Saturday, June 15, 2013
In the movie series "The Terminator", a futuristic military computer network designed with the ability to learn, does exactly that. The rate of learning grows exponentially to the point that it scares the human operators, who attempt to shut it down. Sensing this as an attack, and humans as a primary threat, it launches a nuclear attack at Russia with the knowledge that this (and the imminent response) will alleviate the human threat. Next, they unleash the shiny smiling robots to deal with the survivors...
I haven't noticed any mushroom clouds, nor have I been chased by any homicidal amalgam alloy robots masquerading as police officers (well... not lately anyway), but I think we're now at the mercy of an entity which very much resembles Skynet.
As is often the case, the most insidious enemies aren't always the most obvious or the easiest to attack. In our case, they've fostered a dependence upon themselves which is at its worst in the "first world" industrialized countries. Nobody wants to "bite the hand that feeds you", right? Never mind the fact that we've lived just fine without them for 99.999% of our time on the planet.
Perhaps even worse is the fact that they've developed the ability to control our thoughts while making most of us think that we've arrived at our opinions independently. In what amounts to a global case of stockholm syndrome, we actually like our captors.
We're all much more sheep-like than we like to admit. Most of our opinions are arrived at through careful observation of our peers (actual or perceived) rather than through individual thinking. This enemy tells us who our peers are and what "they" think. Have you ever noticed the regular use of the term "some people say..."? Advertising-supported media is their mouthpiece. Look at the advertisers, and you'll see who controls your television programming and "news".
Just like Skynet, our invisible nemesis is attempting to exterminate us, as McKibben succinctly points out. We'd be able to fight back if we could identify this fact, but most of us can't. Our enemy is far too clever to allow that -- and takes great pains to make sure we remain unaware.
Unlike Skynet, however, our enemy isn't really self aware. Though comprised of actual humans, it more closely resembles a dumb robot. At any given time, this Franken-monster is singularly focused on the maximization of shareholder returns for the next 90 day period, to the point that it engages in activities which are ultimately detrimental to its continued existence. That would be a comforting flaw if it weren't going to take us out first.
What's the best way to fight back, assuming you've successfully identified this enemy? The first and most obvious (and most difficult) answer is to stop purchasing their products. That means just about any manufactured good. Gasoline. Travel. Cheap plastic crap from China. Clothes made in places like this. The best answer is often to go without. Short of that, grow or make your own. And if that's not possible, buy the expensive stuff made locally, or by the smallest company you can find. As I said -- doing the right thing is never easy. This will take more time and money than any of us have. There will be compromise.
The next step? Stop investing in your enemy. Most folks I know are heavily invested in their own demise, whether through direct stock ownership or hidden in mutual funds in a 401k or IRA. I know -- some of us are completely dependent upon investments for personal income, but at the very least, try to avoid investing in fossil fuel companies. Not in control of your own pension fund investments? Write them a letter. They won't listen, but might if yours is one of thousands. Get your city or university to divest, as many are now doing.
Posted by David Veale