Reality Zombies – Intelligence Could Not Be More Artificial

Our pre-American forbears led lives of subsistence; work all day, every day for enough food to survive; prepare and eat the food; collapse into sleep; awake to the same exhausting challenges.  This work ethic and focus are a major part of what colonists brought to the New World, driven by the chance to own the land they work, hunt and fish the wilds about them, and live free of the crushing burdens of near-slavery as serfs, peasants, and servants.  They could not dream of a time that was not filled with all the efforts of pulling and putting together the pieces of life’s necessities.

Just meeting today’s needs was never enough. They could not afford to face the seasons unprepared. They had to be alert, to anticipate, prepare, learn, and plan for the cycles and dangers of nature; they had to be ready for the seasons, timing, preparing, sowing, harvesting, preserving, and storing of food: crops, fish, game, fruits; cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood, clothing, tools, weapons; sickness, injury, childbirth; shelter, stewardship of farm animals, and on, and on.

Except for a few times, when nature did not allow work, people, including children, worked, ate, and slept.  Church was a mandatory break for the work-cycle.  Not only did weekly Sunday services provide “leisure” time for peaceful, renewing, and moral guidance, but it also allowed for physical regeneration through rest; it fostered hygiene and discipline; it fostered family and community “leisure” and play.

This kind of all-absorbing farm life continued for most Americans until technology began its ascent.  Within a dozen decades, we expanded, invented, and produced, new tools, factories, mines, roads, bridges, harbors, waterways, and railroads.  Farmers and ranchers produced enough food to allow them to sell it to non-farmers, who earned the money in towns and cities.

“Money-crops” such as cotton, tobacco, wool, hides, and furs, fed the textile mills, the leather tanneries, and tobacconists; cash was used for things the farmer could not produce easily, such as cloth, dye, needles, pins, shoes, glass, pots, pans, jars, jugs, clocks, medicines, spices, firearms, gunpowder, swords, axes, shovels, scythes, harnesses, chains, hinges, nails, buttons, buckles, candles, lamps, and things we needed then that we no longer remember.

Non-farm work had start and stop times.  Workers arrived at a certain time, worked and ate at certain times, and left at certain times.  That meant the rest of the day was up to the workers to use as they chose.  Holidays became expected days of rest.  Merchants tailored shop hours to worker schedules, which gave them down time as well.

The Great Depression and World War II accelerated three trends:  migration to cities, training in trades, and advanced education.

They also introduced and promoted the first virtual technologies, telephone, phonographs, movies, radio, and television.  Costs, broadcast time and reception areas limited the time people spent talking, listening, and watching.  But the attraction was clearly evident.  People would plan their days and evenings around their favorite news and entertainment programs.  Trips to the movies were considered treats.

The return of prosperity brought expanding demand for all the virtual technologies.  One limit on these technologies was location: phonographs, telephones, radios, movies, and televisions were locations people had to attend to use.  One exception for police and fire fighters:  two-way radios mounted in vehicles.  World War II saw the advent of “walkie-talkies,” the conceptual and technical precursors of modern cellphones.

Car radios, and the transistor radios released the listener from having to find a radio, to having a radio with them

The 1950’s, and 60’s introduced computers to American Business.  Once again, computers were locations, entombed in rarefied environments defended by physical security, and complete ignorance of the general populous.

The 1980’s advent of “personal computers;” which were portable, with some effort.  All that was missing was connecting computers through telephone systems – the Internet, and connecting radios to telephones – cellular phones.  The catalyst for the connectivity we enjoy today was the cellphone, which erased any connection between phones and locations, and made people the locations for telephone numbers.

Televisions were limited by the stations that broadcast in their reception area.  Three major national TV networks evolved, connected by satellite to the world.  Connecting televisions directly to satellites, coaxial cables, and now the Internet, brought us out of “network-tv” into the 24/7 “cable-tv” era.

Once cellphones connected to the Internet and television, where we watch movies, we arrived to today, where the distinctions have almost completely blurred.  Likewise have our senses of reality.

Now, “friends” are not people we know, “social media” is anonymous and often anti-social.  “Gamers” give a whole new meaning to “WoW,” spending days lashed to their computers, dispensing with bathroom breaks, installing Mountain Dew, refrigerators, and cutting pizza delivery slots in their doors.

