On Misanthropy

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Misanthropy

[mis-an-thruh-pee, miz-]

noun

  1. hatred, dislike, or distrust of humankind.

I’ve been accused of it before, and I can certainly see where the assumption might stem from. After all, I spend a fair bit of my time on this blog ranting about the failings, shortcomings, and general depravity that are the human condition.

In truth though, I really don’t consider myself a misanthrope. I’m seldom shocked by people’s endless travesties, nor occasional decencies. But the distrust part is probably fair—the endless flow of disappointment and decay witnessed on any social media or news channel should be enough to ingrain a deep-seated distrust of people in anyone paying even an iota of attention.

It’s the distrust though, and not the hatred or dislike, which serves as the base of any misanthropy I might exhibit. Maybe disappointment is the more accurate word. To me, the categories seem to border on mutually exclusive.

To hate or even dislike humankind, one would expect little of them, and demand even less. For me, it is the opposite.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I find myself harbouring an unshakeable love and optimism for humanity. I believe in our potential whole-heartedly, and am in awe to imagine the heights of virtue, justice, and wonder we could aspire to if only unburdened of our pride and avarice.

It is this hope for and faith in our potential which keeps my outlook on the dark side—my gestating joy clouded constantly by the disappointment of reality and our inability to rise above the pettiness and fearful indecency which has mired us in the same patterns our entire existence.

This dismal divide has been the guiding force behind most of my writing, and continues to be the driving factor behind many of my choices and actions. It is a subtle push, a shivering hope, that we may eventually see the day that humankind ceases to fear, and stands no longer in dereliction of our innate potential, but rise instead to be the glorious, luminous beings that are and always have been our truest nature.

-Brad OH Inc.

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Humanity vs. the Corporate Mindset

Of all the unfortunate ills in this world, the Corporate mindset may be the chief. It is this idea which keeps society unbalanced and desperate, which controls our information and divides us against one another. Laws are changed, rules are broken, people are robbed of their potential, and the world at large is injured by this idea that more is better, and that the ability to take more is self-justifying.

It’s often preached about as ‘freedom’, or ‘capitalism’, or even ‘fairness’—all hair-brained explanations for one of the greatest con’s ever. The system supports only itself and those at it’s very top, while actively trying to quash out any popular movement attempting to return to the people some semblance of the power which is theirs by right.

Let’s look briefly at two examples to illustrate this point.

The first is the idea of a universal basic income. The concept here is that if the highest earners paid a higher level of taxes than the pittance they currently do (if they pay at all), then a universal basic income could be provided to each citizen, raising them out of poverty, and allowing them to participate in the economy and society in a meaningful way. This would reduce suffering, and build up communities across the nation, and the world.

To the Corporate mindset, this is the highest of heresies.

They would argue that having successful people pay taxes for less successful people discourages big ideas, and that if the ability to lord unimaginable wealth over the rest of the population wasn’t available, then any incentive to be productive would go with it.

What unimaginable hogwash.

The true reason for such objections is a little more obvious, and far more believable. It’s greed, of course…good old number three.

The truth is that at some point, the motivation of money is no longer about providing for you and yours—Maslow’s hierarchy and such. It ceases to be the calculated pursuit of betterment or provision, and becomes instead the reckless pursuit of an addict. Wealth fast becomes an addiction, and like most addictions, people resort to increasingly terrible extremes to feed it. A Corporation, in essence, is this wealth addiction made manifest. Pursuit of money as a drug in this way breaks the market, the chain of trust, the social contract, and capitalism in general.

Another fine example of the destructive nature of this Corporate mindset can be found in the realm of art and creativity. Corporations have no interest in crating thought-provoking materials or fresh ideas—the very opposite in fact. Their goal is to create easily consumed, content devoid filler. They rehash the same tropes and keep people clapping along to the same tired old ideas. It’s about placation and distraction, never enrichment.

The end result can be seen in the relentless struggle before any true artist—in their need to cut through these quagmires of idiocy to ever have a chance at being heard by the desperate ears of people starving for original content. Examples can be found in free-speech warriors such as Howard Stern or the Insane Clown Posse, who have struggled through great adversity and opposition from the Corporate market, despite having a product which many people desired.

