Wednesday, August 26, 2020

What is a Moral Act?

In order to answer such a question we should first define terms. 

Moral often is equated to ethical. However, I sense in the word moral unusefully implies some inherent and universal good exists. Moral relativism highlights the weakness of chasing absolutism. As such, I prefer the term ethical if only to downplay any measure against a slippery, imaginary absolute. 

Divorced from an implied absolute ethical assessment can proceed.  The paradigm of goodness can be fluid, but more importantly requires explicit explanation. As examples Christian ethics, secular humanist ethics, and global biodiversity ethics name different ideologies that connect to specific paradigms of goodness, sometimes at conflict with each other as well as internally. 

To act is easier to define, though still with its subjective side. An action exercises ones agency with intent of effecting a change of some kind. Willful inaction arguably is acting at times, though any one person or organization can not possibly act on all concerns. Thus, to say that an entity failed to act can meaningfully be challenged. 

Putting the two together, the question "what is a moral act?" is unhelpful rhetoric.  If we phrase "what is an ethical act?" is better phrased, but needs to be connected to a specific ideology or world stance. Still, as with so much in life, this means we need to have an extended conversation to discuss the particulars. Only then can we evaluate whether individual or communities action conforms to the associated ethical standards. 

The challenge, of course, is to find the best, trade-off actions that pursues positive short-term and long-term outcomes. In other words, the ends justify the means AND the means justify the ends. 

If we are successful at this challenge, then shared ethical progress has a chance.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Battling the Cancer of Human Society

What is cancer exactly? When cells within an organism replicate incorrectly and in unchecked fashion. Normally the immune system targets and removes cancerous cells preventing cellular system metastasis which over time can lead to bodily function failure and death when one or several systems perform below nominal. 

Civilization and the Earth's biomes are analogous to competing organisms; one might push that analogy to represent symbiotic cells in a single larger global organism. If the right balance can found, all planetary life might thrive in synergy.

Alas, human society has become a monoculture of unbridled success to the detriment of the many global biomes that have generally thrived for millions of years. In mere centuries, the human economic power has been unleashed, culminating in free market capitalism. This economic ideology in particular has failed to sufficiently value the health of the biomes as it expands with ferocity. 

Science has provided insight that has fueled this expansion, while noting in passing how global biomes are failing while human population and consumption continue, exacerbating the damage. 

Speculatively, a mindful, compassionate civilization would prioritize significant evidence-based policy to re-establish and maintain the long-term synergy of the planet. Then, humans can thrive alongside all the ecosystems of Earth. 

Unfortunately, misguided systems of thinking have undermined the ability for society to implement an effective policy feedback loop. Magical thinking modes that incorporate religious myth, unscientific thinking, human over-valuation, and biome undervaluation have resulted in a runaway cancer-like process that continues to severely reduce overall planetary health. 

Ideally, evidence-based education can be deployed as a vaccine-like remedy. Sadly, the goal of most human education at its core remains individual success that contributes to the runaway free market system alongside misguided ideological indoctrination. If human civilization expansion and consumption continue, there is no doubt the planetary balance will fail, and a severely unhealthy, perhaps dying world will result.

If the Earth is to remain healthy, acting in unison to improve and maintain the Earth's health needs to become the primary task of  Earth creatures. To that end, of the Earth's species only humans have the capacity of mind and action to lead such global health stewardship.

As individuals and communities we can reduce our footprint and increase our participation in evidence based policy and education to pursue a healthy global outcome. Elsewise, the cancer of current societal norms will spread ever further, weakening this amazing world we belong to. Indeed, it is unlikely the Earth will die outright in the short term, but that does remain a possibility. Still, without significant change, it will gradually become a ghost of its former self edging ever closer to a multi-monoculture of humans and vast prisons of the species we feed on.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Opening Arguments Rush Cover Songs

One of the best podcasts out there is Opening Arguments featuring Andrew Torrez and Thomas Smith. They explore legal stories that affect us all with thoughtfulness and levity. To that humorous end, Andrew has implied Rush isn't exactly his favorite band, alas it is mine, so I've taken the challenge to mash up a couple songs to honor Andrew and Thomas, and just perhaps bring them over into the "Rush is awesome" camp. 

