It has been with measured alarm we watched the stock market fall in reaction to the corona virus and hearing the talking heads wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth at the effect the virus had in business, China and its long term effect on the supply chain. It seems that as the effects go ripping through the value of the stock market, that some economists are slow in learning the lessons that that this pandemic provides. At this writing it seems that the main victims of the virus, at least in China, are the elderly and the infirm. While this does have social implications, one can not ignore the economic consequences. Consider the loss of the elderly population in the United States, and the possible savings with the decrease of the aging economy- the amount in savings on social spending for this population could help decrease the federal debt as well as freeing up necessary housing for younger people with a greater work, and therefore tax paying life ahead of them. Also think of the jobs created with burying all the dead. In fact if we really wanted to ensure our economic stability, we should do away with leaving the dependency of economic success in the hands of mere mortals. Indeed, we should create consumer machines to take the job of consuming out of the hands of inconsistent people so that corporations could not only create products, they could create and program the robots that use them. A perfect closed loop in the ever upward spiral, unsullied by a messy and unpredictable consumer.
Here at the Galaxy, we try to keep a cool head, the Dow drops 800 points, we shrug. People put in cages, we don’t flinch. People of colour being used for target practice- what is new, we say. It was only the discovery of a BBC blog, How Much of Your Body is Your Own? that really made us stop and think. Once you enter some basic information, your birthday, height and weight, you can get an idea of the number of minerals in your body and the relative value of your body- elementally speaking. With the hydrogen in my body worth $1,147 – it got us thinking. As our capitalist system is based on the idea of exploiting resources since we are exploiting the earth’s natural resources, why are we not exploiting the human resources literally at our fingertips? (The very title of the article makes us clear, how much of our body is our own- perhaps we are just borrowing it from the powers that be) Why should we tax corporations to provide a universal living wage so that we can continue to purchase the dross they provide us with when we can exploit our own personal wealth to keep the system going? We are finding ways to renegotiate our life support wages, paying weekly as opposed to bi-weekly so that we have the cash to spend sooner- life is short after all- and we already have a system in place for collateral-based loans, why not use our bodies as our collateral? Indeed, for many of us, they are truly the only value that we have if we don’t have the education, inherited wealth or power or good fortune to become a YouTube sensation for our ability earn clicks or tweets.
We have two kidneys, why not pawn one or better yet sell one so that we can have the latest I phone or pay our rent. Why not get an advance on the value of the elements in our bodies so that we can continue to keep the ever-upward spiral of capitalism going? We can already make a market in bone marrow, hair and even feces so why not? In fact, why should we not farm body parts as we farm the earth, we already sell our plasma and our blood, why not kidneys, livers and even body parts to those who can pay for them? We are already doing it when we are dead but why wait when we can still purchase things- honestly, isn’t that what we are here for?
It was with a slightly raised eyebrow that I read the definition of privacy as a human right. As we stumble blindly forward into a world of artificial intelligence and robotics all raising questions of rights and responsibilities of (and to) electronic beings, perhaps, we should also re-examine what rights a human should have. For those who have missed the discussion here, there is an ongoing debate in Europe as to the legal and “human” rights that we should extend to the silicon-based forms that we seem to be creating (to call them life forms seems to step into a quagmire we still are unable to admit exists, let alone being a venue for discussion). It seems that one can not turn around without seeing a slogan or sign that Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives matter or that any number of people matter and yet this seems mere lip service. How willing we are to turn a blind eye to the idea that schoolchildren matter and perhaps turning schools into shooting rangers might not be the best way to express that value. We seem to be working to keep drugs out of our country yet can’t seem to react to the fact that our doctors and drug companies are creating prescription addicts to enhance their bottom line.
The only rights we seem to be respecting are, the governments right to act in whatever way it wishes, the right for large businesses to act in whatever way they deem appropriate to make the largest profit with the least responsibility to anyone other than themselves or their shareholders. We allow credit card purchases to be made online, even allow our personal information to be held online but we couldn’t allow voting to occur via computer even though we can not verify the sanctity of those records.
We seem to be falling over ourselves to trample over the cloth of purple that we claim to esteem, all but blind to our hubris as we are lulled in another warm bath.
And a brilliant mix by Mikestro Music and Eric Thomas
In everyone’s life, in some way, you come to a place you say about something you are doing or not doing- is this really worth it? Malcolm Gladwell calls that the tipping point, or “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” at which change becomes either obvious or inevitable. It happens to all of us and in all sorts of situations, that moment when you realize that change is inevitable and perhaps the only choice. It seems that wiser minds than mine have come to this conclusion, as when I read in the BBC that African nations have begun to worry about the risk of job loss in Africa as robots automate many processes that can be brought back to the US or other nations and not depend on the cheap labour force that Africa and other nations have provided. Those who deride the coming economic disaster, suggest that if only the African nations would educate their children in the magic world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), all problems would be solved. These children would rise along with all the other stem fed children to ascend into the light of a technological new day. But don’t worry, for those who are left behind by the ever upward spiral of capitalism, there is always the promise of the universal basic income, a salary for everyone at the cost of social services, so that even those of us who are misplaced in this economic game of musical chairs can receive money to live and, of course, buy things to keep the whole spiral going. Yet, what happens to people with no other purpose than to consume to keep an antiquated and harmful system running? What is the meaning of a life that is only based on our ability to consume? What happens when we reach our tipping point and realize that we are no better than veal calf’s being fattened to make our masters fatter.
In my brief study of the dull science of economics I seem to remember only a few things- one of them being Adam Smith’s talk of the “ever upward spiral of capitalism”. Inherent in this phrase was the idea that progress was always taking us to higher and higher triumphs. I remember feeling a bit doubtful about this balloon like ascension and was surprised to see that someone is also applying that feeling to the ever upward spiral of technology.
In his 2010 book, “The Shallows”, Nicholas Carr argues that this increasing ease that technology gives us may be making us dumber rather then smarter or better. I am fascinated by his point but it makes me wonder if we are not painting ourselves into an evolutionary corner? I remember the moralistic science fiction movies I watched growing up about how in the future men had grown weak and allowed machines to take over their lives making them slaves to the computers they had made. Is it possible that we are giving our challenges that make us evolve and grow to computers and will one day find ourselves helpless looking at our electronic creations to set us free?