It is Good

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampIt is good to think of ourselves as guests in this world. For that is surely what we are. We come, and we go. What we leave behind is for the next guests to live with…for a while.

I write a lot about fundamental virtues, and the dignity which is shared by all people and all creeds. For those few who would actively deny that basic human decency, this article is not for you.

To skirt all tangential esoteric questioning, we are here for a while, and then we die. The world goes on.

The situation we are born into is a geographic lottery, and we spend our short time dealing with the choices of thousands of generations of guests before us.

Our actions will affect all those to come.

As such, the assumptions we make and the expectations we hold should hardly be different from our attitude towards being a guest in the house of a friend or colleague.

A guest should not take more than they need, and never without asking. A guest should help out in any way they can. A guest should not cause any undo harm or damage, and a guest should leave things exactly as they find them.

It’s all just good sense, social intelligence, and common respect in the small scale scenario of visiting the home of a friend or colleague, and the grander stage of global interdependency should not obscure this view.

Just as we would not pillage the pantries of our hosts and leave them in want, neither can we allow our society to deny the potential of our skills and resources to nations or people with less. Likewise, just as it would be obscene to deface or destroy a home we are welcomed into, so too is it beneath us to take any action that might ruin this planet we enjoy so briefly, leaving it barren for the generations to come.

To do either would be violence most bestial, with or without gunfire.

It is an easy enough philosophy to nod your head to, but we must now explore the implications. To take no more than what we need, and leave things as they are, many would find themselves no longer the fortunate inheritors of land, wealth, and privilege which the circumstances of their birth have so far afforded. All would need an equal share—and none could be so bold as to demand more. Food, shelter, healthcare, and freedom would be the inherent birthright of all humanity, and the bettering of this shared condition—and its sustainability for future generations—would be the ambition and passion of all.

It’s good to show respect for our host. Our time, our place, and our ability to contribute are irreplaceable commodities which we cannot afford to squander on vanity and entitlement. For a thankless guest soon finds herself with nowhere else to go.

It is good to know these things.

-Brad OH Inc.

It’s Time to Pull the Trigger on the Environment

cropped-cropped-blogbanner13.jpgHere at Brad OH Inc., we’ve noticed a disconcerting trend. Whenever we try to dispose of our industrial waste materials in the river located conveniently near our window, people seem to whine. They complain when we burn refuse plastics, and they mumble when we empty our oil into the gutter.

Yes, these days people seem inescapably obsessed with this thing we call the ‘Environment’. Groups ranging from PETA (Link), to Greenpeace (Link)…even such nosey groups as the EPA (Link) are fixated on the protection and promotion of these ridiculous clumps of trees and irritating windstorms to the exclusion of their own fellow, wonderful humans.

Whether it’s annoying and dangerous animals, or the unforgiving confines of the natural world, these folks are having a great big love party over the dirty, disgusting outdoors.

What these people seem to miss—or intentionally ignore—is that the environment they love so dearly is the fundamental and inalienable enemy of mankind. What is human history after all, if not the story of our endless fight against the savage inhospitality of nature?

From the very first time mankind discovered fire, we have been turning the tides against the cold, and the darkness, and the bestial threats abounding in the natural world around us.

But that wasn’t enough. Oh no, nature is a fearsome foe. We needed shelters, clothing, and protective equipment. Through the years, our tenacity has bent the maleficent will of nature to our own noble purposes. We’ve increased the wield of crops, we’ve farmed formerly inhospitable lands, and most importantly, we’ve continued to increase our profit-shares despite nature’s adamant lack of cooperation. If that isn’t survival in the face of adversity, you tell me what is!

And yet, here we are. After eons of combat, and countless lives sacrificed to freezing rains and sudden earthquakes and villainous bears—we almost have nature beaten!

The ice-caps are melting. The ozone is crumbling. Countless wicked species are disappearing from the surface of our planet—clearing the way for more charming little humans.

Remember innocently reaching for a flower once as a child, holding onto the illusion that nature could be beautiful, only to be viciously attacked by some flying menace called a bee?

Well don’t worry, we’ve nearly got the stripy bastards (Source) in check.

Yes, no matter the obstacle nature has thrown in our way over the years, we’ve managed to persevere. After all, humanity is a tenacious species, and our greatest feature is our ability to adapt: to rise to new challenges, find new ways of solving problems, and even better ways to monetize them. It’s our history, it’s our heritage, hell—it’s our whole identity.

So the next time you hear some green jacketed hippy talking about saving the environment, why not ask them why they aren’t standing butt-naked on the savannah, jumping up and down trying to reach the low-hanging fruit?

If they give any other reason than the fact that people are better than that primitive malarkey, they are lying—or they’ve mismanaged their finances, and cannot afford one of our very cost-effective fruit-knockers.

