We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Psychiatric Reform

A panel based solution to proper mental evaluation

The transition period from current societal embrace of negative psychology to one of much needed positive psychology will be a turbulent one. In order for psychology and psychiatry to get good social reputations again (to make this transition quickly and smoothly) three key problems need to be tackled:

1) Serious and debilitating split between psychiatrists and psychological therapists (with corresponding lack of synergy between the two in creating holistic improvement of the individual). 

The split has occurred due to different breeds of humans that go into the fields of therapy and pill prescription. The amount of schooling (10+ years) and training that is required to become a full pledged psychiatrist is enormous. It takes a certain type of reptilian cold blooded patience and unemotional personality to become a doctor and then do additional cramming to be able to prescribe hard hitting narcotics to children as young as 5 (and sleep at night). The final result is that many psychiatrists are just neurologically not built for empathic understanding of their patients. It comes as no surprise then that after such herculean effort to make money, many become easily corrupted by big pharma. They get just a few minutes with their clients and could care less about what happens to them.

Therapists on the other hand are an emotional empathic bunch but just don't have the patience and attention to detail to go through over a decade long ultra boring journey to become professional pill pushers. They genuinely care about humans and are emotional sponges (that subconsciously get a feeling of power from endlessly listening to other people's troubles and feeling better about their own turbulent inner emotional world through comparison).

I exclude remaining psychoanalysts and specialists who specialize in ultra wealthy clientele. The dichotomy problem mentioned affects to vast majority of the patient demographic. People who are physiologically capable (have the right serotonin and dopamine production in their brain) of emotional understanding AND who have the ability to become excellent PhD psychiatrists are few in number. Therapists most likely are ENFJ/INFJ Myers-Briggs personalities and can get joy from helping troubled children whereas psychiatrists are probably INTJ/ISTJ leaning who can get a kick out of molecular chemistry.

2) Corporate and political domination of psychological research, consensus building, and norms.

This is likely a more difficult problem to take care of. As mentioned in my previous article, the members of American Psychiatric Association are thoroughly compromised. They are the ones who write the mental health bible [DSM] and descriptions of ailments thus creating industry standards and norms.

"Of the 170 panel members, 95 (56%) had 1 or more financial associations with companies in the pharmaceutical industry. In 6 of 18 panels, more than 80% of the panel members had financial ties to pharmaceutical companies".

The corruption among top medical professionals in APA is especially serious because within the scientific hierarchy, many youthful upstarts have to cite these bought off clowns in order to have their peer reviewed papers be taken seriously. In other words, there are a few hundred people with high enough "seniority" whose research has to be integrated and over half of them are partially if not fully in the pocket of international corporations. This creates the absurd situation analogous to agricultural scientists having to indirectly cite the thoughts of McDonalds board of directors when writing their research papers. Of course this analogy is extreme (and done for illustration) considering this top down rot is very indirect. But if done long enough and on a large enough scale, it becomes Soviet in its abuse of the field of psychiatry. At a certain point, when politically significant numbers of the herd are medicated and are part of the "clientele", ruling factions become involved by trying to use the APA the way they use other influential structures (mass media organs, department of education, etc). Thus we see an unholy monstrosity of a couple hundred cold blooded 60 year olds sandwiched between corporations and the government defining what ails school children.

And people wonder why psychology/psychiatry has such a bad reputation. In its current form, it is a very advanced form of Brave New World-esque social control. Soma now comes in many flavors. I wont go further into the profit driven pill pushing abuses as there have been many articles concerning this in recent years.

3) Severe fundamental and structural confusion in the field since many of the "disorders" are just intense physical characteristics of certain human breeds that are exacerbated by their socioeconomic environment.

This third problem will be naturally and gradually resolved by itself as more and more research gets connected from across the planet in the coming years. It will then be finally understood that psychology and psychiatry mostly treat symptoms of certain socioeconomic developments and their effects on the two legged animals. In the future what is done now will be seen as obscene as giving anti-depressants to a moody elephant forced to do tricks in a circus.

What's the solution?

Even in an enlightened welfare/human centric society of the future, psychology/psychiatry will remain important as there are genuine neurological ailments and environmentally acquired conditions. In addition, even individuals in a healthy socioeconomic system will want to reach new heights of development through positive psychology and not just "treat" themselves "back" to some notion of homeostatic normalcy. This would be analogous to wild and free elephants seeking augmentations to be even more empowered in the wild.

