March 3, 2006

Brave New World

Posted in Rants and Ruminations at 10:07 am by jyesis

The following is an excerpt from one of my posts on slashdot.

“Governments” were initially formed (in the tribal days) to share resources and protect the group from others who might desire those resources. This mutated as “civilization” grew. Governments became more complex as they managed ever larger areas, populations, and resources. They created money to better distribute these resources over more diverse areas. A gold coin was the same on both ends of the empire. Religion grew out of a desire to understand nature along with a search for social “morality”. Eventually, technology allowed science to split from religion and the “moral” side of religion became mired in its own traditions and rituals, obscuring the original message of cooperation. Just as religion was perverted from a cooperative influence to a divisive amplification of difference, money began to be perverted by those who controlled its production. Soon, a coin wasn’t the same to those two distant strangers. To one, it meant he could eat for a week – the price of a loaf of bread. To the other, it wouldn’t even buy the crust because others in his area had more coins, and the laws of supply and demand drove the prices in his area up. The idea of money as a universal alternative to barter was destroyed. What initially served as a tool for distribution turned on itself and became a tool for exploitation. Remnants of the original purposes of religion, government, and currency remain to this day, and were essential in the development of today’s technology. From the guy who dug up the sand, to the guy who soldered the chips, to the programmers, distributors, consumers, auxiliary industries, etc….the world as we know it would not exist without the ability to safely communicate (provided by the govt), share resources (provided by the monetary system), and the will to cooperate (initially encouraged by religion, supplanted by the monetary system). All of this brought us to where we are today, but as we see every day, this system is falling apart. Why?.

To answer this, let’s look at what the three systems (govt, rel, and $$) have become. Government long ago transitioned from a management system agreed upon (in action if not in name) to an entity that exists only for its own glorification and expansion. The actions of it’s constituents no longer play a critical role in a government’s legitimacy because the govt structure has become so large that it is impossible for it to truly represent a true majority on any given issue. Religion, as mentioned above, sacrificed its unifying messages of cooperation, humanity, compassion, etc for “technicalities” of procedure, ritual, interpretation, and more that now are used to divide what they were intended to unify. The $$ system was the last to die, buffered for ages by the actions and failures of governments and the attitudes and perspectives of organized religion. The rise (and current decline) of the US marks the zenith of the economic system’s ability to do “good” for humanity by encouraging innovation, development, and efficiency. Today’s system rewards efficient exploitation far more than innovation. With ever increasing economic globalization, there are fewer and fewer “new markets” in the “new world” sense. As a result, competition over existing markets causes the emphasis for efficient exploitation to snowball. Unless we find another inhabited planet that we can dominate, subjugate, and exploit – we are left to eat our own. This explains the “dollar a day” fallacy which postulates that if the percent of the world’s population living on less than $1/day were to be given, by any means, $5/day…..that $5 would be devalued to such an extent that there would be no real effect on lifestyle.

So….what to do now? I argue that the system described above has given birth to its successor. The global awareness, ability to communicate, and desire to cooperate originally engendered by the 3 systems no longer require the “supervision” of their parent systems. Today, I don’t need a government to send my letter to the other end of the world. I don’t need money to trade my work for a product. I can work with others who truly share my interests, even at a distance, rather than others who merely reside in my local geographic vicinity. The infant alternatives are still in their nascent states – by no means perfect, and still not ready to stand completely on their own, but they do exist and they are growing rapidly – originally in the software community, but expanding to other genres at an ever increasing pace. Old religion is merging with government, while the original messages live on as individuals and small groups discover that spirituality does not require mandated rituals. Money is becoming increasingly virtual and less tangible….less real. It is being replaced by a trade in knowledge and skill – still an imperfect currency, but superior to what we have been using because they cannot be controlled by the ignorant. Government is the last to be affected because it has such a pervasive influence. It is not being replaced – history has shown that replacing governments merely leads to more of the same over time. Instead, it is being ignored. Many many people are existing outside of government regulation – one issue/genre at a time. Eventually, governments will dissolve into their original roles….the distribution of “public” resources. Regulation, enforcement, communication, etc…will return to the control of “we the people”. It has begun. Don’t screw it up with violence unless it becomes absolutely necessary. Violence allows the ignorant to stay in power. In both totalitarian states and violent revolutions the artistic, intelligent, and enlightened are persecuted and suppressed. It is time for the intelligent to turn away from the status quo . Rather than destroying what we have now, let’s just begin to build something better, and allow the old system to implode. It will be difficult. It will be painful. There will be reactions, violence, and more, but we need no longer be ruled by the ignorant, fearful, and greedy. We can make this change.


February 15, 2006

The value of life…..

Posted in In the News at 10:41 am by jyesis

I found this article in the NY Times today that tells of a new cancer treatment that has been given a six figure price tag for a very disturbing reason. From the article:

Until now, drug makers have typically defended high prices by noting the cost of developing new medicines. But executives at Genentech and its majority owner, Roche, are now using a separate argument — citing the inherent value of life-sustaining therapies.

