme weather, doesn't bode all that well for rest of the planet either.

I'd like to believe that I'm in a unique position to say that it didn't have to be that way. I'll provide more direct detail on why that should be in a moment, but speaking indirectly, as an advocate of the obsolescence of capitalism, if we had had a system where the abstracts of cost were not nearly so defined by whatever special interest had the most to lose, and the least to gain, our efforts to seek out and apply a proper energy alternative might have born a good deal more success. None of which, of course, changes the fact that the past is the past. The only worthy question is what are we to do now.

As some of the power articles point out, even if fission were not suffering from Fukushima burns, its long term prospects would still not be bright. To replace coal would take something on the order of 1000 nuke plants. Even if you put them out at sea to counter the NIMBY affect, you would still be facing an unsolved waste stream problem.

Which brings us to fusion, a source for which there is little question of its, at least, ultimate utility. Not only would it be a godsend here on earth long term, but practical, in system travel around our sun, will quite likely depend on it as well (to power whatever form of ion drive is eventually settled upon). And make no mistake. Getting off the planet and utilizing the full potential of in system resource extraction, and large scale manufacturing output, will be just as important as cleaning up the planet itself.

The problem we face, as California clearly indicates, is that near term solutions needed to be on the drawing boards decades ago. And I hasten to add that I am not talking about isolated solutions, but fully integrated ones who's very integration leverages outlay of effort to address multiple problems at the same time. Another little thing a cost based economy nearly always finds impossible to do.

The problem with fusion has been a never ending succession of missed delivery dates, with full break even operation of ITR now being pushed out passed 2020, not to mention the fact that the materials research to solve the proton bombardment problem having not even been started yet. However much you might support fusion, and I do, it still won't be available in any practical sense for at least another 20 to 25 years. So the question becomes what do we do in the mean time? Is there an alternative to fission?

It is here that I can claim a more direct involvement in potential alternatives.

In the mid nineties I proposed such an alternative to Seattle City Light. It was a radically new type of wind turbine (invented by Dr. James T. Yen), and I made it to this utility for very specific reasons. Just as I have avoided trying to advance it within the normal confines of entrepreneurial, for profit ventures in the time since. Energy is too important a commodity to be a source of profit. The requirements of venture capital, and the ongoing strictures necessary to insure net return, demand too many concessions to allow for the flexibility that real integration requires. It also sets up automatic countervailing forces from those who's markets would be threatened, as already mentioned.

In any case, though, City Light offered no specific argument to suggest inherent infeasibility, but they were, in the aftermath of their own finger burning by nuclear power, quite reticent about taking on anything new, and even remotely risky. In the end they decided that what I proposed would be way too encumbered by ; even though they calculated that it could potentially produce very significant amounts of liquid hydrogen.

What I proposed was detailed by a fairly elaborate model that I had constructed. This model had a good number of design assumptions that were not only intended to reduce risk, but also to ensure that there would be a number of side benefits that would make the risk well worth the while. As I was a contract employee at the time (in their IT department), and not a true member of the family, I think it was easy for them to dismiss it without much incentive to confer with me on what they considered the riskier aspects, or indeed to indicate what their baseline of risk entailed.

But enough of the preliminaries. Let's discuss what the proposal entailed. And for this you have to go back to the mid-seventies. It was a technology I first saw discussed in an issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology. The article was about an engineer (Dr. Yen) working at what was then the Grumman corporation, and the success he demonstrated in wind tunnel studies of a completely new kind of wind powered generator. He called it a Tornado Turbine because it used the creation of cyclonic circulation within a cylinder. This circulation would then create a very large pressure differential at the base of the column, whereupon one could put ducted fans of whatever complexity at a throat of some type and thus translate the wind energy to shaft energy.

As originally conceived, most of the exterior surface area of the column would have one way doors that would allow air to blow in, but not out. Wind from any direction, or altitude, would then provide input to get the cyclone wound up. You would also have the option of having radiators around the throat at the base to encourage the up flow that we normally see from a tornado. Over the years it has occurred to me that a simplified design might not even require the doors. If you look at the wind tunnel model they used to do their feasibility study with (which was about 6 feet tall), you notice that it did not have doors. For simplicity sake they simply had one large vertical slot along one side of the column be the intake. The width of this slot then tapered down as it wound around the column itself, becoming a very narrow vertical slit into the interior. Having, say, four such slots (at each compass point) that taper down and around underneath each other wouldn't be that difficult to construct, and might be considerably more effort effective in the long run (despite any potential loss of input); especially as one considers long term door maintenance in the mix.

The beauty of this approach is that it addresses the main deficiency that wind generation has always been saddled with; namely low power densities. It does this because it separates wind collection from the translation to shaft power. In any of the other types of wind power wind collection is dependent on blade area; and blade area has inherent limits because of tip speeds, blade harmonics, tower size and the generators those towers can support. In the case of the Tornado turbine wind collection is dependent on the size of the column; where that size has a lot more inherent flexibility; especially as the translation to shaft energy is completely decoupled from the collection.

