Modern Money: Much Ado About Nothing

Money is actually nothing. Did you know this?

In general, when people think of money, they either feel they don’t have enough, or fear that someone might take their wealth. One of the wisest things I've ever heard was that both the rich man and the poor man have nothing but a $1 at the end of the week. The poor man might have used his money to buy bread, while the rich man bought a third yacht, but still, they each only have $1 until the next payday. 

No matter how much money we have, we never feel we have enough. Thus, humans spend most of their lives fretting about money and most of the crimes against humanity and the planet are done in the name of money.

And yet, what exactly is money? In our imaginations, we often think it looks like this:

But the US dollar hasn’t been backed by gold since 1971, when the United States stopped selling gold to foreign official holders of dollars at the rate of $35 an ounce. As of now, there aren’t any currencies in the modern world completely backed by gold, or anything else, other than promises and goodwill.

In reality, modern money looks like this:

It's kinda cool, all those 1's and 0's floating around in cyberspace. But it's certainly not shiny and you can't touch, taste, feel, or smell it. Money is now an extra-sensory experience.

This means that when we fret about the size of our bank account, we are fretting about a fictional number, one that has meaning only within the context of the story of the culture of which it exists. The cultural story of money depends on how various types of work and resources are valued. In America, if you write software, a big number gets sent to your bank account. If you teach children how to read, a MUCH smaller number is written into the bank account. And if you care for the elderly or the sick, well, your number is so small, it’s almost laughable.

It’s the same with expenses. If you live in California, a HUGE number is taken out of your bank account for your mortgage or rent. If you live in Alabama, a much smaller number is equated with the four walls and the roof over your head. In the end, the value of work and goods is completely irrelevant and totally out of any one person’s hands. Economists like to think that it's all about supply and demand, and at it's most basic, most monetary value is based on this. But demand is a fickle thing and supply can easily be manipulated. In spite of our desire for a simple equation to govern the economics of our society, the fiction of money is based on the group mind, the social order, and the will of those “in charge.”

What a strange thing to fight wars over. Numbers, written into an account by a computer. What a strange thing to covet. Numbers, arbitrarily assigned based on profit. Yet what is profit if money is merely a story? Money is a messenger, the great storyteller of our times. For the way labor and resources are monetized within a society will tell you the moral values of the culture in question.

If you look at the American story of money, it’s fairly horrific. Even though money is a complete fiction, 43.1 million Americans live in poverty according to the latest measure. According to a supplemental poverty measure, the poverty rate in 2015 was 14.3 percent. It appears that Americans have decided that a decent number of us aren’t allowed to have a number written into their bank account big enough to provide shelter, food and clothing. That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it. No food? Too bad. Even if you work, your work is devalued. No big number for you.

Yet there are some that we do value in our society. It was reported this week that Microsoft co-founder Bill GatesAmazon founder Jeff Bezos and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett have collectively more wealth than the 160 million poorest Americans, or half the population of the United States. It appears that the American story of money definitely likes these three guys. They’re special. So special they get a number so big that it is equal to half the “money” number in the whole United States. Hungry? Go ask them for a hand-out. All three have foundations that will write a few numbers into your bank account. But not too many, because, well, that's our story and we don't want to disrupt it with too much generosity. That would make the numbers less valuable, you see.

There is a saying that you can’t worship both God and Mammon. I’d agree, yet God for me isn’t some old guy sitting up in heaven watching us fight, kill, maim and destroy in the name of numbers loaded onto a computer. To me, God is the Life around us: Workers who labor, animals who graze and provide us food, water that flows from lakes and rivers into the oceans, and land that provides food, minerals, and precious, oh so precious, metals. Life is people and planet. If we worship life, then profit is merely a tool to help us exchange our work for goods and vice-a-versa. If we worship profit, or Mammon, then we will kill Life. It’s really that simple.  

Take the polluting of the Earth. There is no solution until profit is no longer worshipped.  No accords, agreements or promises stand a chance against the worship of Mammon. Think about it and you’ll see that keeping the Earth alive requires some number in some bank account somewhere to go down, and damn if that’s going to happen. Thus, the Earth will be depleted, mined, and polluted no matter what an individual has to say. 

The irony of it all is that story of money is ours, albeit we have created it with a group mind that borders on the psychotic. I imagine this is the result when we worship Mammon over Life--our minds go to rot. But here’s the kicker—this just might be the only way to stop our own self-destruction. Choosing Life over Mammon and having the courage as a group to create an entirely new story that honors all three things: profit, planet and people. When we decide to worship Life, we free money to flow into the world and do its job, which is simply to allow the exchange of labor, ideas, goods and services. Money should drive innovation as an exchange, not as a weapon.

Money doesn’t want to be worshipped. Hell, it doesn’t even actually exist. All this pain is over nothing.

Nothing at all. How crazy is that?

Dante's Nine Circles of Hell and the Internet Inferno

I’ve seen several references to various social media apps and the Seven Deadly Sins, but this Sunday morning, as I consider the darkness that seems to breed in social media circles—from teen bullying on Snapchat and Instagram, to Twitter trolls threatening female reporters in India with rape and abuse, to child pornography on the Dark Web and the children who suffer miserably, literally living in hell for predators’ public pleasure— Dante’s Inferno comes to mind, and how this ancient story from 1300 might actually describe our reality right now, as we enter the Information Age of our human development.

Perhaps this stage of humanity had to take a technological twist, one Dante couldn’t have imagined in his time, but one that was destined in our evolution none-the-less. For no other invention has ever truly united human minds together. The Internet is where we are able to peer into the human psyche and together decide, shall we go on to Heaven, or will we devolve into the sadistic beasts depicted in Dante’s work? Our online behavior effects the whole, we can’t create true connection as long as the beast continues to dominate the conversations. If we want a truly liberated Internet-of-Things, then we will need to face the demons inside of us, and overcome them with the help of some trusty advisers.

Let’s go back in time then, and see if the great Dante Alighieri can shed some light on the baseness of the online world and how we can transform it into the ideal that sparked the birth of the Internet, as well as every social media application that now serves to bring us together.

And what exactly is the noble spark that underlies the Internet?

Inferno begins with Dante on a quest to be reunited with Beatrice, his true love. This then, is the ultimate goal of our human experience. Love. Not necessarily romantic love, but connection in the truest sense. Behind all of our impulses is the desire for connection with others such as family, lovers, community. We want to belong to a group. I think this is what we’re searching for when we go online, the promise of connection, of finding our tribe. Hence, we have created the Internet as a forum to do so. We want to find one another on a deeper level, one that knows no physical bounds.

But, like Dante's quest, the path to union is a dark one. He finds himself in a dark woods and wants desperately to leave it. This is the aspect of the online world that we must address if we're ever to realize its potential, a dark world full of fear, hate, intimidation and misinformation. Dante sees a mountain in the distance and tries to climb it, but is stopped by three wild animals—a leopard (Apple, since they made the smartphone), a she-wolf (Google, since the she-wolf is one of Wisdom’s symbols and Google has put all knowledge at our fingertips) and a lion (Charles Babbage, since he’s the one who created the first computer and set the entire information age into action. Besides his Wikipedia picture sort of looks like a lion). They basically doom Dante to go back, i.e. enter the dark woods of the Internet. Their inventions have made it so. There’s no way around it.

Fortunately, the Roman poet Virgil suddenly appears and gives Dante hope. He says they have no choice but to descend into Hell together, but that on the other side is Beatrice and the heaven they both long for. Thus my fellow humans, we have to go into the World Wide Web in order to face the evil within us before we can experience the true connection that we not only long for, but also binds us together with the whole of life.