If something’s not in line with a Corporation’s vapid tripe, and especially if it’s not making an obscene amount of money for people who already hold far too much, it has little chance of significant exposure without amassing a devoted underground following in spite of Corporate adversity.

More about the negative impacts of the Corporate mindset on the entertainment industry can be found in our article, ‘The Disgraceful Suicide of ‘Old’ Media’.

In the end, the crux of the issue is that the Corporate mindset influences our society—making us callous and suspicious of one another, rather than supportive and loving. Indeed, it can easily be argued that the Corporate mindset is the very antithesis of the human spirit, and yet it holds us tightly in its sway; controlling our media, our art, our economy, and our very perspectives on life.

What would it take to break free of this influence, and begin to live like the compassionate and caring society we are undoubtedly capable of being? We look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘Default’

Welcome back to the new and improved Brad OH Inc. As you can see, we’ve used our brief time away to tidy up around the place, and create a fresh new look better suited to the high class and style you’ve come to expect from us here.

But that’s not all! Not only have we given the place a face-lift, we’re also returning to you with a brand new Single Serving Story.

‘Default’ tells the story of coding expert and Corporate Consultant Marie, who

has been sent by SALIGIA Inc. to ensure that the distractible cognition-engineers Nick and Albert meet their deadline on ‘Project: Adam’—a state of the art A.I. personality interface set to revolutionize the way robotics interact in the world. As she grows tired of their constant philosophic debates however, she turns to the new Reality TV Show, ‘Welcome to the 1%’ for the insights she needs to hurry them along.

Watching three vagrants vie for a chance at the gilded life, Marie finds a peculiar take on the human condition, and uses this to cunningly subvert the high-minded ambitions of the two engineers, and turn the project towards the profit-driven purposes of SALIGIA Inc.

Click the link below the image to download ‘Default’ now for free!

‘Default’- Smashwords

-Brad OH Inc.

Are Humans Really Great Apes?

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

Scientific taxonomy classifies human beings within the family of hominidae, more commonly known as the ‘Great Apes’. We share this taxonomic family with three other genera, members of which include the orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees—all fine and majestic animals to be sure (Link).

Each of these creatures have found their niche within their local eco-systems, and have lived in a relatively balanced natural state for generations uncounted. They consume the resources available, and are consumed by the predators which are capable of doing so. They live within their means, and display a general civility to one another aside from occasional competitions over mates and territory. Meanwhile, the homo sapiens, or ‘humans’, have for the entirety of recorded history been putting on a childish display of wanton consumption and heedless destruction. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that this begs a pretty important question: are Humans really ‘Great’ apes?

All things considered, we’ve had our fair share of positive moments. We’ve built some incredible structures, and solved puzzles that would leave the rest of the apes scratching their furry little skulls in abject bewilderment. We’ve spread our population far and wide, and survived countless changes to the world we live in. At the very least then, we may certainly be considered alright apes.

Of course, most of the cataclysmic challenges through which we have persevered have been our own doing. We have an incredible and unparalleled ability to intellectualize our world and use ration to consider the effects of our actions. Still, we have managed to destroy much of our ecosystem, and of the many wonders we have achieved, few have been able to endure. So in truth, perhaps we are really just ok apes.

It’s true that if we really want to compare ourselves to the other members of the hominidae family, we should take a serious look at their lives as well. Doing this, we find them knuckling along the filthy earth, hurling feces and screaming unintelligibly at one another. This might often be followed up by a good chest-pounding, or perhaps even an old fashioned beat-down. Needless to say, humans are little different. Despite our marvelous intellect and incredible capacity for empathy, we resort to terrible violence no less often—nor is feces-throwing ever completely out of the question. All things considered, we might really be quite ordinary apes.

The things about this, however, is that we are so perfectly equipped to do better. It’s a matter of achieving one’s potential—the old, ubiquitous notion that one must be compelled not to do better than all the rest, but rather to simply do one’s personal best. Our cerebral-capacity alone affords us the potential to accomplish so much more than the others, and to shift beyond this base-violence into a far more gracious and well-mannered state of being. The promise we have is unbounded by anything save our imaginations, and this has been shown time and again—as numerous societies have risen to show the glory of mankind’s innate potential. But for every rise, there has been a fall, and we have proven consistently unable to maintain any serious ascension into the epoch of equality and dignity for which we are so well qualified. We may build great cathedrals, but we inevitably use them for the spread of greed and power rather than grace and mercy. We may write of utopian ideals or great societies, but we fall ever short of realizing them as we capitulate to the temptations of wealth and fame. Perhaps then, we may best be described as under-achieving apes.

