FREEDOM OR ANARCHY,Campaign of Conscience.

Joseph F Barber | Create Your Badge
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The Free Thought Project,The Daily Sheeple & FREEDOM OR ANARCHY Campaign of Conscience are dedicated to holding those who claim authority over our lives accountable. “Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.”
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The right to tell the Government to kiss my Ass Important Message for All Law Enforcers Freedom; what it is, and what it is not. Unadulterated freedom is an unattainable goal; that is what the founders of America knew and understood, which was their impetus behind the documents that established our great nation. They also knew that one of the primary driving forces in human nature is the unconscious desire to be truly free. This meant to them that mankind if totally left completely unrestricted would pursue all things in life without any awareness or acknowledgement of the consequences of his/her own actions leaving only the individual conscience if they had one as a control on behavior. This would not bode well in the development of a great society. Yet the founders of America chose to allow men/women as much liberty as could be, with minimum impact on the freedom or liberties of others

Sunday, July 23, 2017

THE RISE OF THE SUPERFLUOUS CLASS, PART 1,2,& 3

THE RISE OF THE SUPERFLUOUS CLASS, PART 1





Jay’s Bar, my hangout back in the 1990s – through the heady years of the early internet, the cypherpunks, and the all-out gas that was the digital gold economy – seems to be coming back to its glory.

Not into financial glory, you understand. Jay’s is a neighborhood bar, with some overlap from downtown; it’s never going to be a huge money-maker… which is just fine by me. Jay is mostly retired these days, but his son Michele (mi-KEL-ay) is taking over from him… and ably, I’m pleased to say.

And now, the radicals are returning to Jays. Last time they were technical guys; this time they’re coming from what I’ve occasionally called the “superfluous class.” By that I mean people who, through no real fault of their own, have found no place in the modern economy.

Not only are most of the factories gone, but mom-and-pop stores barely exist anymore. And mom and pop’s kids don’t have many doors opening to them. There simply aren’t enough jobs, and it’s only getting worse, with self-driving trucks, warehouse robots, fast-food robots, and bricklaying robots all rolling into the world ahead of expectations.

Already there are tens of millions of these people, and all the system can do is to keep them on the dole, let them run up credit card debt and then reset every seventh year in bankruptcy (a kind of welfare for the clever), and of course to feed their Facebook addictions.

But something’s happening with these people, or at least with some of them: They don’t want to exist as couch potatoes. They want to produce, they want to create, they want to be challenged and to overcome.

And one by one, they’re beginning to stop in at Jays. Whatever magic this place has, I hope it never goes away.

2600 Recycled

Few people will remember this, but 2600s were groups of hackers… phone hackers, a generation before computer hacking became cool. (Their magazine is still published.) They used to meet, more or less clandestinely, to trade tricks and commiserate with each other. My local 2600 group used to meet by a bank of pay phones every Tuesday at 6:00 pm in the big train station.

And so, you can imagine my feelings as I walked through that station a few weeks ago and overheard three young guys discussing a Bitcoin and Ethereum system for some kind of business. I didn’t want to intrude, so I pulled a crumpled receipt out of my pocket, scribbled the URL of an anonymous chat room on it, handed it to one of them, smiled, and left.

Synchronicity, as we used to say.

And a week or so later, the synchronicity showed up at Jay’s. I walked in on my way to the train station, and lo and behold, I saw one of those guys sitting at the bar. I sat next to him, ordered a tonic and lime, then asked Michele if he could get me a plate of pasta from the Italian place next door.

The guy recognized me and thanked me for the link to the chat room. We talked for a while, and after I had established some more credibility with him, I asked what kind of work he did… with the appropriate “if you don’t mind my asking.”

He and his friends are from the superfluous class. They’re the children and grandchildren of warehouse and factory workers, mainly, and had no job possibilities in front of them, save perhaps at Walmart or the occasional political campaign.

But they refused to be idle and useless. And so, they’ve made their way to what people are calling the “gig economy.” In other words, driving for Lyft, renting out rooms on Airbnb, running deliveries, and so on.

This has worked to keep some of their bills paid, but it’s just barely keeping them afloat and it really isn’t very challenging after the first few times.

And so, they’re looking for something more, which has led them to Bitcoin, among other things.

The Page Turns, but the Song Remains the Same

I agreed with my new friend “Dan,” to have lunch with him and his friends from time to time. I explained to him that I’m semi-retired these days, but that I’d gladly help them stay out of trouble. He was excited to have some guidance. They had been working in the dark.

Learning how to function outside the authorized culture takes time and experience, and the penalties for a mistake are far higher now than they were back in my day.

Soon enough I had to run, but I promised Dan that I’d meet him and a friend or two back at Jay’s the next Thursday for a late lunch at 2 pm, a nice, quiet time.

As Dan walked out and I paid my bill, Michele smiled and said, “So, Professor [that’s what they used to call me after catching me grading papers at the bar], you’re going to start teaching the next generation?”

I laughed. “But only at your place, Michele.”

“Then this one’s on me,” he said and tore up the bill.