So let me get this straight…..because life is “inherently valueable”, any treatment that sustains life has an equivalent value and can therefore be outlandishly priced? It’s not research costs that drive the price up, it’s the value placed on your life. I’m surprised this isn’t considered extortion. If you want to live, you pay me lots of money….if not, well, I guess your life just isn’t worth $100,000. Does this mean that food, water, shelter, and the like, which are all required to sustain life are worth an equal amount? This is getting out of hand. I’m done ranting. Time to go do something. For those of you who have some scruples, look at creative commons licensing, the GPL, and others of that ilk. Unless enough of us start to share freely, this is going to get worse, not better. We live in a world that rewards efficient exploitation. Time to build a world that rewards efficient innovation and humanity.

February 9, 2006

On Religion

Posted in Rants and Ruminations at 11:17 am by jyesis

I don’t pretend to be an expert in the field of theology, but with the current state of world affairs, I think a little discussion of the benefits and flaws of organized religion may be a good thing. I say “organized” religion to distinguish socio-religious organization from individual or communal spiritual quests. It is not spirituality I question, but the physical entities that have arisen in it’s name. Religion is a framework in which spirituality can be developed. As with many manmade creations, however, it is too easily abused. Organized religion does not require spiritual depth or even a desire to develop this depth. It merely requires faith and specific behaviour. This is not to say that organized religions mean to do harm, or even that harm is an inevitable result of organizing the human spiritual quest. The vast majority of world religions will accept any person who is willing to (at least in name) proclaim certain tenets. Religion is a great motivator of people and provides a strong social conscience to many who are seeking to better develop their own mores and values. If religion (by which I still refer to organized or semi-organized religion) were to limit itself to the spiritual, it would indeed be the driving force for “good” that it believes itself to be.

Unfortunately, religions rely on “leaders” to interpret messages that were designed to communicate tolerance and peace. These leaders too often have political, physical, and economic interests that conflict with the deliverance of an unbiased message. Even if it is not their intent, the conflicts of interest that arise when the powerful disseminate information to the weak can lead to the dilution or distortion of an otherwise pure truth. In many arenas, this would be viewed as it exists. For instance, we often expect our political leaders to be corrupt and to distort information to better affect their own interests. Why then, do we not view our religious leaders the same way? We see the flaws in the leaders of “other” religions or sects all too clearly, yet we blindly follow the guidance of our own with very similar results to those we criticize. This is evident at times in other arenas, albeit to a lesser degree and with more debate. In politics, for instance, a person may believe that one specific leader can “do no wrong” as it were, but others within the same political party will freely criticize specific decisions of the same leader. This makes it difficult for political leaders to achieve power over a “critical mass” which consolidates power to such a degree that they engender the same fanaticism and narrow focus that religious leaders so often create.

The “obvious” cause is the “faith” of the followers. The vast majority do not have faith in our political leaders to do what is “right” all the time, or even most of the time. Our religious leaders, however, have (in theory), reached their position by demonstrating in both deed and word their commitment to the tenets of their respective religions. Add to this the unifying nature of an old saying….

“Me and my brother against my neighbor. Me, my brother, and my neighbor against a stranger.”

There are other variations on this saying, but the concept is nearly universal. It allows for sects of the same religion to fight each other and yet unify to fight an “outsider”. Faith, plus a unifying doctrine makes for a mass of people who are willing to die for what they “believe”. When that outsider is designated an “enemy” by religious leaders, followers extend the faith in their religious beliefs to faith in the “righteousness” of a political cause. God ceases to be the driving force in believer’s lives (although his name is used and abused more than ever), while the eradication of the outsider and the support of religious leadership is seen as a duty. Leaders transition from having “earned” their position from faith, word, deed, and sacrifice, to having been “granted” this position by divine mandate. This transition is often subtle, but the leaders are given the symbolic power of the entire religion. This has nothing to do with spirituality, and everything to do with power and intolerance. Both sides argue for their religion and it’s values, and swear that the “other” is the antithesis to all they believe. Extremism drowns out the quiet protest of the rational and the messages of God are placed second to the “interpretations” of religious leaders. So begins the jihad/crusade (circle one).

So what’s my point? Merely that each of us needs to consider, meditate, and pray on each word and action we do or neglect to do in the name of our religion. The world teeters at the brink of the next world war, crusade, or both. To ensure the peace and tranquility that is conducive to meditation, prayer, and spiritual development we must disassociate ourselves from the “name” of our respective religions and dedicate ourselves to the underlying tenets rather than the message of the day. The vast majority of religions advocate peace. It is strange, that these same religions are the cause of so many wars, and so much repression and destruction. It is time that I stop rallying to my neighbor’s cry of “foul” and start studying the message of God for myself. Let us rally instead to a new cry – that of a common need to develop our spirituality in a safe, quiet, and peaceful world. Rally to the cry of peace and turn your back on the power games that have overtaken organized religion.

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