(And, yes Thomas, a few of their older songs have an Ayn Rand spin to them, but so many of their songs incorporate science-minded, humanistic values...from Closer to the Heart to Red Tide to High Water to Faithless to Dreamline)

Optimus Sawyer

A modern-day lawyer-er
Mean, mean stride
Optimus Sawyer
Mean, mean elide
Though his points are relevant
Don't put him down as reverent
His reserve, a quiet defense
Debating the day's events
And Muller...
What you say about his amĭcus, brief
Is what you say about liberty
Catch the jist
Catch the just
Catch the judiciary
Catch the judge
The Law is, the Law is
Truth and life are deep
Maybe as his eyes are wide
Optimus Sawyer, he gets high on you
And the court he invades, he argues for you
No, his points are relevant
To the Constitution and government
Always hopeful, yet discontent
He knows changes aren't permanent
Stare decisis!
And what you say about his amēcus brief
Is what

The Spirit of Clownhorn

Begin the day
With a friendly curse
An expletive, unobtrusive
Play that clownhorn that's so effusive
And the clownhorn music makes the morning mood
Off on your frackin' way
Hit the freakin' road
There is clownhorn on your fingers
And the spittle ever lingers
Unrelenting god-smack
In your clownhorn solitude
Aweful airwaves
Cursing with life
Angry exclamations bristle
With the energy
Emotional outburst
On a clownhorn wavelength
Bearing a vile word at any price
Almost never clean
All this obscenity
Making clownhorn music
Can still be open-farted
Not so clownhorn thwarted
It's really just a question
Of your profanity, yeah, your profanity
One likes to believe
In the clownhorn of clownhorn
But clownhorning clownhorns
And clownhorn clownhorns
Create the impression
Of decency,

Friday, August 21, 2020

States of Change Chapter 29: Hawkeye (Iowa)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged unique societies from revolutionary technology and ideology
Beneath an August night sky, three forms wend their way across lowland forest in the wild of Iowa's Paleozoic plateau. The cloudless galactic dome showers starlight upon them. 

"You two don't know what you're missing. Biological night vision has been a tribal legacy for millennia. It may be evolutionary but with practice it's a skill that honors the shared memories of our ancestors."

Sepera alone wears only the fully traditional garb of the Kipopo, from her beaded headband down to hand sewn moccasins she made herself.  Quetz and Coy Wolf on the other hand have no qualms about using modern gear, including imported visARs which provide, among numerous custom app features, enhanced infrared and low-light overlays.  

For nearly thirty years Iowan tribal customs have evolved along a variety of paths for each of the twenty-six resident tribes. Most harbor open disdain for modern technology preferring self-sufficiency over the corrupting influence of economic capitalism. That isn't to say tribe reparation accounts don't fund up-to-date medical and educational programs for all Iowans, still only half a dozen tribes dabble in the full on modernity of augment tech. Nevertheless, as members of different tribes, these three have banded together to fulfill their coming of age mission, to collect evidence of the most elusive Iowa wildlife. With sufficient documentation, they will earn passage into adulthood.

"Respect to your anti-tech choices, Sepera," whispers Coy Wolf. "But recall, our paths cross on this vision quest not only to garner honor but also to grow interdependence and acceptance among our tribes."

Quiet, che'yunyenos! Acoustic anomaly to the northeast. Possible predator presence within range 100 - 200m.

In the Algonquian sign language they share, Coy Wolf passes to Sepera the message Quetz sent on their visAR internal feed. He leaves out the 'stray dog' pejorative.