* As I’ve noted before but won’t keep noting, stories set at Jay’s bar, though based upon real people and events, are fictional.







THE RISE OF THE SUPERFLUOUS CLASS, PART 2





You’ve gotta love serious people.

“Dan,” my new friend from the superfluous class, showed up to Jay’s precisely on time. And he didn’t waste my time with a confirmation call; he just did what he said.

We walked in together. I greeted Michele (again, that’s mi-KEL-ay, the Italian version of Michael), who pointed to his largest table. By the time we sat, he was on his way over with a menu.

“Their kitchen is open,” he said, referring to the Italian restaurant next door. “Only the lunch menu.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “Thanks.”

“I’ll call it over; you send the kid to get it?”

I agreed, then turned to Dan, who was already nodding his understanding.

“Two of my friends will be here in a few minutes,” he said. “They’re delivering passengers and coming right after.”

He looked over the menu.

“I can order for them.”

As I waited for him to look over the menu (I already knew what I wanted), Dan looked at me and said, “My name isn’t really Dan… I use that until I’m certain about someone; my real name is Nikos.”

“Then Nikos it is,” I said.

He smiled.

We put our order together and handed it to Michele just as Nikos’s two friends walked in. I was introduced to Johnny and Adam. I don’t think any of the three are past 30, meaning that they’ll have some different cultural assumptions than I do, and I find that kind of interesting.

I intended to start the conversation slowly, but these three had a need to jump into it fast. Within seconds I was answering questions about Bitcoin: where it came from, how it worked, why the status quo hates it, and so on. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

From there we went to questions about the larger world: politics, war, and government in general. Then, as we were finishing our food, we had one of those silent moments that pop up unexpectedly. Nikos ended it with a serious question:

“Look, I think you understand a lot about this, so I’d like you to give it to me straight. Are we going to succeed in these things we’re doing, or will we be snuffed out?”

“That depends on how you look at it,” I said. They probably thought I was weaseling out of a real answer, but they gave me the benefit of the doubt and waited for me to continue.

“First of all, you’re winning already. You guys are living life your own way, and please believe me, that’s a very big deal. I suppose this makes me sound like the proverbial old guy, but I’ve watched such things for 40 or 50 years now – living by your own wits is something that will make you far better men. Whether or not your financial fortunes skyrocket, the progress of your soul will, and that’s a very big deal.

“Now as for giving you a better lifestyle, that’s going to be less certain. In general it will, but you’ll face obstacles, and maybe a lot of them. And some small percentage of your friends may get hurt along the way. Honestly, that’s why I want to help – I want to keep that percentage down.

“And in the long run you’ll succeed too, but that will take decades at least.” They didn’t look very happy at that prospect.

“What this really is,” I continued, “is evolution. Humanity is slowly improving, and the great blockage in front of us is a system of rulership that’s basically unchanged since the Bronze Age. It’s a long-outdated, barbaric system of control and extortion, and it needs to go… and sooner or later it will go.

“Look at yourselves: What are you doing that’s truly harmful? You’re providing services that people willingly pay for. And for this you should be harassed, threatened, and possibly punished? That’s nuts. It’s primitive and it’s barbaric.”

And there I stopped dead, wanting to let the thought sink in if at all possible. And they did leave it sit for a minute or so.

Finally Nikos spoke up. “Johnny, tell Paul and Adam what you told me earlier about driving for Uber.”

Johnny nodded and collected his thoughts. “Okay… my brother – he works at a bank – was giving me grief because I wouldn’t drive for Uber… that I could pick up extra rides and that I was being stupid to turn them down.”

“So what did you tell him?” Adam and I asked at the same time.

“I said that, yeah, I could make money with Uber, but their bosses are pigs. They try to hurt Lyft and anyone who drives for them, and they think they’re super-geniuses rather than mostly lucky. But he didn’t understand at all.”

We all nodded and waited for Johnny, who looked like he had something more to say.

“If all I wanted was easy cash,” he went on, “I’d go on disability and get my girlfriend on that babysitting program. It pays two or three hundred a week for nothing. But I’m not gonna chase just any scrap and I’m not gonna live as a parasite.”

I decided right there that I liked this guy.

“I’ll tell you what else,” Nikos added. “As soon as they can, Uber will play the same dirty tricks on everyone else that the cabbies played on them. Oh, and they treat women like crap too. Screw ’em.”

“Screw ’em,” we all agreed.

The conversation continued a bit further, but soon enough it was time to get back to work. We pitched in to cover the food and drinks, and we made a standing date for the first and third Thursday of every month at 2:00 pm. I promised that I’d be at the next one and for as many others as I could.

I walked to the train station feeling hopeful in a way I hadn’t in a long time. And by the time I made it to the corner, I realized that I was feeling the hopefulness of youth. And even knowing that youth was often misguided in their hopefulness, I decided to savor it for as long as I could… it had been a long time.

* * * * *






ENTROPY AND SPONTANEOUS GENERATION





When I wrote two weeks ago about spontaneous generation still being enthroned in science as the primordial soup (and it is), I wanted to avoid a long discussion on entropy. But since that’s the only option left open to die-hards, it became an issue.