In the meantime, we need to focus on problems 1 and 2 mentioned above. The obvious solution to the first problem is to have a panel analyze an individual.

An example would be 2 therapists and 2 psychiatrists and perhaps 1 sociologist make a joint simultaneous assessment of the patient. This automatically greatly reduces the problem of false diagnosis when it comes to prescribing pills. Different assessments by individual practioners being made is a legendary problem in the field. The first session should be lengthy and the doctors in the room would be aided by the empathic understanding of the 2 therapists present.
The follow up sessions can then minimize the doctors' role and just leave the patient with 3 people to work on him or her. The sociologist would provide environmental explanatory framework.

The obvious benefits is that the 5 professionals would learn from each other and have a more holistic outlook in the future. The patient benefits from 1 democratically reached opinion that is the product of 5 brains. These brains will work harder as well since they'll want to demonstrate their will to power and expertise to their educated peers. This will boost confidence of the client and the people augmenting him. A human being's psyche is too important a thing to leave in the hands of one person. Problems of salary, time, and economics are but engineering problems that can be resolved with sufficient effort.

When it comes to the second problem mentioned, only muckraking and structural reform can resolve it. Different countries have different levels of corruption in their psychiatric bodies. Perhaps some term limits or age limits are needed to constantly bring new blood into psychiatric leadership. Those countries that are at the bleeding edge of progress should create joint bilateral education programs with other states. Eventually United Nations should deal with the issue of abuse and non-interference when it comes to mental health.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

New York City During the Great Recession

How New York City is Doing 2 Years After the National Economy Died

It has been a year since I reported on the network of filthy subterranean dungeons that is supposed to be a subway system in New York City. It seemed at the time that the city's infrastructural organs could not possibly be any more rotten without Greek style riots breaking out.

Yet something is different now. There are large piles of uncollected garbage bags sitting throughout Manhattan for days at a time in 100 degree weather. Upper west side and upper east (supposedly some of the richest high population density zipcodes in the country) are literally covered with rotting trash. The natives seem oblivious and used to the ghastly spectacle. They make 6 figures to live in these parts yet appear rather jolly about navigating through rubbish mazes. The local authorities have abandoned them to their own devices. It is little wonder many tourists are horrified and baffled. Maybe a Chinese firm can organize affordable clean up brigades and pest extermination services in the future.

From the looks of it, the local ruling institution is Chase bank. Every other corner has a shining blue branch or one in the process of being opened. That seems to be the only thing opening as 1 out of 6 businesses in upper Manhattan are closed. There's barely a block without "prime retail space available" sign partially covering a vast unlit emptiness behind it. This isn't the outskirts of Las Vegas we're talking about here. Some businesses look like they were abandoned in a hurry. There's unusually high amounts of furniture amidst the trash bags.

Are people being forced out of their homes at a greater rate after the mass layoffs downtown? There's been reports that trash rail freight is greater this year than the last. A Bloomberg analyst tentatively suggested that as a metric of consumer recovery but the reality is that people are being economically displaced and just leave their belongings behind.

Lower west side has seen rapid construction of apartment buildings yet the prices on basic shelter have not fallen. Lots of hideous ancient 3 story buildings are simply blocking space and further construction. Speaking of hideous, everybody seems intensely proud of a dusty Empire State "skyscraper" built during the previous depression. From looking at the pace of overall tall architecture construction, political corruption, red tape, and incompetence, they'll continue being proud of it into the 2040s. That and possibly the ridiculously short strip of second avenue subway that has been planned for decades and only recently began being built. One day New Yorkers hope to have every subway platform tell when the next train will arrive. This advanced technological innovation was smuggled from Asia or Germany by well trained CIA operatives (we assume since local officials got creativity of a dead subway rat). Next stop, traffic lights that show how many seconds one has left to cross. Should be done by 2030s or so.

New Yorkers somehow maintain their spirits under the apathetic faces reminiscent of Soviet peasants on their way to more meaningless drudgery. They have some of the more advanced sardonic black humor in the country. Because they know they got it relatively good. It's worse beyond the city walls. 20 million homes stand foreclosed and empty through the country. The city is still receiving refugees seeking work from rural areas and medium sized dying cities elsewhere. Youthful suburbanites from the heartland are coming to this coastal center to escape tedium and be closer to Europe while serving beer to others. Brooklyn is being haphazardly colonized by them (as well as better off younger Western Europeans here to nibble on the corpse of the American economy, get a bigger bang for the Euro, and indulge in boisterous hedonism of the locals).

