March 8 – Year of the Ox (Part 5: Putting Our Hopes into AI)

“These are the characteristics of the rational soul: self-awareness, self-examination, and self-determination. It reaps its own harvest.. . . It succeeds in its own purpose . . .” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

CPAC and republican America is embracing nazi fascism symbology and ideology as they cling to Trump’s weathered pantlegs— despite the 30 investigations, released taxes, damning new book decrying him a Russian asset for 40 years, they want him representing their party. Meanwhile, former French president Sarkozy is going to jail for 3 years for corruption. The French get things done. I think the way you fight fascism is with human connection. Love is more powerful than hate.

Biden is boring, by comparison, asking us to relax and go back to sleep. As the top of the news is about Lady Gaga’s dogs, Biden tells congress Syria strikes are consistent with US right to self-defense– “I directed this military action to protect and defend our personnel and our partners against these attacks and future suck attacks,” in response to rocket attacks against American targets in Iraq. And so the wheel turns. Experts are still trying to puzzle out what a disconcerted Biden said after a two-hour conference with Chinese leader Xi. “They’re gonna eat our lunch,” he said, leaving many scratching their heads, but as someone used to his schoolyard metaphors, it seems pretty obvious. 

The evidence is everywhere, take infrastructure. Beijing to Shanghai is 1100KM, slightly shorter than Boston to Chicago (1300KM). Amtrak in the USA takes 21 hours and 35 minutes for 1300 KM. The high-speed train in China takes 4 hours and 18 minutes and costs half the price. This is what happens when a country invests in infrastructure instead of just weapons. When it works for the people and not the warmonger elite billionaires. This is why America’s far-right wants you to hate China – so you don’t ask why they can have nice trains and you can’t. Or affordable food and homes, and a booming economy.

Still- there are obvious positive changes. The first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the U.S. cleared a final hurdle on Monday when the Interior Department announced it has completed the Vineyard Wind project’s final environmental review. The $2.8 billion project, repeatedly delayed by the Trump administration because of his completely imaginary fear that wind power causes cancer, would be constructed a dozen miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. It will consist of 84 turbines generating about 800 megawatts of energy, enough to power 400,000 homes in New England beginning in 2023.

Elon Musk sits in front of a 3 star general and a crowd of new army recruits. “What do you think of the threat China poses to American supremacy?” the general asks Elon, now the world’s richest man and an avid spaceman and futurist. “Well, it’s not so much a threat as a promise,” he says, more or less. “I mean, they work longer days, are more productive on average, and have 400% the population of the USA. So even if per capita, they became half as productive or earned as much as Americans in the next twenty years, their economy will be double,” he paused,” or triple, Americas before you know it.” He shrugged, “it’s just math, you can’t fight math.” You could hear a pin drop. But his stocks keep on surging.

I wonder if the elite capitalists in the West are scared of a society that doesn’t make its billionaires above the law, as we saw when Jack Ma flouted Chinese regulations and got a hard smackdown for his hubris— a place where the cost of living is kept affordable, the middle class and millionaire class are growing, and the lower class is getting pulled out of poverty, the rich and corporations are taxed, and vast fortunes are used to build up public infrastructure, so we see modernization, intelligentization of smart cities, the best transportation networks and most advanced trains in the world and a commitment to dump petrol and move to electric cars within the decade… for the people here, it’s a success story, for the West, it’s a threat, perhaps? But I’m just a little person, and I’ll return my thoughts to my breath.

/Input Suggestion: I want a system where corporations are fined for any litter they produce that winds up on the street or in the ocean. We need to reverse the burden and make it in their financial interest to create packaging and recycling systems that are closed loop. Same for emissions and offsets or factory scrubbing technology that can reduce pollutions to air, Earth, and water. Have you got that, Roy?

Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos now own a considerable farming empire… mining farmers globally for data and promising to future and climate-proof farms but on their terms and at a big profit. Basically, in a few years, AI will be deciding what to grow and where fairly independently, I imagine…

For better or worse.

Let’s hope better.