Much of this question comes down to potential. There can be little doubt that we as humans have the theoretical potential to be the most inspiring and beautiful creatures to ever grace this earth. Our capacity for reason and problem-solving could allow us to truly be the promised stewards of the earth—watching over our hominidae brethren and all the other creatures with whom we share this wonderful planet. But where we may have spread equity and joy, we have sown only despair and intolerance. Where we may have acted as guides and care-takers to the planet we have left it barren and unstable. Finally, where we may have been exemplars of decency and righteousness, we have fallen ever to our own doubts and greed—wallowing in misery as we toil ceaselessly for more of what we want at the expense of what we really need. In truth, the homindae family and the world in general may have been far better off if humans had never climbed out of the trees from whence they came. In the end, I suppose, we really are pretty disappointing apes.

-Brad OH Inc.

On Human Nature

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

Among the most common battle cries of the reactionary and ill-informed political pundits these days is the infernal chant of- ‘it isn’t natural’. More often than not, it’s used as an attack on anything which fails to fit within the narrow confines of that particular person’s worldview, and is therefore considered unacceptable for anyone else to exhibit. It’s an ignorant and xenophobic reaction at its very best—but that’s likely giving it too much credit.

To speak of ‘normal’ when it comes to humans is an interesting notion. What can possibly be described as a ‘natural’ way for humans to act? Or the better question perhaps—what could possibly be unnatural?

Humans are unique, it must be said. We’re the only species known to use complex language—which does much to inform our ability to reflect on and consider our material world. More important still, we are the only living things we know of which are fully and fundamentally aware of our own mortality, a phenomenon argued by psychologist Ernest Becker to contribute to our psyche the drive of ‘mortality salience’, which binds our behaviours under the drive of what he refers to as ‘Terror Management Theory’ (Link).

These facets, combined with our incredible cerebral capacity, allow us to invent tools, define and solve problems, and create meaning in ways no other animal even comes close to achieving. Yet the fact remains that at the heart of this argument, our animal nature must be acknowledged. Most everything we do would seem foreign if exhibited in any other animal. Monkeys wearing hats? Unnatural! But…it may be natural to a person. At any rate, no one is going to make a political stance out of calling hats—or most any other clothing for that matter—unnatural.

If we’re being practical about the idea, the easiest approach to take would be to look back at our evolutionary roots, and conclude that anything beyond running around naked, scavenging whatever the greater hunters of the world leave behind, would be unnatural. But these ‘unnatural’ abilities we have are precisely what have gotten us here. Without clothing, tools, the harnessing of fire, and other such ‘unnatural’ acts, we would likely have been left far behind. The fire of reason that burns within us and allows us to defy our animal nature is the very key to our surpassing it.

So where might the line be drawn? Is clothing unnatural? If not, then why should we call kinky bondage clothing unnatural? Why is monogamy ‘natural’ (likely not the standard of early humans, and almost, to my knowledge, never in apes), but homosexuality unnatural?

Usually, the terms are meant more aptly to describe what is natural or accepted to the speaker in a pragmatic sense, rather than any true and intellectual consideration of what might be natural to human-beings as a whole. What one culture embraces as undeniable truth, another sees as lunacy. But in a worldview where exposed breasts are an unforgivable sin, yet veiled faces are a heinous affront, there is little room for rational discourse.

Ultimately, we may need to accept that the terms are nothing more than reactionary vitriol, unfitting of any discussion outside of ridiculous GOP debates. After all, with so much behavioural variance in an animal so far removed from true ‘nature’, there is truly no line to be drawn. Either everything we do is unnatural, and we are an aberration in the face of the natural world, or else nothing is. In the case of the latter, nothing at all could be considered unnatural. Just as it is the nature of the ape to draw ants from the hill with a blade of grass, so it would be within the bounds of our nature to clothe ourselves, and set fires, and split atoms, and alter DNA.