Quetz scans the area then leads the group forward. For Sepera's offline benefit he then signals guidance the takes them around a small pond toward the hopeful target area. The footpath is visible as a dark swath in the moonless night, yet the recent rain makes the clay soil slick. Huron tracking training notwithstanding, Coy Wolf loses his footing on a muddy patch. He catches his fall grabbing out to a nearby sapling but the resulting extended rustling transforms the living white noise of the night into unnatural silence. Two moments pass, then three, when two bleats issue from further back in the undergrowth followed without warning by three white tail dear bounding in thumps through the brush off to North.
Sepera beams then signs confirmation her sighting of two doe and a fawn to her male companions."No need for silence now. You're skill at flushing out game is epic, CW." Quetz chortles shaking his head. The outburst breaks hours of silence for Quetz. Touching the visAR control at his temple, he adds, "that surely spooked anything within two clicks of here. Still, adding three deer to our list is a boon.  How about we take a break."

Quetz's tribe, the Sauk are focused pragmatists. During the occupation, his people patiently fought for tribal justice within Oosa's legal system. Now, most Sauk have turned in their law degrees to pursue plant-based subsistence off the land. Still, they don't fret over acquiring outdated paramilitary gear to support Iowa's restoration efforts. The Huron, Coy Wolf's people, in contrast have much higher financial standing, not only from past casino deals. They prefer outfitting themselves in an aesthetic closer to the authentic Iowan norm. The latest synthetic materials and microtech are Huron standard.

"As you like it Q. I have to take a leak anyways." As Coy Wolf disappears in search of a tree, he notes over his shoulder, "maybe when the Moon rises we'll have better chances at syncing with our totem spirits anyway."

"I agree," adds Sepera. "Tpukizes' guiding light will serve as an honorable harbinger in celebration of Repatriation Day."
"Wait. Sep, don't the Kickapoo still feel great ill toward Old Whitey? I thought acknowledging the five century occupation in any way was beneath your tribe's dignity."

"Yes Quetz. We do spurn all things western including neo-tech but the anointed among my village are schooled in Iowa's heritage, so we never forget the evils of the past and the sacrifices we made in the journey to the present."

"Well does any of your Kickapoo heritage say anything about where we might find a ghost lynx or prairie fox out here. Hell, I'd settle for a cloned barred owl at this point to boost our wildlife count."

"Kipopo legend favors the hunter who is hungry. The plateau is large and its environment by and large healthy, but you know that as well as I do. Perhaps a better epithet is to follow our fellow Huron's creed: victory rises like the sun in those with patient hearts."

"Yeah, I guess we have much to learn from each other, whether it takes another day or ten. Though, I still don't understand why your tribe insists on hunting, especially the beaver and raccoon that have taken decades to restore to sustainable populations."

"Quetz, my blood, and yours too, is inseparable from those who came before us. To ignore our ancestors' ways is to forget the experience of living on the land."

"The Sauk don't forget, we just recognize change is sometimes necessary, otherwise we can get stuck in our past."

Coy Wolf chooses that moment to stumble from the brush, raising his hand to signal, "Sorry. Patience with me."

Then all three signal silently simultaneously, "Stand together." Each youth grins with the good energy of the moment and in unison they look up to the glittery canopy of stars.

In time, night sounds creep back into the open space around them. Cricket song dances at the fringe and peepers loudly proclaim their desire to mate. Then as the moon peeks above the distant rolling hills a howl ululates across the plateau. The future looms bright.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Judgment and Acceptance: Subtle Allies?

Acceptance seems to be the de facto heart of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself." On the surface it seems reasonable, but in an earlier post I refined that somewhat slippery, perhaps even tyrannical commandment into The Platinum Rule: "Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves" and further into Rule One: Do Unto Others As Agreed Upon In Good Faith. Those both felt to me like more thoughtful ethical directives which underscore the consideration of others' points-of-view a bit more explicitly (as in by having a conversation with them first) before taking perceived ethical actions. 

Arguably, humans are the only species to comprehend fully the abstraction of such a directive, but it often goes without saying, that the "others," "themselves" and "yourself" are also assumed to be human. Our species allegedly stands in value above all other species, each of us possessing an imagined, sacred "soul," that lofty metaphor lacking any evidence while transforming humans into super-natural beings uniquely connected with something eternal, holy, invisible and unsupportable. 