The hedonism has a strong tinge of desperation smeared all over it. The ruling regime seems to encourage bar culture as a form of release with their emphasis on service labor. They also legalized hard liquor advertising a few years back. There is a thriving underground economy in apartments and in nightlife organizing. There's even been proto-carnivals organized in Brooklyn in recent years. In 20 years this may very well become Rio of the north as grinding poverty, inequality, and stagnation only leave hardcore partying and interesting food as psychological comfort. Some alternative bars blatantly ape the styles of 1920s New York and Berlin as if sensing that the ugly past and present are now one.

The perpetual budgetary crisis that has affected California for decades now has spread to the rest of the country. New Yorkers now also go for months without a budget. Tax collection from Wall Street has fallen 20% since the great looting and money transfers abroad in 2008. This can only mean that local authorities will not have the funds to fix infrastructure quickly enough as it deteriorates. Rolling blackouts ahead? At least this city is relatively safe from natural disasters.

The natives tell stories about the decades long austerity regime of 1970s-80s (that turned parts of the city into a hybrid of war-time Sarajevo and Detroit). Remarkably, to them things have actually improved. They talk of how the gangs on the subways terrorized them in the past. Well they are much safer now. Homicide rate has actually fallen last year throughout the country (a strange research worthy phenomenon that is very interesting considering the macroeconomic situation and traditional correlation of economic depression and crime).

The city government has been proactive with getting hordes of homeless off the streets. The previous mayor created a network of thousands of undercover police who are not fired at the same rates as other public employees. A major train hub in center Manhattan actually has soldiers in full uniform patrolling alongside the police. Americans appear very comfortable with such daily military patrols. Are humvees on 5th avenue next?

It's not easy for any developing nation but if any new ideas on radical urban renewal appear, they will start here, the Big Apple. New Yorkers are a proud bunch and can surely rise above their present condition if given the resources. That is, after the wars and current American regime are ended and all national energies are turned inward.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

What Jobs Will be Replaced by Robots?

Japan style plunge into robotics (and subsequent decimation of service sector employment) is essential for reconstruction of Western socioeconomics into a more humane form.

It may sound like madness to support further automation of labor during a historically significant economic depression. However, just like the proverbial bandaid, it is better for Western businesses and organizations to streamline themselves through robotics rapidly for the following two reasons:

1) Visible presence of robots outside their traditional places (factory assembly lines) will spur real national debate on the inevitable and irreversible historic process of ever rising unemployment due to mechanization. It is unlikely that generation Y will embrace neo-Luddite movement but rather will begin to clamor for an advanced high tech welfare state that Japan is seemingly moving towards. The bandaid being ripped off quickly will result in the rapid onset of shock that is spread across class and geographic lines as it will primarily decimate the demeaning service sector (that even children of the upper middle class often rely on). This in turn will help birth a diverse coalition of people across the political spectrum that applies heavy political pressure to create livable stipends and measures dealing with human displacement. We already see aspects of this in Germany and Japan as these societies do not rely (to nearly the same degree) on pseudo-serf labor of immigrants but choose to have ever more clean and automated farms and factories.

2) Contrary to popular belief, baby boomers retiring across the industrialized world will not free up enough job openings to arrest the process of mechanization and human replacement. That is due to technological progress in artificial intelligence software and robotics being an exponentially accelerating one. It is better to harness and direct the process proactively rather than to prolong the pain that comes from service sector illusions and their ridiculous broken promises. It is no secret at this point that white collar workers are being equally squeezed by technology as Internet has wiped out entire swaths of their employment in the last 20 years. Technology and robotics has removed more jobs worldwide than any sort of outsourcing or reliance on underpaid migrants. Public embrace of automation stands to permanently reduce daily and weekly working hours after there is fundamental understanding of what's occurring.

Japan has pledged to make robotics the backbone of its economy in the next 30 years. This means mass assembly and taking advantage of economies of scale to soon make robots an affordable investment for small business owners. So what areas can the robots move into?