We already have an entire generation living in basements.  What is next?  Maybe evolution will soon give our species extended narrow thumbs for “Texting,” and dimmer judgement for “Sexting.”  Maybe someday, all our ogling will be “Googling.” Is the “Zombie Apocalypse” upon us with the living “undead?”  I wonder if Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence will converge into caskets, from which we never need emerge?  Will we live to see the rise of VARZI?

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Independence Every Day – Divorce Virtual Opioids

This is a great time to be alive in America.  The average American has a better life than kings, queens, and pharaohs of the past.  We are safer, live longer, are free to go where we want, and enjoy knowledge and experiences that would have astounded the world only a few decades ago.

One area that is encroaching on our freedom is the enticing addiction to the virtual world to the exclusion of the real, here and now world.  More, and more, I walk through crowds of “zombies” stuck in their phones, tablets, music, and video.  They are not really “here.”  The inattention to life has begun to dominate our culture.  Isolation from “real” family and friends is rapidly wearing down the social skills of our society members.

The siren attraction of the imaginations of others is sapping the development and practice of imagining for ourselves.  Children need that development as they grow up.  What kind of adults, parents, employees will people become if they have no experience of self-creation?  What will our culture become when all we have is “copies” of the excellent ideas generated by a few “imagineers.”

Try doing without the virtual toys and tools you spend so much time with for 24 hours:  No cell phones, tablets, pc’s, internet, cable tv, DVD’s or other electronics.  You will quickly find out what you have been missing, such as talking with your family, reading books, playing musical instruments, inventing things, fixing things, learning things, eating with people who are present and making conversation about your life and the people you love.

We had to fight for our independence as we started this nation.  Now is a good time to exercise total freedom from the seductive draw of virtual opioids.

CDC Gone Wild – Get the Real Monster

Highly publicized articles, including grandstanding lawsuits by states’ attorneys’ general are pandering to news hungry media and ignoring the pain inflicted on compassionate pain management. Death by dying method (drug overdose), without distinguishing source (legal vs. illegal) is a misleading abuse of authority and power.

The recent blitz campaign against opioid drugs is terribly flawed.  According to the latest official data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (as of 2015) more than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2015.  Sad, we lost fewer to drugs than to automobiles (38,000), plus homicide (16,000), and slightly fewer than those lost to suicides (43,000).

But of the 52,000, how many died of prescription drugs vs. illegal drugs?  Nearly, 30,000 (58%) died from prescription drugs, the balance of 22,000 (42%) died from illicit drugs.

Opioids include prescription drugs derived from opium (such as heroin), and synthetic drugs (e.g. fentanyl) which are both prescribed, and sold illegally (manufactured and sold to drug dealers).  These illegal synthetic opioids are largely responsible for the spike in overdose deaths, because they are 10 to 100 times stronger than morphine.  Drug dealers mix them with heroin or other drugs to enhance the strength.  The potency is often inconsistent and unknown to the user.  Illegal fentanyl is a popular additive which is 10 times stronger than morphine.  Even a slight mismeasurement is multiplied by 10.

CDC is foreclosing options for legal, and legitimate pain medicine, even though illegal drugs are aggravating the overdose statistics.  They are implying that doctors are responsible through overprescribing opioids to pain patients.  Pain management specialists, who deal with chronic pain patients are often ignoring real suffering by undertreating the pain to avoid criticism from the CDC.

Readers who have real spine and neck problems know what pain is, even after surgery and other efforts to repair the damage.  I have talked to people just beginning treatment and surgery, who are being given glorified Advil and other ineffective drugs, when what their pain indicates is opioids.  Some people do get addicted and abuse opioids.  I do not dispute that.  But, not everyone who takes pain medicine becomes an addict, even though they depend on the relief they get from their prescriptions.  Dependency is not the same as addiction.  It does not automatically lead to ever-increasing desire for more and more.

Carfentanil is the scariest invention yet.  10,000 more powerful than morphine, this relative of fentanyl has been a recent bogeyman for illicit drug users.  Primary producer:  China (recently banned).  This drug is meant to tranquilize elephants. As little as 20 micrograms will kill you.

This scary substance is, knowingly or unknowingly, used as a cheap booster for other illegal drugs, mostly out of Mexico.  Think you are buying heroin, or meth?  Think again.  Houston police recently seized what they thought was methamphetamine and found lethal amounts of carfentanil instead.

The old days of drug abuse are officially over with the advent of this drug.  The next terrorist attack could easily be a batch of white powder.  A car bomb or suicide vest filled with this drug could kill hundreds or thousands, including first responders.