To combat such hubris, the rational vegan in me wishes for a further refinement to the be-all end-all credo. Let's call it The Living Rule: "Do unto other living things as they would have done unto themselves (with reason and compassion engaged)." 

I add the parenthetical to emphasize there will always be nuance to tailor to the situation. For instance, should the target individual desire a sadistic or masochistic experience then action must take into consideration whether their desire affects themselves or others; or is killing other living things necessary, say, to sustain ones own life. 

Which brings us back around to "Judgment." As much as "Acceptance" may feel like the epitome of permitting other living things to exercise their liberty, such a position still engages judgment to make that stand. Unless a being is in as state of such bliss so as not to want to evaluate the ethical underpinnings at all, then a ethical judgment will be made. To be a pure "Accepting" being is to be a being driven by instinct or external physical laws alone.

And so, some paradigm of "Judgment" must be engaged to assess ones own behavior and that of others, and to then decide, ideally with reason and compassion, what actions might be best taken. Certainly, a myriad of variables enter into that judgment process as influenced by biology, community, economics, and belief. Such is the interface of ideal and reality.

To that ends, I propose the best path to good decision making and good policy building is to employ good judgement using evidence-based systems together in our communities. Acceptance in reality might be leveraging kindness no matter what our judgments might be. Such undertakings will always be an ongoing challenge with many moving parts to assess, design, refine and implement. The goal to achieve big picture paths forward for individuals, ecosystems and planet. Indeed, this is in its own right a lofty aspiration for our civilization. Stewardship for all in our world present and future, where we carefully cultivate goodness in ourselves and each other. 

Maybe we could label that particular abstraction "love?"

Thursday, August 6, 2020

States of Change Chapter 28: Friendship (Texas)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged unique societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.

For the second year in a row, the finals of Amarillo's debate tourney pits two long-time augment bubble colleagues against each other. The arbiter AI measures their experience and track record and then announces the proposition. 

"Today's debate between Wei Le Sanchez and Timithia Wong asserts that ancestor worship is not an effective life philosophy." 

Nearly ten thousand virtual onlookers across Amerasia stream the feed, most from the Texas Ed Collective as assigned by their augment bubble committees. Wei Le opens her argument in favor of the proposition. 

"Thank you, arbiter. I'll concede from the start that human evolution research indicates familial and tribal instincts are part of our programming makeup. In addition, what we learn from our parents and elders establishes our life mindset to a great degree. Still the vast majority of knowledge and wisdom has been generated, refined and upkept by those of our species distantly related to us. Indeed, the current generation of humanity, being the stewards of our communities and planet, must continually adjust and validate those lessons learned independently of their origin. In the past, worldwide cultures too often have put faith in ancestor conclusions and priorities that came before them, resulting in bad outcomes. I admit some respect ought to be allotted to our ancestors, to acknowledge their efforts and the role genetic inheritance plays in our lives. Nevertheless those gifts are mostly serendipitous, and we should not be afraid to reject completely ideas that were accepted by our parents from their parents. Whether it be conquest, racism, capitalism, or god worship, it is our duty to strike down injustice and bad data so that civilization can progress. Conversely, ancestor worship represents the epitome of moving backwards. Sure, let's respect our parents, not by blind admiration, but by taking the baton from them and forging a future better than they permitted themselves to imagine."

Across Texas, the debate has been trending in real-time, in part due to a handful of influencers that have taken next-gen advocacy to heart. Acknowledging this, Timithia consults the mixed response infographics on her VisAR and counters the opening argument with a solid retort. 

"On the face of it, the phrase 'ancestor worship' has a harsh tone to it. However, the respect of our elders is the true baton that needs to be passed on for our society to remain effective and strong. The great State of Texas demonstrates how for decades now the cultural celebration of Eastern culture instilled by our elders has been beyond successful to numerous standards . Were our grandparents not to have organized the Zhuānzhù to bring Americans of Asian heritage to our State, the fall of Oosa would have likely suppressed the accumulated knowledge our ancestors, throwing Texan society into a cultural plague. Without our ancestor's effort the Second Enlightenment that thrives strong here would never have occured. And so, though I agree the future of our State and its impact across the planet are the current generation's responsibility, we must keep the sacred nature of our ancestry strong so as to ensure their legacy carries forward in the minds of our children and grandchildren."

