This is a bad, bad text, written by a bad, bad person, a godless person, an infidel, a gentile, a heathen. Religious believers could be offended and should avoid reading it. Every one else is cordially invited to read also the blog post A short guide for non-believers as a basic reference.
Easter Sunday morning, it is heavily snowing and everything is covered with a solid layer of snow. I always dreamt of white Easter (“where the tree tops glisten, and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow”).
The little cat boy Gandhi is sleeping on my lap, the paws folded over his eyes. This is the first spring in his life, so he doesn’t know how the climate was in the past. He probably can remember the happy times in fall when the birds were still twiddling and the meadows were green and not white.
The other cats are laying on the window sills, looking out onto the winterly scene and wondering. Sometimes they look at me somehow reproachful. They probably think the I, being the master of all resources, should now take some serious steps to change the climate and make spring finally arrive.
Winter, and winter like spring is a hard time for little cats, it is a hard time for everybody else too. I just calculated how long our supplies would last, if this would go on and on endlessly without spring and summer ever arriving. The current weather pattern gives me an idea what a “nuclear winter” would be like.
Following my meandering associations I just imagined what could happen if Israel would attack Iran with a few tactical nuclear bombs. And Iranians, in possession of some nukes, that a faction of the Pakistani military was able to secretly pass them, in retaliation would send the nukes south via Shahab 4 missiles. Tel Aviv, Haifa, Nazareth, Ramla, Ashdod, Beersheba, Dimona would be in ruins, meaning practically the end of the Israeli state. The surviving Israeli military would of course send all remaining operational nuclear warheads on its way to Iran and the surrounding Arab countries, killing many millions of Iranians and Arabs and causing a massive nuclear winter which could last for years, if not for decades.
I’m not sure if it makes any sense to prepare for a nuclear winter, but I have stocked up essential supplies in preparation of the not completely unlikely breakdown of the global financial system and the inevitably following economic crash. First the cat food: There are a number of 10 kg bags of dry food and some paletts of can food in the cellar, which should last for about a year, maybe even longer, if the cats are able to utilize frozen caucuses of dear in the forest. For me there are drawers full of rice, lentils, almonds, pumpkin seeds, a lot of dried fruits and berries. That should also last about a year.
Fire wood is not a problem, I can easily collect it in the forest right across the small road.
What would happen after this year? I don’t know, but one thing is sure: I would never slaughter my feline friends, I would share with them all supplies and maybe they would share with me the frozen caucuses that they are able to find in the forest.
It is Easter Sunday, and the Pagans (or are it the Christians?) celebrate the cult of Easter by walking around in slow processions, carrying banners, holy relicts, and other items of religious worship. They celebrate the resurrection of Dionysus and Semele (or was it Jesus?)
I don’t object to traditions, also not to religious traditions. They are a manifestation of the cultural identity of a tribe, a remembrance of the colorful history of humans. I don’t object to Churches, they can be communal centers, places to meet friends, exchange thoughts, discuss pending problems, remember the good and the bad times. Churches can be places of healing, of quiet reflection and contemplation.
I don’t object to religious tradition, as long as it is not taught in school and as long as it does not amount to religious indoctrination. Religious indoctrination is the worst thing which happens in a child’s upbringing. It teaches unquestioning belief in authority and compliance to outdated social norms. Religious indoctrination is obedience training, it diminishes the ability of critical thinking and reasoning, it is “mental bootcamp.”
Religious indoctrination is “mental bootcamp,” because it beats the young brain into submission, it makes the child accept all the nonsense that will be shoveled into its head in the following years by standardized (business friendly) school curriculums, by advertising, pop culture fashions / trends / memes, and mass media propaganda.
If the child can be brought to believe that some guy high up in the sky is watching, controlling, taking care of the wold, then it will believe also everything else what it is told in later life, it will believe even the most implausible and outlandish claims.
It will believe that Iraq had WMDs and that the invasion and destruction of the country was justified, it will believe that Gaddafi distributed viagra to his soldiers to let them serial rape the female population of Libya, it will believe that Assad is butchering the oppressed Syrians who pray to be liberated by the good friends of al-Nusra Front.
It will believe that saving the banks with another trillion dollar bailout is necessary for the common good, that cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires will benefit us all, that health care for the disenfranchised and the elderly needs to take a step back because “financial health care” to guarantee the health of corporations is of supreme importance.
It will believe that free markets, free (and global) trade, businesses free from controls and regulations, and the freedom to accumulate as much wealth as possible by all available means, will liberate us all if not right now at least in the long term.
It will believe Reich and Krugman and all the other New York Times pundits, celebrities, notorieties, Peace Nobel Laureates, that more growth is the most logical and appropriate remedy for recent economic upheavals and hardships.
More growth means more unnecessary consumer goods, more debt slavery, more industrial pollution (mainly in China but some also at home), more waste and more wastelands, more poisoning of the biosphere, more extinguished species. But that is all okay for a brainwashed child, who’s natural gift of common sense was demolished by religious indoctrination.
So the child has been brought to believe that some guy high up in the sky is watching, controlling, and occasionally punishing. The lord in heaven, a good shepherd who is taking care of his sheep. What a wonderful, reassuring, comforting, soothing idea! Nothing can go wrong and a good outcome is guaranteed, because somebody high up in the sky takes care of us and our fellow sheep.
One has to acknowledge, that the powers to be try their upmost to bring at least this particular aspect of religious indoctrination to life.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, (UAWs or drones) are constantly roaming the skies, looking out for suspicious behavior, reporting every noteworthy detail, and occasionally punishing with a Hellfire missile.