1) Bartenders

There is absolutely no reason to have human bartenders in vast majority of the bars. Sure, upper classes will continue desiring human servile labor to be present to provide psychological feeling of dominance but majority of bars are dingy barely maintained ways to make a quick return on the owner's investment (just visit Manhattan). If the owner thinks the bar is being patronized just because of sexually attractive workers and their idle chatter, that is fine. Mechanization allows focus and sex appeal to be transfered towards musical acts and other attractions that customers are often there for in the first place. The robotic bartender itself will provide a spectacle as this video of an early model shows. It is a great investment that creates efficiencies in reliability, speed, and fun factor of drink pouring. Technically a large bar just requires one human guard.

"What if it breaks!!?? The night is over!!" What if the refrigeration system breaks or the lights or.. Not an argument.

2) City Bus and Subway Drivers

Now that DARPA is actively testing automated cars that successfully drive in human traffic (with the help of congressional act to make 1/3 of military convoy vehicles automated by 2015), there is no reason to have safe linear routes manned by humans. Many cities in the world already have a dedicated bus route all to itself, making robot driver's job all the more easier.

"What if it breaks!!?? The night is over!!" Really? Again? Reliance on certain car software is increasing and many drivers currently take the auto features that they use for granted. It is much easier to provide safe autopilot for a linear subway and bus route. Multiple failsafes to brake the vehicle can be implemented along with redundancies. We aren't sending a probe to Mars here.

3) Certain Types of Cooks

Here is a video of a robot that makes noodles. Today fresh noodles, tomorrow pizzas, bagels, hamburgers, etc. A robot like this contains within it the entire assembly line so things like noodles can be transformed from raw ingredients to final steaming form on a plate. Future models will be a qualitative step above the glorified vending machines like this pizza bot in Italy. Fast food corporations will be the first to jump on these machines and thus lower their price through mass bargaining (as well as the price of final product of course). Smaller chains will follow as quality of the finished fresh product will not differ from mom and pop business cookery. Creative touches can be manually added to the programming or downloaded. Obviously the need for cooks will remain and those who are left will have more time and freedom to get creative.

4) Traffic Police

Cars in 50 mile an hour zone can easily be made to not be able to go above 50 miles an hour. This is not technically a robot example but demonstrates the thought process we should embrace. If governments are actually serious about preventing road deaths (instead of just using speed limits to cynically bolster local finances with fees), then it follows that new cars should automatically adjust their speed ceiling based on the zone they are entering. Modern WiFi tech more than allows for it. Obviously there would be an emergency override switch in case of crime or health emergencies that automatically notifies relevant authorities.

5) Other Types of Catering

The reason why I separated bartenders and cooks from the umbrella of catering is to illustrate that pretty much most demeaning jobs are replaceable (if not altogether then in parts). There will definitely be a transition period where robots are gradually introduced into one part of the catering chain and work with humans. Although modern automated locomotion (either based on offshoots of segway transport or actual mechanical legs) is remarkably stable, robotic waitresses will be the final development. When people go to restaurants, many still have this pathological feudal desire to be served (the way they serve others during long week) so a robotic waiter may take away from the "experience" regardless of how graceful and quiet the robo limbs are. Once again however, mid sized chains can implement catering bots as a sort of a gimmick to ease the transition ("Welcome to Applebees! I am Wendy and will be your caterbot this evening. Tips are not included or needed! I love you!").

6) Agricultural Harvesting

Many types of backbreaking farm jobs currently performed by illegal immigrants can be wiped out with harvestbots. These bots easily spot and pick oranges, apples, etc. This is relatively basic visual recognition programming that is developing at tremendous pace. Harvester tech progress (as pictured here) is well underway even in societies that like to exploit under the table labor.

7) Garbage Men, Recycling Workers, Certain Janitors

This is self explanatory. Roombas are but the tip of the iceberg of what's about to explode on the world scene.

8) Remaining Assembly Line Workers

Previously, factory bots were very specialized. The new thinking prevalent in Japan is that factory bots should be reprogrammable to extend their lifespan. This means more humanoid bots that can be made to build multitudes of new objects, be able to mingle with human workers, and work with each other if needed.

