Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Humanity has survived through several Armageddons before, an Ice Age, the Great Plague, World War, the dropping of the Atomic Bomb, whatever the future has in store for us, it is pretty likely that some of humanity will suffer through it. Even the biggest environmental collapse of any civilization, on Easter Island, where unbounded population growth and on a small isolated island in the middle of the Pacific caused the great for-thinking civilization to cut down the very last tree on the island. Their livelihood depended on trees to make canoes to fish, so no trees, equaled no fish, equaled tribal warfare, cannibalism and a 90% drop in population, but when the first Europeans arrived, there were still peoples living on the island, humanity persisted.
So, that long winded introduction, is what I'm not going to talk about. What am going to talk about is far more certain than the Apocalypse, in fact it is almost guaranteed to occur in the life-time of those alive today. What I am going to talk about is the End of Life as We Know It.
One trend that has been quite persistent throughout human history is the exponential increase of technology. First a trickle, invention of the spear, discovery of fire making, ..., Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age. Then a flood, the Industrial Revolution, steam engine, train, automobile, airplane, printing press, computer, Internet, Yahoo, MySpace, Facebook, Wikipedia. In fact, technology is now increasing at the rate that it is getting close to vertical. We are on the verge of some extremely radical breakthroughs that will so fundamentally change the fabric of our existence, that our civilization as we know it, will come to an end.
For instance, take bio-technology. If you read between the lines of some bio-tech press releases lately, you will see the signs that we are on the verge of some pretty major breakthroughs. A cure for cancer, the ability to grow and transplant entire new organs, the ability to end, even reverse aging. End aging, what does this mean exactly, immortality, or at least greatly increased life spans. Think about this for a minute, no aging, no death, equals a major population growth problem. If you can live forever, than there are consequences, you cannot go merrily along having children, immortality equals a world without children, not sure anyone can imagine this, not sure anyone would want to live in this world. Perhaps one will be given the choice, live forever, and have no children, or die, and have a child.
What about computer science? Haven't we heard of computer AI being around the corner since the 70's? However, other than plenty of good Sci-Fi movies, not much seems to come of it. Of coarse, programmers are notorious for underestimating time-lines, but they normally pull through eventually. If you look out on the web recently there has become quite a recent proliferation of AI web-site, projects and advancements. Strong AI, computer more intelligent than the most intelligent humans is coming, and is coming soon. What does this mean? Biologic humans will no longer be the dominate species on this planet.
What will become of us, will we merge with computers to form cybernetic organisms, will we live out an isolated life in a human wildlife sanctuary that the AI's confine us to. Will they eliminate us, or gradually take over our habitat and displace us until we have no place left to live. Will we become pets, or be kept alive in Zoos. One thing that worries me, is that AI's will learn from our treatment of less intelligent species. How well do we treat our fellow animals? We enslave them, murder them for food and clothing, torture them in the name of science, destroy they're homes and habitat. Is this how we wish to be treated by the coming super intelligent species of AI, if not, perhaps we better start making some changes, and making them fast, if we delay we may get exactly what we deserve.
Monday, August 25, 2008
But then I started researching the slavery abolition movement that it is modeled after. When the small group of Quakers in Britain began their quest for the abolition of slavery, it must have seemed like just as much of a half baked moonshot. At the point in time of the main slavery abolition movement slavery had been a part of human society for thousands of years, our economy was fundamentally linked to it, and it was part of the global culture.
The end of human slavery did not occur over night. The time line for the abolition of slavery began as early as 1000 AD in Hungary, or perhaps much earlier. Slavery was abolished as early as 1335 in Sweden, 1587 in Japan, 1777 in Vermont, 1833 in the British Empire, 1865 in the United States, 1948 by the United Nations, and even today in 2008 in Nepal. Even today while most forms of slavery are illegal in almost all the world slavery still continues with perhaps 27 million slaves world wide, in the sex trade, and forced labor in various countries around the world.
So, perhaps the animal rights abolition movement is not nuts, perhaps now is the time to start. I began to think, that if it were possible, what would be the best way to go about it. Following the slavery abolition movement, it is clear that the whole world is not, and does not need to absolve animal slaughter and slavery at the same time, and the first country to start in, is probably not the United States.