So today I’ll explain entropy and how it ties into this discussion. Even if you’re not particularly interested in science, I think this will be of value to you. And I’ll keep it brief.

Carnot and His Perfect Machine

The study of entropy begins with a man named Nicolas Carnot (1796–1832), who worked on steam engines. Carnot wondered whether it was possible to build a perfect machine that, given an initial start, would keep going indefinitely. What he found was that it can’t be done. No matter how perfectly you might build the machine, some energy is disbursed as it runs. In other words, the machine keeps losing bits of energy to the surrounding environment. This loss of useful energy is called entropy.

In the years since Carnot, it has been discovered that entropy shows up in every process we can see, even in information theory. It’s now considered a bedrock of physics.

Now, let’s go back to Carnot’s perfect machine and explain the concept of a “closed system.”

No matter how perfectly Carnot might counter-balance everything, any machine he might make would slow down and eventually stop. He could build it and give it a push to start it, but it wouldn’t keep running without another push.

This machine on its own is called a closed system. In it, entropy cannot be overcome. The machine will eventually stop.

To overcome entropy, Carnot would have to reach in (one way or another) and give the thing a push… which would be a violation of the closed system. We could call this, including Carnot’s push from the outside, an open system.

There’s nothing more mysterious to this principle than that. (Applying it to things like atomic particles requires intricate work, but the principle’s the same.)

And note one other thing here: Just because a system isn’t fully closed doesn’t mean it will reverse entropy. Carnot’s machine wouldn’t keep moving just because it was hit by sunlight, or got cold, or if was put in a magnetic field, or if it slid sideways. Only a specific type of push would keep it going.

You Already Understand Entropy

Regardless of terminology, we already understand entropy; we’ve lived with it all our lives.

When we buy batteries at a store, we hope they haven’t been on the shelf too long, because if they’re old, they won’t last very long.

However hard you spin a top, it will eventually slow down and fall.

We don’t wait for a rotten piece of fruit to un-rot. The idea is preposterous, because entropy doesn’t just reverse itself.

We don’t wait for an old piece of equipment to become brand new again.

Entropy is the way the physical world works, and we’ve all known it since childhood. The battery has to be recharged or replaced. The watch must be wound.

So please remember that entropy is something you already know. If a discussion on entropy confuses you, the speaker is either poorly skilled or is using confusion as a tool.

Barbarians and Seekers

There are in general two types of motivations for studying science, and they define two types of students:

The first type I call “Seekers.” These are people who want to discover and to understand how the world works.

The second type is those who want science to provide them with the tools of dominance. These people, to use plain terms, are functioning as sophisticated barbarians.

In response to my initial piece on this subject, I had a very pleasant conversation with a man of the Seeker type. He disagreed with me, but he was polite and thoughtful. I wanted to use our conversations as an article by itself, but I had to give up the idea as it would have been too long.

As for the barbarians… well, these are the ones who jump into a discussion with the primary goal of winning. They weaponize terminology and love legalistic proclamations. Their goal is intellectual dominance. I suggest that you learn to recognize this type, learn not to be intimidated by them (that’s their primary weapon), and stay away from them.

Understand this, please: A mind of the first rank will speak to you with the goal of kindling understanding in you. He or she will treat you as valuable and capable and will avoid confusing or intimidating you. They won’t care about position or fame, and they would be happy for you to supersede them.

Back to the Swamp

Now we can deal with the primordial soup once more, with a bit of understanding. And again, I’ll be brief.

At the end of the line, experiment rules over theory. So, I think we should take Albert Einstein’s advice seriously, that “We should try to hold on to physical reality.” And the physical reality here is this: If a swamp could produce DNA in 500 million BC, it should produce DNA now too… and it doesn’t.

Lots of people try to get around this, and their big argument is, “But the conditions were different then.”

When you say, “Different in what way that would produce DNA?” the answer is, “We don’t know, but maybe we’ll discover it.” That’s not terribly convincing, and it sounds a lot like faith.

Furthermore, there are parts of Earth, right now, with more or less any condition that would have been available then (hot, cold, wet, dry, sulfur vents, seawater, etc.). DNA never spontaneously forms in any of them. I see this argument as a way to avoid physical reality.

Now, let me jump to the end: In order for the primordial soup to produce life, these things would have had to happen:

An exception to entropy would not only have had to exist, but it would have had to hold steady for an immense length of time. In my friend’s scenario that was 700 million years. Any break during that immense span would cause the DNA to break down again… and quickly.

All the right pieces would have had to be in place at the right times. And for DNA, that’s a lot of complex material that just happens to be sitting around. (And how did it get so complex?) The four critical amino acids (complex molecules all) would not only have to be present, but in the right configurations. These are all left-handed molecules, and even one right-hander could kill the whole deal.

Environmental conditions don’t reverse entropy. Hotter conditions on the early Earth (which seems to be the assumption) might be contra-effective for forming DNA, as heat tends to disperse things rather than congeal them.