My tower envisioned one that was about a thousand feet high and would be capable of generating about a gigawatt of power. Certainly not a trivial piece of engineering, but nothing that would be super difficult. The biggest problem would be where you'd put such a monster, and the only politically feasible answer (as with nukes) would be out at sea.

It is at this point that ordinary entrepreneurial minds would be looking at cost benefit ratios of such a large structure; particularly if you based on existing platforms. And when you go there it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that such ratios would probably not be very encouraging. Indeed, a study done some years after the wind tunnel work by another energy institute concluded exactly that (though they didn't use a sea based approach). Frustrated by this, and the lack of any follow-on development of the idea, I went to Long Island New York and I interviewed Dr. Yen. I found that he was even more frustrated than I was, claiming that the negative cost studies were full of absurd, high cost, strengthening assumptions on how such a structure would have to be constructed (in addition to the land based environmental challenges). I should also point out that he had no criticism of my design approach, cautioning me only on the importance of laminar flow within the column.

In thinking about how such large columns might be built at sea it became clear to me that going outside of the concrete box would be desirable for several reasons. The first reason was obviously cost. Concrete oil platforms are anything but cheap. Just as essential as cost, is how much time it takes to build one. Any viable near term power solution has to be able to crank out units quickly because the need is great and time is certainly growing short. So, ideally you would want something that could utilize modularity as much as possible; taking full advantage of the economies of scale in mass producing standardized components. A standardization that would allow you to equal or surpass the efficiencies attained in building Liberty Ships.

This is why I fell back on a composite type of scaffolding, utilizing hemp as the main fiber, and an internal, vertical reinforcing beam and plate setup, to which cross connect beams would be joined. These cross connect beams would then be made integral to the tube wall as it was wound around to make a scaffolding column; sticking out from the column wall, ready to be joined to the cross connect beams of other scaffolding tubes.

The nice thing about creating a brand new type of sea based, support scaffolding infrastructure is that it allows you the ability to do other things we're going to need anyway, even as we build nuke class wind turbines. And in that vein, since large numbers of turbine clusters have no choice but be out at sea, demanding support personnel, why not go the extra step and start building complete floating cities, with their own attached airfields; Cities that just might be able to put a dent in the “where will the people go” problem of rising sea levels.

Large arrays of floating structures might also make my other dream possible: The worlds first under water, suspended tunnel. A tunnel that, starting from very deep water at the equator, and going 300 to 350 miles along the direction of the earth's rotation, and angling up gently to the surface, could give us a mass driver facility to place one hundred ton payloads into near earth orbit as cheaply as it is ever likely to get.

The other nice thing about using hemp as the composite fiber is that it automatically makes it a prime commodity. One we, and other nations, could produce as a major source of trading material. A crop I might add that requires a lot less water and fertilizer to grow.

This is what I mean by proper integration allowing for maximum leverage of effort. But we still need to bring this back around to droughts, water shortages and the dregs of energy production.

Addressing droughts, of course, has to be done from both sides of the “extreme” equation. In that vein replacing coal becomes a lot more feasible, near term, if we can produce nuke class wind turbines relatively quickly; which is mandatory for global warming (and the extreme weather it creates). On the other side of the equation is turning salt water into potable water and that is just another power requirement writ large. Not only would using wind make that cheaper, going to a hydrogen economy does two other things. It provides both a fairly dense energy storage medium, as well as easy to reclaim water via fuel cells. Their use might not create huge amounts of such on their own, but every little bit helps, and it's also another rung up the pollution prevention ladder.

In all of this, though, I would still put resource into fusion research. Despite the unbelievable management problems ITR has had, we need to keep the effort up. I would even be so bold as to propose that money be taken from the Large Hadron project to do this with, as the realization of fusion power is more immediately important then furthering high energy particle physics presently is. I could also say the same for having a large scale, practical presence in space. Not only is there resource, manufacturing and big rock avoidance advantages to be had, big physics will be able to start doing real field work for a change.The bottom line for me personally in all of this, even if the political change I have been advocating as a part of Oldsofty.com did not occur, is that I would offer it all again, without charge, to any individual public utility, or consortium thereof, as long as it was advanced without any thought of profit. It has, in fact, been my dream to see this as a world public utility so that we could coordinate the adoption of hydrogen for power with all nations of the world; just as I'd like to see the same for the coordination for the access into space for all nations of the world. The ultimate goal is for all of us to start the grand process of going our own ways; all of the mutually intolerant belief systems spreading out into the eternal frontier; seed pods of the tree of humanity, each seeking what each needs to find and grow with. There's a lot of elbow room out there. More than enough, I would think, to start cutting each other some slack.


On the risk issue:
After all, even doing nothing has risks; just consider power lost to removing dams, as well as water flow for fish, or yes, even no water at all if you happen to find yourself in a drought. Expanding natural gas generation has risks. Wind farms have risks etc.

TornadoTurbine:
See Aviation Week & Space Technology, March 1, 1976, page 50.  See also Popular Science, January, page 78.