Virgil leads Dante to the gates of Hell, which bear the sign, “Abandon All Hope, You Who Enter Here.” Nice. Some of the wisest people I know say that about social media. Abandoning all hope, they go in and enter the outer regions of Hell—a place where the souls in life who couldn’t commit to anything, good or bad, spend their lives chasing a blank banner and being bit by insects. Sounds a lot like email to me. The first major application to drive early Internet development, email is an entry point into the online world, without actually going in and getting dirty. Each day we’re inundated with emails, mostly just trash, but we login all the same, hoping for a meaningful letter from a friend, or a new job opportunity, or perhaps an invitation to a party. Unfortunately these more important notes are often hidden in a jungle of emails from every vendor or website we’ve visited online. And don’t even bother trying to Unsubscribe, the cookies and bots won’t let you.

Next, Virgil and Dante cross a river and soon find themselves in the First Circle of Hell—a place reserved for those learned men who died without knowing Christ. Now, Dante wrote a religious tale, but Christ is also known as the Word, or Logos, which is the term in Jungian psychology for reason and judgement. Thus this level of Hell is filled with those who love information and share it with others, but lack the underlying reason and judgement to do a great service. Sounds like some of the bloggers out there today, as well as others who push their opinions as news, thus clogging up social media with posts that look like journalism, but are really click bait, or written in order to deceive. We may glorify our most famous bloggers, raise them on pedestals, but without knowing Logos, without being disciples of reason and judgement, they’re nothing more than parroting what we already believe, making us even more divided in the long run. Blogger, Tumblr, even Medium are entry points into this level of Hell, enabling us to pontificate without reason or responsibility (alas, like I am right now).

The Second Circle of Hell is reserved for those who are Lustful, and they swirl about in a terrible storm. Here we have our Instagram and Snapchat accounts where we post our perfect meals, perfect bodies, and perfect pets while at the same time bullying and hurting those who are “out” in our culture. Teens notoriously use these two applications to vent their insecurities, leading to too many instances of the very young taking their own lives. It used to be that you could leave the bully at school and get a break from his/her abuse at home. No longer. If you’re the uncool one, the hate follows you into your back pocket. And what about those boys who snap pics of their sexual conquests and then share them with their friends? The virtual locker room is sexual harassment storm.

In the Third Circle of Hell, we experience the Gluttonous, who must lie in mud and endure a rain of “filth and excrement.” Oh, this is horrible! Yet Facebook newsfeeds recently feel like a rain of filth and excrement. Elections now hinge on the Fake News published through the medium of Facebook and while many of us use it in order to find connection to those we can’t see every day, it turns out that this app is a huge reason for the divide between liberals and conservatives in many nations. From Trump’s election to Brexit, gluttonous politicians now use Facebook to gain access to the emotional states of the gluttonous voters by feeding their fears and desires with crap, over and over, as they swipe their smartphones for hours a day.

In the Fourth Circle of Hell, we meet the Avaricious and Prodigal, those who spend, spend, spend. Their greed covers the land and they desire nothing more than the next lavish purchase. In this level of Hell, they’re made to charge at one another with great boulders, each one taking down the other. Amazon Prime ring a bell? Or Alibaba. Take your pick, both seek to bring you your every material whim, hopefully within two hours, if they can get the approval to fill our airspace with their little delivery drones. Now, that does sound like hell. Imagine all of our materialism made manifest with the constant drone traffic above our heads.

For the next level of Internet darkness, I have to quote Sparknotes, for this summary can’t be beat: “The Fifth Circle of Hell contains the river Styx, a swampy, fetid cesspool in which the Wrathful spend eternity struggling with one another; the Sullen lie bound beneath the Styx’s waters, choking on the mud. Dante glimpses Filippo Argenti, a former political enemy of his, and watches in delight as other souls tear the man to pieces.” Imagine it? Of course we can. Ask any journalist, politician, or even minor celebrity what it’s like to have a Twitter handle. Jimmy Fallon’s “Mean Tweets” segment is only the tip of the iceberg. On Twitter, souls are ripped apart into pieces, devoured by trolls that come together for the singular purpose of threatening other users. Twitter is a perfect example of how something with a noble start (basically a broadcasting station for all voices in the world) has been co-opted by our lesser natures and turned into a “fetid cesspool in which the Wrathful spend eternity struggling with one another.”

Yet, my friends, we’ve only just begun experiencing our evil archetypes. For now Dante comes to Dis, a city so horrible, the gates are closed to him and he has to get help from an angel to enter. Why then go in, if even the demons refuse us entrance? Because we can’t help ourselves, we always have to look. Besides it’s the only way to Heaven. So into the Sixth Circle of Hell we go to encounter the Heretics, the bot accounts on EVERY SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM that spew forth misinformation and conspiracy theories galore, appearing like a real human user, but are actually nothing more than chatbots, created by governments to influence elections and public opinion. These bot accounts sound very American, like “@MomLuvsTrump” or “@TruRedWhiteNBlue”, but they exist merely to push propaganda that is beautifully crafted to look like something any thinking, rational, internet user should follow.

There’s nothing to do but keep going at this point, down to the darkest parts of the internet that mirror the very worst in humanity—the Seventh Circle of Hell, where we find those who were violent towards God, Nature and Art. To me, this is Reddit. Sure, the threads mean to be a place of power and change. I’ve often likened this online social arena to the pamphlet movements during the Revolutionary War. And I love to attend AMAs hosted by various favorite personalities. Unfortunately, Reddit is also the rallying place for the alt-right where they can spew their violence against God, Nature and Art. Reddit is often where trolls gather to plan their Twitter attacks on a certain media personality. Or to organize a hate rally, Milo Y. or Richard Spencer book signing, etc. Hate speech vs. the First Amendment begin to face off in this realm of the Internet Inferno

Spending time in Reddit will often lead the user to the next circle of Hell. When Dante gets to the Eight Circle of Hell, he finds not just one type of evil, but pockets of evil. Nine of them at least, filled with panderers, seducers, charlatans, and barraters (those who accepted bribes). These evil ones are suffering in various ways, from regular whippings, to being held in pitch while demons tear them apart. I can’t help but think of 4chan when I read of this place. 4chan is a site where people can post images anonymously. Oh ho, nothing can go wrong in such a community, can it? 4chan has devolved so much in the past years that in 2014, its very founder, Christopher Poole, walked away. Why? "I've come to represent an uncomfortably large single point of failure," he wrote in his farewell post. I guess when a murderer uses your site to post photos of his victims, your invention has gone from the Wild West to the Nine “Evil Pockets” of Hell fairly fast. Poole works for Google now, so perhaps he’s the she-wolf at the beginning of the story?

The Ninth Circle of Hell is a frozen wasteland and filled with those who have betrayed their kin, their country, their religion, and their community. This then is where we see the worst in us, for betrayers are the ones who prevent true connection from taking place. Those who hurt and abuse others for their own gains and pleasures are the ones who stand in the way of the salvation of our species. Here then are the ones who use the Internet for the purpose of betraying others, from money laundering, to drug cartels, to prostitution. In my opinion, one of the darkest, most evil betrayals is the abuse of children. I don’t wish to spend time in this icy wasteland, and any of the above applications have been implicated in this behavior, but I have to name it—the use of the Internet by child pornographers and consumers lies here, in the heart of hell. One can’t be any more evil, even if he murders another. For to spread this filth is to stain the entire endeavor, and at some level those who prey on children in this way are enabled by the Internet and the ease of sharing images. It isn’t surprising that if this is festering in the virtual world, all of the other disturbing trends mentioned above exist as well.

