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Sunday, 30 July 2006

The Singularity / The Rapture

Futurists and Science Fiction types talk a lot about the Singlularity which is a future event where there is sudden and complete change. Optimists see this as a positive thing: we'll have a super-smart AI fix everything for us, or we'll be able to upload our brains into super-fast computers and grow new bodies so we can keep reloading and thus never die or something really techy and cool will happen.

I think the tech problems we'll supposedly suddenly solve are NP-complete. The first 90% is the first 90% of the work and the last 10% is the next 900%, if it's even solvable. Frankly, I don't see much cause for optimism about technology because the economy is doomed. The US dollar is being kept afloat by foreign investors. More than 60% of the US is in drought. There's dust bowl conditions in the Dakotas. When the dollar finally collapses, the US is not (yet) so irrelevant that it won't ripple out and possible cause a world-wide economic recession or depression. (The difference between the US and the third world right now is infrastructure and infrastructure only. How's your power grid doing?)

Ack, dust bowl and recession (and hotter weather)! What can get us out of this disaster? What worked last time? War. Fortunately, we've got plenty of war.

I've been told several times that this conflict in Lebanon is very nuanced. It's important to understand the subtlety of flattening the infrastructure of a sovereign country that's been free of foreign occupation for all of what- 6 months now? It's certainly difficult to grasp a morality where a rich country has caused 20-25% of it's poor neighbor country to become refugees (not hiding in bomb shelters for a little while, more like homeless). I wouldn't want to jump to conclusions when I read that Israel is targeting civilian radio antennas in residential areas for bombing. Nor would I want to have un-nuanced ideas about bombing shelters used by families and killing 20 kids with one bomb. Maybe the way to figure out the morality in this nuanced conflict could be, say, to look at how many people have been killed and displaced on each side and the level of economic devastation (say as percentage of GDP) and the likely-hood of whether either side will turn into a failed state afterwards due to infrastructure damage. I bet number like that could provide a clearer moral picture of this very nuanced situation. Because blowing kids to bits with bombs from overhead isn't barbaric, only beheading people in front of a video camera is barbaric, so it would be wrong to judge based on a purely visceral reaction to horrible suffering inflicted by a US proxy state.

Of course, the US is urging a diplomatic solution and is completely neutral as it rushes order of bombs to Israel, you know, to go with all those bombs, jets, guns, tanks, and military equipment that we already gave them.

Many folks in the US don't want peace, alas. Something like 40% of Americans believe that the End Times are upon us. The world is about to end, they think. They look to the Book of Revelations in the Bible and try to work out the utterly bizarre symbolism. Part of this strange symbolism and confusing book includes a warning of a "peacemaker" who is actually the anti-Christ. So somebody who brings about peace in the middle east is actually completely evil and to be opposed at all costs. Jesus says, very clearly, in the Beatitudes "Blessed are the peacemakers" but a confusing, later book which is not a record of Jesus' speech and life says peacemakers are bad, so I guess the bible's position on peace is very clear. It's bad. This is why Jesus cheered Peter on when he cut off the ear of the roman soldier in the garden on Holy Thursday.

There's good news, though! The Rapture is coming! All the saved Evangelicals will be sucked directly to heaven in one moment. They get to skip the war, the drought, the plague and all the other bad things and death itself. One moment, they'll be sitting at their desks, driving their cars, piloting airplanes, cooking dinner when suddenly! Fwoosh! They go straight to heaven! After that, a secular world government forms and there's no more war, plus all the Evangelicals are gone. (The Virgin Mary prophisized 1000 years of peace, I don't know how this fits into the Evangelical world view.) After they've been sucked out, their cars and planes will all be unpilotted and crash and the cooking ones' kitchens will catch fire, but I see this as a net win. Peace. Secular government. Gay rights. George Bush divinely removed from office. It can't come soon enough.

So we're either headed for a Singularity, a world wide depression or the Rapture. Something big - either with a Deus-ex-machina or without. Maybe we'll have all three and the Singularity will just be for the rich and unpious. The Rapture contingent even have a date: August 3rd, 40 days after the Israeli soldiers were captured. Do pets get raptured? They say all dogs go to heaven. It would suck if all the dogs disappeared. Cats won't though, so it's up to the Evangelic pet owner to be prepared. Invite your unsaved friends over for lunch at your house on August 4th. Sometime before August 3rd begins in Jerusalem's time zone, tape a note to your door explaining to your friends that you've been raptured and they should try to find homes for your pets. That way your pets won't be left for more than a day. If it turns out that you're also unsaved, just take down the note the morning of the 4th.

I really like life. I don't want to get raptured, because that's the end of life. (I also don't want to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. Why would people want to escape life?) You have to pretty upset with your life to be actively wishing for it to be over. I feel bad for people who are happily marking their calendars and writing notes about cat-care. Please, get therapy. Learn to see how conflict and death are bad things. Also, ride your bike to your therapists office and don't take your hummer. It's hot enough.



Jean Sirius said...

i was with you right up to the last. "conflict and death are bad." no. without death, the world would be in *way* worse shape than it is. and without conflict, people never learn to understand each other. blowing up babies: bad. conflict: healthy, useful.

Polly Moller said...

The Rapture coming on the day of your gig would definitely add a Fluxus element.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to get raptured, I just washed my car.

You know even Ronald Reagan called the Isreal and said knock this off at some point, and they did stop bombing. Crap even Reagan. I never thought I would miss that rouge face but I do now.


Les said...

Jean, as usual, is right. However, state-level armed conflict and violent death are both bad things, and what I meant to refer to, not conflict and death in general.