CriticalStudy:
See Solar Energy Research Institute, #SERE/TP-211-1889 entitled "Research Results for the Tornado Wind Energy System: Analysis and Conclusions," by Eric Jacobs


Gravity experiments in space:
I would also like to suggest that we put a great deal more effort into understanding gravity than is currently being done. There was the plan for a space based, laser interferometer to detect gravity waves, but beyond that it would be pretty cool to see what you could do with kinetic mass accelerators. Basically X-kilometer diameter rings that would accelerate evenly dispersed 1 kilogram weights in a synchronized manner; accelerating as long as current materials science would allow the structure to hold together. If you could get up to even small fractions of the speed of light you might be able to do some interesting experiments with the mass thus implied by the weights in motion; maybe even create gravity lenses of a sort.


The ITR project:


The California drought:





The Importance of InformationBy Jeff Vale


I've been reading the book “Flash-Boys” by Michael Lewis and, as I also do my daily traverse of the info-sphere, I am struck by a couple of things about those whose business it is to dig for, and present various kinds of information.

First of all, of course, is how various, and specialized this sort of thing has become. A quite significant portion of it applies to information collection and distribution to very specific sets of consumers. And the lions share of that is at the spur of people who have large amounts of info-coin at risk (I'm going to try and stop using money, or information, anymore as they are so synonymous). As such, there is a dedicated set of consumers out there ready to exchange info-coin for this other kind of info-coin. Hence the wide range of Industry publications, broadcasts, and net sends.

There is also the collection and distribution of info-coin done in the public's interest; most of which is, or at least, used to be, newspapers. Unfortunately, the public's ability, or desire, to continue to exchange their disposable info-coin for daily occurrence info-coin has been on the wane. A lot of people still consume the broadcasts, or the net send product, but the economics of that, as well as what the economics allow for the width, depth and reach, of national and world occurrence, present certain increasing limits on what can be discovered.

There are also, unfortunately, increasing limits on what the population of those who should be the consumers of this info-coin are able to consume for either time, educational, or general life hassle reasons. Business users, I'm sure, have a bit of this as well, but for them a big part of the basis for it is the shear increase in the speed of things; the change in competition, the change in what drives competition, but also in the increase in what is noise, and what is false info-coin.

One of the most interesting facets of the “Flash-Boys” account is just how not in the know so many big players in stocks were about not only speed as a factor in itself, but how the info-coin they were receiving as supposedly objective market state was in fact false. Simply by placing servers closer to other servers a select few could intercept buy orders for a stock, jump in and buy ahead of those orders, and then force the original buyer to buy from them at a higher price; in essence an intermediary processing node extracting a trade tax without any kind of value added to the process of creating commercial liquidity.

All of this is astounding when one considers the truly huge sums of tax being charged to people who, amongst all of us, are the most strident detractors of taxes of any kind. Here, where they live and breath, were people taking blood and sh_tting where they lived in the process. And now that they have huge info-coin accumulations of their own, they are able to play the info-sphere game to match any of the other players. In essence, what we have here is what has been going on with big money against ordinary working folks for decades now. Only now it is one group of fat cats against another.

This is where we have to step back and examine further this notion of noise, as opposed to false info-coin in the info-sphere. This is important now because in understanding it, we can demonstrate how it serves to damage all parties in this crazy machine we call Capitalism.

Noise, it seems to me is now all of the other info-coin channels spraying out at us with content that isn't at all germane to what we might need to know at any given instant. For the public at large this is truly immense because of the generalized marketing we are awash in. Prominent players in business are also awash in it to varying degrees, but there is the particular sub-set of marketing where it is in their interest to pay attention to; not only because it may divulge important clues to what the competition is doing, but because an important competitive element might be available to invest in.

False info-coin on the other hand is content inserted into the info-sphere precisely to mislead; a counter intelligence tactic long familiar to the military. That competitors would have an incentive to do this is certainly obvious. What might not be so obvious, however, of what this sort of practice does to the info-system as a whole. Not only does it place an extra huge burden on the general bandwidth, and processing power of our economy, it creates a inbred schizophrenia where we are at war with ourselves.

Think about this for a moment. Think about a system, iterating ever faster and faster with the node to node busting flow of interaction that makes our society function, choking that flow with false data! Doing it across the board as far as either the public's or commercialized interest is concerned. In this context it is not that the occurrence of volatility, or disruption, that should be surprising, but that we haven't yet had a great deal more of it.

If you wanted a system more at cross purposes to itself could you possible design one that would surpass electrified Capitalism? Maybe, but I certainly doubt it. Every time I come across one these “oh my god” moments concerning it I am reminded of that scene in the movie “The Bridge Over the River Kwai.” This is the one, towards the end, where the doctor amongst the British prisoners is on the bridge that the Brits have just finished building. The William Holden led commandos are down at the river, reacting in to the fact that the detonation wires have been discovered by Alec Guinness. Guinness and a young Brit commando are fighting each other over whether that wire will be cut or not. And in that moment all the doctor can say is “Madness... Madness...”