The point, let legitimate pain-management doctors do their jobs; spend the millions of dollars now devoted to opioid suppression on the true shadow of death: illegal superopiods.

 

 

 

 

Available Care Act – Beyond “Coverage”

Much talk about insuring people for healthcare needs.  The giant bedpan in the room is availability.  What good is having Medicare, Medicaid, exchange plans, if you cannot find a doctor for hundreds of miles who will accept your provider’s coverage?  Just look.

The pundits talk about providing millions of people “access” to healthcare; however, they cannot explain why many of the “covered” still do what they did when they had no insurance, go the emergency room of the public hospital known to be the one that cannot turn them down.

Health insurers specify what they will cover and what the insured must pay, in terms of dollars and percentages.  What they do not spell out, is the amounts they are willing to pay the doctors and hospitals for various treatments.  The doctors and hospitals that are willing to accept the insurer’s terms are added to a “network.”  If the insured uses these doctors and hospitals, “in network,” the patient pays less; “out-of-network” providers, the insured pays much more.

Medicare, and the related private insurance plans are shunned by many healthcare providers because of the intense complexity of coding rules, poorer reimbursement rates, and 6-month slow-pay of claims.  I cannot blame them for wanting the easiest, most profitable patients, but look at what that does to retirees:  it shoves them into the offices of the newest, least experienced doctors, who do not have privileges at the best hospitals.

Another specious barrier doctors erect is “not accepting new patients.”  If that is true, why do they prominently promote their doctors, facilities, and services?  Why do they list the insurance plans they accept, on fancy websites?  What do they do when patients get well, move, change, outgrow their need, or die?  Who takes their places?  Are there waiting lists?  This policy seems wildly inconsistent, and dubious to me.

Today’s labyrinth of laws, maze of insurance coverages, intricacies of medical practice, incorporation of hospitals, vast array of medical devices, tests, and procedures, and incomprehensible myriads of drugs and medicines, are the starting point of future choices.  The concept of choosing your doctors, clinics, and hospitals still appeals to me.  If all health insurance policies must meet some minimum standards of coverage, why should health providers exclude any of them?

We have a historic opportunity to put features into the fabric of healthcare; the federal government has more incentives and flexibility to “get it right” as they formulate new laws.  Why not pass a new law called “The Available Care Act?”  If you accept anything except cash for medical services or goods, you accept the coverage of any patient who walks in your door.

 

Parents Addict Children – Screen Zombies

Parents put their babies in front of television and tablet screens to entertain and “babysit” them.  Parents and teachers believe children can advance their knowledge through computer “learning systems.” Parents surrender to the pressure from their preadolescent daughters for smartphones so they can text their friends and share activities through social media.  Children spend hours at their computers and tablets absorbed in online role-playing and video games.

The problem is these children can easily become lifetime addicts to their virtual worlds.  Notice the bent heads of children with their families in restaurants; they are not saying grace.  Check out kids in buses and the back seats of cars; how many are looking out the windows or talking to each other?

Listen for that faint buzzing sound in movie theaters, and watch the Pavlovian response of children who cannot resist answering voice and text messages no matter when or where they are.

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras is an expert in addiction and rehabilitation.  He paints a chilling picture of the futures of these children in his book “Glow Kids.”  He operates rehabilitation centers for drug and alcohol addiction.  The problem with “screen addiction” is there is no way to eliminate the “substance” from their environment; tech stimulations are everywhere, waiting for the addicts to notice and return to them.

The trance induced by these addictions is powerful; people can spend hours at the screen and be totally unaware of the passage of time or the events that happen around them; their lives have been hijacked, and that part of their lives is gone.

Social media addicts get emotionally engaged with people they never met, pictures of somebody’s lunch, and silent “verbal” exchanges. When I was growing up, if someone teased me or called me names, I was taught to say, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”, or “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.”, or “so are you.”  It really worked for me (except when sticks or stones, or fists or feet were actually employed.  THAT was what we called bullying;).

Now, kids are committing suicide in response to slurs or embarrassments.  Why would they do that? Think about it; no physical harm was done; a normal person would not react that way; it must be psychological; they would have to be addicts to respond that strongly to “cyberbullying.”  Not knowing about the addiction leaves most adult, non-addicts perplexed about what to do.  Instead of rehabbing and strengthening the psyche of the addict target, we try to outlaw bullying; what a thankless, futile waste of energy and time when dealing with children at that stage of development.

I defer to the experts on what to do and not do, but reading this book would not hurt your understanding of this problem.