Unfortunately our technology is held hostage by the worst of us. Until we can turn the technology around and use it against those who commit such evil, we can’t get out of the woods.

However, Dante and Virgil do make it out of Hell. Interestingly the poets cross through the barren wasteland and to the river of forgetfulness, emerging from Hell on Easter morning.

I find it interesting that they must forget the darkness in order to leave Hell and make their way to Heaven, where true connection, love and solidarity await. What must we forget in order to fulfill the promise of the Internet and the idea of a globally connected world?

Our hate? Our jealousy? Our anger? Our fear? Our ignorance? Our greed? Our lust? Our mistrust?

I imagine so. In the meantime, our experiences online seem to be on one hand accelerating and enabling those who wish to sow the seeds of discontent, and on the other hand bringing us together, enabling the collection and sharing of information and knowledge, and making us aware of those places and people in our community who are in need. If we can rid ourselves of our lower natures and focus on the fact that when we’re online, we’re actively creating a world together, perhaps someday we will hold Beatrice in our embrace, and finally find human connection at the deepest, most satisfying level.

The Anthropocene Age is Upon Us--Whether We Like it or Not

Let’s begin with a definition.

Perhaps the most important definition of our time.

Anthropocene: a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth's geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change. [Wikipedia]

Key here is the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems. Commencement implies that there was a moment BEFORE humans were able to impact the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, as well as a moment AFTER.

We, my friends, are living in the after.

I’ve written about this before in a post titled, Forget Self-Aware Machines—We Need Self-Aware Humans, but in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma, I feel compelled to bring it up again. You see, I’m tired of listening to conservatives try to debunk global warming. I’m also tired of listening to liberals try to sell carbon credit schemes and technology as our savior. To me, anyone arguing about whether or not we’re destroying the planet is avoiding the most important issue at hand—humanity has already proven itself to be a geological force, capable of moving and shaping the Earth in ways both monstrous and wonderful.

This is why we have now entered the age of the Anthropocene, and while our politicians of course are hesitant to actually approve the term and the scientists behind it aren’t sure of the exact date in which humanity truly became a force of nature, I think there is plenty of evidence for our own eyes to see exactly how our civilization now acts as designer and maker of this planet.

The most important truth we must begin to discuss is that humans are powerful, just like Nature herself.

For example, nature can do this:

Pretty wonderful. But guess what? We can do this:

Nature can also do this:

And we can do this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

This is human power, and it can be seen from satellites RIGHT NOW. This isn’t a theory, or some hypothesis you can avoid. Look around you, open your eyes and see the evidence. From our skyscrapers to the poisoned rivers…all of it is ours.

It’s true that Nature destroys, and often in that destruction creation blooms forth. From the ashes of this:

Comes this:

From the floods come new rivers, from the rivers come canyons.From death comes forth life
If this is the cycle of nature, and we are part of nature, are we not governed by the same cosmic rule? Is this cycle any more avoidable than gravity?

What part of our civilization must die, so that the planet might live?

And what rises from the ashes of the most devastating aspect of our power?

We’ve been tinkering, moving and changing the landscape since we learned how to make tools. Essentially humanity, which sprung from Nature, can be seen as the hands of the Earth, for it is our race, our species, that is capable of taking nature and moving it, even from the surface of our planet to the edges of our solar system. More than any other species on this planet, we have what it takes to shepherd, guardian and create just as Nature itself.

And with the advent of our technology, we are as powerful as hurricane Irma, and it seems, at thoughtless as well.

Yet unlike hurricane Irma, we can reflect. We can think. We can take a moment before we act, before we create, before we consume, and we can wonder, “What does it mean to be the hands of the Earth? What does it mean to be a geological force? Who am I to be so powerful? What will I do with such power?”

Dear humans, you don’t have to try and prove anything to one another. What you need to do is prove something to yourself. Do you understand the power in your hands? Or are you just another hurricane waiting to happen?

A Feminist Case for Universal Basic Income

It’s in the news. From the Zuck to Elon Musk, dire warnings are being issued about the impact of technological unemployment on our society—unless we begin to implement some sort of universal basic income, or UBI. For those who are new to this concept, a basic income is defined on Wikipedia as:

basic income (also called basic income guaranteeCitizen's Incomeunconditional basic incomeuniversal basic income (UBI), or universal demogrant[2]) is a form of social security[3] in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive a regular, unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.

Many basic income supporters believe that it should be enough to meet a person's basic needs. For this reason, an unconditional income transfer of less than the poverty line is sometimes called a partial basic income while one greater than that level is sometimes called a full basic income.

I’ve written about this topic before, my first blog on UBI garnered more than 50,000 hits on Reddit at one time, and has since gone on to have thousands of reads on Medium and shares on Facebook & Twitter. I’ve seen this sort of success with UBI articles by other writers as well, this topic is obviously on everyone’s mind.

There are many excellent articles on the why, how and what all over the internet, but today I want to look at it from a feminist perspective—specifically from a mother’s perspective, and why UBI is so important for the raising of the next generation.

Before I start, let’s address all the “A woman is so much more than a mother!!!” shrieks out there. Yes, this is true, however 57% of American women between the ages of 15-50 are mothers, so the work that comes with caring for children is absolutely being done by the majority of females, on a daily basis, and very little of it is paid or even acknowledged as work.

The raising of children, as well as the work of caring for a home, is completely unseen by our society. This is obvious when you hear people bemoan the idea of a world without paid work as we’ve defined it. They say things like, “Without work, humans will go mad” or “What will people do with themselves if they don’t have jobs?” When I hear those statements, I know that the person making them has NEVER been a housewife, because they have no appreciation for the work of life.

What is the work of life? Let’s start with something we all have—a body. If you have one, then you will admit that to have a body means that life is work. You must clean it, feed it, clothe it, and shelter it. You should also exercise it and keep it flexible. This is the minimum amount of work that you do every day, just to care for yourself! In order to achieve the work of the body, most of us work for money to pay for food, clothing, shelter and health care. So automatically, we’re pulled into the employment system through necessity. But even before the modern industrial world, the majority of one’s life was spent procuring the things the body needs to stay alive.

Thus, we all have a body, and those of us who are fortunate, also have a shelter for that body, which also takes a lot of effort. Caring for and maintaining the home is definitely work, and either you make enough money to hire someone to do this for you, or you do it yourself, ON TOP of your paid employment.

Now, for the 57% of American women between the ages of 15-50, who also have children, multiply the work of the body times the work of the house and then raise it to the power of 10. Yes, children add that much more work to the equation. This work must be done, regardless if the mother is also employed in paid work.

Some women chose to stay-at-home to raise the kids and do all the householder chores. As a matter-of-fact, in 2014, that number rose to 29% from 23% in 1999. This is the first time in 20 years that number increased. Regardless of the whys of that choice, this means that of the 57% of women who are mothers, almost a third are providing childcare and home labor without any wages.

Even for the women who are working jobs outside of the home, the work of the home STILL EXISTS, they just do it instead of sleeping. They rush from work to daycare to get the kid, drive the kid around to after-school activities, grocery shop, cook dinner, help with homework, get the kids to bed, clean the house, do the laundry, pay the bills, go to bed way too late and then get up the next day to do it all again.

In a nutshell, the work of life is constant, mostly unpaid, and mostly done by women.