Precisely!

Making decisions in any kind of complex social organization is hard enough when you have everything working as it should for you. In this kind of environment is is impossible. The very fact of increasing competition in a specialized, commercial-commodity form of organization ensures that the incentive to thwart whomever you perceive as in competition to you will increase apace. And remember, this also cuts across the board regarding competitive fields; as in commercial, political, or cultural. All of these are placed in competitive positions precisely because we segment ourselves so much as pertains to functions, and the interests inherent to those functions. Not to mention the fact that we are constrained to action by the availability of the abstraction we still want to call money. Everybody competes to retain their net gain of info-coin so nobody wants to to be the one pays much at all, let alone as much as the other guy. Is it any wonder we are finding it more and more impossible to cooperate with each other!

If the people who enjoy big money can't see their own self interest in recognizing the impossibility of this situation to maintain itself indefinitely then we are truly heading for a great deal of strife and suffering. It simply cannot hold. I used to make my living working on information systems and I am here to tell you that they cannot work when each department in an organization reports what it is doing so that it can thwart the other departments. Ignoring that would be like ignoring gravity and the need to keep an airplanes engines running.

There has been a lot of “us versus them” in our national dialogue lately, and I am as guilty of it as any other. When you read a book like “Flash-Boys” it really brings home the understanding that we are working the same kinds of madness to all strata of what makes the society work, or not work. We are in this together whether we want to admit that or not. I can only hope we recognize that fact sooner rather then later.


Notes:

Demise of Newspapers:

Front-running:
Also interesting here was the fact that this sort of “front-running” has been going on, in one form or another, since the late 1800's, and that each iteration of reform to regulate the practice only laid the ground for the new exploit.




What the Ukrainian crisis should be telling us about honesty, obsolescence and our lack of imagination.
By Jeff Vale


Its informative to say the least, as one watches the interaction of what is America's original reality TV show, just how little regard there is for not only what is obsolete, but what would be imaginative solutions to a host of integrated problems.

You need only start with our presidents stumble in addressing the prospect of direct Russian intervention. The so called issue of the intelligence failure is nonsense. The real problem here is the inability of presidents to be honest about what we can and cannot do in any given international situation. Specifically, there is no way we can currently react militarily to direct Russian aggression. However morally bankrupt that might be, that is a simple fact. This is so for several reasons:

1. Russian occupation of the Crimea does not directly effect our national interests.

2. Because previous presidents were not honest about what certain past interventions would require, we now have not only a fairly well tapped out boots on the ground capability, but a body politic even more war worn out.

3. Even if we were to ignore both 1, and 2 above, our obsolete polito-economic circus can no longer honestly resolve how to pay all of the real costs associated with such endeavors, let alone accurately anticipate them.

In situations like this a president should always plan for the worst, and then hope for the best. If he's going to make any public announcements they should clearly indicate what our worst case response will be; even if that is just economic and political isolation for the perpetrator. Trying to play bluff when the 3 conditions already listed are quite evident is just pointless. And trying to sound tough as counter to Republican machismo baiting is just exclamation point to the already mentioned circus. The fact of not having the economic isolation package at the ready before hand is the most serious failure as it demonstrates bad management writ large.

Even though there are plenty of items wrapped around this crisis that we should be worried about, I want to focus on #3 of my “why we can't intervene” list.

Whether we intercede in any one incident, or not, I think most of us would agree that the ability to do so is important. And in this I'm not talking about special forces response to a small scale threats. What I mean here is long term engagements involving large scale combined forces. It wouldn't necessarily be a Soviet Union invading Europe sized action, but it would at least be battalions of boots on the ground supported by significant air combat and logistics forces. The very sort of action that puts our military into overdrive, not only in organizing the efforts of tens of thousands of men and women in uniform, but in incurring costs not meant to be accounted for in their normal operating budgets.

The first part of the problem can be laid, at least in part, at the feet of presidents instigating large actions without first declaring war. I know that there's an argument to be made that our chief executive needs flexibility in responding quickly to threats, but I don't think it covers any of what became of most of the last big engagements since even Korea; at least once they were in full swing. Because there is no declaration of war there is no clear statement of prime intent, and what should be demanded of the entire nation because of that intent. And what we're talking about here is not only the raising of taxes to pay for it, but also fully appreciating the strain such actions place on the population of those who serve.

This is always the tricky part naturally, but it may not be fully clear as to why.

Because our current economic operating system is obsolete, we have an inherent disconnect in the determination of who pays and who benefits. Big money doesn't like wars to be accurately identified not only because of taxes. Certainly more taxes puts constraints on net gain, but calling a conflict what it really is puts what they like to call “uncertainty” into markets; which of course is a euphemism for added risk; especially in the finance markets where ever more of the one percents money lies. There is also the fact that a true declaration of war places the government in a better position to apply more of a direct hand on the economy; with things like price controls, and resource allocations. Not only does this anger big money for the loss of prerogative, it throws a monkey a wrench into the mechanics of business as usual as far as the circus itself is concerned. Which ever party is in power gets the chance to steam roll other pet (read hot button) issues while the other side is constrained in its response out of fear of being unpatriotic, if not outright treasonous.

