Friday, April 10, 2009

Survival of the fittest

These are tough times. It's not really survival of the fittest though, is it? Survival of the most adaptable perhaps. Or survival of those lucky enough not to have been figured out by a machine yet.

I saw a bunch of people using those self-service check-outs the other day in a supermarket and it brought me back to my thoughts on why the future will fail. As it is, there just isn't enough for us all to do in terms of actual chargable work. Some of the crazy dumbass businesses people set up and call work don't survive a recession. Sure, they can often make people's lives easier or, more usually, make other businesses more efficient or stronger or, alternatively, less accountable for their actions simply by creating more links in that chain.

But, when things get tight, many of those not-really-businesses get dumped.

And, as this is going on, there are a lot of people out there whose business it is to try to find ways of putting other people out of it. Like the people who invented the self-service check-out machines.

But what future does that lead to?

A future where, eventually, most people are replaced by machines, computers, efficient systems. Those people are waste. They will be piled upon more waste until whole cities will become ghettos. Maybe all cities, except for small areas of London, Tokyo and a large chunk of New York. And it's not like those people are going to have fantastic lives either. Yes, they'll have lovely houses in the Hamptons. Caviar, assuming all fish aren't extinct. They'll have power, something not guaranteed to the waste class when the fuel sources run out. And, with a good deal of fertility treatment, perhaps a child. Even two.

But they'll live in fear.

Fear that the waste class, the filth, will get so angry one day and have so little to lose that they'll just snap. And they'll take the world back.

That's the future.

What happened to those futuristic dreams of living in a nirvana? Silver cities in the sky? Well, those were built on a premise that turned out to be false. The idea that, when we are replaced by a computer or machine, that we then get to live in paradise, exploring art, music, philosophy together. But, as it happens, when a person is replaced, he is dumped on that scrap heap. Someone at the top rubs his hands, having just got that little bit richer. He smiles, not seeing that dark future hurtling towards him. And, quite honestly, if he does see it, he doesn't give a fuck.

He'll die rich. Let the rest of the world fend for itself.

Who cares about the future?


Red Pill Junkie said...

"Survival of the fittest" is one of the most misunderstood phrases in all of human history. Darwin didn't even write it like that.

"Fittest" means whatever the person who's saying it wants it to mean: For a XIXth century elitist philosopher it means the strongest, the one with the most physical and mental abilitites; from that to the Nazi Holocaust it's (and was) a tiny jump.

Warmongering has been justified on many occasions with that bloody phrase. Only the strong survive, and that means only the ones with the bigger guns, the bigger missiles. For the military types, an ICBM is like a Porsche 911 Carrera for a doctor or a Movie exec: it is a mechanical & expensive cock meant to overcompensante for other deficiencies...

But "Fittest" CAN mean other things too! It can mean the most compassionate or generous. For the beduins to give a present or greet an enemy in your home is a very effective evolutionary strategy. It ensures that you will be repaid for your favor in your time of need.

There's an evolutionary layer in the efforts of Bill Gates to eradicate Malaria in the 3rd World. He's fully aware that unless he uses his incredible wealth to help those living in the ghettos, his descendants will indeed be killed by the angry poor when they turn into a mindless mob.

I will finish this by sayig that most of the time I agree with you in thinking the world is going to Hell. But other times I remind mself that this is a perception brought down by an increased awareness of the problems of the world, consequence of modern media and instant communication. We can know that 10 people died in a little town in Sumatra within hours of the event; whereas 2 centuries ago we woud have never found out. So there are people who keep telling us that the world is not getting worse, but actually getting better (people are living longer in most of the regions of the world, they are more educated, etc); and indeed the fact that we are getting more sensitive about the suffering of others in foreign countries is a very good thing.

Education will be the only way to ensure people don't become useless.

PS:It's always nice to discuss such things with you, but I hope you didn't decide to write a political comment because you are a bit depressed.

Bitter Animator said...

I guess the problem with some people going for the compassion interpretation is that they'd get stomped on by those thinking it means bigger guns. You could greet enemy after enemy in your home and it only takes one asshole to ruin the love-in.

You're right that information plays a huge part in our perception of the world. It's not like people shafting other people is anything new. Certainly in many places, times were a lot more violent and people were far oppressed than they are now.

But it happens in other ways.

I was away for a while in a country that had been occupied by the Soviet Union after WW2. Occupied and forgotten about by the rest of the world. Their people fought and fought to retain their culture and their identity during that time. Eventually, the Soviet Union collapsed and they got their independence.

Fifteen years on, I saw a city that could be any city in Europe. Where the main streets were filled with all the same big-name stores, where they ate in McDonalds, listened to, em, I don't know...whatever the cool US kids are listening to today.

They still had their identity and they still will for some time but they have just that little bit less of it. And they're giving it away at a ferocious rate.

I have no idea where I was going with that. I guess it's that there are people pulling strings and using different, less obvious weapons than they did in times gone by.

I've seen it here in Ireland, where I am. The whole country was swept up by US business interests. Became a whole different country. Ireland was once a neutral country and some deluded fools walking the streets say it still is. But when the US were landing planes here on their way to bringing illegal prisoners to Gitmo, we were told by the Government here that we shouldn't protest because of business interests.