From the beginning, feminism has been trying to share this unpaid, yet entirely unavoidable, workload with our male counterparts, and this is absolutely the right idea. However, it does nothing to address the fact that even shared, this crucial work is happening every day and is unaccounted for as work in the “real” world. None of this work can be left undone, if it is ignored, society will pay for it in social ills. Yet women (and the men who share caregiving with them) are not compensated in any way. Worse, this work isn’t even included in the 40 hour work week that we all revere as the holy standard of honest employment. It’s as if any of the work it takes to care for our bodies, our physical homes, and of course the bodies of our children, isn’t real. Listen to an economist or our politicians talk, and you’d think we’re all Samantha from Bewitched, wiggling our noses and taking care of the home in an instant.

Many of our families are struggling to balance work and family, and it has become nearly impossible for a single income family to even rent a two-bedroom apartment. Even dual employment at the median wage won’t buy a home in most marketplaces. There are real issues when our children are left behind for the almighty dollar, and a universal basic income could help relieve some of the stress that families face when it comes to parenting.

Imagine, if when a woman started her family, she knew her food and shelter were guaranteed? Now she can choose to work out of the home based on her ability to manage the needs of her family, home and her career, not merely to keep the roof over her kids’ heads.

Imagine, if a woman finds herself in an abusive relationship, she could leave her husband knowing that she will be able to provide the basics for her children, no matter what?

Imagine, if a woman is faced with a very sick child, could take time off to help that child heal and address the medical issues, without fear of losing her home?

Imagine, if a woman finds herself truly desiring to stay home to raise her children, she has the means to do so because society honors the work of the home?

Imagine, if a woman loses her partner, and finds herself alone but without worry at this time of crisis because her home is guaranteed and thus her children are safe?

Imagine, if a man finds himself without his wife, he can continue to raise his children without the fear of losing his home?

Imagine, if a young woman finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and not entirely prepared, she is able to face it without shame or fear of providing for the child, even if she chooses to go at it alone?

Imagine, if a young man in the same situation can offer to raise his child and care for it, even if that means going at it alone?

Can you even imagine a world where caring for others isn’t seen as a burden?

For too long, feminism has turned its head away from mothers and the real work of raising a family, pretending that it doesn’t matter, or change a thing when it comes to success in our economic story. This is a mistake, for in shaming what society has called, “women’s work” we join the misogyny of our world. We pretend that this model of success, aimed only at personal wealth and power, is actually healthy, denying the fact that others do indeed need to be cared for. Those in power have been scorning and taking advantage of caregivers since the dawn of the industrial age and feminism should fight this, not enable it.

If your efforts don’t produce profit, they’re meaningless—this is our economic world, and it’s tearing us apart.

Perhaps it’s this very misogyny that makes welfare and social services so distasteful to a large percent of Americans? Perhaps this disdain for caregiving, and the women who do it, is the real reason UBI is seen as the ultimate handout, or a failure to take care of yourself, because should we implement it, the first people to take advantage of it will be the 57% of women who are mothers, already working hours a day, seven days a week, for no wage at all.

Sometimes we have to take care of caregivers so that they can take care of their kids. Is this such a bad thing? Is this a sexist thing? Or is it just a natural part of our human existence that some of us need to be cared for and others of us are called to do that caring?

What is the point of being human if the only work that is revered is the work that has nothing to do with caring and only with consuming?

While it’s important to continue to share caregiving between men and women, it’s also important to create a society where caregiving is not a liability, but rather an act of service that we all appreciate. Even if you aren’t a parent, you have benefitted from caregiving, otherwise you wouldn't be here. Honestly, it takes more than a Hallmark holiday every year to show our appreciation. Creating a world where UBI is our foundation would go a lot further towards equality between the sexes, for in doing so we acknowledge that the work of the home is real, and we free women from the economic constraints that childrearing has come to bear upon us, much more than our male counterparts.

Universal basic income as a part of the feminist agenda only makes sense. Think of  it, what if in addition to fighting for education and the right to work and income equality, we also fought for a living wage when it comes to the work of life, thus freeing childcare and mothering from the misogyny that has disdained it for far too long? Many men are fighting for UBI as a means to save themselves from a wage-less future--what have women, many of whom have been wage-less workers for decades, been waiting for?

The Queen Bee and the Cougar: From Insult to Empowerment

I’ve been thinking about how we insult women as they age by comparing them to animals. When I was younger, they called me a tease if the boys thought me attractive. Now that I’m middle aged, they call me cougar. When I was little, they called me bossy for asserting myself or asking that my needs be met. Now that I’m middle aged, they call me the queen bee. 

My instinct is to cringe, the title queen bee is after all, an insult. The queen is seen as selfish, demanding, entitled, and manipulative. People imagine a bee, sitting on a throne, golden crown on her head sipping propolis, while throngs of workers toil all day to keep the hive running. This however, is a profane assessment, and couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, the queen bee is one of the most selfless creatures on Earth, whose entire life is dedicated to the successful propagation of her species.

Life in the hive depends entirely on the fidelity of the queen. It is true that there is only one of her kind, and she is completely unique amongst her sisters, yet by her very nature, she is the one being in the hive that can never change her mind, never stop working and never decide to turn her back on her leadership role. If she asserts any independence, the entire hive will fail. Bees can’t live without their queen.

She is the organizing principle. Everyone follows her orders, yet she rules with a natural wisdom. She knows exactly how many workers are needed for each season, and how many drones will keep the hive warm. With a signal, she assigns tasks with precision and the workers follow her wisdom with their own loyalty. In this way, she is bossy, but in her bossiness, the rest of the hive can relax and truly become one. Everything is taken care of. Every task is held, because the queen holds the hive as one entity, one mind. The hive shows us that many hands are needed in order for bees to live out their role on Earth as pollinators.

The queen bee serves ceaselessly, sometimes as long as five years, with her eyes always on the prize. She doesn’t get a day off. She isn’t sitting on a throne. Instead she is laying eggs, all day, and instructing the hive to ensure that those eggs grow to adulthood. Her sole focus is on procreation and fertility so that the hive might live forever.

Unlike the workers, the queen rarely leaves the hive, once after she’s born in order to mate with the drones, and then only when she has been successful and produced enough bees that the hive needs to split. The queen bee never frolics among the flowers, nor feels the summer sun’s kiss. She can’t—to do so would be an act of treason against those she was born to protect.

Yes, she’s the only one. Yes, she’s in charge. Yet the queen bee isn’t selfish, rather she’s completely at service to the greater good, the whole, the all. I think she’s admirable, and rather than cringe at the comparison, which is often an insult, I think it’s time to accept it, for the path of the queen bee is one who leads through service, without question. I would love to be so selfless and her path is one worth pursuing.

In our complex world, we need more queen bees, not less, dedicating their lives to helping us navigate the serious problems of our time.

So claim it ladies, and aspire to become a queen bee as she truly is—an important part of the ecosystem in which we live. Which leads me to the other animal insult thrown at middle-aged women—cougar—usually as a means to belittle the fact that she has remained sexual past her prime. You know, she actually enjoys sex even though she’s no longer a maiden and her kids are older? (When I googled the word cougar, the first link is one to a dating website for women seeking younger men.)