But this is just the start of things.

Because we do not have mandatory national service as a requirement of citizenship, we have to pay a premium for an all volunteer military. It is a premium, however, that is only manifested at the front end of the personnel pipeline. Once we get them in, get them trained and ready to fight, or support the combat, and the fighting begins, with the inevitable down stream flow of wounded, we dump them out with only minimum support, and a lot of lip service. As a consequence, the limited numbers we start with get over rotated and burned out, as well as banged up. And even with increases in the premium to keep the pipeline supplied, presidents are eventually left with few boots at all available to put much of anywhere.

Bad as that may be, there's still more. Our entire military structure itself is obsolete.

If anybody wanted to make a more inefficient system than having four separate services, each competing, often at cross purposes, for funding, and which can hardly ever agree to an integrated threat assessment, or the coordinated action plans to address those threats, they would be hard pressed to say the least.

In this context let us first declare just how absurd it is to be determining the breadth and reach of our defense on the disconnected abstract of cost. It is precisely this kind of abstraction that allows certain groups to avoid any responsibility at all for our shared security. The fact that we should all be involved in that responsibility is exactly what is implied by referring to an effort based economy as an alternative. Within that characterization we can see that we get only the security force we are all willing to provide for directly, as each community agrees to hand over equal (%) shares of what they produce, as well as the men and women to work it.

In any case, though, the inefficiencies start with the service branch rivalries, combined with congressional duplicity as it interacts with big money. We've seen this in action now that SecDef Hagel is being pressed by members of both parties not to cut projects or bases that would mean job losses in their states or districts. In this game the generals are adept at spreading the money out so that it can be leverage for the maintenance of their pet career choice. That it sometimes deploys what is truly useful, given what little definition of actual threat requirements have been actually specified, is in spite of the system, and not because of it. This is also a reflection of another aspect of Capitalism being obsolete. Just as livelihoods should not be at risk just because we do the right thing for the environment, so too should they not be a consideration on what weapons systems we should be fielding. All that should matter is providing our sons and daughters with the most effort effective solutions for tools to allow them to do the jobs we have tasked them to do.

Be that as it may, if we were honest about what it would take to defend us we would quickly see that only 3 service branches are really necessary. We have 4 now because of past experdient and bureaucratic inertia. They are constantly at odds with each other because there is so much overlap, not to mention the institutional penchant for growth for its own sake.

All we really need are one service for defense of air sea and space, one for all boots down actions, and the third to handle federation wide emergencies and engineering works. And because my father was in the Navy, but also because I think the Navy has always done a better job at training, I would hope that the first service be set up with significant emphasis on their way of doing things.

We also see in the current military establishment a glaring lack of imagination for how to address the every changing nature of what might threaten us. A good part of this, certainly, is because so few of us have been called to participate actively. The previously mentioned institutional inertia is another, but it also has to do with the abstract economics of capitalism. Once a limited set of specialized industries go down a certain path, it's just as difficult for them to change directions as it is for the military itself; especially so when the bottom line of industry in general is profits.

In any case, though, we see the military reluctant to even encourage clever new thinking precisely because it might entail actually scrapping sacred old cows. Take the carrier battle group for instance. Nobody doubts that they have been indispensable in the past for flexible force projection, but is that necessarily going to remain so? What if fuel cell technologies develop to the point where we can have even more stealthy, electric submersibles. These would be craft that would store energy as liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. They might not have the same sortie range of nuke boats, but they also might be a lot cheaper to build than nuclear-steam systems. The military is already extremely worried about certain diesel electric boats the Russians have been selling. And these still rely on snorkeling to recharge batteries.

What if very quiet submersible boats (however large) were created that could launch, and recover, sophisticated new remotely piloted, attack drones? Or large clouds of small, inexpensive, surface skimming, automated attack drones? How appropriate are any large scale surface combatants in that kind of threat environment. By the same token, how much longer is a body in the cockpit going to remain viable?

Of course, if you take the human out of direct control, you only put more emphasis on another problem. A recent article in Wired shed light on how the military has been slow to respond to the bandwidth superiority war front, citing examples of how signals jamming pods still in inventory are decades old, and how our advancement in protecting GPS, and drone control signals are not keeping pace with what can be done with even cheap, over the counter electronics.

Command and control in the future may have to be a mix of electromagnetic spectrum; especially as it regards line of sight channels. The relay nature of that kind of thing may require a whole host of new, long duration craft; a mix of the very cheap, and small, close in, with larger assets farther out; with the farther out assets being both human occupied and remotely piloted. The very nature of detection might have to change from analyzing reflected ratio signals, to one based entirely on the interruption of light beams; a system where two drones transmit and receive simultaneously as they scan a vertical or horizontal plane, indicating a contact only by an interruption of either coded beam.