Online, the debate's popularity has achieved historic popularity. Queued views have almost ensured it will reach viral status. Wei Le concedes internally that this proposition won't be resolved today, still the importance of the topic inspires her to take a different tact.

"Your points have some merit, and I agree we should respect our elders, but more importantly we should reject their less desirable notions. This is the antithesis of worship. Worship, by its very nature, surrenders critical thinking and progressive ethical considerations to the wayside just as the guru religions have. Do we want to end up in the mindless throes of a near-theocratic state like Oosa or the African Order? Furthermore, Oosa is the ancestral nation-state of the Texan Commonwealth. Does it deserve respect and admiration? To be sure, I don't deny the notion that a historical paradigm forgotten is one damned to recur. So, by all means like Newton, we can stand on the shoulders of giants before us, but rather than celebrate the turtles that recede below, let us unfurl our wings and soar much higher."

Timithia consults the dynamic net-critique projections. Virtual onlooker statistics swirl in turmoil, indicating high uncertainty in demographic subgroup alignment with the proposition. Even though polarization across Amerasian districts have only shifted modestly away from societal norms, she shifts her response technique to circle up the outliers.

"Seriously? The idea that Oosa was our ancestor is an utterly false analogy. If anything, the vitriolic atmosphere of that country disregarded its enlightenment ancestry outright. And the fact it did so to turn a profit for its elite for generations, that is what encouraged our elders, elders of every station I might add, to look to Eastern culture and its deep respect for their ancestors to bring stability to our society. Only by drawing upon the teachings of Lao Tzu, Siddartha and Confucius were they able to solidify the governing communities of Texas into a peaceable whole. In as much as their teachings aren't infallible, they embody deeply good teachings that deserve to be passed down like blood bringing oxygen to the the flesh of our future. Remember, great ideas are but abstractions destined to wither alone. They will only thrive if they are conveyed down the generations in the sinews and synapses of humankind. So perhaps we need to redefine worship as a sacred deference to what we find important as a society. Surely our ancestors sacrificed their lives enough to deserve that much, so that we might honor them, following the essence of their desires with integrity."

The arbiter's mellifluous voice interjects. "Wonderful thoughts both, delightfully capturing the core of Amerasian principles especially in regards to respectful, heartfelt parley. You now each have thirty seconds to conclude."

Wei Le inhales, waving away the statistical sidebar on her VisAR.

"It should be clear. The worship of ancestors is a completely outdated paradigm. Further, worship is a term that ought to be retired to the fiction shelves just like god, magic and supply-side economics. If you believe that ethical ideas are as immutable as quarks, then we are as lost as the Judeo-christian culture was lost to their perceived moral righteousness. If you believe that the future of Texas and of the planet depend on the best human reason and compassion have to offer, then I kindly ask you to support the proposition that ancestor worship is not an effective world view."

Timithia smiles inwardly, if only for being able to put the last word in.

"My colleague would have you believe the current generation can stand strong without the accumulated wisdom that our ancestors refined over millennia. Of course, thinking reasonably and compassionately for yourself is beneficial, but without drawing upon the experience and connection to our elders, our society will indeed be destined down the path that Oosa wandered, down a path to fracture, malevolence and self-destruction. In the end, the proposition that our ancestors deserve respect at the level of worship has deeply good and meaningful roots. We simply should never forget where we came from if we want to walk forward with confidence."

The online commentary, and arbiter scoring proceeds with typical fanfare. After the arbiter announces the winner, it closes the stream leaving the channel open for the debaters per long tradition. Wei Le and Timithia face each other virtual eye to eye.

"A bit of grandstanding I must say, but a solid debate! So, hey, are we still on for some tennis tomorrow?"

"It'll be a hot one, but no rain means we got game! I'll bring the balls, if you bring some of your family's famous dragon punch. That and we both agree to leave our arguments in the locker room."

They both laugh.

"Done. Sayonara!"