whose party is it in 2018 anyway, Willow?

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To my niece Willow, I was born on the 10th December 1962. Fifty-five years ago not only was my mum Jean alive, but she had given birth and was nursing me back to health somewhere in darkest Braeholm. I wasn’t expected to live. I don’t remember the reasons why.  Yeh, we showed them mum. What we showed them I’m not really sure. I’m nearer death than birth now. Life is the miracle. And I’m not likely to forget you birthday, Willow. It’s also the 10th December.  And as the Bible, book of Timothy, suggests ‘We brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it’.

So baby Willow, I’m 55 years older than you, let’s play a game in which you sit wherever you are in 55 years’ time and look back and tell me what the world looks like. I don’t remember any of this but we had the Cuban Missile Crisis and later the assassination of the President John F Kennedy. I’m hoping you don’t remember President Donald J Trump. Shakespeare knew his villains intimately. He portrayed Richard of Gloucester  as ‘the bottled spider’, vainglorious, treacherous, ruthless murderer and usurper, but nobody’s fool. President Donald J Trump is everybody’s fool. His claim to fame is dropping ‘the mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan and taking money from poor people and giving it to the rich. I’m not sure why bombs are called mothers. But I hope Willow you see your fifth birthday. Like me, I hope you sleep securely through threats of Armageddon and nuclear winter and the world keeps turning.

Prospero and Brave New World and the closer we get to utopia the closer we get to dystopia is something you’re going to have to live with Willow.  George Orwell, I guess got it nearly right with his three shifting blocs. The axis of the world is shifting and I’d guess China is where America was before the start of the First World War. Perhaps there will be a transition, such as Fritz Laing’s Metropolis, but the future is one in which we are equal but some are more equal than others. Deep machine learning and the use of pattern recognition software will serve your needs before you know what they are. Your body will no longer be your own. Behaviour will be monitored.  Healthy and wealthy will be conflated into flawless new bodies and flawless new babies in smart cities.

‘Hoist with his own petard.’ I’m of average intelligence and can guess what that means. I google it and see it’s from Hamlet.  But intelligence will no longer have any meaning. Machine learning how to play the game ‘Go’ shows it is possible to beat intuition as it is possible to surpass the logic of the best human chess players. Machines will be connected to other machines and humans will be part of that loop. Just as the Wright brothers took off in their flimsy craft, flew and crashed it was possible to predict air flight, quantum machines no longer need to play humans to master the precepts of ‘Go’. Machines play themselves and work out first principles. When, and if, deep learning machines master the problem of consciousness then humans need no longer be in the loop. That’s a different kind of Armageddon.

Willow, what we do know for sure is machines will do most, if not all, of the work we take for granted. How many angels fit on a pinhead? How many doctorates can fit on a subatomic particle? Masters of pattern recognition predict the future and make it happen. Energy usage will be the only transferable currency. All that green crap, waves, wind, water and sun will be the stopgap until the machines figure out something better. Nature will be a treasure trove of a different kind. Picked apart for its lessons and reconstructed. The sea will be harvested as the earth has been.

‘Gentleman, it’s your duty to make yourself rich!’ says one of Anthony Trollope’s characters in The Way We Live Now. It’s your duty to make everyone else poor. Make the world warmer and vast tracts of land uninhabitable. That’s not what Trollope said, but we’ve had our Silent Spring moment with Trump’s refusal to sign the Paris Accord and Global Warming Agreement on fossil fuels. No one can make the super rich do what they want to do. Monopoly holders of data work by their own rules.

But the problem of making everyone else poor, with no work and no surplus value, as they’d say in Marxist ideology is when everyone’s poor and wealth accumulates with the super rich as Thomas Picketty showed in his constant rate of return in his model of Capitalism is stagnation. Not enough money to buy all these surplus goods. But, of course, there’ll be no money. Not as a store of value, but as a shifting energy equation, this will be related to land use and global warming. The problem will be how to find new ways of punishing the poor for being poor.