This might be where some real creativity could shine. What if you could have a new kind of hybrid dirigible blimp that could be flown as connected trains? These could be craft that could stay on station indefinitely because only segments would have to exchanged to accomplish resupply and fresh crews. Craft that might also be able to carry very large assortments of attack drone craft, and relay communications pods. These might also represent a revolution in what remotely piloted air logistics could deliver when a major conflict came to hand.

What we are really facing, as we watch the spectacle of our sad national reality show play out, is the demonstration of why our leaders can't be honest with us. To be honest would be to risk displaying weaknesses exploitable by the opposition (not to mention outright incompetency); regardless of what damage that backbiting, and game playing, might cause our national interests. But then, to be honest in the first place would assume that you could determine the truth at all. Because the economic operating system is obsolete there is no way you can know what the full cost of an action might be because so many factors of what allows us to take actions are either grossly inefficient, so deficient as to be almost criminal, completely lacking in social equity, or some combination of all of these. And it would be easy to say that it's all the fault of the buffoons in office, or the greed-misters at the top of corporate America, but that would not be the truth either. In the end it is our dishonesty with ourselves that should be the most depressing aspect of what is occurring. The most basic part of why the operating system is obsolete is because we are not all directly involved in making it work. We are not all involved in taking responsibility for it. To do that will require us to demand that it change, and then work together to figure out the what and how of that change. Making this change happen is the only way America will be able to be an honest agent for a civilized world.

Notes:spectacle

Original reality TV show:
What I am talking about here is the sad depiction of what are the usual suspects in the creation, implementation, and description of, what is, or ought to be, government intent.

Intelligence failure:
I say this because whether there was a failure or not (given the difficulties inherent such predictions, combined with Russian skill at hiding them, I tend to believe there wasn't) is not the real issue. The government, and by implication, the President, shouldn't be formulating plans based entirely on predictions that should always be viewed with skepticism. Precisely because it is fraught with inherent limitations.

New electric subs:
The Navy as called the Kilo class subs the “Black Hole” because they are so quiet. There is also a lot of talk going around now about the impact these new subs will have on our ability to sortie carrier groups near China.

See:



Spectrum superiority:
See:


New long duration aircraft:
Not only have a host of companies like Scaled Composites been working on long duration drones

others have been coming out with reboots of lighter than air, or almost lighter than air derivatives.

I have a design I've wanted to put into use as well. My design, however, was meant to allow for the possibility of linking units into trains. The main rational for this was the hope that you could dedicate units for cargo, as well as units to hold the power turbines and fuel. If possible such an arrangement would allow for some very large cargo capacities, not to mention a great deal of flexibility in staying aloft.



If everything is metaphor can anything be “Irrelevant Crap”By Jeff Vale


I originally intended this piece to be about a review whose URL suggests that “True Detective” is irrelevant crap. It quickly became apparent to me that it's actually about how the electrified Info-sphere creates instant and continuous juxtaposition, and why that, in turn, makes everything metaphor. It is also about why I feel, within the context of everything being metaphor, that a new philosophical view is so important. The review does have an important role to play here, but we'll get to that in a moment.

In “From Cliche To Archetype” Marshall McLuhan described the process of how any individual expression, image, or icon went from being a pinnacle of meaning (in one form or another) to being the tired, and over used expression of same. In that explanation he also described how effective purveyors of expression, or message, would take old cliches and bang them together in new ways to create new archetypes; with the banging part being inherent in the process of meaning in Symbols (where the term symbol comes from the bringing together of two, once separate, things).

He also maintained that the telegraph, in conjunction with the newspaper, became the first mediator of electrified juxtaposition. This is why McLuhan described the newspapers of the time as environments, like a bath, one climbed into. That electrification in general also changed the way we perceived reality is also important to keep in mind.

The review is still important as it serves as an entry point into what became the primary point of discussion. It was written by Doctor RJ (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/24/1278711/-Irrelevant-Crap-True-Detective#), and, as already stated, was about the HBO TV series “True Detective”.

I should point out that it's actually a bit deceiving to call Doctor RJ's piece a review, at least in the critical sense one normally assigns to such things. Most of the piece is simply an overview of the episodes, with descriptions of some of the underlying meanings for each. And in this one gets both input not only from Dr. RJ, but Nic Pizzolatto (the creator and writter), and director Cary Joji Fukunaga, as well as by other reviewers; input that is, in my opinion, quite perceptive.

I'm using it as an entry point becuase it is resonant for me of much larger issues; something Dr. RJ is certainly aware of as he begins his piece thus:

" 'Why' may be just a word, but it's one of the important words in any language. Pondering why things occur is the basis of science and philosophy (both secular and religious). Why does the sun rise in the east? Why does humanity exist? Why is there so much suffering in this world? So many questions and feelings of so little certainty. At some point in our lives there comes a moment where we are confronted with a situation that seems wrong, that seems unfair, that we feel deep down in our bones it shouldn't be happening. And in that moment we are alone, helpless in our thoughts, thinking about all the terrible possibilities while wondering 'why?'