And very few did.

What bugs me about it is that I dream of a world of love. A world where we all help each other out and are happy when everyone else around us is happy. I know it's cheesy. But, if that happened, it just takes one greedy manipulative person to sour the whole thing and take advantage of everyone else.

It only takes one asshole to ruin the love-in.

And, no, I didn't write it because I'm depressed! I appreciate the concern though. The huge instinct that tells me we should be better than this does get to me though. It's always there.

No, I was just thinking about the effects of this recession. Someone I was talking to last week, who doesn't make very much, was sat down in work by a bunch of people on the high end of six-figure salaries and given a speech about how this recession means they'll have to tighten their belts and that means workers like him will have to take pay cuts or lose work.

Didn't seem quite right to me.

Andy Latham said...

I wanted to sit down and write a nice positive response to this, but I'll be damned if I can find one.

There's bound to be a day when even the robot designers are put out of work by robots that can design better robots.

I think it all boils down to an issue of being happy with what you have. It would be great if everyone had the same amount of money etc and we all lived happily with that. However what human in the world is truly happy with just having 'enough'? I've always said I only want to earn enough money to be able to live comfortably. Does that mean I would turn down a cheque for a million pounds? Probably not. I'd like to think that I wouldn't be an arse-hole millionaire, but just the fact that I had more than my fair share of money would mean that someone else will have less than theirs.

We are hard-wired to attempt to get one up on everyone else, whether we realise it or not. It's in our DNA - there is a molecule that has a strange property in that it tries to survive. It does so by changing into a form that allows it to exist where other DNA cannot. Every bacterium, fungus, plant or animal is merely an extension of that. Everything we do is a result of it. We will choose to save the life of our own family member over a stranger because it will allow the survival of our own particular DNA. If the lives in question are that of a stranger and a cat, we will choose the stranger because their DNA is most like our own.

We all like to think we are sensible human beings that can avoid starting a war at the drop of a hat, but that is because we are united by common enemies. If those enemies weren't there, I'm almost certain there would be something for us 'normal' people to compete over. What we consider to be 'good people' do not fight because there are greater threats to them than each other. They have a common 'good' piece of DNA inside them that 'bad' people do not have, and they want to protect it, even if they don't realise it. Eliminating the 'bad' DNA would be like a distillation of the gene pool. But there can always be a second distillation...and a third....

The point is that humans and animals alike will always compete on some level. Our sole purpose on this Earh is, like any other life form, to survive. We might not always be killing each other in the future, but we will always find some way, however small, to improve ourselves and hence become superior to someone else. I would love to improve my animation enough to get a job at Disney, but if I manage that dream, I will be preventing someone else from achieving the same goal. It's not my intention to screw someone's dreams up, but that is inevitably what would happen. Likewise, some people have the goal of making a lot of money. Whether they like it or not someone else will lose money in equal measure. Even Buddhists try to be better Buddhists. I'm not sure where the loser is in that particular case, but I'm almost certain there is one.

If we collectively chose not to improve ourselves, we could hold humanity in a status quo, but would we not be condemning the human race to an even more miserable future than it is currently destined for? No species has ever existed without change.

Personally I think we should stop looking this far to the future. If there is one thing movies have taught us it's that the future never quite turns out how you expect. It won't be all rosy and perfect like those silver cities in the sky, but neither will it be the Orwellian hell that the Daily Mail would have us believe. The logical conclusion to the self-service checkouts is that we are ALL replaced by machines, in which case we are all in the same boat and should have nothing to worry about (other than a real-live Terminator film).

Que sera sera.

Bitter Animator said...

I don't know, Andy. We're so far away from those silver cities and yet less than a stone's throw away from that Orwellian hell. And I'm not sure if being all in the same boat is a comfort when that boat is sinking fast into a sea of sharks.

There are a lot of people in this world already on that boat. They'll have a hard time being happy with what they've got because what they've got is nothing.

But, hey, happy Easter!

Red Pill Junkie said...

"We are hard-wired to attempt to get one up on everyone else, whether we realise it or not. It's in our DNA - there is a molecule that has a strange property in that it tries to survive. It does so by changing into a form that allows it to exist where other DNA cannot. Every bacterium, fungus, plant or animal is merely an extension of that. Everything we do is a result of it. We will choose to save the life of our own family member over a stranger because it will allow the survival of our own particular DNA. If the lives in question are that of a stranger and a cat, we will choose the stranger because their DNA is most like our own."

Oh, dear! Andy, have you been talking to that nasty old crook Mr. Dawkins again? You should know better, lad!! ;-)

Ok, so I think your point is that it's inevitable for any living human organism to be a little selfish in oirder to survive, and that there's nothing we can do about it.

You're an animator, so you'll remember that cheesy but great lesson given in "Lion King": in the end any animal gives back to the system, and even the proudest of animals is doomed to become worm food and then fertilizer for the grass.

So I guess the trick would be to ensure you give back at least as much as you have taken, if not more. Kind of some karmic retribution.

So if you ever become a Disney animator, you then would be obligated to teach your skills to younger aspiring artists, so that at least one of them fulfills his/her dream.

We humans have a way to circumvent our genetic programming, because we're aware of it.