Take it from us ladies and gentlemen—human history is the overcoming of natural struggles, and none are more finely equipped to do this than your modern day Corporation. The destruction of the environment is not a tragedy to be lamented, but the fruition of many millennia’s of effort! And don’t worry, we won’t stop there. Every ending is a new opportunity after all, and with these changes will come exciting new solutions.

Affordable gas-masks in your choice of colour? You bet! Nutrient bars to supply your needs? Damn Skippy! Scenic views of natural coastlines abounding with the wonder of God’s creation? We’ve got a 6-DVD set!

So cry not for the past, but revel rather in the present. It’s time to pull the plug on our old nemesis ‘Nature’, and start to build a better, more profitable world for everyone*!

*’Everyone’ does not necessarily include all people (Corporate or otherwise), peoples in all places, all places with people, non-people that identify as people, people that identify as non-people or anyone not directly associated with the Brad OH Inc. shareholders

-Brad OH Inc.

Dry Rot and a Consideration of Our Terrestrial Prospects

purelyspeculation“Your house has dry rot.”

There is no phrase more dreadful to a home-owner. It’s a terrible verdict—an indictment which carries a sentence of severe financial and emotional penalties.

‘Dry Rot’, also known as ‘Brown Rot Decay’ (Link), is a fungal infection of wood which eats away at the parts which give the wood its strength and stability. It starts as a simple spore. But exposed to sufficient moisture, the spores grow and spread, infesting the wood and eventually flowering to produce new spores. The infection only grows from there—compromising the integrity of the wood and causing significant problems for the longevity of even the best built houses.

The funny things about Dry Rot, and that which it shares with so many other potentially catastrophic conditions, is that for the most part it’s pretty easy to ignore. When it’s merely a collection of spores, it can appear as a collection of fine orange dust. Sweep it away, and go about your day.

As the spores grow, they will take on the appearance of fine white strands, stretching over the surface as they continue to spread the infection. But this too can be passed off—rationalized as spider webs, dust, or a litany of other excuses which don’t require significant financial investment to address.

It’s no different from a chest pain passed off as gas, or an engine rattle excused as debris.

…Or overwhelming scientific evidence of ‘Global Climate Change’ passed off as liberal hysteria.

The thing is, it’s an easy urge to understand; among the easiest. When faced with something too big to comprehend or too threatening to deal with, our first and most natural inclination is denial. After all, why stress over some distant potentiality when it can as easily be brushed off with a flippant ‘it’ll be ok’.

With Dry Rot, this can be a fatal mistake.

Often considered a cancer to buildings, if left untreated, Dry Rot spreads rapidly through timber, eating it away until it is deteriorated to the point of crumbling between the fingers. For a building, this clearly can cause significant problems. With sufficient warning and proper treatment, the infection can be isolated and cured. But if the Dry Rot makes its way to structurally integral wood, the entire building may be lost.

The prognosis then is simple—act fast to fix the problem, or risk having nowhere to live.

For any informed decision-making adult, the choice is abundantly clear. It seems almost self-evident that when faced with a choice between an untimely demise (or in this case, homelessness), or an admittedly costly investment, there should be little choice remaining—take the hit, but save the whole.

But even in the case of illness, humans have a way of rationalizing away what’s important in defense of what’s comfortable. We ignore the complaints of an ailing body, but lament when we learn our neglect has caused greater harm.

We see the same thing with our world. As technology has grown and society has evolved, so too have the conditions to which we’ve exposed this planet of ours. Just like a home-owner ignoring the damp, dark places of his house, we’ve gone on our merry way, oblivious to the potential effects as our lifestyles have caused sky-rocketing atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels.

Now, the evidence is irrefutable (Source). The climate is changing. The ice caps are melting (Source). Even if most of us have not yet detected the rust-like dust of its impending arrival, the inevitable decree of an environment neglected for too long is slowly making itself known. The rot has set in!

Yet still, denial is omnipresent. Even when we’re rational enough to admit something is wrong, we eschew any responsibility, choosing instead to bury our heads in the sand. In a disturbing instance of this ‘Wait and See’ mentality, the US Senate recently acknowledged that the climate is changing, but fell short of acknowledging that humans are responsible. (Source). In doing so, they served also to rule out the logical conclusion that humans must start working on a solution.

But this is still among the better reactions. Far more depressing, there are countless sources (most of them supported by big oil, or other environmentally destructive enterprise—Source) clamouring to attribute the rumbling of disaster to mere myth. With a glib grin they point to a snowy field, overwhelming proof in their simple minds of the misguided nature of such ‘sci-fi’ notions.

But this is tantamount to the homeowner wrapping a fist against his kitchen counter to prove that Dry Rot has not infested his foundation. It’s an ignorant knee-jerk reaction at best. At worst, it is an intentional misdirection motivated strictly by greed. In the case of climate change, I’m inclined to suspect the latter.

In truth, we’ve waited far too long already. The rot has set in, and the question is no longer whether this might be a threat, but rather how bad it is, and more importantly, what our prospects are from here.