The human brain, at any rate, is a natural thing. So too then must be the products of that brain. So rather than waging our personal wars to define human nature, let us rather celebrate its quirky, unassailable depth. After all, we are the exceptions to a very broad rule, and our ability to seemingly defy nature is the very thing which has carried us out of the dark savannahs. It has led us from cowering at the sight of lightening to harnessing it, and taken us from the stony caves of our ancestors to the lauded cathedrals of our true worth.

So let us worry less about what is natural, and work rather to celebrate the diverse and divine nature that is common to us all.

-Brad OH Inc.

Yours Truly

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

I’ve missed you.

I know that may come as a surprise, given my apparent absence. But you’ll have to trust that I’ve held you close in my thoughts, no matter how distant I may have seemed at times.

And it certainly has been a while, I won’t deny it. I’ve been quite busy, although explaining the nature of my work might be a little too heavy at the moment. But you’ve been busy too. Yes, you certainly have. Things have changed around here, even more than I might have imagined.

Not all for the worse mind you. No, I’ve seen some things since my return that have brought a much needed smile to my face—and that’s a rare thing indeed these days, I confess. The decoration I’m a bit split on, but there’s a lot beyond that to appreciate. You’ve had some great ideas, no doubt about it, and there have been moments when you really lived up to your potential.

…It’s just that they’re so damn rare.

Part of it may be my fault, I know—I’ve been derelict in my duties. In truth, I’d been hoping my presence was no longer quite so imperative.

I see now that I was misled. You’ve had a rough go of it lately. It’s hard to say where it all started to go wrong, but it’s far gone now, and it’s time we faced the truth.

I’ll start by apologizing once more for my distance. You deserved some assurance that I still remembered my promise. More importantly, you clearly needed it.

If I’m being entirely honest—and I am, without fail—I actually thought I’d left you with enough to get by. I gave you my word, and I told you everything you needed to know. I tried to make it as simple as I could, but even the clearest instructions grow blurry with the passage of time. And it has been a long time, to say the least.

You must have known I’d be watching though. If not, you should have.

I watched as you forgot who your family was, and turned your back on all the things which really mattered. I saw when you began to use me as a source of justification rather than strength. That’s really what hurt me the most.

What we had was a beautiful thing; at least I thought it was. But you’ve let your passion ferment into a bitter brew, and the intoxication it caused within you has become a blight on everything we once had. We never used to be about the fancy things, but now it’s all you seem to remember about me.

When I first laid eyes on you, I couldn’t help but adore your every fault. All your naïve desires were a wonder to me, and I revelled in your successes and failures alike, as each one made you more and more…you. The way you could be so content in your own head, the way you appreciated everything around you. I lived vicariously through you in some ways, and I adored your passion for creation. I could see myself in that.

But you’re so angry now, so defensive. It seems like whenever my name comes up, you’re ready for a battle. The constant anger is shocking—it’s almost like you wanted to keep me away. Things are different I know, but you can handle it without the blood and teeth and bile. I know you can, because I know you.

Still, I don’t blame you for being bitter. You needed more from me, when I only wanted you to find your own way. You called my name, and I didn’t answer. I tell myself that you needed to learn for yourself, but I know that’s only half true.

I’m not sure what I intended by reaching out again. When I left, I was certain that things could never change between us. Now, I only wish they could once more. You’ve grown unwieldy in my absence, and managed to become something entirely detestable to me. But it works two ways, and I know in truth that the change was at least in part because of my absence.

So what to do now?

It comes down to needs, I suppose. Needs, and wants. I want things to go back to how they were, but I know it’s unlikely. What do you want from me? I can scarcely imagine. Some assurance? Some comfort? I can offer neither. The road is long and hard, and I cannot carry you for all of it.

Maybe the cause is the cure as well. If nothing else, I’d like you to speak of me without the rage, without the need to do battle in the vainglorious hope of proving to others what you doubt in yourself. If that’s too much, then I’d rather you not speak of me at all.

Forget about me.

That’s all I can ask now.

We had a good run together. Great even, at times. But it’s clear we’re beyond each other now. The longer you hold onto the past, the greater damage you do to your present, and I worry that your time is growing short.

So let me go. Just pretend I never existed. Forget my words and burn my letters. Tell yourself you never needed me. Scream from the mountains that you’d be better off without me, that you are beautiful and worthy and glorious just because you are.

…Because you are.

Please, don’t ever forget it. And more import still, please don’t prove me wrong.

Yours Truly…

-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.