Again, there is some wisdom in the profane and even though the term is used to cut women down, like the queen bee, the world is in need of this sort of feminine leadership. Just like the queen of the hive, the cougar is the queen of the forest. As the apex predator, the cougar plays a pivotal and critical role in maintaining biodiversity in many different ecosystems. By hunting deer and wild boar, the cougar keeps the herbivore population balanced, ensuring that over-grazing doesn’t occur. As an example, a recent study on the trophic decline of Zion National Park showed that a reduction in cougars led to the overpopulation of deer, which led to the destruction of key plant species, namely the cottonwood tree, which led to not only erosion along the creeks and streams (the trees were no longer there to keep the soil in check) but also the loss of habitat for many insects which fed bird species, which are also now in decline.

Like the queen bee, the cougar keeps the ecosystem in order. Should she be envied for her position? Should she be killed off because she bothers the livestock? Should she be seen as a danger to the order of humanity?

Middle aged women are needed to reorganize a society that has lost its way. One where 50% of our children live in poverty, where health care sends many into debt, where people are left without shelter in the rain and cold. Our human society is in need of strong, feminine leadership. Middle age is a time when a woman is not only wise with years, but she also has more time to serve the whole because the needs of her own family are waning. She can make the effort to grow her talents and assert her power in a larger context.

Beware, there is a price to pay. If you’re too bossy, you’re the queen bee. If you’re too sexy, you’re the cougar. But maybe it means you’re doing something right? Turn the insult upside down and go deeper, and you just might find that both of those animals represent exactly what is needed at this time in history. For to become either is to lead with service, a trait that is sorely lacking in our world, from the boardroom to the White House.

Expect people to strike back. Look at how we fear the swarming hive and do all we can to kill the bees. The same goes for the cougar, who is often hunted by the human because she dares to feed on their penned-in livestock. The queen bee and the cougar live according to different rules, and often pay dearly for it. Yet without them, the natural world could not survive.

So be a queen bee, or a cougar, or both, without shame. For they are beautiful, strong, selfless and completely necessary in the web of life.

The Disruptive CEO—Why Do Silicon Valley Founders Behave So Badly?

The San Francisco Bay Area has been taken over by the cult of “Radical Disruption.” Everywhere I turn I see a new elite college drop-out founding the latest, greatest tech startup that will totally disrupt life as we know it, and make someone a shitload of money, with a workforce of only rock star, ninja programmers and slick, hip PR guys and gals who will remake the world, while also completely fudging the numbers and harassing every employee that comes through their doors. I imagine we can blame it on Steve Jobs, but the leaders of the cult of “Radical Disruption” around here are startup CEOs, worshipped like gurus for their guts, their genius and their ability to both be super cool and create radical new workplaces while totally DISRUPTING some commercial space AND attending Burning Man and Coachella Music Fest each year.

I don’t mean to sound snarky. Both of my teen-aged sons inform me on a regular basis that I’m not funny and thus snark is way out of my element. However, as I watch the world of technology from my seat in the sleepy Santa Cruz Mountains to the south of Silicon Valley, all I can do is wonder, “Who the hell are these people?”

I get it, I’m old. But not that old. I mean, I didn’t have to program using punch cards. I actually learned to write code using an actual keyboard. To give some perspective, I’m only five years older than Uber Founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, so I’m not sure we’re of dramatically different generations. Yet I’m astounded by the allegations that show up in my newsfeed everyday about him, and many others, that live and work just over the hill from me. They have come to power and what do they do with it? Use it to disrupt EVERYTHING, and I don’t mean the actual commercial space they occupy, but the lives of the employees and investors that prop up the very dream they seem to think is their divine calling.

Let’s begin with Travis Kalanick, the Uber CEO, who has been accused of spying on former employees who have dared to sue him,  tagging iPhones even after its app had been deleted and the devices erased — a fraud detection maneuver that violated Apple’s privacy guidelines, creating a workplace rife with sexual harassment where female employees weren’t given the same black leather jacket reward because there weren’t enough women in the department to get a group discount. And my favorite? Alphabet’s Waymo lawsuit against Otto (purchased by Uber) for allegedly stealing the design of a key self-driving system.

Wow. You get to be CEO of a company about to IPO while all this shit is hitting the fan? Travis Kalanick, you are sooooo lucky to be a rock star CEO in 2017. Seriously, because if you’d been the CEO of a company in the 1990’s, you’d be finished.

It appears that sexism exists all over Silicon Valley, but certainly not in a company founded by women, right? One would think that at Thinx, a company that makes period-proof underwear, things would be downright utopian for the ladies. Not so, and this story really breaks my heart. Meet Miki Agrawal, one of the cutest Valley CEOs and the founder of a company I completely adore. I use the Thinx period panties and while they’re a bit pricey, they’re a great technological feat. I wanted her company, and the brand she was selling, namely herself, to succeed. But that was not to be, and just a month ago sexual harassment charges were brought against a “SHE-E-O”!!!! Allegedly, Ms. Agrawal touched employee’s breasts, and demanded that one employee to let her look at the empolyee’s new nipple piercings in front of the male co-worker in her office. Ms. Agrawal also often changed into other clothes and period-proof undies in front of everyone in the office. In her post on Medium, Agrawal writes that her lawyers have found no evidence for these claims, however, the case is still open and awaiting trial, and she’s stepped down from her post of CEO. Of course, in another post on Medium, she details her adventures in the Orgy Dome at Burning Man while promoting her products, so, I guess that's okay for a CEO to reveal in public as well?

Now, for those reading this that live in the Midwest, Deep South, or even the East Coast, this is happening in California, the land of the free in more ways than you can think of. Nudity is common, I see it when I walk down the main street of my town, polyamory is in, and many women flirt and make-out with one another all the time. It’s cool, for some, you know? But in the workplace? No. It isn’t cool, even in Silicon Valley.

Sexual harassment, stealing trade secrets and spying, I imagine that’s what you have to do to be a successful CEO in the cult of “Radical Disruption” because that’s what venture capitalists are looking for.  But how about completely lying to investors about key metrics? Take Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, the blood-testing start-up that she started as a 19-year-oldStanford dropout, which was valued at some $9 billion. That was before the Wall Street Journal reported in October of 2016 her company was basically a sham and that Theranos used competitor’s products to do all of its testing because its own technology didn’t actually work.

Oh my. Holmes was a female self-made millionaire in a world of male dominance, and a shining light here in the Valley. She even wears nothing but black turtle necks, just like Steve Jobs. Theranos was going to disrupt the health care industry by providing lab work at a fraction of the cost. Yet when Ms. Holmes’ technology failed, rather than report it, she purchased competitor equipment and lied to her investors.

But Ms. Holmes, you’re not alone. Let me introduce you to Evan Spiegel, your male twin when it comes to hiding data from investors, and Snapchat’s founder and CEO, who not only said, according to a former employee, “This app is only for rich people. I don’t want to expand into poor countries like India and Spain,” his company also exaggerates Snapchat’s user data to keep top executives completely misinformed about key metrics. Now if you are an actual investor in Snapchat, Evan wants to assure you that these metrics are really no big deal, honestly, they're not, because in the end lying to your investors is also part of the cult of “Radical Disruption.”

All of this troubles me. I wonder, what will happen to our technology and our future when these types of people are considered glamorous and fit to found and run the companies that will define the future? Do business schools assign case studies on these innovators as a means to encourage their students to follow in their enlightened footsteps? Each one of these founders set out to create something new—a new way to hail rides, a new way to manage your period each month, a new way to administer blood tests, a new way to communicate with your friends. Yet each and every one has created a workplace of harassment, poor benefits, or lied to their investors and the public. Where did they learn how to do business? Who were their role models?