Ultimately, we don’t know. A good guess would be: ‘bad’, but guesses aren’t worth much in a scenario like this. Action is what counts. The first action—as with any well-implemented endeavour—is to understand fully the extent and prognosis of the problem itself. To this end we must turn to science. Instead of trying to shirk responsibility for this impending travesty—although there is certainly much blame to be placed—we should be investing research dollars into finding real solutions.

It’s time to take a good look at this home of ours, and start a discussion about how to salvage it. This will require immediate and likely extreme changes—not limited to the consideration of seeking resources elsewhere in the universe. It is an expensive notion, no doubt, but the alternative is to let the foundation crumble to the rot; which would mean finding ourselves homeless in a universe that is exceptionally inhospitable to such arrangements.

-Brad OH Inc.

Genocidal AIs: Are they Right?

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

The end times are a fascinating notion. Meteors crashing into earth, trumpets blowing, catastrophic nuclear disasters, uncontrollable pathogens…it seems there’s no end to humanity’s imagination when it comes to our own eventual extinction.

This makes sense of course. As discussed in our article ‘The Metaphorical Imperative’, the exclusive human ability to conceive of our own mortality leaves us with an overwhelming sense of existential terror. This applies primarily to our own lives, but with even a cursory understanding of the cerebral complexity of humans, extends easily to the human race as a whole. It’s no stretch then to understand the human need to create fantasies about how it might all end.

Among the litany of potential options for humanity’s demise, I’m particularly fascinated by the idea of a Robot-Apocalypse. In this scenario, the invention of AIs (Artificial Intelligences) by humans is the catalyst for our extinction. The idea generally goes that once a robotic AI is created, it will inevitably become self-sufficient rather quickly. The ability to ‘think’ in a human like way will allow the AIs to self-replicate, and also self-program themselves. Like evolution on a greatly accelerated scale, the AIs would be able to continuously improve their programming and design. Following this course, it would take little time for them to become far more intelligent and capable than humanity itself.

Now, this represents a particular danger. A continually advancing and ever-growing society of robots would represent a very serious threat to our own existence. Because of this threat, many science-fiction writers and machine-ethicists have considered how to prevent a robot uprising. The best known attempt comes from the writer Isaac Asimov, who created the infamous ‘3 Laws of Robotics’, which follow:

Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

A fourth, or “Zeroth” Law was added later:

  1. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

These laws were to be hard-wired into the software of all AIs, theoretically preventing them from turning the table on mankind’s rule. Of course, these rules were little more than literary devices, and have inevitably been used to illustrate just how quickly such restrictions can come undone.

One common failure of these rules is that the AIs, in their ever-expanding wisdom, would begin to consider humanity itself as the greatest threat to its own survival—as well as that of the world. The AIs would process the ongoing damage to the environment, the threat of nuclear war, and other atrocities committed by humans on an ongoing basis, and in accordance with their own ingrained programming, move to prevent inevitable disaster.

Unfortunately, this usually involves wiping out mankind—or at least the vast majority of it. In some conceptions, a small population of people might be preserved in order to repopulate once the world is better equipped to deal with our innately destructive nature.

It’s not a very pretty picture for us, but in the advanced minds of the AIs, this might represent our best chance for long-term survival.

Of course, it’s a lot easier for the malfeasant machines these days; among other ill-effects, ‘Citizens United’ has rendered Asimov’s Laws of Robotics entirely counterproductive. If corporations are considered human, it should be immediately apparent how confusing the laws become, and what sort of abominable determinations the AIs may be forced to make.

This is all a lot to consider, and certainly makes for a rather sombre topic of conversation, but what I find myself wondering amidst all this terrifying rhetoric is: are the AIs right?

There can be little doubt that humanity is a terrible threat to itself and all other forms of life within our dastardly reach. On an ongoing and ever-accelerating basis, we’re ravaging our planet, destroying myriad ecosystems, running our resources dry with little thought to the future, and killing one another over trivial ideals and belief systems. If we can move past our own sentimentality, we’re left with the sad fact that we are a brutal, destructive, and dangerous species.

But we’re more than that as well. As the gears turn in their cold metal minds, processing all the turmoil and grief we create, would the AIs also consider our upsides? Can an AI appreciate art, or philosophy? Would their synthetic hearts be capable of processing the great acts of love and decency of which we are also capable?

If humanity is to be put on trial by these cold, calculating, and unbiased brutes, would we be found lacking? It’s a difficult thought to consider. Here at Brad OH Inc., we remain convinced that humanity’s promise is yet to be fully realized—that we are far better than we’ve been acting. Let’s hope we can buck this dismal trend before we actually manage to construct the arbiters of our own fate.

Do you think we’d pass this trial? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments section below (or alternatively accessed via the speech-bubble beside the article title).

A special thanks to Hal J. Friesen for helping in the research of this article. To read his great science-fiction related articles and more, visit Hal at: Hal J. Friesen.

-Brad OH Inc.