How Long Should We Wait?

I am having a quiet day while I wait for the inauguration of doom to deal with itself. I am staying away from TV, and YouTube, and keeping a distance from Facebook. I have decided, along with many people, to not lend my attention to the debacle that culminates this tortuous election season.

I am also engaging in a bit of sacredness. I am enjoying some hot dogs on this Friday, with buns as a way to re-focus on my most beloved religion. (For those of you who don’t know what this means, see here.) While I enjoyed my repast, I offered prayers and good wishes for those on the front lines of the protests today. If Eris, the Goddess of Confusion, can’t help out today I don’t know a divinity who can!

This election has ignited a great many conflicting emotions for a great many people. Some are getting tired of hearing about it. I don’t blame them at all. I admit to being worn out by the whole thing. People have been employing a variety of methods for dealing with this on social media. One has been the adoption of the refrain, “Wait and see!” This has been coming from folks who voted for Drumpf, as well as those who voted for Clinton. I get that this is an expression of frustration with regard to the near ever-present complaints about the PEOTUS decorating our social media feeds. I can very much understand the sentiment. However, this leads me to the question of, “Wait for what?” Haven’t we already seen? We’ve seen how Drumpf treats the media. We have seen how he treats the disabled. We have heard what he thinks of women. We have seen his dishonest business practices and failures. We have seen his racism on full display. We have seen him avoid taking any firm stand. We have seen his desire to divide the country. We have seen him flip-flop on his issues. We have seen him publicly admit that his campaign promises and propaganda was full of conscious lies and marketing tricks. We have seen him praise our opposition on the international level. We have not seen his tax returns, despite him saying he would disclose them if he won the election.

For what more do we need to wait and see, exactly? I don’t see how anyone can have gotten to this point in the process and not have an opinion about how this joker is likely to comport himself as President. I mean, I get that we can know that he will most probably not carry through on any of his promises, but that’s not about what he will do, it’s about what he very likely won’t do. So, what is it we are supposed to wait for? Not only do I find the notion of wait and see dangerous (as a friend said, “Do we need to see people die for lack of the ACA before we realize it was a bad idea to eliminate it completely?”), I honestly don’t understand what more we could see that will make us decide.

Wait and see what?

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Evolution Moves In Leaps

The normal understanding of evolution is that it proceeds through random mutations imparting an advantage to individual members of a species who are then able to leverage that advantage to more success than their fellows, thus passing the mutation on.

The trouble with that theory is that if it’s the case that mutants are constantly being produced, and constantly being more successful, you would expect to see a steady progress to evolution. A particular species would progress with each generation without interruption.

However, evolution does not work like that. It moves forward in fits and spurts. Quantum steps, not steady rotations of the wheel.

What happens is that the mutants are always present to some degree in each species’ pool of potential. Each species is always under exposure to mutagens in the form of cosmic radiation and fluctuations in cell growth. Then something in the environment shifts. Natural disasters. Changes in migratory patterns of prey. Sudden decrease of food availability. The mutants then ready to take advantage of the shift step forward and thrive, while those not ready die off. The leaps forward we observe in the fossil record are the results in shifts of circumstance, not mutations.

The mutants are always with us. On the edges. In the cracks. Just a half click outside of the cultural norms. Marginalized by a society that does not need them, ostracized and outcast.

Then something shifts in a major way. Some catastrophe. Some sudden shortage of supply. Some hand of chance. This change makes the matter of business as usual not an option. The regular members of society can’t cope. Under these circumstances, the mutants step into the limelight and do what needs doing for the continuation of the species.

This is the changing of the guard.

It can’t be more blatantly obvious to everyone, I think, that we are in a time of shift. The old systems are failing. They get propped up again and again, and they fail to meet the challenges of the times, again and again. World governments are not coping successfully with a populace that is increasingly more freely interconnected than ever before. The reach of the Internet allows for information to get to anyone, nearly anywhere, in the blink of an eye. The powers that be keep trying to staunch it, but they don’t really have a hope. They can’t hold against that tide. It also seems that they will not be able to adapt into the shape of things to come. At this point approximately two and a half billion of the seven billion inhabitants of this spaceship Earth are on Internet. In the next few years another four billion will be online, through the increasingly ubiquitous presence of ever cheaper mobile devices. By 2018 tribesmen in the Serengeti will check the weather on their smartphones (or whatever we will be calling them by then.)

Nothing will stop that tipping point from arriving.

Internet has disrupted all major industries and information exchanges each in turn. There is no sign of it stopping. There is no rational reason to think it will.

Into that new world, the current cultural systems will not go. They will not survive the transition. Into the void left, the mutants will step. They will take up the reins and progress will happen in a sudden leap forward.

In my mind this shift is inevitable. What to do about that? Mutate. Join up with the fringe. Embrace the mutant within, and you can have a better chance to be on the successful line of the coming age.

The other option, which is ancillary to the first, is to honor the mutants among us. Smile at them. Welcome their presence. Join in their conversation. Party with them. Get to know them and their ways, for in the near future, they will become yours.

The party is changing folks. The options are pretty binary. Well, sort of. On one side is allegiance to a failing system, which means failing along with it. On the other hand is… well, that’s the thing isn’t it? We don’t know. There’s no way of knowing. Many options might be available, and it’s difficult, or impossible, to know what shift we will stabilize into. The best thing you can do is know there will be a change and change first.

That’s the path through. And it’s pretty much always been the same. Adapt, or perish. It’s really that simple. The additional choice you have is whether you want to enjoy it. The best move there is to play with it. Don’t make it a job, make it a journey. The path is the goal, and the end is unknown, but we can always move forward.

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Back in my day!

“Back in my day!” How many of us have heard that admonition? It’s so commonplace that it’s gone beyond a cliche, and recently seems to be fading from the general zeitgeist. I think there are interesting reasons for that. Perhaps there was even a time before such a sentiment could exist.

Buckminster Fuller (building on the work of Claude Shannon, and others) wrote about the rate of doubling of information in his book, “Critical Path.” Taking all information available to human-kind at the year 1 AD as one unit, Buckminster calculated that the amount of information available to be known by humans took 1500 years to double. Information doubled again by 1750 AD. Then again by 1900 AD. As we can see, the rate at which information is doubling appears to be accelerating. That falls in line with the general thoughts on information theory. When two pieces of information collide with two more pieces, the result is not four pieces of information. The result is greater than the sum of the parts as information interacts and gives birth to previously unsuspected ideas.

By 1950 information had doubled again. This time in only 50 years. It doubled again in 1960, and again in 1967, and do on.

Since 1900 we are living through times where the doubling of information can happen within a single lifetime. More and more changes faster and faster, and quicker and quicker “things just ain’t what they used to be.”

What trips me out is that the conversations that start with, “Back in my day…” (which are such a familiar cliche for us) might have not always occurred. These types of conversations and story telling between generations may not have had a reason to exist in the past. In the periods of time when information would not double in ten lifetimes, the amount of change from one generation to the next was minimal. It’s weird to think about, but there could have been a time when the conversations with the elders more likely started with, “It’s always been this way…”