All the cellular membranes, cytoplasm, vacuoles, plasmids, and so on that are required for this new string of DNA to endure and reproduce itself would have had to be present also. And even for a very primitive organism that’s a whole lot of stuff, all of which would have had to form contrary to entropy as well.

I could go on, but there’s no point. The odds against this are beyond astronomical.

Still, arguments can go on. One is the very faith-like, “But even astronomical odds are not zero!” Another is a verdict-like proclamation (very emphatic) that entropy exists only inside things like sealed boxes. Following that argument, however, batteries on an open shelf (or with their covers removed) wouldn’t lose their charge. And since a sea of neutrinos pours through every box (as do magnetic, electrical, gravitational, and Higgs fields), nothing could be deemed a closed system.

Beyond all these words, however, physical reality remains paramount, and DNA still doesn’t form spontaneously.

So my opinion stands: The primordial soup must go.





THE RISE OF THE SUPERFLUOUS CLASS, PART 3





I think I started something dangerous for these guys. I didn’t do it on purpose, but it happened all the same. While engaged in an innocent conversation, I inadvertently gave them a name.

And having a name is dangerous. It gives people who might want to hurt you something to grab. These guys aren’t doing anything nasty of course – I’d be surprised if they ever did anything truly bad – but they’re struggling against a system that gives them no choice but to live parasitically… either that or to step over, around, and through its rules.

A lawyer named Silverglate wrote a book a few years ago called Three Felonies A Day. I haven’t read it yet, but the title is true, and it will be certainly true for these young people.

So, I’d much prefer that they had no name at all.

But as I say, it happened innocently. We were at our regular lunch, talking about the choice to remain a cog in a perverted machine or to leave it, insulting the cogs who remain. As you might expect, I championed the idea of leaving, and to make my point I quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

That hit them. Adam, normally the quiet one in the group, started murmuring, “The creatively maladjusted… the creatively maladjusted. Yes, that’s what we are… that’s exactly what we are.”

The rest of the group (we had five besides me) started nodding in agreement and saying things like, “Yeah, baby, TCM!”

I just barely dissuaded them from using “The TCM Brigade,” stressing that it sounded military and that lots of government agents spend their days looking for such things to jump on.

But there was no stopping “TCM.” Hopefully Fed snoops will think they’re talking about Turner Classic Movies.

In any case, I’ve grown very happy with my local TCM crew. A big part is that it’s intoxicating to be around people who aren’t perma-complainers; who are, rather, people who get up and make the world better according to their own morals and their own vision.

Plus, these kids take me back to the 1970s, a time I very much miss. Being a nonconformist was not only common in those days; it was expected, at least for young people. If you wanted to be taken seriously, you had to have something that you were “into.” You had to choose something and not just follow Teacher’s rules.

More than that, we believed that whatever we were into should be done in new ways. Serving the status quo wasn’t just uncool; it was betrayal. So, regardless of the nonsense that came out of the ’70s (and there was plenty), please believe me that the air was a lot easier to breathe in those days. We believed in actual freedom and worked for progress with our own hands and our own minds.

But as I was reminiscing on that, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Adam, the quiet one. He obviously wanted to talk, so we scooted over to an adjacent table and let the others continue without us.

“I could use your advice,” he said, leaning in so he wouldn’t be overheard. I leaned in too, trying to imply confidentiality.

“Certainly,” I said. “I’ll do the best I can.”

I think he liked that I didn’t pretend to have every answer.

“Here’s the thing,” he went on. “My wife has a really good job, so I stay home with our son, but I want to work also.”

I nodded my understanding. That’s an old, old problem.

“Since I have to be home most of the time, I’ve been trading stocks. I do okay at it, but it just doesn’t interest me anymore. There’s no substance to it… it’s empty.”

“And you’re looking for something that matters to you and that you can do mostly at home, yes?”

“Yes,” he said, “exactly!”

I was ready to start going through my list of future-friendly technologies, but I decided to ask him a question instead.

“Is there something that always interested you but that you’ve never been able to do?”

Adam stopped and grew introspective. I waited.

“Yeah…” he said. “I was always interested in biology. I had a biology class in high school. The teacher wasn’t very good, but there were a few days when the class really excited me. I wanted to learn more, but I never had a chance.”

“Well then,” I said, “I have a great idea for you. You should get involved with biohacking.”

“What’s that?” He looked curious but cautious.

“It’s biology… unrestricted biology. There are awesome things going on right now and things that don’t require super-expensive labs and equipment. I have friends who can teach you to splice genes at your kitchen table.” (I discuss this in detail in FMP #82.)

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, and that’s just a start. More or less everything having to do with DNA has become insanely cheap. The doors are wide open to almost anything you’d want to do.”

Adam’s eyes nearly rolled in their sockets, but then he reverted to his risk-averse stance.

“Is it safe?” he asked. “… and can I make money at it?”

“It’s as safe as you make it,” I answered.

He understood. This was a new field, and the responsibility for safety would be up to him, not some board of bureaucrats. That’s a stumbling block to some people, but Adam, innately cautious though he was, accepted it and even seemed to like it.