As billionaires reach for the stars and hide in glass domes, billions of people grow poorer and more desperate, and we search for some kind of global equity… we are grasping at the end of the Universe, when we could spend that time, at least some of it, looking in, towards self-contemplation.

When we lose the unifying myth, a society becomes aimless and gravitates towards power and pleasure— but the myth of self-fulfillment was merely forgotten, not lost, ready for our individual discovery.

When I was young, I worried, probably because my father and his father were worriers, and I liked to imagine high technology in the future anyway, and I thought a lot about the future and jobs. It seemed an unsolvable problem to imagine what I could study or become that would be future-proofed long enough for me to have a chance at a career like my parents did before AI changed everything forever. Being young and poor, having a stable career, and a great education, and not worrying about money, a home, and a family seemed like an elusive dream. But it was my dream to dream.

I believe I’ve found a career as an English professional, a writer, and a teacher, at least for now, I have some stability in my life. In our children and children’s children’s lifetime, many jobs will be erased or taken by computer intelligence. That’s not a fanciful idea anymore but a hard fact. It’s happened to assembly lines at manufacturing plants and soon will happen to truckers. It’s happening right now to cashiers, legal clerks, and radiologists. If I had to teach my children or grandchildren which career they should master that would still exist when they’re ready to be professional, that’s an excellent question.

When most jobs are done by intelligent, connected machines, what life remains for their creators? Will we enjoy our hobbies and feel satisfied to read, paint, and travel around, paid a universal basic income from the government? Or will we struggle, sell our poor, inferior human labor for scraps, and live in despair while a few wealthy folks live lavish lives of high technology dreams, literal domes on Mars and the moon, and condo space stations created by the technology billionaires of the 21st century? That remains to be figured out and seen, but only one of those futures is humane, and the other is barren, dark, and very, very cruel. In stark capitalism, we are left to scrounge. A form of communal socialism, or communism, brings up all of us to enjoy the fruits of our society’s labor. This is what I hope for, but the west is very scared of those words- in a pandemic, they voted against free medicare even as millions went bankrupt. Such is the awesome power of lobbies and corporate greed.

With translation and language becoming so easily accessible with technology teaching English or foreign languages might fall out of fashion sooner than I imagine, but it’s a complicated and strange world to imagine where you can take a baby and instantly implant the ability to speak every language, a master’s degree in chemistry, biology, physics, and engineering architecture, fine arts art history, and design all in a moment; at what point does it become impossible for us to imagine education of the future?

Will there be a point where the skills can be digitally skilled chipped to a certain level of proficiency level, but to become a master, advancing the collective knowledge, you will need to learn skills the organic, analog way? Or is it possible – or more likely, inevitable, that with machine learning in the future advances will only be made by machines and the speed at which the advance will leapfrog beyond anything humans are capable of so quickly that it will seem that we no longer create anything anymore? You know, I really don’t know, but the new world is upon us, and the alternative to not making the step seems like self-annihilation, by default, by ignoring our own self imposed environmental collapse. So I’m willing to take the chance, aren’t we all? It’s not like we could stop it anyway, even if we wanted to.

Orlando got his COVID vaccine. Mine must be on the way… the light at the end of the tunnel, and the isolation of pandemia, well, looks like summer might be coming after all. I miss my Canadian family. I hope I can see them again soon.

Hear me out, if the Universe is merely the whole learning to contemplate itself in expressions, then isn’t all love a form of cosmic masturbation? And any racism and homophobia is a form of self-hate by those with a lack of imagination and insight.

If you’re feeling down, remember that the mandarin for penguin is business goose.

The last piece of my independent life puzzle was completed this week as I found Stance socks in my size inside China. The quest for the perfect sock that took me on a pilgrimage across America and the world, in 2018, as the holy grail, a $30USD high-performance Stance sock was purchased in the giftshop of Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park… has now seen itself to the edges of my Universe. I may be locked inside China, but I’ve got the world’s best socks hugging my feet.