The best way to start the movement is to make it become law in one country, any country, perhaps even in one state. We have much to learn from religion in this respect. When the Protestants desired their own laws, they did not remake Catholic Europe, the migrated to the "New World" and made their own country based on their own values. The Jews did not demand equal rights, and freedom from persecution in Europe, they sounded the call to Zion, and migrated in mass from Europe and Russia to found Israel, a land where they would be able to live under their own law. The same for various religions such as the Amish, Mennonites and Mormons migrating to the mid-west.
So, I put forth that we sound the call to Zion for the animal rights and vegan movement. We begin the migration of ethical minding peoples of the world to our vegan Zion and make abolition into law and a reality. That we show the world first hand the benefits of a vegan society, and that it is not only possible, but a great economic, environment and social benefit to live as a vegan society. That we take our chair at the United Nations and start the waterfall affect into the rest of the world.
Now one thing that we must do is decide on where our vegan Zion is? Since there are perhaps one million to five million vegetarians and vegans in the world that may consider eventual migration to Zion, the country cannot be too large, it must also have open immigration laws, and perhaps be somewhat connected or near to either Europe or the United States. Fortunately there is a large number of small island countries in the Caribbean, perhaps a country such as Trinidad and Tobago ("Lulu for president"). A small country with about one million people, a large population is already Hindu, which would at least hopefully be sympathetic to our cause. So we would need probably less than 500,000 people to migrate to this island nation. Perhaps it can be the retirement destination of aging vegans, the vegan Florida. Aging vegans can bring their money and their vote, and start a new world order.
Or, perhaps we can migrate within the United States, such as to Vermont, which only has 600,000 people. It would be quite historic to start the animal rights abolition movement in the same state that first abolished slavery. But perhaps history does not need to repeat itself exactly and we could choose Virgina, as we already have a base in Norfolk in that state.
I don't know, maybe now is the time, maybe this is the call, will you answer the call?
"The Man" exists, and controls our world and our lives. No I'm not crazy or paranoid, but do bear with me as I elaborate.
"The Man" is basically the alpha male of our society. Humans, like many mammals are a hierarchal organized species. We naturally organize ourselves through levels of dominance, and seek to dominate those below us, and increase our level of standing within our societies hierarchy. This holds for both males and females, "The Man" is not just men, but also women. Women also strive to be the alpha female.
"The Man" is not a single person, but everyone who seeks and obtains power, a desire to dominate others. "The Man" was responsible for slavery, for colonialism, for invasions and wars of aggression, for social injustice, for racism and sexism. "The Man" continues to be a major force for ill in our world today, "The Man" is responsible for the destruction of the environment, the continued widening of the poverty gap, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, genocide in Darfur, global warming, exploitation and slaughter of animals, and the fattening of America and the world. "The Man" is everywhere, even inside all of us.
There are ways to fight "The Man". We did abolish slavery, we created democracy, we ended the era of colonialism, we created the United Nations, we gave all humans equal legal rights, we created socialism, public health care, old age and unemployment security, welfare.
But we have a long way to go to end "The Man"'s dominion over our society. As long as we continue to organize ourselves in a hierarchical structure "The Man" will continue to have power.
I do have faith that our world is changing, and the very fabric of our species organization for more than one million years is changing. The Internet and massive online collaboration is changing the very nature of our existence. At the heart of this change is the Open Source movement. Although this started out as a computer software movement, it is quickly migrating into every aspect of our lives.
In the "Open Source" world, "The Man" looses power. In software, "The Man" no longer owns the rights of the software, they no longer control its direction, or have a monopoly on its support and servicing.
Wikipedia has open sourced all information, Freebase seeks to open source all knowledge, Blogs, Digg, YouTube and other such services have open sourced the media, "The Man" no longer controls what news we hear, no longer decides who's opinion we should listen to.
In media, Indie Music, Youtube seek to remove "The Man"'s control of what we listen to, what we watch.
We can do more, we can "Open Source" our schools, the government, religion, business, our whole society.