“And as for making money,” I continued, “why do you care?”

“What do you mean?” he asked. “We need money.”

“Of course you do, but first of all, there’s more to this than money – trading stocks feels empty to you after all – and second, your wife has a great job. You’re in a terrific position; if you don’t make a lot of money, you’ll still be okay.”

He nodded. And, I think, he let go of the need to show himself as a provider, at least a little.

Then I pulled out my laptop and hooked him up with a biohacker I know.


FREEMANSPERSPECTIVE

THE RISE OF THE SUPERFLUOUS CLASS, PART 1





Jay’s Bar, my hangout back in the 1990s – through the heady years of the early internet, the cypherpunks, and the all-out gas that was the digital gold economy – seems to be coming back to its glory.

Not into financial glory, you understand. Jay’s is a neighborhood bar, with some overlap from downtown; it’s never going to be a huge money-maker… which is just fine by me. Jay is mostly retired these days, but his son Michele (mi-KEL-ay) is taking over from him… and ably, I’m pleased to say.

And now, the radicals are returning to Jays. Last time they were technical guys; this time they’re coming from what I’ve occasionally called the “superfluous class.” By that I mean people who, through no real fault of their own, have found no place in the modern economy.

Not only are most of the factories gone, but mom-and-pop stores barely exist anymore. And mom and pop’s kids don’t have many doors opening to them. There simply aren’t enough jobs, and it’s only getting worse, with self-driving trucks, warehouse robots, fast-food robots, and bricklaying robots all rolling into the world ahead of expectations.

Already there are tens of millions of these people, and all the system can do is to keep them on the dole, let them run up credit card debt and then reset every seventh year in bankruptcy (a kind of welfare for the clever), and of course to feed their Facebook addictions.

But something’s happening with these people, or at least with some of them: They don’t want to exist as couch potatoes. They want to produce, they want to create, they want to be challenged and to overcome.

And one by one, they’re beginning to stop in at Jays. Whatever magic this place has, I hope it never goes away.

2600 Recycled

Few people will remember this, but 2600s were groups of hackers… phone hackers, a generation before computer hacking became cool. (Their magazine is still published.) They used to meet, more or less clandestinely, to trade tricks and commiserate with each other. My local 2600 group used to meet by a bank of pay phones every Tuesday at 6:00 pm in the big train station.

And so, you can imagine my feelings as I walked through that station a few weeks ago and overheard three young guys discussing a Bitcoin and Ethereum system for some kind of business. I didn’t want to intrude, so I pulled a crumpled receipt out of my pocket, scribbled the URL of an anonymous chat room on it, handed it to one of them, smiled, and left.

Synchronicity, as we used to say.

And a week or so later, the synchronicity showed up at Jay’s. I walked in on my way to the train station, and lo and behold, I saw one of those guys sitting at the bar. I sat next to him, ordered a tonic and lime, then asked Michele if he could get me a plate of pasta from the Italian place next door.

The guy recognized me and thanked me for the link to the chat room. We talked for a while, and after I had established some more credibility with him, I asked what kind of work he did… with the appropriate “if you don’t mind my asking.”

He and his friends are from the superfluous class. They’re the children and grandchildren of warehouse and factory workers, mainly, and had no job possibilities in front of them, save perhaps at Walmart or the occasional political campaign.

But they refused to be idle and useless. And so, they’ve made their way to what people are calling the “gig economy.” In other words, driving for Lyft, renting out rooms on Airbnb, running deliveries, and so on.

This has worked to keep some of their bills paid, but it’s just barely keeping them afloat and it really isn’t very challenging after the first few times.

And so, they’re looking for something more, which has led them to Bitcoin, among other things.

The Page Turns, but the Song Remains the Same

I agreed with my new friend “Dan,” to have lunch with him and his friends from time to time. I explained to him that I’m semi-retired these days, but that I’d gladly help them stay out of trouble. He was excited to have some guidance. They had been working in the dark.

Learning how to function outside the authorized culture takes time and experience, and the penalties for a mistake are far higher now than they were back in my day.

Soon enough I had to run, but I promised Dan that I’d meet him and a friend or two back at Jay’s the next Thursday for a late lunch at 2 pm, a nice, quiet time.

As Dan walked out and I paid my bill, Michele smiled and said, “So, Professor [that’s what they used to call me after catching me grading papers at the bar], you’re going to start teaching the next generation?”

I laughed. “But only at your place, Michele.”

“Then this one’s on me,” he said and tore up the bill.



* As I’ve noted before but won’t keep noting, stories set at Jay’s bar, though based upon real people and events, are fictional.







THE RISE OF THE SUPERFLUOUS CLASS, PART 2





You’ve gotta love serious people.

“Dan,” my new friend from the superfluous class, showed up to Jay’s precisely on time. And he didn’t waste my time with a confirmation call; he just did what he said.

We walked in together. I greeted Michele (again, that’s mi-KEL-ay, the Italian version of Michael), who pointed to his largest table. By the time we sat, he was on his way over with a menu.