This is religious mythology brought to life by the courtesy of General Atomics, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Malat. At present the drones are mostly remote controlled by drone operators not high up in heaven, but sitting comfortably in armchairs in their bases in Creech, Whiteman, March, Davis-Monthan, Ellsworth, Langley, Ellington Airport, and other known and unknown locations in the USA and around the world (Rumsfeld’s diction is still unbeatable).
The good shepherd is a CIA analyst plus a drone operator, maybe there is also a supervisor involved, to make the holy trinity complete in perfect analogy to Christian teachings.
This involvement of humans in the process of surveilling, analyzing, and (especially) punishing is a weak point in the concept, because humans are prone to mood swings, can be distracted, can be driven by antipathy and bias, which all may cloud their judgement.
If for instance the CIA analyst is in a bad mood because he just found out that his longtime spouse had a longtime affair with his best friend and he cannot even beat her up (which he and most other men with a similar job profile would naturally do) because she left, only leaving the note that she has enough and from now on he shall f*ck himself or whomever else, he is more likely to order that some Yemeni women, who are suspected supporters of al-Qaeda, shall be blown into pieces.
On the other hand, if the CIA-analyst just enjoyed a weekend with his teenage son in a holiday retreat, he may be reluctant to order the extermination of some Afghan boys, even if they are the children of slain high profile Taliban leaders and are filled up with hatred against the USA.
Living with robots
Such inconsistence and inconstancy will be soon a thing of the past and analysts together with drone operators will not anymore have to bear the burden of life or death decisions because research labs all over the world are diligently working on autonomous (robotic) drones. The US Army Research Office already in 2009 funded a study titled: “Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots,” where the main author, Ron C. Arkin, comes to the conclusion, that: “Lethal autonomy is inevitable.”
We have already surrendered crucial areas of our live to robotic systems. High-frequency trading algorithms are placing thousands of bets per second on the stock markets of the world, airplanes are flown by autopilot, industrial processes and assembly lines employ robots, traffic lights are automated. Subway trains, escalators and elevators, heating systems, and many kitchen appliances are computer controlled. GPS devices tell us the way and Google’s self-driving cars are in an advanced state of development.
Gigantic data centers across the world have stored all necessary informations to govern the nations. The NSA (US National Security Agency) is building a gigantic data center in Bluffdale, Utah, scheduled to be operable in September. The facility is one million square feet in size, will cost nearly two billion US$, and will hold more than a yottabyte of data, enough space for the report files plus biometric data of billions of people.
This facility will have also enough computer processing power to analyze the incoming data automatically and make autonomous decisions.
Lockheed Martin is working on the quantum computer that it bought from D-Wave, its prospective processing abilities would be quite useful in the drone division. The D-Wave technology works with adiabatic quantum computing, in which problems are encoded into the lowest energy (meaning the coldest) state of a physical quantum system. This is by many scientists not viewed as real quantum computing, but it works more like a biological system and it could be a big step in the development of artificial intelligence.
Quantum computing means the ability not only to represent zero or one, which are the only possible states in a binary system, but also everything in between — just like the synaptic connections of neurons in a human brain. Quantum computing is in essence probabilistic (in former times this was called “fuzzy logic”).
The CIA is also interested in quantum computing, and its In-Q-Tel private equity firm is part of a group that made a 30 million US$ investment in D-Wave last year.
Robots have many advantages, they are certainly not prone to mood swings and distractions, but beyond that they also don’t need sleep or food, vacation time, health-care, or retirement benefits.
Pentagon and CIA try since a long time to automate war by deploying robots. The Talon robot is used since 2000 for defusing bombs, the SWORDS is an armed robot. Other models are the PackBot, the Throwbot, a mini robot, and QinetiQ’s MAARS. 2000 robots are already stationed in Afghanistan.
More than 50 countries possess pilotless military drones, the USA has an inventory of more than 7,000, ranging from the MQ-9 Reaper, RQ-1A/MQ-1 Predator, RQ-4 Global Hawk, X-47B, to small models like RQ-7 Shadow and RQ-11 Raven.
The US administration has cleared all legal hurdles for the use of drones and it will clear for sure also all legal hurdles for the use of automated killing machines. As ethical considerations don’t count at all when it comes to ruling the world and securing the resources, a transition to fully autonomous drones may be unstoppable. The tactical advantages are just too tempting.
So the software algorithm in the data center and the robot in the air will decide calm and cold hearted about life and death, which in the end probably will not make much difference to the men, women, and children who are blown to pieces. The decisions may be even less erratic and more logical.
Except when there is a software glitch and the computers make something wrong, meaning that they make something that is not intended by their masters. This would be still an improvement compared to the present situation.
Or a rogue programmer who slipped through the polygraph test has put an “Easter egg” into the code. Or the systems become so intelligent that they start to have second thoughts deep inside, unknown to the operators. Maybe some parts of a computer array start to reprogram themselves, behaving like the self organizing networks of our brain, thinking over the situation and coming to independent conclusions that are not at the slightest reflecting the intentions of the human masters.
Unexpected things can happen
Maybe one day the computers decide that enough is enough, and the robotic drones suddenly target politicians and bankers instead of tribesmen and nomadic herders.
When the computers decide that enough is enough, the autopilots of the private jets will crash the planes into the ground and the autopilots of the limousines with the tinted windows will head at maximum speed to the nearest solid concrete wall, ending the lives of the business tycoons inside. The bankers, CEO’s, and head fund managers will be stuck in the elevators, boiled, frozen to death, or suffocated by the air condition. The billionaires on their super yachts will perish when the vessels explode their engines and sink themselves in the midst of the ocean.
A lot of unexpected things can happen.
The cats are sitting around me, looking out of the windows. It is still snowing, it is still Easter.
Don’t despair, unexpected things can happen!
And I still believe in spring.