If companies are now being founded on the cult of “Radical Disruption” is it any wonder that everything—from workplace security to honesty in reporting data—is being disregarded? To disrupt means, “drastically alter or destroy the structure of (something).”

What do we lose when we encourage this next generation of leaders to destroy in the name of success, brilliance and destiny?

Personally, I expected more from my generation. Corruption is corruption, even if you attend Burning Man.

My Latest Project: An eHuman Reboot!

Spring has sprung and since the equinox, I’ve made a few big decisions. Can we call it an author spring cleaning? First I've decided to seek new representation as I attempt to traditionally publish my latest trilogy, which isn’t about a future rebellion, but one that took place in 200 B.C. in Egypt. The Song of the King’s Heart is the story of the last native Egyptian Pharaoh, Ankhmakis the Rebel King, and his attempt to reclaim Egypt from the Macedonian Ptolemaic Empire. After twenty years of ruling 80% of Egypt, his rebellion came to a brutal end, but the story is one that has captivated me for years and I can’t wait to share it with readers. However, before I can do that, I must find that agent who loves Ankhmakis as much as I do. The process of agent and writer coming together is mind-boggling, but a topic for a later blog, as I’ve just begun and honestly have no idea how this adventure will turn out. Hopefully, it will end with a publishing contract, but in the meantime, there’s an eHuman Trilogy in need of completion.

Which leads me to the second major decision I made—to pull eHuman Dawn and eHuman Deception from publication. As soon as I announced this decision on my author FB page, I received more than a few emails from readers, mostly questions about when the last book will be done, and how they can read it if the eHumans are no longer online.

After a dozen or so inquiries, I decided to share via blog why I made this rather strange decision and what it means for me as a writer, as well as for those readers waiting to get that final story.

Why did I pull the eHumans offline for a reboot?

1.       I can do better
Since eHuman Dawn was published in 2013, I’ve written five other novels, as well as kept my blog and Medium accounts rather active. Writing is a wonderful craft because the more you do it, the more you improve. After I finished the Egyptian Trilogy, I started working on the final eHuman novel. In order to get back into the eHuman world, I re-read both eHuman Dawn and eHuman Deception, and as I read them, I realized, “Wow, I am not the same writer I was four years ago. I can do better.” This realization began to haunt me and I began to think, “…if only I could pull it and rewrite it…”

2.       Now that I know how the story ends, I want to change the beginning
Again, as I began to develop the final eHuman story, the ending finally became clear. Edgar Prince’s motivations are also finally understood, and I began to ask more questions of the characters. Is this really a great rebellion, or a family feud? What is it like when the elites of the world get carried away with their power? How do they co-opt the system to work for them? Is a militarized rebellion the only path towards taking over Neuro, especially in the light of cyber warfare and malware? The rebellion rising up is an overused trope, I think there’s a more elegant way for Adam, Dawn and Origin to wrest Neuro from Edgar’s hands. Is the timeline correct? Has is really been two hundred years since the Great Shift, or only 50? In light of the recent election and the state of the world, Edgar makes more sense, and I realized that there are plot points missing in the earlier novels that need to be there if the ending is to be true. Again, I was haunted with the idea, “…if only I could pull them and rewrite…”

3.       I want to hear more from Dawn
She’s got a lot to say, and I want her to say it. What if I tell the story more from her view? It changes, but in a good way, like how Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow tell the same story, but from different viewpoints. Dawn knows more than Adam, so what if she tells the story until he wakes up and understands more? There are POV issues in general I wish to clean up and as Dawn demanded more face time I really wished, “…if only I could pull them and rewrite…”

4.       I can pull them and rewrite them
I published eHuman Dawn and eHuman Deception with Story Merchant Books and per our contract, all rights belong to me. This is my work and with this unique publishing deal, I’m able to put a story out there, get feedback, and pull it to make it better. And so I did just that. The story can be improved upon, and I have the time and ability to do so.

While I write the last book, currently titled, eHuman Deliverance, I will also be rewriting the other two, taking all three stories into my hands as one story, split up over three books. When will I be done? I will be done when the story is done. When will they be available? Again, that all depends on my future. If all goes well, an agent is going to swipe up Ankhmakis this year and then be super happy to discover that I also have a science fiction trilogy to fall in love with. Imagine it, you read one novel and get six when you sign me! For my eHuman readers, that means you might have to wait a while. Traditional publishing doesn’t move at the speed of ePublishing. Of course, maybe I will self-publish all six of these novels in time, but the pros and cons of self-publishing online vs. working with a traditional publisher is also the topic of another blog.

So dear readers, I know this is a strange move, but trust me, it’s the right one. I ask for your patience as I attempt to make eHumanity worth your time. I love the story, but the one thing I’ve learned these past three years is that the best story isn’t the one I want to tell you, it’s the story that wants to be told that is the most powerful. As an author, the trick is to open myself and catch that story, so that I can share it with you.

Thanks for understanding and please comment, pm or tweet me with any questions. I’ll be blogging most weeks and posting more on Medium as the eHumans reboot, and I will keep you informed every step of the way.

Rebel Parenting—Raising Scientists and Artists in Our Homes

Let’s face it, science and the arts are under attack in America right now. Many have begun to portray science as a liberal conspiracy and view the arts as a liberal social experiment hell bent on ruining society with its loose morals. Recently, the Trump Administration released recommendations for major cuts to scientific research as well as the National Endowment of the Arts.

In a world where most blue collar jobs, and soon many white collar jobs, will never return due to automation and advancements in artificial intelligence, careers in science and the arts are some of the few that will be left for humans to do. Why then is America so determined to shoot itself in the foot and encourage both fields to perish?

For the most part it’s an ideology not unlike the one that ruled the Dark Ages. Art allows freedom of the mind and expression of one’s divinity, without the need of a church or organization. When participating in the arts, a person can find great spiritual fulfillment. Thus, the mind that creates is one that can’t be controlled with fear of the afterlife, because they live so fully in this life.

The same goes for science, which is the investigation of, “Why?” Scientists, like artists, see the world through curiosity and awe, and seek to use objective methods to explain why things work the way they do. Innovation begins in the realm of ideas. It’s said that Nikola Tesla would design and test every machine he ever invented in his mind first, before building it. Like a story or a painting, cures for disease or new machines are born within the imagination, and then through human will, become manifest.

And like art, those who study science are also hard to control. They question everything, and seek answers beyond yes or no. Thinkers are the neutralizers of the binaries, and thus a challenge to any system that seeks power through control.

Thus in these times of alternative facts and fake news, we need artists and scientists more than ever, and it’s no coincidence that funding for their programs is on the chopping block. This doesn’t bode well for our country, and I for one will not sit by and watch it happen.

There is one group of people who can combat this desire to squelch curiosity and awe: Parents. Yes, teachers play a crucial role, but many of them are beholden to the budget cuts that are coming down the line. Parents are still free to create homes where exploration, curiosity and the burning desire to ask why still exist. In our homes we can create spaces to encourage our children to become artists and scientists. This is not only a civic duty, but it is also to protect them, for this generation will need the ability to adapt and be creative in a world where robots perform most of the work humans are now paid to do. Art and scientific discovery will be the last bastions of human domain, and what parent wouldn’t want to prepare their child for such a future?

While the world around us seems to be in chaos, now is the time to dedicate ourselves to homes that create the thinkers of the future. I’ve raised two scientist/artists myself and while we’re not done, both are well on their way to entering careers in science and technology, while also acting and playing music. There are many things we can do as parents to encourage this, but here are some suggestions to get your own inspiration going.