“Their kitchen is open,” he said, referring to the Italian restaurant next door. “Only the lunch menu.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “Thanks.”

“I’ll call it over; you send the kid to get it?”

I agreed, then turned to Dan, who was already nodding his understanding.

“Two of my friends will be here in a few minutes,” he said. “They’re delivering passengers and coming right after.”

He looked over the menu.

“I can order for them.”

As I waited for him to look over the menu (I already knew what I wanted), Dan looked at me and said, “My name isn’t really Dan… I use that until I’m certain about someone; my real name is Nikos.”

“Then Nikos it is,” I said.

He smiled.

We put our order together and handed it to Michele just as Nikos’s two friends walked in. I was introduced to Johnny and Adam. I don’t think any of the three are past 30, meaning that they’ll have some different cultural assumptions than I do, and I find that kind of interesting.

I intended to start the conversation slowly, but these three had a need to jump into it fast. Within seconds I was answering questions about Bitcoin: where it came from, how it worked, why the status quo hates it, and so on. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

From there we went to questions about the larger world: politics, war, and government in general. Then, as we were finishing our food, we had one of those silent moments that pop up unexpectedly. Nikos ended it with a serious question:

“Look, I think you understand a lot about this, so I’d like you to give it to me straight. Are we going to succeed in these things we’re doing, or will we be snuffed out?”

“That depends on how you look at it,” I said. They probably thought I was weaseling out of a real answer, but they gave me the benefit of the doubt and waited for me to continue.

“First of all, you’re winning already. You guys are living life your own way, and please believe me, that’s a very big deal. I suppose this makes me sound like the proverbial old guy, but I’ve watched such things for 40 or 50 years now – living by your own wits is something that will make you far better men. Whether or not your financial fortunes skyrocket, the progress of your soul will, and that’s a very big deal.

“Now as for giving you a better lifestyle, that’s going to be less certain. In general it will, but you’ll face obstacles, and maybe a lot of them. And some small percentage of your friends may get hurt along the way. Honestly, that’s why I want to help – I want to keep that percentage down.

“And in the long run you’ll succeed too, but that will take decades at least.” They didn’t look very happy at that prospect.

“What this really is,” I continued, “is evolution. Humanity is slowly improving, and the great blockage in front of us is a system of rulership that’s basically unchanged since the Bronze Age. It’s a long-outdated, barbaric system of control and extortion, and it needs to go… and sooner or later it will go.

“Look at yourselves: What are you doing that’s truly harmful? You’re providing services that people willingly pay for. And for this you should be harassed, threatened, and possibly punished? That’s nuts. It’s primitive and it’s barbaric.”

And there I stopped dead, wanting to let the thought sink in if at all possible. And they did leave it sit for a minute or so.

Finally Nikos spoke up. “Johnny, tell Paul and Adam what you told me earlier about driving for Uber.”

Johnny nodded and collected his thoughts. “Okay… my brother – he works at a bank – was giving me grief because I wouldn’t drive for Uber… that I could pick up extra rides and that I was being stupid to turn them down.”

“So what did you tell him?” Adam and I asked at the same time.

“I said that, yeah, I could make money with Uber, but their bosses are pigs. They try to hurt Lyft and anyone who drives for them, and they think they’re super-geniuses rather than mostly lucky. But he didn’t understand at all.”

We all nodded and waited for Johnny, who looked like he had something more to say.

“If all I wanted was easy cash,” he went on, “I’d go on disability and get my girlfriend on that babysitting program. It pays two or three hundred a week for nothing. But I’m not gonna chase just any scrap and I’m not gonna live as a parasite.”

I decided right there that I liked this guy.

“I’ll tell you what else,” Nikos added. “As soon as they can, Uber will play the same dirty tricks on everyone else that the cabbies played on them. Oh, and they treat women like crap too. Screw ’em.”

“Screw ’em,” we all agreed.

The conversation continued a bit further, but soon enough it was time to get back to work. We pitched in to cover the food and drinks, and we made a standing date for the first and third Thursday of every month at 2:00 pm. I promised that I’d be at the next one and for as many others as I could.

I walked to the train station feeling hopeful in a way I hadn’t in a long time. And by the time I made it to the corner, I realized that I was feeling the hopefulness of youth. And even knowing that youth was often misguided in their hopefulness, I decided to savor it for as long as I could… it had been a long time.

* * * * *






ENTROPY AND SPONTANEOUS GENERATION





When I wrote two weeks ago about spontaneous generation still being enthroned in science as the primordial soup (and it is), I wanted to avoid a long discussion on entropy. But since that’s the only option left open to die-hards, it became an issue.

So today I’ll explain entropy and how it ties into this discussion. Even if you’re not particularly interested in science, I think this will be of value to you. And I’ll keep it brief.

Carnot and His Perfect Machine

The study of entropy begins with a man named Nicolas Carnot (1796–1832), who worked on steam engines. Carnot wondered whether it was possible to build a perfect machine that, given an initial start, would keep going indefinitely. What he found was that it can’t be done. No matter how perfectly you might build the machine, some energy is disbursed as it runs. In other words, the machine keeps losing bits of energy to the surrounding environment. This loss of useful energy is called entropy.