Everyone can fight "The Man", some simple things you can do:
- Use open source software (Linux, OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird
- Get involved, Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wikiveristy, Commons, Wikia, Freebase, SourceForge
- Oppose oppression, stand up for human rights, animal rights and the environment
- Give to the poor
- Stop childhood and sibling bullying
The revolution has begun, join us and reorganize the world for the better.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
There are many international charities that aid in fighting global poverty and providing food and relief in humanitarian crisis, many such charities have connections with religion. The United Nations and international agreements such as the Millennium Development Goals seek to end poverty and starvation in our world. Progress is being made, and the number of people living in poverty and unable to afford adequate nutrition is decreasing.
However there is another side to the story, in the wealthier countries, food is cheap and plentiful. Obesity and poor nutrition have reached epidemic proportions. This decade is the first decade in all of human history where more people will die from obesity related diseases than starvation.
Unlike poverty rates, obesity rates are increasing, and with them diabetes, heart disease, cancers, asthma, and other diseases. In the last 30 years obesity rates have increased from 15% to 35%, childhood obesity has increased from 5% to 15%. One would think that such a dire problem would have an equal number of charitable organizations dedicated to fighting the problem. But alas, there are very few, our glutenous lifestyle and culture is rarely seen as a major problem.
There are two parts to the problem, the first is diet. The fast food industry and processed food industry have addicted us to their food. Everything we eat has been enhanced with sugar, salt, and fat, and the nutrition has been refined to nothing. The majority of our calories come from refined sugar and fat, 95% of the flour used in America is processed white flour. We are obsessed with meat, if a meal does not contain at least two portions of some dead animal in it, we don't consider it a meal. We eat more meat in a day, than any nutritionist would recommend in a week.
Not only is the food we eat junk, but the portions are large enough to feed a family. We are bombarded with junk food and fast food advertisements, finding healthy food at a restaurant is a near impossible task. Our overweight, asthmatic children sit in front of TV countless hours a day watching commercials where their favorite cartoon figures and role models tell them how great candy, sugar cereals, and processed nutritionless snacks are. Is there little wonder that they consume close to half their calories in sugar?
The second is exercise. We are the automatic powered generation. Everything in our lives is powered by automation. We drive everywhere, technology does all of our work for us, our ride-on lawnmower cuts the grass, our snow blower shovels the driveway, our leaf blowers rake our leaves and sweep our patio, elevators and escalators take us up the stairs, even our doors open by themselves. We use the time our technology has given us to sit in front of the TV, our children play video games instead of playing outside. We think the Sony WII is a form of exercise.
Perhaps our lives have become too easy, but we pay the price in the end. We become decrepit before our time, heart attacks in our forties are common, cancers and alzheimers are an expected part of aging. This does not have to be the way, their are many traditional cultures where these diseases rare. It is true that we are living longer, but this is thanks to health care not thanks to our health. Early heart attacks have increased 20%, but quadruple bypass surgeries have increased by 2,000%. We live 10 years longer than before, but spend 15 years more in old age homes.
This is the culture we are exporting on the world. From China to Zimbabwe, we are decreasing nutrition in the wealthy and promoting a sedentary lifestyle. We need to stop this cultural recking bomb, we need to reinvent our culture and export something throughout the entire world that we can be proud of. If we first save ourselves, save the fat americans, then we can save the world.
The steps to achieve this are simple.
- Eat wholes grains.
- Eat more vegetables and fruit.
- Eat less or no meat.
- Eat no or little red meat.
- Remove sugar, salt and fat additives in our food.
- Eat fewer processed foods, and more fresh and wholesome foods.
- Eat smaller servings.
- Eat slower, have sitdown family dinners, enjoy talking more than eating.
- Become unplugged, use more of our own power.
- Walk, bike or run to work, or take the bus and get off one stop earlier and walk.
- Take the stairs.
- Play outside with our children, go to the park.
- Buy a manual lawn mower, buy a rake instead of a leaf blower, a shovel instead of a snow blower, save money and fuel.
- Join a walking group, running club, recreational sports team.