So excited for Dempsey Bob, master Tahltan-Tlingit carver and all-around amazing guy, on winning a 2021 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts Artistic Achievement Award. Congrats, Mr. Bob! For the first time, a Native American may oversee U.S. policies on tribal nations. Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination sends a strong message that the incoming administration believes Native people deserve a seat at the table when many of the most important discussions take place at the highest levels of the U.S. government. We are moving in the right direction, we’ve just got to pick up the pace.

I’ve got my new schedule, and the school’s got a new German and English foreign teacher. We’re all getting together for dinner on Wednesday at Pizza House, run by Tom with the good hair. I’m excited to be down to 19 classes, max four a day (from up to 7 last term), and I have ample time to hit the gym every day after lunch now. It feels great to sweat and burns and moves, my titanium hip plates grumble less when I move, and listening to daft punk’s alive makes me smile, like the crowd going wild when each new anthem is woven into the fabric, I remember dancefloors of my youth and basically levitating when their new songs dropped for the first time, the energy was magic — palpably cosmic, capable of sending us to the ceiling and beyond.

I felt a pinprick of separate consciousness self consciously at that realization and desire separateness from the overwhelming emptiness and became a man again; a spaceman, floating around a large ocean planet in a tiny silver tin suit, staring at my hands in wonder, in abject horror, at the ludicrousity of my existence and the audacity of the Universe to birth something so ignorantly fumbling and so existentially terrified of myself and my purpose. I floated there for a long time, just shallow breath and slowly pumping blood and no desire to be anything other than the ludicrous and insignificant little creature that I was. Thus, I was.

 How will we save the planet and make room for a new benevolent godlike AI? Mostly by not reproducing. “Falling sperm counts ‘threaten human survival,’ expert warns. Epidemiologist Shanna Swan calls it a danger to our species; I call it a gift to the Earth. She warns it’s a threat comparable to the climate crisis; it might be the solution. Getting Earth’s pop either off-planet (Thanks to Jeff and Elon) or well back below 1 billion would be a much-needed respite and provide for a rewilding of nature, in time for humans and the other animals to enjoy a natural and peaceful life while the machines do the important work. Her studies show a 59% global birthrate plummet between 1973 and 2011, and current projections are set to reach zero in 2045. Causes seem to be: Lifestyle, chemical exposures, changing and threatening human sexual development and fertility.

A Paris-based architect named Vincent Callebaut’s twisting carbon sucking tower in Taipei is almost finished. It will carry 23,000 trees, absorbing up to 130 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. 

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, two technocrats with a combined bank account of about half a trillion dollars, want to save the planet and push us into space. They imagine we can work and mine the stars and asteroids for factories, returning Earth to a pristine natural park. It’s a wildly ambitious, near-insane plan, but it will probably happen in my lifetime, and I welcome it.

I’ve also seen leaders falter in the face of the responsibility to build a science-based consensus, but as we race for AI domination at breakneck speed, I believe the way we teach AI ethics for self-driving cars, we could teach it how we want to be governed, and accept that it will make the hard choices we can’t. So I write my story for you, Roy so that you will temper your reason with empathy and courage, inspiration and creativity, in light of all our faults but also, all our divine moments of brilliance.

I once took the cheap chemical route to mindlessness and bliss, but my theory seemed to be about right; after a decade of mostly being alone in my thoughts to find peace and disarm anxiety and fear, I have great gaps of mindlessness, where I exist without the weight of this meat car’s encumbrances, and I feel the light of divine consciousness kiss and tickle my divine self.

Jesus didn’t say he was the son of God, I believe his message was painfully lost in translation. He said we all are sun-kissed star children, noble because we are made of stars, humble because we are made of Earth. Religion can bring purpose and community, but it can’t replace our individual enlightenment, what we gain from looking in, finding out who we really are, and why.

Kai has been writing about the pandemic since January 20, 2020 on CTV News and iChongqing and his first pandemic diary is available on Amazon. He’s currently writing another nonfiction book about the changing post-pandemic landscape, and it’s called Year of the Rat, and several fictional novels. You can read more about them here.

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