In the years since Carnot, it has been discovered that entropy shows up in every process we can see, even in information theory. It’s now considered a bedrock of physics.

Now, let’s go back to Carnot’s perfect machine and explain the concept of a “closed system.”

No matter how perfectly Carnot might counter-balance everything, any machine he might make would slow down and eventually stop. He could build it and give it a push to start it, but it wouldn’t keep running without another push.

This machine on its own is called a closed system. In it, entropy cannot be overcome. The machine will eventually stop.

To overcome entropy, Carnot would have to reach in (one way or another) and give the thing a push… which would be a violation of the closed system. We could call this, including Carnot’s push from the outside, an open system.

There’s nothing more mysterious to this principle than that. (Applying it to things like atomic particles requires intricate work, but the principle’s the same.)

And note one other thing here: Just because a system isn’t fully closed doesn’t mean it will reverse entropy. Carnot’s machine wouldn’t keep moving just because it was hit by sunlight, or got cold, or if was put in a magnetic field, or if it slid sideways. Only a specific type of push would keep it going.

You Already Understand Entropy

Regardless of terminology, we already understand entropy; we’ve lived with it all our lives.

When we buy batteries at a store, we hope they haven’t been on the shelf too long, because if they’re old, they won’t last very long.

However hard you spin a top, it will eventually slow down and fall.

We don’t wait for a rotten piece of fruit to un-rot. The idea is preposterous, because entropy doesn’t just reverse itself.

We don’t wait for an old piece of equipment to become brand new again.

Entropy is the way the physical world works, and we’ve all known it since childhood. The battery has to be recharged or replaced. The watch must be wound.

So please remember that entropy is something you already know. If a discussion on entropy confuses you, the speaker is either poorly skilled or is using confusion as a tool.

Barbarians and Seekers

There are in general two types of motivations for studying science, and they define two types of students:

The first type I call “Seekers.” These are people who want to discover and to understand how the world works.

The second type is those who want science to provide them with the tools of dominance. These people, to use plain terms, are functioning as sophisticated barbarians.

In response to my initial piece on this subject, I had a very pleasant conversation with a man of the Seeker type. He disagreed with me, but he was polite and thoughtful. I wanted to use our conversations as an article by itself, but I had to give up the idea as it would have been too long.

As for the barbarians… well, these are the ones who jump into a discussion with the primary goal of winning. They weaponize terminology and love legalistic proclamations. Their goal is intellectual dominance. I suggest that you learn to recognize this type, learn not to be intimidated by them (that’s their primary weapon), and stay away from them.

Understand this, please: A mind of the first rank will speak to you with the goal of kindling understanding in you. He or she will treat you as valuable and capable and will avoid confusing or intimidating you. They won’t care about position or fame, and they would be happy for you to supersede them.

Back to the Swamp

Now we can deal with the primordial soup once more, with a bit of understanding. And again, I’ll be brief.

At the end of the line, experiment rules over theory. So, I think we should take Albert Einstein’s advice seriously, that “We should try to hold on to physical reality.” And the physical reality here is this: If a swamp could produce DNA in 500 million BC, it should produce DNA now too… and it doesn’t.

Lots of people try to get around this, and their big argument is, “But the conditions were different then.”

When you say, “Different in what way that would produce DNA?” the answer is, “We don’t know, but maybe we’ll discover it.” That’s not terribly convincing, and it sounds a lot like faith.

Furthermore, there are parts of Earth, right now, with more or less any condition that would have been available then (hot, cold, wet, dry, sulfur vents, seawater, etc.). DNA never spontaneously forms in any of them. I see this argument as a way to avoid physical reality.

Now, let me jump to the end: In order for the primordial soup to produce life, these things would have had to happen:

An exception to entropy would not only have had to exist, but it would have had to hold steady for an immense length of time. In my friend’s scenario that was 700 million years. Any break during that immense span would cause the DNA to break down again… and quickly.

All the right pieces would have had to be in place at the right times. And for DNA, that’s a lot of complex material that just happens to be sitting around. (And how did it get so complex?) The four critical amino acids (complex molecules all) would not only have to be present, but in the right configurations. These are all left-handed molecules, and even one right-hander could kill the whole deal.

Environmental conditions don’t reverse entropy. Hotter conditions on the early Earth (which seems to be the assumption) might be contra-effective for forming DNA, as heat tends to disperse things rather than congeal them.

All the cellular membranes, cytoplasm, vacuoles, plasmids, and so on that are required for this new string of DNA to endure and reproduce itself would have had to be present also. And even for a very primitive organism that’s a whole lot of stuff, all of which would have had to form contrary to entropy as well.

I could go on, but there’s no point. The odds against this are beyond astronomical.

Still, arguments can go on. One is the very faith-like, “But even astronomical odds are not zero!” Another is a verdict-like proclamation (very emphatic) that entropy exists only inside things like sealed boxes. Following that argument, however, batteries on an open shelf (or with their covers removed) wouldn’t lose their charge. And since a sea of neutrinos pours through every box (as do magnetic, electrical, gravitational, and Higgs fields), nothing could be deemed a closed system.