- Ensure our children play little league, soccer, basket ball, hockey, gymnastics, dance.
- Join a health club, and actually go, do aerobics, pilates, work out, swim.
But I'm not sure we can make it by ourselves, society has to change with us. We must demand it changes with us.
- Ban junk food and fast food from advertising on TV, most certainly children's programs.
- Require labeling on all junk food, perhaps skull and cross bones for greater than a certain percentage of fat, sugar and salt.
- Require nutritional information on restaurant menus.
- Remove all junk food and pop machines from our schools, serve only healthy food in school cafeterias.
- Ensure physical education is part of education, ensure that after school sports are properly funded. Reward teachers for taking part in after school sports and allow parent to also be involved, make involvement in an after school sport a requirement to high school graduation.
- Give companies tax incentives for engaging in inter office sports leagues.
Glutenny and sloth are two of the seven deadly sins, perhaps the deadliest ones of them all. Religion is about more than worshiping God, it is about worshiping ourselves, our families and our society. Religions provides a wealth of knowledge on improving our lives, perhaps we should remember this before it is too late.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Diet and ethics have long since been a major influence of religion. In Judiasm and thus inherited to Christianity and Islam, God commands "Thou shall not kill". It seems that God was quite absolute in saying no killing period. It does not seem that God said just no killing fellow humans. Perhaps one assumes this is what God meant, but shouldn't an omnipotent being be given the benefit of the doubt for getting the correct wording?
Buddhism and Zoroastrianism stresses "Compassion for all living things". In Hinduism and Jainism vegetarianism is the ideal way of life.
There are many religious diets that promote vegetarianism. Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain all promote vegetarian diets. Muslim Halal food, and Jewish Kosher food are largely vegetarian. Catholics are suppose to obtain from eating meat on Friday. Some Christian sects such as the Seventh-day Adventists promote a vegetarian diet.
Some suspect that the original Jewish and thus Muslim ban of eating pig to be related to that fact that the pig is the most human of our fellow animal species that we slaughter for food. A pig is a highly intelligent mammal, and its fatty hairless body resembles that of a human. It cries from pain similar to humans, its' babies are extremely similar to human babies. Most fire fighters also do not eat pig, this is because when a pig's flesh is burnt is smells much that same as human flesh does when it burns, I would assume it tastes the same as well. Perhaps you should think of that the next time you slice into a ham, or chew on a succulent piece of bacon.
In the criminal code paying someone to kill is considered murder, so paying for meat would also constitute murder, at least the murder of an animal. The poor ethics of killing intelligent animals for food are indisputable. I'm really not sure how society justifies it. Perhaps it is the argument "Because we can", but then this would also justify murder and cannibalism of humans, which society does not allow. Perhaps it is "They are less intelligent", of course those that make this argument typically have arguable intelligence themselves, so does that make it right for those with more intelligence to eat them? If aliens moderately more intelligent than us invaded our world, would we think it ethical of them if they enslaved and ate us because they had slightly more intelligence? We also seem to frown on people eating dogs, but a pig is as intelligent as a dog, and a cow fairly close. This logic really baffles me.
Perhaps I could understand it better if eating meat was actually beneficial to humanity. But it is one of the worst and most expensive and least environmental sources of nutrition that we have. Countless studies have shown that a diet high in meat, especially red meat (meat from mammals) drastically increases ones susceptibility to cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, alzheimers and several other ailments. The number one recommendation for heart disease is switching to a vegan diet. Meat and animal products contain high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat. Cholesterol does not exist in vegetables. Fiber, one of the best nutrient for fighting heart disease and cancer does not exist in meat.
The largest, longest and most detailed study of diet ever conducted was The China Study. The basic result was "The more meat and animal products you eat, the sooner you will die". Studies have shown that eating meat can reduce your life expectancy from 5 to 10 years, or longer. Statistically this is similar to smoking. So if you do not smoke because you know it's bad for you, why on earth would you eat meat? Most parents do not force their children to smoke, so why on earth would they force them to "eat their meat"? Child (and adult) obesity is increasing at catastrophic rates, in large part because of an animal products obsessed society.