        I think the appeal of the mystery genre is that it acknowledges 
        the apprehensions about the unknowns of life while also giving 
        us a fantasy where things can be solved and order prevails   
        over chaos. Through mystery fiction and crime procedurals, we 
        are rewarded with motives, purpose, and reasons that explain 
        the real-life horrors of the world and play into either a faith in 
        justice or a despair about human nature...”

Pain and bad things happening. We seem to get a lot of that these days, as both entertainment and actual events. All part of the blizzard of things that get thrown together within the info-sphere; so much of which seems only senseless, pointless madness. But even as reviewers strive to put things in some context of well, or poorly done, we are still left to our own devices as to what we are to make of it all; at least in one sense. In another sense (as already suggested) we are not left to our own devices, for a part of what is thrown together at us tries, or pretends (depending on your viewpoint) to provide meaning to what it all means. We still have institutions (inside and outside of the info-sphere, but for our purposes here, I refer to “institutions” as those nominally outside), or the semblance there of, that cling to the idea that they exist so that meaning in a cultural sense will persist. This becomes problematic precisely because any institutional setting (and the meaning such settings convey) is dwarfed by the info-sphere itself. They are then forced to try and convey their meaning outside of their institutional setting. This has several consequences, none of them very good.

First, and perhaps most obvious, is that they must emphasize (or reemphasize) the process of getting money. You can't spread your message very effectively (outside of the institutional setting), over time, without the clout of extra money. Certainly things can go viral without money, but that's hardly a process one can rely on, especially for the long haul. So, once you internalize the need for more money, a great deal of what you are about, and how you proceed in attaining it, must be altered. That institutions can sometimes balance this with their core values shouldn't give too great a sense that extra money in the picture is OK.

Second is the fact that, no matter how much you spend, the message can still be lost in great din of the info-sphere as a whole. Even calling it a galaxy of expression wouldn't do it justice. More to the point, however, is that whatever part of it that does reach eyes, ears and minds, is bouncing off, around, and placement beside, all of the other unimaginable bits. And when they are seen, heard, and assimilated in juxtaposition their net meaning may well be a far cry (literally and figuratively) from what you wanted seen, heard, and assimilated. Differential comparisons might, in fact, leave you far worse off in the eyes, ears and mind of the beholder.

This last fact is part of the incentive for counter messaging. Engaging not only in things that attack what might contrast poorly for you, but in buying up whole channels to control every part of what is expressed. Whereupon whole swaths of people get locked within self-reinforcing echo chambers of mind set. Comforting, without challenge, and potentially quite lethal as it precludes painful things that need to be internalized if you really want to survive.

This is especially pertinent now that we face such imminent peril at the hands of climate change. The things that need to be done in order to address not only the immediate threats, but turning the set of behaviors around that caused the problem in the first place, require both unprecedented levels of cooperation, but also of equal levels of hope; for especially do we need the latter. So immense, and overwhelming, is the problem that it threatens our will to even begin to try and do something about it.

I mention this now because it gets to the heart of what prompted me to write this piece. It stems from a brief bit of dialogue from the Rustin Cohle character in “True Detective.” This is where he expresses his view of mankind and consciousness:

"...I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in human evolution. We became too self aware; nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self, a secretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody’s nobody. I think the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal ... This is a world where nothing is solved. You know, someone once told me time is a flat circle. Everything we've every done or will do, we're gonna do over and over and over again ... I think about my daughter now and what she was spared. Sometimes I feel grateful. The doctor said she didn’t feel a thing, went straight into a coma. Then, somewhere in that blackness, she slipped off into another deeper kind. Isn’t that a beautiful way to go out — painlessly as a happy child? Trouble with dying later is you’ve already grown up, the damage is done too late. I think about the hubris it must take to yank a soul out of nonexistence into this. Force a life into this thresher. As for my daughter, she spared me the sin of being a father..."

To be sure, this is an extreme case of the “we don't deserve to survive” mentality, but it only serves to underscore where this mind set comes from: that “we don't deserve to survive.” A mind set that comes, at least in part, from seeing an unrelenting diet of all of the results of humans making really bad choices. A mind set that also defines a class of people who have lost the ability to talk back to the negativism we are all susceptible to.

It is a fact that we make bad choices. Not only that, we pass along this ability to our children. The fact remains, however, that we are also capable of making good choices. Choices that reaffirm our ability to be thoughtful, compassionate, empathetic, loving and altruistic. The question we really ought to be asking ourselves is why our society and culture finds it so difficult to encourage the latter, and discourage the former. And in this, of course, I must confess to my own ax to grind here (see Jeff Vale at Google+ or Oldsofty.com).

From my perspective it is obvious. How can you ever hope to raise individuals to make good choices when you have little, to no, stable ground from which to make your own choices. As has already been stated, finding meaning these days is no easy task; a task made all the more difficult when your sense of yourself is made determinate to what you earn, what you own and how beautiful you may or may not be; all the while jobs become ever more problematic in providing stable income, let alone an endeavor for self expression or actualization. And that difficulty doesn't even begin to address the cognitive dissonance that jobs, which are often little more than sh_tting where we live, end up creating. Nor does it touch on the messaging of the hyper marketing required to continuously accelerate consumption of the ever increasing piles of crap that must be produced in order to keep creating more jobs. That it then follows, in my opinion, that fundamental change is required, should also be obvious.