Beyond all these words, however, physical reality remains paramount, and DNA still doesn’t form spontaneously.

So my opinion stands: The primordial soup must go.





THE RISE OF THE SUPERFLUOUS CLASS, PART 3





I think I started something dangerous for these guys. I didn’t do it on purpose, but it happened all the same. While engaged in an innocent conversation, I inadvertently gave them a name.

And having a name is dangerous. It gives people who might want to hurt you something to grab. These guys aren’t doing anything nasty of course – I’d be surprised if they ever did anything truly bad – but they’re struggling against a system that gives them no choice but to live parasitically… either that or to step over, around, and through its rules.

A lawyer named Silverglate wrote a book a few years ago called Three Felonies A Day. I haven’t read it yet, but the title is true, and it will be certainly true for these young people.

So, I’d much prefer that they had no name at all.

But as I say, it happened innocently. We were at our regular lunch, talking about the choice to remain a cog in a perverted machine or to leave it, insulting the cogs who remain. As you might expect, I championed the idea of leaving, and to make my point I quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

That hit them. Adam, normally the quiet one in the group, started murmuring, “The creatively maladjusted… the creatively maladjusted. Yes, that’s what we are… that’s exactly what we are.”

The rest of the group (we had five besides me) started nodding in agreement and saying things like, “Yeah, baby, TCM!”

I just barely dissuaded them from using “The TCM Brigade,” stressing that it sounded military and that lots of government agents spend their days looking for such things to jump on.

But there was no stopping “TCM.” Hopefully Fed snoops will think they’re talking about Turner Classic Movies.

In any case, I’ve grown very happy with my local TCM crew. A big part is that it’s intoxicating to be around people who aren’t perma-complainers; who are, rather, people who get up and make the world better according to their own morals and their own vision.

Plus, these kids take me back to the 1970s, a time I very much miss. Being a nonconformist was not only common in those days; it was expected, at least for young people. If you wanted to be taken seriously, you had to have something that you were “into.” You had to choose something and not just follow Teacher’s rules.

More than that, we believed that whatever we were into should be done in new ways. Serving the status quo wasn’t just uncool; it was betrayal. So, regardless of the nonsense that came out of the ’70s (and there was plenty), please believe me that the air was a lot easier to breathe in those days. We believed in actual freedom and worked for progress with our own hands and our own minds.

But as I was reminiscing on that, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Adam, the quiet one. He obviously wanted to talk, so we scooted over to an adjacent table and let the others continue without us.

“I could use your advice,” he said, leaning in so he wouldn’t be overheard. I leaned in too, trying to imply confidentiality.

“Certainly,” I said. “I’ll do the best I can.”

I think he liked that I didn’t pretend to have every answer.

“Here’s the thing,” he went on. “My wife has a really good job, so I stay home with our son, but I want to work also.”

I nodded my understanding. That’s an old, old problem.

“Since I have to be home most of the time, I’ve been trading stocks. I do okay at it, but it just doesn’t interest me anymore. There’s no substance to it… it’s empty.”

“And you’re looking for something that matters to you and that you can do mostly at home, yes?”

“Yes,” he said, “exactly!”

I was ready to start going through my list of future-friendly technologies, but I decided to ask him a question instead.

“Is there something that always interested you but that you’ve never been able to do?”

Adam stopped and grew introspective. I waited.

“Yeah…” he said. “I was always interested in biology. I had a biology class in high school. The teacher wasn’t very good, but there were a few days when the class really excited me. I wanted to learn more, but I never had a chance.”

“Well then,” I said, “I have a great idea for you. You should get involved with biohacking.”

“What’s that?” He looked curious but cautious.

“It’s biology… unrestricted biology. There are awesome things going on right now and things that don’t require super-expensive labs and equipment. I have friends who can teach you to splice genes at your kitchen table.” (I discuss this in detail in FMP #82.)

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, and that’s just a start. More or less everything having to do with DNA has become insanely cheap. The doors are wide open to almost anything you’d want to do.”

Adam’s eyes nearly rolled in their sockets, but then he reverted to his risk-averse stance.

“Is it safe?” he asked. “… and can I make money at it?”

“It’s as safe as you make it,” I answered.

He understood. This was a new field, and the responsibility for safety would be up to him, not some board of bureaucrats. That’s a stumbling block to some people, but Adam, innately cautious though he was, accepted it and even seemed to like it.

“And as for making money,” I continued, “why do you care?”

“What do you mean?” he asked. “We need money.”

“Of course you do, but first of all, there’s more to this than money – trading stocks feels empty to you after all – and second, your wife has a great job. You’re in a terrific position; if you don’t make a lot of money, you’ll still be okay.”

He nodded. And, I think, he let go of the need to show himself as a provider, at least a little.

Then I pulled out my laptop and hooked him up with a biohacker I know.


FREEMANSPERSPECTIVE


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