In recently reading the book Healthy at 100 the thing I found most shocking was that the diseases we assume are natural as one ages, cancer, heart disease, alzheimers, are not natural. There are many societies to whom these disease are extremely rare, societies where it is normal to live a healthy life into the 100s. Over 10% of the entire worlds population over the age of 100 live in Okinawa Japan. The diet of these elders is a largely vegan diet (with a little fish or seafood on occasion). We spend billions of dollars a year searching for cures to breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, hearth disease, but perhaps the "cure" is the same as the "cure" for lung cancer. If you don't want to get lung cancer then don't smoke, if you don't want breast, prostate, colon or many other types of cancer, heart disease or diabetes, then don't eat meat.
If such an absurd thing as God were to exist, then it would be quite fitting that God inflicts the plague of cancer on humanity for its' sin of eating God's other intelligent creations.
Friday, October 26, 2007
First off let me acknowledge that a lot of bad and evil has been done over the centuries in the name of God and religion. To name the crusades, the inquisitions, countless wars is just to skim the surface of the subject. And this continues today with religious motivated terrorism, the war in Iraq, the Balkans war, India and Pakistan's cold war, Sri Lanka's tensions.
Religion has not just to answer for evil, but also ignorance, the burning of books and censorship of knowledge throughout the ages. The murder of Socrates, the imprisonment of Galileo, the continued illogical slandering of biological evolution and science.
But there has also been good. Throughout history in societies of little to no laws religion has motivated countless people to be good. Religion instituted many of the first legal systems. Religious schools were for the most part the first schools, even today many schools throughout the world are funded by religions, many people would not be able go to school at all if it were not for this funding. Literacy in general owes a great dept to religion.
Compassion and charity are causes championed by religion. Not only are the majority of charities today linked with religion, but even non-religious charities are largely funded by donations from religiously motivated people.
Some of the greatest achievements of humanity owe a dept to religion. The absolution of slavery in the British empire and eventually the world was a movement started by a group of religious Quakers, and for the most part backed and successful because of the support of religion. Martin Luther King was a Christian minister, Gandhi was a devote Hindu.
The animal rights movement began with religion, the first vegetarians were Hindu and Buddhist. Traces of animal compassion can be found in most religions, from avoiding eating meat on the Sabbath, Kosher and Hala food, Christian sects such as the Seventh Day Adventists promoting vegetarianism. For all its effort and celebrity endorsements even PETA has inspired meagerly little people to avoid meat when compared with Hinduism and Buddhism.
Religion more than benefits society, it benefits individuals. It gives them purpose, provides them with a community and support network. Many health studies have shown that religious people are healther and live longer than the average. This is because after they retire, they still have a community and a purpose.
There is a fundamentalist sect of Atheism emerging of late, which seems bent on religions demise. I recently read the novel God is not Great, religion poisons everything of which this article is a play on its title. The book was immaculately written, and I would strongly recommend it, and not disagree with any of it points, however I think that perhaps it is one-sided, and may be in danger of promoting a view that would have the baby thrown out with the bath water.
Some argue that we do not need religion to obtain all its benefits. We can be good just because it the correct thing to be, we can come together as a community in other ways, we can give to charity simply because it makes us feel good, we can live virtuous and ethical lives because it is the best way to live. I don't know, to me, it sounds a lot like a religion.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
There are basically three forms of life from a social standpoint. Those that are solitary and rarely interact with their own species other than mating, those that organize themselves socially in a hierarchical group, and those that live in swarms.
For over a million years humanity has organized itself hierarchically. Family units were hierarchical, tribes were hierarchical, chiefdoms, kingdoms, countries, corporations, schools, government. However, recently, things have fundamentally changed and the shock waves are emanating through society.
The Internet, globalization, cell phones, email, instant chat, wikis, blogs, Facebook, MMPOG, SourceForge, have given a subset of humanity the ability to interact and collaborate with others on a massive scale. This is starting to fundamentally alter our society and species, we are becoming a swarm.
Ants, bees, wildebeest herds, live in large interconnected groups. This fascinating realm of scientific study is called swarm theory.