The thing is, it seems to me that a fundamental change in how we view the why of our existence is also required. Not only because traditional religion, inasmuch as it relies on deities to explain creation and purpose (as well as rigid adherence to dogma), fall far short of any convincing foundation of not only the “why” of our existence, but of why we need to question in the first place. This is why I have always felt it incumbent upon me to come up with not only an alternative to our current economic model, but one for a new foundation for meta-questions (see Cosmolosophy at Oldsofty.com).

In this new meta-view the objectification of language, which I believe is central to sentience, causes the singularly distinct, experience association system that is self. It is this very objectification that puts boundaries between inner and outer, as well as between all of the different things we encounter in both. It is precisely this singular associating system that provides point of view (and the unique meanings inherent in that perspective). It is also, I believe, where singularity itself comes from in a meta-sense, for it is a vector of association that marks the arrow of time, and the ability of a reality to have bounded objects in the first place. A singularity of associative ability from which all else can be relative to at the start, and from which a few very critical values can be in the range where evolution can create more associating systems (see the Anthropic Principle).

This is why my alternative posits the notion that the entirety is made up of Mind, as well as The Elemental Embrace. One provides for the necessary objectification, and the other ensures for the process of coming together and exchanging (whether you want to call it love or the Higgs Boson). These two work in balance to create an infinite array of associating vectors; what I like to call reality ray tracing. They are a part of an unimaginably immense recursive equation; much like a Mandelbrot where the results form the input for the next iteration. In total you can think of it as a Question-Answer engine, for at each instant of the entirety the previous answer is itself an implied new question (answers are, after all, only parking lots for new questions). This is also why meaning is always transitory and fleeting. State change is constant, and every point's relative relationship always in flux.

This view of things has value for me because it makes explicit why we are here. We are needed because we are both a part of the macro and the micro. We are an essential part of what makes structure possible, but also what makes loving structure possible. Associations whose meanings resonate for more positively resonating meanings; holding entropy at bay.

Coming back to our topic of what the show “True Detective” might mean, it also seems to me that the two main characters represent significant categories of personalities in our society; where the distribution in each is a bell curve that the characters themselves are not necessarily at the mid-point of (with Rustin Cohle being the primary example). As we've already heard from Mr. Cohle, lets take a look at Martin Hart. He is described in the review thus:

“...The Difference Between Appearances and Reality: Marty always attempts to project an image of being a good guy and having a life that fits his perceptions of 'the way things are supposed to be.' Even during his interview in 2012, Marty always presents himself as a genial good ole boy and can't say a bad word about anything. And the reason he can't do that is because his ego won't allow it. Rust was a great investigator, not only because Rust is a great investigator, but because Marty was the lead detective and Rust is also a reflection on him. And it's not just that Marty fucked around, and loves indulging in 'big dick swagger.' He was (at least in 2002) violent with everyone in his life, wife and daughter included, whenever things in his life didn't fit his vision of how they're supposed to be. ('Don't mow my lawn!') I actually think in a lot of ways Harrelson's perfomance is the tougher of the two leads. Marty is a 'straight man' to Rust's metaphysical ramblings, but Harrelson still gives a modulated performance that shows a character that clings to control, but at the same time is out of control...”


The Marty type group represents a large swath of Americans who go through the motions of making this unworkable system work, all the while still purporting to believe in “Middle American” values. He represents the core of conservatives, as well as significant numbers of Liberals. His inherent violence stems not only from the cognitive dissonance between behavior and belief, but from the fundamental lack of connection and meaning that contemporary American society provides any more. Rust might be more aware, and honest, about this lack, but he represents a growing group that has simply given up trying to make any sense of it all; and more to the point, any hope that humans have the ability to make any sense of it all in the first place.

In this do we see the basic corrosive nature of electrified Capitalism, as well as the constricting of spiritual beliefs that will not evolve from the fear, and superstitions, based deities and dogma. If not only faith, and spirituality are to survive, but we as a species are to survive, we need to seek alternatives to both the mechanistic abstractions of Capitalism, and the rigidity of traditional religion. The guiding principles here should be Liberty in balance with the “Greater Good,” as well as transcendent explanation in balance with rationality. I'd like to think this is what I've kept at the basis of my alternatives, but please keep in mind that they are meant as starting points. They are also meant to be completely “Open Source.” So you are all free to change, augment and rename as you see fit. Hopefully, in the mix of all of this, we can come to a consensus of what the final alternatives (or groups of alternatives) should be.

We will deserve to survive if we make the choice to do what needs to be done to accomplish that. That task will certainly be a great deal easier if we can hold on to the belief that sentient life has not only intrinsic meaning, but purpose as well. We better get started soon or the inherent violence, and meaningless thrashings about, of the Marty's and Rustin's of the world will come to destroy whatever loving structure we have left.