The more one looks around, the more silly jobs one sees that can (and thus will) be replaced. The sooner this happens the sooner the displaced humans will become an overwhelming force for societal change and futuristic welfare. A union of the displaced alone can be a political block unmatched in history. Look back 100 years or even 50 years and see how wonderful it was that things like elevator operator went the way of the Dodo. In 20 years we will look back and marvel at the absurdity of many tasks that our politicians have the nerve to call backbone of sound economy.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

5 Ideas for today: Modular rural home, blimp bus, gloryrights, public nuclear plant, surveillance of police

1) Blimp Bus:

The advantage of the B Bus is that it travels in an efficient straight line from point A to point B. It doesn't waste energy on friction with the ground or time from waiting in traffic. The ride is relatively more silent than a standard bus. It's also smooth as you wont be feeling jolts and bumps from road contact. The B Bus is safe as it travels just a few stories away from the ground and has its inner gas compartments compartmentalized for extra safety. It wont roll over or be hit by anything. The surface of the B Bus is coated in solar panels for extra energy and it can even partially store lightning strikes for additional power. The view of course is superior to one from land travel. The costs of B Buses drop with mass production and automation (it's easier to not have a driver on B Bus than a standard bus). At first of course, these would be used for traditionally long bus journeys to areas where MagLevs and other trains don't go.

2) High Tech Modular House for Rural Areas:

Levittown showed how military style techniques can be applied to affordable housing. A 21st century modular home is cheap to manufacture, replace, and recycle. Kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, etc are mass produced in a factory and then driven or airlifted by an industrial blimp to their destination. Poorer families can acquire a house in one extra large module. Modules are built "off the grid ready" with solar panels and clean water from air systems. A buyer modifies a module before buying the way one does a Dell computer and its parts. Since the price of a laptop went from thousands of dollars to 35 dollars (India also produced the world's cheapest car as well), mass production stands to do the same for housing. Entertainment and furniture systems can be added, subtracted, or reconfigured within individual modules. When one's kitchen becomes obsolete, the whole thing can be sold like a used car and replaced while keeping the rest of the house. This housing is not made of wood. People buy mass produced cars, yachts, and computers and there is no reason to not do the same for homes. It's about time to apply space tech for hyper efficient land living.

3) Gloryrights instead of Copyrights:

Napoleon said that men will give up their lives for a piece of colored ribbon (medals and such). In both ancient and modern civilizations, people were often awarded with triumphs and honors to great effect. It is now apparent that copyrights often stifle technological and scientific progress by killing the traditional open exchange among scientists. Why should a scientist share his research with his peers if it is more profitable to join a corporation where this information will be secretively used to bolster the employer's profit margins?

A gloryright system gives the often introverted geeky scientists and inventors what they crave most, access to international attention (and thus feeling of empowerment) and correspondence with equals. Say a person invents such and such and is given Silver Gloryright. SG automatically allows the person who received it to appear and be interviewed on various popular programs, participate in high level panel discussions, get interviewed by famous personalities, meet high level people, etc. Sure they may miss out on being able to sell their invention to their employer but some material reward is likely to find this person within Gloryright system anyway. A Gold Gloryright brings additional perks. Here is an excellent book on how modern patents and copyrights are hurting local communities and traditional research.

4) Big cities controlling their own power supply and certain factories:

A city over a million people is a powerful unit. Its government should own a power plant and a few factories that produce needed drugs (not just generic, see gloryrights above) and other goods for the citizenry. The government of NYC, an entity more populous than Sweden, is entitled to its own small nuclear fission plant, factories that make clothing for employees and the needy, vertical farming constructs, etc. This dramatically reduces logistical chains and cuts out political middlemen, enhances the power base of the city government vis a vis the state/province, and allows self sufficiency in case things go wrong in other regions of the country. Libertarians and socialists alike will appreciate decentralization through empowering smaller political units with their own factories. A large city is also in a very good position to bargain and negotiate better for what it needs in terms of raw materials.

5) Ritualistic surveillance of the public by individual citizens:

This can be turned on all the time or get activated when a crime or legal encounter is happening. Imagine if a person's car got stopped by a police officer. Immediately the person activates micro cameras and audio listening devices in his clothing and car. These devices record, encrypt, and stream the entire encounter to the person's personal computer, his lawyer, and other places throughout the world (like youtube which then sends out alert to people who like to watch that type of stuff in real time for signs of abuse). Such a system will reduce crime and force politeness and civilization on both the users and those they encounter (whether private or public employees). If citizens are going to be watched by corporate and government entities, then they must watch them back twice as hard while sharing anything interesting in a decentralized publicly available format.

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