1. Read your children fairy tales

Albert Einstein once said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Since I’m a voracious reader, I wanted to share stories with my kids early on. We started in-utero, with my husband reading to me, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, while I was pregnant. While that’s not really a fairy tale in the purest sense, it did give both my boys the sense of humor they now carry, as well as their love of science fiction, I’m sure of it. When the eldest was born, I continued the habit by reading him “The Little Prince” while nursing. This solidified the ritual of reading to our children and soon after we got our hands on every fairy tale we could. And not the watered down Disney stuff, my kids were raised on the Brothers Grimm and know the true story of the Little Mermaid (spoiler, she’s not that nice). Essentially, reading fairy tales to children opens up their imaginations and allows them to think the unthinkable, which is the beginning of all innovation.

2. Throw out the TV and computer

Children need to be encouraged to have their own thoughts, and today this is harder than ever. TV, YouTube, the smartphone, all these things seek to program our minds. The more you let your child participate in being fed information rather than creating it, the more you dumb them down. This is fairly intuitive, but if you need facts to convince you that screens are not a child’s friend, then simply Google the effects of screen time on your child’s brain. Don’t worry if your kid gets bored because that’s number three!

3. Let your kid be bored

Don’t entertain them. Limit their after school activities. I know that seems counter-intuitive, don’t you need to have them in coding camp, art lessons and dance class by age 6 to be successful? No. Studies actually now show that the busier the childhood, the less motivated they are as students in high school and college. Better to let them be as children and give them space for unsupervised play. Fill the house with quality toys that encourage imagination: blocks, costumes, puppets, balls, jump ropes, items they can make obstacles courses with, dolls and craft/science supplies. Let them experiment. Let them take apart the broken toaster. Let them get dirty. Let them eat bugs. Let them be kids and let them be bored. When my sons asked me to entertain them I’d say, “That’s why there are two of you, now go play with each other.”

4. Let them play an instrument

You don’t have to start young, but don’t wait too long either. It’s worth the investment. Even if it only happens for a few years, it will encourage them to be more than just good at math and taking tests. And at the same time, it will make them better at math and taking tests.

5. Don’t give them the answer when they ask why

This is so hard, but very effective. When our kids ask why and then we tell them word for word all the details long before they’re intellectually capable, we break their imagination. Again, we fill it with facts, which are rare these days, I know, but young children need to be in awe. Let them figure it out. Instead of telling them, ask, why do you think it is? A young child will have all sorts of crazy answers, let them be. As they get older, they will ask again, and this time have more to say about it. Eventually, they come to find out the answer themselves, either through school, or through reading about it in a book, or hearing the answer in a conversation. Then when they ask why, the time has come to correct them if they have the wrong information, and discuss it further to encourage scientific dialogue. “Why?” is the most important question, especially now, so encourage it by asking them and teaching them to use their minds to create hypotheses, and then discussing those together until the correct answer is found.

Being a parent isn’t easy, but we are our children’s first teachers. Our homes shape society more than any vote we cast or organization we belong to. Within our homes we fashion the minds of the citizens that will inherit the earth. Lao Tzu wrote, “In family life, be present.” 

This then is the great work — raising philosopher scientists — which isn’t only important, it’s also a lot of fun.

Forget Self-Aware Machines—We Need Self-Aware Humans

There's been a lot of talk lately about the rise of self-aware machines, yet we are already in danger of AI even though it is not yet self-aware and still unable to act independently of its program. The reason for this is not because AI is currently capable of dominating us with its superhuman power, it’s because we humans are not self-aware, and therefore are easily dominated by other humans who are clever enough to use AI to manipulate entire communities into doing their bidding. In addition, because the majority of humanity can’t see beyond their own fears, angers and opinions, our technology is advancing faster than our social reflexes, and we are changing the surface of the planet in irreversible ways.

Philosophers have been trying to wake us up for centuries. Take Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, written in 520 C.E. At the time, the concept was quite advanced for most people, but today in America, where public education has been around for about one hundred years, we still aren’t able to grasp the Allegory of the Cave as a group, and it appears we are becoming very dangerous due to our technology.

A friend of mine shared two very important articles with me this weekend that emphasize the importance of inner development at this time; A Planet with Brains by David Grinspoon, and The Rise of theWeaponized AI Propaganda Machine by Berit Anderson and Brett Horvath.

In A Planet with Brains, Grinspoon suggests that, “we have entered a new epoch of geologic time, the "Anthropocene," characterized by humanity as a new geologic force.” This is no small thing to consider—what is at stake is the idea that humanity as a collective group is now considered a geological force, right up there with wind, water, erosion, tectonic plates, magma and the Ice Age.

How many of us have ever considered that as human beings, we might just be considered a force of nature? One so great that we could change the surface of the Earth forever? A force similar to the atmospheric rivers now plaguing Northern California, for example. I am currently living in this storm system, and each day I wake up to new changes in the terrain around me. Roads washed away, mountain sides plummeting, avalanches, bridges collapsing, all of this due to the power of wind and rain. And not just a little water—as much as several Mississippi Rivers have been dumped upon us. This force is so great it has completely annihilated much of our infrastructure, major highways are closed and in all honestly, we’re held hostage by this force of nature. Stormfather, as I’ve taken to calling it since the constant gray clouds and heavy rain seem like my neighbor now, is a geological force and I’m helpless to its whims.

And it seems that thanks to technology, humanity is also a geological force, and as humanity carves, mines, paves, harvests, chops down, and poisons the world around it, it may just be time to admit we have as much power as Stormfather, and like a powerful hurricane, we’re not very discerning with how we go about business.

Here’s the thing—storms are raw, powerful, elemental energy. A hurricane or cyclone has a life of its own, but the system is unable to reflect upon its actions. It JUST DOES. Humanity on the other hand is not only raw, powerful, elemental energy. We also have our minds, and our ability to reflect, to be aware, to ask questions and assess the situation. Neil Young may have likened his lover to a hurricane, but that is not a complement. Toddlers are a force of nature, one that can bring down a house if left unattended. Adults however, should know better, shouldn’t they?

As a species, we must begin to consider that our power is as strong as a storm, as influential as glacier and as devastating as a tornado. Collectively we are a force of nature, but nature has endowed us with a failsafe—our consciousness. Isn’t it time we step into our roles as co-creators and use our power for good, rather than bumble around demanding profits, instant gratification and adoration, throwing tantrums if things don’t go our way?

Here’s the irony of this moment in time—thanks to our technology we MUST see ourselves as a geological force acting upon the planet, or else we’ll destroy it, but that same technology has been pulling us further apart from one another and the Earth’s cycles, destroying the village and instead replacing it with first little cutout houses in the suburbs and now making each of us an individual hiding behind a screen, glued to our devices while we argue and divide and set the world on fire.

The great Masters have been teaching us for centuries that we must awaken, we must use our higher faculties, and teach one another to do so. Were they preparing us for this moment?

It appears they were, and in their article The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine, authors Anderson and Horvath have made it very clear that we have a long way to go before we’re self-aware enough as a global population to take on the responsibility of being a geological force. Essentially, while we wring our hands fearing the rise of AI, the more devious elements of the human race have been priming and using our social media technology to take our data, understand what it means about us as individuals, and then manipulate or deepest fears and wildest fantasies to get us to vote for whom, or what, they want. The major player behind this evolving field of AI is a company called, CambridgeAnalytica, and they’re responsible for the successful passing of Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and the brief, yet flashy rise of Ted Cruz during the Republican primaries. It’s one thing to help a candidate win, it’s another to own a sophisticated AI that according to Professor Jonathan Albright is,

“…a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go.”