Although there is a "Queen" ant, this is just an honorary title and does not come with any power. If one studies swarms the interesting thing is that no one is in charge, of anything, at all. Each individual interacts with those around them in the swarm, and this interaction gives the swarm a greater intelligence and power that no single of the individuals could ever hope to obtain on their own. A herd of thousands of wildebeest can migrate hundreds of kilometers to the exact location of their mating ground with only a small number of herd knowing the direction. Ants can harvest a large area around their nest optimally for food without any plan nor ant managing the operation. Evolution proves that a swarm is the best organization for a very large interconnected group, just as it proves a hierarchy is the best origination for a small group.
If one looks at the new communities emerging over the Internet lately they exhibit the same behavior as a swarm. This has triggered a new economical model, one that has allowed open source software projects to compete with, rival, and replace some of the most sophisticated software products produced by the largest corporations, Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Tomcat, Eclipse, Wikimedia, Jboss, OpenOffice. This is not just a computer software fad, it is permeating every industry from bio technology to manufacturing. Publishing companies are having to compete with Wikimedia and other wikis, record labels are competing with independent music and MP3tunes, auto makers no longer make most of the automobile but instead assemble thousands of part from independent producers.
This is just the beginning, this is not just a new economic model, this is a new way of life. Not only will every industry be “open sourced” but so will government, schools, communities, families and religion.
There are already several new open source religions, the Church of Reality, Yoism, wayism to name a few. There are also countless religious groups on Yahoo Groups, Google and Facebook, as well as religious wiki communities such as the Religion Wiki, where anyone can create their own new religion, or join a community of a existing one.
This is by no means a fad of new religions, traditional religions are embracing the Internet and massive online collaboration through websites, wikis, groups, online churches, online communities and online services. Annotated versions of the Bible, the Koran and other religious texts are emerging, allowing anyone to discuss, question or collaborate on the meaning of the text. This is the golden age of religion, for the first time allowing religion to represent the true soul of the people, not handed down from a hierarchy of priests, monks, clerics, popes, kings, governments and God.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I have some respect for religions such as certain sects of Mennonites or Amish that in parts abandon technology in general, but find it puzzling how some other religions can live in a very scientific and technological world and yet not accept basic scientific theories like evolution. But I digress, this is not a rant on the continuing saga of evolution vs. religion, I assume science will eventual win that saga as they did on the world being round, and the Earth revolving around the Sun (religious believers actually imprisoned Galileo for such thoughts). What more interests me is the fundamentally link between religion and evolution.
Most people have some understanding of biological evolution, but have less understanding that evolution is a basic mathematical algorithm that has vast applications beyond simple biology. Evolutionary algorithms are a common tool in computer science, and also have applications in Economics, Anthropology, Linguists and Sociology.
Evolution is one of the most efficient algorithms in making observations on a large set of data. The evolutionary algorithm basically goes like this, in an environment comprising of large populations of interacting entities over a large period of time, where those entities can change, merge, grow and reproduce, and over large periods of time, the entities more fit for the environment will be more likely to survive and continue to propagate. If entities can change and merge, entities that are more fit for the environment will eventually evolve.
Which brings us back to religion. If you look at the history of 10,000 years or so of human civilization, and consider the thousands or millions of societies that have existed. In this environment over time there have been many different beliefs, both religious and secular. One would have to assume that there were both societies without religion (after all agnostics are the world's oldest surviving religion, since the dawn of belief there have people who did not believe), as well as societies with varying degrees of religion. Why did every successful civilization adopt organized religion? For one society with organized religion to be successful could be a fluke, but for every successful society to have organized religion can only be evolutional.
It is obvious that religion in the world has both pros and cons, there has been much good done in the name of religion, and much bad, but how to determine if religion's net impact to society has been good or bad.
An evolutionary scientist would seek to determine the answer through creating a diverse environment with many societies with varying degrees of religion over a large period of time, as see which society tended to survive and evolve, would the societies without religion dominate, or the ones with religion? Human civilization history is such an experiment, and the results show quite clearly that religion benefits society, evolution justifies religion, so perhaps religion could be a little less skeptical of evolution.