What is materially damaging to the rich will in an Orwellian way be regarded as an attack on equality of accord.  But I lack the scrivener’s art, the means to look into the future Willow. When I was growing up in the 1970s I never imagined the internet, but neither did I imagine Britain regressing to a state where the poor need to go to a church hall to get food to last them a few days, nor that so many children would be living in sub-standard housing and poverty. Four in ten children. I expected things to get better and I hope you’re not one of them. Outside this shiny vision of the end of scarcity is a dystopian vision. When poverty because a digital country and not an economic and social relationship then that’s where we’ll all live and only the rich will float above it.  We come into the world with nothing. We go out of the world with nothing, Willow it is compassion which makes us fully human. Live in the here and now and not in a simulation of now. That’s a different kind of Armageddon. The church my mum brought me up in called it limbo. It was a sin to be truely selfish.  Put yourself out on a limb, Willow. Dare to be you and not a slice of identifiable code.

 

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Shirzad Chamine (2012) Positive Intelligence. Why only 20% of Teams and Individual Achieve Their True Identity.

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It would be unfair to suggest I read Positive Intelligence with an open mind, or even read it, rather I flipped through it. I did read today’s report in The Observer by Harriet Sherwood, the headline of which is Top cleric says C of E reforms risk making it a ‘suburban sect’.  How does that apply to Shirzad Chamine’s New York Time’s bestseller?  Well, I’d argue that Positive Intelligence (PQ) which measure the percentage of your mind that is sabotaging you as opposed to  helping you is pseudoscience or just plain bullshit. ‘The great news is you can improve your PQ.’ You can minimise the Judge that rules your life and increase your Sagacity and empathise more. Win-Win. In other words, do unto other what you would do to yourself.

I’ll quote Sherwood here on the Church of England’s plans, but they could apply equally to PQ:

There seems to be no sagacity, serious science or spiritual substance to the curatives being offered.

Make no mistake Positive Intelligence tells you, like the Church of England or indeed Alcoholic Anonymous’ Big Book, how to turn your life around. Read, for example, the account of ‘Peter an entrepreneur’. He had wanted to make $10 million before his retirement. He was offered $125 million for his company, but turned it down because his college buddy had been offered $330 million. Late Peter became bankrupt. Peter is an asshole is the lesson I learned. I’m not great at empathising with people like him, but that is being judgemental. You need to ask yourself why you are being judgemental. Ask your Sagacity.

My Sagacity says fuck off.

Chamine points out in his research that ‘on average, able-bodied adults who become quadriplegic through an accident return to their baseline happiness’.

I thought I was poor and unhappy because I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet. Read that sentence again. Happiness has a baseline. Unhappiness too must have a baseline. I’m going to send away for one of those things you blow into when the cops arrest you and they say ‘sorry, pal, you’ve driving a car and you’re three times over the unhappiness limit’. You’re looking at a two year ban, put in the cells and beat up.’ Blow into the bag again. ‘look pal, you’re ten time over the limit, we need to cut your feet off and you’ve done this before so we’re cutting your fingers off. Are you happy now? See what you’ve made us do?’

If you look through Positive Intelligence peppered with stories that could have come straight from AA’s Big Book so you don’t need to read the PI book. ‘The Vicious Cycle’; ‘Women Suffer Too’; ‘Jim’s Story’; ‘The Man Who Mastered Fear’; ‘He Sold Himself Short’; ‘The Missing Link’; ‘My Chance to Live’; ‘Acceptance Was the Answer’; ‘Winner Takes All’.

I’m not asking you to read the Big Book or take the PI test, or read the New York Times bestseller. I’d just ask the kind of people that read books where they can slap themselves on the back and thing how they’ve created such a fine test and algorithm for measuring happiness to blow in that bag, pal and take a long hard look at themselves. Books are the answer because they can help us empathise with the other, the worker, the underlining, the refugee.

Anthony Trollope’s character had something to say in the nineteenth century in The Way We Live Now that has added bite in the twenty-first century. ‘People said of him that he had framed and carried out long and premeditated and deeply laid schemes for the ruins of those who had trusted him, that he had swallowed up the property of all who had come in contact with him, that he was fed with the blood of widows and children’.

Positive Intelligence is an argument for the placebo effect and for backslapping for those that own the top 100 US companies Chamine is writing and works for. These are not my people. This is not my book. Read. Read. Read widely and wisely. Then you’ll understand.