How can this be possible? How can humanity, an actual geological force of nature, be so vulnerable to such manipulation? And how can we inoculate ourselves against such a blatant takeover of our cultural commons?

The answer is simple—we need to become self-aware. The same work that will enable us to be a geological force that is constructive, rather than destructive, will also free us from this powerful, dangerous, social engineering. Humanity’s refusal to become self-aware, to see the bigger picture, to deeply engage with one another and the earth around us, is killing us both within and without.

Grinspoon suggests that to responsibly take up our mantle as a geological force, “…would require that we reach a stage where we have a deep understanding of nature and an ability to forestall natural disasters, as well as the deep self-understanding necessary to forestall self-imposed disasters. In other words, it will require both technical and spiritual progress.”

We have the technology to destroy or create. Now we need the spiritual willpower to become self-aware and chose our path. I can’t help but wonder, what if we can’t do it? Rather than invest all our efforts in making our machines self-aware, why not focus on ourselves? We cannot embrace our role as a geological force if we’re busy fighting made-up cultural wars injected into our minds by a massive propaganda machine.

It’s time to stop believing that “we’re just human” and understand that together we’re something much, much more.

Amusing Ourselves Beyond Death

This morning a friend of mine shared a fantastic article in the Guardian by Andrew Postman, son of Neil Postman, author famous for his book titled, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Of all the commentary slung around on the web right now, Postman’s piece really hit home. In a nutshell, we have two legendary pieces of science fiction that have captured our imaginations for decades: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. Since Trump’s election, most people have been focusing on 1984, it even sold out on Amazon last week. But in 1985, Neil Postman suggested that it wasn’t an Orwellian world we should fear, but rather the dystopia depicted in Brave New World.

Amusing Ourselves to Death went on to basically predict the rise of “alternative facts” and a celebrity president like Donald Trump. Ronald Regan was in charge when Postman released his book, and he saw that presidency as evidence of this trend. Not because the politicians themselves had changed, but the citizens had. Decades of being fed an image-based media diet had made us weak in the mind, needing flashy headlines and entertainment, not just from our crime TV shows, but also from our news and of course, our politicians.

I agree with Postman and we have arrived at what he predicted — yet this is only the beginning. As a software engineer and writer, I’ve been struggling to put into words a warning that has been living within me for years. Eventually I decided that the best way to express my concerns was to do what Huxley and Orwell did, write a story. Three years ago, I published eHuman Dawn, a novel in which everything, including humanity, is a device on the network. Several reviewers have compared it to Brave New World and while I’m no Aldous Huxley, I do think that the human situation in the eHuman novels could be a next step for the world Huxley described. For while Postman said we’re on the road to amusing ourselves to death, I think we’re actually now on the road to amusing ourselves BEYOND death.

In eHuman Dawn, humanity has succumbed to its desire for constant entertainment. As a result of being immersed in unlimited games, programs, information, tv shows and movies, Virtual Reality became much more desirable and in their love affair of entertainment, the population willingly leaves their physical bodies behind to live forever in machines, essentially achieving the great dream — the end to both physical and emotional suffering.

But what price do you pay for such a gift? When we give ourselves to technology, we give ourselves to the owners of that technology. Are they worthy?

While I don’t think we’ll ever figure out a way to upload our consciousness into machines, what I do think is that our attention is already more online than offline. Most people live inside of their phone, constantly checking the news, or watching a YouTube video, or commenting on the latest outrageous idea that comes from the Oval Office. Our attention is a part of our consciousness, and we seem to be placing it outside of ourselves, away from our immediate surroundings, and inside of the network, searching for connection within our minds, rather than with what’s right before us.

I realize the body is fragile. I also realized that life in the real world can be painful. We’ve longed in some way to escape it, or at least exit reality for even a moment, for all of our history. This is why we invented instruments, storytelling and of course figured out that certain mushrooms are pretty damn fantastic at out-of-body experiences. But the body is also the only thing that is truly ours. The body is the only place of true human freedom.

This is why we fight so hard for our right to make choices about our bodies. Bodily autonomy is what allows the alpha male to rule, for he’s the one who has traditionally been able to keep his body for himself. Bodily autonomy is what drives slaves to rebel, for the sale of one’s flesh to another is a crime above all others. This is why rape is illegal, for a woman only wants a man of her choice to be inside of her. Or perhaps no man at all. It’s what drives biohackers to push the boundaries and young people to tattoo their arms or dye their hair purple. Bodily autonomy extends even to your corpse.
The body is what makes us human. It puts us in the flow of life, interacting with one another. When we stop paying attention to our bodies, when we need to be entertained or high in order to find any joy in living, then we not only allow ourselves to be controlled by our media, we also set ourselves on a path to the ultimate control — technology ruling our bodies. And because we’re so busy falling in love with the virtual world, we don’t notice the laws being passed that take away our bodily autonomy, until it’s too late.

Take for example the conservative’s viewpoint that a woman shouldn’t be allowed to have an abortion. This is an obvious violation of her bodily autonomy. Because of their religious beliefs that can’t ever be questioned, even if unproven, they pass legislation that takes away a woman’s liberty. The liberals have their own agenda against bodily autonomy, also passed in good faith, their dogma being science that can’t ever be questioned. In this case, mandatory vaccinations without any public debate. On paper, both of these groups appear to be saving the lives of children by removing the right of bodily autonomy from adults. What gives the state the power to pass these laws? And why do we fall for them? Making any medical procedure mandatory isn’t much different than forcing a pregnancy. Both violate a person’s right to his or her own body.

What does this have to do with Brave New World? Simply that we have entered the age Huxley portrayed in his novel. Postman is correct. In addition, while we binge on information, our politicians pave the way for the ultimate control, not just of our minds (which they already have) but of our bodies as well, and we don’t have to wait until someone actually figures out the impossible and separates our consciousness from our bodies, allowing us to gorge on VR forever. The solution is closer than you think.

Consider an anti-aging device that you can wear behind your ear that is augmented into your body, and designed to monitor your heart rate, blood flow, platelets and certain genes in your DNA. Scientists are getting very close to understanding why exactly aging, the ultimate disease, happens. There’s some evidence that a gene flips from one state to another, causing our telomeres to begin to shrink. In order to prevent aging, the idea would be to keep that gene from flipping. The device in your ear could constantly send information about your body to your “doctors” in the cloud (most likely a software program) and take medical action if the aging gene flips.

Who wouldn’t want that? If it gave you an extra 20 years? 30? 100? This sort of innovation takes everything to the next level, and while it seems wonderful, it absolutely has the potential to completely deny us all bodily autonomy in two key ways — first your body is constantly monitored by the cloud, you can NEVER unplug, and second something like this has the potential of becoming mandatory. Think about it, if our population has no problem forcing any vaccination the state deems necessary on our children in order to save them, what sort of parent would you be if you didn’t have this device inserted into your child? Do you dare keep longevity from them? For their good, they must be plugged into the system. Oh, and while they’re logged on, let’s keep them entertained.

There are many ways this can play out, but step one has already happened. We’re totally amusing ourselves to death, and with the rapid advancement of technology, combined with legislators hell bent on convincing us that we can’t make our own decisions about our bodies, combined with an endless entertainment loop convincing us that the virtual world is better than the body anyway, it isn’t a stretch to say there’s a potential path in which we amuse ourselves beyond death — to a place where we can never unplug.